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The United States Bill of Rights Amendments

Introduction

The inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution came by December 15, 1791 through ratification of the 10 amendments presently known the Bill of Rights. Previously, the anti-federalists had championed for provision of a law that would resist the citizens from tyranny and they were critical to the then proposed constitution for lack of such protection. The law proposed by the anti-federalists would not only ensure rights of the people but also limit the power despite argument by James Wilson that all power not delegated to the new government expressly was reserved to the citizens and therefore the bill would be superfluous. The support to the bill most importantly received the support of Madison and 12 out of the 17 shepherded by him was adopted by the Congress and the states ratified the ten amendments (“A more Perfect Union”, n.d.).

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The Amendments

The first amendment to the Bill of Rights provides that there would be no respect of any religious establishment through the law made by the Congress, and that any law would not prohibit the freedom of any religious establishment. In addition, the amendment provides that no denial to freedom of peaceable assembling of people, press freedom, and freedom to speech. This amendment grants the power to the people to appeal for a redress by the government in the face of objection.

This amendment of the Bill of Rights ensures protection of the individuals against the possibility of an oppressive government which would seek to advance through oppressive rules and laws over the people. Usually, such a structure for example, would ensure that people do not air or push for their grievances by debate or peaceable assembly. This law is to ensure the freedom of individuals from people of negative interests that would restrict or deny the freedom of people to expression, peaceable gathering religion and press freedom. The ambiguous use of language in the United States’ constitution as viewed by the Smith may lead to the wrong application of this amendment by various individuals with other interests.

It is obvious that this amendment may be interpreted to merely mean that as long as one does not engage in acts of no peace, no further implications would arise in such situations. Because law may not be considered as part, the exercise to such freedom must be dependent on circumstances and other provisions. Pure application of this amendment may be hampered by the fact that total freedom of an individual must respect the freedom of others.

Although the bill seems to assure people of the protection of their rights to expression and speech, failure to cover some negative aspects of the provision or their consequences may have led to attack of people by one another in the field of U.S. politics through campaigning speeches which may not necessarily be checked by this amendment. The very amendment that seeks to entrench the rights to speech leads to violations of other people’s rights by free expression. In consideration to the freedom of press and people to freely express their opinions or forward their grievances, there have been closures to publications by leaders which are a drawback to the application of this amendment. An example was such actions by Presidents Lincholn and Wilson for criticisms issued by media on their policies (Tuccille, 2008).

The amendment may again face challenges at implementation because of other issues for example relating to security. A second amendment provides that there would be no violation to “a well regulated militia” that is of importance to the security of free states in the United States, in addition to providing that people have a right to keep and bear arms (Legal Information Institute, n.d.). Although the second amendment would be meant for purposes of self defense by individuals by granting the right to possession of firearms to the able members of the society, it is clear that a regulation need be put in place to check abuse of this right by using arms to execute murder or punishment to their enemies even for minor cases like disagreement. This may hinder execution of another amendment such as one. Yet requirement to acquire police permit to allow one to carry firearms may be looked at as a way to deny the peaceable public their rights to freely possess firearms by mere assumption that they would misuse or overuse them. Senator Orrin made his submissions that he has had been amazed at a likely hostility and indifference to the provision of the second amendments by legislatures and even courts who deny citizens rights to possession of firearms. He argues that commentators and courts have sought to have this right out of existence and argues that 21 or more decisions by the courts in the United States’ do not recognize the right of individuals to possession and keeping of firearms. This submission fair well with Smith’s view that rights of individuals may exist in literature and writing whereas they are not applied.

Misinterpretation of this amendment is evident in the argument by courts and commentators that reference to “right of people” is interpreted to mean “the right of the state” which fails the test of consistency in their interpretation of the first and the second amendments. Further, a bone of contention concerning this amendment exists in that commentators argue that the right to possession of arms is accorded to the National Guard which has been indicated to be ignorance to the amendment’s protection of the right to “keep” arms. Use of the term “militia” has been taken to mean “anybody capable of bearing the arms” against the feeling that the term “militia” refers to the army of the United States (United States Senate-97th Congress, 1982).

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Even the ambiguity and misconception of law and provisions amongst those amending or modifying the provisions may be proved by the availability of reports that a conscientious objector clause, previously present in the Madison’s version of amendment two, was removed during Congress’ first amendments after suspicion by Elbridge Gerry that there was a possibility of abuse by “future Congresses” excusing everyone from military service. The objector clause in question was one of the states’ proposal to the amendments listed down by Madison and provided that no individuals ”religiously scrupulous” would be compelled to offer “military service in person” (United States Senate-97th Congress, 1982).

