Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Bill of Rights

Many people erroneously believe that the Constitution or it's Bill of Rights guarantees "equal rights to all" or "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". While these are important ideals underpinning our society, they are not actually law.

The Equal Rights Amendment, which stated
"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex," was proposed in 1923 and failed to be ratified before its deadline in 1982. There is similar legislation currently proposed."We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." is from the Declaration of Independence. It is the moral basis of the Constitution that eventually came to be written by the Founding Fathers, but it is not law.

We must keep in mind that citizens' rights are, in fact, restrictions of governmental and institutionalized political power. Please note in particular Articles 11 and 12 (the 9th and 10th Amendments).


The Bill of Rights

The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.

Article the first [Not Ratified]

After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
Article the second [Amendment XXVII - Ratified 1992]
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
Article the third [Amendment I]
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.
Article the fourth [Amendment II]
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.
Article the fifth [Amendment III]
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.
Article the sixth [Amendment IV]
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.
Article the seventh [Amendment V]
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 offence 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.
Article the eighth [Amendment VI]
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 defence.
Article the ninth [Amendment VII]
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 re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Article the tenth [Amendment VIII]
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Article the eleventh [Amendment IX]
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Article the twelfth [Amendment X]
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.
These additional amendments are NOT part of the Bill of Rights but important to this discussion:
Amendment 13 - Slavery Abolished
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment 15 - Race No Bar to Vote
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment 19 - Women's Suffrage
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.