The Genesis of the Bill of Rights

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Magna Carta.

Prior to the American Revolution, the colonists had become familiar with the concept of charters. Charters, whether royal, corporate, or proprietary, operated “as the evidence of a compact between an English King and the American subjects.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 268; see also Leonard Krieger, The Politics of Discretion: Pufendorf and the Acceptance of Natural Law (Chicago, 1965), 121.

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Preserving the Health of the Constitution

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General George Washington at Trenton. By: John Trumbull.

Corruption was rife in England in the decades leading up to the American Revolution, and Americans were keenly aware of that fact. For many individuals, the English Constitution was viewed as a hollow document, as the crown had taken the power away from all other sources. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 34-35. Americans knew that this corruption “always begins amongst the Rich and the Great” and would spread to the common people, leaving them “enfeebled and their souls depraved.” Id. at 35 quoting Pinkney’s Wmsbg. Va. Gazette, June 15, 1775; Phila. Pa. Packet, May 29, 1775, Aug. 8, 1774; Purdie and Dixon’s Wmsbg. Va. Gazette, Sept. 5, 1771. Read more

Setting an Unshakeable Foundation

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John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. By: Henry Inman.

In the first years of the American Republic, there were drastic changes in the law. The importance and organization of laws were coming into place. At the top were constitutional rights, which, as James Cannon explained “must be protected and defended ‘as the apple of your eye’ from danger ‘or they will be lost forever.'” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 293 quoting James Cannon, “Cassandra,” Apr. 1776, Force, ed., American Archives, 4th Ser., V, 1094, quoting from Hulme, Historical Essay, 143-44. Cannon continued, stating that constitutional rights must be set “on a foundation never more to be shaken,” meaning that constitutional rights “must be specified and written down in immutable documents. Id.

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