Analytical Essay on Bill of Rights: Civil Liberty Versus Civil Right, Differences between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists

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What is the difference between a civil liberty and a civil right? What are two different amendments related to civil liberties? Briefly explain each and provide examples/ cases that speak to each.

Civil Rights – They include how an individual is treated regarding certain rights, and have a protective aspect of the rights. In the US, people may not be discriminated against based on their protected characteristics in education, employment, access to public facilities, and housing. When people are discriminated against because of their protected characteristics in one of these settings, the discrimination is a violation of their civil rights. Laws have been established by the federal government to protect civil rights.

Civil Liberty – Include basic freedoms and rights that are guaranteed either by the Bill of Rights in the Constitution or by the 14th Amendment. Civil liberties in the US include all of the following rights: Free speech, Privacy, Right to remain silent, Right to be free from unreasonable searches, Right to a fair trial, Right to marry, Right to vote.

Civil liberties are protected by

  1. Bill of Rights: freedoms and rights guaranteed in the First Amendment (religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition) Examples - any attempt to prohibit Americans’ expressions of their religious faiths in their own homes, provided they did not violate others’ fundamental rights and freedoms, would be unconstitutional according to the First Amendment.
  2. Fourteenth Amendment - protects the violation of rights and liberties by the state governments. Grants all citizens ‘equal protection of laws’ Case – The Free Exercise Clause

The free exercise clause was incorporated through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940). The case involved the distribution of religious materials and playing of religious messages on a phonograph by two members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood. In its decision, the Supreme Court distinguished between “freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute, but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be.” While the Court upheld the principle that the state might have a valid interest in restricting the actions involved in religious expression—to maintain safety and public order, for example—in this case, the Cantwells’ actions posed no threat other than being offensive to some (Abernathy 2019).

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Essay question

1. Our current U.S. Constitution was built on disagreement and our country still faces constant debate today because of it. Based on class lecture and your textbook, answer the following: a.) Explain the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation that the founders sought to address by calling a Constitutional Convention, b.) Discuss three differences between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, and how the differences impacted the constitutional debate (from class lecture) c.) Which side of the debate do you agree with most, and why? (Don’t say both, pick one!)

The first government of the United States was a confederation, a union of thirteen sovereign states in which the states were supreme, not the union. The confederal government was established based on the Articles of Confederation and the Union. The confederal government was designed to be weak due to its limited powers. The Article of Confederation started showing its limitations by 1780s, especially for the members who desired a stronger union. The government could not tax its citizens and no independent judicial system or executive branch existed; thus enforcing the policies and decisions was significantly challenging. The financial system of the nation was chaotic, especially after the continental money system collapsed and each state had only one vote in Congress, regardless of size (“The Great Debate”).

In May 1787, fifty-five delegates from all states except Rhode Island attended the Federal Convention or the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (Abernathy 2019). The private convention aimed to make necessary changes in the Articles of Confederation by fixing some of the prominent issues in the confederal government. The biggest challenge faced by the delegates was the weak national government. In the debate between small vs. big states, the Virginia Plan laid out the failures of the American Confederation—weakness in national defense and the conduct of foreign policy, conflicts between states, and the failure to suppress the internal rebellion. The Virginia Plan proposed to overturn the one state, one vote structure of the Articles of Confederation. It proposed a system of proportional representation in which more populous states would have more members in both houses of the legislature. However, the New Jersey Plan opposed the propositions of the Virginia Plan and tried to keep the legislature unicameral. Another weakness of the Articles of Confederation was regarding the conflicting laws for slavery throughout the nation. The members established the 3/5th compromise where they agreed not to outlaw slavery for a set number of years and gave states the right to count three-fifths of their slave population when it came to assigning the number of a state's representatives to Congress.

After the constitution was established, the debate between Federalists and Anti-Federalists was carried out through the printing press. The Federalists supported the constitution and were proponents of a strong national government. They were also supported wealthy merchants and southern plantation owners and believed that the educated should make decisions. The Anti-Federalists opposed the proposed constitution and were in favor of stronger state governments. This group wanted to place strong restrictions on the branches of governments to help solve the problem of a powerful government. Their supporters included people in a rural area, more farmers and shopkeepers. The Anti-Federalists believed in democracy and giving everyone a voice, not just the educated people.

During the ratification debates regarding the constitution, the Anti-Federalists motioned to include the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is a list of rights and liberties with which people are born and which government cannot take away (Abernathy 2019). The Anti-Federalists attempts to prevent the adoption of the Constitution were unsuccessful, but they were responsible for the implementation of the Bill of Rights. The different principles of Federalists and Anti-Federalists even gave rise to different kinds of democracy – the elite democracy supported by the former and the popular democracy supported by later.

Even though the anti-federalist established the Bill of Rights, I agree with the Federalists in the constitutional debate. They supported the proposed constitution which gave more power to the national governments. As seen in the history of the US, the confederal government was unsuccessful in promoting harmony and unity among all the states. I believe that the approach of the Federalists to create a powerful and strong central government provided the nation with political and economic stability.


  1. Abernathy, Scott Franklin. American Government: Stories of a Nation. CQ Press, a Division of Sage, 2019.
  2. “The Great Debate.” Constitution Facts - Official U.S. Constitution Website, Oak Hill Publishing Company, debate/.
  3. Klein, Ezra. “The Supreme Court vs. Democracy.” Vox, Vox, 9 July 2018,
  4. Cochrane, Emily. “Trump Again Vetoes Measure to End National Emergency.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 2019,
  5. Kumar, Anita. “Trump Tries to Persuade Supporters That No Deal on China Is a Win.” POLITICO, 29 June 2019,
  6. Epps, Garrett. “The Supreme Court Is Trump's Enforcer.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 15 Sept. 2019,
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Analytical Essay on Bill of Rights: Civil Liberty Versus Civil Right, Differences between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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