Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net Neutrality - Patriotic Anti-Americanism

Unbalancing Act
Lunar eclipse over the Washington Monument
For the last one hundred years, at bare minimum, we have been getting more and more comfortable with giving the state the power to make our lives cozy - giving it the power and responsibility (here, you take it) to make our world a very protected, safe place. We've been intent on giving those who are confident that they know better, the power to determine, define, and oh so gently pre-approve all of our decisions, filtering them down to only those that have been investigated and declared to be 'safe enough' for us... in regards to just about everything,

'Safe enough' for us to eat...
'Safe enough' for us to bank...
'Safe enough' for us to vote for...
'Safe enough' for us to drink...
'Safe enough' for us to do business with...
'Safe enough' for us to breathe...
'Safe enough' for us to watch, listen, read...

So much so, that we are almost to the point now where we consider anything that has not been investigated, and thoroughly regulated, to be 'uncertain', unsafe and quite possibly dangerous and un-American to leave it so - even to the point of seeking to make the Internet 'safe' with Net Neutrality's attempting to make the Internet equally accessible, fast and fair to all.

Really?

Of course it won't do anything of the sort, it will in fact slow it down, bar access to many, and result in rising rates and restricted use - not to mention severly jeopardizing what Rights we've left. This isn't simple speculation, there's a very visible track record of past governmental efforts to accomplish similar ends (see Parts1,2,3) - but that is the way it's being sold, because the salesmen of statism know their customers, they know what sells, and being the government, they don't have to worry about deceptive advertising laws, they can just claim: "Govt will make life easier for you!", and have no fear of consequences (other than the occasional November...)

But the fact that Net Neutrality won't work, is the least important fact of all, and more than just a little beside the point. The actual point is that your Rights are being sold out from under you for the price (never to be paid) of less expensive movies on NetFlix. On this, the darkest day of the year, it seems most appropriate to ask, would you sell your soul for thirty pieces of silver? Well you are being asked to sell what is the very soul of being an American, your Individual Right to make your own choices, for the pittance of lower internet fees.

The lunar eclipse last night was nothing in comparison to the eclipse of the American Soul preparing to be enacted in Washington D.C. today. For those who complain
"We're not talking about destroying 'rights' we're just talking about preventing fat cats from forcing us to pay more than we want to!"
I'll answer, no, you're talking about the government, that body charged with upholding the Rights of all Americans before impartial, blindfolded, Justice, singling out an easily vilified group 'fat cats' and telling them that they do not have the Right to make their own choices, they do not have the right to choose what price to set for their services, they do not have the right to say what they choose to say. That is what you are urging, not even congress, but an agency, to put into practice over, and in place of, your Rights.

There is no such thing as Rights which apply to some people and not to all people, and those who wish to sweep them out of their way know this very well. If you can do away with protecting the rights of some people which most people don't like, then you have already done away with the idea of all people being born with equal rights, you've converted Rights, into favors, to be bestowed as seems most politically useful to do - aka: Political Correctness.

Can I Just Say It?
I could dance around it, but I'd rather not,
Anti-Free Market + Anti-Constitution + Anti-Property Rights + Anti-Free Speech = Anti-American
There is no Liberty in this, only residual comforts and fleeting pleasures purchased at the price of our actual individual rights and ability to pursue happiness. The effort to make gov't determine what you will be allowed to make choices about, well... fewer things could be more anti-American than that; yet they are done with all the patriotic pomp and circumstance of 'helping the little guy!' and 'promoting democracy!' that the proregressives can muster and bluster.

I'm not questioning their patriotism, only the nature of the ideas their patriotism is given to - and in clear, level headed terms, those ideas are Anti-American. Govt having power and responsibility to pre-approve your choices is a central point in the assault upon the Constitution, one which all regulatory law entails. It relies upon a very particular view of Rights, which, if "American" in any sense means freedom and liberty, then it is Anti-American.

I'm not questioning whether or not these are good and well intentioned people - I take it to be a given that they are! I'm questioning whether or not they are aware of the danger to freedom, liberty and the rule of law, that is created when the desire to do good is given the unrestrained power to take one select people's view of what would be the good choices to make, and imposes them upon everyone else.

The proregressive left (and right) takes it as an article of faith that it's good to safeguard the public against any and all risks, and obviously for govt to make life easy and secure for you, it must make choices for you - choosing not only what you will be allowed to do, but also choosing, for you, what you must do, what you will not be allowed not to do, and choosing for you what you will never have a choice in choosing at all!

Regulatory law is the means of controlling the choices of the populous, and those of the left who understand their positions beyond that of its ideological assertions, are deeply aware of it. I'm reading Cass Sunstein's "The second bill of rights", and I'll give him credit, he's one of the very few leftists who can trace the history of his ideas back before the 20th century, and he understands the limited proregress to be made at this point in history by simply asserting their claims - that jig is up, with each "Speak truth to power!" episode, leftists instantly look like caricatures of old hippies; too easily laughed at and dismissed.

Sunstein, on the other hand, grasps not only how important it is to sound calm & reasonable, but of how important it is to undermine the original concept of Natural Rights, rather than to attack them outright; his strategy is to subtly redefine them at their core so as to make it seem that by increasing government power, somehow your Rights will be strengthened, rather than being weakened and dissolved, as they are.

Sunstein, like an exercise in rhetorical gene splicing, artfully inserts his assertions into a discussion of the principles of our fundamental rights, while seeming to agree, he subverts and eliminates their threat to his regulatory ideals, leaving the Founders concept of Rights not just behind, but seemingly in tow.
To give you a glimpse of his technique, take a look at this from Chp. 2 of his book, and see if you can spot the danger:
"In a nutshell, the New Deal helped vindicate a simple idea: No one really opposes government intervention. Even the people who most loudly denounce government interference depend on it every day. Their own rights do not come from minimizing government but are a product of government. The simplest problem with laissez-faire is not that it is unjust or harmful to poor people, but that it is a hopelessly inadequate description of any system of liberty, including free markets. Markets and wealth depend on government."
I've got to say, in the way that a cop might be impressed at how skillfully a master criminal pulls off a heist, I'm impressed with the economy of how skillfully he corrupts principle and meaning and removes clarity from the scene, leaving the appearance of a meaningful statement behind - emptied of meaning, contentless - robbed.

Magicians and thieves don't pick your pocket with the hand you're watching
In that short paragraph Sunstein dispenses with the idea of our Individual Rights coming from our nature as human beings and the importance that they not be infringed upon, and transforms 'Individual Rights' into a particular set of positive rights to be bestowed upon us by legislators, with nary a mention of the conflict between the two approaches. Pay particular attention to these two passages:
"Even the people who most loudly denounce government interference depend on it every day. Their own rights do not come from minimizing government but are a product of government. "
and
"Markets and wealth depend on government."

The half truth shuffle here is deft, and if unawares, you might enter into that paragraph secure in your beliefs, yet come out of it on the other side shaking your head and looking around for signs of their escape.

The technique he uses is common, and simple. Equivocate and Particularize, or IOW, 'divert the meaning of a term into something else, and trade away ideas for material substitutes'. Before looking at Sunstein's quotation, lets have a look at some other common examples, with an towards keeping your eye on the two maneuvers the magicians hand is making in order to stay hidden :


  1. Equivocate on a key word being used so that the common meaning is replaced by a different sense of the word, such as a Right being something you may not be prevented from exercising, with a 'right' as being something you commonly expect, desire and maybe even deserve to receive -

    the general Principle that your Freedom of Speech must not be prevented, with the position that leftist's views are unfairly restricted if they aren't displayed for free on conservative sites
  2. Dispense with Principles in general, by reducing them to those particulars often associated with them -

    Replace the Right to your property, with the notion that you have a 'right' to get what you want at a price that you, and a lot of other people, decide is a 'fair' price
Keep an eye out and you'll see that happening in every proregressive leftist missive that's righteously thrust in your face.

Sunstein key equivocations taking place in 's paragraph, are

  • "minimizing government" - this counts on leading you to equate Rights enforcement as being equivelant to the source of Rights - which they most certainly are not.
  • "are a product" - seeks to further confuse 'Laws' with 'Rights'. Laws certainly are a product, and one of the most central purposes of government, but Rights are not a product of Laws or of government, not in the American sense, Rights are derived from our nature as human beings, and it is their defence which is the central purpose of government, and which Laws and government actions are to uphold and defend - not goodies to be distributed.
  • 'Interference' - confusing the proper actions of govt taken in the defense of rights - which can and must intrude into individuals lives (police, trials, laws, etc) - , with the very different actions of government usurping your rights in order to enforce it's own assumed powers over you and your choices.
All of which is using spin to declare a cop and a mugger to be equivalent because they both use guns in their line of work.

Keep your eye on the other hand, your Rights are being magically taken from you right before your eyes, while you ooh and ahh over the promise of lower prices.

Make no mistake, your Freedom and Liberty DO depend upon Government, but only on a Government of a very particular kind, one which upholds and defends your Right to exercise your Rights to pursue the form of happiness you choose, a Government 'of Laws and not men'; but your freedom and liberties are taken away by a government that can tell you what particular things you will be given a right to, and how much of those it will decide you should be 'happy' with.
(Cross posted at 24th State.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Never Ending Boston Tea Party

What a pair of book ends, December 15th & 16th are. Yesterday, was the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, and today, December 16, 1773, is the 237th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, the event that marked the beginning of the revolution which the Bill of Rights secured. (SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM)

What was the Boston Tea Party about? Why did they do what they did? Or for that matter, what is the modern Tea Party movement about, and why do we do what we do?

Some supposed leaders, and MSM press, think we're in it to gain political power, even to start a third party (wouldn't the establishment love that)... really? Do we really want a Tea Party Party? Look at any picture of a Tea Party gathering, look at the Mom's & Dad's, kids and Grand parents... do they really look like they want to ditch their lives in order to operate the machinery of a political party?

WE DON'T EVEN WANT TO BOTHER ORGANIZING A DEMONSTRATION!!! Do you have any idea the time and effort involved in putting one of these things on?!!!

We don't want to start a political party, and in fact I, and most others, think such a thing would be exceedingly counter-productive, we have all the influence we need through affecting the people and doings of the existing parties, or seeing them sacked and replaced.

