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Bill of Rights: Right Against Government

“A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference” (Thomas Jefferson Google). In 1787 the anti-federalists and federalists started the debate on the Bill of Rights. Affecting all citizens, the Bill of Rights has protected and ensured the freedoms and rights of the United States. The Bill of Rights is the most important part of the constitution, which is why the anti-federalists argued against the federalists to have it be included.

The federalists viewed the Bill of Rights was unnecessary, because the national government needed to operate within the set guidelines that did not elaborate how people were to be protected from oppressive rule. The U.S. government only had strictly delegated powers, limited to the general interests of the nation. Consequently, a bill of rights was not necessary, and was perhaps a dangerous proposition. The new federal government could in no way endanger the freedoms of the press or religion since it was not granted any authority to regulate either.

Finally, Federalists believed that bills of rights in history had been nothing more than paper protections. The federalists view society more from a pluralistic perspective, compared to the anti-federalists. They viewed society to be dynamic with different interest groups where none of them dominated the system of government. For this reason, they focused on the economic and social changes that were key in transforming the American society.

The term Federalist became a wide currency when a series of eighty-one articles was released.

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The articles were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. In the articles they argues for the ratification of the Constitution. George Washington was known to have been the greatest figure for the Federalists. Although Washington was sympathetic to the Federalists program, he still remained non-partisan during his entire presidency. Another Federalist, James Madison, also had an important role throughout the ratification of the Constitution. Madison was actually the co-writer of the Federalist Paper and a sponsor to the Bill of Rights

“Uncertain that any government over so vast a domain as the United States could be controlled by the people, the anti-federalists saw in the enlarged powers of the central government only the familiar threats to the rights and liberties of the people” (Ralph Ketcham 26). The anti-federalists felt that state would retain their rights through the Bill of Rights. They viewed these rights as essential because none of them were exercised under the British rule. Therefore, power would be transferred from the center to the people. They believed that if the Constitution was ratified without including the Bill of Rights, the central government would exercise its strength and deny the people the basic rights. A persistent thought by them was to withdraw some of the explicit powers given to the national government, and to restrain with further checks and balances. “The anti-federalists were, in a sense, “men of little faith” as both contemporary and modern critics have charged, but this was true only within their fear that centralized power tended to become arbitrary and impersonal” (Ralph Ketcham 27). “The anti-federalists came to these views more readily, of course, because the Whig rhetoric of eighteenth-century British radicalism and the ideology of the American Revolution were filled with suspicions of power, especially distant, centralized power” (Ralph Ketcham 27). Looking to the classical idealization of the small pastoral republic, they appreciated how the self-reliant citizens managed their own affairs by shunning the powers and glory of the empire. The victory in the American Revolution meant not so much the big chance to become a wealthy world power, but rather the opportunity to achieve a genuinely republic polity. “In the end what really mattered to them was to have a society where virtuous, hardworking honest men and women, lived simply in their communities, enjoyed their families and their neighbors, were devoted to the common welfare, and had such churches, schools, trade associations, and local governments as they needed to sustain their values and purposes” (Ralph Ketchman 31)

The anti-federalists wanted the rulers and ruled to be able to see, know, and understand each other. Deciding this, they cherished the revolutionary emphasis on state and local councils, committees, and the Articles of Confederation. Ultimately the anti-federalists were able to make a compromise with the federalists. The central government would be formed, but in exchange the Bill of Rights was to be included in the Constitution. Even though the anti-federalists achieved victory to a certain degree through the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, people still overlooked the importance of this part of the constitution. Although we do not remember the Anti-Federalists as the victors the compromise between them and the Federalists has had a great impact on the United States.

The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution became known as the Bill of Rights because they contained many of the fundamental freedoms vital to Americans. Being so important, these rights were insisted to be added to the new constitution in 1787. However, this took many debates between the anti-federalists and the federalists. The debates all started when the first constitution of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, led to a convention to draft a new charter for the national government. The constitution’s lack of a bill of rights became the main reason people opposed it. Many states refused to ratify the constitution until they were assured a bill of rights would be added. Despite the clear mandate from many states for a federal bill of rights, the new Congress delayed acting on the measure. With the help of James Madison, a U.S. representative from Virginia, the Congress finally submitted a bill of rights to the states for ratification. Finally, after much debate, the new government under the Constitution was finally secure.

Considered to be the amendment that Americans hold most dear, the first amendment is definitely considered the most important. This amendment protects the freedom of religion, press, assembly, and petition. “The Supreme Court has held that the Amendment also protects freedom of association, which is not mentioned but is linked to other First Amendment freedoms” (Linda R. Monk 35). The rights contained in the First Amendment are essential to democratic government. Without freedom or religion, members of unpopular faiths could be denied civil freedoms. Also without the freedom of speech, press, assembly, petition, and association, citizens wouldn’t be able to be fully informed about important issues, or take action on them.

The Second Amendment protects the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” (Linda R. Monk 93). This amendment also begins with a phrase explaining its purpose. The phrase states that a “well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state” (Linda R. Monk 93). This phrase causes many to question gun control and the definition of a militia. The debate over gun control continues in today’s courts and legislatures. The opponents of gun control argue that if Second Amendment rights are threatened, then no other constitutional rights are safe either.

The Third Amendment has two parts included in it. First, it prohibits the government during peacetime from forcing private citizens to quarter, or provide room and board government soldiers without the property owner’s permission. Second, if the government needs to quarter troops in private property during wartime, it must follow legal procedures. The Supreme Court has said that the Third Amendment supports the principle that government cannot interfere with individual privacy. Even though most Americans as of today no longer worry about feeding or sheltering armed soldiers, the Third Amendment continues to play an important role in the Bill of Rights.

“A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference” (Thomas Jefferson Google). The Bill of Rights is the most important part of the constitution, which is why the anti-federalists argued against the federalists to have it be included. As one can see, personal freedom is an incredibly important part to our modern day society. The Bill of Rights is who and what we are; we do all of these things, on our own moral authority as free humans of decency, honor, and valor. Without the Bill of Rights, we all would probably wonder what America would have become.

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Bill of Rights: Right Against Government. (2021, Mar 09). Retrieved from

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