Bill of Rights

Posted: October 17th, 2013

                                                                   Bill of Rights







            According to Monk (2003), the Bill of Rights refers to a composition of the first ten amendments with clauses that stipulate the protection of the human rights of each American citizen. The amendments were further ratified and others added to involve the minority such as the African Americans. James Madison was the pioneer of the first ten amendments when he presented as a proposal to the first congress on 8 June 1789 and on 21 August of the same year, the House of Representatives approved it. Later that year, Congress formalized it then it was taken in as Constitutional Amendments. The Bill of Rights is a fundamental aspect in the representation of liberty among Americans and it serves to limit the action of the congress or judicial structure in terms of the human rights. The other seventeen amendments were later included in the constitution of the United States (Horn, 2004). According to Menez et al (2004), various court cases as ruled by the Supreme Court represent and reflect the amendments of the Bill of Rights.


The First Amendment outlines and explains an Americans freedom of petition and assembly. This right grants an American citizen the freedom to worship in any preferred religion, the freedom of expression and that of gathering with his or her fellow counterparts. He or she also has the right to petition the American Government so that it can execute affirmative action on issues that affect him or her directly or indirectly. The United States’ Congress is therefore limited in the intervention of such freedoms as it is the individual’s prerogative. The ruling of the Supreme Court in the Texas v Johnson case supported the First Amendment of the Constitution by protecting Johnson’s rights on freedom of expression when he burnt the American Flag disapproving Reagan’s administration then (the Humanities and Public Policy, 1999).

In the Second Amendment, the military soldiers are granted the right to be in possession of arms as recognition for the security they provide the state with in their military exercise. Therefore, with the possession of arms, they ensure that the country is not under tyranny. However, the clause has created debate on who exactly should posses the arms, whether it is the people from the military or the individual citizens of America. The intention of the founders was to ensure that each citizen, in a pacified society could be able to play a part in the security of America (Monk, 2003).

The Third Amendment of the constitution states that whether there is a pacified situation or warfare, soldiers are not entitled to quarters in any house unless the owner approves this. Otherwise, this is still subject to the law. Therefore, a soldier can only be housed with the owner’s consent and the government needs to explain to the owner clearly, the reason for the gesture. This Fourth Amendment declares that every American has the right to refute personal or house searches that appear illogical and unwarranted. In addition, it protects the individual from absurd arrests and violation in a case that presents lack of confirmation. Arrest and searches are only guaranteed if the person or place by the court’s approval which is still subject to the law.

Monk (2003) points out that the Fifth Amendment declares the right to a fair and speedy trial in criminal cases where the accused is entitled to a legal counsel and the explanation of the reason of the trial concerning the accusations and the trial should be public. The trial should be dealt with as fast as possible and the prosecution should not be procrastinated. The reason for a delay should be valid enough to prevent violation of this right. According to the Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robin’s case, the trial of Pruneyard Shopping Center was delayed and the ruling overturned in the Supreme Court after an appeal by the High School children. The ruling at this stage was in the favor of the high school children and Pruneyard Shopping Center argued on the case for the abridgment of its rights according to the Fifth Amendment (The Humanities and Public Policy, 1999).

This Sixth Amendment protects a citizen’s right to a fair trial where the case or prosecution is justified by an unprejudiced jury of the state and district, guided by the law. The nature and cause of the accusation in court should be clearly addressed and the witnesses of both the plaintiff and accused must be present at the trial. The accused is entitled to a counsel of defense and the evidence must be well examined before conviction. In the case where the accused is found innocent, he or she should not be tried of the same case again.

The Seventh Amendment stands for the right of civil plaintiffs to fair jury trials in civil cases concerning lawsuits. It protects the American citizens from upper-class judges. A jury trial by one’s peers hears the civil case of the accused and determines the innocence or guilt. The jury trial involves the public of randomly selected citizens. According to Monk (2003), the Eighth Amendment suggests that the American public is protected from a cruel and unusual ruling of excessive fines bails and overstretched punishment as per the case at hand.

In the Ninth Amendment, American citizens are entitled to other reasonable rights as well even if they are not enlisted in the bill of rights. The implicit rights therefore should not be violated at any particular time. It serves to limit the power of the American government in a bid to ensure that it does not infringe the implicit rights of the citizens. Therefore, the freedom that the citizens are entitled to is not restricted to only the enumerated rights. The unlisted rights of the people that should still be respected by the federal government are retained and have a probability of being enacted into American law (Levy et al, 2000). However, the rights to be considered are only the fundamental ones that depict logic. In Roe v Wade case, abortion became legalized by the Supreme Court by declaring the aspect of anti-abortion in Texas unconstitutional and from the ruling; other states were impacted as well. According to the Humanities and Public Policy (1999), the case represented the ninth amendment by considering the implicit rights of a woman.

The Tenth Amendment stipulates that the state government and the American public have the ability to possess power that is not specifically granted to the federal government in the constitution unless there is a law that limits possession. The state therefore has the right to remain sovereign without intrusion from the federal government in reasonable cases. If both the state and the federal government do not claim power, the people take charge. The Eleventh Amendment protects the state against lawsuits filed in the federal court by an individual who is not a citizen, the government or a different state (Horn, 2004).  Thus, the states have secured sovereign immunity and jurisdiction on suits in the courts of other sovereign states. An individual is therefore denied the right to sue the state. A debt of supplies furnished during the revolution initiated a lawsuit by Chisholm from South Carolina against Georgia in the Chisholm v Georgia case (The Humanities and Public Policy, 1999).

