Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, First Amendment!

The Bill of Rights became a part of the United States Constitution 223 years ago this month (December 15, 1791).  The first 10 amendments were ratified by the original colonies-turned-states with great debate.  Only 17 amendments have been added since then – and none since 1992.  Oddly, that amendment was submitted by Congress to the states for ratification in 1789 - before The Bill of Rights – and took over 202 years to get ratified by enough states, setting a record.  The amendment prohibits any law that increases or decreases the salary of members of Congress from taking effect until the start of the next set of terms for the House of Representatives.

Over the years, 33 amendments have been adopted by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.  Only six never made it.  However, over 11,500 proposals to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress since 1789.

It is quite difficult to get an amendment passed.  First, you need a good idea that will get millions of dollars of support.  Second, you need a good PR campaign.  Gee, it sounds like book publishing.  But what you’ll really need is this:

A two-thirds majority of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass it OR two-thirds (34) of the states voting to have a national convention.  Once either thing takes place – no easy feat – you need ¾ of the state legislatures (38) to ratify it OR you must hold state-ratifying conventions in ¾ of the states.

Originally, 17 amendments were approved by the House for The Bill of Rights, but only 12 were approved bythe Senate.  Of the dozen, two were not approved by the states.

Most people, despite years of American history in school, can’t name most of the rights listed in The Bill of Rights.  These days the Second Amendment comes up for debate because of the rampant gun violence plaguing America.  The Third Amendment seems irrelevant – about housing soldiers.  The fourth pops up, as it covers unlawful searches and seizures.  The Fifth Amendment is about double jeopardy and eminent domain.  The Sixth covers speedy trials.  The Seventh says you have the right to a trial jury.  The Eighth says no to unusual punishment by the government.  The Ninth is never talked about and the Tenth says the states can take on powers not delegated to the US by the constitution.  But the biggest amendment – and my favorite – is the First Amendment.  Let’s read it together:

“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.”

Our prized content, from movies and blogs to newspapers, television and radio, is protected free speech.  So are books.  We all have the right to speak our views – and many feel we have an obligation to do so.

We must keep testing the limits of these rights and to push the envelope of our civic duties.  We are to be good citizens of the world and it begins with the sharing of ideas, news, opinions, and dreams of all sizes and shapes.  Be glad there are opposing viewpoints and ignorant statements swimming around the Internet and traditional media.  It means the First Amendment is alive and well. 

Happy Birthday, First Amendment.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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