What Rights and Liberties Are Guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution?

Why Didn't the Framers of the Constitution Include Other Rights?

US Capitol building in Washington DC
US Capitol building.

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The US Constitution guarantees a number of rights and liberties to US citizens. 

  • The right to trial by jury in criminal cases is guaranteed. (Article 3, Section 2)
  • The citizens of each state are entitled to the privileges and immunities of the citizens of every other state. (Article 4, Section 2)
  • The requirement of a Writ of habeas corpus may not be suspended except during invasion or rebellion. (Article 1, Section 9)
  • Neither Congress nor the states can pass a bill of attainder. (Article 1, Section 9) 
  • Neither Congress nor the states can pass ex-post facto laws. (Article 1, Section 9) 
  • No law impairing the obligation of contracts may be passed by states. (Article 1, Section 10
  • No religious test or qualification for holding federal office is allowed. (Article 6)
  • No titles of nobility would be allowed. (Article 1, Section 9) 

A Bill of Rights

The framers at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 felt that these eight rights were necessary to protect the citizens of the United States. However, many individuals not present felt that the Constitution could not be ratified without the addition of a Bill of Rights.

In fact, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson argued that not including the rights that would eventually be written into the first ten amendments to the Constitution was unconscionable. As Jefferson wrote to James Madison, the 'Father of the Constitution,', “a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no government should refuse, or rest on inference.” 

Why Wasn't Freedom of Speech Included?

The reason why many of the framers of the Constitution did not include rights such as freedom of speech and religion in the body of the Constitution was that they felt that listing out these rights would, in fact, restrict freedoms. In other words, there was a general belief that by enumerating specific rights guaranteed to citizens, the implication would be that these were granted by the government instead of being natural rights that all individuals should have from birth. Further, by specifically naming rights, this would, in turn, mean that those not specifically named would not be protected. Others including Alexander Hamilton felt that protecting rights should be done at the state instead of the federal level. 

Madison, however, saw the importance of adding the Bill of Rights and wrote the amendments that would eventually be added in order to assure ratification by the states. 

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Kelly, Martin. "What Rights and Liberties Are Guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/rights-guaranteed-within-the-constitution-105414. Kelly, Martin. (2021, February 16). What Rights and Liberties Are Guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/rights-guaranteed-within-the-constitution-105414 Kelly, Martin. "What Rights and Liberties Are Guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/rights-guaranteed-within-the-constitution-105414 (accessed November 26, 2022).