Freedom: a Messy Thing (Pt 1)

Freedom: The state of being free, exemption from the power and control of another; liberty; independence. (Webster Dictionary, 1875)

The U.S Constitution was ratified in 1789, two years after the summer of 1787 that produced the Constitution after nearly two months of debates in a sweltering room in Philadelphia. At the conclusion of the convention, it was left to the men of the time to debate the merits of the Constitution. The most comprehensive review of the Constitution and its purpose is found in the Federalist Papers penned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, and published under the name Publius.

Within the 85 published papers, all items found within the U.S. Constitution are discussed at length.

Federalist No. 1, published October 27, 1787 begins with, “After a full experience in the insufficiency of the existing federal government, you are invited to deliberate upon a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.

The last one, Federalist No. 85, published August 13 and 16, 1788 begins with, “According to the formal division of the subject of these papers, announced in my first number, there would appear still to remain for discussion two points: “the analogy of the proposed government to your own State constitution,” and “the additional security which its adoption will afford to republican government.

The U.S. Constitution begins with the Preamble written by Gouverneur Morris: “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, 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.

And there it is, the purpose of of the U.S. Constitution.

Many leaders of the day would not support ratifying the U.S. Constitution unless it included a Bill of Rights. There were 12 amendments proposed, with only ten being ratified on December 15, 1791.

Alexander Hamilton argued against including a Bill of Rights in Federalist No. 84. His argument was that a Bill of Rights was wholly unnecessary and would be dangerous. “They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?

He continued to make the point that declaring a Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution would allow men predisposed to usurping power a plausible pretense to claim such power, because if it is in the U.S. Constitution as a “right,” it is therefore plausible that the U.S. Federal government has the authority to regulate such rights, to the point of entirely removing them from the people.

He, along with the other participants in the writing of the Constitution, stated that the U.S. Constitution’s was to limit the power of government, not the power of the people; which is why the U.S. Constitution begins with “We, the People.

However, for other men such as Thomas Jefferson, there would be no support for its ratification unless a Bill of Rights was added during the First Congress. Jefferson wanted to ensure the government in no way could restrict or deny certain basic rights.

These early men were students of history and philos0phy and many of them believed in John Locke’s theory of natural rights that declared men are not borne to be subject to a king but are borne with certain inalienable rights that chief among them are life, liberty and property. In other words, men were borne with rights granted to them by their creator.  Locke, also a student of history and an observer of his time, knew that when government in any form has the power to grant rights, it has the power to remove rights, leaving the people subjects of the government, and not free to live their lives as they deem best.

In the end, the likes of Jefferson and his peers ruled the day because the promise was made that a Bill of Rights would be added to the U.S. Constitution through the amendment process. It is important to stress here that the Bill of Rights restricts the government, not the people. These amendments are:

I. Freedom of press, religion, assembly and speech.

II. The right of the people to keep and bare arms.

III. The right of the people to not have troops quartered in their homes.

IV. The right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures of property (privacy).

V. The right to due process.

VI. The right to a speedy and fair trial.

VII. The right to a trial by jury.

VIII. The right against excessive bail or fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.

IX. The rights listed in the Constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.

X. The right of the states and people, respectively, to retain all powers not delegated to the United Stated by the Constitution.

Key words that need to be highlighted is that each amendment states that the noted “right” in each cannot be denied by the U.S. government. Amendment X clearly states that all power not delegated to the U.S. government are retained by the states and people.

The structure of power begins at the bottom, with the people. Think of a pyramid. The biggest part of a pyramid is the bottom, and that is where all the power is to rest. The people then decide which power to delegate to the states. This would be the middle part of the pyramid. The top of pyramid and the smallest part is the U.S. government and it contains the powers delegated to it by the states.

The way it is now is more like an inverted pyramid with the biggest part at the top, or the U.S. government. The states and the people have, unfortunately, ceded much of their power to the U.S. government and as such, have very little. And the saddest part is many Americans would willingly give up their rights as to not offend or to have a bit of temporary safety.

Now that the foundation has been laid, please continue to Part II.

A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty once lost, is lost forever.” John Adams, July 7, 1775

 

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