1st Amendment

What was the 1st Amendment?

The First Amendment was the first major change or addition made to the original Constitution of the United States. Once the United States Constitution had been defined, it was felt by many states that it needed to include new laws.

Many states wanted the constitution to clearly state that the civil rights of the citizens shall be respected and protected. It was in this vein that the 1st Amendment was finally passed in 1791.

Background of the 1st Amendment

The 1st Amendment was part of a ten-amendment package that was known as the Bill of Rights. After the United States came into being, the members of Congress soon divided into two groups.

One group argued that the federal government should have stronger powers. The other believed that the federal government should only nominally oversee while true powers must rest with the states.

The two groups came together to discuss possible changes to the Constitution in the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

The Bill of Rights

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, most of the members argued for a stronger federal government. However, members who opposed overbearing federal power feared that this would lead to a curb on civil liberties.

So they proposed a bill of rights which would guarantee the basic civil liberties of the citizens. This bill dealt with a number of civil liberties.

The first of these liberties pertained to the freedom of speech and the freedom to exercise religion without the state favoring a particular religion. These liberties were enshrined in the text of the 1st Amendment.

The text of the 1st Amendment

The 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on December 15, 1791.

Its exact wording reads

“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.”

1st Amendment and the Freedom of Religion

The fundamental freedom championed in the 1st Amendment is the freedom of religion. Although most of the populace in the newly-born United States professed a Protestant faith, the country laid great emphasis on the principles of liberty.

For this reason, it was decided by the members of the Constitutional Convention that the federal government should not officially support any religion.

Freedom of religion essentially means that people in the United States can follow any religion they want. Some individual states continued to support a particular religion even after the 1st Amendment was passed.

1st Amendment and the Freedom of Speech

Another important part of the 1st Amendment is about freedom of speech. Even during the American Revolution, Americans realized that the freedom of press and speech was very important in ensuring democratic values.

This is why freedom of speech was clearly championed in the 1st Amendment. According to the amendment, people were free to express their opinions and the government could not take away this fundamental right.

A Short & Happy Guide to the First Amendment (Short & Happy Guides) 1st Edition

Learn more about the First Amendment at Wikipedia