We don't want power, we simply want justice done. We want to be heard, and we want our Rights and Property respected.

Period.

There's far more in there that ties us to our forefathers 237 years ago, than separates us from them, and whatever it is that divides us, there's one thing you can be sure about - real progress had little to do with it.

I submit that what we want today, are the same things as was desired 237 years ago during the original Boston Tea Party.


  • Respect for Private Property,
  • Respect for Individual Rights
  • No Taxation without representation.
237 years ago the Sons of Liberty were slow roasted into taking action... I'm hoping against hope that history doesn't need to repeat itself... or even need to rhyme.
One site, boasting the logo "It's all about the tax, stupid!" states "But it was the Crown's attempt to tax tea that spurred the colonists to action and laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.", while that may have been the last straw, if they think that was the motivation - and that's pretty much what is taught in school today - they couldn't be more wrong.

Then, or now.

One of the dull barbs tossed at the Sons of Liberty, is that "for a group which claimed to care so much about property rights, they demonstrated zero regard for the property of the ships and that of the East India Co., by destroying that tea!"... but such a comment is typical of one made by someone who has no grasp of the principle of private property, the principle of force, and the necessity of context - IOW: someone 'educated' today.

The Never Ending Tea Party

For one thing, the Sons of Liberty showed a great deal of respect for the ships, and their property, their locks, etc. Take note of this, from "Hawkes, James A, Retrospect of the Boston Tea-Party, with a Memoir of George R. T. Hewes... (1834)", for a bunch of supposed hooligans, rioters and revolutionaries, they took remarkable care to know what they were about, and to go about their task in a respectful and orderly manner:
"When we arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the division to which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew. We were immediately ordered by the respective commanders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship, appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging. We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water.
In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the same time. We were surrounded by British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us.
...The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very considerable quantities of it were floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible, and by beating it with oars and paddles so thoroughly drenched it as to render its entire destruction inevitable."
And for people with supposedly hypocritical or even no respect for the private property of others, they showed an unusual concern that no one should profit from their actions, and showed a great deal of respect for the true private property of the crewmen, as from "Patriots" by A.J. Langguth, pg. 184 (which I recommend), where he notes:

"...The account that Paul Revere carried south had been correct, Boston's Tories did admit that the whole affair had been conducted as correctly as a crime could be. Anonymous Mohawks even sent a lock the next day to one of the ship captains as a replacement for one they had broken. It was also true that the more moderate Whigs seemed to endorse the dumping. John Adams, who had denounced the Boston mob so eloquently, wrote in is diary, "There is a dignity, a majesty, a sublimity, in this last effort of the patriots that I greatly admire..."
, and their insistence that none of the Sons of Liberty should in any way seek to enrich themselves through the contraband,
""One Captain O'Connor, whom I well knew, came on board for that purpose, and when he supposed he was not noticed, filled his pockets, and also the lining of his coat. But I had detected him and gave information to the captain of what he was doing. We were ordered to take him into custody, and just as he was stepping from the vessel, I seized him by the skirt of his coat, and in attempting to pull him back, I tore it off; but, springing forward, by a rapid effort he made his escape. He had, however, to run a gauntlet through the crowd upon the wharf nine each one, as he passed, giving him a kick or a stroke.
Another attempt was made to save a little tea from the ruins of the cargo by a tall, aged man who wore a large cocked hat and white wig, which was fashionable at that time. He had sleightly slipped a little into his pocket, but being detected, they seized him and, taking his hat and wig from his head, threw them, together with the tea, of which they had emptied his pockets, into the water. In consideration of his advanced age, he was permitted to escape, with now and then a slight kick. "
"
For all the MSM's complaints about "Tea Party Mobs!", ask any of those tasked with 'cleaning up' after a Tea Party event, even where thousands or tens of thousands of people were involved... I think you'll unanimously hear that it was left cleaner than before they arrived. And for all the supposed violent tendencies, there have been zero violet incidents at Tea Parties, whereas at any leftist event (WTO protests, etc) the grounds are trashed, rioting often occurs, shop windows are smashed and police are assaulted.
The reason for this is that Private Property is greatly respected by members of the Tea Party, a sentiment that is common with what John Adams said, which I've noted often before, and will often again, from his "Defence of the Constitutions", in Vol III he considered what must most likely happen in a society once property rights were allowed to lose the status and support of law,
"...Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty. Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious; but the time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors. Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright equal division of every thing be demanded, and voted. What would be the consequence of this? The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance of debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them. The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "Thou shalt not covet," and "Thou shalt not steal," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.""

And as often noted, from elsewhere in the same work, it is that respect for property which is the purpose and support for the Laws which makes a Republic possible,
"Others, again, more rationally, define a republic to signify only a government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws. This, indeed, appears to be the true and only true definition of a republic. The word res, every one knows, signified in the Roman language wealth, riches, property; the word publicus, quasi populicus, and per syncope pôplicus, signified public, common, belonging to the people; res publica, therefore, was publica res, the wealth, riches, or property of the people.*Res populi, and the original meaning of the word republic could be no other than a government in which the property of the people predominated and governed; and it had more relation to property than liberty. It signified a government, in which the property of the public, or people, and of every one of them, was secured and protected by law. This idea, indeed, implies liberty; because property cannot be secure unless the man be at liberty to acquire, use, or part with it, at his discretion, and unless he have his personal liberty of life and limb, motion and rest, for that purpose. It implies, moreover, that the property and liberty of all men, not merely of a majority, should be safe; for the people, or public, comprehends more than a majority, it comprehends all and every individual; and the property of every citizen is a part of the public property, as each citizen is a part of the public, people, or community. The property, therefore, of every man has a share in government, and is more powerful than any citizen, or party of citizens; it is governed only by the law. "
The Property of the East India Co. was not Private Property, but tools of intimidation
What the Sons of Liberty understood way back when in Boston, well versed in the ideas of Locke and others, was that Property becomes private property through the self initiated labor, mental and physical, of the producer; either directly, as with someone who stakes a claim to unclaimed lands, and works the land to produce a crop; or through delegation and agency, as when someone contracts to have their physical & mental work done by proxy through the agency of others, employees and the like, who sell their time and effort as tools for the use of their employers.

That process is legitimate when the efforts, and agreements to work under the direction of another for compensation, is done by voluntary agreement, and when the raw materials involved which are transformed into property (land, etc), do not themselves belong to another, and they are not used for the purpose of abusing the rights and property of another party.

The East India Co. was not an example of a private business operating free and clear in product, deed and use of private property, it was a government enforced monopoly (the only proper meaning of the term), a 'business' who laid claim to an entire market by dint of the force of arms supplied and directed by the British government to secure it. It involved the abuse of force in it's growing and harvesting of the tea, in it's shipping of the tea, and in its sale of the tea, every step of the way which was upheld and enforced by force, preventing others from entering their market, from competing with their own product, no differently than if Don Corleone's thugs were to tell a business that they were gonna 'make 'em an offer you can't refuse' so that they could only sell his product.

The East India Co.'s materials ceased to have a claim to private property from the moment it was sown, let alone harvested, shipped and placed for exclusive sale, which was to not only include the sale price of the tea, but an additional payment of tax demanded by the thugs for the privilege of being forced to purchase only their product.

The 'property' of the East India co. was not Private Property, it was not only ill-gotten goods, but it was, in and of itself, a tool of force swung at the colonists, every bit as much as is the sack which a clerk is told to fill with money during a bank robbery.

The Sons of Liberty recognized that, recognized that they were not dealing with private property, but stolen goods, tools of force which were used at the behest of the tyrants of the British govt.

The Boston Tea Party was the act of patriotic citizens interrupting a theft. They didn't profit from, or seek to profit from the taking of the thugs materials, they merely took his ill-gotten goods from him, and sent his agents packing.

Far from being a hypocritical abuse of property, it was a supreme defense of Property Rights and a defense of the Individual Rights of all of the colonists.

No Taxation Without Representation
The Sons of Liberty weren't opposed to paying taxes, and neither are we, they were opposed to being taxed without being properly represented in the levying of those taxes, and there are two ways in which that representation is given and established.

Taxes are the means of supporting a legitimate government, one whose purpose is to uphold the rights of its citizens, and without which the mob and anarchy would be the only recourse in disputes, no property could be secure and no Rights could be enforced.

There can be no right to not support that which makes the security of your rights possible, and to the extent that a govt does that, they are justified in levying taxes, and it is the duty of every good citizen to pay them.

But.

One of the qualifications for those taxes being legitimately levied, is that they must include the consent of the people, given by way of their being represented in that government. A proper govt involves its people in the making of its policies, and necessarily it will involve decisions which some or even many disagree with, but with ensuring that each person is represented in the discussions, a reasonable decision can be made. Even in cases where you might disagree with the decision, you have had your say, or at least in choosing your representative to those discussions; such a govt consists of the consent of the governed, and that is the only way open for civilized men to cooperate in governing.

If such decisions are not made with the representation of the peoples involved, then their consent was never given, then the govt ceases in that aspect to be a legitimate government, and becomes a tyrant instead, one using raw power to work its will upon the people, little different from those actions taken by the Godfather and his thugs shaking down a neighborhood. That was the situation the Sons of Liberty faced, and which Jefferson later authored the Declaration of Independence to put an end to.

Taxation without Representation is a cry this nation was founded upon, burst into action 237 years ago today, and concluded (for a time) 219 years ago yesterday, with the ratification of the Bill of Rights, securing our Rights, and specifically securing those rights which a tyrant can not come to power without abusing.

The battle cry of the original Sons Of Liberty was "No taxation without representation", not because the taxes being imposed upon them were of such ruinous percentages - they were laughably small compared to what we pay - but because they were imposed upon them without their having any voice in the process; they were not represented in the decision, and so they began to realize that the government ruling over them was not theirs since they were barred from being a part of it - they were not of the body politic which had power over them.

What about the Tea Party of today? Can we really say we have no representation in government? No, we can't say that, as our recent national election attested. But there is a second requirement to Representation, which we are coming dangerously close to losing... and it is important that this defect be remedied soon.

Representation and the consent of the governed isn't secured by voice alone, but by that government respecting the Rights of those being represented to it. Even though our representatives are properly elected today, they are still trampling upon our Rights, robbing us of our consent and of our property and sending the bill not only to us, but to our children and grand children.

