This Bill of Rights day, Let’s Celebrate the Constitution
Many Americans praise the first ten amendments to our Constitution, collectively called the Bill of Rights, as providing the true protection of our liberty. What if there were no Bill of Rights? Would our fundamental liberties still be protected? Would we still have the rights to speak freely and to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience?
Sure we would!
The Bill of Rights was never considered to be chief guard of our liberty. In fact, many founders argued against including a bill of rights in the Constitution at all. Alexander Hamilton, for one, argued that adding a bill of rights to the Constitution would be dangerous, or at least unnecessary. Bills of rights, Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 84, are “stipulations between kings and their subjects…reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince.”
The Constitution is not a bargain between subjects and kings. It is a document of enumerated, limited powers. “We the people” vest each branch of government with specific powers. In Article I, Congress receives “powers herein granted” — not legislative power over everything and anything. Nowhere in the Constitution have “we the people” given Congress power to regulate speech or religion, or to police the states generally.
Since the Constitution enumerates which powers belong to Congress, a bill of rights “would afford a colorable pretext to claim more [powers] than were granted,” Hamilton wrote. His warnings came to fruition. Congress shows no restraint in its legislation. It regulates everything from light bulbs to orchids. Congress erases religious references from the public sphere and even its own visitor center Congress regulates political speech via campaign finance reform.
The Constitution itself is the chief guard of our liberties and is more important than any amendment. This Bill of Rights Day, let’s celebrate the whole Constitution.