July 18, 2012
Bill of Rights and Amendments 13, 14, and 15
"The Constitution is the highest law in the United States" (U.S. Constitution, 2010, para. 1). The Constitution is the building block for the United States government, and each law separate from the Constitution is some derivative of the document. The Constitution assisted in creating Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. Over the course of the United States' history many items were added within the Constitution. These items are the amendments and many of them deal with rights of the people, and twenty seven exist within the Constitution with the first 10 as the Bill of Rights (U.S. Constitution). The subject matter within the body of the following paragraphs deal with the Bill of Rights and the thirteenth through fifteenth amendments. The subject begins with amendments and how they become part of the Constitution followed by the birth of the Bill of Rights. The discussion moves toward the effects of the Bill, problems with the original document, and finally the effects of later amendments. The discussion begins with the topic of amendments and their birth within the Constitution. The How and why of the Amendment Process
"The writers of the Constitution were determined through their system of checks and balances to protect liberty from the threat of a too-powerful government" (Patterson, 2009, p. 28). From this premise arose the Constitution, and the accompanying amendments. The ability in amending the United States Constitution is a direct resultant of Article V of the United States Constitution. Two avenues exist for ratifying an Amendment, but only one is the sole method. Each of the 27 Amendments became ratified following two-thirds of the Senate and Houses' approval of each proposal. Then each proposal was put before each state for a three-fourths vote, and with a passing vote each proposal becomes an amendment (Lexis Nexis, 2009).
The other avenue of approving an Amendment comes from a "constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures" (Archives, 2012, para. 3). The process begins with a proposal represented as a joint resolution. The president of the United States does not perform any constitutional roles concerning the process of amending proposals so they do not enter the White House for approval or signature. The proposed documents enter the publication phase in slip law format, and an assembled package is sent to the states along with the procedure for ratification (Archives).
Amendments become part of the Constitution in helping resolve issues at the time of the proposal. Some were added to abolish slavery, some were added to give voting rights to every individual, and others were added for various "rights" issues. The Bill of Rights and the amendments were born because of issues with the original document. Motivation for Adopting the Bill of Rights
The Constitution as originally drafted in 1787 contained few guaranteed rights for individuals as the document focused primarily on an effective federal government. The premise of the Bill of Rights began when Charles Pinckney proposed including guaranteed rights that included liberty of the press and banning soldiers quartered in private homes (UMKC, 2012). The original proposal of the Bill of Rights arose before the Convention on the 12th of September in 1787 but received a rejection (UMKC).
September of 1789 the first Congress approved the original 12 amendments to the Constitution that went before the states for approval. The motivation for adopting the Bill stemmed from "individual's basic rights, freedom of speech, press, assembly, exercise of religion, fair legal procedure, the right to bear arms, and powers for the states not reserved for the federal government" (History, 2012, para. 1). These rights embedded within the Bill had profound effects on the first 10 amendments. Effects of the Bill of Rights
The main premise of the bill provided a safety net against governmental actions against the people. The assumption by the creators was that the bill would protect citizens through his or her home state's Constitution. The bill did not provide its full effect until the 14th amendment arose, and applied the Bill of Rights to the States. Not until the twentieth century did the view of the bill shift with the role of the federal government. " The document that rarely affected American’s lives soon after its ratification now takes center stage in American society and politics" (Primo History, 2011, para. 4).
The most notable effect of the bill is it serves as a beacon to which United States citizens can aspire. The Bill of Rights arose to protect individual's liberties but more correctly it is a living record of ideals to which Americans should follow. The bill does not stop the government from persecuting people but rather it serves as a set of guidelines. People can point to the bill and provide valid reasons the government should stop abusing him or her. Essentially the Bill of Rights provides and ethical code for the American people (Enotes, 2012). The bill's stature did not arise overnight. It gained its strength with the adoption of the reconstruction amendments. Reasons for The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and the Effects
The reasons for these amendments were to protect the rights of all individuals regardless of race or color. Specifically these amendments focused on helping African Americans along with other minorities live in America without discrimination (Ewalt, 2008). These three amendments were the reconstruction amendments.
The reconstruction amendments refer to the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Starting with the Thirteenth, ratified in 1865, this amendment abolished slavery within the United States (Foner, 2004). The Fourteenth created the rights of all people born within the United States, and the Fifteenth, ratified in 1870, stopped the states from “depriving any person of the right to vote because of race" (Foner, para. 5). Although the Fifteenth provided voting rights for individuals regardless of race, other forms of discrimination still affected people of sex, literacy, property ownership, and tax payments. This amendment mainly provided rights for male citizens to vote.
These amendments and especially the Fourteenth turned the Constitution from a manuscript concerned with state-federal associations and property rights into an avenue where minorities can lay claim to the freedoms realized by all Americans.. Conclusion
The Bill of Rights, and the associated amendments are important documents of freedom for all individuals. These documents are not self-enforcing, and are guidelines still left open for interpretation. "Today, in continuing controversies over abortion rights, affirmative action, the rights of homosexuals, and many other issues, the interpretation of these amendments, especially the Fourteenth, remains a focus of judicial decision-making and political debate" (Foner, para. 9).
The aforementioned sections touched on the various aspects of the Bill of Rights and the thirteenth, fourteenth, and the fifteenth amendments. Discussion began with the reasons for the adoption of amendments and how they become a part of the Constitution. The creation of the Bill of Rights began with the first 10 amendments, and the effects were lasting. These effects provided an avenue for the creation of accompanying amendments; specifically the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments. With the combination of the Bill and these three amendments the rights of all people became solidarity within the American culture.
Archives. (2012). The Constitutional Amendment Process. Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/ Enotes. (2012). What Have Been the Effetcs of the Bill of Rights? Retrieved from http://www.enotes.com/history/discuss/what-have-been-effects-bill-rights-93688 Ewalt, M. (2008, June 13). Overview of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendment. Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/overview-13th-14th-15th-amendment-1530841.html Foner, E. (2004). The Reconstruction Amendments:Official Documents as Social History. Retrieved from http://www.gilderlehrman.org/historynow/12_2004/historian.php History. (2012). Bill of Rights is Finally Ratified. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bill-of-rights-is-finally-ratified Lexis Nexis. (2009). How is the Constitution amended? Retrieved from