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Friday, January 04, 2008

Bills Of Right

2008 will be one of the most interesting years in modern American history, they're telling me.

The story goes that there is an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."

As we enter this phase of our development - and I say "we" because I am an American too, you know, even though I don't live in the U.S. and I have a couple different passports and my California driver's license has expired and I'm starting to use strange spellings like "armour" and "colour" and "aeroplane", not to mention using "tidy" as a verb - it is important to know your rights.

So here's the Bill Of Rights:

The architects of the Constitution - and the Constitution IS the United States of America, I believe - would not shut up about the fact that all rights belong to the people. All of rights. All of them. And all the power. Yep. All of it. All of that power, it belongs to the people who live in all those (now 50, then 13 or so) states.

So there was a bit of a ruckus about adding a "Bill Of Rights" to the Constitution in the first place: "If the people retain all rights and power, then what are we doing telling them what their rights are?" Thomas Jefferson was one of those who pushed for a Bill Of Rights. He strongly believed that people in government are invariably tempted to exert power over others to detrimental effect, and anything you can do to curb government power is probably a good thing.

So Jefferson said in a letter to James Madison - regarding those who were saying "Bill of Rights, Schmill of Rights!":

"[The objection has been raised that] experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights. [This is] true. But though it is not absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious. A brace the more will often keep up the building which would have fallen with that brace the less. There is a remarkable difference between the characters of the inconveniences which attend a Declaration of Rights, and those which attend the want of it. The inconveniences of the Declaration are that it may cramp government in its useful exertions. But the evil of this is short-lived, trivial and reparable. The inconveniences of the want of a Declaration are permanent, afflicting and irreparable. They are in constant progression from bad to worse." 

And James Madison wrote to Jefferson:

"My own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights; provided that it be so framed as not to imply powers not meant to be included in the enumeration. At the same time I have never thought the omission a material defect, nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment, for any other reason than that it is anxiously desired by others. I have favored it because I suppose it might be of use, and if properly executed could not be of disservice."

And Jefferson wrote to Madison:

"A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences."

And Madison wrote to Jefferson: 


And Jefferson wrote back to Madison:


And then after a few years everyone finally said:

"Yeah. We like it. Let's do it."

Here is what one of the most important documents in Western Civilization says:

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."

Amendment I

Congress shall make no 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.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, 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.

Amendment V

No person shall be held 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 any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy 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, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


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I applaud (“Clap! Clap!” --I mean, “Clap, clap, clap”) your continuing expansion of Your Blog’s subjects, rather than joining the rabble in huzzaing Good King George.

- By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 05, 03:36:00 PM GMT  

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