Charters of Freedom – Starting the conversation.
Exploring the Charters of Freedom – Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights
The Charters of Freedom refers to three documents instrumental to the foundation of the United States, i.e., the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights.
The documents embody the philosophy of the United States and are the bedrock of the American legal and political system.
The Declaration of Independence.
Enacted on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the oldest of the three documents. It represented the country’s determination to become a free and independent nation and recognize individual liberties.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft that was then edited by a five-member committee appointed by the Continental Congress.
According to the Declaration of Independence, all men are created with the unalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The Declaration of Independence stated that governments are instituted by men, deriving “just powers” from the consent of the governed.
Whenever the government abandons these principles, people have the right to alter or abolish them and establish a new government that fulfills these obligations.
It gives the people the right to “throw off” a despotic government full of “Abuses and Usurpation” and find new guardians of their future security.
The Constitution of the United States.
The Constitution of the United States is the Supreme law of the land, superseding the Articles of Confederation.
Written in 1787 and taking effect in 1789, it holds the longest record for any written government charter.
The U.S. constitution is responsible for organizing the government and allocating power to the three branches of the government, namely the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary.
The Legislature comprises the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, collectively known as the U.S. Congress.
Tasked with making laws and supervising other branches of the government, the legislature is considered the “First Branch.”
The U.S. Constitution recognizes the supremacy of the people in Article I through elected representatives to the U.S. Congress.
It also establishes federalism, sharing powers between the federal government and the states.
The Bill of Rights.
The Constitution of the United States is intended to be a living document capable of adapting to changing circumstances while maintaining its core principles.
Article V of the constitution outlines the amendment process, with the document having undergone 27 amendments in 200 years.
The first ten amendments collectively make the Bill of Rights that guarantees citizens various freedoms such as:
● Freedom of speech, press, and protest – the First Amendment
● The right to keep and bear arms – the Second Amendment,
● Preventing soldiers from occupying people’s homes without consent – Third Amendment
● Protection Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures – Fourth Amendment
● Protection from self-incrimination, double jeopardy, and the right to due process and just compensation – Fifth Amendment
● The right to an impartial jury, speedy and public trial – Sixth Amendment
● The right to a jury in federal prosecution – Seventh Amendment
● Protection from cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bail and fines – Eighth Amendment
● Recognizing that citizens have other rights that may not be explicitly spelt out in the constitution – The ninth amendment
● Limiting the government’s powers to those listed in the constitution and delegating others to the states and the people – the Tenth Amendment
The Bill of Rights was intended to limit the federal government’s power over the people, protect individual liberties, and recognize the states.
The Charter of Freedom has shaped American nationhood, creating a unique identity envied by other countries.
It has also inspired Americans in their fight for justice, equality, and liberty, creating a model for the fight for democracy at home and abroad.
The American model of democracy is facing various challenges from within and outside. Movements such as the cancel culture attempt to illegally regulate the freedom of speech, while the government treats 2A as a lesser right.
However, the Americans’ love for freedom remains as strong as ever, and they are more determined to protect their liberties than ever before.
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