Chapter 6 The Bill of Rights What's Ahead in Chapter 6

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The Bill of Rights

What's Ahead in Chapter 6

Why is the Bill of Rights so important and how did it become part of the Constitution? This chapter will answer these questions and help you understand the value of your rights as an American citizen.


Adding the Bill of Rights


Protections in the Bill of Rights


Interpreting the Bill of Rights


Sequence In this chapter you will focus on sequence to help you better understand what you read. Sequence includes understanding a sequence, or order, of events and recognizing words that signal sequence.

Protesters at the Supreme Court


National Standards for Civics and Government

The following National Standards for Civics and Government are covered in this chapter:

II. What are the foundations of the American political system?

D. What values and principles are basic to American constitutional democracy?

V. What are the roles of the citizen in American democracy?

B. What are the rights of citizens?

Civics in the Real World

In Civics class, Mr. Walker asked his students to make a detailed list of everything they had seen and done since they woke up that morning. The students raised their eyebrows but began to write.

"Now: said Mr. Walker, "What were some things on your lists?" Marie said she had watched the morning news while eating breakfast. Jason reported that he had gotten up early to deliver newspapers. Tamara laughed when she said it had taken her a long time to decide what clothes to wear.

"These things are just common, everyday activities," said Mr. Walker. "Yet each one is, in a way, an example of our rights as citizens." The students stopped to consider this. It was true— their daily routines would be completely different without the freedoms they took for granted.

"As American citizens, we have many important rights, and without them, our lives might be very different," Mr. Walker concluded. "These rights are guaranteed in the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Together they make up the Bill of Rights."

Citizen's Journal What important rights do you live by every day? Write a paragraph describing how your daily activities reflect your rights as an American citizen.



Adding the Bill of Rights

Reading Preview


In this section you will

• Understand the amendment process.

• Learn about the debate in Congress over the Bill of Rights and its ratification.

Taking Notes

Make a diagram like the one below. As you read the section, complete the diagram with information about the sequence of events from the ratification of the Constitution to the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Key Terms

Bill of Rights

amendment process


Main Idea

After some debate, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to protect Americans' individual rights and freedoms.

Target Reading Skill

Understand Sequence A sequence is the order in which a series of events occurs. Noting the sequence of important events can help you understand and remember the events.

Why did the Bill of Rights, a list of citizens' rights, become part of the Constitution? Quite simply, the Framers had thought that it was unnecessary. They believed that the Constitution already guarded against tyranny by limiting the government's power.

The Anti-Federalists disagreed and put up a stiff fight against ratification. James Madison and other Federalists promised that a bill of rights could be added in the form of amendments. If they had not done so, the Constitution might not have been ratified.

After the ratification, Madison was determined to fulfill his promise to the Anti-Federalists. Adding a bill of rights would be an important step toward gaining their support for the new government.

The stage was set for the first changes in the Constitution. This was the first test of the amendment process, or the way in which changes are added to the Constitution.

The Amendment Process

The Constitution requires that any amendment must be approved at both the national and state levels. First an amendment is approved at the national level usually by Congress—and proposed to the states. Then the states either ratify it or reject it.

There are two ways to propose an amendment to the states. Congress may propose an amendment if it has been approved by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Congress proposed the 27 amendments that are part of our Constitution today.


A national convention, or assembly, may propose amendments. The convention must be called for by two thirds of the state legislatures. This method, however, has not yet been used.

There are two ways for the states to ratify an amendment. The usual route is approval by three fourths of the nation's state legislatures. The other method is approval by special conventions in three fourths of the states. Congress chooses which method will be used.

Reading Check Why is having a formal amendment process important?

The Debate in Congress

In the case of the Bill of Rights, the amendment process began in Congress. James Madison spoke to fellow members of the House in June 1789. He declared that many Americans believed that the Constitution did not adequately protect their rights. Madison argued that Congress needed to propose a bill of rights. This would earn the people's trust and lay a solid foundation for the new republic.

The newly elected Congress, however, was impatient to begin passing laws. Madison urged Congress to prepare a bill of rights. By doing so, he declared, Congress would "make the Constitution better in the opinion of those who are opposed to it without weakening its frame ... in the judgment of those who are attached to it."

