The Constitution of the United States, which includes the Bill of Rights, is one of the most abused documents in American history. It was designed to provide a solid foundation for liberty by limiting the size and scope of the federal government in a way that has never been seen in the history of mankind, but it is the Bill of Rights which makes it especially unique. Contrary to what many may think, the Bill of Rights “is not a declaration of rights at all. It is a declaration of prohibitions against the federal government,” setting clear boundaries that were not to be crossed (Skousen 674). However, as you will see, these delineations have been sullied. The following essay presents each amendment in the Bill of Rights, provides a summary of each amendment, and shows how they have been violated by the federal government.
“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.”
Summary of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”: Congress cannot legally show favoritism toward one religion over another and cannot prohibit anyone or any group of people from freely practicing their faith.
Examples of how the Founders’ original intention of this provision has been violated by the federal government:
Summary of “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”: The federal government cannot limit the freedom of speech.
Examples of how the Founders’ original intention of this provision has been violated by the federal government:
Summary of “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom…of the press…”: The federal government cannot limit the freedom of the press.
Examples of how the Founders’ original intention of this provision has been violated by the federal government:
Summary of “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”: The federal government cannot keep the American people from peaceful assembly.
Summary of “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”: The federal government cannot prevent the American people from complaining to the government regarding their 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.”
Summary: Since freedom cannot be maintained unless the American people remain armed, the federal government cannot prevent the people from keeping and using guns.
“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.”
Summary: Soldiers cannot force a home-owner to harbor them in their homes, in wartime or peacetime, without the owner’s consent.
“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.”
Summary: This amendment “…guarantees the American people the right to the privacy of their homes, their businesses, and all their private papers and effects…the right of the people to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures…[and] the right to be free from arrest except on the basis of a warrant which has been properly issued” (Skousen 701-703).
“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.”
Summary: This amendment grants Americans the “…right to trial by Grand Jury for certain crimes, the right not to be tried or punished more than once for the same crime, the right to be tried only with due process of law and the right to be paid fair compensation for any property taken by the government for public use” (“The 5th…”).
“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 defence.”
Summary: Americans have a right to a speedy trial, to a public trial, to be judged by an impartial jury, to be notified of the nature and circumstances of the alleged crime, to confront witnesses who will testify against them, to find witnesses who will testify in their favor, and to have a lawyer.
“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.”
Summary: Americans, in a civil case, possess “…the right to have a jury just as in criminal cases (provided, of course, that the suit involves a sum of $20 of more)” and “…the right to have its facts ‘as found’ remain unmolested during the appeal process” (Skousen 710)
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Summary: This amendment protects Americans from excessive bail and fines and from cruel and unusual punishment.
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Summary: This amendment says that “…any right not enumerated, or listed, in the Constitution is still retained by the people” (“9th…”).
“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.”
Summary: This Amendment states that “…the federal government only has powers over the things that are specifically given to it in the Constitution. All other powers are reserved to the States” or to the people (“The 10th…”).
In conclusion, according to the preamble to the Bill of Rights, the Framers provided us with these ten amendments in order to insure public confidence in the government. Yet, as you have seen, all three branches of our national government have failed, on numerous occasions – certainly more numerous than the examples used above – to trample upon the rights of “We the People,” which the Declaration of Independence says are unalienable and God-endowed. Good government possesses only the power derived from the consent of the governed so that it can fulfill its purpose in securing the rights and liberties of the people. But, more and more have seen and are seeing good government replaced by that which is oppressive and tyrannical. Why? Because “We the People” have allowed it. We have failed to be students of history and of current events and have relinquished our sovereign control of these United States by casting unwise votes for greedy and corrupt politicians who do not regard our Constitution or our freedoms. However, if we will pray, become extreme in our defense of liberty, work hard to educate our neighbors, and vote for adamant constitutionalists, America will be restored.
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“The structure has been erected by architects of consummate skill and fidelity; its foundations are solid; its components are beautiful, as well as useful; its arrangements are full of wisdom and order…” Justice Joseph Story
Justice Story’s words pay tribute to the United States Constitution and its Framers. Shortly before the 100th year of the Constitution, in his History of the United States of America, written in 1886 historian George Bancroft said:
“The Constitution is to the American people a possession for the ages.”
