Precinct 333

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Bill Of Rights -- Guarantor of Freedom Or Limiter Of Freedom?

Rick Lynch points out the problem with the Bill of Rights -- too many people see it as the full extent of our freedom, rather than simply the starting point. The notion of the people retaining rights not enumerated has been lost, leading most Americans to asume that government has free reign in those areas in which its power is not limited by specific restrictions.

The Founders had a different view. James Wilson of Pennsylvania, signer of both the Declaration and the Constitution, said
"In a government consisting of enumerated powers, such as is proposed for the United States, a bill of rights would not only be unnecessary, but, in my humble judgment, highly imprudent. In all societies, there are many powers and rights, which cannot be particularly enumerated. A bill of rights annexed to a constitution, is an enumeration of the powers reserved. If we attempt an enumeration, every thing that is not enumerated, is presumed to be given. The consequence is, that an imperfect enumeration would throw all implied power into the scale of the government; and the rights of the people would be rendered incomplete."

Unfortunately, too many people now see that neumeration as the limit of our personal freedom. Worse yet, many otherwise intelligent people, such as one of my assistant principals, assumes that we have thes rights because government gives them to us -- and regularly says that before the recitation of the Pledge of Allegience. I make sure my students know better, but am I trying to turn back the tide?


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