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The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment

Introduction

Isn’t it true that the original Constitution (before the Bill of Rights) was already a bill of rights of sorts?

There is some credence to the argument that the Constitution as it existed before the Bill of Rights already was a type of bill of rights. For example, the Constitution prohibits Congress or state legislatures from passing bills of attainder or ex post facto laws. Bills of attainders are laws that target a specific group of people, while ex post facto laws are laws that make something a crime after the fact. An ex post facto law makes conduct a crime retroactively.

Furthermore, the Constitution prohibits Congress from suspending the writ of habeas corpus except in very limited situations, such as war. Another provision of the Constitution prohibits individuals in political office from having to take religious tests to qualify for office. All of these provisions in the body of the Constitution do provide a measure of individual freedom—similar to what the Bill of Rights does.



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