Worse even than that, they are not content with taking our property alone, but seek to control our lives, deny our right to make our own choices regarding our health care or even the foods we eat, and unless that is put a stop to, it will become very difficult to argue that proper Representation is going on, or that the consent of the governed is being given to those governing us... and that is a very dangerous game to play, to treat free men as if they were serfs. We're slow to boil, but once set to boil, it's difficult to keep us from boiling over over.

We just had an historic election this last November, a rebuking of a sitting congress and President by the American People, justly furious that their voices were not being listened to, and the latest legislative acts and budgets of the outgoing congress... are slaps in the face of the entire nation.

To anyone with even a fleeting grasp of our history, that should be an ominous portent. It wasn't long after the Boston Tea Party, that the colonists realized that not only were they no longer considered part of the body politic which controlled them, but that they were thought of by that body as being merely a convenient body to be fed upon by it - and that they didn't like. Not one little bit, and so 237 years ago the Boston Tea Party, which should have shaken the would be tyrants from their stupor, was ignored and led to the confrontation on Lexington Green, and the rest is a hard history.

After this last election, our congress has the gall to seek a budget with billions of dollars for the pet projects of sitting and outgoing legislators, spat directly into the voting booths of We The People... that's not a wise thing to do. Not at all.

In America, the Tea Party is always ready to boil, it's not wise to turn up the heat.

UPDATE

With amazing timing, coming as it did on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Harry Reid has thrown in the towel on his obscenely bloated $1.1 Trillion dollar omnibus spending bill. That prompts just a couple more reflections on the relevant anniversaries involved:


  • James Otis lit the fire of the Revolution
  • The Boston Tea Party put it into action
  • Lexington, Concord and the Declaration of Independence declared our Rights to our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness
  • The Constitution defined a framework for liberty to prosper under government
  • The Bill of Rights secured our Rights and defined those few which no tyrant can hope to rise up in the face of
The time for physical revolt has come and gone, begun 237 years ago, and secured 219 years ago, it's work is done. Those who did have to fight for it, left us a task which in many ways is a far more difficult one. Our task is to rediscover, relearn, and reassert our understanding of our Individual Rights and what it means to live our own lives, in liberty and pursuing our happiness as we see fit.

This will require a lot of effort, made all the more difficult by an educational system which, at best, has failed in its task. But the only power this task before us requires to accomplish it, is that of your mind and heart seekig the truth along with a willingness to speak out to defend it.


The good news is that what we are after, the same thing those patriots of the Sons of Liberty were after at the Boston Tea Party, we already have; we have a nation founded on liberty, we have a written Constitution to govern it by, and a Bill of Rights to secure it all in place.


All we need to do is remember that and spread the word.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Bill Of Rights at 219 Years

On this day, December 15, 1791, the requisite number of states (three-quarters, or nine states) ratified the amendments to the Constitution which we know as the Bill of Rights.

I'm going to keep my words to a minimum in this post, giving a healthy helping of html over to those who had some responsibility for them, such as James Madison, John Adams and Calvin Coolidge, discussing and debating the Bill of Rights, as well as what they mean, or should mean to us, and how we can keep ahold of them.

  1. First from James Madison, to clarify how drastically he thought his First Amendment Rights would be threatened by a President of the United States making a religious proclamation (Not So Much!), I'll post Madison's Thanksgiving Proclamation.
  2. Second, how much Madison, the Father of the Constitution, author of the Bill of Rights, thought the 'General Welfare' clause, 'Commerce Clause', or others, stacked up against the Constitution's Defined and Enumerated Powers, even when he and congress felt legislation would have a 'beneficial outcome' for the nation... again, Not So Much!
  3. A snippet from John Adams on what really Sparked the American Revolution, what it depended upon, and his definition of what form of government, a Republic ('if you can keep it!'), was, and what it relied upon.
  4. I'll also add a snippet from Calvin Coolidge's understanding of our Rights as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, on how those Rights which our Founder's generation understood and fought for, were affected, or dated, by the passage of time... again, Not So Much!
  5. The Bill of Rights
  6. Finally, the debate on Madison's initial Presentation and Debate over the Bill of Rights before the House of Representatives - do yourself a favor, do your children a favor, read it.
First Amendment Rights
Here's an example of how James Madison, Father of the Constitution, Author of the Bill of Rights, who was very much intent on ensuring that Government would in no way establish, sponsor or in other ways involve itself in Religion, still in absolutely no way, did he ever intend or believe in any form of the pious and puritanical anti-theism so associated with calls of "Separation of Church and State!" as the ACLUlu left typically bewails so loudly today.

Here Madison is, author of the First Amendment, using lots of what today would be seen as red baiting & red meat terms, and yet with no fear of, and sensing absolutely no intent or danger of involving government into the practice of religion:


Proclamation 20 - Recommending a Day of Public Thanksgiving for Peace
March 4, 1815

By the President of the United States of America - A Proclamation


The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.
No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of His benign interposition. During the interval which succeeded He reared them into the strength and endowed them with the resources which have enabled them to assert their national rights and to enhance their national character in another arduous conflict, which is now so happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.
It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assemblies unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.
Given at the city of Washington on the 4th day of March, A. D. 1815, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty- ninth.
JAMES MADISON.
Defined and Enumerated Powers
Next, for a prime example of exactly what Madison would say and do when faced with, not a bill he despised, but with one he'd really have liked to have seen government do, something he saw could and would be a great benefit for the country, but , but was something he could still see was outside the proper bounds of the constitution, and so he issued a very instructional veto message to congress - one which everyone should read and think on today.

What Madison did not do was say something like 'Well, it's for the 'greater good', lets just overlook the limitations of the constitution' and he would not allow himself to engage in a sophistic reading/twisting of words and contexts - Spin - in order to pretend that one clause of the constitution or another (commerce, general welfare, etc), could be made to excuse and justify the unconstitutional thing he really wanted to do. He would, and did, veto such a bill, and he urged the legislature and the states and the people, that if they wanted their constitution to have such powers, then they should pass an amendment to the constitution, to enable the government to do such things.

Why?

Because he understood that such sophistry hurt the constitution, damaged the rule of law, and would eventually put the freedoms and liberties of the people in jeopardy. Pardon my emphasizing a few points in his Veto message:

Veto Message
March 3, 1817
James Madison

To the House of Representatives of the United States:
Having considered the bill this day presented to me entitled "An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements," and which sets apart and pledges funds "for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense," I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.
The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation within the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.
"The power to regulate commerce among the several States" can not include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such a commerce without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.
To refer the power in question to the clause "to provide for the common defense and general welfare" would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms "common defense and general welfare" embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared "that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the General and the State Governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.
A restriction of the power "to provide for the common defense and general welfare" to cases which are to be provided for by the expenditure of money would still leave within the legislative power of Congress all the great and most important measures of Government, money being the ordinary and necessary means of carrying them into execution.
If a general power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses, with the train of powers incident thereto, be not possessed by Congress, the assent of the States in the mode provided in the bill can not confer the power. The only cases in which the consent and cession of particular States can extend the power of Congress are those specified and provided for in the Constitution.
I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and a reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.
JAMES MADISON.
I do hope you read the entire message. A few times.

Sparked the American Revolution
And here's one of my favorite short quotations from John Adams, because of what it tells us we need to know ourselves today, Adams describes how "Then and there the child Independence was born", from when he was heard James Otis speak out against the 'Writs of Assistance' in 1761:

"But Otis was a flame of fire!—with a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities, a prophetic glance of his eye into futurity, and a torrent of impetuous eloquence, he hurried away every thing before him. American independence was then and there born; the seeds of patriots and heroes were then and there sown, to defend the vigorous youth, the non sine Diis animosus infans. Every man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born. In fifteen years, namely in 1776, he grew up to manhood, and declared himself free."

What we should take from that quote, is that no matter how well James Otis might have delivered his speech, if his audience wasn't familiar with what he was speaking about... the revolution would have been stillborn.

Today, we tend to think of "classical allusions" as being pretentious, even useless, but then, those allusions, the historical events and legal references and heroes he referenced... they could only capture the imagination of his audience, because they were about things that were so commonly known to them, because they were the stuff of every childs education, and so those "classical allusions" were able to become the fuel which enabled Otis's 'Flame of fire!' to take hold.

In short, the people of the Founding Father's generation, were Educated, in the proper sense of the word, of being educated in those ideas and habits important to being worthy of freedom and capable of governing themselves, and so able to join in governing their nation.

If we wish to keep our Republic, then we desperately need to regain that sense of education - and we don't need degree's or common core standards, we only need familiarize ourselves with the works they knew, and to discuss and debate them among ourselves, and an Education can be had by any one of us, just as it was attainable to those in our Founder's generation - who had no 'educational system' to prevent them from learning what was important for them to learn.

The more we learn today of what they knew then, the more brightly our flame will be able to blaze tomorrow.

Speaking of what it is, and was, important to learn, here's John Adams from his Defense of Constitutions, a very popular and influential (in their time) examination and comparison of earlier Constitutions, here discussing the key to a successful Republic,

"...This, indeed, appears to be the true and only true definition of a republic. The word res, every one knows, signified in the Roman language wealth, riches, property; the word publicus, quasi populicus, and per syncope p�plicus, signified public, common, belonging to the people; res publica, therefore, was publica res, the wealth, riches, or property of the people.*Res populi, and the original meaning of the word republic could be no other than a government in which the property of the people predominated and governed; and it had more relation to property than liberty. It signified a government, in which the property of the public, or people, and of every one of them, was secured and protected by law. This idea, indeed, implies liberty; because property cannot be secure unless the man be at liberty to acquire, use, or part with it, at his discretion, and unless he have his personal liberty of life and limb, motion and rest, for that purpose. It implies, moreover, that the property and liberty of all men, not merely of a majority, should be safe; for the people, or public, comprehends more than a majority, it comprehends all and every individual; and the property of every citizen is a part of the public property, as each citizen is a part of the public, people, or community. The property, therefore, of every man has a share in government, and is more powerful than any citizen, or party of citizens; it is governed only by the law. "[Emphasis mine]

Rights
And finally, a snippet from one of my favorite speeches, from President Calvin Coolidge, who was doing his best to clean up after the disastrous proregressive presidency of Woodrow Wilson, this sums up the view we need to regain, from his speech, "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence":

"If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."
Btw, this one (Coolidge's view on teaching classics (his speech begins mid way down the page)) is interesting.