Analyze Graphs

Formal Amendment Process

The four different ways in which amendments may be added to the Constitution are shown here. Conventions are rarely used. All but one of the 27 amendments were proposed in Congress and then ratified by the state legislatures.

1. Analyze Once an amendment is proposed, how many state legislatures must ratify it?

2. Apply How does the formal amendment process illustrate federalism?

Step 1

Amendment Is Proposed

Proposed by Congress by a 2/3 vote in both houses

Proposed at a national convention called by Congress when requested by 2/3 (34) of the state legislatures

Step 2

Amendment is ratified

Ratified by the state legislatures of 3/4 (38) of the states

Ratified by conventions held in 3/4 (38) of the states


George Mason wrote Virginia's Declaration of Rights, which became a model for the Bill of Rights.

Target Reading Skill

Understand Sequence What important events led to the ratification of the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791?

Preparing the Bill of Rights Two months later, members of Congress began preparing the Bill of Rights. After some debate, they produced a list that drew on many earlier statements of individual rights. These statements included the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, colonial charters, and state constitutions.

The next issue was where in the Constitution to place the Bill of Rights. Madison wanted the rights within the articles of the Constitution to link them to limits already placed on the government.

A majority of members of Congress voted to attach the list of rights to the end of the document. Some Congress members wanted the Bill of Rights at the end because they did not want to give them the same importance as the original Constitution.

The Proposal and the Ratification A committee of Congressmen wrote final versions of twelve amendments, including ten that protected citizens' rights. Congress approved the amendments and proposed them to the states in September of 1789.

The amendments were welcomed by people who distrusted the new government. Only two proposals failed: to enlarge the House and to limit when Congress might raise its salaries. By December 15, 1791, the states had ratified ten amendments protecting citizens' rights. The Bill of Rights had become part of the Constitution.

Reading Check Why was there a debate over where to place the Bill of Rights in the Constitution?

Section 1 Assessment

Key Terms

Use each of the key terms in a sentence that explains its meaning: Bill of Rights, amendment process, convention

Target Reading Skill

1. Understand Sequence Place the following events in the correct order:

• Congress proposed a final version of the Bill of Rights to the states.

• James Madison spoke to the House of Representatives about the importance of a bill of rights.

• The ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights were ratified by the states and became part of the Constitution.

• Congress began preparing a Bill of Rights.

Comprehension and Critical Thinking


a. Recall List each of the ways an amendment can be proposed and ratified.

b. Determine Relevance How does the amendment process reflect the idea of democracy?


a. Explain Why did James Madison propose a bill of rights?

b. Describe Which proposal method was used to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution?

Writing Activity

It is 1788. Your state legislature is debating whether it will ratify the new Constitution without a bill of rights. Write a letter to your representative to convince him of the importance of a bill of rights. Give at least three reasons to support your argument.

TIP Give your letter a strong, persuasive introduction and conclusion, and state your points clearly.



Protections in the Bill of Rights

Reading Preview


In this section you will

• Understand how the First Amendment protects individual freedoms.

• Find out how the Bill of Rights protects people against abuse of power by the government.

• Learn how the Bill of Rights protects people accused of crimes.

• Discuss the protections of other rights outlined in the Ninth and Tenth amendments.

Key Terms

separation of church and state

eminent domain

due process of law

double jeopardy

Main Idea

The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to guarantee the basic rights of citizens. These rights include protections of individual freedoms, protections against the government's abuse of power, and protections of the accused.

Target Reading Skill

Understand Sequence Recall that the order in which a series of events occurs is called the sequence. As you read this section, consider the order of the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.

Taking Notes

Make a diagram like the one below. As you read the section, complete the diagram with information about the rights protected in the Bill of Rights.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution were added to protect citizens' rights against actions by the national government. The Bill of Rights did not change any principles in the Constitution. Instead, these ten amendments spell out basic rights that are protected under our form of government. These rights fall into three main categories: (1) individual freedoms, (2) protections against government abuse of power, and (3) rights of citizens accused of crimes.

Protections of Individual Freedoms

What if you could be arrested for criticizing a government official? What if the government could decide which books or magazines may be published and which movies or television shows you may watch? What if daily newspapers could publish no articles critical of the government? What if a person could be jailed because of religious beliefs?

