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United States Government

The Bill of Rights

Go here to watch a video about the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights
from the 1st United States Congress
The Bill of Rights are the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. The idea behind the Bill of Rights was to ensure certain freedoms and rights to the citizens of America. It put limits on what the government could do and control. Freedoms protected include freedom of religion, speech, assembly, the right to bear arms, unreasonable search and seizure of your home, the right to a speedy trial, and more.

Many delegates of the states were against signing the Constitution without a Bill of Rights included. It became a major issue in ratifying the Constitution in some states. As a result, James Madison wrote 12 amendments and presented them to the First Congress in 1789. On December 15, 1791 ten of the amendments were passed and made part of the Constitution. They would later become known as the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights was based on several previous documents including the Magna Carta, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the English Bill of Rights.

Here is a list of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights:

The First Amendment - states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. Also protected are freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Second Amendment - protects citizen's right to bear arms.

The Third Amendment - prevents the government from placing troops in private homes. This was a real problem during the American Revolutionary War.

The Fourth Amendment - this amendment prevents the government from unreasonable search and seizure of the property of US citizens. It requires the government to have a warrant that was issued by a judge and based on probable cause.

The Fifth Amendment - The Fifth Amendment is famous for people saying "I'll take the Fifth". This gives people the right to choose not to testify in court if they feel their own testimony will incriminate themselves.

In addition this amendment protects citizens from being subject to criminal prosecution and punishment without due process. It also prevents people from being tried for the same crime twice. The amendment also establishes the power of eminent domain, which means that private property can not be seized for public use without just compensation.

The Sixth Amendment - guarantees a speedy trial by a jury of one's peers. Also, people accused are to be informed of the crimes with which they are charged and have the right to confront the witnesses brought by the government. The amendment also provides the accused the right to compel testimony from witnesses, and to legal representation (meaning the government has to provide a lawyer).

The Seventh Amendment - provides that civil cases also be tried by jury.

The Eighth Amendment - prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments.

The Ninth Amendment - states that the list of rights described in the Constitution is not exhaustive, and that the people still have all the rights that are not listed.

The Tenth Amendment - gives all powers not specifically given to the United States government in the Constitution, to either the states or to the people.


Go here to watch a video about the Bill of Rights.

To learn more about the United States government:

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President's Cabinet
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Judicial Branch
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Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
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Thurgood Marshall
Sonia Sotomayor
United States Constitution
The Constitution
Bill of Rights
Other Constitutional Amendments
First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights

Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office

Works Cited

History >> US Government

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