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The Bill of Rights: an introduction

The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, guarantees individual freedoms. It includes rights like freedom of speech, religion, and protection against unreasonable searches. It also provides protections for those accused of crimes. The last two amendments ensure that any unlisted rights belong to the people or states.

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Video transcript

- [Tutor] The Bill of Rights, as we know it today were the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and these amendments guaranteed individual liberty to make sure that citizens had stated expectation for what the government could or could not do to them and you can kind of see here in many of these rights, the legacy of the Revolutionary War and the kinds of government abuses, that citizens in the Colonies had feared. Now I'm going to go over these very quickly, we'll spend a lot more time in other videos talking more about these amendments, but I wanna give you an overall sense of what they're driving at. Now the first four amendments guarantee individual liberties, these are freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, freedom to ask the government for redress of grievances or to deal with a problem, that the government may have caused in your life, the right to bear arms and assemble militias, state and local militias had made the Revolutionary War a success for the United States, a ban on quartering soldiers in homes, recall that the Quartering Act, when the British government said that the Colonies had to put up soldiers in their homes was a major driver of revolution and a ban on unreasonable search and seizure, that is it would be necessary for the government to get a warrant to enter your home or to search your belongings. The next four amendments in the Bill of Rights deal with protections for people accused of crimes and again, you see the legacy of the Revolutionary War and the idea that the Crown had had too much power to persecute individuals, so this includes things like the right to due process, that is to make sure that all the steps of following the law are taken, a ban on being tried twice for the same crime, rights to a speedy and public trial, a jury of your peers, to even have a jury in cases, that don't have to do with violent crimes, but rather civil disputes and a ban on excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment, basically this is a guarantee that the government will respect the rights of individuals. Now, one of the arguments made against including a Bill of Rights in the Constitution was that listing out those rights might then mean that they were the only rights and that by listing out these rights in particular, they might be forfeiting their liberties in other ways, so the ninth and tenth amendments attempt to deal with that worry, they say in the ninth amendment, any right that isn't listed here is still retained by the people, so this is not an exhaustive list, this is not the complete list of all the rights retained by the people and the tenth amendment is slightly different, but kind of on the same line, they say that if this Constitution has not delegated a right directly to the federal government, then that right is reserved to the states or the people, so the federal government can only do the things that are listed in this Constitution, it is a limited government, limited by this document. On the other hand, the rights of the people are unlimited, so if the Constitution doesn't say that the federal government can do it, that's then a right of the states or the people.