ANATOMY OF A SUPREME COURT CASE: District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)

DIck Heller and Supreme Court - Median pic

  (Photo credit: Median)

by Diane Rufino, May 25, 2019

The case District of Columbia v. Heller is the landmark Supreme Court case decided in 2008, and written by the late great conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, which finally looked at the roots and origins of the Second Amendment and ruled that it confers not only a collective right to keep and bear arms when serving in a militia but also an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and for self-protection. The Second Amendment recognizes and guarantees gun rights for two articulated purposes. Both purposes involve self-defense and protection: The first is for the defense and protection of the state and the second is for the defense and protection of the individual.

We the People have the inalienable Right to Life. The corollary to that absolutely fundamental right is the right to defend and preserve it. Otherwise the right is only one recognized on paper. The right to defend one’s life implies that the individual be entitled to possess the same type of weapons, and of the same force, which may attempt to take his or her life.

The case stems from an incident, as we will see, that occurred in 1975 and which immediately resulted in the strictest gun control law in the nation – in the District of Columbia.

But first, let’s look at the wording of the Second Amendment:

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.”

Next, let’s look at the context in which this Amendment has been added to the Constitution. To do that, let’s look at the Preamble to the first ten amendments (Bill of Rights):

“THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

Each of the first ten amendments to the Constitution (The Bill of Rights) holds a particular significance in the scope of government. And that significance is articulated by the Preamble which accompanied the Bill of Rights. The Preamble goes to the INTENT of our Founders and framers and to the understanding of the ground rules by which the States established and then agreed to create a general government. Remember, there were several states that would NOT have ratified and adopted the Constitution – that is, would NOT have joined the Union of states – if a Bill of Rights was not added.

How important was the Right to Keep and Bear Arms?? As will be discussed later, gun rights activist Don B. Kates, did extensive research into the history and the roots of our gun rights and the Second Amendment. In his research into the debates of the states in their ratifying conventions (1787-1790), he found that the number of states that recommended adding a guarantee of the right to have guns outnumbered those that recommended adding other rights.

North Carolina was one of those states. North Carolina met in convention in 1788 (July 21 – August 4) and could not decide whether to adopt the US Constitution. The State adopted the Anti-Federalist position which held that the Constitution had the potential of concentrating too much power in a central government. To avoid this, those states argued that a Bill of Rights was needed to be added to the Constitution (“A Bill of Rights is what every free people are entitled to against every government” – Thomas Jefferson). North Carolina decided to wait it out – to see if a Bill of Rights would indeed be added. At that 1788 convention, the delegates drafted and adopted a “Declaration of Rights: (20 of them) and a set of Amendments (26 of them), which were forwarded to Congress. [See https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_nc.html]. One of those “Rights” was the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. It read:

“17. That the people have a right to Keep and Bear Arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that. in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

The Constitution was eventually ratified by the requisite nine states on June 21, 1788 (New Hampshire being the ninth state to ratify) and so it went into effect and established our second American Union. The first US Congress was seated on March 4, 1789. (North Carolina was not part of the Union at that time and thus, not represented). In September 1789, the first US Congress adopted a set of amendments (which were written and submitted, as promised, by James Madison), which were sent to the States to be ratified as the US Bill of Rights. Once this was done, North Carolina called up a second convention two months later. The Constitution was ratified on November 21, 1789, making the state the twelfth state to ratify and join the Union.

So, let’s go back to 1975, the year that ultimately gave rise to the Heller case.

  • Violent crime involving handguns was on the rise in the United States. Communities were no longer safe; the streets were no longer safe. Murders were up, robberies were up, aggravated assaults were up, there were car-jackings, home invasions, drug-related crimes, etc
  • In 1974 alone, there were more than 890 incidents of violent crime (involving the illegal use of a firearm) every single day – with a disproportionate share of them being in DC
  • In the 1970’s, DC was suffering from one of the highest levels of violent crimes (and poverty and drugs and venereal disease) in the country
  • Fortune magazine called DC “one of the sickest cities in America”
  • The majority of its residents were African-American, trapped in poverty, stuck on welfare, and succumbing to crime and drug use
  • Prayer was taken out of public schools by the Supreme Court with the Engel v. Vitale ruling in 1962
  • Bible readings were taken out of public schools by the Supreme Court with the Abington v. Schempp ruling in 1963
  • LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964, creating the welfare system we know today which has had disastrous effects on the advancement of black communities – providing and focusing on handouts that discourage self-improvement, advancement, independency, and responsibility

With respect to LBJ’s “War on Poverty” and the “Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)” program (welfare, particularly aimed at inner-city blacks), Derryck Green, spokesman for Project 21 (Black Leadership Network) explained: “The disastrous effects of the government’s management of anti-poverty initiatives are recognizable across racial lines, but the destruction is particularly evident in the black community. It effectively subsidized the dissolution of the black family by rendering the black man’s role as a husband and a father irrelevant, invisible and — more specifically — disposable. The result has been several generations of blacks born into broken homes and broken communities experiencing social, moral and economic chaos. It fosters an inescapable dependency that primarily, and oftentimes solely, relies on government to sustain livelihoods.” The unintended consequences – institutionalized poverty, crime, drugs, broken families, lack of education, etc were prevalent in DC in the 1970’s.

On a Sunday in June 1975, two men broke into a hardware store with pistols and committed armed robbery, firing shots at the guards while customers were in the store. The store was owned by John Hechinger, who also happened to be the first chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia (= city council of DC)

Two years earlier, in December 1973, the US Congress relinquished governance over the District of Columbia and established “home rule,” giving the city’s residents the right of self-governance…. Finally. However, the government still maintained ultimate authority; it could over-ride laws that it did not approve of.

In July 1976, John Hechinger helped to pass the most stringent gun control law in the nation:

  • Banned shotguns completely
  • Required that shotguns and rifles must be kept unloaded, disassembled, and locked in one’s home
  • Long guns (rifles, shotgun) could be assembled for recreation purposes only, such as hunting
  • Banned the use of “long guns” (including shotgun) for non-recreational purposes (hence, they could not be used for self-defense)

In other words, even if a person owned a shotgun, he or she couldn’t use it against an armed burglar coming through the door.

Interestingly, a young first-term Republican Congressman from southern Texas, Ron Paul, who had a particular aversion to big ambitious government and who would go on to found the Liberty movement, tried to over-turn the gun ban in Congress. Although Congress had given DC “home rule,” it still retained the right to revise its laws should it feel the need to do so. [The bill passed; however, the wording was so sloppy that it was ineffective at overturning the ban].

When the DC gun ban went into effect, Second Amendment jurisprudence wasn’t very well-articulated. The prevailing view was that the Second Amendment articulated a “militia theory” of gun rights. That is, a “collective right.” Only when an individual was serving or able to serve in a state militia would he be entitled to keep and bear arms. Those arms, accordingly, would only be allowed when serving in a militia.

In 1939, the Supreme Court ruled in the case United States v. Miller that “a sawed-off shotgun is not a typical weapon used by a militia and thus is not protected under the Second Amendment,” thus apparently endorsing the “militia theory” or “collective right” view of the Second Amendment.

Note that the Supreme Court never really officially endorsed the “Militia” theory (or Collective Right theory) of the Second Amendment because it never bothered to do a deep dive into its history or original meaning, but it certainly appeared it tended that way in 1939 with the Miller case. For many decades after the opinion, the lower federal courts adopted the “militia theory” and the Supreme Court never objected or took cases to correct this view. In fact, the justices of the Supreme Court declined for 70 years to rule on any Second Amendment case.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, and even into the 1960’s, the US practiced and even institutionalized civil rights violations against African-Americans. There was the Jim Crow era, followed by the violent Civil Rights era, when those institutions of racism finally came toppling down. Before that, freed slaves and their children were victimized and persecuted by the Democratic Ku Klux Klan – militant members of the Southern Democratic Party intent on maintaining white supremacy in the South by preventing blacks from voting and having any meaningful civic voice in southern society. Most people don’t know that one of the primary objects of the Ku Klux Klan was to visit the homes of freed blacks and take their guns away. Blacks could not be permitted to have firearms; they could not be permitted to defend themselves or to harm whites.

In the summer of 1963,, a gun-rights activist named Don Kates stood guard outside the home of a local civil rights activist in eastern NC with an M1 Carbine in one hand and a Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special revolver in the other hand. That activist, a woman, was to be a plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit and she had been receiving death threats. Eastern North Carolina was Ku Klux Klan country and the police too often sided with the Klan. Good men, civilians, armed with firearms would have to protect her and Don Kates volunteered for the job. Kates had just completed his first year at Yale Law School and was volunteering at a law firm in North Carolina working on civil rights cases. The experience of providing protection for a woman facing death threats taught Kates a valuable lesson: For oppressed people who can’t rely on the police, having a gun is sometimes the only means of self-protection. This was especially true for African-Americans who had a history of being oppressed and being denied access and ownership of guns.   [Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.” (2011)]

Later in the 1970’s when he went into private practice, Kates began to represent clients in civil rights cases. To best do so, he researched the history of the Second Amendment. Eventually, over the next couple of years, he published a series of articles in various legal magazines and journals on gun rights, the most notable being the Michigan Law Review. [Don Kates, “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” Michigan Law Review 82 (1983): 204]. That article in the Michigan Law Review was the first article ever to appear in a law review from a top ten law school arguing that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep firearms for self-defense. This article would help revolutionize Second Amendment jurisprudence by tying it to its original meaning and intent. [Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight….”]

But Kates’ article wasn’t actually the first to articulate this “Individual Right” view of the Second Amendment. That distinction would belong to Robert Sprecher, a Chicago lawyer, in 1965. Every year, the American Bar Association (ABA) sponsored an essay competition on constitutional law issues. The winning essay is published in the ABA Journal, the most widely-circulated legal periodical. In 1965, the question posed was this: “What does the Second Amendment, guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms,’ mean? Does the guarantee extend to the keeping and bearing of arms for private purposes not connected with a militia?” The winning essay was written by Sprecher (who, incidentally, went on to being nominated to the federal bench by President Nixon). [Robert Sprecher, “The Lost Amendment,” American Bar Association Journal 51 (1965)]. In his essay, he argued that the original meaning of the Second Amendment had been lost. According to his research into its historical roots, the Founding Fathers sought to secure “the right to arm a state militia AND also the right of the individual to keep and bear arms” for personal self-protection. [Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight….”]

Clark Neily, who we will meet very shortly, considered Kates’ article in the Michigan Law Review the “seminal work” on the Individual Rights theory of the Second Amendment. It had a profound impact on his view of gun rights. To be fair, Kates didn’t deny that the Founding Fathers were concerned primarily with the militia when they conceived of, drafted, and adopted the Second Amendment, but the evidence (according to Kates) suggests that it was precisely by protecting the individual in his right to keep and bear arms that the Framers intended to protect the militia. As long as individuals had the fundamental right to keep and bear arms, unburdened by government, the militia would always exist. “The one thing all the Framers agreed on was the desirability of allowing citizens to arm themselves,” he wrote in his article. The Second Amendment was designed to keep the government from disarming the civilian population. And this makes sense being that it was the King George’s command to disarm the colonists that led to the shots that started the fight for independence. [Ibid]

In his research into the debates of the states in their ratifying conventions (1787-1790), Don Kates found that the number of states that recommended adding a guarantee of the right to have guns outnumbered those that recommended adding other rights. “Amending the Constitution to assure the right to arms was endorsed by five state ratifying conventions. By comparison, only four states suggested that the rights to assemble, to due process, and against cruel and unusual punishment be guaranteed, and only three states suggested that freedom of speech be guaranteed.” [Don Kates, “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” Michigan Law Review].

