We the People
On the eve of Independence Day, with parades, picnics and baseball games on deck and flags flying from every corner, it is also a time to pause and remember who we are as a people and what we stand for as a nation. Two hundred and thirty-three years after the founding of the country, what are the principles and values that guide American society?
On this July Fourth we have a new nation to celebrate. Led by the first African American President in its relatively short history as country, America is poised at a time of new hope, for our civil liberties and individual rights, for equality regardless of age, race, economic status or gender, for government programs that are designed to promote sound economies, excellence in public education, health and human welfare, protection of the environment, freedom for all and peace among nations. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves not just on this Independence Day but on every Fourth of July about the principles that underlie this nation.
It is for these reasons that we publish below the full text of the American Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the precious tenets that protect our way of life, our freedom of speech and religion, our right to a jury trial and our protections against illegal search and seizure.
First Amendment: 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.
Second Amendment: 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.
Third Amendment: 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.
Fourth Amendment: 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.
Fifth Amendment: 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 offense 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.
Sixth Amendment: 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.
Seventh Amendment: 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 re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Tenth Amendment: 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.