Quiz and History for Bill of Rights Day December 15

December 13, 2013

Bill-of-Rights-Founding-Father-President-James-Madison-statue-AP-PhotoImage: James Madison statue in front of Bill of Rights. AP Photo.

We celebrate Bill of Rights Day on December 15 every year in the midst of the bustling holiday season. Although it’s not a Federal holiday, it’s definitely a day for American citizens to commemorate the freedoms we enjoy by law. And no, the right to shop—while popular in America— is not listed in the Bill of Rights!

History of the Bill of Rights

The Founding Fathers drafted the United States Constitution during the First Constitutional Convention, held from May through September 1787 in Philadelphia. The completed draft constitution, sent to the States for ratification in September 1787, did not include any mention of individual rights. The framers’ focus was largely on structuring a strong government, and getting that structure put into place. Without such a structure, the Founding Fathers feared the country’s collapse into chaos or new attacks from outsiders. They left the issue of individual rights without adding it to the Constitution during that meeting.

As a result of this omission, Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry refused to sign the Constitution on principle. Maryland delegates Luther Martin and John Francis Mercer reportedly walked out of the Convention, at least in part because the draft did not include a Bill of Rights. In September, Randolph, Mason and Gerry joined in asking for a second constitutional convention to address the issue of personal rights. All three men advocated strongly for a bill of rights throughout most of the constitutional convention. The people ultimately adopted the Constitution, sans any bill of rights, on September 17, 1787. Eleven states ratified it and it went into effect in 1789.

Founding Father James Madison was a delegate from Virginia who had been a key actor and speaker at the First Constitutional Convention. He had held onto the idea of the individual freedoms as discussed at that Convention. Although Federalist Madison was originally a skeptic about needing a Bill of Rights, like Randolph, Mason and Gerry he came to believe that the inclusion of personal rights was imperative to be added to the United States Constitution.

quote-enlightened-statesmen-will-not-always-be-at-the-helm-President-James-MadisonImage courtesy IZQuotes.

In Madison’s view, the value of a listing of rights was:

  • in part educational for the populace under this new form of Government,
  • in part as a vehicle that might be used to rally people against a future oppressive Government when “less enlightened statesmen” may be in power,
  • and finally–in an argument borrowed from Thomas Jefferson–Madison argued that a declaration of rights would help install the judiciary as “guardians” of individual rights against the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government.

Thus, while serving in the first U.S. House of Representatives, Madison framed and introduced the Bill of Rights as legislative articles to amend the Constitution on June 8, 1789.

He used as a model George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in May 1776, and also based his legislative articles in part on the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Magna Carta and other documents.

Painting-Adoption-of-VA-Declaration-of-RightsImage: This painting, The Adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, depicting the adoption of the Virginia Declaration of Rights by the fifth Virginia Revolutionary Convention was made by Jack Clifton in 1974. It now hangs in the Virginia State Capitol. Courtesy: Virginia Memory online exhibit of the Library of Virginia.

What rights are in Bill of Rights?

Painting-of-James-Madison-reading-Bill-of-Rights-to-First-CongressMadison included in his articles a list of rights of the individual, such as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and others, as well as some limits on government powers.

Image on the right: Madison reading his Bill of Rights to Congress. Courtesy: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

On August 21, 1789, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted Madison’s articles, proposed them in a joint resolution of Congress on September 25, 1789, and finally ratified them on December 15, 1791.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and is a key “fundamental document” of the United States Federal government.

Cartoon of the Bill of Rights depicting the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution. From a 1971 Teacher's Guide transparency for "Young Citizen"

Image: Bill of Rights depicted in cartoon format from 1971 Young Citizen teacher’s guide transparency. Courtesy: Syracuse University. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE and for teacher printable version.

  • First Amendment:  Freedom of Religion, Speech, and Press, the Right to Assemble Peaceably and to Petition the Government “for a redress of grievances.
  • Second Amendment: Right to Keep and Bear Arms- “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.
  • Third Amendment: Quartering of Troops- “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.
  • Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure- “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.
  • Fifth Amendment: Grand Jury, Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process
  • Sixth Amendment: Criminal Prosecutions – Right to  a speedy public trial by an impartial jury, to confront witnesses and to counsel for defense.
  • Seventh Amendment: Common Law Suits –Right to a Trial by Jury
  • Eighth Amendment: No Excessive Bail or Fines or Cruel and Unusual Punishment- “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
  • Ninth Amendment: Non-Enumerated Rights or “Rule of Construction of the Constitution”-  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
  • Tenth Amendment: States’ Rights- Rights not explicitly delegated to the Federal Government in the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the People.

Where can you learn more about the Bill of Rights?

