Table of Contents
What is the ?
The contains the first ten amendments to the . They were ratified by the required number of states on December 15th, 1791. This was a major feat.
The was crafted in response to criticism of the newly adopted , which had replaced the earlier Articles of Confederation. This is unlike the UK and the .
These ten amendments that make up the US . clarify some freedoms, and set out citizens’ . This was a major reason for the American Revolution. In many cases, when Americans reference their “freedoms” or “liberties,” they are referencing a principle laid out in one or more of these ten amendments to the
Let’s take a look at each one:
The First of the allows for of speech and the press, of religion, and people’s right to protest the peacefully. In the , people can criticize the , say what they like, and practice whatever religion they like. The also can not legally favor one religion over the other.
Some exceptions to this , such as using “fighting words” to threaten people, are illegal. This may be seen as a .
The Second protects the right of the people to “keep and bear arms.” This right is taken from older English . Controversy over this today includes the question of whether or not gun ownership is connected to state militia service and to what degree – if at all – gun control laws are covered in the .
The Third prevents the from lodging troops in private residences. This applies only during peacetime – in wartime, specific laws must be enacted to prevent troops’ lodging.
The Third can be thought of as a direct response to the Quartering Acts passed by the British Parliament in the 1760s and 1770s, one of the Thirteen Colonies’ major grievances.
In modern times, this doesn’t seem as relevant as other amendments to the .
The protects against an and seizure. Police can’t simply enter a home and investigate without “ .” This is often thought to have come from the US itself.
The enumerates certain legal rights, such as the right to be tried before a and , the right not to be tried for the same crime twice (“double jeopardy”), and the right to avoid self-incrimination. It also describes that all citizens must go through “due process of ” before being legally punished. This could include the necessity of an when facing a .
You’ve probably heard someone say they “plead the Fifth” – this refers to the Supreme case (Miranda v. Arizona). of a person not to be a “witness against himself.” The famous Miranda warning (“you have the right to remain silent,” etc.) also extends from this right, though it wasn’t established until 1966 after a
Like the 5th , the of the also relates to the judicial process. Namely, guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial, performed in the district where the alleged crime was committed, and for a person to be told what it is they’re being charged with.
It also guarantees the right to a lawyer (“Assistance of Counsel”), even for those who cannot afford one: this is where the idea of “public defenders” comes from.
The Seventh is about legal suits for a . For example, if someone damaged your property and you wanted reimbursement – specifically for an amount more than $20 – the Seventh gives you the right to take this issue before a to be settled and, if a specific reimbursement amount is decided upon, enforced.
The protects people against prohibitive bail, fines, as well as “cruel and unusual punishment.” Today, it is most often brought up about the death penalty.
The states that there are other universal rights not protected in the and that they should not be supposed not to exist just because they’re not mentioned. James Madison pushed for this to be introduced so that people would not think all rights of US citizens were written in the .
The states that any rights that are not reserved for the central are reserved to the individual states that make up the Union, or “to the people.” This was an attempt to define the differences between the state government’s power and the federal ‘s power and included especially to satisfy anti-federalists.
Discover the full list of Constitutional Amendments – even those not included in the .
A more in-depth look at the amendments to the US Constitution:
Twenty Fourth Amendment
Twenty Seventh Amendment