What Do We Call the First Ten Amendments?

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The first 10 amendments to the US constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.
Last modified: November 8, 2022

To pass the US citizenship test, you will have to answer 10 of a possible 100 questions. The following question is from the USCIS test.

What do we call the first 10 amendments to the constitution?


The Bill of Rights

The following is a full explanation of the USCIS question:

How Is the Bill of Rights Different From the Constitution?

The United States Constitution described how the new United States democracy should function. The constitution was created to limit or clarify the powers of the local, state, and federal governments. It was also created with Article 5 giving the possibility of a constitutional amendment if necessary. So far, there have been 27 Amendments to the constitution.

The constitution lays out what rules government officials follow and describes the relationship between the federal and state governments.

Although it does reference citizens’ rights, it is mainly about the government’s structure. Many roles had to be defined by later constitutional amendments. The first 10 amendments are known collectively as the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights and Later Amendments

The Bill of Rights is primarily about individual rights. It insists that citizens are free and that they can do as they please as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others.

There were also major changes after the Bill of Rights. The United States constitution was very different before the following additions:

– The 13th amendment ended slavery.

– The 14th amendment required equal protection under the law.

– The 15th amendment required equal voting rights for all races.

– The 19th amendment required all constitutional rights to apply to both sexes.

The 1st Amendment

The first amendment is perhaps the most famous of all. Through freedom of speech, the first amendment gives people the right to say things that others may not want them to say. It ensures that a free flow of ideas is possible and that people can publicly criticize any poor decisions the government makes.

Limitations and Religious Freedom

Like all amendments, the idea of freedoms is open to interpretation and has its limits. Speech that incites violence is not always protected under the first amendment. For example, yelling “bomb” on an airplane is not legal and not covered by the 1st Amendment.

Obscenity laws also exist, though they don’t cover much in practice. Supreme Court cases test the first amendment’s limits and determine where the lines are drawn.

The 1st amendment explicitly forbids an official government religion, laws against religious freedom, or laws against peaceful assembly and criticizing the government.

The 2nd Amendment

The second amendment is just as well known. It is the right to bear arms, which includes the formation of militias. It is not common for a constitution to include the right to bear arms.

Only a few other countries, including Guatemala and Mexico, have the right to own a gun in their constitutions. There is still no constitutional right to a weapon in other nations where civilians can so easily purchase guns.

Limitations on Weapon Ownership

The second amendment has a number of limitations. It does not give the individual right to own any weapon, nor any small arm. Fully automatic weapons are not easy for civilians to legally possess, with those made after 1986 usually illegal.

However, American gun laws are still lenient and will likely continue to be. It would be political suicide to remove gun rights from the constitution.

The Third Amendment

The third amendment, which may not seem so relevant today, deals with soldiers staying in private homes during wartime. In peacetime, homeowners have the right to refuse to let soldiers stay in their homes.

The third amendment limits the rights of soldiers over civilians. Like most of the Bill of Rights, it prevents abuses of power. The third amendment appeared because the British government required civilians, even in peacetime, to provide soldiers with food, firewood, and beer.

No one has a clear idea of the third amendment’s limits because they have never been tested. There has never been a single Supreme Court case involving it. Even if there is never anything close to another civil war, the third amendment might protect citizens from an excessive federal government response to a terror attack or other disasters.

The Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment limits the federal government’s right to search people’s homes and seize their property. It establishes that the government has only a limited right to enter and use people’s homes.

It makes search warrants mandatory and requires good reason to issue a search warrant. Laws against arbitrary arrests come from this amendment, as do limitations on surveillance.

The Fifth Amendment

Several of the first ten amendments deal with crime and punishment, including the fifth amendment. It prohibits double jeopardy. Double Jeopardy is being tried a second time for the same crime after being declared innocent. Or Double Jeopardy could be when a citizen is punished a second time for the same crime.

The protection against double jeopardy is weaker than you might assume (for example, a person might be tried both by a state court and by a federal court for the same crime), but it still works to protect people from injustice in many cases.

It also requires a grand jury to look at the evidence before letting the case go to trial and allows people to refuse to testify against themselves in court. The “right to remain silent” is a civil right that comes from a 1960s Supreme Court interpretation of the fifth amendment.

Finally, the 5th amendment prevents the government from taking property for public use without fair compensation.

The Sixth Amendment

The sixth amendment requires trials to be fair and speedy and for people accused of crimes to know what they are accused of and who is accusing them.

It requires an impartial jury. In practice, that means that a juror will be dismissed if there is even a slight chance that they can be assumed to be biased. It also requires the fundamental right to a lawyer.

The Seventh Amendment

The seventh amendment requires jury trials in federal civil courts. This makes the United States different from other countries, where jury trials are not required in civil cases.

The Eighth Amendment

The eighth amendment prevents cruel and unusual punishment. Like many other constitutional amendments, the Supreme Court has to be careful not to interpret it too narrowly or too broadly.

If “cruel and unusual punishment” were interpreted too broadly, it would not be legal to punish anyone for anything. However, if the 8th amendment became too weak, more and more examples of cruel modern punishments would appear. It also forbids excessive bail and excessive fines.

The Ninth Amendment

The ninth amendment says that just because a right is not found in the constitution does not automatically mean people lack that right. A person may have many “unenumerated rights” that are not listed in the constitution but still have legal power.

The Tenth Amendment

The tenth amendment limits the federal government to what powers it is given in the constitution. If the constitution does not mention anything about the federal government having a certain power, then the state government or the people have this power.

Many parts of the constitution and the Bill of Rights protect people and state governments from an overly powerful central government. At the constitutional Convention, the founding fathers did everything in their power to ensure the new democratic government could not abuse its power in the same way that the Articles of Confederation did.

The first 10 amendments that are also known as the Bill of Rights were presented for ratification to certain state legislatures at the same time.


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