You may be asking, "What is the point of supposing things that could never happen?" The answer is that they do happen. Millions of people in the world today are denied the rights that we Americans often take for granted. These rights include a number of freedoms protected by the First Amendment.

At one time or another, these books were banned from libraries.


Freedom of Religion The First Amendment provides for freedom of religion. Every American is free to follow the religion of his or her choice, or not to practice any religion at all. Also, the First Amendment is commonly interpreted as establishing the separation of church and state, the situation in which the government may not favor any religion or establish any official religion.

Freedom of Speech Freedom of speech is another right protected by the First Amendment. As an American, you have the right to speak and write freely.

Does freedom of speech mean that you may say anything, whenever and wherever you please? No. You are not free to slander, or tell lies that damage another person's reputation.

Freedom of the Press Freedom of the press guarantees that people may criticize the government without fearing arrest. In many countries today, the government controls newspapers and radio or television stations. In the United States, the First Amendment helps guarantee that citizens can get information and hear different opinions.

Analyze Diagrams and Charts

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights, which comprises the first ten amendments to the Constitution, spells out the basic rights protected by our government. The First Amendment protects a number of very important rights and freedoms.

1. Why are the rights and freedoms protected by the First Amendment necessary for a democracy to function properly?

2. In your own words, summarize the overall goal of the Bill of Rights.

1st Amendment: Guarantees freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; the right to assemble peacefully; and the right to petition the government.

2nd Amendment: Protects the right to possess firearms.

3rd Amendment: Declares that the government may not require people to house soldiers during peacetime.

4th Amendment: Protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

5th Amendment: Guarantees that no one may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.


6th Amendment: Guarantees the right to a trial by jury in criminal cases.

7th Amendment: Guaranteees the right to a trial by jury in most civil cases.

8th Amendment: Prohibits excessive bail, fines, and punishments.

9th Amendment: Declares that rights not mentioned in the Constitution belong to the people.

10th Amendment: Declares that powers not given to the national government belong to the states or to the people.

Freedom of the press has its limits. For instance, a newspaper is not free to libel, or print lies about, a person. Also, both freedom of speech and freedom of the press may be limited when what is said or written endangers the lives of citizens, as when a person falsely shouts "Fire" in a theater and causes a panic.

Freedom of Assembly Under the First Amendment, citizens also have the right to assemble, or meet together. For instance, a group may hold a demonstration to protest a new law as long as their demonstration is peaceful and does not violate the rights of other citizens.

Freedom of Petition Any citizen or group of citizens has the right to ask a government representative to change a law, to make a new law, or to solve problems that arise in other ways. A citizen may make such a request by writing a letter, by sending an e-mail, by telephoning, or by sending a petition—a request signed by many citizens—to a representative in Congress.

Reading Check What are some ways that you exercise the basic freedoms of the First Amendment every day?


Analyzing Political Cartoons

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the government increased its policing powers to combat terrorism.

1. Why is the man in the foreground wearing a ribbon labeled "Bill of Rights"?

2. What is the cartoonist's point of view about the government's war on terrorism and citizens' rights? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Protections Against Abuse of Power

The Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth amendments all help protect citizens from the abuse of power by police and judges or by any other government officials. These amendments stem from the colonists' experience under the rule of England.

Gun Ownership The Second Amendment deals with the rights of citizens to own guns. The Amendment states:

"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."

When this amendment was written, the American Revolution was fresh in the minds of citizens. Americans remembered that militias, or groups of citizens armed to defend themselves, had played an important role in achieving victory over the powerful British.

Throughout our nation's history, citizens have debated the exact meaning of the Second Amendment. Do Americans have a constitutional right to own guns for personal use? Should the government have the right to restrict the sale and use of guns? These questions are still being debated today.


The Housing of Soldiers During the colonial period, England had allowed English soldiers to use colonists' homes as living quarters against the colonists' wishes. The Third Amendment states that the government must obtain the owner's consent first. During wartime a citizen may have to provide soldiers with lodging, but only if Congress passes laws requiring it.

