What is the 8th Amendment?
The 8th Amendment is about the Imposing Excessive and Cruel Punishment. It is also referred to as the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause.
Summary of the 8th Amendment
Summary: The 8th Amendment states that the government cannot demand excessive bail, excessive fines, or any cruel and unusual punishment, including torture.
8th Amendment - Imposing Excessive and Cruel Punishment
George Washington was the first American President who served in office from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797. One of the key events during his presidency was the ratification of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights, which includes the 8th amendment, was ratified (meaning approved) on December 15, 1791.
8th Amendment Simplified Summary
A simplified summary of the 8th Amendment is:
Limitations on Punishments and Bail
Cause and Reason for the 8th Amendment
The cause or reason for this addition to the Constitution was to ensure that punishment were fair and would 'fit the crime'. The British had subjected American citizens to harsh, unfair penalties.
8th Amendment Meaning, Explanation and Summary
The outrage of the early colonists against the treatment, and the laws, imposed by the British led to the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. The meaning of the words and phrases in the 8th Amendment of the Constitution are explained as follows:
8th Amendment: Meaning of the Words of the Amendment
|"Excessive bail shall not be required..."
|Meaning: The eighth amendment protects American citizens that have been found guilty of crimes from unfair punishments. The intention is that the punishment must fit the crime.
Bail: The term 'Bail' refers to the amount of money that an accused person must present as collateral, guaranteeing their appearance at court. If the person failed to attend court then the bail paid would become forfeit.
The excessive bail clause limits the power of the courts of set bail - it must be deemed reasonable in relation to the crime, taking into account the severity of the crime and the ability of the defendant to pay the amount set for bail.
|"...nor excessive fines imposed..."
|Meaning: Should a person be found guilty, any fine imposed by the court must be deemed reasonable.
|"...nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. "
|Meaning: Once again the punishment should fit the crime.
The intention of this clause was to prevent a court ordering harsh and vindictive forms of chastisement.
This had happened in England in 1681 to a man called Titus Oates. Titus Oates had been found innocent of a crime, and then retried, and found guilty of perjury by the infamous Judge Jefferies. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and to be "whipped through the streets of London five days a year for the remainder of his life." The whippings were so terrible that many believed that the aim was to kill Titus Oates.
Titus Oates survived and was released after 3 years. His punishment was deemed to be "cruel and illegal". The case prompted the English Parliament to enact the cruel and unusual provision in the English Bill of Rights.
The 8th Amendment ensured a similar clause was included in the American Bill of Rights.
Meaning of the Words of the Eighth Amendment
8th Amendment Text - The Eighth Amendment
The original full text of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution is as follows:
8th Amendment Text
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Who wrote the 8th Amendment of the Constitution?
James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution", wrote the 8th Amendment in 1789 as one of the first 10 amendments collectively known as the Bill of Rights. The 8th amendment about the Imposing Excessive and Cruel Punishment was ratified on December 15, 1791.
President George Washington Video
The article on the 8th Amendment of the Constitution provides the text, definition and history of one of the major achievements of his presidential term in office. The following video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 8th American President whose presidency spanned from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797.