While the wording of the Second Amendment had confused generations of Americans, Kates sought to actually understood what those words meant to the Founding Fathers (which is an “originalist” approach). Supporters of the “Militia Theory” of the amendment saw the grant of the right to keep and bear arms “to the people,” which seemed to indicate a collective right. That is, only when individuals assembled to form a militia does the Second Amendment protect their right to have and bear arms. It would also offer guidance as to which firearms would likely be protected. But Kates’ Michigan Law Review article offered a different explanation. A simple look at the Bill of Rights shows many other examples of provisions where the Founding Fathers and drafters took the phrase “the right of the people” to mean individual rights. The First Amendment, for example, refers to the right of the people…   to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The Fourth Amendment refers to the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The Tenth Amendment explicitly distinguished “the people” from “the States,” providing that the “powers delegated” to Congress “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.” So, then, a reading of the Second Amendment…   “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” would indicate that an individual right to be armed is articulated. [Ibid]

In 1989, one of the foremost liberal constitutional law professors in the country, Sanford Levinson, published an article in the Yale Law Journal endorsing Kates’ view of the Second Amendment. [Sanford Levinson, “The Embarrassing Second Amendment,” Yale Law Review 99 (1989): 637].

In the years following Kates’ article in the Michigan Law Review, and particularly in the years 1989-1995, more academic research was done regarding the Second Amendment than had been done in the previous 200 years.

Kates would become the most influential proponent of the view that the Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to guarantee the right of private individuals to own firearms for their protection and that of their families.

So then comes the turn of the century… early 2002. Legal scholars began to wonder what exactly is the nature of the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. There has been growing scholarship on the original meaning of the Second Amendment which tended to protect both the right to bear arms to serve in a militia and to bear arms for self-protection yet the prevailing earlier view had been the Collective or Militia Theory only.

What does the Second Amendment really mean? Does it only assure Americans that Congress would NOT have the power to destroy state militias by disarming the people? Or does it also assure Americans that Congress will NOT have the power to deny their right to have firearms for self-protection?   Does it confer a Collective right or also an Individual Right?

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.”   [Collective Right]

“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.”   [Individual Right]

OR, are there two types of gun rights articulated? Are there two types of rights that “Shall Not be Infringed” – the right of a state to have a well-regulated militia (hence, individuals, which necessarily comprise the militia, must have the right to keep and bear arms to serve in it) and right of the individual to keep and bear arms for personal protection. Again, both of these reflect a general right of self-defense and preservation and both absolutely are grounded in the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

The question was this: Would the Supreme Court be willing – finally – to rule on a modern-day Second Amendment case? Would the time be right? Would the Court be likely to embrace the new and growing view of the Second Amendment, which is that it guarantees the individual a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and self-protection (including against a tyrannical government)?

At a happy hour in DC in early 2002, two young lawyers who worked at the Institute for Justice, Clark Neily III and Steve Simpson, were drinking and talking constitutional law – always a powerful combination. Their discussion turned to the right to bear arms. They noted that for too many decades, the federal courts held that the Second Amendment protected only the right to have guns for the purpose of serving in a state militia, but that over the past 15-20 years or so, there have been important developments in the understanding and history of the amendment. Characterizing themselves as libertarians, the believed that it is individuals who should be able to decide for themselves how best to safeguard their lives and to protect their homes and their families, without government insinuating its political agenda. In their alcohol-induced legal excitement, they suggested that the time might be ripe to get the Supreme Court to reconsider the meaning of the Second Amendment.

The Growing Scholarship and the Shift in the Understanding of the Meaning of The Second Amendment:

  • Robert Sprecher’s article in the American Bar Association Journal (1965)
  • Don Kates’ article in the Michigan Law Review (1983)
  • Sanford Levinson’s article in the Yale Law Journal (1989) .
  • President George W. Bush, through his Attorney General John Ashcroft, announced his administration’s rejection of long-standing White House policy regarding the Second Amendment (Bush rejected the Militia Theory in favor the Individual Right’s view). The NRA, a major backer of Bush, supported him on this policy change.
  • In 2001, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (in Texas) took Ashcroft’s cue and held that earlier rulings interpreting the Second Amendment to apply only to state militias had been wrong. “The original meaning of the Second Amendment was to guarantee individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms.” [United States v. Emerson]. ** This case marked a profound shift in Second Amendment jurisprudence.
  • In the 1980’s, President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese III sought to add as many strong conservative judges and justices to the federal court system. He particularly sought to appoint those who adopted the philosophy of Originalism. During his first two years in office, President Reagan appointed half of the federal judges in America, along with three new Supreme Court justices.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the Everson case. Everson was a gun owner who had threatened to hurt innocent people, and because of his threats, had a restraining order against him by a court of law. Perhaps the Court declined to take the case because the person challenging the gun control law, Timothy Joe Everson, was a dangerous man; he was an offensive challenger. Perhaps, as Neily and Simpson, reasoned, the Supreme Court might be more inclined to hear a Second Amendment case if it involved a law-abiding person who simply wanted or needed to own a gun for self-defense.

 

BUILDING THE PERFECT CASE (the “Test” Case)

First, of course, the Court has to be receptive to what the lawyers want to ask of it, which is to abandon the Military Theory of the right to keep and bear arms in favor of an Individual Right to do so. Was the Supreme Court conservative enough at the time? At the time (2002-2005), the conservatives members were Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, with Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. Liberal members were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Stephen Breyer. [Sandra Day O’Connor stepped down in 2005, and President Bush nominated John Roberts to replace him. But just before the Senate Confirmation Committee was set to act, Rehnquist died unexpectedly. So Bush nominated Roberts to replace him as Chief Justice and Samuel Alito to replace O’Connor. Roberts was confirmed in September 2005 and Alito was confirmed in Jan. 2006].

The Court was conservative compared to the progressive Warren and Burger courts. Earl Warren was Chief Justice from 1953-69 and presided over such landmark cases as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington v. Schempp (1963), which took prayer and Bible readings out of schools, respectively), Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), somehow finding a blanket right to privacy and thus serving as the precursor to Roe v. Wade, and enlarging due process rights for criminal defendants (including Miranda rights and publicly-funded attorneys). Warren Burger was Chief Justice from 1969-1986 and presided over such cases as Roe v. Wade (1973) which articulated the right to an abortion, Regents of the University of California v. Baake (1978) which upheld affirmative action policies in universities, and several cases defining the limits of free speech and free press.

A good case for the justices of the Supreme Court to re-address the Second Amendment is one with sympathetic, law-abiding plaintiffs who have an understandable reason to be armed, preferably ordinary individuals who rightfully fear violent criminals or who live in a crime-ridden area. The best-case scenario would be to have individuals who have actually been threatened with harm or death or who have already been victims of crime. A good case would be one that reaches the ultimate merits of the issue (which is that the Second Amendment affirms a constitutional and individual right to keep and bear arms) and not be decided on any extraneous issues. A good case would have constitutional significance.

Neily and Simpson began to plan on how to get a Second Amendment case to the relatively conservative Supreme Court.

(I)  The first decision to make was which city’s gun control law would they target. The easy answer was Washington DC.

(a) It was the strictest gun control law in the nation

(b) Under the law, everyone, even law-abiding citizens, were banned from owning a handgun

(c) Even if an individual owned a shotgun or rifle for a legal purpose under the law (hunting), it would be ILLEGAL (a crime) to use that legally-owned firearm for self-defense should an armed robber or murder break into his home

(d) DC is technically ruled by the federal government; it is not a state but rather, a federal territory. Although DC was granted “home rule,” the Constitution gives Congress the ultimate authority over the area. (That is why Ron Paul was able to seek and pass legislation to try to limit the effect of the gun-control law). The Second Amendment (as all of the Bill of Rights) is a restriction only on the federal government. [That is, by challenging DC’s gun law instead of, say New York City’s gun law, Neily and Simpson would only need to convince the Supreme Court that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to have guns. That would be a challenge, given the Miller case precedent, but it would be less difficult than having to persuade the Court to also rule that the amendment applies to the States through the 14th Amendment. The McDonald v. City of Chicago case would do that in 2010].

(II)  Neily and Simpson were relatively unknowns, with no money to build the case. They would need to find the perfect person to finance the case. A friend of Neily’s, a fellow co-clerk in DC and a wealthy individual, Robert Levy agreed to finance. He was then a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. (Levy decided to go to law school at the age of 50. Although he was absolutely brilliant and could have gone to any law school he chose, he decided to attend George Mason Law School because it was a conservative law school. Its professors lean clearly to the right unlike the professors at almost all other law schools). At this point, Simpson had to drop out because of the pressures of his job.

III. Next, Neily and Levy had to find a suitable attorney to lead the case. Neither Neily or Levy considered themselves capable to do so. The decided on a young libertarian lawyer named Alan Gura who they remembered in their libertarian circles as a proponent of both guns and marijuana being legal (“individuals have the right to do with their lives without government interference”). Gura was sharp but he had never argued a case before the Supreme Court.

IV.  The second major decision to make was to select the Perfect Plaintiff (ie, the person to represent the issue, the lead name on the case).

(a) Dick Heller. Dick Heller was a white man who worked as a security guard at a federal building in Washington – the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judicial Center. He lived in DC across the street from an abandoned federal housing project. That housing project was built in the 1960’s, in furtherance of LBJ’s “war on poverty.” Thirty years later, the units were run down and decrepit – with rotted out walls and collapsing ceilings. The only people who found the place habitable were heroin and crack addicts. Consequently, a drug gang moved into the area and operated out of the complex. The drugs and the gang brought with them violence – routine shootings and killings. The police were happy to ignore the area. But Dick Heller had to exist in this neighborhood. At night he would hear the gunshots and try to ignore them. One night he returned home to find a stray bullet had struck his front door. At work, he carried a handgun on his hip to protect the people who worked there (federal employees), but because of DC’s then 20-year-old gun ban, he had to leave it there when he returned home each day. In 2002, prompted by the suggestion of a close friend, Heller applied for a gun permit and went through the frustrating and futile exercise of applying for a gun permit. Also at the suggestion of his friend, he documented the ordeal as a testament to the practical impossibility of obtaining and keeping a gun for home protection in the district.

While there was rarely any threat of violence at work, the situation at home was very different. There existed a real threat, an actual threat, of violence in his neighborhood. Yet the DC gun control law banned him from possessing a firearm to defend himself.

The only negative that Neily, Levy, and Gura could find (which might have an unfavorable impression on the Court) was that Heller was overly obsessed with his gun rights and was prone to making potentially disturbing political statements.

(b) Shelly Parker. In 2002, Shelly Parker, an elderly African-American woman and former nurse, moved to a neighborhood not far from Capitol Hill, in an area where drug dealers sold their drugs right out in the open. Determined to keep her neighborhood clean, she became a one-woman Community Watch, keeping an eye out on the streets and calling the police whenever she saw someone buying drugs. The drug dealers caught on and responded with intimidation – smashing her car window, stealing her security camera, and driving a car into her back fence. One night, a drug dealer stood at her gate and shouted: “Bitch, I’ll kill you! I live on this block too.” Parker began to fear for her life, believing that the drug dealers would eventually make good on their threats. When she called the police to tell them of the threats, one officer told her point blank: “Get a gun.” The officer certainly knew that owning a gun was against the law, but he also knew that it was the only sure way to protect her life. He understood, as she did, that the DC gun law left citizens like her defenseless and putting her life in danger. As Parker said: “The only thing between me and somebody entering my home are harsh words. That’s all I have.” Parker was an attractive plaintiff for many reasons: She was a very sympathetic elderly woman, defenseless, victimized, in actual fear of her life, and African-American. She had stood up to violent drug dealers at great risk to her life. Why does it matter that she was African-American? Because history has been cruel to African-Americans in this country. First they were slaves and even when they were freed, the South legislatively imposed second-class status on them with the segregation laws known as the Jim Crow laws. After Reconstruction and as the Southern states were trying to re-establish their white dominated society, the Ku Klux Klan went around terrorizing and intimidating free slaves but most importantly, confiscating their guns. Laws were put in place in the post-Reconstruction South (the Jim Crow South) forbidding blacks to own guns, or making it almost impossible to get one. Freed slaves were intentionally left defenseless.