The fourth amendment ensures that the people are protected against violations through unreasonable searches of their properties by providing that there should be a probable cause to issue warrant for seizures and searches which is supported by an affirmation or oath. This amendment also requires that places to be searched and people or things to be seized need to be described.

This amendment might be approaching its dead point as the world’s technological advancement proceeds on because present forms of violations of rights covered by this amendment such as unreasonable searches using wiretaps and electronic surveillance already in place may not be covered or even noticed by those falling victims. In addition, where national security may be of interest, the criteria may not be followed and the amendment may be disregarded. This amendment is closely linked to amendment one in that it addresses issues of rights of individuals, but moves further to address issues of individual privacy such as unwarranted searches conducted in houses of people.

The Fifth Amendment would seek to protect individuals against injustices like being ripped off of personal property for public use without just compensation. The amendment provides that calling any individual to answer capital or otherwise infamous crime cannot occur unless at the “resentment or indictment of a grand jury”, although exceptions such as cases in the land or natal forces, militia, or when the individual is carrying out duty or service during the time of war or public danger have been provided for. This amendment is fairly under operation in the United States although there is indication that interest in the purest form of the amendment can change when matters of “interest” such as security come into consideration. There has been construction of jails and prosecution of terrorist suspects that cannot be termed fair.

The sixth amendment ensures that individuals to who any accusations have been made against, in criminal prosecutions, are protected from injustices like delayed trials and partial ruling of cases against them. This is by providing that these individuals are entitled to right to “speedy and public trial” and ruling by “an impartial jury” in their cases. In addition, the law avails the right of such individuals to accessing information on the nature and cause of their accusations, being forced to obtain their witnesses for their defense, right to defending themselves through assessing assistance from a counsel and that he must be confronted with witnesses against him. Laws referring to immeasurable trends, ideas and factors may be hard to interpret. Determining a speedy trial may require that there be an emphasis of the mention of the actual time above which an individual on the receiving end should not exceed before facing trial. Because the speed or delay of trial for cases may be determined by investigations which may be dependent on a number of factors some of which are hard to predict, application of such provisions may never be in practice. Where an individual does not know his rights to information, getting people to visit them and inform them of the status and cause of their cases may not be achieved practically. Although the amendment requires that there is usage of impartial jury, determination of such an impartial jury may only be through speculation and thus high likelihood of introducing bias into the system if an error is made in selection. It may again be hard to determine the extent of fairness of a case and prove of it may be difficult if not impossible.

Amendment Fourteen seeks to establish citizenship of those born or naturalized in the United States who are subject to the jurisdiction thereof. The amendment also pronounces protection of the rights for life, privileges, immunity, liberty or property for the citizens of the United States. The section two provides the means to apportioning of representatives among the states. Section 3 provides the requirement needed for becoming a Senator or a Representative in Congress, or Elector of President or Vice President –should not have committed insurrection or rebellion tied to the United States’ legal obligations or supported or comforted an enemy after his swearing in although this disability may be removed by vote of two-thirds of each of Congress house.

According to section 4 of this amendment, United States’ public debts authorized by the law, the debts arising as a result of “paying of pensions and bounties for services meant to restrain insurrection and rebellion” should not be questioned (Legal States Constitution, n.d.). An interpretation to this law may perceive the efforts by one amendment to establish limitations to the rights of freedom that were granted to individuals for example through the first amendment, or to further redefine what was at some stage incomplete and inadequate. There is an understanding that there are situations under which a citizen may not after all enjoy all the rights initially introduced to him for example participation in insurrection may deny one to become a representative unless the disability is removed through a vote winning at the Congress houses.

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Whether the individuals should be exposed to total freedom may no longer be the question here, but that must suffer some loss of rights for the crimes committed unless this is compensated. This may be seen as a loophole for denying people the very basic rights that were proposed by the amendment one and now that the individual must at least be denied (for example becoming a Representative) if the voting at the Congress Houses does not reverse the situation, a conclusion can fairly be reached that the amendment assures the freedom it is capable of denying. This is synchronous with an earlier statement made that a law (and an amendment this time round) can only be best implemented in part and in consideration of others. Interdependency of amendments may introduce further ambiguities because interpretations of points of linkages may be hard to make and more procedural.

References

A more Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. 2009. Web.

Bruns Roger. A More Perfect Union : The Creation of the United States Constitution. Washington, DC : by the National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1986. 33 p

Loreta M. Medina (2003). Creation of the U.S. Constitution. New York, Sagebrush Education Resources.

Michae, B.(2006), The Creation of the U.S. Constitution, New York, Capstone Press.

United States Senate. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Report of the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary. United States Senate, 97 Congress, 2nd Edition. Web.

Tuccille J.D. Disloyal Opposition: Bill of Rights Day, for what it’s worth. 2008. Web.

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