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The Grievances of the Colonists and the Constitutional Responses, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 836

Essay

By the 1770s, several colonies had been established by England on the North American continent. Although initially, the Americans viewed themselves as citizens of Great Britain and subject of King George III, eventually they became increasingly angry about having taxes levied on them to pay for British expenses, including fighting their wars. As a result, they organized around a series of grievances, ultimately addressing them in the United States Constitution. This paper will discuss four of those grievances: taxation without representation, the right to assembly, the objection to the British maintaining a standing army in the colonies, and the danger that colonists could be sent to England to stand trial for treason simply based on claims made by others. This paper will also include the responses that were developed, and which appear in the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights.

Perhaps the most well-known grievances expressed by the colonists in the First Continental Congress was the concept of taxation without representation; the Americans objected to the fact that the British Parliament had imposed taxes on them, establishing a board of commissioners with unconstitutional powers, as well as a system of courts that were authorized to collect the taxes and duties, as well as conduct trials against people who did not comply. In response, Article 1 of the U. S. Constitution states that “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole numbers of free persons…”

Another grievance expressed by the colonists was that the British Crown was maintaining standing armies in times of peace; the Americans objected to this because they believe that it suggested a permanent state of aggression, which was undesirable, especially during peacetime. This grievance was based on the fact that the colonists perceive that there were abuses of people and property that resulted from the involuntary housing of soldiers, and was linked to the presence of British soldiers remaining in the colonies both before and during the Revolutionary war. The colonies had not consented to have such military presence. The response to that was the Third Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that “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.” Here, the definition of “quartered in any house” can be translated to mean stationed in our colonies, and “without the consent of the owner” clearly represented that the colonists believed that their legislature needed to approve of any standing armies’ presence in their territory.

A third objection to British rule by the colonists was that they could be sent to England and put on trial based on accusations of treason or concealment of treasons committed in the colonies. The response to this by the colonists was adding to the U.S. Constitution the right to have a trial by “a jury of your peers.” In other words, in the United States, if someone is accused of a crime and taken to court, that person has a constitutional right to a “speedy and public trial, by an import shall jury of the state and district wherein the crime has been committed.” This appears in the Sixth Amendment. Although there is nothing that actually refers to a jury of one’s peers, the issue is addressed by describing an “impartial” jury, which was apparently based on the concept of selectively picking people from among the population of well-informed, fair-minded people from the community from which the accused comes. That has been such a significant feature of our legal system that in certain notorious cases which involve particularly heinous crimes, in order to find a truly impartial jury the venue for the trial is moved to an area in which the potential jurors are perceived to be less prejudicial.

Finally, the colonists objected to the British government’s prohibition against assembly:as they expressed it, assemblies were “frequently dissolved, contrary to the rights of the people, when they attempted to deliberate on grievances; and their dutiful, humble, loyal, and reasonable petitions to the crown for redress, have been repeatedly treated with contempt, by his Majesty’s ministers of state.” In response to this, the colonists included the rights of assembly in the rights delineated by The First Amendment to the Constitution. This was considered to be among the basic rights accorded to American citizens, along with other freedoms, such as religion, press, and assembly. The Constitution guaranteed that these were rights that were to be protected from government interference. Freedom of expression includes the rights to freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances which included the implied rights of association and belief. These rights were further reinforced when the Supreme Court addressed the due process clause of the 14th Amendment as a means to protect the rights spelled out in the First Amendment from government interference.

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