Gura chose Shelly Parker. She was a far more sympathetic and compelling plaintiff.

 

THE ROCKY ROAD to the SUPREME COURT:

1).  Gura filed the lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia on February 10, 2003. As mentioned above, the lead plaintiff chosen was Shelly Parker and so the case name, as filed, was Parker v. District of Columbia.

2).  After Gura filed the complaint against the District of Columbia, the NRA, totally unexpectedly, filed its own lawsuit.. In that lawsuit, the NRA not only asserting the “Individual Rights” view of the Second Amendment but also including what is called “trap doors” – additional, extraneous claims that the courts could use to decide the case by avoiding the Second Amendment question. Neily and Simpson decided to bring the case, and Levy put his own money behind it, NOT to simply strike down the DC’s handgun ban. They wanted to resurrect the Second Amendment. The NRA wanted just the opposite. Note, the NRA hired as its leading attorney the renowned Steve Halbrook – the nation’s leading expert on the right to bear arms. Halbrook was Neily and Levy’s first choice, but unfortunately, he was too expensive for their budget. Halbrook had plenty of experience trying gun cases; Gura had none.

Gura did not expect the NRA’s lawsuit. He had thought the organization would have supported their lawsuit to assert the Individual Rights view of the Second Amendment. The NRA’s concerns, however, were two-fold (and conflicting): (1) On the one hand, it didn’t want to challenge the prevailing “Militia Theory” view of the Second Amendment because gun control laws were their bread and butter. Nothing advances its fund-raising efforts more than alerting gun enthusiasts and club members that their gun rights are being infringed by gun-control laws. (2) On the other hand, the NRA was in favor of the individual rights view but they thought the timing for such a lawsuit was not right – they could not be sure that they had the necessary votes on the Supreme Court to shift from the Militia view. [Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had disappointed conservatives by siding strongly with progressives on abortion and on affirmative action, and Justice John Paul Stevens was uber liberal and anti-gun. Both were likely to be replaced by President Bush].

3).  The NRA sought to have the cases consolidated, thereby hijacking Gura’s case by bringing in the “trap door” claims. Also, the NRA hoped that it would be Halbrook, and not Gura, who would argue the case. Essentially, the point of the NRA’s litigation tactic was this: “If we can’t control the litigation, there won’t be any litigation!” Luckily, in July 2003, the district court judge, Emmett Sullivan, reached a decision – the two cases should not be consolidated. Alan Gura successfully survived the first hurdle.

4).  Unable to derail Gura’s lawsuit with consolidation, the NRA tried Plan B – It convinced Senator Orrin Hatch to introduce a bill in Congress, the “District of Columbia Personal Protection Act” which would over-turn the DC gun law and permit DC residents to possess handguns. If the bill passed then Gura’s lawsuit would be moot and thrown out of court. [The bill passed the Senate and was fast-tracked to the House floor in 2007 where it was expected to pass, but then the shooting at Virginia Tech happened on April 16 and it doomed the bill].

5).  In March 2004, Judge Sullivan ruled that the court was bound by the US v. Miller ruling (1939) which held, although ambiguously, that the Second Amendment applied only to state militias and therefore dismissed Gura’s lawsuit. Gura actually expected this. What he didn’t expect was how long it would take for Sullivan to make it. In the meantime, the judge handling the NRA case had also issued a dismissal. Because the NRA case was dismissed first, it meant that Steve Halbrook had the chance to file an appeal before Gura did – which he did. Timing is everything. Here is why it mattered: Halbrook filed an appeal on behalf of the NRA and so when Gura filed his appeal, the DC Circuit Court (of Appeals) ruled that Gura’s case would be put on hold pending the ruling of the appeal in the NRA case. In other words, Halbrook would get to argue his case before a panel of appellate judges and Gura would not. The NRA, in effect, now had control of the litigation regarding the DC gun control law.

6).  In 2005, the DC Circuit Court heard the NRA’s appeal. Being persuaded by an argument that DOJ Attorney General John Ashcroft made asserting that the plaintiffs in the NRA’s case lacked standing, being that none of them had tried to register a handgun nor been arrested for having one, the NRA’s lawsuit was dismissed. [Remember that Dick Heller had standing; he had an actual injury. He not only applied for a permit for his revolver but he documented how frustrating and futile the process was]. Gura survived yet another hurdle, because with the NRA case out of the picture, the DC Circuit could then hear Parker’s appeal.

7).  Gura appeared before the 3-judge panel of the DC Circuit in early December 2006. The attorney for the District of Columbia, Todd Kim (a distinguished Harvard Law School graduate) challenged all of the plaintiffs as not having standing to sue the District of Columbia over its gun law. He insisted that none of them had really been hurt; none had suffered a direct injury as a result of the gun ban. The panel agreed as to all plaintiffs except Dick Heller. Heller had been directly harmed. He had applied for a gun permit and was denied. And so, in 2007, with the DC Circuit Court’s ruling, Parker v. District of Columbia was renamed Heller v. District of Columbia, with Dick Heller as the sole plaintiff.

8).  In February 2007, the DC Circuit handed down is decision in Parker v. District of Columbia (renamed, Heller v. District of Columbia), with 2 of the 3 judges ruling against the District of Columbia. The majority opinion, written by Judge Silberman, strongly endorsed the Individual Rights view of the Second Amendment. “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.” Silberman’s arguments were very closely aligned with the arguments made twenty-five years earlier by Don Kates in his Michigan Law Review article. “The People,” whose right is guaranteed in the Second Amendment, are the same individuals who are guaranteed the rights enumerated in the First and Fourth Amendments, and the “Militia” refers to all able-bodied citizens who were expected to have their own guns, to be trained and experienced, and even comfortable, in their use when called into service. In other words, because able-bodied citizens had the right to keep and bear arms, they could be called to serve in a state militia. Arming the militia may have been the primary reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, as Silberman wrote, but it was not the only one. The right to bear arms that the colonists (and our Founding Fathers and founding generation) inherited from England also included the right to defend one’s home from violent attack and the right to defend the individual from the tyranny of government. Reaching the ultimate issue, the constitutionality of the DC gun ban, Silberman concluded that the city’s total ban on handguns, as well as its requirement that firearms in the home be kept nonfunctional even when necessary for self-defense, violated the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense.

9).  Unfortunately, the ruling only applied in the District of Columbia. It didn’t stand as binding precedent anywhere else in the country. Neily, Levy, and Gura’s goal all along was to try a Second Amendment case with constitutional significance. Their goal was a definitive ruling by the US Supreme Court. The problem, however, was that the losing party has the right to file an appeal and not the winning party. If the District of Columbia decided not to seek an appeal and instead, just amend its gun law, Neily, Levy, and Gura were screwed. But as luck would have it, on September 4, 2007, the District of Columbia filed a “Writ of Certiorari” with the Supreme Court, requesting the court to review its case.

10).  On November 20, 2007, the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia received word that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear their appeal.

11).  Also in 2007, in anticipation of the upcoming case, the state of Montana’s lawmakers passed a resolution demanding that the Supreme Court hold that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. The resolution said that when Montana agreed to join the Union in 1889, its people believed that the US Constitution protected the right of individuals to possess guns for self-protection, and not just a right tied to state militias. According to the Resolution, Supreme Court ruling rejecting the individual rights view of the Second Amendment would “violate Montana’s Compact with the United States” and Montana “reserves all usual rights and remedies under historic compact/contract law if its Compact should be violated.” In other words, the Second Amendment’s meaning as an individual right to keep and bear arms was so critical that Montana was threatening to secede from the Union should the Court rule against such a view.

12).  On March 18, 2008, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Heller case. Walter Dellinger represented the District of Columbia and Alan Gura represented Dick Heller. Each lawyer was initially given 30 minutes to argue the merits of its case (although they were eventually given some extra time). U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement was given 15 minutes to present the federal government’s views. Almost immediately, Scalia’s questions and comments made it abundantly clear that he was strongly in favor of the Individual Right view of the Second Amendment. And Gura was fairly confident that Kennedy would agree with the Individual Rights view as well. Heller’s team was optimistic.

13)  The case was decided on June 26, 2008. On that day, the lawyers were called to the Supreme Court building and waited for the justices to file in and take their seats. After an opening opinion was read, Chief Justice John Roberts announced: “Justice Scalia will have our decision in 07-290.” That was the docket number of the Heller case. Once it was announced that Scalia was the author of the opinion, “that was when we knew the opinion was in our favor,” said Gura. It was the first time in American history that a gun control law violated with Second Amendment to the Constitution !! It was a long-time coming, but the Supreme Court finally articulated the correct meaning and intent of the Second Amendment.

 

THE HELLER OPINION IS HANDED DOWN –  [District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf]

The Supreme Court, in Heller, AFFIRMED the DC Circuit Court ruling.

The opinion, written by Justice Scalia, can be summed up by these excerpts:

We turn first to the meaning of the Second Amendment…. In interpreting this text, we are guided by the principle that “the Constitution was written to be understood by the voters; its words and phrases were used in their normal and ordinary as distinguished from technical meaning.” The two sides in this case have set out very different interpretations of the Amendment. Petitioners and today’s dissenting Justices believe that it protects only the right to possess and carry a firearm in connection with militia service. Respondent Heller argues that it protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. The Amendment could be rephrased, “Because a well-regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

Let’s first look at the “Operative Clause.” The first salient feature of the operative clause is that it codifies a “right of the people.” The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights use the phrase “right of the people” two other times, in the First Amendment’s Assembly-and-Petition Clause and in the Fourth Amendment’s Search-and-Seizure Clause. The Ninth Amendment uses very similar terminology (“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”). All three of these instances unambiguously refer to individual rights, not “collective” rights, or rights that may be exercised only through participation in some corporate body. There are three provisions of the Constitution that refer to “the people” in a context other than “rights”—the famous preamble (“We the people”), §2 of Article I (providing that “the people” will choose members of the House), and the Tenth Amendment (providing that those powers not given the Federal Government remain with “the States” or “the people”). Those provisions arguably refer to “the people” acting collectively—but they deal with the exercise or reservation of powers, not rights.   Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right” attributed to “the people” refer to anything other than an individual right.

This contrasts markedly with the phrase “the militia” in the prefatory clause. As we will describe below, the “militia” in colonial America consisted of a subset of “the people”—those who were male, able bodied, and within a certain age range. Reading the Second Amendment as protecting only the right to “keep and bear Arms” in an organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative clause’s description of the holder of that right as “the people.” We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.

The most natural reading of “keep Arms” in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.” “Keep arms” was simply a common way of referring to possessing arms, for militiamen and everyone else. At the time of the founding, as now, to “bear” meant to “carry.” In 1998, Justice Ginsburg wrote that “surely a most familiar meaning is, as the Constitution’s Second Amendment . . . indicates: ‘wear, bear, or carry . . . upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose . . . of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.’”