US-Constitution-and-Declaration-of-Independence-Pocket-Guide_I9780160891847 Buy at the US Government Online Bookstore http://bookstore.gpo.gpvIf you want to learn more about the Bill of Rights, an excellent place to start would be reading the source document, the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence; the GPO U.S. Government Bookstore sells a handy Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence Pocket Edition. The full text of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights is there for you to read and study.

US Citizenship and Immigration Service Civics Flash Cards for the US Naturalization Test ISBN-9780160904608 Available from GPO's US Government Bookstore a http://bookstore.gpo.govImage courtesy Citizenship Guru.

Kids in school, or adults wanting to revisit the fundamentals they learned in civics classes, can learn a lot from the Civics Flash Cards for the U.S. Naturalization Test (English Version)—and obviously the target audience, U.S. residents who want to become American citizens, will benefit from studying these, too.

Spanish-Civics-Flash-Cards-for-US-naturalization-test Tarjetas de Educación Cívica ISBN 9780160902048 Available from the US Government Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.govIf you’re more comfortable reading en español, you can study using the same flash cards in Spanish: Tarjetas de Educación Cívica para el Exámen de Naturalización to cover the same material.

You can also listen to the same questions in English on the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) website. (I didn’t see them offered in Spanish on their site, though.) If you’re cramming for the naturalization or a civics exam, listening to the questions is excellent reinforcement for your study plan.

Mini-Quiz from the Citizenship Test

Civics-Flash-Cards-Question-38If you’ve already read this post, or studied the Constitution, you will probably ace questions #1 and #2 of the United States naturalization test for citizenship:

  1. “What is the supreme law of the land?”
  2. “What does the Constitution do?”
  3. “What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?” (Bonus points if you get the answer to this question #5 correct!)

(Answers: 1- The Constitution. 2- Sets up the government; Defines the government; Protects basic rights of Americans. 3- The Bill of Rights, of course! )

For even more challenging questions based on the U.S. Citizenship test, take our fun Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?

In-depth civics questions can be answered by the capsule summary answers to the questions in Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lesson for the Naturalization Test 2013 (Book Plus CD). Students need to know the principles and background behind the answers, not just the answers themselves, obviously.

Question six asks, “What is ONE right or freedom from the First Amendment?” The text lists the possible answers, and then relates the reasons for the guarantee of those freedoms. The authors explain freedom of expression as follows:

“The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights protects a person’s right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression allows open discussion and debate on public issues. Open discussion and debate are important to democracy.”

You’ll definitely have a thorough grounding in the basics of American Federal government by the time you’re done with the lesson.

The Right to Exercise… Your Rights, That Is

Exercise your right to open discussion by reading some of these documents, and talking to friends about them. If you are a school student, maybe you’ll have an opportunity to write about the Bill of Rights or the freedoms the Bill of Rights guarantee.

1963-2013-Civil-Rights-logoIn this year, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of three significant events from the Civil Rights movement— the March on Washington for Rights and Freedom, the murder of African-American civil rights activist Medgar Evers who was involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama— it’s a good time to reflect on our civil rights and liberties, and how lucky we are to have them.

Image: Civil Rights Movement 50th Anniversary logo. Courtesy: City of Birmingham, Alabama

How can you obtain official publications that explain the Bill of Rights and other documents of American rights?

About the author(s): Adapted by Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and the US Government Printing Office (GPO) Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram, from an original blog post by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Happy holidays from us both!


The Constitution Annotated: The Pursuit of App-iness

September 17, 2013

follow-the-founding-fathers-david-bowman_computerIn preparing for this Constitution Day blog post, not only did I retake the civics quiz from last year’s Constitution Day post (see Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?), I also scrolled through my tablet last night, reading the Preamble to the Constitution and looking up related quotes. Then it occurred to me: if Founding Father George Washington had been alive today, would he have been a PC or an Apple guy? I’m betting our pragmatic First President would be a PC guy. I’m pretty sure innovator Thomas Jefferson would have been a stylish iPad man, and Benjamin Franklin, inventor of the bifocals, would probably be sporting Google Glasses now and tinkering with them.

Image: Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington. Original Illustration by David Bowman from his book “What Would the Founding Fathers Think?”

constitution-annotated-printWhat is clear is that our Founding Fathers were strategic thinkers who realized that a fully functioning republic needed a clear but flexible code of law that evolved with the Nation. Thus, they wrote the Constitution of the United States, which has stood the test of time with over two centuries of amendments and interpretations by all branches of the U.S. Federal Government.

CONAN for the Librarian (and Lawyers)

Since 1913, the Senate has directed that a publication be issued summarizing the current state of the Constitution to date, with all the amendments and the official interpretations, with the analysis today provided by the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. This publication is called The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated or “CONAN” among the real insiders.

