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The English Bill of Rights and United States Bill of Rights

The English Bill of Rights and United States Bill of Rights

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The English Bill of Rights and United States Bill of Rights

When America
was under British control, colonials often mistrusted or felt abused by overbearing
governments. Settlers were commonly imprisoned for failing to pay debts created
through unjust tax burdens. The citizens of America were teetering on the brink
of revolution from autocracy’s mistreatment.

When America
won its Revolution in 1776 the need for an established Federal Government was
paramount. Federalist leaders such as Alexander Hamilton yearned for a
governing body that was powerful enough to impose an effective system of laws,
taxes, and policy. The original Constitution established America as a sovereign
nation and awarded unanimous power to the Federal Government and the individual
State.

The first
draft of the Constitution (known as the Articles of Confederation drafted in
1787) created a unique system of checks and balances that separated powers
between an executive branch, a representative legislature, and a Federal
judiciary system. Initially thought to be fair and balanced, the Constitution
was severely flawed due to the exclusion of individual rights.

    
Fearful of a British replicate, the anti-Federalist
party, led by James Madison, George Mason, and Patrick Henry, attempted to
amend the Constitution with an inclusion of individual rights. Although a firm
supporter of individual freedoms, James Madison did not feel obligated to
include such amendments in the initial Constitution. Madison’s original
sentiment expressed a need for an established government and claimed that
individual rights were included in the original amendments.

Although
Madison was a member of the anti-Federalist party, he was not originally
engaged in a concerted effort for the proposal of such amendments. The initial
spark for an individualistic movement was created during the ratification
process of the first Constitution.

When the
Articles of Confederation were adopted the leaders of individual states would
routinely meet at an assembly hall to express views or offer ideas on how to
improve the Constitution. During these ratification meetings (congressional
hearings) many State leaders and anti-Federalist members called for an
inclusion of a series of individual liberties. The leaders of these movements,
most notably Patrick Henry and George Mason, attempted to sway leaders of the
states to pass a Bill of Rights, which specifically administered freedoms to the
individual citizen. Their efforts were futile in terms of a vote (9 out of 13
votes were required for ratification), but not in regards to influence.

James Madison
observed the fervor which these men possessed towards individual freedoms and
soon became active himself. Madison quickly realized that it was his obligation
to lead the movement for the Bill of Rights. Without his involvement, Madison
believed that the United States Government would have never extended such
rights to the individual. Without individual rights, the American Government
would inevitably become a duplicate of the British Empire. 

    
James Madison won election to the House of
Representatives and immediately fulfilled his pledge to draft a set of civil
liberties to the Constitution. On June 8th, 1789, Madison officially revealed
his Bill of Rights proposal and gave a calculated speech in front of Congress.
The speech aimed to answer any doubts or questions raised by the Federalist Party.

The proposal
itself was derived from several State Constitutions and ratifying conventions.
Madison used his own State’s (Virginia) Constitution, published by George
Mason, as a general framework.

The Bill of Rights
contained 413 words and originally detailed twelve undeniable rights to the
individual. The ratification process whittled the Bill of Rights to 8 Amendments
and then eventually 12. On December 15th, 1791, the Bill of Rights was
officially adopted into the United States Constitution. James Madison published
the Amendments and successfully orated for the inclusion of them in the
Constitution. However, without the efforts of George Mason and Patrick Henry,
Madison’s limited motivation may have impeded such feats from being
accomplished. 


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