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Important Ideas
unalienable and natural rights

declarationThese are rights that all people have at birth. The government does not grant these rights, and therefore no government can take them away. The Declaration of Independence says that among these rights are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The U.S. Constitution does not mention “unalienable” or “natural rights.” But the first 10 amendments to the Constitution list the basic rights of Americans. These amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. The amendments contain many, many rights, including:.

Freedom:

  • of religion
  • of speech
  • of the press
  • to assemble
  • to complain to the Government
  • to keep and bear Arms
  • to a speedy and public trial
  • to bail
  • to an impartial jury
  • to be informed of what crime you are accused of
  • to be confronted with the witnesses against him
  • to be able to call witnesses in your favor
  • to have a lawyer.

Protection from:

  • being forced to have soldiers live in your home
  • “unreasonable searches and seizures”
  • being tried twice for the same crime
  • being a witness against yourself
  • having your life, liberty, or property taken “without due process of law”
  • having your private property taken “without just compensation”
  • excessive fines
  • “cruel and unusual punishments”

This is a long list of rights. But the Bill of Rights states that just because it has created this list, the list does not include all the rights that we have. It says the people have other rights as well. In fact, the Constitution only gives the government the powers listed in it. All other powers belong to the people.

Important Ideas | democracy | consent of the governed | equality | independence | liberty | pursuit of happiness | representation

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