Voluntary practice extra


The practice has questions and suggested answers about American civics. The answers are not comprehensive; they are more of ideas that could be of use in creative writing.


1. “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that (a) all Men are created equal, that they (b) are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and (c) the Pursuit of Happiness.”

1a. Does the Declaration of Independence say that only males are equal? [Idea]

1b. Does the Declaration require that people have a religion, for people to have human rights? [Idea]

1c. Is the Pursuit of Happiness a regulation by law? [Idea]

2. “The History of (a) the present King of Great-Britain is (b) a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.”

2a. Who was the English king? [Idea]

2b. If we were to choose three nouns to sum up on the causes for the Declaration, what would the words be? [Idea]

3. WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, (a) appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, (b) FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

3a. Does the Declaration solicit a divine intervention, asking if the causes are right? [Idea]

3b. Do we say the United States is, or the United States are? [Idea]


4. We, (a) the people of the United States, in order to…

4a. Could there be an idea to join the words order and people, if we look to the Constitution and the Great Seal? [Idea]

4b. Would our three words to sum up on the causes for the Declaration tell about the purposes of the Constitution as well? [Idea]

5. The privilege of (a) the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

5a. If we were to choose three verb phrases to tell what the habeas corpus provides for, what would they be? [Idea]

5b. What does the phrase habeas corpus mean, and where does it apply today? [Idea]

Let us imagine we are explaining on the italicized words and phrases to a young person.

6. No bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, shall be passed. [Idea]

7. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. [Idea]

8. …he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices. [Idea]

9. …and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. [Idea]


10. Some researchers would derive the Amendments from the English Magna Carta. Let us think what the law would imply, if the Amendments continued the Carta tradition. [Idea]

Amendment 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district

Magna Carta: No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land

11. Could we paraphrase Amendment 4 with the infinitive? [Idea]

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

12. How could we paraphrase the verb shall in Amendment 6? [Idea]

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with witnesses against him, to have the compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

13. Could we rely on word derivation for the word enumeration in Amendment 9? [Idea]

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


1a. The word man alone denotes the human kind. The plural, men, means human beings, not *human kinds. The use comes from translating Latin. To refer to a male, the noun man requires an article or a determiner as a, the, or this. Examples: Man belongs with the Homo sapiens. The man can read. Naturally, the Declaration did not introduce a separate legal status for women. [Back]

1b. The Declaration rejects the theory of a divine right for kings or queens to rule, saying that American people take a separate and equal stand. The Framers supported generally a belief into a Creator as the primary cause for the universe, but religion never has been meant for a precondition, legal obligation, or duty in the USA, as the Constitution affirms. [Back]

1c. The Declaration does not set out laws. It also says, Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, and laws for suffering would not be motivation to make a democratic country, or any country at all. The Declaration remains the most famous document to invoke human happiness, within the law, among the incentives to establish a country. [Back]

2a. The monarch was George III of the house of Hanover. Often remembered as “Mad King George”, reported by some British resources as ill with porphyria, the king personally decided on policies for America. [Back]

2b. Law, finance, government. [Back]

3a. The definite article in the phrase “appealing for the Rectitude of our Intentions” says the Framers considered the causes righteous. A phrase as appealing for _ rectitude might imply a call for divine illumination about purpose, but it does not occur — justifiably, to consider 2b above. [Back]

3b. The phrase the United States is tells about the country entire. We speak in such a way about Germany, France, and other countries. The phrase the United States are invokes the idea of a country by the people and for the people. USA constituent states have considerable autonomy. Both phrases are grammatically correct. [Back]

4a. The idea of purpose generally could join the two words. The Latin ordo could mean persons with regard to the purpose of activity, let us browse Cicero’s Philippics. Feel also welcome to read about the Great Seal motto, Novus Ordo Seclorum:
It is not only Wikipedia to derive the Seal Latin from a sibyl’s song, but Out of one, many, say the sibylline lines, and Out of many, one, says the Great Seal. We are not into developing a conspiracy theory, since people are naturally unlikely to promote hegemony. On the side of word meaning, Virgil wrote for Octavian Augustus, who had Cicero proscribed and executed. The Framers might have used the poetry to learn Latin, but would they have followed it for the word sense in the US Great Seal? More→

