“I know my rights! You can’t do this to me! I’m an American citizen!”
This is a healthy and typical reaction of Mr. Average Citizen to the petty restraints of bureaucrats, or to whatever restraints government officials may attempt to impose upon him.
Americans have more rights, freedoms, and privileges than any other people on earth. And they have so organized their government that these freedoms can more easily be preserved than they can among any other people. The spirit that rebels against governmental meddling in the affairs of the people of this nation is one that should be fostered. If the day comes that Mr. Average Citizen meekly submits to government intervention and control of his economic and social affairs then he will be in line to have his rights and freedoms curtailed. We need to develop the desire to keep our freedoms and rights alive. To do this we should know what these rights are. both our inalienable or natural rights and our political rights.
Yes, Mr. Average Citizen, what are your rights? Well, there are the great inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, to law, and to freedom of conscience. These are the natural rights of all mankind and come as the free gift of the Creator. But there are many more that have been developed and established by Englishmen throughout the centuries as part of the common law.
The power to prosecute for offenses or supposed offenses can be an instrument of severe persecution in the hands of a despotic government. The fear of this is less in America than in any other nation. We have the right not to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. This includes a trial by a jury which shall be the sole determiners of the facts of the case.
Americans have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. They may be arrested only upon warrants supported by a complainant’s oath, except for certain crimes committed in the presence of the arresting authority. They are entitled to know the nature of the accusation against them. They cannot be tried twice for the same offense, nor can they be forced to testify against themselves. Trials must be speedy and impartial and held in the district where the offense was committed. Witnesses must confront the accused and he must have compulsory process for obtaining his witnesses.
Excessive bails are prohibited. Cruel and unusual punishments cannot be inflicted. Americans have the right not to be punished by maiming or disfiguring, nor can they be banished for crime. or for any cause. Laws cannot be passed making an act already done a crime or increasing the penalty for a crime after its commission. The Congress can pass no bill of attainder.
There is the right to take civil causes into court and have them determined impartially. Jury trials are preserved in most civil cases. The courts are open to every man, and none can be denied. Contracts cannot be impaired by subsequent laws, nor can the right to freedom of contract be curtailed.
All men have the right to political freedom, to vote as they choose, to be represented in the legislative body which taxes them, to enjoy local self-government and to be free from involuntary servitude or slavery.
Freedom of speech and of the press are axiomatic. The rights to assemble peaceably and to petition the government for redress of grievances cannot be infringed. The people cannot be denied the right to keep and to bear arms, nor to be independent in their forms of worship.
Economic rights are equally sacred. There is the right to work and to trade, or to refuse to work. There is the right to earn money and make a profit, to choose any business that one elects, and to put one’s own price on his services or goods. There is the common law right to be free from combinations in restraint of trade, or combinations which restrict the output of a man’s labor.
These things, and many others, are not just laws that have been enacted. They are rights. They have grown up as a part of the common law. Their development has taken centuries and they have been recognized by the courts, have been enacted into laws, and have been recorded in constitutional documents. Over 700 years ago the Magna Charta began listing them and announced that they would be preserved inviolate.
All down through the centuries of English and American history instances have arisen in which these and kindred rights have been curtailed and infringed and taken from the people. But each time the determined will to be free has risen again and the people have insisted that their rights be preserved.
The struggle has by no means ceased. Rights are being infringed today even as they were in the days of George III. The people then refused to be restricted and their rights were maintained. The people today must refuse to give up their rights, even as their forebears refused.
In times of war certain rights are suspended or restricted. The right to a writ of habeas corpus may be lawfully denied in times of war or rebellion, but when peace comes again the right is still there. Americans must preserve their rights after this war. If they know what they are and the value they have, they will preserve them.
which appeared on the editorial page (page 4) of
The Deseret News, 19 March 1945 through 10 April 1945.