The Bill of Rights: the Story Behind the Amendments

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Part 5: Amendments VIII, IX, and X
Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Many times, people couldn't get out of prison because they didn't have the money to pay bail; they didn't have enough money to pay this bail, of course, because the judges would set the bail so high in the first place. Also, punishments for many crimes involved public whippings and other odd sorts of things.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This Amendment seems a little odd, but it really says that the Constitution doesn't guarantee anything that would interfere with the American people's basic and natural rights (like "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness").

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This Amendment seems a little odd, too, but it really says that the power of the federal government is limited to the powers set forth in the Constitution. In common terms, if it isn't in the Constitution, then the federal government can't do it. Such other powers are reserved for state or local governments.

So, with all of these rights guaranteed to the people and the powers of the federal government narrowed to the Constitution, the Founding Fathers felt that they could approve the Constitution, as long as it also had the Bill of Rights attached to it.

And approve it they did, in 1791.

First page > The Need for Amendments > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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David White