Constitution-of-the-US-Pocket-GuideIn addition, many Americans, including Members of Congress, buy a pocket print edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to carry around with them at all times. (Click on image to the left.)

Constitution Goes Mobile and Online

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Annotated publication, and to celebrate it and Constitution Day, the Government Printing Office (GPO) not only issued the Centennial Edition in print, but has also worked with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Library of Congress to develop and launch both a new mobile app as well as a web publication that make analysis and interpretation of constitutional case law by Library experts accessible for free to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

The new resources, which include analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013, will be updated multiple times each year as new court decisions are issued.  Legal professionals, teachers, students and anyone researching the constitutional implications of a particular topic can easily locate constitutional amendments, federal and state laws that were held unconstitutional, and tables of recent cases with corresponding topics and constitutional implications.

The new app and improved web publication will make the nearly 3,000-page “Constitution Annotated” more accessible to more people and enable updates of new case analysis three or four times each year.

Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks said,

“Through this collaborative project, the Library of Congress and GPO are providing the public with timely access to an enhanced, authenticated version of the “Constitution Annotated” through GPO’s Federal Digital System. This is another example of how GPO works with Congress, the Library and other agencies to meet the information needs of the American people in the digital age.”

Keeping our “Complex Machinery” in Working Order

On May 19, 1821, years after the Constitution was adopted, John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that:

“A free government is a complicated piece of machinery, the nice and exact adjustment of whose springs, wheels, and weights, is not yet well comprehended by the artists of the age, and still less by the people.”

Even though our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned a digital future complete with the Internet and smartphones, the framework they put in place has been able to roll with the times. Americans know that our system is indeed a “complicated piece of machinery,” with our laws serving as the user manual, but tools like the Constitution Annotated– in print or now online or on your mobile device– now exist to help keep our machinery of democracy well oiled.

George-Washingtons-Annotated-Copy-of-a-Draft-of-the-U.S.-ConstitutionImage: Even George Washington annotated his copy of the Constitution! (seen left). Source: National Archives

How can I obtain The Constitution Annotated?

1) Buy the Print Edition of The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, Centennial Edition

2) Mobile app version of the Constitution Annotated

  • For Apple iOS Devices: Download the new Constitution Annotated app for iOS devices for free from Apple’s iTunes Store or via this direct link: http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/.
  • ·        For Android Devices: An Android version of this app is under development.

3) Constitution Annotated web publication on FDsys.gov

The Constitution Annotated web publication will be available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) www.fdsys.gov as a digitally-signed, searchable PDF that includes a linked table of contents, a linked table of cases, a linked index and GPO’s Seal of Authenticity on every page.

The new Constitution Annotated and a suite of constitutional resources can be viewed at http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/. The page features links to the app stores, an interactive table listing recent cases of high interest, a bibliography of Constitution-related primary documents in American history and tips for searching the Constitution Annotated on GPO’s website at www.gpo.gov/constitutionannotated.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Immigration Issues and the Land of Opportunity 2.0

April 22, 2013

Americans are proud of their country being known as “the land of opportunity” and a wonderful place to live. Thus it is not surprising that so many want to move to the United States, making immigration a topic of extreme interest to citizens, lawmakers and immigrants alike.

United States map with faces of immigrants - the Land of Opportunity?

Image: U.S. map made up of immigrant faces. Image credit: Imerito blog

The introduction of a major border security and immigration reform bill in the Senate last week brings the topic to the forefront… and left many scrambling to research the issues affecting the “Land of Opportunity 2.0″ in the twenty-first century.

The Government Printing Office has assembled a collection of both print and digital publications that run the gamut from proposed and existing border protection legislation to immigration reports and statistics, civics and English education for immigrants, and more to help all better comprehend the complex issues of immigration.

Here are a few notable publications from our U.S. Government Online Bookstore Immigration Collection:

  •  The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (Print)

2013 Border Security and immigration reform bill Gang of Eight SenatorsImage: “Gang of Eight” U.S. Senators who worked on the immigration reform bill of 2013. Image Credit:  NPR blog.

The “Gang of Eight” senators who worked on this bipartisan bill includes four Democrats and four Republicans: Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Immigration-Reform-Act-2013The goal of this bill is “to provide for comprehensive immigration reform and for other purposes” including bolstering border security, overhauling the legal immigration system, legalizing many of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and put them on a path to citizenship, and increasing enforcement and penalties against employers who hire unauthorized workers.

> Click here for information on how to order a printed copy of this bill

  • Yearbook of Immigration Statistics (Paperback)

2011-Yearbook-of-Immigration-StatisticsThe Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2011 is a compendium of tables that provides data on foreign nationals who, during a fiscal year, were granted lawful permanent residence (i.e., admitted as immigrants or became legal permanent residents), were admitted into the United States on a temporary basis (e.g., tourists, students, or workers), applied for asylum or refugee status, or were naturalized. The Yearbook also presents data on immigration enforcement actions, including alien apprehensions, removals, and returns.

