The Bill of Rights and Amendments
According to Patterson (2009), the framers of the US Constitution wanted to ensure governmental structure would be able to grow and change to match the needs of American society over time. As such, the National Archives (2011) website describes in detail the process listed in Amendment V to propose to alter the United States Constitution. Within this paper, problems with the original document and changes in society that motivated the adoption of the Bill of Rights will be discussed. Additionally, how and why amendments become part of the Constitution will be addressed along with the effects these later amendments, such as the Thirteenth through Fifteenth ...view middle of the document...
A remarkable yet flawed document, Mount (2010) states the Constitution failed to declare specifically the individual rights that pertained to individual citizens. The document specified mostly what the government could do but lacked in defining what the government could not do, causing Anti-Federalists to refuse support according to Patterson (2009). With much controversy, the inclusion of the Bill of Rights calmed the fears that newly won freedoms would be lost (Patterson, 2009). Even though protection of rights is not the main purpose of American government, the idea of liberty has become the cornerstone of traditional American values (Patterson, 2009).
Effects of the Bill of Rights
Establishing principles of liberty guaranteed to secure individual fundamental rights, the Bill of Rights has had a tremendous effect on American freedoms throughout history. However, at the time of inclusion, it was not clear how the Bill of Rights would be applied or what entity would govern these rights. It was not until Marbury v. Madison (1803) that the government considered the Supreme Court the final arbiter with the ability to nullify Congressional acts as unconstitutional. Nevertheless, as society began to change, so did the interpretation of the Bill of Rights, according to Patterson (2009).
Changes in Society that Led to Later Amendments
Whereas the Bill of Rights seemed to exclude no one, in fact the use of broad language left out groups entirely. The language used to secure individual freedoms was subject to interpretation; race and gender exceptions were applied. For instance, “consent of the governed” originally referred to propertied Caucasian males only; a belief that stood fast for almost a century (The Declaration of Independence, 1776, para. 2; Patterson, 2009). Slaves, females, and Native Americans continued to be denied the basic human rights supposedly granted by the Constitution itself, according to Jonas (2005).
For example, Jonas (2005) states slaves were beaten, whipped, imprisoned without trial, and hanged as the opinion of the era was that slaves did not have rights for which Caucasians must respect. He further states colonists considered Native Americans to be an alien people, and as such, governed natives by federal treaties. Furthermore, he reveals colonists believed females to be the property of their husbands, second-class citizens at best. Although holding the power to declare these types of acts unconstitutional, Patterson (2009) states over a century passed before the Supreme Court struck down laws with the reason of violation of the First Amendment.
Effects of the Thirteenth through Fifteenth Amendments
Although equal protection under the law is a constitutional right, slaves struggled for...