Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Unit 3 - Individual Rights

  • The Founding Fathers debated the need for a Bill of Rights to be added to the U.S. Constitution.  Some saw it as an absolute necessity to maintain the civil liberties of the people from potential tyranny by a national government.  Others argued that the system of checks and balances and separation of powers instituted within the Constitution prevented the denial of rights.  They, furthermore, worried that enumeration of the rights of the people was difficult.  They feared that if a right was left out of such a document than that led to considerably more danger.  Eventually, a compromise was struck which added a Bill of Rights in exchange for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  Since its incorporation into the U.S. Constitution the meaning of individual liberty has been continuously debated and interpreted through the U.S. Supreme Court and the people themselves.  After two centuries of governance by the U.S. Constitution we are still defining the meaning of American civil liberties.