The Bill of Rights
Constitutional Amendments 1-10: The Bill of Rights
"Bill of Rights, first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The Bill of Rights establishes basic American civil liberties that the government cannot violate. The states ratified the Bill of Rights in 1791, three years after the Constitution was ratified. Originally the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government, but in a series of 20th-century cases, the Supreme Court decided that most of its provisions apply to the states. Many countries have used the Bill of Rights as a model for defining civil liberties in their constitutions."
"Bill of Rights," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
"The first ten amendments to the Constitution have been crucial to the political and legal development of the United States. They accomplished three important purposes. First, they declare an important ideal—that the people have rights with which no government may interfere. Placing ideals into the Constitution makes it harder for tyrants to restrict human rights. Second, they provide the basis for actually securing the rights. In 1789 statesman Thomas Jefferson wrote James Madison that a bill of rights “puts into the hands of the judiciary” a “legal check” against tyranny by the legislature or the executive. Third, the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, helps protect democratic government by barring criminal prosecutions against those who criticize the government and those who hold unpopular beliefs, and by providing a safe haven for minorities who are oppressed in many other countries."