Unreasonable Searches and Seizures "Open

up! This is the police. We have a warrant to search your house!" You have probably seen TV shows and movies in which police officers say this when entering the home of a suspect. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers cannot search a citizen or a citizen's home without a valid reason. Usually they must obtain a search warrant—written permission from a judge to search citizens, their homes, or their belongings. To obtain a warrant, the police must convince a judge that they are likely to find evidence of a crime.

During the years leading to the American Revolution, as tensions between England and the colonies increased, Parliament allowed officers to make unlimited searches and seizures. Homes and businesses could be searched without warning or reason. Through the Fourth Amendment, Americans were guarding against any such abuse of power by the new government.

Protecting Property Rights May the government take away your property to build a freeway, subway, or other public project? Yes, it may. The government has the power of eminent domain (EM eh nehnt do MAYN), the power to take private property for public use. Recognized public use includes schools, parks, highways, fire and police stations, and public buildings. However, the Fifth Amendment protects citizens from an abuse of this power by requiring the government to pay owners a fair price for their property.

Reading Check How do the amendments that protect against the abuse of power suggest Americans' right to privacy?

A police officer conducts a search in a public school.

Civics and Economics

Department of the interior The government exercises its power of eminent domain when land will be used to benefit the public. For example, the land may be used to build highways, railroads, or reservoirs. Only a small fraction of land controlled by the government has been seized from private landowners through eminent domain. In parts of the United States, particularly in the West, the federal government has owned vast areas of land for more than a century. The Department of the Interior manages all of these federal lands, which amount to about one fifth of all land in the United States.

Analyzing Economics

Read more about the Department of the Interior through library or online research. How are funds generated by the federal government's use of public land?


Protections of the Accused

When arresting a person suspected of a crime, a police officer makes a statement like the following.

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You are entitled to have an attorney present when you are questioned. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at public expense."

This statement is part of the Miranda warning, which is named after a man who was arrested without being informed of his rights. As a result of a Supreme Court decision in 1966, police officers must state the Miranda warning to anyone they arrest.

The rights of the accused are spelled out in the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth amendments. These amendments reflect English legal tradition dating back to the Magna Carta. This document stated that no person could be deprived of life, liberty, or property except by "the law of the land." The Constitution continues English tradition by stating that citizens are entitled to due process of law, a process by which the government must treat accused persons fairly according to rules established by law. People accused of crimes have rights under the Constitution.

The Miranda Warning

A law enforcement officer holds up a Miranda Card. Law enforcement officers are required to read out the rights stated on the Miranda Card to all suspects taken into custody. Predict How might the Miranda rights, such as "the right to remain silent," interfere with law enforcement?

The Fifth Amendment The Miranda warning mentions the right to remain silent because the Fifth Amendment says that nobody may be forced to "be a witness against himself." This is why accused persons sometimes say, "I take the Fifth" or "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me [make me appear guilty]." In some countries, police use torture or other methods to pressure citizens into confessing to crimes. Under the Fifth Amendment, any confessions must be freely given, not forced.

The Fifth Amendment also states that persons suspected of committing serious crimes such as murder must he indicted(in DYE ted), or accused, by a grand jury. A grand jury determines whether there is enough evidence to put the person on trial. Citizens are also protected from double jeopardy( JEP ur dee), being placed on trial twice for the same crime. Thus, a person who has been found "not guilty" of a crime in a federal court cannot be put on trial again for the same offense.


Right to Trial by Jury A key element of due process of law is trial by jury. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a citizen's right to a speedy, public, and fair trial in any case involving a crime. A person may not be tried in secret or kept in jail for a long time awaiting trial. An accused person has the right to the advice of a lawyer. The Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant who cannot afford to pay a lawyer has the right to consult a lawyer paid by the government. An accused person also has the right to know what the accusations are and the right to ask questions of any witnesses during the trial. The accused has the right to see his or her accuser in court under ordinary circumstances.

The Seventh Amendment permits jury trials in cases where there are conflicts over property or money—as long as the value in dispute is more than twenty dollars. The Sixth and Seventh amendments reflect the belief that a trial by jury is important if people are to have trust and confidence in the law. The work of the courts is open to public view and public participation. When people serve as jurors, they help to make sure that their fellow citizens are treated fairly.

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