WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF SOME OF THE RIGHTS
GUARANTEED BY THE FIFTH AND SIXTH AMENDMENTS?
A. The English Roots
Many of the rights guaranteed against govermnent interference by the
Bill of Rights came directly from England. Prior to and even during the
existence ofthe Ajnerican colonies, Englishmen struggled against the
English kings to establish fundamental rights. Some of these rights were
the right against double jeopardy, the right against self-incrimninatiOTt the
right to trial byjury. and the right to confront witnesses.
The idea that a person should be tried only once for the same offense is
deeply rooted in history. It dates at least to ancient Greece and Rome. By
the thirteenth century it was firmly established as a part. ofEnglish law,
Thus, ifa person were tried and found not guilty of an offense, the government had no right to try that person again on the same charge.
2. RIGHT AGAINST SEIF-INORIMINATION
It can be argued that the right against self-incrimination began with the
struggle for freedom of religious beliefs, People who were attacked for
being outside of the mainstream of religious thought often did not wish to
reveal their innermost beliefs.
Efforts to remain silent about personal religious beliefs had teen ongoing throughout history. Certainly this was occurring well before
Englishmen's struggles against the monarchy during the two centuries
before the American Revolution.
The right against self-incrimination became one ofthe rights which
Englishmen insisted the monarchy could not take away. This right was
their shield against the torture and forced confessions practiced in England until the end of the seventeenth century. John Lilburne (see Chapter One, Lesson 6A), who was tortured and imprisoned for several years
beginning in 1637, insisted that he could not be forced to ~ncnmmmiate
himselfwhen he was charged with printing seditious books.
3. RIGHT TO TRIAL HYJIJHY
Trial by jury also came to America from England. Citizens there felt that a
trial byjnry would insure that they were tried fairly. A jury trial meant that
the King could not arbitrarily decide that a person was guilty of an offense,
Englishmen felt that decision could he made only by a person's peers.
During the years preceding the Declaration of Independence. the
American colonists repeatedly asserted their right to a trial byjury in-