Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July 4th

Happy Independence Day. I'm proud to be an American and even prouder to be a protector of individual rights and freedoms. As I enjoy a day off this July 4th, I pondered the justifications behind the America Revolution. After a bit of research I discerned the casus belli of the Revolutionary War.

Taxation without representation was the primary grievance of the American colonists. Taxes were imposed without representation in the British Parliament. Although the British responded that the Americans where "virtually" represented, the Americans rejected this fiction since the "virtual" representatives in Parliament knew nothing about the practical aspects of life in America.

British rule threatened the political ideology called Republicanism. Republicanism stressed liberty and rights as central values. It asserted that people had certain inalienable rights that could not be voted away by a majority of voters. It rejected aristocracy and inherited political power. Republicanism was the core political value system at work in American during the 1770's.

Finally, the British policy of salutary neglect was a large contributing factor to the Revolution. Salutary neglect was the long-standing policy of Great Britain which avoided strict enforcement of their parliamentary laws. Since the British imperial authority failed to assert the power that it had, the American colonies were left to govern themselves - and they got accustomed to the idea of self-control. Over time, the isolation in America created by salutary neglect developed an identity in America that considered itself separate from Great Britain.

The Bill of Rights were an out-growth of the virtues of Republicanism and the American Revolution. They were the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution pasted in 1791. These amendments limited the powers of the federal government, protected the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors on United States territory. Among the rights these amendments guaranteed were:
  • the freedom of speech, press, and religion;
  • the people's right to keep and bear arms;
  • the freedom of assembly and freedom to petition; and
  • the rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and compelled self-incrimination.
  • The Bill of Rights also restricted Congress' power by prohibiting it from making any law respecting establishment of religion and by prohibiting the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. In criminal cases it required indictment by grand jury for any capital or "infamous crime," guaranteed a speedy public trial with an impartial and local jury, and prohibited double jeopardy.
Happy July 4th. I hope you, too, are proud to be an American. I'm very proud to be a lawyer practicing the Art and Science of criminal defense work, defending and protecting those rights and values fought for and died for so many hundreds of years ago.

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