British and American Rights
In his Commentaries on the Laws of England, William Blackstone said that individuals had absolute rights “inherent in us by birth. . .the gifts of God to man at his creation. . .” They were
1) “the right of personal security
2) the right of personal liberty
3) the right of private property”.
In Britain, centuries of struggle had occurred in the defence of these rights, and they were affirmed in the British Constitution, which includes Common Law, Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.
Brits in America were tremendously impressed by Blackstone's Commentaries, which continue to be quoted in Supreme Court decisions today. In 1791, after winning their independence from Britain and establishing their constitution and new government, Americans decided it was essential to spell out their God-given rights of personal security, personal liberty, and private property in amendments to the U.S. Constitution since their elected representatives were proving remarkably forgetful of them. They chose to use the same name - Bill of Rights - that the English used in 1689.
We have never seen a comparison of the rights articulated and protected by the British Constitution between the 9th and 18th centuries with those protected by the US Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, so we created one. It’s quite fascinating. Below we reprint the US Bill of Rights. The rights protected by the British Constitution are shown in red.
The U.S. Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor,and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The wary genius of the drafters is evident in the 9th and 10th amendments.
To articulate and protect these rights over the centuries in Britain and in America required imagination and courage. It was never enough to have these rights in writing. Men and women had to defend them, and that task continues today.
Since we first wrote on this subject last year, the US Supreme Court has affirmed that the right to bear arms is an individual right. The justices based their thinking on British and American history. The individual right to bear arms corresponds to the individual's absolute right to personal security and, consequently, to her right to defend herself with arms if necessary.
Bill of Rights Day in America is celebrated today.
Thanks to Instapundit for the reminder.