How did the Bill of Rights impact history?
The Bill of Rights was largely intended to protect the liberties of Americans by keeping the federal government from infringing on them, either as individuals or as citizens of state governments. While the Bill of Rights has been interpreted differently at different times, it has, especially since the beginning of the twentieth century, established limits on the powers of government and a clear statement of the rights of Americans. Most of these limits have been established and "fleshed out" by Supreme Court decisions. For example, the Supreme Court's decision in New York Times v. United States (1971) established that the federal government could not exercise "prior restraint" by keeping materials from being published. This protection, the Court ruled, was provided by the First Amendment. In another example, the Supreme Court ruled, citing the Sixth Amendment, that states had to provide attorneys to anyone accused of a felony in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963). These are just two among hundreds of examples of how the Supreme Court has used the Bill of Rights to assert the extent of American liberties under law. In the last century especially, this is how the Bill of Rights has impacted history--by defining American liberties.