What were the immediate and lasting effects of the Bill of Rights?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Bill of Rights had an immediate impact and a lasting impact.  Both of these have been very significant.

The main immediate impact of the Bill of Rights was that it allowed the Constitution to be ratified.  When the Constitution was written, it was very controversial because it took power away from the state governments and gave it to the national government.  Many people were very suspicious of this because they thought that the federal government might abuse their rights the way that the British government had.  They felt that strong state governments were more likely to respect their rights.  Therefore, they were not sure that they should vote to ratify the Constitution.  By agreeing to add the Bill of Rights, the Federalists (who were in favor of the Constitution) managed to allay people’s fears.  This made it so that more people were willing to vote to ratify the Constitution.

Over time, the impact of the Bill of Rights has been very significant.  The Bill of Rights has helped to secure our rights and to ensure that the government will not infringe upon those rights.  The Bill of Rights has not been able to accomplish this in all cases.  There are many instances in our history of government infringement on rights.  One example of this was the Sedition Act of 1918 which essentially made it illegal to criticize the government or the war effort (in WWI).  However, the fact that we have a Bill of Rights has made it harder for the government to abuse our rights.  It has also encouraged us to think about our rights and to feel that they are very valuable.  The existence of the Bill of Rights has made us, in the long term, more conscious of our rights and has made the government less likely to take those rights away from us.

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