ERIC Number: ED346006
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991
Reference Count: N/A
The Bill of Rights as a Blueprint for Self-Government.
Schechter, Stephen L.
In the United States, the Bill of Rights is most often thought of as the charter that establishes individual rights in categories such as "freedom of expression" and "rights of the accused." In this essay it is argued that this conception of the Bill of Rights, while perhaps acceptable for constitutional law, does not provide an adequate historical interpretation. This paper seeks to examine the eighteenth-century meaning of the Bill of Rights and the particular rights provided within it. The eighteenth-century conception of rights was more community-oriented than the individual-oriented conception of rights today. A term that describes the eighteenth-century conception of the Bill of Rights is "protected self-government." This concept contains two strands: civil liberties and the right to self-government; and the provisions of the Bill of Rights were designed not only to guarantee civil liberties but also to tie those liberties into the political right of self-government. The right to a trial by jury is used as an illustration. In the late eighteenth century the Founders viewed the right of trial by jury as a right belonging not only to the accused but also to the citizen as juror. It also is contended that there are five basic sources of the concept of protected self-government and its particular provisions contained in the U.S. Bill of Rights. These are English law, Puritan and Whig consent theory, American colonial charters of liberties, first American state constitutional bills of rights, and the constitutional ratification debate of 1787-88. Each of these is considered in turn as it relates to the concept of "protected self-government." (DB)
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Bill of Rights
Note: Revised version of a paper delivered at the Teacher Institute Sponsored by the New York State Bar Association (Lancaster, PA, July 29, 1991).