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History Of The Due Process Clause

1362 words - 6 pages

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution includes a clause called Due Process Clause and it is stated in the passage “no person… shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The historical background has its origins in the Article 39 of the Magna Carta, which states that “no free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseized or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” This British clause from 1215 was designed to protect the private interests of the noble class against arbitrary actions of the king, submitting this last one to the principle ...view middle of the document...

The Bill of Rights was added to the constitution after an agreement with the Anti-Federalist Party, whose members, as well as many other people, were concerned about the fact that the Constitution could not be enough to guarantee individuals rights. James Madison analyzed the proposals for amendments sent by several states, but one proposal from New York was accepted practically unchanged: "No Person ought to be taken imprisoned or disseized of his freehold, or be exiled or deprived of his Privileges, Franchises, Life, Liberty or Property but by due process of Law." This proposal gave origin to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and became law in December 15, 1791.
In the XVIII Century, the judiciary power was regarded as an extension of the executive power. Because of that, the expression “without due process of law” was understood as executive actions conducted without the proper legal authorization. By that time, the clause referred to traditional forms of justice, regarding pre-existing laws, instead of regard the due process itself. However, American legal system was submitted by intense revision during late XVIII Century and became much different from the conservative British interpretation of due process.
In 1856, Supreme Court extended the due process principle to the Congress, in the case Murray Lessee x Hoboken Land and Improvement Co. In this Case the Supreme Court used Due Process clause to limit the adjudication power of the Congress. From that time, Congress became submitted to the Due Process Clause.
Despite these legal advances leading to a more broad interpretation of the clause, not all of the three individual rights guaranteed by it were sufficiently clear. Sir William Blackstone tried to fix this problem by defining the three primary personal rights. Personal Security, that corresponds to the Fifth Amendment guarantee of life, was defined by Sir Blackstone as “a person’s legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health, and his reputation”. Personal Liberty was defined as “the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one’s person to whatsoever place one’s own inclination may direct; without imprisonment or restraint, unless by due course of law” and the Right to Private Property was defined as “the free use, enjoyment, and disposal (by man) of all his acquisitions, without any control or diminution, save only by the laws of the land”. These definitions encompass concepts such as body integrity and individual freedom of choice, but the right to property, here, continues to be an ambiguous idea. It includes exchangeable values but not government benefits, jobs and licenses. Furthermore, another question remained. The definitions of the terms Life, Liberty and Property were in accordance to federal or to state laws? In 18th Century America it is acceptable to say that the Constitution defined the outer margins of these definitions, while state laws specified...

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