December 15, 2021, marks the 230th anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution known as The Bill of Rights. When the U.S. Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, some of the ratifying delegates agreed to vote for it if states could propose amendments to the new Congress. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Noah Webster were among those that believed that a bill of rights was unnecessary since the power granted to the federal government were “few and defined.” Madison changed his position and is credited at the primary author of the Bill of Rights.
States submitted 189 proposed amendments which were narrowed down to seventeen proposed by Congress, and twelve were approved by the necessary 2/3rds of the House and Senate. And on September 25, 1789, the amendments were transmitted to the states for ratification. The states ratified ten and they became effective on December 15, 1791. One of the amendments initially rejected, concerning congressional pay raises, was ratified on May 7, 1992.
These ten amendments did not give the people any rights; they already had them. The amendments were more of a list of things that the U.S. Government cannot do, and a protection of rights the people already had. The most misunderstood and misquoted amendment is the 1st. Many people think that the term “separation of church and state” is part of the amendment. It is not. It simply states that Congress cannot establish a church or prohibit the free exercise of religion. When the first amendment was ratified, several states had state churches including Massachusetts and Connecticut. One of the authors of the 1st Amendment was Fisher Ames of Dedham. This is what he said about the Bible in schools:
“We have a dangerous trend beginning to take place in our education. We’re starting to put more and more textbooks into our schools. We’ve become accustomed of late of putting little books into the hands of children, containing fables and moral lessons. We’re spending less time in the classroom on the Bible, which should be the principal text in our schools. The Bible states these great moral lessons better than any other man-made book.”
The 2nd Amendment is another misunderstood amendment. It did not give the people the right to keep and bear arms. The people already had that right. It simply forbade Congress from interfering with the right of free people to be armed. All laws made by Congress that restrict the right to keep and bear arms are unconstitutional. The Constitution listed specific rights and powers. Its critics thought that the rights not listed could be infringed upon, and that is why we have the 9th and 10th Amendments which addressed the issue. It must be pointed out that Presidential executive orders are not laws and unless you are a member of the Biden Administration, you have no duty to obey an executive order.
And yes, like the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights has a preamble:
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, 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.
Amendment I 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.
Amendment II 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.
Amendment III 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.
Amendment IV 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.
Amendment V 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 offence 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.
Amendment VI 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.
Amendment VII 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 reexamined in any Court of the United States, then according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X 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.
The Bill of Rights have survived wars, depressions, and pandemics, but since the Covid 19 or the Chinese Communist Party virus, it has been under attack. Houses of Worship were ordered closed and the few courageous clergy who refused to obey unconstitutional mandates were arrested and jailed. Media platforms canceled all who dared question the Lords and Ladies of Lockdown, the WHO, and the CDC. Thankfully, there has been, albeit belated, pushback. We saw some of that manifested itself in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia, and the angry parents around the nation who are finally taking their government school board members to task for promoting the racist Critical Race Theory.
Happy Birthday Bill of Rights. May you have many more.