While I know that this time of year can be very busy for all of us, we should take a moment and appreciate the freedoms that we afforded to us by our governmental Bill of Rights. THAT’S RIGHT! It’s National Bill of Rights Day! It may not be recognized by your local bank, but Bill of Rights Day is incredibly important: too often today people seem to forget their rights as citizens afforded to them by our government.
For those that don’t know, here is the text of the original 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
So, here’s a more succinct breakdown:
- Freedom of Speech
- Freedom to Bear Arms (puns aside)
- Freedom to not Quarter Soldiers (it’s a weird one)
- Freedom from unreasonable search and seizures
- Freedom of a person’s rights (pleading the fifth!)
- Freedom to an attorney and just trial
- Freedom to a federal civil trial if value exceeds twenty dollars (super weird)
- Freedom from unjust and unusual punishments
- Freedom to have more rights than those in the constitution
- Freedom of local governance on the state level.
Yeah, the whole “Freedom of” framework doesn’t work for the vast majority of the bill of rights. However, if you wanted to read more about the Bill of Rights and how they were created, we have some books in our collection you might consider:
By Robert James McWirter
By Neil H. Cogan
By Bernard Schwartz
We hope you enjoy these titles and get to know your rights!