History Essay Assignment on Human rights in American Government

The historical context for each of the documents
A. Declaration of Independence (1776)
1. Colonial Society (Thirteen colonies established by the British Empire in 1600)
a. growing discontent over lack of representation in the British Parliament and fear
that Britain was about to abolition slavery
b. powerful commercial class in the colonies that wanted to be free of the constraints
of colonial rule and dominance of British manufacture goods
c. workers and indentured servants (some of whom were Black) who wanted a
more egalitarian system; protested working conditions
d. Slaves – both in the North and South, more slave revolts and resistance than have
been recorded; all workers, including slaves, needed to win Revolutionary War
2. Content of The Declaration of Independence
a. Preamble: Reason for Declaration (Important to inform the world why the colonies
had to separate from England; specific reasons
b. Equality vs Liberty (Collective vs. Individual; Community over Hierarchy)
c. Inalienable rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (these are inherent
rights of all people, born with them; an example of Natural Law, of God or nature)
d. Grievances against King (and British people) for not listening to pleadings against
abuse; refusal evidence enough to justify a revolution and separation from Britain
e. New Name: The United States of America, in Congress, Assembled
B. The Articles of Confederation (1776-1789)
1. Governing document of the new nation, the United States
2. Only one branch of government: Legislative Branch, called Congress (States
would retain much of the autonomy they had as colonies. The United States “are”….. right up to the end
of the Civil War, then “is”)
C. United States Constitution (1789)
1. Background
a. Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia of important state political leaders to
amend The Articles of Confederation, not a mandate to write a new document
b. The 52 rich, white delegates to the Convention decided to ignore the order and
spent the summer drafting an entirely new and different document
c. Not much support for it even from people their counterparts; wrote
Federalist Papers to persuade to vote; still ratified by a very slim margin of tiny percent of
2. Content of US Constitution (Based on the concept of Federalism, a division of
government into two equal parts called “dual sovereignty” between states and federal*
a. Articles I – III: The three branches of government in order of importance:
Legislative, Executive, Judicial
b. Articles IV and VI: Relations of states and federal gov’t: States have reciprocity;
the Federal Constitution has Supremacy over the States (*note contradiction)
c. Articles V and VII: Mechanics of documents; V is the Amendment process (very
difficult 2/3 to propose and 3/4 to ratify proposals: VII: Ratification (Nine states)
3. Revolution replaced by commercial business clauses and structures that leave out
popular participation, change, and clear understanding of the process
II. Comparison of Rights’ Documents
A. US Constitution Bill of Rights (First Ten Amendments to the Constitution) (1791)
1. Political Rights (free speech, religion, assembly; no search and seizure; due process; no
cruel and unusual punishment; civil and criminal trial rights)
2. Fourteenth Amendment (1868 after Civil War): applies first ten Amendments to State
Governments (but only if challenged in court)
B. Economic Bill of Rights of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1944)
1. Social and Economic Rights
2. Aftermath of WWII and challenge of Communism and the Soviet Union (See Terms in
Unit Six)
C. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
1. Social and Economic Rights