Today’s review will focus on The Bill of Rights section of the US Constitution. Do you recall what The Bill of Rights includes? Can you name some of those rights?
Because I am a teacher of over 40 years, let’s take a little quiz, to review what we have studied so far. Skip ahead if your quizzing days are behind you for good.
- What are the major parts of the Constitution called?
- What do the first three Articles tell us about?
- Where do we find the phrase, “We The People”?
- What was the original intention of the Constitutional Convention?
- Why is The Constitution such an important document?
For the correct answers and your score, scroll to the end of this post. Good luck.
As mentioned in an earlier post, there were many to The Constitutional Convention who refused to sign the Constitution unless it contained rights for the individual. They were equally sure that the rights of the American individual must be upheld and enshrined as they were that the federal government be strengthened. Therefore, a Bill of Rights was drafted and included in Constitution soon after it was ratified.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS – was ratified on December 15, 1791 as a package deal. In the deal were the first 10 Amendments which were designed to stop Congress from taking away rights that already existed. The rights listed in these 10 amendments were not new rights granted by the Framers, but ones the Framers assumed already existed for everyone. They wanted them codified.
The First Amendment – The wording of the 1st Amendment begins like this –
Congress shall make no law…”Amendment I – The US Constitution
This first amendment is clearly directed at the Congress and they are instructed that they shall make no laws regarding these personal rights:
- establishing a religion (The US did NOT want to have a church sponsored religion like The Church of England had),
- prohibiting the free exercise of religion (worship as you choose),
- after religion, the next freedoms assumed were
- free speech and expression
- freedom of the press
- freedom to assemble peacefully and
- freedom to petition the government with grievances
Each of these rights, are listed in Amendment I of our Constitution and are the binding, supreme law of our land for all. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech and press, and freedom to peacefully protest against our government are guaranteed to American citizens in our Constitution.
Although, these statements seem pretty simple and straightforward, suffice it to say, that through Supreme Court rulings their interpretations have established new precedents for what these amendments may actually mean. Agree or disagree, these rulings have affected us today.
The Second Amendment – the right of the people to bear arms, or own firearms shall not be taken away.
Again this seems clear, you have a right to own a weapon and that right cannot be taken away. But the argument arises, is this amendment speaking to the colonial days when a militia was made up of farmers and common people who possessed their own guns, or to anyone today who chooses to own a weapon for recreational or any other purpose?
The Third Amendment – during times of peace no soldier can stay in your house without your permission. In times of war, soldiers can invade and stay in your home “only as prescribed by law”. Yippie.
The Fourth Amendment – your right against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and warrants may be granted only for probable cause and specific locations detailed within it.
This is the amendment that supposedly keeps the Feds off of your back and out of your house. But it also opens up issues like surveillance, court orders, excluding evidence, and police fishing expeditions for a vast array of information that is unspecified.
The Fifth Amendment – With five weighty issues herein, this amendment deals with these oft-times controversial issues:
- the right against self-incrimination (I plead the 5th…don’t have to answere against myself)
- the grand jury – a group of 16-23 people that form a bigger jury to determine if a person should be indicted or not. These people are involved in felonies and before a trial jury
- double-jeapordy – you can’t be charged twice for the same crime; you can’t be convicted for a crime you’ve already been convicted of; and you can’t be given a second punishment for the same offense
- due process – you are guaranteed a fair process in a trial or legal proceeding. (This is a fairly meaty concept with many more nuances, that I don’t care to go into here).
- eminent domain – your private property, desired FOR PUBLIC USE by the government, cannot be taken from you without you being paid a fair price. (Think about the homes beside an expanding freeway. These are for public use and must be paid a fair price.)
The Sixth Amendment – guarantees you a fair “speedy” trail by jury and an attorney for your defense. It also adds the fact that you are considered innocent until proven guilty by the jury. There are a variety of other guarantees to you should you go to criminal trail.
The Seventh Amendment – you are guananteed the right to a trial by jury in civil cases as well.
The Eighth Amendment – excessive bail nor fines shall be imposed on you and no cruel and unusual punsihments shall be inflicted. Goodie.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments – neither of these really deal with personal rights. Both are generalizations and often misunderstood, so I’ll give it my best.
Ninth Amendment – The 21 words comprising this amendment are given to help us interpret the Constitution and tells us that if something is not mentioned in the Constitution specifically, then that right belongs to the people. Within the Constitution are certain rights but those aren’t the only rigts an individual has. Before the Constitution even was, the people had rights, and the Constitution shall not deprive people of those always held rights.
Tenth Amendment – tells us that either the federal government, state government or the people have the power. Even though the power began with, We The People, we delegated some of it to the federal government, and what they didn’t receive was for the states. If a certain power wasn’t specified to either of those, then it still belongs to the people.
Our freedoms are not to be taken lightly by us or given up, yielded or snatched away by another. They are if you will, God given liberties. May we value them and hold firmly to them, not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren.
See you next time for our final review.
Quiz Review answers
- Preamble, Articles, Amendments
- Our 3 branches of governmemt – Legeslative, Executive, & Judicial
- In the Preamble
- to improve The Articles of Confederation
- it is the supreme law of our land, above all others. It tells us how our government is structured and how it is run.
Grading – if you tried at all, you get an A for effort. Way to go! If you got them all right, then you get an A+, now go and share what you know and your love of country. 🙂