The Bill Of Rights
The United States Constitution has been called a living document because it can be changed in two ways: formal amendment, and information adjustments and decision making. On September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States submitted 12 amendments to the state legislatures for ratification. The first two concerned each state’s representative’s number of constituents, and congressmen’s compensations, but they were not ratified. In 1791, three-fourths of the state legislatures quickly ratified Articles 3 to 12, which constitute the Bill of Rights.
The amendments, inspired by Thomas Jefferson and drafted by James Madison, placed fundamental restraints on the power of the federal government over ordinary citizens: Congress cannot limit free speech, even unpopular expression, or interfere with religion; deny the people the right to keep and bear arms; require the quartering of troops in private homes; or allow homes to be searched by federal authorities without search warrants. Persons accused of federal crimes cannot be made to testify against themselves; nor can the federal government deny citizens trial by jury; or deprive them of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The central government cannot impose excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishments. Rights in the Constitution are not exhaustive; people have all the rights not listed; and those powers not given to the federal government or denied the states should belong solely to the states or the people.
The Bill of Rights protected citizens from abuses of the federal government only, not from unfair state laws. In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution. It provided that no state may deny its citizens either due process of law or equal protection of the laws. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Supreme Court used the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to expand the protections of the first ten amendments. Therefore, the Bill of Rights now applies to state as well as federal laws.
Although the Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times, the framing of the Bill of Rights was in itself one of the most momentous actions of any Congress, with regard to amending the Constitution, in the nation’s history. Never before had any single document enumerated so clearly and emphatically the rights of private citizens. The Bill of Rights has become a landmark in the history of human liberty.
English Bill Of Rights
The English Bill of Rights is an Act passed by parliament of England in 16th December, 1689. It is a bill that
- Creates separation of powers
- Bolsters freedom of speech
- Enhances democracy and democratic elections and
- Limits the powers of the queen and the king
After a glorious revolution in England, Mary and William had already agreed to accept the Bill of Rights even before they were sworn in as king and queen of England.
The English Bill of Rights comes with different provisions including
The bill states that the king or queen’s crown should not have any interference with the law. The king and the king cannot establish any courts of law on their own and can never act as a judge.
The bill states that the crown cannot be used to create new taxes without Parliament’s approval. An act must be passed by the sitting Parliament for any new tax to be created.
The English Bill of Rights states that Parliament can sign a petition for the crown to do something without any fear that the crown might retaliate against them.
The fourth provision of the English Bill of Rights states that there is no army that can be kept during peace without full consent of parliament.
The bill also states that people have the right to bear arms as long as the law allows. This is and was an important provision of the bill of rights because at the time the bill was created; only Catholics were allowed to have arms. It is also a provision that abolished the same law and allowed both Protestants and Catholics to bear arms.
The sixth provision of the bill states that the crown will not or may not interfere in election process
The English Bill of Rights also guarantees freedom of speech. It guarantees freedom during proceedings in parliament and such proceedings may not be retaliated against outside parliament.
The eight provisions of the bill states that someone may not be convicted or fined
The night provision states that there should be no excessive bail, unusual or cruel punishments imposed on anyone found guilty of an offense
These were the major provisions of the English Bill of Rights. They favored the royalties as well as the people of England. Additionally, there were other minor provisions of the bill including barring the Roman Catholics from the throne.
The king and queen were also thereafter, required to sign an oath before taking to the throne. The oath was to maintain the protestant religion.
The English Bill of Rights and its use in Modern day
- The English Bill of Rights is constantly used in legal proceedings in the Commonwealth. Even so, it is constantly changed to suit the proceedings of the day.
- The Bill’s protections today can be compared to the protections in the U.S Constitution including the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments in the English Bill of Rights.
- The Bill helps to ensure that those in power do not misuse their authority. It also helps normal citizens to enjoy freedom of speech and to exercise their democratic rights.
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