What is a Bill of Rights? What is an Amendment? How are thy Different?

This paper discusses the meaning of a bill of rights and an amendment, and it goes further to discuss their difference. According to Madison and Mason (2008), a bill of rights is a declaration of the freedoms and rights normally dispensed by a national government to an individual. In the context of the United States, a bill of rights is an official statement of people’s essential rights integrated in all state constitutions and in the main constitution as a group of ten amendments. By providing basic rights to the people, a bill of rights limits the authority of the government over such rights. Following ratification of amendments 1-10 to the Constitution of the US in 1791, citizens were guaranteed of rights such as freedoms of worship, assembly and speech, press, guarantee of quick jury trial in regards to criminal cases (Berkin, 2015). A bill of rights, also, guarantees protection unusual and cruel punishment and excessive bail. Being a basic guarantee of individual freedoms, the Bill of Rights of the United States forms an essential component of the American government and law.

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It is worth noting that the phrase “A Bill of Rights” is a concept, which the US administration borrowed from the English Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1689 (Madison & Mason, 2008). This happened following the Glorious Revolution during the previous years, which formed the terms upon which citizens accepted Mary and William as the queen and King of England. In this case, the Bill of Rights prohibited the monarchy from maintaining an army, raising taxes, or suspending laws without the approval of parliament. In the context of the United States, thirteen states embraced a bill of rights and used it as their constitution after United States became newly independent (Berkin, 2015). All the states of America have the freedom to offer protections further than what the federal Bill of Rights provides; but they lack the freedom to limit the liberties or Civil Rights to levels lower than what the federal Constitution demands.       

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An amendment, in the context of law and government, is an alteration or addition made to a resolution, legislative bill, statute, or constitution (Levin, 2014). Amendments imply changes, and can be effected on the existing legal documents such as statutes and constitutions. In most cases; however, amendments are commonly effected on bills whenever they are passed through a legislative process. It is essential to note that the governance system or political system usually changes whenever amendments are effected on its constitution, statutes, or bill of rights. Some of the most well-known amendments in the history of the US governance system are the first ten amendments, which together constituted the Bill of Rights in 1791 (Finn, 2013). So far, the United States has had more than 27 amendments made to its constitution. Before an amendment is made to the constitution, usually there is a procedure that is followed. First of all, each house of the congress must have two-thirds of its members approving it. Besides, three-fourths of all the states should ratify it before being effected in the constitution. In the context of the United States, it is the Congress that has the authority to decide whether ratification will be handled by commonly elected conventions within several states or by state legislatures. It is worth noting that most US states proposed that any amendments to constitution of the state should be approved by the electorate through a popular referendum process (Finn, 2013).     

Some of the significance of an amendment can be realized in the first amendment that was made to the constitution of the US. It established the freedom for citizens to make their speeches without fear. By that amendment, citizens have the freedom to engage in their religious activities or traditions such as worshiping or praying without any form of interference (Levin, 2014). This first amendment, also, established the freedoms for people to protest in peace. People have the right to education through press; therefore, journalists enjoy the protection of the first amendment. It also guarantees freedom for citizens to associate freely amongst themselves, and petition the government whenever it wrongs them.    

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The first difference between a bill of rights and an amendment lies in their definitions. A bill of rights is a declaration of the freedoms and rights normally dispensed by a national government to an individual. By providing basic rights to the people, a bill of rights limits the authority of the government over such rights such as freedom of speech, association, assembly and worship (Berkin, 2015). An amendment, on the other hand, is an alteration or addition made to a resolution, legislative bill, statute, or constitution. Amendments imply changes, and can be effected on the existing legal documents such as statutes and constitutions (Levin, 2014). A bill of rights forms an essential component of the American government and law. An amendment can only change the governance system or political system of a nation whenever it is made on its constitution, statutes, or bill of rights. A bill of rights, also, guarantees protection unusual and cruel punishment and excessive bail.

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