Reclaiming the Bill of Rights
Today marks the 225th Anniversary of the passing of the Bill of Rights, Dec 15, 1791.
The Founding Fathers originally intended the Bill of Rights to be an additional shield against federal tyranny reinforcing the clear limits that the Constitution already had put in place. Like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings when he proclaimed to the ancient demon “You Shall Not Pass”, the Bill of Rights was to be an instrument that States and individuals would use to proclaim the same message to the national government, “You Shall Not Pass!”
The Constitution itself could have served this purpose on its own. It was clearly understood at the time of its passing to grant only limited powers to the national government. These powers were clearly enumerated. If a power was not on the list, it did not belong to the federal government. The founders understood the nature of man and they knew that the Constitution needed to “bind men down” that were elected to civil power.
“It is jealousy, and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power. That our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no farther, our confidence may go… In the question of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
But understanding that the quest for power that lies within the human heart can be almost unquenchable, several of the states required that a Bill of Rights be passed in order for them to approve the Constitution.
The states submitted 189 ideas. James Madison took those ideas and distilled them into 17. Congress reviewed these 17 and approved 12 of them to be sent to the States for ratification. Ultimately, the States ratified 10 of them. These became the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and you will find them in any copy of the Constitution you download or find in print.
But must people do not realize that the Bill of Rights has a preamble of its own. This preamble is usually not included in the printed version of the Constitution, but it clearly sets forth the purpose for which the Bill of Rights was passed.
‘The States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…”
Here we discover a fundamental key. The Bill of Rights it turns out is not so much a declaration of rights at all, but a further set of declarations of prohibitions against the federal government.
The Founders knew the greatest threat to the liberty of the people was a national government that would constantly attempt to expand its powers. They did not want the federal government to serve as “watchdog” over the States. Their view was that each State would guard the freedom of their people and when this did not happen that pressure would build up at a State level and that correction would come at a State level without interference from the federal government.
We can see these huge restrictions on power expressed in both the 1st Amendment and the 10th Amendment.
The 1st Amendment states –
“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.”
This first five words of this amendment, “Congress shall make no law”, basically removes everything that follows from the field of federal jurisdiction. If Congress can make “no law” then there is “no law” for the president to enforce and there is “no law” for the Supreme Court or federal courts to rule upon.
As originally designed, freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition were completely left to the realm of the states and could not be prevented, molested, or controlled by the federal government in anyway. Talk about freedom!
If you are sick and tired of opening up your paper and finding that some federal judge or federal court is bullying some school or community about a prayer at a football game, a scripture verse in a graduation speech, a Christmas play’s spiritual reference, or a display of the Ten Commandments in a public venue, you would be highly aligned with the founding fathers and their fear of what the federal government would become — a national bully to the people’s freedom of self-government.
But, just in case the concept was not fully understood the Bill of Rights concludes with the 10th Amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Dr. Archie Jones makes this point of emphasis:
“Our Tenth Amendment is thereby a key protector of the minority’s rights and liberty, for the people of any State are but a minority of the people of the nation. It protects against abuses of power perpetrated by a national majority, a powerful minority, or a popular individual who may have seized the reins of power in the national government. The Tenth Amendment protects localism and local self-government against centralism — the theory and practice of top-down, centralized government.
The Tenth Amendment does not represent an isolated idea in the Constitution; it is but an additional, explicit protection for federalism, and federalism is, as James Madison tells us in Federalist No. 51, an essential portion of the Constitution’s system to secure the blessings of liberty”
This amendment is completely ignored by the federal government today. And States do not stand up for this liberty at all.
So, we find now that rather than the Bill of Rights being a shield that protects us from the tyranny of the federal government, that now the federal government through the federal courts takes the Bill of Rights changes its meaning and beats the states and individuals into submission based on its preferred interpretation of what they say it means.
They have achieved this huge usurpation of power beginning in the 1920s with an expansive interpretation of the 14th Amendment which they insist gives them the right to dictate to the States and to the people what their 1st Amendment rights are. Rather than being inalienable and protected, they are dictated by our federal overlords.
We are seeing the realization of Jefferson’s prophecy:
“The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in… the federal judiciary; an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States.”
So on this Anniversary Day, “what are we to do?” Well, to begin with, get and read a full copy of the Bill of Rights. Read and understand its original intent. Share these ideas with others. Suggest that the federal courts and federal government are out of control and have usurped power that is not theirs to take. And when the fight comes to your door in your local school or local community, get together with others and take the shield of the Bill of Rights and take a stand.
Written by Craig Seibert.