Bill of Rights (American Moments)


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American History

The frontier was the vast, seemingly endless land stretching before us. The frontier meant equality of opportunity. Even the best ideals of Greece or Rome or England could never flourish, because they were always cramped. But here there was land and the ability to start over again. This mattered more than all the ancient hatreds and class frictions that had existed under the old world. We cannot understand why Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats speak the same language but kill each other.

Their hatreds have been festering for centuries, but here they pass away. That has been the unique gift of the frontier. The existence of these elements in other nations and civilizations only underscores the uniqueness of the American experience of freedom. Russia has the tradition of Greece and Rome, Christianity, the tradition of the Old Testament; and it has a frontier.

Captain fantastic scene (Bill of rights)

But it lacks that English sense of government under the law. So the frontier in Russia becomes the home of the gulag. But Spain lacked the powerful English concept that government is under the law. Thus Latin America, despite its industrious and intelligent population and its natural resources, has never developed a stable basis for political and individual freedom.

Our heritage of freedom has been forged in war and hardship as well as in prosperity. Our national independence was proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Name another nation in history founded on principles. Traditionally, you were born an Englishman; you were geographical accident. But in America we have said from the start that everyone can come here from wherever they wish.

They can speak whatever language is their mother tongue and practice whatever religion they want.

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They become an American by adopting our principles. The principles proclaimed in are the noblest of all principles: we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the unalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The proclamation of these ideals in the Declaration of Independence is based on the belief in absolute right and absolute wrong.

You can deny that today. We seem to have a society that believes there is no such thing as truth. Ethics is all a matter of circumstances. But the Founders believed in eternal truths, valid in all places and all times. And they believed that governments are instituted among men to achieve those goals. That is the purpose of government. And if a government does not fulfill those goals, you have not only the right but the duty to overthrow it. The absolute truths of the Declaration of Independence are founded on a belief in God.

As the Declaration of Independence is the charter of our national freedom, so the Constitution is our charter of political freedom. When that constitution was brought forth in Philadelphia, we were thirteen straggling republics along the eastern seaboard. If Benjamin Franklin or George Washington wanted to go somewhere, they went in the same way Cicero or Caesar did: they walked, rode, or sailed.

If they wanted to communicate, they did it the same way Caesar or Cicero did. George Washington received inferior medical care to what a Roman gladiator got in the first century CE. And yet that same constitution gives us liberty under law and prosperity in a world of technology that Benjamin Franklin could not even have imagined and when we are superpower of the world.

We should never take this extraordinary achievement for granted. The American people in their wisdom would not ratify this constitution without the promise of a bill of rights. It seems to us extraordinary today that the first Congress kept its promise; and in short order set down and produced the Bill of Rights, which still guarantees these fundamental freedoms of individual liberty. But there was still slavery, written into the Constitution.

God is not mentioned once in the Constitution, but slavery was made the law of the land. To remove that wrong of slavery we fought the bloodiest war in our history, in which , Americans died. It produced men of great honor and integrity on both sides. It was finally resolved at Gettysburg. When Abraham Lincoln went to Gettysburg to redefine our mission, he started with the Declaration of Independence. In one sentence he told Americans why they were fighting the war, to see whether any nation so conceived and dedicated could long endure.

In all the rhetoric we had about Vietnam and all that we have heard about Iraq, we have not been told so simply why we were at war. Lincoln then went on to state that this civil war was a challenge laid upon this nation by God. The more Lincoln grappled with why this terrible war had come, the more convinced he had become that it was sent by God to punish us for the fundamental wrong of slavery. He told Americans that we must resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain and that this nation under God should have a new birth of freedom.

And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth. So this war that had cost so many lives was resolved in a way that no other nation would have. The Confederates simply pledged their word not to take up arms and to go home. The reconciliation began.


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I think that too is unique in history. With the Civil War we see the growth of democracy, the move towards extending the franchise to women, 18 year olds. Whether counsel is retained or appointed, the defendant has a right to counsel without a conflict of interest. If an actual conflict of interest is present, and that conflict results in any adverse effect on the representation, the result is automatic reversal.