He went on to say:
“In America, a new people had risen up without king, or princes, or nobles….By calm meditation and friendly councils they had prepared a constitution which, in the union of freedom with strength and order, excelled every one known before; and which secured itself against violence and revolution by providing a peaceful method for every needed reform. In the happy morning of their existence as one of the powers of the world, they had chosen Justice as their guide.”
And two hundred years after the adoption of this singularly-important document, praised by justice Story in one century and Historian Bancroft in the next and said by Sir William Gladstone to be “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given moment by the brain and purpose of man,” the Constitution of 1787 – with its Bill of Rights – remains, yet another century later, a bulwark for liberty, an ageless formula for the government of a free people.
In what sense can any document prepared by human hands be said to be ageless? What are the qualities or attributes which give it permanence?
The Qualities of Agelessness
America’s Constitution had its roots in the nature, experience, and habits of humankind, in the experience of the American people themselves – their beliefs, customs, and traditions, and in the practical aspects of politics and government. It was based on the experience of the ages. Its provisions were designed in recognition of principles which do not change with time and circumstance, because they are inherent in human nature.
“The foundation of every government,” said John Adams, “is some principle or passion in the minds of the people.” The founding generation, aware of its unique place in the ongoing human struggle for liberty, were willing to risk everything for its attainment. Roger Sherman stated that as government is “instituted for those who live under it … it ought, therefore, to be so constituted as not to be dangerous to liberty.” And the American government was structured with that primary purpose in mind – the protection of the peoples liberty.
Of their historic role, in framing a government to secure liberty, the Framers believed that the degree of wisdom and foresight brought to the task at hand might well determine whether future generations would live in liberty or tyranny. As President Washington so aptly put it, “the sacred fire of liberty” might depend “on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people” That experiment, they hoped, would serve as a beacon of liberty throughout the world.
The Framers of America’s Constitution were guided by the wisdom of previous generations and the lessons of history for guidance in structuring a government to secure for untold millions in the future the unalienable rights of individuals. As Jefferson wisely observed:
“History, by apprising the people of the past, will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.”
The Constitution, it has been said, was “not formed upon abstraction,” but upon practicality. Its philosophy and principles, among others, incorporated these practical aspects:
The Constitution of the United States of America structured a government for what the Founders called a “virtuous people – that is, a people who would be able, as Burke put it, to “put chains on their own appetites” and, without the coercive hand of government, to live peaceably without violating the rights of others. Such a society would need no standing armies to insure internal order, for the moral beliefs, customs, and love for liberty motivating the actions of the people and their representatives in government – the “unwritten” constitution – would be in keeping with their written constitution.
George Washington, in a speech to the State Governors, shared his own sense of the deep roots and foundations of the new nation:
“The foundation of our empire was not laid in the gloomy age of ignorance and superstition; but at an epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period…. the treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labors of philosophers, sages, and legislators, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collective wisdom may be happily applied in the establishment of our forms of government.”
And Abraham Lincoln, in the mid-1800’s, in celebrating the blessings of liberty, challenged Americans to transmit the “political edifice of liberty and equal rights” of their constitutional government to future generations:
“In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running … We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth….We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them – They are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic…race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights, ’tis ours only, to transmit these…to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know….”
Because it rests on sound philosophical foundations and is rooted in enduring principles, the United States Constitution can, indeed, properly be described as “ageless,” for it provides the formula for securing the blessings of liberty, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and providing for the common defense of a free people who understand its philosophy and principles and who will, with dedication, see that its integrity and vigor are preserved.
Justice Joseph Story was quoted in the caption of this essay as attesting to the skill and fidelity of the architects of the Constitution, its solid foundations, the practical aspects of its features, and its wisdom and order. The closing words of his statement, however, were reserved for use here; for in his 1789 remarks, he recognized the “ageless” quality of the magnificent document, and at the same time, issued a grave warning for Americans of all centuries. He concluded his statement with these words:
“…And its defenses are impregnable from without. It has been reared for immortality, if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title. It may, nevertheless, perish in an hour by the folly, or corruption, or negligence of its only keepers, THE PEOPLE. Republics are created by virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens.”
