Experience of harsh mistreatment
From the experience of harsh mistreatment from the British government, the framers of the Constitution were careful to limit the powers of government and protect our rights as individuals. The primary purpose of federal government was to, defend the shores, establish a system of currency, deliver the mail, and protect individual rights. Look at the tenth amendment, the last in the Bill of Rights, for example, “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”(Mount,S.). Even though the Constitution does not grant rights to the people it does say in the forerunner, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"(Mount,S.). So even though the Constitution does not grant rights it assumes that the people have those rights from the Creator and establishes that the government will not take away those rights. Therefore the framers of the Constitution we adamant that these rights unalienable and served as a buffer zone between our individual liberty and the political communities power through civic liberties.
The basic definition of liberty is a citizen is free to make their own choices on things like what to say or what to do. The main purpose of our constitutional government in the United States is to secure our liberties. The forerunner to the Constitution states that the reason for creating the government we have was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”(Mount,S.) So The Bill of Rights was created to protect our individual rights and liberties from the government. The First Amendment says that Congress can't take away some ones freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition and the Fourth Amendment protects personal liberty. It establishes that the people are protected against the government searching into their private lives without a warrant by not allowing “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the government. The Fifth Amendment forbids the federal government from striping a person of their “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” And the Fourteenth Amendment applies the same concept against abuses of one's liberty by state governments(Mount,S.). These freedoms given by the U.S. Constitution are our civil liberties. Since these civil liberties are not given to us by government as individuals, this implies the framers of the Constitution already assumed that all people are automatically given these liberties by the Creator and therefore strictly prohibits the government from using its power to abuse us or infringe on our rights. That being said this means that there is a private section of life, in which government officials cannot interfere with, without violating the Constitution. This private sector of life grants the rights of freedom of thought, belief, and actions. It also allows for the people to publicly participate in their societies political life. The First Amendment freedoms respectively protect a person's right to interact freely in events held to elect representatives in government and to persuade public decisions of elected and appointed officials. Liberty under the Constitution is thereby protected by rationing the power of government in order to protect all of our rights to freedom. But for instance if the government has too little power, to the point that law and order have broken down, then the people's liberties can and most likely will be lost. In an anarchy type society our freedom of thought and action is not protected, where there are no law enforcement to protect us against criminals.
Thus an exception to our government in the USA has been to be able to provide and maintain order, stability, and security for the liberties of the people with the use of law enforcement. For example, the Declaration of Independence clearly states, “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”(Independence Hall Association)
Ordered liberty is the ideal state in which both public order and personal liberty are protected for the individuals in a society. The balance of the two was the basic political problem the framers of the Constitution ran into and is what continues to challenge us today. James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson during the heated debate on ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, “It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government has too much or too little power; and that the line which divides these extremes should be so inaccurately defined by experience.”(Unknown) He explained that the standing opposition to liberty posed by insufficient constitutional limits on government and noted that liberty brought to the extreme of basically anarchy is just as dangerous to every ones rights as individuals. A good constitution has a good equal balance of liberty and order, but finding the right mix for the two can sometimes be difficult.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has the constitutional responsibility and authority to look at these broad questions brought up about the Constitution and to resolve the quarrels about them on acase-by-casebasis. The power of judicial review endowed to the Court means that it can uphold or overturn acts of federal and state governments referring to questions of liberty and order. Even though a verdict is met for all cases it may not stand forever. In there remains the challenges of a constitutional democracy.
The Supreme Court has made many landmark decisions to protect the rights of an individual from accusations made by government that were deemed unconstitutional. In the case ofKatz v. United Statesin 1967 the Court prohibited law enforcement officials from using evidence obtained against a defendant gained by wire tapping or the listening in without permission on his telephone conversations. The Court said the federal agents involved in the subject matter had violated the Fourth Amendment right of security “against unreasonable searches and seizures.”(Katz) And in the case ofTexas v. Johnsonin 1989, the Court struck down a state law that banned public protest that consisted of burning of the American flag as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.(Johnson)
On the other hand, the Court has decided to uphold the constitutional exercise of government power in some cases, which in turn restricted the rights of an individual to liberty. In the caseUnited States v. Rossin 1982, for instance, the Court upheld the polices authority to search the entire automobile they have pulled over, without getting a search warrant which is required by the 4th Amendment, if they have probable cause to suspect that anything illegally possessed is in the vehicle.(Ross)
Obviously the Constitution has undergone dramatic shifts in its coverage and in its meaning over the course of our history. The original constitution ratified in 1787 had little explicit to say about individual liberties and we have come a long way and are a lot closer to gaining and maintaining the balance of the two than we were back then. The whole reason for adding amendments to the constitution is that we can better it for the protection of our individual liberties and so that we can obtain a perfect equilibrium of liberty and order. As we press forward in time more and more amendments will be made to achieve this goal.