Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

There of us go through our day

There is perhaps nothing more important to the American way of life than the United States Constitution. Though many of us go through our day to day lives without a thought about the constitution, it is what makes our lives what they are. This crucial document controls how the government operates and gives us the freedoms we receive as Americans. In addition, it creates a separation of powers, which keeps any one government official or branch from gaining too much power, thus keeping the government from taking total control. Without the government structure and the freedom that the constitution provides, America would be very different from what we see today. America, however, has not always operated under the constitution. Its history began less than a decade after America became an independent nation. Under the first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, the government was far from perfect. While the ideas within the Articles may have sounded good in theory, they did not withstand in practice. In order to correct the issues found with the Articles, Alexander Hamilton proposed a new kind of government under the Constitution. One of the problems needing correction had to do with voting. While most small states believed they deserved equal votes with other states, larger states thought that voting should depend not on the state alone, but on the population in each given state. After some debate about fairness, most of the states agreed that under the Constitution, each state would get representatives based on population and two senators per state. Another thing the constitution changed was the divisions of government. Under the Articles, the government was operated by the president and the senate. The constitution, however, divided the government into three separate branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. These branches separated the power of the government and kept any one person from having too much control. Though the constitution is many things to many people, my favorite part is the Bill of Rights, which was added to the Constitution a few years after it was enacted. These ten amendments give Americans a variety of freedoms, some of which are not known in any other countries. Included within these rights are the freedom to choose our own religion and to speak our mind, whereas in other countries you are sometimes expected to follow a national religion and refrain from speaking against people of power. Though speaking too candidly in America can often be met with hostility, our right to do so is still legally protected. Not only does the Bill of Rights protect us in our everyday lives, it has changed the way people are treated in the courts as well. The fifth amendment asserts that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and gives them the right to remain silent rather than incriminate themselves. Through the sixth amendment, the accused is allowed representation in their defense and a trial by jury. The eighth amendment protects a person against cruel and unusual punishment and unreasonably high bail. Though ideally a person would never be in a situation where they were  accused of a heinous crime, these amendments ensure that if the situation does arise, the accused is treated fairly. Because of these rights, America has created a diversity that few other countries can match. Whereas in other countries a person might be afraid to deviate from what is considered normal, in America we are free to choose our own paths as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s rights. In the end, that is what the constitution means to me: I can be my own person and plow my own way without fear of repercussions. And this, in the words of Samuel Adams is “worth defending against all hazards.”

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