The First Freedoms
The Privacy Amendments
The 5th Amendment
The 6th Amendment
Civil Trials
The Interpretive Rules

Freedom of Petition and Assembly

Instruction of Representatives

The First Congress, during their debates over assembly and petition, had considered adding another clause that would have granted more specific protections for lobbying the government. The wording they used, however, specified that the people had a right “to instruct their Representatives.” Those who were opposed to the addition did not deny that such a right existed, but they thought the wording would either be dangerous or useless. On the one hand, if by “instructing” their representatives the amendment meant that the Congressmen would be bound by those instructions, then it would overturn the whole constitutional system of representative government. On the other hand, if by “instruction” they meant only that the people had a right to express their preferences, then the right to instruct one’s Representatives, Madison said, was already included under the clauses protecting speech, the press, and petition. Modern courts tend to agree.