What are the five rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is one of the most consequential paragraphs ever written. It not only creates the basis for important civil rights in the United States, but also guided the development of international standards for human rights protection. Freedom of Religion: The First Amendment provides that there shall not be an established religion in the United States. This is known as the "establishment clause". At the time of the adoption of the Consitution, Europe had experienced centuries of bloody religious wars. The founding fathers were anxious to assure that the horrors caused by religious dispute in the old world would not be transported to the new American republic. In the same spirit, the Amendment goes on to say that no law may be passed to limit the free "exercise" of religion. Freedom of Speech Under the First Amendment, laws cannot be passed to limit freedom of speech (there are exceptions, but they are extremely limited). This includes, of course, an almost unlimited right to criticize the government. It is important to remember how revolutionary the establishment of this right, like the Freedom of Religion, was, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. After centuries of government repression of free expression, the United States made freedom of expression and even dissent a right of citizenship. Freedom of the Press Like individuals, the press is to be free from governmental interference. The Constitution creates a "marketplace of ideas". This applies to all forms of media, including broadcast, print media, and electronic media. Again, exceptions have been carved out to this freedom, but those exceptions are very, very limited. Freedom of Assembly In another radical departure from the practices of 18th Century governments, citizens of the United States were free to assemble, publicly or privately. This right extends to political purposes. While, again, this right is not absolute, it is very broad and certainly extends to any political, social, recreational, intellectual, educational or other reasonable purpose. Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances The Constitution provides that government cannot operate in a vacuum. Citizens were permitted to communicate with their elected representatives, as well as other government officials, to express their opinion and attempt (legally) to influence the actions of their government. While this right is also subject to reasonable regulation, it is broad freedom available to all Americans.
What is Federalism?
You have often heard the term "federal government". The political system of the United States is a "federal" system. As it is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, a federal system is defind as one in which the system "unites separate states or other polities within an overarching political system in such a way as to allow each to maintain its own fundamental political integrity." The latin phrase "e pluribus unum (out of many--one)" is a short-hand way of looking at the federal system. The United States is a single, sovereign country. However, itis not a unitary system, but a collection of governmental entities, with defined functions and powers. The United States, as its name suggests, is made up of individual states. At the heart of the U.S. government is the United States Constitution, which creates the national federal government and defines (not always clearly) the powers and limitations of the federal government and those of the individual states. The United States government is granted important powers under the constitution, such as the right to declare and wage war, conduct foreign policy, collect taxes, and regulate interstate commerce. However, states have great deal of autonomy under this federal structure. The Constitution grants states so-called "police powers", essentially, the right to pass laws to promote the general welfare of its citizens. Thus, most laws effecting the day-to-day life of citizens of the U.S. are laws passed by state governments, or political units created by state governments (e.g., cities, counties, towns, villages, school districts).
What were the Causes of the American Civil War?
In the years since people have used phrases such as "states' rights" and "preservation of the union" to explain the causation of the war that killed more Americans than any other. But most historians today believe that all of the explanations revolve around one central issue--slavery. Slavery was a central economic and cultural fact of life in the American South. Southerners denied the right of the federal government to interfere with their “peculiar institution”. Many Americans (predominately in the North) believed slavery to be immoral, but beyond the issue of morality there were other reasons for Northern resistance to slavery. The nation was expanding westward, and many Northerners wanted to prevent the expansion of the institution of slavery into the new territories. They wanted these new states to be left open to free (white) labor.