The general rule is that conflicts can be knowingly and intelligently waived, but some conflicts are non-waiveable. In Powell v. Alabama, U. Zerbst, U. However, in Betts v. Brady, U. In Strickland v. A criminal defendant may represent himself, unless a court deems the defendant to be incompetent to waive the right to counsel. In Faretta v. California, U. However, under Godinez v. Moran, U. The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously held that, regardless of whether the proceeding is labeled as civil, criminal, or administrative, if a defendant faces a loss of liberty, she or he is entitled to appointed counsel if indigent.

Anne Pasqua, et al. Gerald J. Council, et al. The Sixth Amendment U. Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights, which sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions. Summarize the rights afforded to an accused under the Sixth Amendment and describe the protocols in place to achieve the impartiality of the jury to ensure these rights.

The Supreme Court has applied the protections of this amendment to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The right to a jury has always depended on the nature of the offense with which the defendant is charged. Petty offenses are those punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months and are not covered by the jury requirement.

Even where multiple petty offenses are concerned, the total time of imprisonment possibly exceeding six months, the right to a jury trial does not exist. Also, in the United States, except for serious offenses such as murder , minors are usually tried in a juvenile court, which lessens the sentence allowed, but forfeits the right to a jury.


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  • When, under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court extended the right to a trial by jury to defendants in state courts, it re-examined some of the standards. Although on the basis of history and precedent the Sixth Amendment mandates unanimity in a federal jury trial, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, while requiring States to provide jury trials for serious crimes, does not incorporate all the elements of a jury trial within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment and does not require jury unanimity.

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    The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be impartial. Impartiality has been interpreted as requiring individual jurors to be unbiased. At voir dire, each side may question potential jurors to determine any bias, and challenge them if the same is found; the court determines the validity of these challenges for cause. Defendants may not challenge a conviction on the basis that a challenge for cause was denied incorrectly if they had the opportunity to use peremptory challenges.

    Another factor in determining the impartiality of the jury is the nature of the panel from which the jurors are selected. Thus, in Taylor v. Louisiana, U. Summarize the sources of the Eight Amendment in British history and significance moments in American case law. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments.

    The U. The phrases employed originated in the English Bill of Rights of The Eighth Amendment was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in The provision was largely inspired by the case of Titus Oates. The Englishman was tried in for multiple acts of perjury during the ascension of King James II after a number of people whom Oates had wrongly accused of treason were executed.

    Oates was sentenced to imprisonment, along with an annual ordeal of whipping and time in the pillory. The Oates case became a topic of the U. The reason Oates did not receive the death penalty may be because the punishment would have deterred even honest witnesses from testifying in later cases. According to the Supreme Court, the Eighth Amendment forbids some punishments entirely, prohibiting other punishments that are deemed excessive when compared to the crime or the competence of the perpetrator.

    The case of Weems v. United States, marked the first time that the Supreme Court exercised judicial review to overturn a criminal sentence as cruel and unusual. This case is often viewed as establishing a principle of proportionality under the Eighth Amendment. In Trop v. Dulles, , the Supreme Court held that taking away citizenship from a natural-born citizen for a crime was unconstitutional. In Furman v.

    Constitutional Moments: The People's Voice | HuffPost

    Georgia , Justice Brennan wrote that there are four principles by which particular punishment is deemed cruel and unusual: Punishment should not be patently unnecessary, degrading to human dignity, inflicted in a wholly arbitrary fashion, or severe enough to be clearly rejected throughout society. As of , 31 states and the federal government had death as an acceptable form of punishment. Justice Brennan also wrote that no state would pass a law violating any one of these principles.

    In California, more than inmates await execution, with the last execution occurring in The Miranda warning is a statement read by police to criminal suspects that asserts their right to counsel and right to remain silent. The Miranda warning also referred to as Miranda rights is a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody or in a custodial interrogation before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings.

