|It's a bit faded and moldy. So faded, in fact, that no one in DC can read it anymore.|
Perhaps it's time to re-write it with new no-fading ink, and a firmer hand than the original.
With the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the Amendments commonly known as the Bill of Rights only hours away (December 15th), a majority of the American people still do not understand the true intent of the Amendments. They believe the Amendments are the source of their individual rights and the federal government was granted the general power to secure those rights. In reality, the Amendments did not create any individual rights or grant the federal government any general power.
When the “Bill of Rights” was submitted to the individual States for ratification, it contained 12 proposed amendments and was prefaced with a preamble that spelled out the intent of the Amendments. As stated in the preamble, the purpose of the Amendments was to prevent the federal government from “misconstruing or abusing its powers.” To accomplish this, “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” were being recommended. The Amendments, if adopted (2 were rejected 10 were agreed to), would not create any so-called constitutional rights or grant the federal government any general power; they would place additional restraints and/or qualifications on federal power concerning the rights enumerated therein.
The best way to explain the intent of the Amendments was to re-write them through the preamble. This re-write helps explain the original intent of the Amendments, without resorting to the preamble, and makes them easier to understand. Some words have been changed to reflect modern usage and the sentence structure has been slightly altered in a few of the Amendments. The author suggests the reader, after reviewing the preamble [http://www.billofrights.org/], compare the wording of each Amendment to the original.
Article I……… Congress is expressly denied the power to enact any 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.
Article II……… Because a well-regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the federal government is expressly denied the power to infringe the people’s right to keep and bear Arms. (EN 1)
Article III……… The federal government is expressly denied the power to quarter any Soldier in any house, in time of peace, without the consent of the Owner, or in time of war, except in a manner to be prescribed by law. (This Amendment grants the federal government a very narrow lawmaking power to qualify the restraint.)
Article IV……… The federal government is expressly denied the power to infringe the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the federal government is expressly denied the power to issue Warrants, 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.
Article V……… The federal government is expressly denied the power to hold any person 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 the federal government subject any person to a prosecution for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall the federal government compel any person in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor shall the federal government deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall the federal government take private property for public use, without just compensation.
Article VI……… In all criminal prosecutions, the federal government is expressly denied the power to negate 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; nor shall the federal government deny the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; or the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him; or the right to have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor, or the right to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Article VII……… In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the federal government is expressly denied the power to negate the people’s right to a trial by jury, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any federal Court, than according to the rules of the common law.
Article VIII……… The federal government is expressly denied the power to impose excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments.
Article IX……… The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to grant the federal government the power to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Article X……… The powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. (No change on this Amendment is needed)
Even through the Constitution established a government of limited enumerated powers and under this system of government every power not granted was denied, the States decided that “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” were needed to prevent the federal government from “misconstruing or abusing its powers.” Thus, the insertion of phrases like “the federal government is expressly denied the power” is consistent with the intent of the Amendments.
After establishing the original intent of the Amendments, three things are certain. First, the purpose of the Amendments was to place additional restraints and/or qualifications on the powers of the federal government. Second, the Amendments did not grant the people of the individual States any so-called constitutional rights. Third, the Amendments did not grant the federal government the general power to secure the rights enumerated in the “Bill of Rights.”
In the author’s opinion, government and the American public school system are intentionally suppressing the preamble and the original intent of the Amendments because government wants it that way. If government wanted students properly educated on the “Bill of Rights,” it would insist that the civics curriculum incorporate this information into classes and textbooks.
By advancing the myth that the “Bill of Rights” grants the American people individual rights, the federal government has been able to assume the role of “protector” of those rights. This has allowed it to transform restraints on power into grants of power. The federal government now claims it has the power to impose “reasonable restraints” on any right enumerated in the “Bill of Rights.” This is an absurdity because the Amendments were specifically written and adopted to restrain the powers of the federal government. If the federal government is allowed to assume this power, then the Constitution is meaningless as a written document because government can simply modify or remove every restraint on its power.
Now that you know how to properly read the Amendments in a manner that is consistent with original intent, as expressed in the preamble, don’t be a victim of the government’s public school system on December 15th when we celebrate the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights Restraints.
Endnote 1-The word “because” can used at the beginning of a sentence to introduce a dependent clause. The first part of the Second Amendment is a dependent clause because a well-regulated militia is dependent upon the people’s right to keep and bear arms not visa versa. Therefore, it is, and would have been acceptable to use the word “because” at the beginning of the Amendment This change maintains the intent and sentence structure of the Amendment but makes it read in a manner that is more in tune with modern sentence structure.
Bob Greenslade has been writing for www.thepriceofliberty.org since 2003.