As the Constitution of the United States of America is being formed, it is important to consider it as a document that will guide the country for hundreds of years forward, the “law of the land.” The Constitution is meant to outline the fundamental principles of our government and provide guidelines on responsibilities and protections that the American federal government must offer based on national values. Therefore, I call upon the people to support the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution as a legal basis on the essential freedoms that each American citizen holds, ensuring that the government preserves individual freedoms and cannot use its power or courts to violate these inalienable rights.
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Although various iterations of a bill of rights exist in the state legislature, the majority of founding fathers in the Constitutional Convention did not approve of the federal Bill of Rights introduced by George Mason and Elbridge Gerry. They believed it to be redundant considering that Articles I and II of the Constitution already provided some limitations and protections, and if a list of rights was added, then the government would take advantage of legal loopholes to justify its power to do anything that is not explicitly forbidden. However, many citizens believed that the Constitution alone is insufficient in protecting their rights. The Bill of Rights provides a listing of basic rights as well as offers further protection from concerns by the Federalists by including the 9th Amendment which emphasizes state rights beyond those listed in the Constitution and the 10th Amendment that limits the powers of the federal government to those granted by the Constitution and Bill of Rights explicitly (Kennedy, 2019). Furthermore, the Bill of Rights could be amended through Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court, this allows for the Constitution as a document to be long-lasting and relevant in the future as social, technological, and governance aspects will inevitably change, requiring establishment or modification of certain rights.
One of the main concerns of the Federalists is that the Constitution was written specifically with a limited set of powers to the federal government, with the main authority given to states and the people. A suggestion that certain liberties were not to be violated as the Bill of Rights does is to infer that the government has those broad powers. However, the leader of the Federalists James Madison supported the will of the people for a Bill of Rights and argued that if framed correctly, the amendments could be useful. The rights are framed in a manner that are separate provisions from a single document, and declaratory and restrictive clauses were established by the First Congress in order for an amendment to be ratified. The amendments are not construed as an expansion of government powers nor a list of all rights that a U.S. citizen may hold (Postell, 2007).
Madison and other Founding fathers believed that individual liberty must be safeguarded from the government and potential tyranny. However, the people themselves must be responsible for defending their freedoms. The Bill of Rights serves an important public purpose by listing the fundamental rights and freedoms, thus educating and helping the public understand the concept of individual liberties and assist them in the task of defending them. It is a code that can be used for public edification and the establishment of a free and democratic society based on the natural rights and liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights (Postell, 2007).
- Kennedy, L. (2019). Before drafting the bill of rights, James Madison argued the constitution was fine without it. History. Web.
- Postell, J. (2007). Securing liberty: The purpose and importance of the Bill of Rights. Web.