Posted: December 13th, 2005 by Militant Libertarian
As a recovering victim of the American public school system, it took many years of independent study before I finally discovered the true intent of the Bill of Rights. With the 214th anniversary of the adoption of the Amendments only days away, the Bill of Rights remains, next to the Constitution itself, the most misunderstood document in the history of the nation. The recent vacancies on the United States Supreme Court have made the Bill of Rights front-page news and a major topic of discussion. Unfortunately, editorials and talk shows continue to misrepresent the original intent of the Amendments. Since a vast majority of the American people suffer from the “victims of the public school system syndrome” that plagues the nation, the author felt this was the perfect time to offer some information that might help them overcome their affliction concerning the Bill of Rights.
When I was in civics class many years ago, I was never taught that the Bill of Rights contained a preamble that spelled out the intent of the Amendments. The preamble states that 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 recommended. The Amendments, when adopted, did not create or grant any so-called “constitutional rights” as I was taught in school, but placed additional restraints or prohibitions on the powers of the federal government. Thus, the Amendments are simply enumerated denials of power.
The author decided the best way to explain this principle was to re-write the Amendments through the preamble. This re-write illuminates 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, 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. (Footnote 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, nor in time of war, except in a manner to be prescribed by law.
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 defense.
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.
Even through the Constitution established a government of limited enumerated powers, and 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 author’s insertion of phrases like “the federal government is expressly denied the power” is consistent with the original 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 on the powers of the federal government. Second, the Amendments did not create or grant any so-called constitutional rights. Third, the Amendments did not grant the federal government the general power to secure any of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
In the author’s opinion, the American public school system is 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, then it would insist that the civics curriculum incorporate this information into classes and textbooks.
The bottom line is the original intent of the Amendments is a threat to the federal government’s power. By advancing the myth that the Bill of Rights creates or grants constitutional rights, the federal government has been able assume the role of “protector” of those rights. This has allowed it to transform a denial of power into a grant of power.
If the Founders had written the Bill of Rights in a manner that incorporated the original intent into each Amendment as the author has done above, the Amendments would be easy to understand and the preamble would be an after thought. However, since the original intent has not been inserted into each Amendment, the preamble holds the key to understanding the Amendments.
Now that the reader knows how to properly read the Amendments, don’t be a victim of the public school system on December 15th when the nation celebrates the 214th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights.
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