The Bill of Rights for Dummies.
If you know all the ins and outs of Critical Race Theory but cannot name every liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights—you came to the right place.
If you know the Constitution backwards and forwards by heart—you’re Ted Cruz. Also, this is still the place for you. But you can hang around in the back, grab a snack, and try not to call out the answer every five seconds.
Because listen up.
The United States Constitution was first introduced in 1787. Bitter debate about its contents ensued through 1788. The first Congress passed it in 1789. Even then, though, the document was far from finished. Thankfully, the original text included provisions for amendment.
In 1789, Congress passed ten amendments. These ten amendments came to be known as the Bill of Rights.
If anyone ever asks you what the Bill of Rights is, you can begin by saying, It refers to the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
You see, when America got free from the British and set out to form a new type of government, colonists-turned-Americans disagreed about what the character of the government should be. They roughly agreed that they wanted citizens to have a say in decision-making, so they knew they wanted a democracy. They roughly agreed that a small group of people should be entrusted with decisionmaking full-time, since citizens could not expect to vote on every law for the rest of their lives, so they knew they wanted a republic, or a representative democracy.
But that wasn’t enough.
The Founding Fathers studied history. Plus, they knew their own experiences. They knew that certain freedoms must be inscribed into a foundational, ineradicable text so that no representative, tempted by power and justified by necessity, could curb basic civil liberties.
Hence, the Bill of Rights. In sum:
- Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
- Right to keep and bear arms.
- No quartering of soldiers in the homes of citizens.
- Freedom from unlawful/unreasonable searches and seizures of property.
- Right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination and double jeopardy.
- Right to a speedy and public trial.
- Right to trial by jury in civil cases.
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, including excessive bail.
- A rule for Congress to come up with new rights not listed above.
- The right of states to maintain their power where federal authority is not guaranteed.
The Founders knew these rights needed to be crystal clear, engraved in stone, and protected at all costs in the event that future disagreements would emerge. Of course, future disagreements were guaranteed. But the people needed guarantees from the state. And the states needed guarantees from the central, federal government.
The Bill of Rights is the reason we get to debate the Bill of Rights.
Thank the Founding Fathers every day for their foresight. And thank God for making the Founding Fathers.