Restricting the Federal government from the “Abuse of its powers”
Today, December 15, is the day we commemorate the first ten ratified amendments to the Constitution of the United States, more popularly called our Bill of Rights.
There were twelve Amendments proposed, but only ten ratified by the states. (The other two dealt with expanding the number in the House of Representatives as the population increased, and preventing Congress from voting themselves immediate pay raises.)
The context of the Constitution in general and the Bill of Rights in particular is NOT that of the government granting rights and privileges to the people, but RATHER, that of the people putting shackles on the federal government itself. The language clearly restricts the government, not the people.
Even the very Preamble to the Bill of Rights states:
The Conventions of a number of 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: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution. [underline emphasis added]
My personal favorite is the 10th Amendment, largely forgotten in the last century but revived by Texas Governor Rick Perry and others recently. The 10th Amendment is the “living” part of the Constitution—clearly establishing that ALL un-enumerated powers and rights are reserved explicitly to the States and to the People.
The genius of the Founders thus set up the individual states as what have been termed “laboratories of democracy” where they each were free to experiment with different solutions to new issues in society. The States are also free to have different solutions than other states and thus responding to the particular wants and needs of their particular states.
Competition is good. States that find good solutions will prosper, (like Texas), and those that enact poor choices will not, (like California). The United States will ultimately be stronger as a result.
The 10th Amendment was an inspired mechanism for bringing the concepts of Capitalism and the benefits of Free Enterprise Competition to government policy. This stands in stark contrast to the concept of “big government” promoted by Progressives and Democrats. The 10th stands as a Centurion opposing stale, inefficient, and liberty-robbing elitism the Founders had just fought to eliminate from our land.
From www.archives.gov, downloaded December 15, 2011
The Bill of Rights: A Transcription
The Preamble to The Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of 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: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."
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.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
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.