The Bill of Rights, the first ten articles of our Constitution, is not a a "Bill of Needs," and it is not a so-called "living document" subject to change. The rights enumerated in it are natural rights and not subject to the political correctness of the times, or government control or modification. They are unalienable rights. (Yes, the correct word is UNalienable and not INalienable. ) UNalienable is the word used in the Declaration of Independence. INalienable means "not transferable to another," while UNalienable means "not to be separated or removed."
The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke's 1689 thesis, Two Treatises of Government, regarding the protection of "property" (in the Latin context, proprius, or one's own "life, liberty and estate"); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state's Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.
Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate individual rights and a clear delineation on constraints upon the central government. As oft trampled and abused as the Bill of Rights is, Patriots should remain vigilant in the fight for our rights.
For all of the lip-service given it, I think most folks just don't like "freedom" it implies very much and are actually afraid of it. Freedom means to live unencumbered by regulations and oversight, to not have your unalienable rights untrammeled or restricted, and to have the ability to do, own, believe, and travel whatever and wherever without hindrance or restrictions as long as you behave in a moral and responsible manner and do not harm or infringe on other's lives.
Unfortunately, this is too much for some folks to handle because they don't have the integrity, morality, or strength to act responsibly and take care of themselves. They actually fear those who can control their own lives and take care of themselves. These weak people(?) want and need laws, regulations, and others telling them how to act, think, and behave, and thus those who like to control others oblige them and we have the mess we are in today.
There is a poll by USA Today that has been circulating around the Internet for quite a while. The question asked is, "Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?"
For the purposes of the poll the answer is "Yes." However, the question itself is in error. The Second Amendment (and the Bill of Rights as a whole) does not GIVE any rights but simply states what some of our unalienable rights are. Rights are not given by a government, to be limited or taken away at their whim--they are given by our creator and cannot be taken away. Polls like this are deliberately mis-worded like this to try and convey the idea to the uneducated masses that the government can "grant" rights.
For those who have never read it, here is the Bill of Rights from our Constitution. Pay attention because all of these rights are being slowly eroded because people don't realize what they are and are afraid to exercise them.
"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented
against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 1823
The Bill of Rights PROTECTS Rights, it does not GRANT them as government NEVER HAD THEM TO GRANT.
The first ten amendments are "declaratory and restrictive clauses." This means they supersede all other parts of our Constitution and restrict the powers of our government and the rest of the Constitution, and the Constitution restricts the powers of government.
There is a deception is that the government can interpret all of the amendments and the Constitution itself. Without the presence of the Preamble to the Bill of Rights that might have been a valid argument.
You can see how that might be rather threatening to some people who aren't too fond of freedom. They do a pretty good job of keeping it obscure, but if you look at an original copy of the document, there it is . . .
Thanks to Philip Piner for reminding me of the importance of the preamble.
Note: It has been established by the Supreme Court the the phrase "the people" refers to "the individual citizen" and not the the collective body or the state. However, when it comes to the 2nd article some people conveniently forget that fact.
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: [italics are mine] 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.
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.
No where in here is the display of
religious material, principals, or the
observance of a religious holiday on public or government property prohibited.
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.
What part of "the people" and "not infringed" don't you understand?
By the way, the word "regulated" had a different meaning in those days. It meant to be "properly equipped," "in good working order," or "trained." In the case of a militia, it would be well drilled, armed, and able to perform on demand as a military unit. Today, most think "regulated" means to be well controlled by the government. However, it must be interpreted in its original meaning.
No soldier shall, in time of peace may 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.
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 be issued, 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.
Nothing here says the
"authorities" have the power to search or seize your property
because they either just want it or because they think you MAY be a suspicious person.
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 offense 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.
Nothing here says the government can accuse you of a crime because they want something from you, make laws criminalizing you after the fact, increase penalties or deny rights after the completion of a sentence, nor seize your property because they want to sell it to be able to collect more taxes from the new owner or because they "think" you may be a "bad" person.
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 defense.
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 reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Twenty dollars was a lot of money
in those days. (Somewhere between $500 and $7,000 in today's
on the index you use.) The intent being to eliminate frivolous actions, which sure doesn't happen these days.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Self explanatory. But the courts just don't get it.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This is routinely ignored by the government. If they want something they just make an executive order taking away rights, in contravention to the Constitution.
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.
This is the most ignored
article. The federal government has no authority to take things or
matters into their own hands that they are not specifically empowered to do in the Constitution.
For a modern translation of the Bill of Rights that makes it very clear what is what, click here. Maybe the Founding Father's should have used simpler language.
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No disclaimer necessary. This is our Bill or Rights