Bill of Rights Day: Not Just Another December Holiday
Thursday, December 15, is Bill of Rights Day. On that day, back in 1791, the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, of the U.S. Constitution, were ratified by three-quarters of the original states. One hundred and fifty years later, and only 8 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day.
The first ten amendments are:
- Amendment I 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 redress of grievances.
- Amendment II A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
- Amendment III No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
- Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
- Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall property be taken for public, without just compensation.
- Amendment VI In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
- Amendment VII In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
- Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
- Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
- Amendment X 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.
Although none of these amendments concerns the congressional power to lay and collect income taxes (that’s the 16th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913), two of the amendments making up the Bill of Rights are frequently cited as reasons for not filing or paying income taxes. The Fourth Amendment, right to privacy, and the Fifth Amendment, against self-incrimination, are commonly used as reasons for not paying income tax. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) points out that none of these arguments have held up in court as a defense for failing to pay federal income tax.