Happy belated Bill of Rights Day

Several years ago I penned this for the Review-Journal. OK, I missed Dec. 15 by a couple of days this year.

On this day in 1791 the Bill of Rights were ratified by three-fourths of the states. At the insistence of the Anti-Federalists led by Thomas Jefferson the first 10 amendments were added to the new Constitution.

They might more properly be called a Bill of Prohibitions, since they are not so much a delineation of rights as a list of things the federal government may not take away from individuals and the states and local governments.

Bill of Rights

This is our day to celebrate the First Amendment prohibition against establishing a state religion, despite odd rulings about nativity scenes and posting the Ten Commandments, and the right of free speech and press, despite McCain-Feingold limits on campaign spending and advertising. (Since somewhat overturned by Citizens United.)

This is our day to celebrate the Second Amendment, despite requirements to register handguns and other laws.

We celebrate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, despite the Hiibel case in which Larry Hiibel was arrested for not giving his name to a Humboldt County deputy. (Not to mention civil asset forfeitures.)

There’s the Fifth’s protection against taking of property except for public purposes that was bounced by the Kelo decision that let government take property for private development.

As for the Sixth’s right to speedy and public trial? Forget it. No explanation needed.

The right to trial by jury according to the Seventh? Try that in traffic court, buddy.

No cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth’s prohibition. Lifetime sentences for possession of pot belie that one.

The Ninth’s and 10th’s guarantees that rights not delineated are prohibited to feds? Let’s see the states try to set the drinking age or voting age or speed limits.

There’s still the Third’s prohibition against housing troops in private homes. (Right?)

Happy birthday, Bill of Rights, long may you be respected.

A couple of years ago I ran across the Cato video below. As my ol’ Pappy used to say: Great minds travel in the same plane, while fools just think alike.

Actually, the Third is also suspect as I reported here. The courts have since ruled that cops are not soldiers. They sure look alike and are armed alike.



2 comments on “Happy belated Bill of Rights Day

  1. Steve says:

    Try going home if they have your street closed due to a barricaded suspect in a house withing half a mile of yours.
    They take over whole neighborhoods…

  2. Rincon says:

    Some good points, Thomas. Naturally, I have comments:
    1st Amendment: Seems to me that prohibiting the government from putting up a display in favor of a particular religion coincides with both the letter and intent of the Amendment. As you said, campaign spending is now pretty much unrestricted and, in many cases, anonymous.
    2nd Amendment: The document seems to allow shoulder fired missiles and grenades just as much as semiautomatic rifles.
    4th Amendment: I’m not concerned about the stray aberration, but civil asset forfeitures are more troubling. Seems to me that this has come under better control during the past 5 years or so.
    5th Amendment: I’m not familiar with the Kelo case, but I don’t see this provision commonly violated otherwise and certainly would not form my opinion based on a single aberrant case.
    6th, 7th, and 8th Amendments: I have to agree with you.
    9th Amendment: Seems to me that the states set the legal age for drinking and the speed limits. The voting age was properly established by the 26th Amendment

    All in all though, it seems that our Constitution is holding up pretty well for a 236 year old, and our respect for it is as great as it was 50 years ago in my opinion.

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