Handout I: Primary Sources on the Right to Petition and Assemble Peaceably
Directions: Read the following statements about the right to petition (ask) the government and the right to assemble. Answer the questions that follow on a separate sheet of paper.
Selection 1: Magna Carta (1215)
“. . . if we, or our justices, or our bailiffs or any one of our officers, shall in anything be at fault towards anyone, or shall have broken any one of the articles of this peace or of this security, and the offense be notified to four barons of the foresaid five and twenty, the said four barons shall repair to us (or our justices, if we are out of the realm) and, laying the transgression before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay.”
Selection 2: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1791)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Selection 3: De Jonge v. Oregon (1957)
“The right of peaceable assembly is a right cognate [equal] to those of free speech and free press and is equally fundamental. . . It follows from these considerations that, consistently with the Federal Constitution, peaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime. The holding of meetings for peaceable political action cannot be proscribed [prohibited].”
Critical Thinking Questions
- What five rights are protected by the First Amendment?
- In the excerpt from the Magna Carta, what rights are listed/implied?
- Paraphrase this statement: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble . . .”
- In the excerpt from De Jonge v. Oregon, what did the Supreme Court decision explain about the right to assemble?
- Are there any limitations on the types of assembly that people can have? If so, what are they?
- Paraphrase this statement: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people . . . to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
- List some groups that have exercised these rights throughout American history?