From our review of founding-era sources, we conclude that this natural meaning was also the meaning that “bear arms” had in the 18th century. In numerous instances, “bear arms” was unambiguously used to refer to the carrying of weapons outside of an organized militia. The most prominent examples are those most relevant to the Second Amendment: Nine state constitutional provisions written in the 18th century or the first two decades of the 19th, which enshrined a right of citizens to “bear arms in defense of themselves and the state” or “bear arms in defense of himself and the state.” It is clear from those formulations that “bear arms” did not refer only to carrying a weapon in an organized military unit.

Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. This meaning is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment. We look to this because it has always been widely understood that the Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right. The very text of the Second Amendment implicitly recognizes the pre-existence of the right and declares only that it “shall not be infringed.” As we said in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, 553 (1876), “this is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed . . . .”

Between the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution, the Stuart Kings Charles II and James II succeeded in using select militias loyal to them to suppress political dissidents, in part by disarming their opponents. Under the auspices of the 1671 Game Act, for example, the Catholic James II had ordered general disarmaments of regions home to his Protestant enemies. These experiences caused Englishmen to be extremely wary of concentrated military forces run by the state and to be jealous of their arms. They accordingly obtained an assurance from William and Mary, in the Declaration of Right (which was codified as the English Bill of Rights), that Protestants would never be disarmed: “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.” This right has long been understood to be the predecessor to our Second Amendment. It was clearly an individual right, having nothing whatever to do with service in a militia. To be sure, it was an individual right not available to the whole population, given that it was restricted to Protestants, and like all written English rights it was held only against the Crown, not Parliament. But it was secured to them as individuals. By the time of the founding, the right to have arms had become fundamental for English subjects. According to William Blackstone, whose works (“Commentaries on the Laws of England”), this Court has held, constituted the preeminent authority on English law for the founding generation, cited the arms provision of the Bill of Rights as one of the fundamental rights of Englishmen. [See Blackstone, Volume 1, pp. 136, 139–140]. His description of it cannot possibly be thought to tie it to militia or military service. It was, he said, “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation” and “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” (pg. 139)

Thus, the right secured in 1689 as a result of the Stuarts’ abuses was by the time of the founding understood to be an individual right protecting against both public and private violence. And, of course, what the Stuarts had tried to do to their political enemies, George III had tried to do to the colonists. In the tumultuous decades of the 1760’s and 1770’s, the Crown began to disarm the inhabitants of the most rebellious areas. That provoked polemical reactions by Americans invoking their rights as Englishmen to keep arms. A New York article of April 1769 said that “it is a natural right which the people have reserved to themselves, confirmed by the Bill of Rights, to keep arms for their own defense.” They understood the right to enable individuals to defend themselves. As the most important early American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries (by the law professor and former Anti-Federalist St. George Tucker) made clear in the notes to the description of the arms right, Americans understood the “right of self-preservation” as permitting a citizen to “repel force by force” when “the intervention of society in his behalf, may be too late to prevent an injury.” [See Blackstone’s Commentaries, Vol. 1; pp. 145–146 (1803)]

Thus there seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms. Of course the right was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment’s right of free speech was not. Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.

Three important founding-era legal scholars interpreted the Second Amendment in published writings. All three understood it to protect an individual right unconnected with militia service. St. George Tucker’s version of Blackstone’s Commentaries, as we explained above, conceived of the Blackstonian arms right as necessary for self-defense. He equated that right, absent the religious and class-based restrictions, with the US Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment. Tucker elaborated on the Second Amendment: “This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty . . . . The right to self-defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine the right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” He believed that the English game laws had abridged the right by prohibiting “keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game.” He later grouped the right with some of the individual rights included in the First Amendment and said that if “a law be passed by congress, prohibiting” any of those rights, it would “be the province of the judiciary to pronounce whether any such act were constitutional, or not; and if not, to acquit the accused . . . .” It is unlikely that Tucker was referring to a person’s being “accused” of violating a law making it a crime to bear arms in a state militia.

In 1825, William Rawle, a prominent lawyer who had been a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly that ratified the Bill of Rights, published an influential treatise, which analyzed the Second Amendment as follows: “The first principle is a declaration that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; a proposition from which few will dissent. . . . “The corollary, from the first position is, that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. “The prohibition is general. No clause in the constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretense by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.” Like Tucker, Rawle regarded the English game laws as violating the right codified in the Second Amendment. Rawle clearly differentiated between the people’s right to bear arms and their service in a militia: “In a people permitted and accustomed to bear arms, we have the rudiments of a militia, which properly consists of armed citizens, divided into military bands, and instructed at least in part, in the use of arms for the purposes of war.” Rawle further said that the Second Amendment right ought not “be abused to the disturbance of the public peace,” such as by assembling with other armed individuals “for an unlawful purpose”—statements that make no sense if the right does not extend to any individual purpose.. Story explained that the English Bill of Rights had also included a “right to bear arms,” a right that, as we have discussed, had nothing to do with militia service. He then equated the English right with the Second Amendment: “§1891. A similar provision [to the Second Amendment] in favor of protestants (for to them it is confined) is to be found in the bill of rights of 1688, it being declared, ‘that the subjects, which are protestants, may have arms for their defense suitable to their condition, and as allowed by law.’ But under various pretenses the effect of this provision has been greatly narrowed; and it is at present in England more nominal than real, as a defensive privilege.” This comparison to the Declaration of Right would not make sense if the Second Amendment right was the right to use a gun in a militia, which was plainly not what the English right protected.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court recognized thirty-eight years after Story wrote his Commentaries, “the passage from Story, shows clearly that this right was intended . . . and was guaranteed to, and to be exercised and enjoyed by the citizen as such, and not by him as a soldier, or in defense solely of his political rights.” Story’s Commentaries also cite as support Tucker and Rawle, both of whom clearly viewed the right as unconnected to militia service. In addition, in a shorter 1840 work, Story wrote: “One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offence to keep arms, and by substituting a regular army in the stead of a resort to the militia.”

Antislavery advocates routinely invoked the right to bear arms for self-defense. Joel Tiffany, for example, citing Blackstone’s description of the right, wrote that “the right to keep and bear arms, also implies the right to use them if necessary in self-defense; without this right to use the guaranty would have hardly been worth the paper it consumed.” In his famous Senate speech about the 1856 “Bleeding Kansas” conflict, Charles Sumner proclaimed: “The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defense, than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our National Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guarantee, embodied in the Amendments to the Constitution, that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’ the people of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the Senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed—of course, that the fanatics of Slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment.”

19th-century pre-Civil War cases that interpreted the Second Amendment universally support an individual right unconnected to militia service. In the famous fugitive-slave case of Johnson v. Tompkins, 13 F. Cas. 840, 850, 852 (CC Pa. 1833), Baldwin, sitting as a circuit judge, cited both the Second Amendment and the Pennsylvania analogue for his conclusion that a citizen has “a right to carry arms in defense of his property or person, and to use them, if either were assailed with such force, numbers or violence as made it necessary for the protection or safety of either.” In Nunn v. State, 1 Ga. 243, 251 (1846), the Georgia Supreme Court construed the Second Amendment as protecting the “natural right of self-defense” and therefore struck down a ban on carrying pistols openly. Its opinion perfectly captured the way in which the operative clause of the Second Amendment furthers the purpose announced in the prefatory clause, in continuity with the English right: “The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, and not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree; and all this for the important end to be attained: the rearing up and qualifying a well-regulated militia, so vitally necessary to the security of a free State. Our opinion is, that any law, State or Federal, is repugnant to the Constitution, and void, which contravenes this right, originally belonging to our forefathers, trampled underfoot by Charles I. and his two wicked sons and successors, re-established by the revolution of 1688, conveyed to this land of liberty by the colonists, and finally incorporated conspicuously in our own Magna Charta!”

Likewise, in State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann. 489, 490 (1850), the Louisiana Supreme Court held that citizens had a right to carry arms openly: “This is the right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and which is calculated to incite men to a manly and noble defense of themselves, if necessary, and of their country, without any tendency to secret advantages and unmanly assassinations.” the state constitutional guarantee of the right to “bear” arms did not prohibit the banning of concealed weapons. In 1833, the Tennessee Supreme Court had treated the state constitutional provision as conferring a right “of all the free citizens of the State to keep and bear arms for their defense.” 21 years later the court held that the “keep” portion of the state constitutional right included the right to personal self-defense: “The right to keep arms involves, necessarily, the right to use such arms for all the ordinary purposes, and in all the ordinary modes usual in the country, and to which arms are adapted, limited by the duties of a good citizen in times of peace.”

Similarly, it was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense. J. Ordronaux, in his 1891 book “Constitutional Legislation in the United States” 241–242 (1891), wrote: “The right to bear arms has always been the distinctive privilege of freemen. Aside from any necessity of self-protection to the person, it represents among all nations power coupled with the exercise of a certain jurisdiction. . . . It was not necessary that the right to bear arms should be granted in the Constitution, for it had always existed.”

Justice Scalia distinguished the United States v. Miller (1939) ruling this way: “It is particularly wrongheaded to read Miller for more than what it said, because the case did not even purport to be a thorough examination of the Second Amendment…. Miller stands only for the proposition that the Second Amendment right, whatever its nature, extends only to certain types of weapons.”

We turn finally to the law at issue here. As we have said, the law totally bans handgun possession in the home. It also requires that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, rendering it inoperable. As the quotations earlier in this opinion demonstrate, the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right. The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of “arms” that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose. The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute. Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from the home “the most preferred firearm in the nation to keep and use for protection of one’s home and family,” would fail constitutional muster.

We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding “interest-balancing” approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government – even the Third Branch of Government (the federal courts) – the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad. We would not apply an “interest-balancing” approach to the prohibition of a peaceful neo-Nazi march through Skokie. The First Amendment contains the freedom-of-speech guarantee that the people ratified, which included exceptions for obscenity, libel, and disclosure of state secrets, but not for the expression of extremely unpopular and wrong-headed views. The Second Amendment is no different. Like the First, it is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people.

Since this case represents this Court’s first in-depth examination of the Second Amendment, one should not expect it to clarify the entire field. But whatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.

In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

Justice Scalia spent 45 pages of the majority opinion addressing the history, and especially the original meaning and the intent of the Second Amendment (summed by appropriate excerpts above). He distinguished the United States v. Miller (1939) case by pointing out that the Court didn’t even attempt to do a thorough examination of the Second Amendment, and then announced that the clear purpose of the Second Amendment was, and IS, to guarantee an individual right to Keep and Bear Arms for self-defense. Finally, he concluded by announcing that, because the DC Gun Ban denies Dick Heller and other DC residents of this right, it is unconstitutional.

The Heller decision would be the first time in American history that a gun control law was found to violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

 

CONCLUSION (and POST-HELLER GUN RIGHTS):

We say the Heller opinion was an “ORIGINALIST” opinion because the analysis of the Second Amendment was based purely on an examination of history, with an emphasis on what the words and intent of the “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” meant at the time it was adopted by the American colonies and then when they became states and then finally when they incorporated into the federal Union with the Constitution.

Indeed, District of Columbia v. Heller is the most significant case which applied “originalism” in analyzing the Constitution, and together with the companion case, McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), addressed below, are the most significant Second Amendment cases to date. We can expect another similarly significant case this fall – New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York. The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association is the NY state chapter of the NRA.

Originalism is a concept regarding the interpretation of the Constitution that asserts that all terms and provisions in the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding of the authors or the people at the time it was ratified. Justice Scalia was the most famous proponent of Originalism.

