(TheRedWire.com) – The Bill of Rights may be the most important element of America’s history. It was so important, many wouldn’t agree to a Constitution without it. How the inclusion of the Bill of Rights developed is a fascinating bit of American history.
Articles of Confederation
The first Constitution in America’s history left a lot to be desired when it came to the central government. It was called the Articles of Confederation. Its focus was on the states, almost as if each state was its own country, with its own currency and even its own foreign policies.
There were several issues that kept the federal government, as it were then, from being successful and in some cases, from being useful at all. It was almost impossible to adjust this first constitution because any changes at all had to be agreed upon unanimously. It didn’t allow for any financial support from the central government, either. For all these reasons and many more, the Constitutional Convention met in May of 1787, in Philadelphia, in order to make some much-needed changes to the document.
Constitution of the United States
Before the Constitution was written, there was an attempt to simply modify the Articles of Confederation. It started with the Virginia Plan, proposed by James Madison — the first time a separation of powers was mentioned. Once the process began, it proved too daunting and complicated of a task, so a “Committee of Detail” was created to create a whole new document.
The Constitution was drafted over a period of about six months in 1787. It put more focus on creating a union of states under the federal government. Because this was the biggest issue with the Articles of Confederation, it was also the main focus of the new constitution. Though the terms included in the Constitution were largely agreed upon, there was still a point of contention between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists; there was nothing protecting the natural rights of the people.
Bill of Rights
Federalists advocated for a strong central government, as opposed to the Anti-Federalists who were concerned about a central government having too much power. The Constitution protected the states, put in a system of checks and balances, and outlined the powers of the federal government, but said nothing about the rights of the people.
In 1789, James Madison drafted a Bill of Rights listing 12 rights naturally given to the people based on the fact that they were human beings. When it was all said and done, 10 of these rights were agreed upon by three-fourths of the states, as amendments no longer required a unanimous vote. This document is now known as the Law of the Land and there can be no laws made that oppose its contents.
The people were still reeling from the strong arm of the Crown, and had no wish to see the same events unfold in a new land. They wanted something to protect them from their own government. Yet, in some ways, the Bill of Rights also protects the people and the government from themselves, such as in the “right to peaceful assembly,” which allows for protests, as long as they’re peaceful.
As America and humanity at large evolve, so will the Bill of Rights. And, though the document can be amended, Americans must remember that these are rights to be protected by the federal government, not privileges awarded to the people by the same government.
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