|This GUEST eCOLUMN is
used by MyBestYears.com
with special permission
from Dr. Walter Williams.
Dr. Williams serves on
the faculty of George
Mason University as
John M. Olin
Economics and is the
author of More Liberty
That same distrust of Congress explains the other amendments found in our Bill of
Rights protecting rights such as our rights to property, fair trial and to bear arms. The
Bill of Rights should serve as a constant reminder of the deep distrust that our
founders had of government.
They knew that some government was necessary but they rightfully saw
government as the enemy of the people and they sought to limit government
and provide us with protections.
After the 1787 Constitutional
Convention, there were intense
ratification debates about the
proposed Constitution. Both
James Madison and Alexander
Hamilton expressed grave
reservations about Thomas
Jefferson's, George Mason's
and others' insistence that the
Constitution be amended by
the Bill of Rights. Those reservations weren't the result of a lack of concern for liberty.
To the contrary, they were concerned about the loss of liberties.
Alexander Hamilton expressed his reservation in Federalist Paper No. 84, "(B)ills of
rights ... are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be
dangerous." Hamilton asks, "For why declare that things shall not be done (by
Congress) 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 (to Congress) by
which restrictions may be imposed?"
Hamilton's argument was that Congress can only do what the Constitution
specifically gave it authority to do. Powers not granted belong to the people
and the states. Another way of examining Hamilton's concern: Why have an
amendment prohibiting Congress from infringing on our right to picnic on our back
porch when the Constitution gives Congress no authority to infringe upon that right in
the first place?
Alexander Hamilton added that a Bill of Rights
would "contain various exceptions to powers
not granted; and, on this very account, would
afford a colorable pretext to claim more
(powers) than were granted. ... (it) would
furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible
pretense for claiming that power." Going back
to our picnic example, those who would usurp
our God-given liberties might enact a law
banning our right to have a picnic. They'd
justify their actions by claiming that nowhere
in the Constitution is there a guaranteed right
to have a picnic.
To mollify Alexander Hamilton's and James Madison's fears about how a Bill of
Rights might be used as a pretext to infringe on human rights, the Ninth
Amendment was added that reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution of
certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by
In essence, the Ninth Amendment says it's impossible to list all of our God-given or
natural rights. Just because a right is not listed doesn't mean it can be infringed upon
or disparaged by the U.S. Congress. The Tenth Amendment is a reinforcement of
the Ninth saying, "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." That means if a power is not delegated to
Congress, it belongs to the states of the people.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments mean absolutely nothing today as Americans have
developed a level of naive trust for Congress, the White House and the U.S. Supreme
Court that would have astonished the founders, a trust that will lead to our undoing as
a great nation.
DR. WALTER WILLIAMS
...Why a Bill of Rights?
Why did the founders of our nation give us the Bill of
Rights? The answer is easy. They knew Congress
could not be trusted with our God-given rights.
Think about it. Why in the world would they have written
the First Amendment prohibiting Congress from enacting
any law that abridges freedom of speech and the press?
The answer is that in the absence of such a limitation
Congress would abridge free speech and free press.
|"Why did the
founders of our
nation give us the
Bill of Rights? The
answer is easy.
Congress could not
be trusted with our