Our ageless constitution can be shared with the world and passed on to generations far distant if its formula is not altered in violation of principle through the neglect of its keepers – WE, THE PEOPLE.
Our Ageless Constitution, W. David Stedman & La Vaughn G. Lewis, Editors (Asheboro, NC, W. David Stedman Associates, 1987) Part VII: ISBN 0-937047-01-5
This article was taken from www.nccs.net/our-ageless-constitution.php.
“Davy Crockett was killed at the Alamo in 1836 fighting for the independence of Texas. Earlier, however, he had served nine years in Congress. During one of these years a fire broke out in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington, and many of the Congressman, including Crockett, helped fight the blaze. The next morning the Congress voted $20,000 to assist those whose homes were destroyed. Crockett voted for it. However, when he went home he found himself in deep trouble with one of his constituents named Horatio Bunce. Bunce commended him for the anxiety to help the victims of the fire but scolded him for using other people’s money as ‘charity.’ He challenged Crockett to find where the Constitution allowed Congress to spend one penny of other people’s money for charity. Crockett couldn’t think of any such provision. Bunce told him he had a right to help with his own money, but not other people’s money.
“Crockett returned to Congress and ran into a similar situation. Congress wanted to give a substantial sum to the widow of a distinguished naval officer who had just died. Crockett took the floor and said:
“‘Mr. Speaker, I have as much . . . sympathy as . . . any man in the House, but . . . Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money . . . Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will among to more than the bill asks.’
“Crockett took his seat. This bill was defeated, but even though some of the congressmen were very wealthy, not one of them came forward to take up Crockett’s offer to donate a week’s salary to the widow as a gesture of private charity.”
Taken from pages 391-392 of “The Making of America” by W. Cleon Skousen (of The National Center for Constitutional Studies), who retrieved this story from pages 138-139 of “The Life of Colonel David Crockett”, published in 1884, by Edward S. Ellis. To read Crockett’s full speech, CLICK HERE.
In the continually harsh public discourse over the President’s proposals for federally-managed healthcare, the Big Government progressives in both the Democratic and the Republican parties have been trying to trick us. These folks, who really want the government to care for us from cradle to grave, have been promoting the idea that health care is a right. In promoting that false premise, they have succeeded in moving the debate from WHETHER the feds should micro-manage health care to HOW the feds should micro-manage health care. This is a false premise, and we should reject it. Health care is not a right; it is a good, like food, like shelter, and like clothing.
What is a right? A right is a gift from God that extends from our humanity. Thinkers from St. Thomas Aquinas, to Thomas Jefferson, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Pope John Paul II have all argued that our rights are a natural part of our humanity. We own our bodies, thus we own the gifts that emanate from our bodies. So, our right to life, our right to develop our personalities, our right to think as we wish, to say what we think, to publish what we say, our right to worship or not worship, our right to travel, to defend ourselves, to use our own property as we see fit, our right to due process — fairness — from the government, and our right to be left alone, are all rights that stem from our humanity. These are natural rights that we are born with. The government doesn’t give them to us and the government doesn’t pay for them and the government can’t take them away, unless a jury finds that we have violated someone else’s rights.
What is a good? A good is something we want or need. In a sense, it is the opposite of a right. We have our rights from birth, but we need our parents when we are children and we need ourselves as adults to purchase the goods we require for existence. So, food is a good, shelter is a good, clothing is a good, education is a good, a car is a good, legal representation is a good, working out at a gym is a good, and access to health care is a good. Does the government give us goods? Well, sometimes it takes money from some of us and gives that money to others. You can call that taxation or you can call it theft; but you cannot call it a right.
A right stems from our humanity. A good is something you buy or someone else buys for you.
Now, when you look at health care for what it is, when you look at the US Constitution, when you look at the history of human freedom, when you accept the American value of the primacy of the individual over the fleeting wishes of the government, it becomes apparent that those who claim that healthcare is a right simply want to extend a form of government welfare.