The Bill of Rights
Article I - 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.
Article II - 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.
Article III - No Soldier shall, in time of peace 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.
Article IV - 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 issue, 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.
Article V - 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 offence 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.
Article VI - 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 defence.
Article VII - 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 re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Article VIII - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Article IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Article X - 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.

Presentation and Debate
To better understand these Rights - the Constitutional defense of YOUR Rights, I urge you to read the following, from James Madison's introduciton of his Bill of Rights, and the initial debate which followed over them, in the House - it is extremly instructive, and oh so relevant and valuable to our world today.

House of Representatives, Amendments to the Constitution
8 June , 21 July , 13 , 18--19 Aug. 1789Annals 1:424--50, 661--65, 707--17, 757--59, 766

[8 June]
Mr. Madison rose, and reminded the House that this was the day that he had heretofore named for bringing forward amendments to the Constitution, as contemplated in the fifth article of the Constitution, addressing the Speaker as follows: This day, Mr. Speaker, is the day assigned for taking into consideration the subject of amendments to the Constitution. As I considered myself bound in honor and in duty to do what I have done on this subject, I shall proceed to bring the amendments before you as soon as possible, and advocate them until they shall be finally adopted or rejected by a Constitutional majority of this House. With a view of drawing your attention to this important object, I shall move that this House do now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union; by which an opportunity will be given, to bring forward some propositions, which I have strong hopes will meet with the unanimous approbation of this House, after the fullest discussion and most serious regard. I therefore move you, that the House now go into a committee on this business.

Mr. Smith was not inclined to interrupt the measures which the public were so anxiously expecting, by going into a Committee of the Whole at this time. He observed there were two modes of introducing this business to the House. One by appointing a select committee to take into consideration the several amendments proposed by the State Conventions; this he thought the most likely way to shorten the business. The other was, that the gentleman should lay his propositions on the table, for the consideration of the members; that they should be printed, and taken up for discussion at a future day. Either of these modes would enable the House to enter upon business better prepared than could be the case by a sudden transition from other important concerns to which their minds were strongly bent. He therefore hoped that the honorable gentleman would consent to bring the subject forward in one of those ways, in preference to going into a Committee of the Whole. For, said he, it must appear extremely impolitic to go into the consideration of amending the Government, before it is organized, before it has begun to operate. Certainly, upon reflection, it must appear to be premature. I wish, therefore, gentlemen would consent to the delay: for the business which lies in an unfinished state--I mean particularly the collection bill--is necessary to be passed; else all we have hitherto done is of no effect. If we go into the discussion of this subject, it will take us three weeks or a month; and during all this time, every other business must be suspended, because we cannot proceed with either accuracy or despatch when the mind is perpetually shifted from one subject to another.

Mr. Jackson.--I am of opinion we ought not to be in a hurry with respect to altering the Constitution. For my part, I have no idea of speculating in this serious manner on theory. If I agree to alterations in the mode of administering this Government, I shall like to stand on the sure ground of experience, and not be treading air. What experience have we had of the good or bad qualities of this Constitution? Can any gentleman affirm to me one proposition that is a certain and absolute amendment? I deny that he can. Our Constitution, sir, is like a vessel just launched, and lying at the wharf; she is untried, you can hardly discover any one of her properties. It is not known how she will answer her helm, or lay her course; whether she will bear with safety the precious freight to be deposited in her hold. But, in this state, will the prudent merchant attempt alterations? Will he employ workmen to tear off the planking and take asunder the frame? He certainly will not. Let us, gentlemen, fit out our vessel, set up her masts, and expand her sails, and be guided by the experiment in our alterations. If she sails upon an uneven keel, let us right her by adding weight where it is wanting. In this way, we may remedy her defects to the satisfaction of all concerned; but if we proceed now to make alterations, we may deface a beauty, or deform a well proportioned piece of workmanship. In short, Mr. Speaker, I am not for amendments at this time; but if gentlemen should think it a subject deserving of attention, they will surely not neglect the more important business which is now unfinished before them. Without we pass the collection bill we can get no revenue, and without revenue the wheels of Government cannot move. I am against taking up the subject at present, and shall therefore be totally against the amendments, if the Government is not organized, that I may see whether it is grievous or not.

When the propriety of making amendments shall be obvious from experience, I trust there will be virtue enough in my country to make them. Much has been said by the opponents to this Constitution, respecting the insecurity of jury trials, that great bulwark of personal safety. All their objections may be done away, by proper regulations on this point, and I do not fear but such regulations will take place. The bill is now before the Senate, and a proper attention is shown to this business. Indeed, I cannot conceive how it could be opposed; I think an almost omnipotent Emperor would not be hardy enough to set himself against it. Then why should we fear a power which cannot be improperly exercised?

We have proceeded to make some regulations under the Constitution; but have met with no inaccuracy, unless it may be said that the clause respecting vessels bound to or from one State be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another, is somewhat obscure; yet that is not sufficient, I trust, in any gentleman's opinion to induce an amendment. But let me ask what will be the consequence of taking up this subject? Are we going to finish it in an hour? I believe not; it will take us more than a day, a week, a month--it will take a year to complete it! And will it be doing our duty to our country, to neglect or delay putting the Government in motion, when every thing depends upon its being speedily done?

Let the Constitution have a fair trial; let it be examined by experience, discover by that test what its errors are, and then talk of amending; but to attempt it now is doing it at a risk, which is certainly imprudent. I have the honor of coming from a State that ratified the Constitution by the unanimous vote of a numerous convention: the people of Georgia have manifested their attachment to it, by adopting a State Constitution framed upon the same plan as this. But although they are thus satisfied, I shall not be against such amendments as will gratify the inhabitants of other States, provided they are judged of by experience and not merely on theory. For this reason, I wish the consideration of the subject postponed until the 1st of March, 1790.

Mr. Goodhue.--I believe it would be perfectly right in the gentleman who spoke last, to move a postponement to the time he has mentioned; because he is opposed to the consideration of amendments altogether. But I believe it will be proper to attend to the subject earlier; because it is the wish of many of our constituents, that something should be added to the Constitution, to secure in a stronger manner their liberties from the inroads of power. Yet I think the present time premature; inasmuch as we have other business before us, which is incomplete, but essential to the public interest. When that is finished, I shall concur in taking up the subject of amendments.

Mr. Burke thought amendments to the Constitution necessary, but this was not the proper time to bring them forward. He wished the Government completely organized before they entered upon this ground. The law for collecting the revenue is immediately necessary; the Treasury Department must be established; till this, and other important subjects are determined, he was against taking this up. He said it might interrupt the harmony of the House, which was necessary to be preserved in order to despatch the great objects of legislation. He hoped it would be postponed for the present, and pledged himself to bring it forward hereafter, if nobody else would.

Mr. Madison.--The gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Jackson) is certainly right in his opposition to my motion for going into a Committee of the Whole, because he is unfriendly to the object I have in contemplation; but I cannot see that the gentlemen who wish for amendments to be proposed at the present session, stand on good ground when they object to the House going into committee on this business.

When I first hinted to the House my intention of calling their deliberations to this object, I mentioned the pressure of other important subjects, and submitted the propriety of postponing this till the more urgent business was despatched; but finding that business not despatched, when the order of the day for considering amendments arrived, I thought it a good reason for a farther delay; I moved the postponement accordingly. I am sorry the same reason still exists in some degree, but operates with less force, when it is considered that it is not now proposed to enter into a full and minute discussion of every part of the subject, but merely to bring it before the House, that our constituents may see we pay a proper attention to a subject they have much at heart; and if it does not give that full gratification which is to be wished, they will discover that it proceeds from the urgency of business of a very important nature.

But if we continue to postpone from time to time, and refuse to let the subject come into view, it may occasion suspicions, which, though not well founded, may tend to inflame or prejudice the public mind against our decisions. They may think we are not sincere in our desire to incorporate such amendments in the Constitution as will secure those rights, which they consider as not sufficiently guarded. The applications for amendments come from a very respectable number of our constituents, and it is certainly proper for Congress to consider the subject, in order to quiet that anxiety which prevails in the public mind. Indeed, I think it would have been of advantage to the Government, if it had been practicable to have made some propositions for amendments the first business we entered upon; it would have stifled the voice of complaint, and made friends of many who doubted the merits of the Constitution. Our future measures would then have been more generally agreeably supported; but the justifiable anxiety to put the Government into operation prevented that; it therefore remains for us to take it up as soon as possible. I wish then to commence the consideration at the present moment; I hold it to be my duty to unfold my ideas, and explain myself to the House in some form or other without delay. I only wish to introduce the great work, and, as I said before, I do not expect it will be decided immediately; but if some step is taken in the business, it will give reason to believe that we may come to a final result. This will inspire a reasonable hope in the advocates for amendments, that full justice will be done to the important subject; and I have reason to believe their expectation will not be defeated. I hope the House will not decline my motion for going into a committee.

Mr. Sherman.--I am willing that this matter should be brought before the House at a proper time. I suppose a number of gentlemen think it their duty to bring it forward; so that there is no apprehension it will be passed over in silence. Other gentlemen may be disposed to let the subject rest until the more important objects of Government are attended to; and I should conclude, from the nature of the case, that the people expect the latter from us in preference to altering the Constitution; because they have ratified that instrument, in order that the Government may begin to operate. If this was not their wish, they might as well have rejected the Constitution, as North Carolina has done, until the amendments took place. The State I have the honor to come from adopted this system by a very great majority, because they wished for the Government; but they desired no amendments. I suppose this was the case in other States; it will therefore be imprudent to neglect much more important concerns for this. The executive part of the Government wants organization; the business of the revenue is incomplete, to say nothing of the judiciary business. Now, will gentlemen give up these points to go into a discussion of amendments, when no advantage can arise from them? For my part, I question if any alteration which can be now proposed would be an amendment, in the true sense of the word; but nevertheless, I am willing to let the subject be introduced. If the gentleman only desires to go into committee for the purpose of receiving his propositions, I shall consent; but I have strong objections to being interrupted in completing the more important business; because I am well satisfied it will alarm the fears of twenty of our constituents where it will please one.

