United States Constitution1
The cornerstone of limited government in the U.S. is the Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10) and related guarantees of individual liberties contained in the U.S. Constitution. Individual rights provide an array of restraints on political power to protect persons against unwarranted intrusions and abuses. Amendment 1 limits Congress. Amendments 2, 3, and 4 limit the Executive. Amendments 5, 6, 7, and 8 limit the Judiciary. Amendments 9 and 10 limit the national government. Beyond the Bill of Rights, Amendments 13, 14, 15, 19, 24, and 26 limit both national and state governments. The Bill of Rights has been widely emulated and frequently elaborated as we can see next in the Texas Bill of Rights and in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Unlike the largely negative liberties added to the U.S. Constitution in Bill of Rights ("Congress shall make no law..."), the Texas Constitution asserts the rights of citizens at the outset in Article 1. With its more positive tone the Texas Bill of Rights provides much the same protections as the U.S. Bill of Rights. But it also extends beyond federal protections. For example, Sec. 3a explicitly forbids discrimination based on sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. Secs. 4, 5, and 6 more specifically ban religious tests, protect religious belief, and provide equal protection for all peaceful religious practice. Sec. 7 more specifically prohibits establishment of religion. Sec. 10 asserts that the criminally accused may represent themselves, be represented by counsel, or both. Sec. 27 provides a right of remonstrance – a right not only to petition government but to obtain a response. Sec. 29 makes the Texas Bill of Rights unexceptionable – rights cannot be reduced through amendment or legislation. Finally, Secs. 30 and 31 spell out detailed expectations regarding the state's treatment of victims of crime.
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights3
Passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, the Declaration of Human Rights follows in the tradition of the Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), Immanuel Kant's Perpetual Peace (1795), Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum: On the Condition of Labour (1891), and more recently Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris: On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty (1963). Like the U.S. and Texas Bills of Rights it describes limits that all governments should heed in respect of their citizens. Beyond the negative liberties characteristic of the U.S. and Texas Bills of Rights, the Declaration of Human Rights declares in positive and comprehensive terms the essential dignity, equality, and rights of all human beings. It defines in detail the positive obligations of societies to their citizens and families, for example to provide employment under safe and favorable conditions, social as well as military security, a standard of living adequate to meet individual and family needs, and free compulsory elementary education and widely accessible higher education. The Declaration concludes noting that each individual bears reciprocal obligations to the community which alone makes possible "the free and full development of his personality."
1The U.S. Constitution, images, historical documents, and related information is available from the National Archives and Records Administration online at http://www.archives.gov/national_archives_experience/charters/ constitution.html accessed March 31, 2005.
2The full Constitution of the State of Texas is available from the Texas Legislature Online at http://www.constitution.legis.state.tx.us/ accessed March 31, 2005.
3 The text of the Declaration is available online from the UN at http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html. Additional resources regarding human rights can be found at http://www.un.org/rights. Both were accessed March 31, 2005. For the texts of other documents mentioned see the following (all accessed March 31, 2005):
Declaration of Independence http://www.archives.gov/national_archives_experience/charters/ declaration.html
Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen http://www.constitution.org/fr/fr_drm.htm
Perpetual Peace http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/kant/kant1.htm
Rerum Novarum http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l- xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html