Aspects of 1st 10 Amendments of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights
The Second Amendment declares that properly constituted militias are a safeguard of liberty and that the right to bear arms will be protected. The Third Amendment restricts the quartering of soldiers in private homes—an extremely contentious issue that had led the colonists to war with Great Britain. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures of private property. The Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments establish a variety of guarantees relating to legal proceedings and criminal justice, including the right to a trial by jury; protection against self-incrimination and double jeopardy, being tried twice for the same offense; the right to due process; prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment; and the right to face one’s accuser, obtain legal counsel, and be informed of all criminal charges. The Ninth Amendment acknowledges that the other eight amendments are not an exhaustive list of all of the rights and protections to which citizens are guaranteed, and the Tenth Amendment declares that any powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government in the Constitution are to be left to the states. This reinforced the principle of federalism, or separation of powers, by ensuring that the federal government could not usurp rights and powers that were not explicitly authorized in the Constitution.
Knowing these hard truths about duties, rights, and social order, the Framers endeavored to give us a Constitution that is more than mere words and slogans (M. E. Bradford, 1993). Did they succeed? At the end of two centuries, the Constitution of the United States still functions adequately. Had Americans followed the French example of placing all their trust in a naked declaration of rights, without any supporting constitutional edifice to limit power and the claims of absolute liberty, it may be doubted whether liberty, order, or justice would have prevailed in the succeeding years. There cannot be better proof of the wisdom of the Framers than the endurance of the Constitution.
The United States Bill of Rights plays a central role in American law and government, and remains a fundamental symbol of the freedoms and culture of the nation. One of the original fourteen copies of the U.S. Bill of Rights is on public display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Walter Hartwell Bennett, ed., Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1978).
M. E. Bradford, Original Intentions: On the Making and Ratification of the United States Constitution (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1993).
Neil H. Cogan, ed., The Complete Bill of Rights: The Drafts, Debates, Sources, and Origins (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).