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The Bill of Rights Clip art from © North Carolina Community College System
The Americans declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776.
In 1787, they adopted the United States Constitution. The Constitution told how their new government would work.
Some states still thought the Constitution did not say enough about the rights of the people.
So in 1791 Congress added the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These first ten amendments are called The Bill of Rights
They are individual rights that the government cannot take away. NO!
Amendment 1 gives the people freedom of religion or worship,
freedom of speech,
freedom of the press,
freedom of assembly (freedom to gather together peaceably), and
freedom to petition the government.
Amendment 2 gives the people the right to keep and bear arms.
Amendment 3 limits the quartering of soldiers. Quartering is an old word. It is rarely used today. It means to house and feed.
In peace, a citizen cannot be required to house or feed soldiers if he does not want to do so.
In war, any requirement to house or feed soldiers must follow the law.
Amendment 4 protects people from unreasonable search and seizure.
Amendment 5 gives a person the right to due process of law,
says a person may not be tried twice for the same crime, 1 2
says the court cannot require a person to testify against himself, and
says government must pay the owner if it takes private property for public use. + =
Before you read Amendments 6 and 7, you need to know a big difference in criminal and civil crimes. A criminal wrong is punishable by jail time. A civil wrong is not. Guilty!
Amendment 6 gives a person in a criminal prosecution the right to a speedy trial by jury,
the right to be confronted by the witnesses against him, and
the right to legal counsel.
Amendment 7 gives the right to trial by jury in civil suits.
Amendment 8 prohibits excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.
Amendment 9 says the people have non-enumerated rights. This means a right does not have to be named in the Constitution for the people to have that right.
Amendment 10 gives the states all powers that the Constitution does not give to the United States or forbid to the states.
This ends our study of the Bill of Rights. Since the Bill of Rights, Congress has added 17 more Amendments. We will look at them in a later lesson.
In the next lesson, we look at powers the Constitution gives the federal government and powers the Constitution gives the states.
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