The Twelfth Amendment asserts that in presidential elections, both the president and the vice president maintain separate ballots and the winner of the election shall be the candidate with majority of the votes representing electors. The vice president must show adherence to the same rules as the president. In the case that the president does not secure a majority because of a tie, voting shall be done by House of Representatives with the options of the three highest candidates. Two-thirds of the states must be represented and votes for the candidate must be cast by majority of the states. If there is still no majority for the president, the Senate shall undertake the voting exercise with the option of the top two candidates. The Thirteenth Amendment protects the humanitarian right of American citizen against slavery of any kind in the United States or an area that is subject to the jurisdiction of the states. It is divided into two sections where the first section, which points out the negation of involuntary servitude, and the second section that gives the Congress the power put the amendment into effect.

The Fourteenth Amendment entails civil rights and it is divided into five sections. In the first section, every individual who is defined by birth or naturalization under the jurisdiction of the United States is deemed as an American citizen and his or her rights should be protected in the respective state (Levy et al, 2000). The privileges and immunities of a citizen are to be respected by each state. The second section, the male inhabitants of a state who are 21 years of age have a right to choose who to vote for in representation and their rights cannot be infringed unless proven rebels. The third section outlines that the state and government officials under oath must not rebel against the states. However, Congress may reverse the clause with a vote of two-thirds of each House. The fourth section approves valid public debt of the U.S subject to the law but disapproves payment by the United States on any debt linked to upheaval or treason. The fifth section grants the Congress the power to implement the amendment as per the law requirements

In the Fifteenth Amendment, every American citizen’s right to vote is protected by this amendment since it asserts that the federal or state government must respect this right regardless of the citizen’s race, color or prior state of slavery. Congress is granted the power to ensure implementation of the amendment. In the Sixteenth Amendment, taxes on incomes are laid and collected as per the Congress directives regardless of census or enumeration. Therefore, Congress can raise the tax of the citizens according to its appropriation (Monk, 2003).

The Seventeenth Amendment outlines the requirements of the senatorial elections and describes the Senate as a structure comprising of two senators from each state to serve for six years. Electors of the senators must qualify to vote in their respective states and in case of a vacancy, the represented state shall organize and conduct a re-election to fill in the vacancy or appoint a reputable person temporarily to until the ultimate person is elected. The Eighteenth Amendment prohibits the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors in all areas that are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Following the law, the Congress is in a position to ensure implementation and adherence to the amendment. The Nineteenth Amendment promotes gender balance in the United States in terms of the voting exercise where the right to vote is bestowed upon women (Levy et al, 2000).

The Twentieth Amendment in the bill of rights states that the terms of office of both president and vice president are terminated on the 20th day of January at noon in the year of termination while the senators and representatives end on the 3rd day of January that year. After this, their successors may commence their service. Assembly of the Congress shall be annually at noon on the 3rd day of January. In the case of the death of a president elect before his term of office, the position shall be taken by the vice president or if the president elect does not meet the qualifications, the vice president elect shall still act as president until a sound presidential judgment is achieved. The Congress also plays a grand role in the substitution of positions in the deaths of persons in the House of Representatives or Senate.

The Twenty-First Amendment abolishes the eighteenth, which prohibits intoxicating liquor. However, the transportation, importation or exportation of intoxicating liquor within the United States, when conducted in a manner to abridge the law is not allowed. In the Twenty-second Amendment, a person cannot be elected as president more than twice and a person who has acted as president for more than two years of his term cannot be elected more than once. The terms for presidency in the United States have limits (Monk, 2003).

The Twenty-third Amendment gives the resident of Washington DC the right to cast votes for the president and the vice president of the United States. The people in this district are entitled to the same votes as any other state (Menez et al, 2004). Prior to this insertion, the district residents could not vote despite the fact that they paid taxes to the government. However, the number of elected people in the district must not be more than that of the state with lowest population.

The Twenty-fourth Amendment protects the right of the American citizen, which dictates that failure of tax payment in any form does not determine prerogative to vote for candidates running for presidency or representation in the Senate or Congress. In the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the succession of the president is detailed and the amendment states that the vacancy of the presidential office due to resignation, removal or demise shall be filled by the vice president of the term. If the office of the vice president is vacant, the president, with the approval of Houses of Congress appoints another person to take over. The Twenty-sixth Amendment grants 18-year-old citizens in the United States the right to vote. Therefore, the federal or state government should deny a person who is of the age or over it the right to elect their chosen leaders. In the Twenty-seventh Amendment, Congressional pay raises can only be in effect with the intervention of elected Representatives (Monk, 2003).






Horn, G. M. (2004). The Bill of Rights and other amendments. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library.

Levy, L. W., Karst, K. L., & Winkler, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of the American Constitution.

Menez, J. F., Vile, J. R., & Bartholomew, P. C. (2004). Summaries of leading cases on the Constitution. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. New York: Macmillan Reference USA.

Monk, L. R. (2003). The words we live by: Your annotated guide to the constitution. New York: Hyperion.

The Humanities and Public Policy. (1999). The Bill of Rights, the courts & the law: The landmark cases that have shaped American society, with essays and case commentary. Charlottesville, Va.: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy.




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