By now, you should be seeing a trend in our study of the Constitution. The Articles set up the form and intent of the Federal Government. But many of the Framers believed this was inadequate for their peace of mind in ratifying this first-ever document. They believed eventually the Federal government would encroach on individual rights, as had happened throughout world history; a history they had intently studied for years before they formed our government. So in order to get on board with ratifying the Constitution, many of the signers demanded certain guarantees, which became the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights.
You’ve probably noticed a distinct change of tone and direction in these Amendments – they all revolve around the natural rights of INDIVIDUALS not the rights of certain groups of people. The Framers were extremely concerned about protecting the individual, natural rights of people against a tyrannical Federal government. Historically, other world governments had become tyrannical – a danger they had seen manifest before and had experienced first hand. They wanted to be sure individual rights were protected in the official document, although some Framers believed these were unnecessary since the constraints on the Federal government were outlined in the Articles.
Nevertheless, in order to obtain enough signatures on the final document for ratification, the Bill of Rights had to be incorporated as part of the Constitution. The signers wanted the added protection of telling the Federal government to keep its hands off individual rights and freedoms. The States submitted one hundred eighty-nine suggestions. These were finally consolidated into the ten provisions now known as the Bill of Rights.
Lonnie D. Crockett writes, “In truth, the Bill of Rights is not a declaration of rights… it is a declaration of prohibitions against the Federal government. One will notice that Amendment 1 begins, ‘Congress shall make no law’. The Bill of Rights is, again, the ‘keep your hands off’ declaration.”
So, the purpose of the Bill of Rights was to limit the Federal government, not the People. They are statements of what the government is prohibited from doing. They are not rights granted to the People by their government. The Signers of the Declaration had already established that unalienable rights are given to each natural-born person by our Creator and must not be violated, diminished, or taken away by government. The first five words of the First Amendment, ‘Congress shall make no law’ reinforces the mission statement of unalienable rights established in the Declaration.
“The American Bill of Rights is a legacy from tens of thousands of Englishmen who suffered torture, hanging, beheading, imprisonment, exile and being burned alive in an effort to preserve those basic rights set forth in previous documents as far back as the Magna Carta of 1215.” ~from The Making of America
The First Amendment is as follows: “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”.
The persecution of religious practices in England was still fresh in the colonists’ minds. It was one of the most important motivating factors behind why so many settlers risked life and limb to fight for independence. When the American government declared the First Amendment as the supreme law of the land, this set the new nation apart from all other nations up to that time. It is the fundamental building block upon which our Republic rests.
And yet, by a strange perversion of this guarantee to the American people, the enemies of America cite the First Amendment as their protection and support while they attempt to dismantle our Republic piece by piece from within.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom to all Americans from Federal interference in anything involving their religion, speech, press, assembly, and petitioning their government. Remember that the next time you witness a Federal agency like the BLM or USFS set up so-called ‘free speech zones’. These ‘zones’ are actually free speech violations sponsored by our government – the very system We created to protect our natural rights.
It is up to us as Americans to learn our system and maintain our republic. Thomas Jefferson said, “The general (federal) government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cures.”
Therefore, it is not up to the politicians to ‘work its own cures’ and keep government within its proper boundaries. Historically, governments’ natural tendency is to grow itself bigger and bigger until the people are subservient to it. It is up to the People to defend their rights, hold government accountable, and keep their republic intact.
John Adams wrote to his beloved Abigail, “Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
Our study of The Bill of Rights will continue next week with the 2nd Amendment.
*Article by Susan Frickey