Mr. White.--I hope the House will not spend much time on this subject, till the more pressing business is despatched; but, at the same time, I hope we shall not dismiss it altogether, because I think a majority of the people who have ratified the Constitution, did it under the expectation that Congress would, at some convenient time, examine its texture and point out where it was defective, in order that it might be judiciously amended. Whether, while we are without experience, amendments can be digested in such a manner as to give satisfaction to a Constitutional majority of this House, I will not pretend to say; but I hope the subject may be considered with all convenient speed. I think it would tend to tranquillize the public mind; therefore, I shall vote in favor of going into a Committee of the Whole, and, after receiving the subject, shall be content to refer it to a special committee to arrange and report. I fear, if we refuse to take up the subject, it will irritate many of our constituents, which I do not wish to do. If we cannot, after mature consideration, gratify their wishes, the cause of complaint will be lessened, if not removed. But a doubt on this head will not be a good reason why we should refuse to inquire. I do not say this as it affects my immediate constituents, because I believe a majority of the district which elected me do not require alterations; but I know there are people in other parts who will not be satisfied unless some amendments are proposed.
Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, thought the gentleman who brought forward the subject had done his duty: he had supported his motion with ability and candor, and if he did not succeed, he was not to blame. On considering what had been urged for going into a committee, he was induced to join the gentleman; but it would be merely to receive his propositions, after which he would move something to that effect: That, however desirous this House may be to go into the consideration of amendments to the Constitution, in order to establish the liberties of the people of America on the securest foundation, yet the important and pressing business of the Government prevents their entering upon that subject at present.

Mr. Page.--My colleague tells you he is ready to submit to the Committee of the Whole his ideas on this subject. If no objection had been made to his motion, the whole business might have been finished before this. He has done me the honor of showing me certain propositions which he has drawn up; they are very important, and I sincerely wish the House may receive them. After they are published, I think the people will wait with patience till we are at leisure to resume them. But it must be very disagreeable to them to have it postponed from time to time, in the manner it has been for six weeks past; they will be tired out by a fruitless expectation. Putting myself into the place of those who favor amendments, I should suspect Congress did not mean seriously to enter upon the subject; that it was vain to expect redress from them. I should begin to turn my attention to the alternative contained in the fifth article, and think of joining the Legislatures of those States which have applied for calling a new convention. How dangerous such an expedient would be I need not mention; but I venture to affirm, that unless you take early notice of this subject, you will not have power to deliberate. The people will clamor for a new convention; they will not trust the House any longer. Those, therefore, who dread the assembling of a convention, will do well to acquiesce in the present motion, and lay the foundation of a most important work. I do not think we need consume more than half an hour in the Committee of the Whole; this is not so much time but we may conveniently spare it, considering the nature of the business. I do not wish to divert the attention of Congress from the organization of the Government, nor do I think it need be done, if we comply with the present motion.

Mr. Vining.--I hope the House will not go into a Committee of the Whole. It strikes me that the great amendment which the Government wants is expedition in the despatch of business. The wheels of the national machine cannot turn, until the impost and collection bill are perfected; these are the desiderata which the public mind is anxiously expecting. It is well known, that all we have hitherto done amounts to nothing, if we leave the business in its present state. True; but, say gentlemen, let us go into committee; it will take up but a short time; yet may it not take a considerable proportion of our time? May it not be procrastinated into days, weeks, nay, months? It is not the most facile subject that can come before the Legislature of the Union. Gentlemen's opinions do not run in a parallel on this topic; it may take up more time to unite or concentre them than is now imagined. And what object is to be attained by going into a committee? If information is what we seek after, cannot that be obtained by the gentleman's laying his propositions on the table; they can be read, or they can be printed. But I have two other reasons for opposing this motion; the first is, the uncertainty with which we must decide on questions of amendment, founded merely on speculative theory; the second is a previous question, how far it is proper to take the subject of amendments into consideration, without the consent of two-thirds of both Houses? I will submit it to gentlemen, whether the words of the Constitution, "the Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments," do not bear my construction, that it is as requisite for two-thirds to sanction the expediency of going into the measure at present, as it will be to determine the necessity of amending at all. I take it that the fifth article admits of this construction, and think that two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives must concur in the expediency, as to the time and manner of amendments, before we can proceed to the consideration of the amendments themselves. For my part, I do not see the expediency of proposing amendments. I think, sir, the most likely way to quiet the perturbation of the public mind, will be to pass salutary laws; to give permanency and stability to Constitutional regulations, founded on principles of equity and adjusted by wisdom. Although hitherto we have done nothing to tranquillize that agitation which the adoption of the Constitution threw some people into, yet the storm has abated and a calm succeeds. The people are not afraid of leaving the question of amendments to the discussion of their representatives; but is this the juncture for discussing it? What have Congress done towards completing the business of their appointment? They have passed a law regulating certain oaths; they have passed the impost bill; but are not vessels daily arriving, and the revenue slipping through our fingers? Is it not very strange that we neglect the completion of the revenue system? Is the system of jurisprudence unnecessary? And here let me ask gentlemen how they propose to amend that part of the Constitution which embraces the judicial branch of Government, when they do not know the regulations proposed by the Senate, who are forming a bill on this subject?
If the honorable mover of the question before the House does not think he discharges his duty without bringing his propositions forward, let him take the mode I have mentioned, by which there will be little loss of time. He knows, as well as any gentleman, the importance of completing the business on your table, and that it is best to finish one subject before the introduction of another. He will not, therefore, persist in a motion which tends to distract our minds, and incapacitates us from making a proper decision on any subject. Suppose every gentleman who desires alterations to be made in the Constitution were to submit his propositions to a Committee of the Whole; what would be the consequence? We should have strings of them contradictory to each other, and be necessarily engaged in a discussion that would consume too much of our precious time.
Though the State I represent had the honor of taking the lead in the adoption of this Constitution, and did it by a unanimous vote; and although I have the strongest predilection for the present form of Government, yet I am open to information, and willing to be convinced of its imperfections. If this be done, I shall cheerfully assist in correcting them. But I cannot think this a proper time to enter upon the subject, because more important business is suspended; and, for want of experience, we are as likely to do injury by our prescriptions as good. I wish to see every proposition which comes from that worthy gentleman on the science of Government; but I think it can be presented better by staying where we are, than by going into committee, and therefore shall vote against his motion.

Mr. Madison.--I am sorry to be accessary to the loss of a single moment of time by the House. If I had been indulged in my motion, and we had gone into a Committee of the Whole, I think we might have rose and resumed the consideration of other business before this time; that is, so far as it depended upon what I proposed to bring forward. As that mode seems not to give satisfaction, I will withdraw the motion, and move you, sir, that a select committee be appointed to consider and report such amendments as are proper for Congress to propose to the Legislatures of the several States, conformably to the fifth article of the Constitution.
I will state my reasons why I think it proper to propose amendments, and state the amendments themselves, so far as I think they ought to be proposed. If I thought I could fulfil the duty which I owe to myself and my constituents, to let the subject pass over in silence, I most certainly should not trespass upon the indulgence of this House. But I cannot do this, and am therefore compelled to beg a patient hearing to what I have to lay before you. And I do most sincerely believe, that if Congress will devote but one day to this subject, so far as to satisfy the public that we do not disregard their wishes, it will have a salutary influence on the public councils, and prepare the way for a favorable reception of our future measures. It appears to me that this House is bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over without proposing to the State Legislatures some things to be incorporated into the Constitution, that will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the United States, as it has been found acceptable to a majority of them. I wish, among other reasons why something should be done, that those who have been friendly to the adoption of this Constitution may have the opportunity of proving to those who were opposed to it that they were as sincerely devoted to liberty and a Republican Government, as those who charged them with wishing the adoption of this Constitution in order to lay the foundation of an aristocracy or despotism. It will be a desirable thing to extinguish from the bosom of every member of the community, any apprehensions that there are those among his countrymen who wish to deprive them of the liberty for which they valiantly fought and honorably bled. And if there are amendments desired of such a nature as will not injure the Constitution, and they can be ingrafted so as to give satisfaction to the doubting part of our fellow-citizens, the friends of the Federal Government will evince that spirit of deference and concession for which they have hitherto been distinguished.
It cannot be a secret to the gentlemen in this House, that, notwithstanding the ratification of this system of Government by eleven of the thirteen United States, in some cases unanimously, in others by large majorities; yet still there is a great number of our constituents who are dissatisfied with it; among whom are many respectable for their talents and patriotism, and respectable for the jealousy they have for their liberty, which, though mistaken in its object, is laudable in its motive. There is a great body of the people falling under this description, who at present feel much inclined to join their support to the cause of Federalism, if they were satisfied on this one point. We ought not to disregard their inclination, but, on principles of amity and moderation, conform to their wishes, and expressly declare the great rights of mankind secured under this constitution. The acquiescence which our fellow-citizens show under the Government, calls upon us for a like return of moderation. But perhaps there is a stronger motive than this for our going into a consideration of the subject. It is to provide those securities for liberty which are required by a part of the community; I allude in a particular manner to those two States that have not thought fit to throw themselves into the bosom of the Confederacy. It is a desirable thing, on our part as well as theirs, that a reunion should take place as soon as possible. I have no doubt, if we proceed to take those steps which would be prudent and requisite at this juncture, that in a short time we should see that disposition prevailing in those States which have not come in, that we have seen prevailing in those States which have embraced the Constitution.
But I will candidly acknowledge, that, over and above all these considerations, I do conceive that the Constitution may be amended; that is to say, if all power is subject to abuse, that then it is possible the abuse of the powers of the General Government may be guarded against in a more secure manner than is now done, while no one advantage arising from the exercise of that power shall be damaged or endangered by it. We have in this way something to gain, and, if we proceed with caution, nothing to lose. And in this case it is necessary to proceed with caution; for while we feel all these inducements to go into a revisal of the Constitution, we must feel for the Constitution itself, and make that revisal a moderate one. I should be unwilling to see a door opened for a reconsideration of the whole structure of the Government--for a re-consideration of the principles and the substance of the powers given; because I doubt, if such a door were opened, we should be very likely to stop at that point which would be safe to the Government itself. But I do wish to see a door opened to consider, so far as to incorporate those provisions for the security of rights, against which I believe no serious objection has been made by any class of our constituents: such as would be likely to meet with the concurrence of two-thirds of both Houses, and the approbation of three-fourths of the State Legislatures. I will not propose a single alteration which I do not wish to see take place, as intrinsically proper in itself, or proper because it is wished for by a respectable number of my fellow-citizens; and therefore I shall not propose a single alteration but is likely to meet the concurrence required by the Constitution. There have been objections of various kinds made against the Constitution. Some were levelled against its structure because the President was without a council; because the Senate, which is a legislative body, had judicial powers in trials on impeachments; and because the powers of that body were compounded in other respects, in a manner that did not correspond with a particular theory; because it grants more power than is supposed to be necessary for every good purpose, and controls the ordinary powers of the State Governments. I know some respectable characters who opposed this Government on these grounds; but I believe that the great mass of the people who opposed it, disliked it because it did not contain effectual provisions against encroachments on particular rights, and those safeguards which they have been long accustomed to have interposed between them and the magistrate who exercises the sovereign power; nor ought we to consider them safe, while a great number of our fellow-citizens think these securities necessary.
It is a fortunate thing that the objection to the Government has been made on the ground I stated; because it will be practicable, on that ground, to obviate the objection, so far as to satisfy the public mind that their liberties will be perpetual, and this without endangering any part of the Constitution, which is considered as essential to the existence of the Government by those who promoted its adoption.
The amendments which have occurred to me, proper to be recommended by Congress to the State Legislatures, are these:


