Briefly analyze the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Bill of Rights. Include in your analysis, how the principles outlined in these documents have been applied to historical events in the United States.
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While these three documents do not all have exactly the same meaning, they do have some things in common. Between them, they set out the basic values that guide our political system. These values have informed much, though not all, of what our government has done over the life of our nation.
The basic idea behind these three documents is that the government exists for the sake of the people. The government is not supposed to be pursuing power for its own ends. Instead, it exists only to protect the rights of the people. This is stated clearly in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution then goes on to set up a government that will be very limited. Those limitations are imposed in part by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution also limits the government by structuring it in such a way as to make it hard for the government to abuse the people. The Constitution sets up such things as separation of powers and checks and balances to do this. Thus, when taken as a group, these three documents mean that we have a system of limited government that is meant to protect our rights.
Historically, there have been many times when the government has failed to do this. We tend to focus on these times. We look at the Alien and Sedition Acts or the Japanese Internment and say that the government has failed us. However, what we should remember is that these are the exceptions. The government has generally been kept fairly limited and has not seriously trampled on the rights of a large percentage of the population for very long at any point in our history.
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