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Difference Between Constitution and Bill of Rights

Literary speaking, most people do not have an idea what is the difference between a constitution and the Bill of Rights. While these are entwined entities, they have varied reasons to split them apart with different characteristics for each. Experts and scholars will give varied definitions and tenets leading to the creation of each, but in the end, they will be trying to say the same things in varied ways.

Every sovereign country has a constitution. Most of them, for the longest time now have had constitutions, which is a document that stipulates how the nation will be run. It also directs how basic things are to be done, and the rules and relations to be followed in different entities.

While a constitution is a mother document by itself, the Bill of Rights is a section contained in a bigger document. That document is the former, that is, the constitution. While the constitution defines the structure and functions of a government, the Bill of Rights says what should and should not be done especially in relation to the citizenry and foreigners.

This article further sets out to bring the comparison between a constitution and the Bill of Rights.

 

Definition of a Constitution

Online sources define the constitution as a body consisting of the fundamental principles and established precedents that a state, organization, or any other entity acknowledges to be followed. It can also be referred to as a body of law or system of rules and laws.

A country’s constitution establishes the basic structure as well as functions of each branch or arm of the government of the land. In the United States, for example, the constitution sets up the system of federalism that governs the relations between the federal government and states. It also allots certain powers to the federal government and sets out the distinction between them and those within the state governments. Besides, it sets the central government as the supreme over the county and state governments in countries with such systems of governments respectively. 

Purposes of a Constitution

Without a constitution, a country would be “ruleless”. Without the rule of law, no single person will say what is to be done. Whether it is a written or unwritten one, its existence is non-debatable. It functions include:

  • Provision of scope for good governance.
  • Setting out the doctrine of separation of powers.
  • Establish a perfect union
  • Establish justice
  • Ensure domestic tranquility
  • Promote the general welfare for the citizenry
  • Provide for the common defense

 

Definition of the Bill of Rights

A Bill of Rights is a formal declaration or assertion of both the legal and civil rights that citizens of any country, federation, or state enjoy. It is also called a charter of rights or declaration of rights. In most cases, it is entrenched, but some extreme needs may make it unentrenched, like when a natural behavior of an individual is regarded to be a threat to other people.

Purposes of a Bill of Rights

Its main purpose is the protection and upholding of the rights of citizens against infringement from the government, private citizens, or public officials. It also explains to the citizens their rights, what they are to observe in regards to their fellow country people, as well as how to ensure their rights are protected.

Examples of Rights Contained in a Bill of Rights

The most basic rights contained in any Bill of Rights include:

  • Right to life.
  • The freedom of speech and expression.
  • Right to privacy.
  • Freedom of religion, belief, opinion, and conscience.
  • Freedom from servitude, slavery, and forced labor.
  • Right to human dignity.
  • Equality and freedom from discrimination.

Other rights are based on each application. For example, there are consumer, academic, veteran’s, taxpayer, homeless rights among others. Any violation of the rights and freedoms guarded by the constitution under the Bill of Rights offering leads to proceedings before a court of law.

 

Relationship Between Constitution and the Bill of Rights

The constitution is the mother of all rules. It contains amendments, by-laws, and any other constitutional changes. As such, it contains the Bill of Rights and guards them wholesomely.

 

Difference Between Constitution and Bill of Rights

  1. Function

A country’s constitution establishes the structures and functions of each arm of the government of the land. A Bill of Rights stipulates the rights and freedoms each citizen is entitled to from the government and other citizens.

The constitution describes each of the roles and responsibilities of the arms of the government and citizens while the Bill of rights describes the rights and freedom of the people.

The constitution limits the power of the government while the Bill of Rights grants authority to the people.

  1. Position

A constitution is a stand-alone document stipulating the rules of the and while a Bill of Rights is housed by the constitution.

  1. Limitations

The constitution governs the structures of the governments and the whole citizenry while the Bill of Rights only concerns itself with the rights of the people.

Constitution vs. Bill of Rights: Comparison Table

 

Summary of Constitution vs. Bill of Rights

Even when it is not easy to establish the differences between the two, it is common knowledge that they are not similar. Their functions are different too although they all point to what should be or should not be done. Most governments have ensured such areas are included in their schools’ curriculum to educate their citizenry.


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[0]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/53/Constitution_du_Grand_Duché_de_Luxembourg_1848_Cover_page.jpg/547px-Constitution_du_Grand_Duché_de_Luxembourg_1848_Cover_page.jpg

[1]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45803876@N00/23593949688/

[2]Help, Homework, and Constitution States. "What Is The Difference Between The Bill Of Rights And The Constitution? | Enotes". Enotes, 2018, https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-difference-between-bill-rights-constitution-346005. Accessed 5 Oct 2018.

[3]"What Do The Declaration, Constitution And Bill Of Rights Really Mean? - National Constitution Center". National Constitution Center – Constitutioncenter.Org, 2018, https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/what-do-the-declaration-constitution-and-bill-of-rights-really-mean. Accessed 5 Oct 2018.

[4]"The Constitution And The Law In A Free Society". Ourcivilisation.Com, 2018, http://www.ourcivilisation.com/cooray/constit/. Accessed 5 Oct 2018.

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