The Bill of Rights
I have seen it argued that the Constitution no longer applies to our current society because we have evolved and changed. Today, we must somehow “divine” the intentions of the Founding Fathers rather than putting our own interpretation to the documents.
It isn’t true, in my opinion, that we must somehow “divine” their intentions. They left behind a large cache of documents, letters and speeches from which we may gain insight into their thought process. When debating the Constitution, there was a faction who wanted a Bill of Rights attached to it. Not everyone was behind this idea. Thomas Paine was against the entire idea of a Constitution, fearing the President would become another King. Alexander Hamilton was against the Bill of Rights, not because he didn’t believe that we have certain, unalienable rights, but because he felt they didn’t need to be enumerated, and feared that those that were not specifically enumerated could be taken away. Not everything that our Founders considered to be Natural Rights were enumerated and expressed. They wrote it all by hand, and I am sure they wanted to achieve some level of brevity, but the 9th Amendment is written thus:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
They essentially said that they did not write down every right, but that doesn’t mean they do not exists, and the Constitution is not to deny any rights not so enumerated.
During the Age of Enlightenment, they considered Natural Rights (what we refer to as human rights today) to be something that every one knew, and wouldn’t challenge. We know from the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights that we have these unalienable rights:
- The pursuit of happiness
- The right to speak freely, without fear of reprisal from the government
- As an extension of this, the freedom of the press to speak freely, without fear of reprisal from the government
- The right to follow whatever religion we choose, without fear of reprisal from the government or any other religion
- The right to defend ourselves
- The right to not be forced to house military personnel without our express permission. Many people may feel this to be outdated, but it is the basis for the right to privacy
- The right to be secure in our persons and homes. That the government may not search us or our property without a reason, and cannot seize us or our property without reason or proof.
- The right to not testify against ourselves, or the right to remain silent
- the right to a speedy trial by a jury of our peers
- the right to a public trial
- the right to a jury trial in a lawsuit, and that these suits may not be examined by another court
- the right to not be subject to excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishment, or excessive fines. This is one that, in my opinion, has been tossed aside, as I believe that most bails and fines are excessive.
The 27th Amendment was also part of the original Bill of Rights, dealing with Congressional pay, but was not ratified until 1992, 203 years after it was proposed.
Other natural rights, which were not enumerated in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, in my opinion, include the following:
- The right to not live in fear
- The right to an education
- The right to eat
- The right to work
- The right to own property (Yes, the Founders did feel this was a natural right)
Notice that the right to sit on your lazy ass and cash a government check is not on that list. There are other natural rights that we have, and I may add to this list as I think of them.
The right to defend ourselves is one that is very important. It is the basis of the Second Amendment. I specifically did not use the term “self-defense”, because that is completely different from defending yourself. The Founder’s believed that there may come a time when the people needed to rise up and overthrow the government. Jefferson believed it should happen once a generation or so, while Washington believed it should be an absolute last resort. The latter suggested trying the amendment process first.
I hear over and over, “why do you need more than 10 bullets?”. “You don’t need 30 bullets to kill a deer!”
This is just blatant ignorance. The Gun control lobby has twisted the meaning of the Second Amendment. It was not, nor has it ever been, about hunting.
We all have natural rights, a birthright of sorts. It is up to us to protect them, cherish them, and spread them to those who are oppressed.
Governments don’t so that. Governments do the opposite and try to take rights away.