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A letter from an alumnus about the Bill of Rights and the U.S.'s government

January 19, 2002

We are very surprised to hear that Burnet Fisher ’46 believes that "there is no country (besides the U.S.) in the world that provides its citizens with the protection from government embodied in our Bill of Rights" and that the American concept of rights he has mentioned "are not specified anywhere else in the world." Or that as a direct result (of these rights) " we have been blessed with one of the longest surviving governments in the world." (Letters, December 5)

As a fellow graduate of Princeton (major in European history), I contest such statements. They seem to indicate that the author forgets that many countries protect their citizens in the same way as the United States Constitution protects its own. We could mention, for example, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, the Benelux countries, Switzerland, all the Scandinavian countries, etc., which protect their citizens by guaranteeing all the rights which Mr. Fisher enumerates.

That the U.S. has "one of the longest surviving governments in the world" neglects the fact that regimes of a democratic nature have existed in Scandinavia and Western Europe for centuries. English civil rights began to take shape with Magna Carta (1215). The Swiss experience of democracy began in 1292. Greeks consider that their country is the "cradle of democracy." Democratic regimes began to exist even under European monarchies at least 200 years ago.

Moreover, as with many European and other countries, the U.S. has been obliged to restrict "freedom of speech, movement, carrying weapons," etc, at times of crisis. Any democratic government has been obliged to do so at times of war or crisis.

Mr. Fisher should have confidence that the U.S. must work in cooperation with many governments around the world which (like the U.S.) are promoting the unique values of their own democratic systems,

Charles Graves ’53
Geneva, Switzerland

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