In the United States, the Bill of Rights is a common term used to refer to initial amendments included in the US Constitution (Amar, 1998). The development of these amendments was carried out with a purpose to protect individual rights regarding property ownership and liberty. Ten amendments guaranteed individuals the freedom previously limited by the Constitution. Consequently, government’s influence on judicial matters decreased significantly with a shift of power from the government to states and public. As indicated by the US past amendment processes, amending US Constitution has never been an easy task. The US Constitution describes two ways in which amendments can be pursued (Amar, 1998). In the first method, a bill is passed through the legislature, and it must be voted for by a two-third majority for it to proceed. Thereafter, the bill proceeds through states’ legislature. Normally, amendments take up to seven years to be approved (Amar, 1998). Under the second method, constitutional convention must win a two-third legislature support for it to be proposed. Thereafter, the amendments are passed through the states for approval. For further proceedings, three-fourths of conventions have to approve it. Regardless of the method chosen, three-fourths of states must approve the amendment (Amar, 1998). In the US history, none of the 27 amendments has been approved through the constitutional convention (Amar, 1998). The Congress normally proposes amendments through the joint resolution. Thereafter, amendments are forwarded to the Federal Register for publication (Amar, 1998). In this process, the bill never passes through the White House for approval since the president lacks constitutional support in the amendment processes. Afterwards, amendments are submitted to the states for approval. To achieve this objective, governors receive letters from the Federal Register directing them to forward the amendments to the state legislature. In order for an amendment to be adopted in a Constitution, it must be supported by three-fourths of states (Amar, 1998). Once verified, the Archivist certifies the amendment, which thereafter becomes included in a Constitution (Amar, 1998).
What Have Been the Effects of the Bill of Rights?
With the introduction of the Bill of Rights America experienced a rebirth of new rights regime. This new regime ensured the counterchecking of the government power and its regulation, guaranteeing equal rights and minimizing government oppression on its citizens (Schwartz, 1977). Through this undertaking, the United States government power ultimately transferred to the states and the people transforming existing methods of governance. In the preceding years, this step had profound impact across the globe with other countries following it (Schwartz, 1977). Similarly, overtime, amendments created the platform for the formation of the modern international human rights movement resulting in the formulation of international codes and laws aimed at safeguarding human rights across the globe.
What Problems with the Original Document, or Changes in Society, Led to Later Amendments?
The problem with the original Constitution was that it failed to address adequately individual rights. This was true because the federalists were only interested in protecting the government and the Constitution. Throughout the amendments sessions, anti-federalists ganged up to support the amendments of the original Constitution, which threatened individual’s liberty and rights. Similarly, previous documents had no measure to countercheck the government concerning tyrannical acts. To solve this issue, Thomas Jefferson and other anti-federalists ensured the processing of the amendments to reduce government’s autonomous power (Schwartz, 1977). In addition, the initial documented failed to guarantee American citizens their rights to freedom, speech, and liberty. Thus, Americans had to amend their Constitution.
Despite earlier amendments, the Bill of Rights never protected rights of all individuals. It only protected the rights of the majority of citizens. With this partiality, Native Americans were never considered as American citizens (Schwartz, 1977). Similarly, earlier amendments denied equal civil rights to all American citizens. To abolish partiality, US minorities fought for the subsequent amendments allowing them to enjoy equal civil and human rights (Schwartz, 1977). With these amendments, citizenship and equal rights were guaranteed to Native Americans and other minorities (Schwartz, 1977).
Likewise, confederation articles in the history of the US only acted as an emergency Constitution. Drafters of these articles contextualized them to wartime rather than peacetime (Schwartz, 1977). Despite of ineffectiveness, the papers offered thirteen states a means of transitioning to new nationhood. Most of US younger states disagreed over issues regarding trade and commerce. As a result, worrying states reached a consensus to not only strengthen their business relations, but also to work towards prosperity. In the midst of all these relations, rivaling states agreed to change their rules in consideration to various significant factors. In 1786 in Maryland all thirteen states proposed to amend their Constitution (Schwartz, 1977).
Thirteenth through Fifteenth Amendments
These three amendments aimed at helping African-Americans and other minority groups in the US (Veit & Bickford, 1991). Through these amendments, segregation, racism and all other discriminatory acts were abolished. Thus, all Americans enjoyed equal treatment irrespective of their background. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in1865. It prohibited slavery in American states (Veit & Bickford, 1991). The amendment process lasted for a year before it was verified into law. Despite these laws, Kentucky and Delaware states continued to practice slavery. However, later they adopted the amendment. Before the implementation of this amendment, Congress had persistently protected slavery by passing unjust bills (Veit & Bickford, 1991). However, this amendment served as a milestone in the history of the US in ensuring justice and equality for all American citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment was approved in 1868 (Veit & Bickford, 1991). In its earlier stages, drafters of the bill aimed to protect and secure the rights of African Americans who suffered discrimination at that time. However, in recent times, it has served to protect the rights of all minority groups in the US (Veit & Bickford, 1991). The first section of this amendment guarantees all Americans equal citizenship and equal rights to liberty and own property. In its second section, the law grants equal civil rights to all males above 21 years. Similarly, the Fourteenth Amendment through its third section prohibits the election of individuals who have engaged in illegal acts in the past (Veit & Bickford, 1991). Despite the ratification of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, minority groups in the US still faced a lot of discrimination in various aspects of their lives. In the middle of 19th century, American officials acknowledged the need to ensure justice and fairness in the society. As a result, the Fifteenth Amendment underwent ratification in1870 (Veit & Bickford, 1991). With this amendment, the US government guaranteed its citizens equal opportunities to exercise their civil rights regardless of race, color, religion, or servitude.
In conclusion, the Bill of Rights through these amendments eliminated flaws previously existing in the US Constitution (Veit & Bickford, 1991). In the absence of the Article V of the Constitution, it would have been impossible to realize proposals. Consequently, the impact of these amendments has created numerous benefits for the modern American society (Veit & Bickford, 1991). Similarly, it is important to note that without these amendments, it would not be possible for America to have an African-American president, like the one currently in power. Thus, the Bill of Rights made America a unique country that protects individual rights and liberties irrespective of people’s background and offers equal opportunities to all its citizens.