Most unpopular actions of the executive branch of the Federal government stir up speeches on the floor of Congress, editorials in our newspapers and commentaries on TV, warning the American people that that their rights are being infringed. The rights referred to, are those framed in the Bill of Rights.
It has been a long time since I looked at the history of the Bill of Rights. Decades ago I read “MIRACLE AT PHILADEPHIA” by Catherine Drinker Bowen (I still treasure the book) which vividly took me through the debates which eventually led to our Constitution. One of the most contentious debates concerned whether or not the document should include articles defining the rights of the people. Remarkably, the Constitution as adopted did not include a Bill of Rights.
Many delegates at the convention believed that spelling out the rights of the people was unnecessary and redundant. As the debate raged on, it became apparent that passage of the Constitution would be in doubt if a Bill of Rights was included. The solution; compromise. The constitution was adopted with the understanding that it would be immediately amended with a Bill of Rights. Surprisingly the compromise held up (a feat which would be next to
impossible in today’s politics).
The Bill of Rights was born out of controversy (a good summary can be found in The Bill of Rights: Its History and Significance) and to this day fosters controversy. In some respects that may have been the intent of our founding fathers. James Madison viewed a Bill of Rights as a vehicle rallying people against a future oppressive government. Although not a delegate, Thomas Jefferson argued that a declaration of rights would make the judiciary the guardian of individual rights against the other branches of government. What they did not foresee was that a declaration of rights would promote the growth of powerful lobbies bent on usurping the powers of all branches of government.
I would like to take advantage of the right given to me by the first amendment to blog about it and the other nine amendments. It is a bit ambitious, but than again, blogging is not for sissies. One thing for sure: it will be fun and will keep my blog alive for awhile.