Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It is not a "Bill of Rights", but a "Bill of Wrongs" II

As Chief Justice Marshall wrote in Marbury v. Madison, in regards to the grant of limited power from the people to the federal government in the federal Constitution: “ To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing; if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained?” Thus it was that three short years after the adoption of that Constitution, concerns about the abuse of those limited powers led to the adoption of the first ten amendments to the Constitution . . .

As noted in Wikipedia, the first eight amendments are acts of limitation on federal government power by prohibiting the federal government:
. . .from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise therof, forbids infringement of "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms...", and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. In federal criminal cases, it requires indictment by grand jury for any capital or "infamous crime", guarantees a speedy public trial with an impartial jury composed of members of the state or judicial district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy.
As Justice Marshall would later write in Barron v. Baltimore, 8 L.Ed. 672 (1833): “These [eight] amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the general government--not against those of the local governments. In compliance with a sentiment thus generally expressed, to quiet fears thus extensively entertained, amendments were proposed by the required majority in congress, and adopted by the states.”

Against these eight clear limitations on federal government power which have now been mis-named the “Bill of Rights” thus implying that these were all the rights we, as U.S. citizens had, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution were also added. These two very significant and largely ignored amendments for the promise which petrifies the federal government are the subject of my next two posts.


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