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First Amendment: Asking the Government for Change

The First Amendment grants the right to petition the government.

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“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.”

The final right in the First Amendment is the freedom to petition the government. This means Americans can contact the government directly and ask for change.

Freedom to Petition

This part of the First Amendment is also known as the Petition Clause. This protects Americans’ right to make requests from the government. Some methods to do this include collecting signatures, meeting for peaceful protests, and writing letters or emails.

The idea of petitioning the government began in England in 1215. It was written in the Magna Carta, which was made by the people to limit the powers of the king and his government. It allowed the people to make requests of the king through his 25 barons.

The right to petition was also seen in the English Declaration of Rights in 1689, a paper that listed the wrongs committed by King James II, and all the rights of common citizens. This declaration was meant to let people to address the government without fear of being sent to jail.

Why Do We Need this Right?

The Petition Clause lets Americans speak against injustice and wrongdoing. It also gives them the power to change laws they don’t like. In the Women’s Suffrage movement, women petitioned the government for the right to vote in elections – this was finally achieved in 1920. During the Civil Rights movement on the 1960s, people of all races told the government to strike down the Jim Crow laws that separated black and white-skinned Americans.

The Petition Clause reminds us that the government’s job is to serve the people, not the other way around. U.S. citizens have the right to call on their representatives, senators, and any other elected leader in the country.

Jeff Charles

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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