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Additional Thoughts on the Constitution

Posted Jun 08, 2022 by Ray Patrick

As I pointed out recently, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant the citizen any rights. Rather, the citizens are understood to already have these rights by virtue of being people, born as image-bearers of God. However, some rights of the people were considered so sacrosanct that certain framers wanted to spell them out as especially worthy of protection in a “Bill of Rights.” The Bill of Rights has a preamble (curiously not included in some printings) that should tell you their intentions:

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.

It may surprise you to learn that this was a controversial subject. The contract that the Constitution represents is an explicit grant of specifically limited government powers. The limits of said powers were intended to be so incredibly narrow that some of the framers thought a “Bill of Rights” would be unnecessary or even possibly harmful! Under this view (which was pretty common), a Bill of Rights could potentially confuse people into believing that the government would be required to respect only those specific rights. For example, take this excerpt from Federalist 84:

[B]ills of rights … are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would affort a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed … it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible premise for claiming that power. They might urge with a semblance of reason … that the provision against restraining the liberty of the press afforded a clear implication that a power to prescribe proper regulations concerning it was intended to be vested in the national government.

Mercifully, the Bill of Rights was finally included. Important things bear repeating, and it’s very possible that having the sanctity of our natural rights spelled out has helped preserve them from attacks by “progressives” - some of which may go back much farther than you’d think.

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Topics: politics