In 2010, the Supreme Court heard the companion case to HellerMcDonald v. City of Chicago. Heller announced what our Second Amendment rights are with respect to action by the federal government. With McDonald, the Supreme Court announced what our Second Amendment rights are with respect to action by the States. The case involved a state gun control law, as opposed to a federal gun control law. The case arose in 2008, when Otis McDonald, a retired African American custodian living in a neighborhood fraught with robberies, shootings, and other crimes, and others filed suit to challenge provisions of a 1982 Chicago law that, among other things, generally banned the new registration of handguns and made registration a prerequisite of possession of a firearm. McDonald alleged that the law violated his right to possess and carry weapons, which the Supreme Court had found to be protected by the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller. In reaching a ruling in McDonald’s favor, the Court held that the Second Amendment is one of the liberty rights to be incorporated on the states thru the 14th Amendment, and therefore states cannot pass laws to violate or burden that right.

Together, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago cases articulate the view that the Second Amendment recognizes and protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. The cases reach that conclusion after an in-depth and judicious review of the history and roots of the amendment.

However, and unfortunately, the cases have not seemed to stop the passage of gun-control laws or talk of more and more federal gun-control laws. Besides the general ignorance of many of our federal legislators and our state legislators, and the ever-important goal of disarming citizens to prevent their violence upon one another (always the risk in a free society), there are some limitations with the ruling and clearly ways government can get around it (or frustrate the exercise of the right protected in the Second Amendment:

(1) First of all, Dick Heller found no relief, even after spending 7 years litigating his challenge and winning perhaps one of the most significant cases in the Supreme Court. The ruling was not quite the sweeping gun-freedom victory he expected and it certainly didn’t go far enough to abolish burdensome gun permitting regulations, especially in his home of DC. Despite his court victory, he still was unable to acquire a gun permit. In the weeks since the Heller decision, the city hastily enacted a new and lengthy set of regulations and so when Heller went to the station with his revolver, he was told that he didn’t bring the many documents that the district had decided were required to register a handgun. He could take his revolver back home, he was told, but he would still have to keep it trigger-locked and unloaded. Not much had changed.

(2) Both the Heller and McDonald rulings addressed the right to keep and bear arms in one’s home. The lawsuit did not address whether the Second Amendment guarantees any right beyond that and hence the courts did not rule so. In October (of this year, 2019), the Supreme Court will hear a case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, which addresses this very question.

(3) Related to the question of whether the Second Amendment extends to gun rights outside one’s home, the Heller and McDonald rulings also leave open the question of whether conceal carry is covered.

(4) Scalia’s majority opinion in the Heller case included this proviso: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt” on longstanding regulations such as restrictions on felons “or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” In his opinion, he wrote: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Apparently, Scalia was carving out areas where he believed Congress could rightfully legislate with respect to the Second Amendment. According to Robert Levy, who financed the lawsuit: “Everybody understood — or at least any reasonable person understood — that we can’t have 11-year-olds with machine guns in front of the White House when the president is delivering a speech. Some weapons can be regulated, some people can be regulated, like minors and felons and mentally incompetent people, and some circumstances can be regulated. Battles over defining those circumstances will be going on for a long time.” Why can minors be regulated with regard to firearms for self-defense? The probable answer is because they are mature enough and their brains have not developed to the point where they can intelligently and rationally predict or comprehend the consequences of their actions. Why can felons and mentally incompetent people be regulated? Liberty is understood as the free exercise of one’s inalienable and essential rights, to the point that such exercise doesn’t burden or violate another person’s equal rights. Felons have already proven that they are incapable of conforming their conduct to be consistent with the rights of others and hence our society deems that a rightful punishment is to deny them access to firearms. They cannot be trusted. Incompetent individuals in many cases can’t control their actions, thoughts, re-actions. They also cannot responsibly conform their conduct so as not to harm or invade the liberties of others. They are often unpredictable.

(5) In the Court’s eyes, which part of the Second Amendment will control what types of “arms” are covered? Will the courts use the prefatory clause (the militia) or the operative clause (individual right)?

(6) Members of the US Congress clearly have not read the Second Amendment, the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, or the Heller and McDonald opinions. They continue to push for more and more gun control and policies to permit government confiscation of firearms (Red Flag Laws). Ever since Andrew Jackson and then Abraham Lincoln, US presidents have argued that the office can assume undelegated powers (ie, unconstitutional powers) as long as the country or the American people need it to be so. In other words, they implicitly view the Constitution as either a “living, breathing document” or they have treated it as a dead document, something that presidents can choose to guide them but certainly not to confine them. The US Congress has, over the same time, done the very same thing and the courts have very often put a rubber stamp on their power grabs. It appears that Congress and the states will continue to violate the Second Amendment by claiming that they need to keep people, schools, federal buildings, churches, etc safe. If their laws are unconstitutional (note that each state has their own Bill of Rights, including a Second Amendment version, in their constitutions), they will simply amend the laws or pass new ones which may also be unconstitutional, but in the meantime will burden gun access and ownership, and will restrict carry.

In July 2008, less than a month after the Heller opinion was handed down and just after he still was unable to get a permit for his revolver, Dick Heller filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia. (Heller v. District of Columbia II, or “Heller II”) challenging the new regulations DC lawmakers quickly put in place to save their gun law.

The case has been far more time-consuming than Heller expected. After parting ways with Gura and Levy, Heller enlisted Stephen Halbrook as his lawyer, the Second Amendment attorney that the NRA hired to try to block the initial Heller lawsuit. Again, after 7 years of litigation (punctuated by repeated changes by DC council’s to its gun regulations), Halbrook managed to win a ruling by a DC Circuit of Appeals panel in September 2015 invalidating 4 of the 10 restrictions Heller challenged. In 2016, the full DC Appeals Court agreed with the ruling. Halbrook and Heller have not signaled if they will seek Supreme Court review. [Mark Obbie, “He Won the Supreme Court Case That Transformed Gun Rights. But Dick Heller Is a Hard Man to Please”]

The provisions Heller II successfully invalidated include a requirement to renew gun permits every three years, a limit of one handgun registration per month, and requirements for permit holders to pass a test on D.C. gun laws and show up at police headquarters with the gun to be registered. Left intact, however, were the District’s registration requirement for long guns, a required safety class and registration fees for permit holders, and other obstacles to the sort of frictionless, gun-friendly city Heller wants D.C. to be. In October 2015 in an interview published in the magazine America’s 1st Freedom, the NRA’s official magazine. He said: “We still have to be registered and fingerprinted, so the worst part is we will still be treated like criminals, but the criminals won’t be standing in line to get in.” [Ibid]

Heller, who is now 76 years old, has been frustrated that he had to waste 14 years of his life just to have the rights Americans won and secured a long time ago vindicated in an American court. He assumed that officials who take an oath of office would be on the same side of the American people.

Later in 2008, after the Supreme Court handed down the Heller ruling, Dick Heller created the Heller Foundation. He then paired with the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation in order to promote “a world where arms and self-defense rights are considered as essential to human life as food and water.” In such a capacity, on November 2, he signed on to an amicus brief filed by Larry Pratt and the organization he founded, Gun Owners of America, in a lawsuit that challenged the federal machine gun ban (passed as part of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act). [Hollis v. Lynch]. Gun Owners of America argued that that possession of machine guns by Americans is compatible with the Second Amendment and that the amendment is not about not about hunting or target shooting, but about self-defense against individuals and/or the state. The amicus brief characterized machine guns as “the lineal descendants of founding-era firearms” fulfilling the ultimate purpose of the Second Amendment, “to allow the people to take up effective arms against a tyrant.” On June 30, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued its unanimous opinion upholding the federal machine-gun ban.

What can we expect in the post-Heller and post-McDonald era with respect to gun rights? I think Robert Levy said it best: “Some weapons can be regulated, some people can be regulated, and some circumstances can be regulated. Battles over defining those circumstances will be going on for a long time.”

 

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REFERENCES:

Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.” 2011, W.W. Norton & Company, NYC.

Don B. Kates Jr, “Why a Civil Libertarian Opposes Gun Control,” Civil Liberties Review 3 (June/July and Aug./Sept. 1976).

Don B. Kates, Jr. “Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment,” 82 Michigan Law Review (MICH. L. REV.) 204-273 (1983).   Referenced: http://www.constitution.org/2ll/2ndschol/57mich.pdf

Robert A. Sprecher, “The Lost Amendment,” American Bar Association Journal 51 (1965).

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769).

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833).

Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms (1994); pp. 31–53.

Dumbauld, The Bill of Rights and What It Means Today (1957); pg. 51.

William Rawle, A View of the Constitution of the United States of America (1825); pg. 122.

Supreme Court Opinion: District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf

Complaint: Parker v. District of Columbia (2003), in the District Court for the District of Columbia – https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/gunsuit.pdf

Mark Obbie, “He Won the Supreme Court Case That Transformed Gun Rights. But Dick Heller Is a Hard Man to Please,” The Trace, March 20, 2016. Referenced at: https://www.thetrace.org/2016/03/dick-heller-second-amendment-hero-abolish-gun-regulation/

Diane Rufino, “The History of the Second Amendment Teaches Us its Meaning and Intent (Liberal Judges and Professors Do Not),” January 14, 2019.

Diane Rufino, “Making Sense of the Meaning and Intent of the Second Amendment: It’s Not Difficult Folks!,” May 23, 2017. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2017/05/25/making-sense-of-the-meaning-and-intent-of-the-second-amendment-its-not-hard-folks/

“Post Heller Jurisprudence,” Congressional Research Service, Updated March 25, 2019. Reference:   https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44618.pdf

DVD: “In Search of the Second Amendment (A Documentary),” produced and directed by David T. Hardy (2006). Second Amendment Films LLC

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 US 742 (2010)

“North Carolina’s Ratification,” US Constitution – https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_nc.html

Resolutions of the Provincial Congress of Virginia (Patrick Henry) regarding the militia, March 23, 1775 – http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/res_cong_va_1775.asp

George Mason, the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Referenced at: http://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/varights.cfm

Virginia’s Ratification of the Constitution, Elliott’s Debates (June 25, 1788) – http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol3/june25/

The proposed amendments to the Bill of Rights submitted by the State of Virginia (June 27, 1788) – http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol3/june27/

 

APPENDIX:

THE ROOTS OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT (taken from Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.” 2011, W.W. Norton & Company, NYC; pp. 99-105, and Diane Rufino, “The History of the Second Amendment Teaches Us its Meaning and Intent (Liberal Judges and Professors Do Not),” January 14, 2019].

The roots of the Second Amendment go back to the days of feudal/medieval England, to the Militia laws. Men in England, and sometimes even teen boys were required by law to have firearms and to be trained in their use should the King need to call up a militia. Henry VIII, who reigned from 1509 – 1547, lowered the age of the males required to be trained to use guns. Under his rule, fathers were required to train their sons from age 7 and older in the use of firearms. “Bring them up in shooting!” The King had no standing army and therefore the Militia Laws were very important. Citizens could be called up at any time by the King to form the militia and so they had to always be in a state of readiness. In other words, citizens had a DUTY to keep and bear arms.

One hundred fifty (150) years later, in 1689, with the English Bill of Rights, this medieval “duty” to keep and bear arms became an “indubitable right.” (aka, an unquestioned right, a non-disputed right, a fundamental right, an inherent right). And the English Bill of Rights was a direct precursor or template to our US Bill of Rights.

How did this all happen?