4b. Law: Article 1, the Legislative; Article 2, the Executive; Article 3, the Judiciary; Article 6, constitutional law supreme status and separation of State from Church (no religious test ever to be required as qualification to office).
Finance: Article 1, Sections 2, 8 & 9.
Government: Article 4, Federal Principles (republican form of government guarantee); Article 5: the Power of Amendment (the law cannot amend itself). [Back]

5a. To be present, to answer, and to testify in a court of law (habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, ad respondendum, and habeas corpus ad testificandum, respectively). [Back]

5b. Literally, it is you have the body, to say there is requirement for physical presence in court. The Habeas Corpus Parliament passed the Act in 1679, during the reign of Charles II. Habeas corpus is effective in the USA, England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Most countries have equivalent legislation, such as the Criminal Procedure Act in Scotland, or article 40.4 of the 1937 Irish Constitution. The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 5, says, “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.” [Back]

6. The thing started in Old French, where the verb ateindre meant to range someone, reach for him or her, hit them. Rulers could issue edicts that named persons they wanted to be hit — punished without trial. Today, such edicts or bills are outlawed, as they breach on the balance of powers: the executive is not to act without the legislative and, in cases of misdemeanor or felony, the judiciary. We may compare Montesquieu on the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary.

The Latin ex post facto means after the fact. To compare American history, the Prohibition outlawed alcohol sales for beverage purposes, but nobody could be penalized for sales they legally had when the ban was not in force. Another term for ex post facto is retroactivity. In the US the law cannot be retroactive, that is, it cannot impose restrictions “backwards in time”. [Back]

7. The Constitution original phrasing is when called into the actual service of the United States; there have been different interpretations.

The Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote, “The propriety of admitting the president to be commander in chief, so far as to give orders, and have a general superintendency, was admitted. But it was urged, that it would be dangerous to let him command in person, without any restraint, as he might make a bad use of it. The consent of both houses of Congress ought, therefore, to be required, before he should take the actual command.”

Justice Robert Cooper Grier stated: “The President is not only authorized but bound to resist force by force. He does not initiate the war, but is bound to accept the challenge without waiting for any special legislative authority.” [Back]

8. The personal pronoun he remains is legal use for both genders. Here, it is an anaphora to refer to the President. Anaphoras refer back in discourse: “When called into the actual service, the President becomes Commander-in-Chief. He may require the opinion …”

Let us compare Article 5 of the European Convention: “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty …”

Modern linguistics proposes the forms he or she as well as s/he for short, to avoid anaphoric ambiguity. [Back]

9. The President can pardon or commute even capital punishment in cases prosecuted by the USA. He cannot change verdicts on impeachment, which is to prevent recurrence of the former royalist practice to appoint irremovable officials. [Back]

10. According to the Carta, the king could go upon as well as send upon a freeman, who might be dispossessed, mutilated or even killed, provided that the freeman’s peers or the regional law allowed it. The Carta does not require for “the peers” to be impartial jury, or for “the law of the land” to set out a place and manner for legal proceedings. Initially, local legal or paralegal traditions had no framework in constitutional affirmation on people’s rights.

Let us compare the Declaration:
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Compare the Amendments and the Carta, also from LibriVox. [Back]

11. The people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrants are to be issued, unless upon a probable cause, to be supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly to describe the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. [Back]

12. In case of a criminal prosecution, the law warrants a speedy and public trial for the accused, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime occurs; the law requires that the judiciary is identified by the administrative, the accused to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with witnesses against him, to have witnesses in his favor, and to have legal counsel for his defense. [Back]

13. The Latin numerare contributed also to the word number, Latin numerus. Latin numerals were letters of the alphabet, X meant 10, XX meant 20, et caetera. The sense today is to name, to present. [Back]

■→This text is also available in Polish.