December 15th, marks the two-hundred-twenty-third
anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, which took place
in 1791. It was certainly quite a spectacle last summer to watch young
Luke Boyce (also known as Kid Constitution) recite all ten amendments
that comprise our Bill of Rights at Camp Constitution’s week-long family camp. Luke is great example to us all to memorize
this document, and to thus be more familiar with the sacred,
God-given rights which it safeguards.
But there was one important part of the Bill of Rights which he left
out. I don’t blame Luke for this; indeed, this part is left out in
many printings of our constitution, and is probably unknown to most
college law professors. I speak of the preamble to the Bill of Rights,
which is important because its opening lines describe both the purpose
and the primacy of the ten amendments that follow.
At Camp, we all know that our Constitution has a preamble: indeed, we sing it at
campfire. But how many of us know that the Bill of Rights has a
preamble all its own? The most important, opening lines are as follows:
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.
Anti-federalists like Patrick Henry and George Mason were alarmed by the new powers granted in the Constitution, and wanted to make sure that they could never be twisted and turned against WE, THE PEOPLE. They understood all the abuses that had happened to us under British rule, as well as in other countries and previous republics such as Greece and Rome. Thus, with our own Constitution, they wished to prevent any possible “misconstruction or abuse of its powers.”
Thus the preamble states these first ten amendments to be: “declaratory and restrictive clauses.” This means they supersede and restrict all previous parts of the Constitution, as well as all subsequent amendments to the restraining framework of the Bill of Rights amendments. THE BILL OF RIGHTS AMENDMENTS ARE A FIREWALL. THEY COMPRISE THE MOST POWERFUL PART OF OUR CONSTITUTION BECAUSE THEY PLACE VERY SPECIFIC RESTRICTIONS ON THE POWERS OF THE GOVERNMENT TO INFRINGE UPON THE RIGHTS OF WE,THE PEOPLE.
In the past hundred years, especially, our government has grown way beyond
the very modest size and scope intended by the founders. Thus it is up to us to teach the
meaning of the founding documents to others, and to elect true statesmen who will fight to
restore them. It is up to us to write (and at times, visit) our elected officials to
remind them of their sacred oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
If we do not fight for our Constitution and Bill of Rights right now, in these crucial, dangerous times, then they will simply not be there for us, when we need them. Without our help and our fight they are but crumbling, aged, yellowed parchment.
“Tricorner” Tom Moor