Targeted Massachusetts

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S*T*A*R*S International
The Ten Amendments to the Constitution "The Bill of Rights" Learn Them Well You very well may need to have them on the tip of your tongue
The first ten amendments were proposed by Congress in 1789, at their first session; and, having received the ratification of the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States, they became a part of the Constitution December 15, 1791, and are known as the Bill of Rights. [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. [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. [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. [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. [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 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. [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. [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 reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. [Amendment VIII.] Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. [Amendment IX.] The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. [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. * * * * * Some of the State constitutions drawn up during the Revolution included bills of rights. The most famous and influential of these was Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason in 1776. (Mason also had a large hand in writing the Virginian Constitution at about the same time. Strictly speaking, the Declaration of Rights was not part of that constitution.) It is upon Mason’s Declaration of Rights that much of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution is founded. The principal author of the Bill of Rights, however, was James Madison. All early Americans with any serious interest in politics knew something about the English Bill (or Declaration) of Rights of 1688. But, as in many other matters, American leaders tended to be influenced more by recent or colonial American precedents and example than by those from British history. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both earnestly supported the idea of a national bill of rights, and so did many other leading men. We shall now examine those ten amendments, one by one, with a view to grasping their original purpose or meaning. For people of our time, the phrases of those amendments, like the phrases of the original Seven Articles of the Constitution, sometimes require interpretation. What did those words mean, as people used them near the end of the eighteenth century? One way to find out is to consult the first great dictionary of the English language, Samuel Johnson’s, published at London in 1775; or, later, Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). It is important to understand precisely, so far as possible, the meanings intended by the men (chiefly James Madison and George Mason) whose phrases are found in the Bill of Rights, because many important cases of constitutional law that affect millions of Americans are today decided on the presumed significance of certain phrases in the Bill of Rights. As the English jurist Sir James Fitzjames Stephen wrote in Victorian times, “Words are tools that break in the hand.” We therefore need to define the concepts which lie behind the words of the Bill of Rights.