First, That there be prefixed to the Constitution a declaration, that all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people.
That Government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their Government, whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purposes of its institution.
Secondly. That in article 1st, section 2, clause 3, these words be struck out, to wit: "The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative, and until such enumeration shall be made;" and that in place thereof be inserted these words, to wit: "After the first actual enumeration, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number amounts to ------, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that the number shall never be less than ------, nor more than ------, but each State shall, after the first enumeration, have at least two Representatives; and prior thereto."
Thirdly. That in article 1st, section 6, clause 1, there be added to the end of the first sentence, these words, to wit: "But no law varying the compensation last ascertained shall operate before the next ensuing election of Representatives."
Fourthly. That in article 1st, section 9, between clauses 3 and 4, be inserted these clauses, to wit: The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.
The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.
The people shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting for their common good; nor from applying to the Legislature by petitions, or remonstrances, for redress of their grievances.
The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.
No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner; nor at any time, but in a manner warranted by law.
No person shall be subject, except in cases of impeachment, to more than one punishment or one trial for the same offence; nor shall be compelled to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor be obliged to relinquish his property, where it may be necessary for public use, without a just compensation.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The rights of the people to be secured in their persons; their houses, their papers, and their other property, from all unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated by warrants issued without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, or not particularly describing the places to be searched, or the persons or things to be seized.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the cause and nature of the accusation, to be confronted with his accusers, and the witnesses against him; to have a compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the Constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.
Fifthly. That in article 1st, section 10, between clauses 1 and 2, be inserted this clause, to wit:
No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.
Sixthly. That, in article 3d, section 2, be annexed to the end of clause 2d, these words, to wit:
But no appeal to such court shall be allowed where the value in controversy shall not amount to ------ dollars: nor shall any fact triable by jury, according to the course of common law, be otherwise re-examinable than may consist with the principles of common law.
Seventhly. That in article 3d, section 2, the third clause be struck out, and in its place be inserted the clauses following, to wit:
The trial of all crimes (except in cases of impeachments, and cases arising in the land or naval forces, or the militia when on actual service, in time of war or public danger) shall be by an impartial jury of freeholders of the vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction, of the right of challenge, and other accustomed requisites; and in all crimes punishable with loss of life or member, presentment or indictment by a grand jury shall be an essential preliminary, provided that in cases of crimes committed within any county which may be in possession of an enemy, or in which a general insurrection may prevail, the trial may by law be authorized in some other county of the same State, as near as may be to the seat of the offence.
In cases of crimes committed not within any county, the trial may by law be in such county as the laws shall have prescribed. In suits at common law, between man and man, the trial by jury, as one of the best securities to the rights of the people, ought to remain inviolate.
Eighthly. That immediately after article 6th, be inserted, as article 7th, the clauses following, to wit:
The powers delegated by this Constitution are appropriated to the departments to which they are respectively distributed: so that the Legislative Department shall never exercise the powers vested in the Executive or Judicial nor the Executive exercise the powers vested in the Legislative or Judicial, nor the Judicial exercise the powers vested in the Legislative or Executive Departments.
The powers not delegated by this Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively.
Ninthly. That article 7th be numbered as article 8th.


The first of these amendments relates to what may be called a bill of rights. I will own that I never considered this provision so essential to the Federal Constitution, as to make it improper to ratify it, until such an amendment was added; at the same time, I always conceived, that in a certain form, and to a certain extent, such a provision was neither improper nor altogether useless. I am aware, that a great number of the most respectable friends to the Government, and champions for republican liberty, have thought such a provision, not only unnecessary, but even improper; nay, I believe some have gone so far as to think it even dangerous. Some policy has been made use of, perhaps, by gentlemen on both sides of the question: I acknowledge the ingenuity of those arguments which were drawn against the Constitution, by a comparison with the policy of Great Britain, in establishing a declaration of rights; but there is too great a difference in the case to warrant the comparison: therefore, the arguments drawn from that source were in a great measure inapplicable. In the declaration of rights which that country has established, the truth is, they have gone no farther than to raise a barrier against the power of the Crown; the power of the Legislature is left altogether indefinite. Although I know whenever the great rights, the trial by jury, freedom of the press, or liberty of conscience, come in question in that body, the invasion of them is resisted by able advocates, yet their Magna Charta does not contain any one provision for the security of those rights, respecting which the people of America are most alarmed. The freedom of the press and rights of conscience, those choicest privileges of the people, are unguarded in the British Constitution.
But although the case may be widely different, and it may not be thought necessary to provide limits for the legislative power in that country, yet a different opinion prevails in the United States. The people of many States have thought it necessary to raise barriers against power in all forms and departments of Government, and I am inclined to believe, if once bills of rights are established in all the States as well as the Federal Constitution, we shall find that although some of them are rather unimportant, yet, upon the whole, they will have a salutary tendency.
It may be said, in some instances, they do no more than state the perfect equality of mankind. This, to be sure, is an absolute truth, yet it is not absolutely necessary to be inserted at the head of a Constitution.
In some instances they assert those rights which are exercised by the people in forming and establishing a plan of Government. In other instances, they specify those rights which are retained when particular powers are given up to be exercised by the Legislature. In other instances, they specify positive rights, which may seem to result from the nature of the compact. Trial by jury cannot be considered as a natural right, but a right resulting from a social compact which regulates the action of the community, but is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature. In other instances, they lay down dogmatic maxims with respect to the construction of the Government; declaring that the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches shall be kept separate and distinct. Perhaps the best way of securing this in practice is, to provide such checks as will prevent the encroachment of the one upon the other.

