Constitutional Minute #21   The very idea of amendments – Part 2 of 3


Be very careful what you wish for regarding amendments. They can appear ideal and appeal to our desperation, but in reality, mean exactly the opposite. I will illustrate some of those in a later “Minute”. You might be shocked. As we previously said, statecraft is serious business.

Are amendments effective? Let’s take just a few examples.

  • We have federal laws on prayer in public. The First Amendment did not prevent that.
  • We have federal laws on guns, ammo, and firearm manufacturers. The Second Amendment did not prevent that.


  • Our God-given privacy rights have been tossed aside by the federal government. The Fourth Amendment did not prevent that.


  • We have federal laws on minimum wage, where to drill – or not drill for oil, air bags in cars, and hundreds of other objects. The Tenth Amendment did not prevent that.


Still think amendments are a good idea?


When amendments correct defects in the Constitution, (per George Mason as he said on June 11, 1787), they are clearly a good thing. The 12th and 13th Amendments, like the 11th Amendment, corrected defects in the Constitution. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment extended Citizenship to the freed slaves and provided constitutional authority for the much needed federal Civil Rights Act of 1866.


In Federalist No. 84 (10th para), Alexander Hamilton warned against adding a Bill of Rights to our Constitution. Under a Constitution of enumerated powers, the government may lawfully do only what the Constitution permits it to do. So

“…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? … it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power…”


And he was right!! Why say Congress “shall not infringe” (2nd Amendment) when there was no power in the Constitution for the federal government to infringe to begin with? Same holds true for the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 10th Amendments. Can you find others? (Hint: Take a look at the 19th just for one example.)


Bob Hilliard