> Click here for information on how to order this publication 

  • Customs and Border Protection Regulations of the United States (Print Subscription)

Customs-and-Border-Protection-Regulations-USPublished by the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of International Trade Regulation and Rulings, the Customs and Border Protection Regulations of the United States, 2011 is a print subscription which contains regulations made and published for the purpose of carrying out customs and border protection laws administered by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. Former title: Regulations of United States Customs and Border Protection.

> Click here for information on how to order this print subscription

  • Expanding ESL, Civics, and Citizenship Education in Your Community: A Start-Up Guide (Paperback or ePub eBook)

Expanding-ESL-Civics-EducationFor groups and individuals whose goal it is to prepare the immigrant to assimilate into the Nation and to learn our language, this publication– both in print and ePub eBook format — from the Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is very useful. It outlines a start-up process of gathering relevant information and resources to develop and sustain community ESL (English as a Second Language), civics, and citizenship education program, recruit and train volunteers, and recruit students. It also includes basic recommendations and sample forms and materials.

> Click here for information on how to order this print publication

> Click here for information on how to order this eBook

For more information on all the immigration publications from the Federal Government,

About the author:

Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?

September 20, 2012

Flash cards. They may bring back memories of studying for a big exam like the SAT or GRE, or they may remind you of elementary school when they were used as a great way to learn your numbers and letters.

But did you know that the US Government Printing Office produces flash cards for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Citizenship under the Department of Homeland Security?

This week marked an important milestone for all U.S. citizens as the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America.

September 17 is now commemorated annually as Constitution & Citizenship Day, a time to reflect on the rights, honors and privileges of being a U.S. citizen, so I thought it was a perfect time to introduce our readers to the Civics Flash Cards.

Civics Flash Cards are one of the most popular products sold in the US Government Bookstore as a tried and true way for immigrants and to learn about U.S. history and government while preparing for the United States naturalization test.  These easy-to-use flash cards (available in English and now also in Spanish) contain each of the 100 civics questions and answers contained on the United States naturalization test, and are updated when there is a change of leadership in the White House or Congress.

The Civics Flash Cards also feature interesting historical photos and relevant captions, thus providing additional civic learning opportunities, making them ideal not only for use as an instructional tool for U.S. citizenship preparation, but also in standard American social studies classes or home schooling. For example, one card contains a picture of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, while another shows Hiram Revels of Mississippi, the first African American U.S. Senator, elected in 1870.

A description of the Spanish version of the Civics Flash Cards:

Recién actualizadas para 2012, las Tarjetas Flash de Educación Cívica en Español ayudarán a a los inmigrantes a aprender sobre la historia de los EE.UU. y del gobierno mientras se preparan para el exámen de naturalización. Estas tarjetas de memoria fáciciles de utilizar contienen cada una de las 100 preguntas y respuestas cívicas (sobre la historia y el gobierno) del exámen de naturalización estadounidense, y conllevan fotos históricas y leyendas pertinentes a que proporcionen el aprendizaje cívico adicional.

Failing grade in civics for American kids… and maybe their parents?

In 2010, The Department of Education administered the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP test, known as the nation’s report card, to 27,000 4th-, 8th- and 12th-grade students throughout the United States.

The New York Times reported that the civics examination results were dismal, as “fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights… and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

Of the high school students who took the NAEP, 75% “were unable to demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution.”

Reading through the flash cards, it makes me wonder how many native U.S. citizens— parents and children— could correctly pass the test given to immigrants aspiring to become citizens?

See how you compare to these 8th and 12th graders on these questions constructed from information on the Civics Flash Cards

(Hint: I provide the correct answers at the end of this post ;-) since they are trickier than one would think!)


Another question


And finally, some geography:

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN a copy of the Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test, either the English Version or the Spanish Version?

You may also be interested in our other Constitution and Citizenship products, such as the pocket edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Click here to shop our entire Citizenship Collection.

Correct Answers to the Flash Card Poll Questions:

1)      Which of these does NOT represent one of the powers of the Federal Government under our Constitution? To provide protection & safety such as police and fire services is a function of state and local governments.

2)      Which of these are responsibilities that are only for United States Citizens?  Only citizens may vote in a Federal election, serve on a jury, or run for Federal office such as U.S. Senate or House of Representatives and for most state and local offices. Unfortunately, everyone has to pay Federal taxes, citizen or not!

3)      Which of these states does NOT border Canada? Of all of these, only Wisconsin does not share a border with Canada. All the international border states with our northern neighbor are (east to west): Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania (border on Lake Erie), Ohio (also border on Lake Erie), Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Alaska.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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