When I make this argument to my Big Government friends, they come back at me with…well, if people don’t have health insurance, they will just go to hospitals and we will end up paying for them anyway. Why should that be? We don’t let people steal food from a supermarket or an apartment from a landlord or clothing from a local shop. Why do we let them take healthcare from a hospital without paying for it? Well, my Big Government friends contend, that’s charity.
They are wrong again. It is impossible to be charitable with someone else’s money. Charity comes from your own heart, not from the government spending your money. When we pay our taxes to the government and it gives that money away, that’s not charity, that’s welfare. When the government takes more from us than it needs to secure our freedoms, so it can have money to give away, that’s not charity, that’s theft. And when the government forces hospitals to provide free health care to those who can’t or won’t care for themselves, that’s not charity, that’s slavery. That’s why we now have constitutional chaos, because the government steals and enslaves, and we outlawed that a long time ago.
Published on December 19, 2009
Andrew P. Napolitano [send him mail], a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at the Fox News Channel. His next book is Lies the Government Told You: Myth, Power, and Deception in American History, (Nelson, 2010).
“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” John F. Kennedy
There are limited, delegated, and discreet powers of Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of Constitution. Here they are:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
That’s it! These are the limited, delegated, and discreet powers that our Constitution gives to Congress; these eighteen (as listed above) specifically enumerated areas and responsibilities make up what the Founders called the Enumerated Powers Doctrine, which was designed to restrain and limit the power and reach of the Federal government. Where in this section of our Constitution does it say anything about health care? Our communist friends use the “general Welfare” clause mentioned in the Preamble and in Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 1 of our Constitution as a basis for today’s welfare programs. However, they fail to understand the original intent of the Founders regarding this clause and instead interpret it through their own postmodern lens. Regarding the Preamble reference, the Supreme Court in Jacobsen v. Massachusetts (1905) ruled that the Preamble is a statement of goals and not an authorization to Congress (This is also confirmed on page 75 of the “The Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation” (1992), provided by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)). In relation to the Article 1 reference, the “general Welfare” clause, according to Thomas Jefferson, is “not a grant of power to ‘spend’ for the general welfare of the people, but was intended to ‘limit the power of taxation’ to matters which provided for the welfare of ‘the Union’ or the welfare of the whole nation. In other words, federal taxes could not be levied for states, counties, cities, or special interest groups” such as women, the poor, the middle class, the rich, etc. (Page 387 of “The Making of America” by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS)). As Jefferson saw it, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” James Madison affirmed this view in “that this clause restricted the taxing power to matters which provided support for the national government in carrying out its assigned responsibilities” (as listed in Article 1, Section 8)(Page 387 of “The Making of America”). Here is what some other Founders said regarding this clause:
Alexander Hamilton: “The welfare of the community is the only legitimate end for which money can be raised on the community. Congress can be considered as under only one restriction which does not apply to other governments, they cannot rightfully apply the money they raise to any purpose merely or purely local…The constitutional test of a right application must always be, whether it be for a purpose of general or local nature.”
Archibald MacLaine (of North Carolina): “Congress will not lay a single tax when it is not to the advantage of the people at large.”
Edmund Randolph (of Virginia): “the rhetoric of the gentleman has highly colored the dangers of giving the general government an indefinite power of providing for the general welfare. I contend that no such power is given.”
Hamilton: “The United States, in their united or collective capacity, are the objects to which all general
provisions in the Constitution must necessarily be construed to refer.”
Clearly, according to the Founders, Congress cannot grant things to individuals or preferred groups at the expense of another individual or preferred group, thereby harming the “general” populace. So, anyone who claims that the “general Welfare” clause allows the Congress to give away “welfare” has a profound misunderstanding of the history and of the Supreme Court interpretation of both clauses. Madison, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution” and who understands the original intent of the Founders regarding the true meaning of the “general Welfare” clause, delivered a severe warning to the first U.S. Congress regarding the unbridled power of the Federal government should Congress ever violate the original intent of this clause:
If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post roads. In short, everything from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.
Here’s another great quote from Madison on this topic:
With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America…” To read the rest of the United States Constitution, CLICK HERE.