Gun ownership transformed into a “right” during the tumultuous 17th century in England, and for understandable reasons. The transformation arose out of a conflict between King Charles I and Parliament. [Remember, Parliament is the so-called “people’s house; this is one of the rights the people wanted King John to recognize in the Magna Carta. If they were to be taxed, they wanted to have representation in those decisions]. Parliament refused to tax the people to provide the funding for the wars that Charles wanted to fight and so Charles disbanded the Parliament. He did so several times. He went on to tax the people himself, obviously violating their right to representation. Eventually, in 1642, civil war broke out and certain members of Parliament (called a “rump” Parliament), led by Oliver Cromwell, brought charges against Charles for high treason. He was captured, tried, and beheaded in 1649. His sons, the future King Charles II and King James II had fled to France at the time. At this point the monarchy was abolished and a republic established (the commonwealth of England).

After Cromwell died and his son took over, rather than stability in England, there was mass chaos. The people, out of sheer desperation, asked Charles II to come back to England, assert his right to the throne, and rule, which he did. The monarchy was restored. But what did Charles come home to? He returned to a country that turned on his father; a country that beheaded him. He also returned to a country that was very well-armed. Almost immediately, he sought to disarm the subjects and control the bearing of arms. He instituted serious gun control measures, both on individuals and on manufacturers. Gun manufacturers had to report to the King how many guns they manufactured each week and who purchased them. There were controls on the importing of guns, licenses were required for subjects who needed to move weapons around the countryside, and subjects had to report if they were traveling with a firearm. In the year 1660, King Charles II issued a series of orders to disarm those citizens that he deemed were – or would be – political opponents. One particular act that Parliament passed, in 1662, was especially repugnant. It was the Militia Act of 1662 and it gave militia officers the power to disarm anyone they believed was likely to be an opponent of the Crown. And at first, the Act was actively enforced. In 1671, Parliament passed the Game Act, which proved to be the greatest control over ownership of firearms that England ever had. The Game Act listed a whole host of weapons that were prohibited for hunting, and at the head of that list was guns !

Charles II died and having produced no heirs, he was succeeded by his brother James II. James II was a Roman Catholic, which concerned a lot of people, most of whom were Protestant (they believed Catholics were agents of the Pope, who they suspected of still trying to regain influence over the English kingdom.). But that was tolerated because he had no sons and his two grown daughters (Mary and Anne) were both Protestants; there seemed no threat that he would re-establish Catholicism in England. [Diane Rufino, “The History of the Second Amendment Teaches Us its Meaning and Intent (Liberal Judges and Professors Do Not),” January 14, 2019].

Within months of King James II’s ascension, two rebellions were launched to attempt to topple him from the throne. James was able to suppress them easily, but the experience led him to conclude that he needed a sizeable standing army to protect him from future rebellions. He also thought that he would be better served by an army that included some friendly Catholics. Even though it was against the law, he appointed Catholics to positions of authority within the military. The Archbishop of Canterbury, one of the most important figures in England, petitioned James to reconsider some of his policies but James responded by imprisoning him in the Tower of London. When members of Parliament objected to his conduct, James turned around and suspended Parliament for the rest of his reign. He was within his recognized authority as King to do so, but the controversial move inspired his opponents to plot to have his reign end prematurely. [Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” pg. 100]

To lower the risk of a rebellion, James decided to take advantage of certain laws that were passed before his reign, particularly the Militia Act of 1664 and the Game Act of 1671, to confiscate as many firearms from potential political opponents as he could. The Militia Act of 1664 authorized the King’s deputies to seize the weapons of anyone deemed to be “dangerous to the Peace of the Kingdom.” To James, that meant all Protestants, who comprised 98% of the English population. He ordered gunsmiths to deliver up lists of all gun purchasers and the guns purchased. He used the Game Act of 1671, which, in the name of protecting wild animals from over-hunting, barred gun possession by anyone “not having Lands and Tenements of clear yearly value of one hundred pounds,” to disarm commoners. In other words, gun ownership would be limited to a certain class of subjects. [Ibid, pp. 101] According to the historical record, the orders were apparently not carried out. But the actions of the King to disarm his subjects certainly arose concern and fear among the people of England.

In 1688, James’ wife gave birth to a son, alarming Protestants. Since a son would be heir to the throne, the threat of a Catholic dynasty was all of a sudden a very real possibility. James’ 26-year-old daughter Mary was among those who suspected that the newborn was not even James’ child. Her husband, William of Orange, who was Dutch, shared her suspicions. Personally, he had aspirations of sitting on the English throne. It was finally in 1688 that the English people had had enough. A group of eminent English noblemen who were determined that James needed to be removed from power invited William and Mary to England and suggested that they form an army to help them should they need it. With Dutch soldiers, William launched an attack, and James, who lacked any solid support from either the people of England or even his own army (or from Parliament) was forced to abandon the throne. With barely a fight, James fled to France, abdicating his throne in favor of his daughter and her husband – William and Mary. In early 1689, the Parliament anointed William and Mary as joint sovereigns. They would rule as King and Queen together… but there would be conditions. [Ibid, pp. 101]

To scholars of English history, the toppling of King James II became known as the Glorious Revolution (or Bloodless Revolution). What made the revolution so glorious was not just that James was forced to flee and that Protestants returned to power without much bloodshed, but that the English people finally had a chance to secure their rights and liberties in a more permanent document. As a condition to being offered the throne, William and Mary had to agree to abide by the laws of Parliament and exercise only limited, rather than absolute, power. They also had to promise to respect the individual rights of Englishman – rights that were initially petitioned for in the Magna Carta of 1215, re-presented in further petitions, and codified, finally, on December 16, 1869, in what was called the English Bill of Rights. [Ibid, pp. 102]

The English Bill of Rights proclaimed that James had violated “the Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom.” By imprisoning people like the Archbishop for merely complaining about the king’s edicts, James had trampled on the right of Englishmen to petition the government for redress of their grievances. By arresting people for no lawful reason, he had violated the rights of Englishmen to due process of law. “By causing several good Subjects, being Protestants, to be disarmed,” he had ignored “true, ancient, and indubitable rights.” The English Bill of Rights reaffirmed the importance of these rights, including a provision on personal weapons. “Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.” [Ibid, pp. 102]

In the years after the Glorious Revolution, the right of English Protestants to have guns was recognized as an individual right – a right related to self-defense self-protection, and not a right related to the duty to serve in militias. Indeed, by 1688, and enshrined in the Bill of Rights of 1689, the duty to be armed became a right. One of the rights of Englishmen became the right to have arms for self-defense and to resist a tyrannical king (or government). [Diane Rufino, “The History of the Second Amendment Teaches Us its Meaning and Intent (Liberal Judges and Professors Do Not)”]

William Blackstone, the 18th century jurist whose Commentaries on the Laws of England are still cited today as the authoritative account of old English law, described the English Bill of Rights as recognizing “the right of having and using guns for self-preservation and defense.” The right to have arms, he wrote, was “an auxiliary right necessary to preserve the basic rights of man: personal security, personal liberty, and private property.” English court cases from the 1700’s were in agreement. Judges, like those in the 1744 case of Malloch v. Eastly, repeatedly recognized that it was “settled and determined” law that “a man may keep a gun for the defense of his house and family.” [Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” pg. 102]

Between 1603 and 1776, the rights of Englishmen became the rights of Americans. In 1661, with the constant threat of hostile Indians and hostile French and Dutch settlers, the colony of Virginia required all able-bodied men to have firearms and be trained monthly in their use. Each county had chief militia officer.

As relations with Great Britain began to deteriorate, especially after the Boston Tea Party and the punishing response by the King and Parliament with the Intolerable Acts [which shut down Boston Harbor, abolished the Massachusetts colonial government, installed a British General (General Gage) and his redcoats in its place, and established the Quartering Act], the colonists began to collect firearms and stockpile gunpowder and artillery. And not just in Massachusetts. Word was spreading among the colonies of the growing tyranny by the King.

It appeared the British Crown once again was planning to disarm political opponents.

One of the measures planned was the confiscation of colonial guns by order of the King. In 1774, King George III ordered that all exports of firearms and ammunition to the colonies cease. And the next year, he ordered British Commanders to disarm certain provinces, especially in the North. Boston, for example, was put under military occupation and General Gage was tasked to disarm the most unruly colony of all – Massachusetts.

By 1774, being made commander-in-chief of all British forces in the New World, Gage was the most powerful man in the America. When he learned from one of his many “spies” that spring that the colonists (which he termed “rebels”) were secretly stockpiling guns and ammunition in an arsenal located in nearby Concord, Gage ordered 700 troops, on April 19, 1775, to seize the arsenal (seize the weapons and destroy the ammunition). The night before, Paul Revere set on his famous midnight ride to warn the people that the British were coming to take their guns. He didn’t cry out “The British are coming, the British are coming,” as legend has it; rather, he had to whisper the message to trusted friends only for the outskirts of Boston were filled with loyalists. (Luckily there were other riders because Revere ended up being captured by the Redcoats. He was released but they kept his horse). On their way to Concord, the troops passed through Lexington where they encountered a small group of colonial militiamen. The Redcoats and the colonial militiamen stood face-to-face on Lexington Green on the morning of the 19th. A shot went off (no one knows how it happened), but the response was immediate. Shots rang out and an armed conflict between England and Massachusetts had begun. The revolution had begun.

It appeared that complete disarmament of the colonies would be inevitable.

Virginians began to stockpile their ammunition in Williamsburg, in anticipation that British troops would come to subjugate them as well. A general alarm was spreading among the colonies – fueled by men like Samuel Adams and John Hancock, Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine – that the British were removing gunpowder from the public stock in order to render the colonists unable to resist the Crown… just as King Charles II and King James II had done to their subjects approximately 100 years ago in England. It was this general alarm that prompted Patrick Henry to introduce resolutions at a secret meeting of the colonial legislature to raise up the militia in every county and train them as quickly as possible. He believed so strongly that this was necessary that he gave that impassioned speech we all associate with him – “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry was right, war was coming. And he was also right about the intent of the British to disarm the colonies. Just weeks after his famous speech at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia’s royal governor ordered British sailors to raid the armory at Williamsburg and to take the gunpowder back aboard their ships, which they did.

Thus, the American revolution started over our RIGHT to keep and bear arms. Tensions with Great Britain may have started over the right not to be taxed without representation in Parliament (the body from which such taxing measures arose), but the actual revolution itself erupted over the actions of the Crown to disarm the people.

So, the colonies won their independence, and the next step was to form a common government and our Bill of Rights. How did we get the language of our Second Amendment and what does it mean? First of all, our Founding Fathers borrowed liberally from the English Bill of Rights, including the right to Petition Government in the First Amendment, the right of Due Process in the Fifth Amendment, and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in the Second Amendment. These were rights that they enjoyed and held dear as Englishmen and believed traveled with them to the New World.

Looking at the Constitutions and Bills of Right of our original 13 states, there were at least three colonial models to address the right to arms:

The Virginia Declaration of Rights read: “That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state….”

The Pennsylvania Declaration of Rights read: “The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state.”

The Massachusetts Bill of Rights read: “The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defense.”

We can see the two views of our Second Amendment embodied in these colonial Bills of Rights.

Fast-forward to the US Constitution and the ratification process whereby the states were debating whether to adopt it. New York ratified it, but only conditionally – conditioned on the addition of a Bill of Rights. Virginia narrowly ratified it, but those against its adoption, most notably Patrick Henry, held all the power in state government. They were going to call for another Constitutional Convention to alter Madison’s Constitution, and they were going to appoint all anti-Federalists to the US Senate and draw up Congressional district maps to ensure all anti-Federalists were elected to the first US House. Madison, who wanted to be seated in that first government, would be shut out. The state legislature, with Henry wielding great power, had already denied him an appointment to the Senate (this was before the 17th amendment) Eventually, Madison made a compromise. If he were elected to the first US House, he promised to introduce a Bill of Rights for the States.

