Overview[edit | edit source]
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution (known as the Bill of Rights) spell out those inalienable rights for which the 13 colonies, in 1776, had defied England; and for the greater security of which, 11 years later, they gave up some of the powers of nation-statehood to create a more perfect union. Our founding fathers, fearful of a large, centralized, and authoritarian government, crafted the Bill of Rights to limit the power of government. Many of these rights were already deeply rooted in English common law and in the aspirations and struggles of the peoples of many countries who came to the New World.
The Bill of Rights embodies the most fundamental political, intellectual, and religious rights in the 45 words of the First Amendment. It also forbids arbitrary and lawless governmental actions that threaten life, liberty, or individual property, and has been interpreted to recognize a zone of privacy on which government has no right to intrude. The rights of those suspected of or convicted of crime are spelled out and the criteria for citizenship and enjoyment of these rights and protections are set forth.