But whatever may be the form which the several States have adopted in making declarations in favor of particular rights, the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of Government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the Government ought not to act, or to act only in a particular mode. They point these exceptions sometimes against the abuse of the Executive power, sometimes against the Legislative, and, in some cases, against the community itself; or, in other words, against the majority in favor of the minority.
In our Government it is, perhaps, less necessary to guard against the abuse in the Executive Department than any other; because it is not the stronger branch of the system, but the weaker: It therefore must be levelled against the Legislative, for it is the most powerful, and most likely to be abused, because it is under the least control. Hence, so far as a declaration of rights can tend to prevent the exercise of undue power, it cannot be doubted but such declaration is proper. But I confess that I do conceive, that in a Government modified like this of the United States, the great danger lies rather in the abuse of the community than in the Legislative body. The prescriptions in favor of liberty ought to be levelled against that quarter where the greatest danger lies, namely, that which possesses the highest prerogative of power. But this is not found in either the Executive or Legislative departments of Government, but in the body of the people, operating by the majority against the minority.
It may be thought that all paper barriers against the power of the community are too weak to be worthy of attention. I am sensible they are not so strong as to satisfy gentlemen of every description who have seen and examined thoroughly the texture of such a defence; yet, as they have a tendency to impress some degree of respect for them, to establish the public opinion in their favor, and rouse the attention of the whole community, it may be one means to control the majority from those acts to which they might be otherwise inclined.
It has been said, by way of objection to a bill of rights, by many respectable gentlemen out of doors, and I find opposition on the same principles likely to be made by gentlemen on this floor, that they are unnecessary articles of a Republican Government, upon the presumption that the people have those rights in their own hands, and that is the proper place for them to rest. It would be a sufficient answer to say, that this objection lies against such provisions under the State Governments, as well as under the General Government; and there are, I believe, but few gentlemen who are inclined to push their theory so far as to say that a declaration of rights in those cases is either ineffectual or improper. It has been said, that in the Federal Government they are unnecessary, because the powers are enumerated, and it follows, that all that are not granted by the Constitution are retained; that the Constitution is a bill of powers, the great residuum being the rights of the people; and, therefore, a bill of rights cannot be so necessary as if the residuum was thrown into the hands of the Government. I admit that these arguments are not entirely without foundation; but they are not conclusive to the extent which has been supposed. It is true, the powers of the General Government are circumscribed, they are directed to particular objects; but even if Government keeps within those limits, it has certain discretionary powers with respect to the means, which may admit of abuse to a certain extent, in the same manner as the powers of the State Governments under their constitutions may to an indefinite extent; because in the Constitution of the United States, there is a clause granting to Congress the power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution all the powers vested in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof; this enables them to fulfil every purpose for which the Government was established. Now, may not laws be considered necessary and proper by Congress, for it is for them to judge of the necessity and propriety to accomplish those special purposes which they may have in contemplation, which laws in themselves are neither necessary nor proper; as well as improper laws could be enacted by the State Legislatures, for fulfilling the more extended objects of those Governments. I will state an instance, which I think in point, and proves that this might be the case. The General Government has a right to pass all laws which shall be necessary to collect its revenue; the means for enforcing the collection are within the direction of the Legislature: may not general warrants be considered necessary for this purpose, as well as for some purposes which it was supposed at the framing of their constitutions the State Governments had in view? If there was reason for restraining the State Governments from exercising this power, there is like reason for restraining the Federal Government.
It may be said, indeed it has been said, that a bill of rights is not necessary, because the establishment of this Government has not repealed those declarations of rights which are added to the several State constitutions; that those rights of the people, which had been established by the most solemn act, could not be annihilated by a subsequent act of that people, who meant, and declared at the head of the instrument, that they ordained and established a new system, for the express purpose of securing to themselves and posterity the liberties they had gained by an arduous conflict.
I admit the force of this observation, but I do not look upon it to be conclusive. In the first place, it is too uncertain ground to leave this provision upon, if a provision is at all necessary to secure rights so important as many of those I have mentioned are conceived to be, by the public in general, as well as those in particular who opposed the adoption of this Constitution. Besides, some States have no bills of rights, there are others provided with very defective ones, and there are others whose bills of rights are not only defective, but absolutely improper; instead of securing some in the full extent which republican principles would require, they limit them too much to agree with the common ideas of liberty.
It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow, by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution.
It has been said, that it is unnecessary to load the Constitution with this provision, because it was not found effectual in the constitution of the particular States. It is true, there are a few particular States in which some of the most valuable articles have not, at one time or other, been violated; but it does not follow but they may have, to a certain degree, a salutary effect against the abuse of power. If they are incorporated into the Constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the Legislative or Executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the Constitution by the declaration of rights. Besides this security, there is a great probability that such a declaration in the federal system would be enforced; because the State Legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operations of this Government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power, than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a Federal Government admit the State Legislatures to be sure guardians of the people's liberty. I conclude, from this view of the subject, that it will be proper in itself, and highly politic, for the tranquillity of the public mind, and the stability of the Government, that we should offer something, in the form I have proposed, to be incorporated in the system of Government, as a declaration of the rights of the people.
In the next place, I wish to see that part of the Constitution revised which declares that the number of Representatives shall not exceed the proportion of one for every thirty thousand persons, and allows one Representative to every State which rates below that proportion. If we attend to the discussion of this subject, which has taken place in the State conventions, and even in the opinion of the friends to the Constitution, an alteration here is proper. It is the sense of the people of America, that the number of Representatives ought to be increased, but particularly that it should not be left in the discretion of the Government to diminish them, below that proportion which certainly is in the power of the Legislature as the Constitution now stands; and they may, as the population of the country increases, increase the House of Representatives to a very unwieldy degree. I confess I always thought this part of the Constitution defective, though not dangerous; and that it ought to be particularly attended to whenever Congress should go into the consideration of amendments.
There are several minor cases enumerated in my proposition, in which I wish also to see some alteration take place. That article which leaves it in the power of the Legislature to ascertain its own emolument, is one to which I allude. I do not believe this is a power which, in the ordinary course of Government, is likely to be abused. Perhaps of all the powers granted, it is least likely to abuse; but there is a seeming impropriety in leaving any set of men without control to put their hand into the public coffers, to take out money to put in their pockets; there is a seeming indecorum in such power, which leads me to propose a change. We have a guide to this alteration in several of the amendments which the different conventions have proposed. I have gone, therefore, so far as to fix it, that no law, varying the compensation, shall operate until there is a change in the Legislature; in which case it cannot be for the particular benefit of those who are concerned in determining the value of the service.
I wish also, in revising the Constitution, we may throw into that section, which interdicts the abuse of certain powers in the State Legislatures, some other provisions of equal, if not greater importance than those already made. The words, "No State shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law," &c. were wise and proper restrictions in the Constitution. I think there is more danger of those powers being abused by the State Governments than by the Government of the United States. The same may be said of other powers which they possess, if not controlled by the general principle, that laws are unconstitutional which infringe the rights of the community. I should therefore wish to extend this interdiction, and add, as I have stated in the 5th resolution, that no State shall violate the equal right of conscience, freedom of the press, or trial by jury in criminal cases; because it is proper that every Government should be disarmed of powers which trench upon those particular rights. I know, in some of the State constitutions, the power of the Government is controlled by such a declaration; but others are not. I cannot see any reason against obtaining even a double security on those points; and nothing can give a more sincere proof of the attachment of those who opposed this Constitution to these great and important rights, than to see them join in obtaining the security I have now proposed; because it must be admitted, on all hands, that the State Governments are as liable to attack these invaluable privileges as the General Government is, and therefore ought to be as cautiously guarded against.
I think it will be proper, with respect to the judiciary powers, to satisfy the public mind on those points which I have mentioned. Great inconvenience has been apprehended to suitors from the distance they would be dragged to obtain justice in the Supreme Court of the United States, upon an appeal on an action for a small debt. To remedy this, declare that no appeal shall be made unless the matter in controversy amounts to a particular sum; this, with the regulations respecting jury trials in criminal cases, and suits at common law, it is to be hoped, will quiet and reconcile the minds of the people to that part of the Constitution.
I find, from looking into the amendments proposed by the State conventions, that several are particularly anxious that it should be declared in the Constitution, that the powers not therein delegated should be reserved to the several States. Perhaps words which may define this more precisely than the whole of the instrument now does, may be considered as superfluous. I admit they may be deemed unnecessary: but there can be no harm in making such a declaration, if gentlemen will allow that the fact is as stated. I am sure I understand it so, and do therefore propose it.
These are the points on which I wish to see a revision of the Constitution take place. How far they will accord with the sense of this body, I cannot take upon me absolutely to determine; but I believe every gentleman will readily admit that nothing is in contemplation, so far as I have mentioned, that can endanger the beauty of the Government in any one important feature, even in the eyes of its most sanguine admirers. I have proposed nothing that does not appear to me as proper in itself, or eligible as patronized by a respectable number of our fellow-citizens; and if we can make the Constitution better in the opinion of those who are opposed to it, without weakening its frame, or abridging its usefulness, in the judgment of those who are attached to it, we act the part of wise and liberal men to make such alterations as shall produce that effect.
Having done what I conceived was my duty, in bringing before this House the subject of amendments, and also stated such as I wish for and approve, and offered the reasons which occurred to me in their support, I shall content myself, for the present, with moving "that a committee be appointed to consider of and report such amendments as ought to be proposed by Congress to the Legislatures of the States, to become, if ratified by three-fourths thereof, part of the Constitution of the United States." By agreeing to this motion, the subject may be going on in the committee, while other important business is proceeding to a conclusion in the House. I should advocate greater despatch in the business of amendments, if I were not convinced of the absolute necessity there is of pursuing the organization of the Government; because I think we should obtain the confidence of our fellow-citizens, in proportion as we fortify the rights of the people against the encroachments of the Government.

Mr. Jackson.--The more I consider the subject of amendments, the more I am convinced it is improper. I revere the rights of my constituents as much as any gentleman in Congress, yet I am against inserting a declaration of rights in the Constitution, and that for some of the reasons referred to by the gentleman last up. If such an addition is not dangerous or improper, it is at least unnecessary: that is a sufficient reason for not entering into the subject at a time when there are urgent calls for our attention to important business. Let me ask gentlemen, what reason there is for the suspicions which are to be removed by this measure? Who are Congress, that such apprehensions should be entertained of them? Do we not belong to the mass of the people? Is there a single right that, if infringed, will not affect us and our connexions as much as any other person? Do we not return at the expiration of two years into private life? and is not this a security against encroachments? Are we not sent here to guard those rights which might be endangered, if the Government was an aristocracy or a despotism? View for a moment the situation of Rhode Island, and say whether the people's rights are more safe under State Legislatures than under a Government of limited powers? Their liberty is changed to licentiousness. But do gentlemen suppose bills of rights necessary to secure liberty? If they do, let them look at New York, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. Those States have no bills of rights, and is the liberty of the citizens less safe in those States, than in the other of the United States? I believe it is not.
There is a maxim in law, and it will apply to bills of rights, that when you enumerate exceptions, the exceptions operate to the exclusion of all circumstances that are omitted; consequently, unless you except every right from the grant of power, those omitted are inferred to be resigned to the discretion of the Government.
The gentleman endeavors to secure the liberty of the press; pray how is this in danger? There is no power given to Congress to regulate this subject as they can commerce, or peace, or war. Has any transaction taken place to make us suppose such an amendment necessary? An honorable gentleman, a member of this House, has been attacked in the public newspapers on account of sentiments delivered on this floor. Have Congress taken any notice of it? Have they ordered the writer before them, even for a breach of privilege, although the Constitution provides that a member shall not be questioned in any place for any speech or debate in the House? No, these things are offered to the public view, and held up to the inspection of the world. These are principles which will always prevail. I am not afraid, nor are other members I believe, our conduct should meet the severest scrutiny. Where, then, is the necessity of taking measures to secure what neither is nor can be in danger?
I hold, Mr. Speaker, that the present is not a proper time for considering of amendments. The States of Rhode Island and North Carolina are not in the Union. As to the latter, we have every presumption that she will come in. But in Rhode Island I think the anti-federal interest yet prevails. I am sorry for it, particularly on account of the firm friends of the Union, who are kept without the embrace of the Confederacy by their countrymen. These persons are worthy of our patronage; and I wish they would apply to us for protection; they should have my consent to be taken into the Union upon such application. I understand there are some important mercantile and manufacturing towns in that State, who ardently wish to live under the laws of the General Government; if they were to come forward and request us to take measures for this purpose, I would give my sanction to any which would be likely to bring about such an event.
But to return to my argument. It being the case that those States are not yet come into the Union, when they join us, we shall have another list of amendments to consider, and another bill of rights to frame. Now, in my judgment, it is better to make but one work of it whenever we set about the business.
But in what a situation shall we be with respect to those foreign Powers with whom we desire to be in treaty? They look upon us as a nation emerging into figure and importance. But what will be their opinion, if they see us unable to retain the national advantages we have just gained? They will smile at our infantine efforts to obtain consequence, and treat us with the contempt we have hitherto borne by reason of the imbecility of our Government. Can we expect to enter into a commercial competition with any of them, while our system is incomplete? And how long it will remain in such a situation, if we enter upon amendments, God only knows. Our instability will make us objects of scorn. We are not content with two revolutions in less than fourteen years; we must enter upon a third, without necessity or propriety. Our faith will be like the punica fides of Carthage; and we shall have none that will repose confidence in us. Why will gentlemen press us to propose amendments, while we are without experience? Can they assure themselves that the amendments, as they call them, will not want amendments, as soon as they are adopted? I will not tax gentlemen with a desire of amusing the people; I believe they venerate their country too much for this; but what more can amendments lead to? That part of the Constitution which is proposed to be altered, may be the most valuable part of the whole; and perhaps those who now clamor for alterations may, ere long, discover that they have marred a good Government, and rendered their own liberties insecure. I again repeat it, this is not the time for bringing forward amendments; and, notwithstanding the honorable gentleman's ingenious arguments on that point, I am now more strongly persuaded it is wrong.
If we actually find the Constitution bad upon experience, or the rights and privileges of the people in danger, I here pledge myself to step forward among the first friends of liberty to prevent the evil; and if nothing else will avail, I will draw my sword in the defence of freedom, and cheerfully immolate at that shrine my property and my life. But how are we now proceeding? Why, on nothing more than the theoretical speculation pursuing a mere ignis fatuus, which may lead us into serious embarrassments. The imperfections of the Government are now unknown; let it have a fair trial, and I will be bound they show themselves; then we can tell where to apply the remedy, so as to secure the great object we are aiming at.
There are, Mr. Speaker, a number of important bills on the table, which require despatch; but I am afraid, if we enter on this business, we shall not be able to attend to them for a long time. Look, sir, over the long list of amendments proposed by some of the adopting States, and say, when the House could get through the discussion; and I believe, sir, every one of those amendments will come before us. Gentlemen may feel themselves called by duty or inclination to oppose them. How are we then to extricate ourselves from this labyrinth of business? Certainly we shall lose much of our valuable time, without any advantage whatsoever. I hope, therefore, the gentleman will press us no further; he has done his duty, and acquitted himself of the obligation under which he lay. He may now accede to what I take to be the sense of the House, and let the business of amendments lie over until next Spring; that will be soon enough to take it up to any good purpose.