In fact, his state of Virginia had proposed a Bill of Rights for the new constitution, including a precursor to our Second Amendment, which included language from all three colonial models – Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

On June 8, 1789, in the first US House, James Madison made true on his promise and he introduced a set of amendments to add a Bill of Rights to our Constitution. His Second Amendment read: “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.”

The first Congress shortened Madison’s proposal so that it read: “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.”

The important thing to note in this historical review is that the Second Amendment is actually two separate thoughts. It was the conscious and intentional design of our Founders to express the right to arms in the broadest terms possible, to be understood in its broadest sense.  [Diane Rufino, “The History of the Second Amendment Teaches Us its Meaning and Intent (Liberal Judges and Professors Do Not)”].

References:

Diane Rufino, “The History of the Second Amendment Teaches Us its Meaning and Intent (Liberal Judges and Professors Do Not),” January 14, 2019.

DVD: “In Search of the Second Amendment (A Documentary),” produced and directed by David T. Hardy (2006). Second Amendment Films LLC

Diane Rufino, “Making Sense of the Meaning and Intent of the Second Amendment: It’s Not Difficult Folks!,” May 23, 2017. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2017/05/25/making-sense-of-the-meaning-and-intent-of-the-second-amendment-its-not-hard-folks/

Adam Winkler, “Gun Fight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America.” 2011, W.W. Norton & Company, NYC.

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Rejection of the Electoral College is the Surest Path to the Destruction of This Country

ELECTORAL COLLEGE - sign

by Traci Griggs (NC Family Policy Matters, April 18, 2019), with an intro by Diane Rufino, May 28, 2019

Rejection of the Electoral College is the Surest Path to the Destruction of this Country.

It seems fewer and fewer Americans understand and appreciate our very unique system of government. For example, how many times have you heard someone refer to our country as a “democracy” ? Our Founders, as I’m sure we Tea Partiers know, intentionally rejected such a system of government in favor of a constitutional republic. And how many times recently have we heard Democrats and Progressives push to abolish the Electoral System, citing that such a system is not democratic? We should recognize this movement for what it truly is – the surest way to wrangle our country from its conservative moorings and to head quickly on the path to overbearing big government and socialism (massive re-distribution of wealth). It is the surest way to put our government in the hands of those who devalue freedom (because only a person who doesn’t value freedom or who doesn’t care to live free wants government to take care of him) and hence to pursue policies to limit it to everyone.

America’s Founding Fathers designed very specific guidelines for our system of government and protected them by placing them in the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Adam Carrington, an assistant professor of Politics at Hillsdale College Graduate School of Statesmanship, was interviewed by Ms. Traci Griggs, Director of Communications at the NC Family Policy Council, on its show Family Policy Matters to talk about the Electoral College and what will happen if states dare to break from this critical tradition. To be clear, the Electoral College is so very vital to the ideal of our country being a “union” of states premised on the notion that the government serves each state and each state’s interests equally.

The topic of the interview (the podcast in available) is “The Dangers of Breaking From Our Constitution.”

TRACI GRIGGS: Let’s start with a topic that seems to be popping up a lot lately. There is somewhat of a groundswell among some to do away with the Electoral College. Before we discuss whether or not that’s a good thing, it might be very helpful if you would give us a quick history lesson on the Electoral College—what is it, how does it work and why did the Founding Fathers think it was so important to include it in our Constitution?

ADAM CARRINGTON: That’s a great place to start. What it is, is simply the way we choose the President of the United States. How it’s set up is that each state in the United States is given electoral votes, which are equal to how many Congressmen it has; if you have 14 House members, two Senators, you’d have 16 electoral votes. We now have 538 of those total distributed through the United States and the District of Columbia. Each state then selects electors who meet together to choose the president. That’s the same as the number of electoral votes they have, and whatever candidate gets a majority of those electoral votes across the country wins the presidency. That’s why people are always talking about 270 now. That’s 50 percent plus one of all of the electoral votes across all the states in the country.

And why was it included? Why didn’t we do another system? In some ways it was a compromise at the Constitutional Convention between legislative selection—having Congress select the president, and popular vote—having the people do it as a whole. And what it was seen as was the best of both of those and avoiding the worst of both of those, that it would include like popular election, the consent of the people, and like Congress, a special body selected by the people with the character and knowledge to make an informed decision. And that’s why they thought it was so important to pick the chief executive of the United States, for those reasons.

TRACI GRIGGS: People complain that the Electoral College undermines the idea of “one person, one vote.” It really does do that, doesn’t it?

ADAM CARRINGTON: It does in the strict sense, but I think if we’re going to take the wisdom of the Founders as a whole, we’ll see many other structures in the Constitution do that too. Ex: the Senate, lifetime appointment of judges. But the Founders thought that there was more to a good and just regime than “one person, one vote.” They wanted consent of the governed, but they wanted consent for the purpose of protecting everyone’s equal natural rights, and they understood that all human beings are fallible and a majority can be tyrannical and bad, just like one or a few people can be. So what they wanted to do was respect consent of the governed, but channel that decision so that it was reasonable, and channel it in such a way so that when the people choose, they choose in the best way possible. Just like we often constrained the way we choose to make our choices better, that’s what they tried to do with this system, because it wasn’t just what choice we made, it’s how we made that choice that mattered to them.

TRACI GRIGGS: Interestingly, about a dozen states have passed laws that would give their Electoral College votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. So that’s regardless of how their particular state voted. Now those laws can’t go into effect unless enough states pass similar laws, but give us some perspective on just how dramatic a change that would be for American elections.

ADAM CARRINGTON: I think it would change fundamentally how we look at the elections for president and how states, or campaigns look at them as well. There’d be a massive change first in campaigning. There’d be less of a focus on states, much more of a focus on population centers or media markets, getting out your kind of voter or wherever they are, and to some degree, ignoring voters that aren’t in your camp and others, and more therefore a focus on those questions. I think from other people looking at these elections, not just the campaigners, there would be the elimination of something we spend so much time looking at, which our state polls, maybe we would have regional polls, but I think the bigger focus would be on where are the big population centers going? What are they doing? It would nationalize the campaign and eliminate the state centric focus of it in a way that we’ve never seen given Electoral College’s focus on the states.

TRACI GRIGGS: Would you consider this to be a good change or bad change?

ADAM CARRINGTON: I think that there are a lot of drawbacks to it because I think that the nature of a more state-centered campaign actually forces candidates much more to appeal to broader arrays of voters. Now, people complain that they only campaign in swing states, but those swing states force them to appeal to voters within those states and other places that are less like them than, I think, they would if they had to just run up vote totals nationally. I think it creates a kind of moderating influence that makes the different candidates less partisan and more conducive to the public good. We often say we’re too partisan now. I think that would be much worse if we had just a pure national popular vote.

TRACI GRIGGS: Okay, let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about our courts. From your understanding of history, do you feel like it is getting tougher for our judicial nominees these days? Are they being more unfairly scrutinized or attacked today than they were in previous years?

ADAM CARRINGTON: I think two things have happened that both result in saying yes to that. One, I think the importance of the courts has skyrocketed as other branches, such as Congress, have abdicated a lot of power as there’ve been more battles between the Executive and the Judiciary. I think that has caused the courts to be seen as much more important than they were in the past. The other is that so much of our lives are now recorded and able to be scrutinized. Much less of our lives are secret and much less of a public person’s life is secret. And when you put those two together, I think yes, judges today—and potential Supreme Court Justices—are under much more scrutiny than in the past.

TRACI GRIGGS: Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has decided to employ the “nuclear option,” he says, to dramatically reduce the amount of debate time for many judicial nominees. Do you feel this would damage the integrity of this process? What effect would it have?

ADAM CARRINGTON: I think if it was done out of any other context, it would be—the Senate should be a place where there should be extra protections for debate—but it doesn’t come without a context. I think that context really shows that it’s more of a result of a damaged process, not a damaging of the process. Debate is meant to deliberate and refine one’s choice. Really, what it’s being used for now is obstruction and to stop the process. And I think if we could restore the original purpose of having unlimited debate, which is to have good deliberation and a good process for making choices for judges, then we shouldn’t have those limits. But as long as it’s going to be used, by really both sides when they’re in the minority, to obstruct, I think that steps need to be taken to make sure that the debate has an endpoint, so the purpose of a real debate is fulfilled, which is to choose in the end.

TRACI GRIGGS: You mentioned that we put a lot more emphasis on our Supreme Court Justices right now, and some have suggested that the next president of the United States might move to increase the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Many people may not realize that number is not set in stone. So why do we have nine justices?

ADAM CARRINGTON: Really, tradition. We originally only had six and we’ve had nine since 1869. It changed a lot between the founding in 1869, and I think there were a couple reasons we’ve kept that. One is the uneven number allows every case to have a definitive decision. You don’t have ties. I think that number was seen as reasonable, that nine justices is a good amount to divide up the workload of opinion writing and research. Also, that it wasn’t so big that the judges couldn’t deliberate and discuss together how they interpret the law. But I think also it’s where it is now because more and more people came to see changing the court regularly as too nakedly partisan for a court you want to be above partisanship and apply the law in a neutral way, regardless of who the litigants are, regardless of what the judge’s opinions are. The more you move the numbers of the Court around, the more that institution is seen as something much more nakedly political then the Constitution imagined it to be.

TRACI GRIGGS: So how much concern do you have that some of the brightest shining stars in politics seem to have very little understanding of the Constitution, of basic economics, international relations, and yet have a huge following. Is this a concern to you going forward in politics and in our nation?

ADAM CARRINGTON: Certainly! And it’s not just because it’s my job to hopefully teach people that are better informed on this. But it’s the idea that if we believe that this document is on one hand, our governing document and on the second, that it’s a wise governing document, then for people who are supposed to be elected under it and supposed to follow it, to not do so is doubly bad. It’s bad because it means we are not really following the rule of law of our supreme law of the land. And it also means that we’re not following the wisest path that the Founders set out, and following some lesser path. And I think that it shows a kind of illiteracy, not just among those who are being elected, but sadly among a number of people that are electing, that right standards of the justice and process the Constitution sets up is not front and center and not something that’s disqualifying when our elected officials show ignorance of it.

TRACI GRIGGS: For those of us who are listening and who may think to themselves either: I forgotten a lot of things, or I was never taught very well all these principles from our Constitution and by our Founding Fathers, what kind of suggestions would you have for people listening who might want to—at whatever age they are—learn some things so that they can go forward with this wisdom that you mentioned.

ADAM CARRINGTON: I would make a couple suggestions. One is just read the Constitution for yourself. It was written as a document of the people, by the people, for the people, and so don’t be intimidated by it. You can understand it as an American citizen. Second, I would point to actually there’s lots of resources online for reading what the Founders thought. Read something like the Federalist Papers. They were written to defend the Constitution. They were written as op-eds for newspapers. So they are, again, meant for the people to understand and discuss. And then third, I’d point to where I work, Hillsdale College. We have an array of online courses that are free, where our goal is civic education, including a U.S. Constitution course, where we strive to make available ways that citizens can educate themselves. So I would say, every American should take this very seriously. Whatever else their career path, that they are a citizen all the time. There are these resources out there that would allow us to exercise our sovereignty as the sovereign people in a much more full and informed way.

TRACI GRIGGS: Excellent. I would highly recommend your Constitution 101 online course. That’s a very good resource. I know from personal experience.

