The Ratification of the Bill of Rights
December 16, 2009 by Chip Wood
This week should mark one of the most joyous celebrations of the year for every person who loves liberty. Unfortunately, the reason for such jubilation will barely be mentioned.
On Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights became an official part of the Constitution of the United States of America. Virginia was the 10th state to ratify the first 10 amendments, thus providing the necessary two-thirds votes for approval. (Remember, there were only 13 states back then.)
You probably remember from high school history lessons that the adoption of the Constitution was far from a sure thing. Many legislators were afraid that the framers had not done nearly enough to protect Americans from the danger that frightened them the most—the almost-irresistible tendency of government to grow ever more powerful.
The first 10 amendments were proposed as a way to keep this from happening. The first eight, you’ll recall, enumerated specific things that the new government could not do, no matter the circumstances or excuses that might be used, and specific rights the citizens would always enjoy.
The ninth and 10th amendments were then added, basically to say, "And if we forgot to include anything, you can’t do that either."
How long has it been since you’ve heard anyone refer to either amendment? Would a schoolchild today even know what you were talking about if you were to say, "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." (Amendment IX)
Or, "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." (Amendment X)
Today, every member of Congress, as well as the President and all Supreme Court justices, take an oath of office swearing to "preserve and protect" the Constitution.
Too bad that not one in 100 means it.