Mr. Gerry.--I do not rise to go into the merits or demerits of the subject of amendments; nor shall I make any other observations on the motion for going into a Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union, which is now withdrawn, than merely to say, that, referring the subject to that committee, is treating it with the dignity its importance requires. But I consider it improper to take up this business, when our attention is occupied by other important objects. We should despatch the subjects now on the table, and let this lie over until a period of more leisure for discussion and attention. The gentleman from Virginia says it is necessary to go into a consideration of this subject, in order to satisfy the people. For my part, I cannot be of his opinion. The people know we are employed in the organization of the Government, and cannot expect that we should forego this business for any other. But I would not have it understood, that I am against entering upon amendments when the proper time arrives. I shall be glad to set about it as soon as possible, but I would not stay the operations of the Government on this account. I think with the gentleman from Delaware, (Mr. Vining,) that the great wheels of the political machine should first be set in motion; and with the gentleman from Georgia, (Mr. Jackson,) that the vessel ought to be got under way, lest she lie by the wharf till she beat off her rudder, and run herself a wreck on shore.
I say I wish as early a day as possible may be assigned for taking up this business, in order to prevent the necessity which the States may think themselves under of calling a new convention. For I am not, sir, one of those blind admirers of this system, who think it all perfection; nor am I so blind as not to see its beauties. The truth is, it partakes of humanity; in it is blended virtue and vice, errors and excellence. But I think, if it is referred to a new convention, we run the risk of losing some of its best properties; this is a case I never wish to see. Whatever might have been my sentiments of the ratification of the Constitution without amendments, my sense now is, that the salvation of America depends upon the establishment of this Government, whether amended or not. If the Constitution which is now ratified should not be supported, I despair of ever having a Government of these United States.
I wish the subject to be considered early for another reason. There are two States not in the Union; it would be a very desirable circumstance to gain them. I should therefore be in favor of such amendments as might tend to invite them and gain their confidence; good policy will dictate to us to expedite that event. Gentlemen say, that we shall not obtain the consent of two-thirds of both Houses to amendments. Are gentlemen willing then to throw Rhode Island and North Carolina into the situation of foreign nations? They have told you that they cannot accede to the Union, unless certain amendments are made to the Constitution; if you deny a compliance with their request in that particular, you refuse an accommodation to bring about that desirable event, and leave them detached from the Union.
I have another reason for going early into this business. It is necessary to establish an energetic Government. My idea of such a Government is, that due deliberation be had in making laws, and efficiency in the execution. I hope, in this country, the latter may obtain without the dread of despotism. I would wish to see the execution of good laws irresistible. But from the view which we have already had of the disposition of the Government, we seem really to be afraid to administer the powers with which we are invested, lest we give offence. We appear afraid to exercise the Constitutional powers of the Government, which the welfare of the State requires, lest a jealousy of our powers be the consequence. What is the reason of this timidity? Why, because we see a great body of our constituents opposed to the Constitution as it now stands, who are apprehensive of the enormous powers of Government. But if this business is taken up, and it is thought proper to make amendments, it will remove this difficulty. Let us deal fairly and candidly with our constituents, and give the subject a full discussion; after that, I have no doubt but the decision will be such as, upon examination, we shall discover to be right. If it shall then appear proper and wise to reject the amendments, I dare to say the reasons for so doing will bring conviction to the people out of doors, as well as it will to the members of this House; and they will acquiesce in the decision, though they may regret the disappointment of their fondest hopes for the security of the liberties of themselves and their posterity. Thus, and thus only, the Government will have its due energy, and accomplish the end for which it was instituted.
I am against referring the subject to a select committee, because I conceive it would be disrespectful to those States which have proposed amendments. The conventions of the States consisted of the most wise and virtuous men of the community; they have ratified this Constitution, in full confidence that their objections would at least be considered; and shall we, sir, preclude them by the appointment of a special committee, to consider of a few propositions brought forward by an individual gentleman? Is it in contemplation that the committee should have the subject at large before them, or that they should report upon the particular amendments just mentioned, as they think proper? And are we to be precluded from the consideration of any other amendments but those the committee may report? A select committee must be considered improper, because it is putting their judgments against that of the conventions which have proposed amendments; but if the committee are to consider the matter at large, they will be liable to this objection, that their report will only be waste of time. For if they do not bring forward the whole of the amendments recommended, individual members will consider themselves bound to bring them forward for the decision of the House. I would therefore submit, if gentlemen are determined to proceed in the business at this time, whether it is not better that it should go, in the first instance, to a Committee of the Whole, as first proposed by the gentleman from Virginia?
Some gentlemen consider it necessary to do this to satisfy our constituents. I think referring the business to a special committee will be attempting to amuse them with trifles. Our fellow-citizens are possessed of too much discernment not to be able to discover the intention of Congress by such procedure. It will be the duty of their representatives to tell them, if they were not able to discover it of themselves, they require the subject to be fairly considered; and if it be found to be improper to comply with their reasonable expectations, to tell them so. I hope there is no analogy between federal and punic faith; but unless Congress shall candidly consider the amendments which have been proposed in confidence by the State conventions, federal faith will not be considered very different from the punica fides of Carthage. The ratification of the Constitution in several States would never have taken place, had they not been assured that the objections would have been duly attended to by Congress. And I believe many members of these conventions would never have voted for it, if they had not been persuaded that Congress would notice them with that candor and attention which their importance requires. I will say nothing respecting the amendments themselves; they ought to stand or fall on their own merits. If any of them are eligible, they will be adopted; if not, they will be rejected.
Mr. Livermore was against this motion; not that he was against amendments at a proper time. It is enjoined on him to act a rational part in procuring certain amendments, and he meant to do so; but he could not say what amendments were requisite, until the Government was organized. He supposed the judiciary law would contain certain regulations that would remove the anxiety of the people respecting such amendments as related thereto; because he thought much of the minutiae respecting suits between citizens of different States, &c. might be provided for by law. He could not agree to make jury trials necessary on every occasion; they were not practised even at this time, and there were some cases in which a cause could be better decided without a jury than with one.
In addition to the judiciary business, there is that which relates to the revenue. Gentlemen had let an opportunity go through their hands of getting a considerable supply from the impost on the Spring importations. He reminded them of this; and would tell them now was the time to finish tht business; for if they did not sow in seed-time, they would be beggars in harvest. He was well satisfied in his own mind, that the people of America did not look for amendments at present; they never could imagine it to be the first work of Congress.
He wished the concurrence of the Senate upon entering on this business, because if they opposed the measure, all the House did would be mere waste of time; and there was some little difficulty on this point, because it required the consent of two-thirds of both Houses to agree to what was proper on this occasion. He said, moreover, it would be better to refer the subject generally, if referred to them at all, than to take up the propositions of individual members.
Mr. Sherman.--I do not suppose the Constitution to be perfect, nor do I imagine if Congress and all the Legislatures on the continent were to revise it, that their united labors would make it perfect. I do not expect any perfection on this side the grave in the works of man; but my opinion is, that we are not at present in circumstances to make it better. It is at wonder that there has been such unanimity in adopting it, considering the ordeal it had to undergo; and the unanimity which prevailed at its formation is equally astonishing; amidst all the members from the twelve States present at the Federal Convention, there were only three who did not sign the instrument to attest their opinion of its goodness. Of the eleven States who have received it, the majority have ratified it without proposing a single amendment. This circumstance leads me to suppose that we shall not be able to propose any alterations that are likely to be adopted by nine States; and gentlemen know, before the alterations take effect, they must be agreed to by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the States in the Union. Those States which have not recommended alterations, will hardly adopt them, unless it is clear that they tend to make the Constitution better. Now how this can be made out to their satisfaction I am yet to learn; they know of no defect from experience. It seems to be the opinion of gentlemen generally, that this is not the time for entering upon the discussion of amendments: our only question therefore is, how to get rid of the subject. Now, for my own part, I would prefer to have it referred to a Committee of the Whole, rather than a special committee, and therefore shall not agree to the motion now before the House.
Mr. Gerry moved, that the business lie over until the 1st day of July next, and that it be the order for that day....
The remainder at:
The Founders' Constitution

Volume 5, Bill of Rights, Document 11
 The University of Chicago Press
 Annals of Congress. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States. "History of Congress." 42 vols. Washington, D.C.: Gales & Seaton, 1834--56.