    Amendment V, the right to due process, has been incorporated against the states. In other words, a Miranda warning is a preventive criminal procedure rule that law enforcement is required to administer to protect an individual who is in custody and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination.

    In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that the admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Mirada refers to Ernesto Miranda. Miranda was not informed of his rights prior to the police interrogation.

    During the two-hour interrogation, Miranda allegedly confessed to committing the crimes, which the police apparently recorded. Miranda, who had not finished ninth grade and had a history of mental instability, had no counsel present. Twisting Washington's definition of neutrality, Genet immediately set to work attempting to use American commercial ports as French military bases.

    He cultivated support against neutrality and tried to stir up agitation in the western United States against the Spanish territories of Louisiana and Florida. Even Jefferson, initially a supporter of Genet, tried to restrain the Frenchman, but to no avail. When Washington refused to cooperate with Genet's schemes, Genet threatened to appeal directly to the American people. Washington and Hamilton believed Genet's activities constituted a threat to the stability of the American republic. Hamilton and other Federalists worked to discredit Genet, and Republicans tried to distance themselves from him.

    In August , Washington and his cabinet unanimously agreed to request that France recall Genet. However, a new government had come to power in France during Genet's absence, and it had decided that his actions were hurting its cause and called for his arrest. Fearing for the Frenchman's safety, Washington allowed Genet to remain in the country as a private resident; he lived in New York until his death in Genet's activities in sharpened the existing divisions between Federalists and Republicans, adding to the growing political partisanship that marked the s.

    As the American citizenry became further politicized, President Washington's ability to promote consensus quickly eroded and his ability to govern was compromised. Washington's second term stalled under intense partisan political turmoil, one of the reasons he happily retired to Mount Vernon when his presidency ended.

    The Royal Navy seizes more than American ships. President Washington appoints Edmund Randolph as his successor. The Washington administration supports both measures. President Washington issues a proclamation on August 7 ordering the insurgents to return home. When this fails, he calls up more than 12, militiamen and dispatches them to Pennsylvania, whereupon the insurrection dissolves. The victory helps open the Ohio territory for American settlement and is a defeat for Britain, which had allied with the Native Americans in the region.

    Democrat-Republicans, and the American public in general, attack the treaty mercilessly as a betrayal of American interests, opening a fierce partisan political debate. The treaty, now known as Jay's Treaty, was designed to resolve issues between the United States and Britain. Although the treaty left some important issues unresolved and its ratification divided politicians in the young federal government, it successfully allowed the United States to avoid war with its more powerful adversary, Britain.

    In the s, the United States was struggling to assert both its political and economic independence, and the new nation encountered difficulties in foreign relations when its two primary trading partners, Britain and France, went to war yet again. President George Washington sought to follow a policy of strict neutrality, allowing American merchants and ships to trade with both countries while aiding neither in their war efforts.

    Britain, however, confiscated many American ships and their cargoes, arguing that they aided the French war effort. British naval vessels also frequently impressed American sailors, forcing them to work on British ships. Britain, in addition, still barred American ships from participating in the lucrative West Indian trade, a policy it formulated during the American Revolution.

    The United States was also upset by Britain's refusal to evacuate its forts in the Great Lakes area, although it had agreed to do so in the Treaty of Paris of These British actions outraged many Americans. Attempting to keep the United States out of war, President Washington worked for a diplomatic solution.

    Jay concluded a treaty in which Britain promised to leave its forts in the Great Lakes region, agreed to arbitration for disputes over the Canadian border one of the first instances of arbitration in diplomatic history , and gave American ships limited trading rights with British possessions in the East and West Indies. The treaty left unresolved, however, the issues of impressments and American neutrality. Jay's Treaty still needed to earn Senate ratification - and a tough battle loomed. The ratification process, in which Federalists supported and Democrat-Republicans opposed the treaty, became bogged down in partisan differences, destroying what little remained of the consensus President Washington had tried to instill in the federal government.

    As a piece of diplomacy, Jay's Treaty was imperfect but still a success.

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