The Bill of Rights is part of the U.S. Constitution. It is a very important part of it, which guarantees all U.S. citizens with certain basic rights. Congress proposed to make 12 amendments to the Constitution on September 25, 1978. By December 15, 1791, ten were passed through state legislature and the Constitution was ratified. Amendments I to X of the Constitution are the Bill of Rights. Here, Adam M Smith explains what it is and why it is so important.
Adam M Smith on the Importance of the Bill of Rights
When Congress was debating whether or not to adopt the U.S. Constitution, there side against it was worried that it would allow for a tyrannical government. Memories of violations of civil rights by the British were still fresh, because the United States had only recently become independent. This is why the Bill of Rights were needed, since it ensured that citizens’ immunities would be enshrined in law.
So what are the amendments? They are:
- Freedom of speech, religion, the press, to petition the government, and to peaceably assemble.
- Freedom to own and use guns, although how this is arranged is still hotly debated. This June alone, there have already been multiple mass shootings in this country, which explains why this Amendment is so contested.
- Quartering of soldiers, specifically that the can only be quartered in peacetime when the owner provides consent. If the country is at war, they can be quartered as per the law.
- Protecting men and women from unreasonable seizures and searches. This means that a warrant must be obtained before a search or seizure can be conducted.
- That a trial by grand jury is someone’s right, as is protection against self-incrimination and double jeopardy.
- That someone who is accused is entitled to a speedy and fair public trial that is overseen by a jury from the district in which the original crime was committed. It also ensures that a defendant has the right to know their accusations, see their witnesses, have witnesses on their behalf, and have the right to an attorney.
- That civil suits will also be trialed by jury so long as the contested value is $20 or more.
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishments and protection from excessive fines and bails.
- That the rights of U.S. citizens can be more extensive than those outlined in the Bill of Rights.
- That the Constitution does not give nor prohibited powers to the government, as the states and people do this.
Of interest is the fact that these 10 rights are commonly seen in countries all over the world, with exception of the second amendment. Essentially, these 10 rights can be seen as human rights and are actually repeated to some degree in various human rights constitutions as well, albeit worded differently. The ultimate aim of these types of documents is to ensure people can live safely and freely no matter where they are.