I have scant time to write here anymore but this one is important to me.
I heard people talking about the Constitution and saying it was “old” along with the Bill of Rights. From the conversation, it was evident that they didn’t have much depth of knowledge on the Constitution other than it was an old document that established government operations and specified some rights (the Bill of Rights).
The conversation was disheartening as it exemplified a pitfall Madison and Hamilton warned everyone of in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere: including a Bill of Rights in the Constitution could imply the federal government had the ability to regulate those rights and only those specified rights have some form of protection (an other right must be specified or it could be denied/regulated).
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Constitution, by design, only provides powers to the federal government – if a power isn’t specified, they do not have it. Period. By so constructing the US government’s underpinnings, the Constitution is inherently exceptionally limiting of what government can do…if we and our lawmakers have the integrity to be loyal to this.
Both Madison and Hamilton opposed including a bill of rights as it was pointless and could be dangerous: it attempts to take away rights/powers the federal government never had first place. They feared this would result in confusion (remember, the Constitution only gives powers) and tempt ‘interpretations’ of these enumerated rights. As Hamilton wrote in Federalist 84:
I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power…
…the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, A BILL OF RIGHTS.
Clearly, arguing any limitation, interpretation, or regulation on a right specified in the first ten amendments should be laughable. They never were anything the federal government had any control over in the first place.
We are failing as a nation to learn of our protective underpinnings. That is both a lapse by individuals (parents), educators, and our educational system. It is why we see politicians re-interpret rights and powers they want to limit or seek to invent to enforce their goals; it is why they get away with it.
This ignorance is dangerous. Those who understand the Constitution, know that if a part appears outdated and ‘modernized’, an amendment process is provided for (which has indeed been used in the past!). The Constitution’s framers wisely provided for this because they knew they themselves were imperfect. Now, people don’t consider this at all and simply want the old document ‘re-interpreted’ on-the-fly, unwittingly bypassing the debate and vetting provided for by the amendment process. Here’s the danger: if you can just “interpret” anything to suit your desired outcome or entirely disregard something for the same reason, then you have no Constitution at all. There is nothing to constrain government at all, aside rebellion, for the constraints to be ‘interpreted away’.
The founders had been through a bloody rebellion to gain their freedoms and wanted to avoid such in the future. They also knew where the most crucial guardian of these freedoms and the governmental constraints could be found: in the home. As Benjamin Franklin stated at the end of the Constitutional Convention:
“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Please note who is to keep it. Not government, not politicians, elites, or a special panel. You!
On this Fourth of July please consider making a resolution to study our Constitution and pass that knowledge on to others. Read the Federalist Papers (I recommend the Signet Classic Kesler/Rossiter edition* as it contains very helpful background notes). Your freedoms, you children’s freedoms, the future’s freedoms rest on your shoulders.
Happy Fourth of July, thank God for our Constitution and may He continue to bless this land.