Robert J. McWhirter, author of the book Bills, Quills, and Stills: An Annotated, Illustrated, and Illuminated History of the Bill of Rights, has provided a list of 10 common misconceptions about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in an article he wrote on ABA Journal. As this relatively short document is the DNA of our country and the most important political document we have ever produced, it is worthwhile to take a close look at it. McWhirter gives us a closer view.
1.) Though we celebrate that “all men are created equal,” the spirit of this egalitarian creed only slowly embodied itself in Constitutional law. Originally, women, blacks, Catholics, and white men with little property could not vote. Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband John Adams on March 31, 1776, asking him to “remember the Ladies.” They wouldn’t be remembered until the 19th Amendment, nor black men until the 15th.
2) Some of what we as Americans take as universal rights were not included in the original Constitution. It provided no universal public education or worker’s rights, for instance. Though it recognized the right to civil jury, a habeas corpus petition, and prohibition on ex post facto laws, other rights such as the right to travel come from the Magna Carta of 1215, which is also the source of right to due process, and the presumption of innocence in a criminal case.
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