The constitution and laws have always been a reliable reflection of the most important cultural, social, economic, and political processes that take place at some particular country. The Constitution of the Unites States of America and the Bill of Rights are an integral part of the country’s heritage. Current essay examines the significance of the Bill of Rights and focuses particularly on the eighth amendment as it is especially crucial for the establishing of the harmonious justice system.
When the text of the American Constitution was written, the political circles did not accept it at once. The Anti-Federalists thought that the Constitution failed to ensure the citizens strong protection against the abuses of power from the federal government. At first, adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution was considered doubtful as the statesmen who wrote the Constitution believed that it covered all the aspects and made the violation of power impossible. However, later it became evident that such document as the Bill of Rights could significantly improve the social conditions and the ten amendments were ratified. The concepts described in the Bill of Rights are still relevant nowadays as the necessity to protect people from the governments has not disappeared. Undoubtedly, the democratic societies are now much civilized than they were some centuries ago, but such public consciousness is partially formed by the laws that function in the country. Thus, the concepts fixed by the Bill of Rights have a very strong impact on the way how the society behaves and what moral values are considered to be “normal.”
The first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights still apply today. It could be argued that modern America is a very stable democratic society, but the Constitution is the main law of the country and it should deal not only with the current difficulties, but also reflect crucial ethical values of the society. Therefore, such important freedoms, as, for example, the freedom of speech and press that is fixed by the first amendment should be written down in all the key documents. In my life I also faced the situations when the freedoms of the Bill of Rights could have been violated, but the situation was saved by the laws. I have been living in America for five years, but even such short term helped me understand that the Bill of Rights was a very important document. During my first year in America I was stopped by the policeman who mistook me for another person. I was not very fluent in English and experienced some difficulties in understanding what he wanted from me. The policeman became annoyed by our conversation and raised his voice. However, my friend came and everything was settled. My friend was shocked by the behavior of the policeman and told him that it was not acceptable for him to behave in that way. The policeman apologized and explained that he had a very difficult day. I believe that such situation was possible only due to the fact that the freedom of speech was fixed in the Bill of Rights. I know that in some countries it is very dangerous to tell the policeman about his mistakes and ask him to change his behavior as the person may be beaten or even put to prison. I do not blame the policeman for that incident as sometimes it is very difficult to control feelings and emotions, but the fact that my friend was confident in his ability to speak to the policeman and draw his attention to his rude behavior is a very important element of the truly democratic society.
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It is not possible to choose the most important freedom of those mentioned in the Bill of Rights. I would like to focus on the eighth amendment not because it is the most significant for a modern person, but because it is, in my opinion, very often underestimated. The eighth amendment is “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” (Annotated Constitution). The amendment deals with norms of punishment and fines and people usually believe that it cannot be important to them if they do not violate any laws. However, I believe that current amendment grants the basis for the just law and order system. It protects people from the contrariness of judges and makes them act only in accordance with the laws and corresponding procedures. In addition, it prevents the government from holding people in prisons for a long time before the trial as it is done in some authoritarian regimes. The amendment gives people confidence that the country will always provide them with justice and treat everyone equally. It restricts the government from treating the citizens in a cruel way. Dolovich argues that the key word of the eighth amendment is “cruel” and it is vital to explain what can be considered a cruel punishment. She believes that poor prison conditions can be added to such category (Dolovich 41). Browne-Marshall agitates the modern audience to connect the eighth amendment with various innovations related to death penalty like putting special poison into the human veins, etc. (The Eighth Amendment). Beeman also highlights that the understanding of what is “cruel” has changed since 1789 and now the society is more “humane” (The Eighth Amendment). The amendment applies equally to all Americans despite the fact that it may seem relevant only to criminals and people who violated the law. It does not mention any ethnic or cultural identity groups, so it means that any citizen is granted this right regardless of his or her race, religion, economic status, etc. As the amendment protects all the people from potential tyranny of the government, I think that all individuals should know how to use the amendment correctly.