Second Bill of Rights

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced the plan for a bill of social and economic rights in the State of the Union address broadcast on January 11, 1944 (excerpt)

The Second Bill of Rights is a list of rights that was proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his State of the Union Address on January 11, 1944.[1] In his address Roosevelt suggested that the nation had come to recognize, and should now implement, a second "bill of rights". Roosevelt's argument was that the "political rights" guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights had "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness." Roosevelt's remedy was to declare an "economic bill of rights" which would guarantee eight specific rights:

Roosevelt stated that having these rights would guarantee American security, and that America's place in the world depended upon how far these and similar rights had been carried into practice.


Main articles: Great Depression and New Deal

In the run-up to the Second World War, the United States had suffered through the Great Depression, following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election at the end of 1932 was based on a commitment to reform the economy and society through a "New Deal" program. The first indication of a commitment to government guarantees of social and economic rights came in an Address to the Commonwealth Club on 23 September 1932, during his campaign. This speech was written with the AA Berle, a professor of corporate law at Columbia University, and a key passage read,

Throughout Roosevelt's presidency, he returned to the same theme continually over the course of the New Deal. Also, in the Atlantic Charter, an international commitment was made as the Allies thought about how to "win the peace" following victory in World War Two.

"The Economic Bill of Rights"[edit]

During President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union, he said the following:[2]


Roosevelt saw the Economic Bill of Rights as something which would, at least initially, be implemented by legislation, although this did not exclude the US Supreme Court developing constitutional jurisprudence, nor did it exclude amendments to the US Constitution. Roosevelt's model assumed that federal government would take the lead, although this did not prevent states improving their own legislative or constitutional framework beyond the federal minimum. Much of the groundwork had been laid before and during the New Deal, but left many of the Second Bill of Rights' aspirations incomplete. Internationally, the same economic and social rights were written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

In federal legislation, the key planks for the right to a useful and remunerative job included the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. After the war followed the Employment Act of 1946, which created an objective for the government to eliminate unemployment, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited unjustified discrimination in the workplace and in access to public and private services. These remained some of the key elements of US labor law. The rights to food and fair agricultural wages was assured by numerous Acts regulating Agriculture in the United States. The right to freedom from unfair competition was primarily seen to be achievable through the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice's enforcement of both the Sherman Act of 1890 and the Clayton Act of 1914, with some minor later amendments. The most significant program of change occurred through Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. The right to housing was developed through a policy of subsidies and government building under the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965. The right to health care was partly improved by the Social Security Act of 1965, and more recently the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The Social Security Act of 1935 had laid the groundwork for protection from fear of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment. The right to a decent education was shaped heavily by Supreme Court jurisprudence where the administration of education was left to the states, particularly with Brown v. Board of Education. A legislative framework developed through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and in higher education a measure of improvement began with federal assistance and regulation in the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Later in the 1970s, Czech jurist Karel Vasak would categorize these as the "second generation" rights in his theory of three generations of human rights.

Found footage[edit]

Roosevelt's January 11 address was delivered via radio, as the President was suffering from the flu at the time. During the last portion dealing with the Second Bill of Rights, he asked news cameras to come in and begin filming for later broadcast. This footage was believed lost until it was uncovered in 2008 in South Carolina by Michael Moore while researching for the film Capitalism: A Love Story.[4] The footage shows Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights address in its entirety, as well as a shot of the Six Rights[citation needed] printed on a sheet of paper.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Economic Bill of Rights". Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center. Retrieved 10 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "State of the Union Message to Congress". Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. 
  3. ^ This phrase is found in the old English property law case, Vernon v Bethell (1762) 28 ER 838, according to Lord Henley LC
  4. ^ "The Best Scenes From Michael Moore's New Movie". The Daily Beast. Sep 22, 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Capitalism: A Love Story at the Internet Movie Database (starting approximately at time code 1:55:00)
  6. ^ Moore, Michael et al. (2010). Capitalism: A Love Story (DVD). Traverse City, MI: Front Street Productions, LLC. "FDR's economic bill of rights". OCLC 443524847. Archived from the original on 2015-07-25. Retrieved 2015-07-25. 


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