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Rights and Laws

How did the U.S. become so economically successful? One part of the answer:

American human rights and the rule of law.

  • The Constitution (1787) and its first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights (1791)
  • The Fourteenth Amendment (1868): equal justice for all?
  • How the justice system works
  • How laws are made
  • How trials work
  • How punishment works

Human rights and the rule of law enable each other.

 Bill of Rights

First Amendment

  • religion
  • speech
  • press
  • peaceable assembly
  • petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Second Amendment

  • bear arms

Third Amendment

  • no quartering of soldiers in private homes
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments

  • due process
  • search and seizure
  • grand jury
  • be informed of criminal charges
  • speedy and public trial
  • assistance of counsel
  • impartial jury
  • confront witnesses
  • compel witnesses to appear in court
  • self-incrimination
  • double jeopardy
  • excessive bail and fines
  • cruel and unusual punishments
Ninth Amendment

  • ownership of private property
  • implied rights
    • to privacy
    • to live or travel anywhere in our nation
    • to work at any job for which we can qualify
    • to marry and raise a family
    • to receive a free education in good public schools
    • to join a political party, a union, and other legal groups

Tenth Amendment

  • federalism

Fourteenth Amendment – 1868, after the Civil War, applies to government officials, not private citizens

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

  • due process
  • equal protection
  • corporate personhood

This amendment is the basis for many distinctive features of American culture, especially related to voting, employment, and discrimination based on gender, disability, and sexual orientation.


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