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What’s in the Bill of Rights?

What’s in the Bill of Rights?

The other day I heard a commentator on TV say something about the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. I consider myself a patriotic American, but I have to admit I don’t know—or don’t remember—much about the First Amendment or the other nine Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. It has been a long time since I was in school, and even when I was in school, I was much more interested in other things.

The first Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. There were sixteen other amendments added to the Constitution later, but they are not part of the Bill of Rights; they are part of the Constitution. James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to the First United States Congress in 1789 as a series of legislative articles. The Bill of Rights came into effect as Constitutional Amendments on December 15, 1791, when they had been ratified by three-fourths of the states.

As a refresher for all you long-out-of-school people, like me, I’m listing the Bill of Rights below. You will see that they are simply written, brief, to the point, and easy to understand. There is nothing mysterious or ambiguous about them. They are a gift to every American.

So, here they are—the Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights:

First Amendment: 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.

Second Amendment: 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.

Third Amendment: 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.

Fourth Amendment: 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.

Fifth Amendment: No person shall be held to answer for any 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.

Sixth Amendment: 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 where in 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.

Seventh Amendment: 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.

Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment: 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.

Copyright © 2012 by Allen Kopp

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