Bill of Rights

In 1791, the Bill of Rights, consisting of 10 amendments, was ratified into the constitution. The document’s purpose was to spell out the liberties of the people that the government could not infringe upon. Considered necessary by many at the time of its development, the Bill of Rights became the cause for a huge debate between two different factions: The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The Federalists were those who thought that there should be a new Union created with a strong centralized government and individual regional governments. They felt that it was not necessary for there to be a bill of rights because it was implied that those rights the Constitution did not specifically state would be handed down to the states. On the other hand, the Anti-Federalists were opposed to such a form of government on the grounds that the Constitution, in which it was outlined, lacked clarity in the protections of the individuals. The Anti-Federalists—whose memory of British oppression was still fresh in their minds—wanted certain rights and guarantees that were to be apart of the constitution (Glasser 1991). A clear demonstration of the Anti-Federalist attitude was performed by Samuel Bryan, who published a series of essays named the ‘Cenitnal Essays,’ which “assailed the sweeping power of the central government, the usurpation of state sovereignty, and the absence of a bill of rights guaranteeing individual liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion (Bran 1986).” Of course, the freedoms stated above are a portion and not the whole of The Bill of Rights. Ultimately, The Bill of Rights was adopted to appease the Anti-Federalists, whose support was necessary to ratify the constitution, and who believed that without the liberties granted therein, the new constitution—that they thought was vague and granted too much power to the central government—would give way to an elite tyrannical government.
The purpose of The Bill of Rights is to protect U.S. citizens from abuse of power that may be committed by the different areas of their government. It does this by expressing clear restrictions on the three braches of government laid out previously in the Constitution. As stated by Hugo Black, Associate Justice to the Supreme Court: “The bill of rights protects people by clearly stating what government can’t do by describing ‘the procedures that governmen...

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...ivists web site that allows you to share your environmental opinions with friends all over the country. It is hard to imagine a society such as ours without the rights that we have in the First Amendment. Without such rights, governance of our country would not be possible.

Black, Hugo. 1960. “The Bill of Rights,” Reprinted from New York University Law Review, Vol. 35, April 1960 Online: Downloaded 6/12/01

Bruns, Roger A. 1986. “A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the United States Constitution,” Online: Downloaded 6/12/2001. “U.S. Constitution: First Amendment.” Online: Downloaded 6/12/2001

Ginsberg, Benjamin and Theodore J. Lowi. 2000. American Government: Freedom and Power. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Glasser, Ira. 1991. “The Bill of Rights: A BRIEF HISTORY,” adapted from The Birth of the Bill of Rights" in Visions of Liberty by Ira Glasser (Arcade Publishing, 1991) Online: Downloaded 6/12/01.

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