The First Amendment to the Constitution: A Guarantor of American Rights?
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The First Amendment to the Constitution: A Guarantor of American Rights?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The text of the First Amendment reads as a glorious step on the path of transition from aristocracy and monarchy to democracy and freedom. Who, then, provides the oversight to ensure that the Constitutional rights of citizens are not being trampled upon? The last two phrases reveal that it is the responsibility of citizens to assert their own rights; although it is the responsibility of the judicial branch to interpret law, citizens must bring cases and situations into the light of the judiciary's attention in order for them to receive a fair hearing.

Thus, through inattention and apathy, citizens' rights can be trampled upon. In the history of our country, however, there were times when rights were trampled upon not just by accident, but in a deliberate manner. For example, the Three-Fifths Compromise was one granted to the Southern cotton states, which had a high slave population, in order to hold the Constitution and the resulting Union together. Yet, in the same Constitutional Convention, the founders discussed the Bill of Rights, which guaranteed the rights of all, not white male landowners. Societal paradigms can override true freedom and democracy; the case of women and minority rights during the first two centuries of our country's history is a perfect example.

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