Dr. Carrington, thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters today, and for all that you do to educate future generations of American citizens to know and understand the uniqueness of this great country.

ADAM CARRINGTON: Thank you. It’s humbling to do it, and an honor and pleasure too.

 

Reference:  https://www.ncfamily.org/the-dangers-of-breaking-from-our-constitution/

Democrats Continue to Devolve the US into an Evil, Heartless, and Uncivilized Nation

 

ABORTION - late-term abortion

(Photo Credit: Robert Valencia)

by Diane Rufino, March 1, 2019

This past Monday, February 25, US Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill – The BORN-ALIVE ABORTION SURVIVORS PROTECTION ACT – that would have threatened prison time for doctors who don’t attempt to save the lives of infants born alive during failed abortions.

Why are Democrats openly embracing infanticide? What demons do they have whispering in their ears? What devil sits on their shoulders? What evil master do they serve?

All prominent Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls in the Senate voted down the measure, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The final vote was 53-44 to end Democratic delaying tactics — seven votes short of the 60 needed.

Three Democrats joined Republicans to support the bill — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Doug Jones or Alabama. Three Republicans did not vote, apparently because of scheduling issues and plane flight delays — including Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Tim Scott of South Carolina (a HUGE proponent of Life).

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act would have required that “any health care practitioner present” at the time of a birth “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

To most people, it is a no-brainer that a doctor or other health-care professional should preserve the life and health of a newborn. Am I wrong to believe that the medical profession still adheres to the historic oath that dates back to Greek times, the Hippocratic Oath, which states that a doctor shall seek to preserve health and preserve life, to endeavor to do no harm?  The modern version of the oath includes this statement: “Above all, I must never play God.”

Ironically, one classical version of the Hippocratic Oath addresses abortion: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”

Last week, I watched the 2018 movie GOSNELL: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer with members of my Tea Party group. The movie chronicles the investigation by Philadelphia Police and the DEA of Kermit Gosnell, the infamous abortion doctor who operated an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, and his subsequent trial. Initially investigated for overprescribing OxyContin (oxycodone; an opioid derivative of heroin), a raid on his clinic uncovered horrors beyond description. He was charged with eight counts of murder, 24 felony counts of performing illegal abortions beyond the state of Pennsylvania’s 24-week time limit (“viability”), and 227 misdemeanor counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law (patients must wait 24 hours after proper consultation by the clinic). The murder charges related to a woman who died following an abortion procedure, and seven newborns who were killed by having their spinal cords severed with scissors after being born alive during attempted abortions. Surprisingly, the defense was able to mount an extraordinary defense of Gosnell and his practices, including an admonition by the judge that nothing asserted in the courtroom would be allowed to contradict a woman’s abortion rights. Towards the end of the trial, the prosecution was able to locate a young girl (in her teens) who worked at the clinic and who happened to take pictures of the babies who had their spinal cords severed by Dr. Gosnell.  When asked on the stand why she took the pictures, the girl responded to the effect that the babies were so big and so perfect and they looked like they should have been welcomed into a family, with brothers and sisters. She thought there should have been some record, a picture, to acknowledge their existence. Those pictures were shown to the jury, and one by one, their hearts melted and they looked down or began to sob.  Why? Because they inherently connected with the humanity in a newborn and even in a full-term fetus. Dr. Gosnell had committed atrocities that shocked their conscience. My suspicion is that they may have been convinced by the defense to overlook the successful abortions of a full-term fetus, but to take that additional step with callousness and without regard to the life on the medical table in front of him, struggling to move and breathe, wanting to be warm and cradled and comforted and kissed and loved, and take its life was an act of pure evil.

Inherently, we value life and we act under the teachings of compassion and care that our religion has impressed on us, even at some point in our lives.

The sad and tragic thing about this law is that it even needed to be introduced at all.  Providing medical attention and care to a newborn, even if it is a product of a failed abortion attempt, is the natural, the right, the intuitive thing to do.  How can those who would want medical care for themselves have the right to decide to deny it to others?  A life is a life.  It’s not defined by number of years but by DNA and breath and a beating heart.  It’s defined by an instinct to survive and continue living.

After the vote, President Trump tweeted: “This will be remembered as one of the most shocking votes in the history of Congress. If there is one thing we should all agree on, it’s protecting the lives of innocent babies.”

Today the left uses the excuse that a baby inside the womb is the sole property and concern of the mother to justify its extermination. What will tomorrow’s excuse be?  Usefulness?  Competency?  Old age?

Here are my questions regarding this vote on this Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and in fact, regarding the extreme position that Democrats/liberals/progressives take on abortion rights in general:

(1)  Why do Democrats/liberals/progressives believe that abortion rights are broad and extensive enough to encompass a right to make sure that the abortion is successful, to the point that it includes infanticide?  In other words, why do Democrats/liberals/progressives believe that abortion rights are broad and extensive enough to include the right to condemn a baby born alive to be killed? The one thing the Roe v. Wade opinion seems to be clear on is that as long as the unborn is still inside a woman’s womb, it is not a life for which the Constitution or our laws can provide protection. But once that unborn has actually been born, then, as the opinion supports, that baby is now a new “life.”

(2)  The Fourteenth Amendment reads: “Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  According to the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment, any baby born, even if it is the result of a failed abortion, is a citizen and therefore a person with recognized liberty rights. If that is the case, then any person who terminates that life after birth, again even if that baby has suffered from an attempted abortion and even if that baby was intended to be condemned by the mother, is guilty not only of murder, but of intentional, premediated murder.

(3)  Democrats/liberals/progressives believe what Roe v. Wade stands for – that as long as the unborn is inside a woman’s womb, she has complete control over its destiny.  But once it emerges from the womb, even if it is the result of a failed abortion, then don’t both parents (mother AND father) have parental rights to that newborn baby?  Our child support laws would suggest so.

(4)  And if that “unwanted” baby should emerge from the womb, even if it is the result of a failed abortion, then wouldn’t that newborn baby become the ward of the state?  That is, wouldn’t the government (society in general) have the right and duty to care for it?

(5)  If all of the above are true, then how could any member of Congress, taking an oath to the Constitution, vote against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

(6)  The proper approach by government would have been to legislatively define LIFE at some point during fetal development.  (See my article “RESOLUTION to Define LIFE Through Legislation”).

To echo President Trump’s words, this vote by the US Senate “will be remembered as one of the most shocking votes in the history of Congress. If there is one thing we should all agree on, it’s protecting the lives of innocent babies.”

 

References:

“Dems Block ‘Born Alive’ Bill to Provide Medical Care to Infants Who Survive Failed Abortions,” FOX News, February 27, 2019.  Referenced at:  http://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/us-world-news/dems-block-born-alive-bill-to-provide-medical-care-to-infants-who-survive-failed-abortions#/

Diane Rufino, “RESOLUTION to Define LIFE Through Legislation,” For Love of God and Country, February 24, 2019.  Referenced:  https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2019/02/24/model-resolution-to-define-life-through-legislation/

ABORTION: Why the Supreme Court Got it Wrong in Roe v. Wade (1973)

RIGHT TO LIFE - fetus in hand (from Prevent Disease Website)

(Photo Credit – Prevent Disease website)

by Diane Rufino, February 22, 2019

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most controversial opinions in its history. It issued its opinion regarding the constitutionality of state laws banning and even criminalizing abortion. In striking down those laws, it identified a new fundamental right – the right of a woman to have an abortion, at essentially any time during her pregnancy and for whatever reason. It decided the case of Roe v. Wade.

States are allowed to regulate a wide variety of actions in the interest of protecting the people within its borders. These are the laws that are pursuant to its vast “police powers” – the power to regulate for the health, safety, welfare,, and morality of its citizens. These are the powers reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment, and the powers intended to remain with each state. Aside from these police powers (the 10th Amendment), the Constitution puts certain limits the states’ authority to regulate. One of those limits is when there is an individual liberty right at stake. (And not just any “liberty right” at that; the right at stake must have been a recognized liberty right at the time the 14th Amendment was adopted, which was 1868. For any other asserted liberty right, the Constitution would need to be amended per Article V’s amendment process. See the Appendix at the end of the article). In Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey (aka, petitioner Roe) argued that the Constitution protected her liberty to choose to have an abortion, and that that right was paramount to the state’s right to regulate abortion.
Disregarding the Court’s established jurisprudence regarding the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court agreed with McCorvey.

In a 7-2 opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, he Supreme Court declared the right to an abortion is a fundamental liberty right that the state can only limit thru regulation if that regulation furthers a very strong state interest (a “compelling state interest”) and is narrowly-tailored to achieve that interest. That is, it cannot be overbroad. The Court then went on to conclude that a woman’s liberty right in controlling whether or not she is pregnant (hence, her right to choose to have an abortion) is stronger than the state’s interest in banning abortions outright.

Justice Blackmun wrote: “[Although] the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy … the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. … This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the 14th Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the 9th Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. … We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.”

Blackmun also addressed the very controversial issue of whether a fetus is a “person” within the meaning of that word in the 14th Amendment. He continued:

“The Constitution does not define ‘person’ in so many words. … The use of the word is such that it has application only postnatally.… This persuades us that the word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn. … In areas other than criminal abortion, the law has been reluctant to endorse any theory that life, as we recognize it, begins before live birth or to accord legal rights to the unborn except in narrowly defined situations and except when the rights are contingent upon live birth. … In short, the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.”

Blackmun then summarized the “balancing of competing interests” at stake in the issue of pregnancy and abortion in what has become known as “the Trimester Test”:

“A state criminal abortion statute of the current Texas type, that excepts from criminality only a life-saving procedure on behalf of the mother without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved, is violative of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician. b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

The opinion would go on to explain that the “health of the mother” does not necessarily only mean physical health. An abortion in the third trimester can be justified for any reason related to physical health, mental health, psychological well-being, age (being too young), familial (meaning the family wants the baby aborted), or even financial well-being. Even if the woman feels stressed from the pregnancy, she would be within her right to abort her later-term baby for “health” reasons. In other words, the opinion basically established the rule that a woman’s right to an abortion always outweighs the right to life for the unborn. Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has stood for the legal principle that a woman can have an abortion at any point in her pregnancy for any reason whatsoever, and neither the federal government nor any state can place any pre-conditions or restrictions on a woman’s right to that abortion. In other words, Roe assures women the right to an abortion on demand.

The infamous Roe decision (and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton) was the opinion of 7 out of 9 members of the court. Two justices dissented – Justice Byron White and Justice William Rehnquist. Justice White believed the Court created a new right not envisioned by the Constitution and both he and Justice Rehnquist believed the question of abortion was a state matter covered by the 10th Amendment.

Justice White wrote, in his dissenting opinion:

At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons — convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical advisor willing to undertake the procedure.

The Court, for the most part, sustains this position: During the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus; the Constitution, therefore, guarantees the right to an abortion as against any state law or policy seeking to protect the fetus from an abortion not prompted by more compelling reasons of the mother.

With all due respect, I dissent. I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. he Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries. Whether or not I might agree with that marshaling of values, I can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States. I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it. This issue, for the most part, should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.

It is my view, therefore, that the Texas statute is not constitutionally infirm because it denies abortions to those who seek to serve only their convenience, rather than to protect their life or health. Nor is this plaintiff, who claims no threat to her mental or physical health, entitled to assert the possible rights of those women whose pregnancy assertedly implicates their health. This, together with United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. 62 (1971), dictates reversal of the judgment of the District Court.

Justice Rehnquist dissented with these views:

I have difficulty in concluding, as the Court does, that the right of “privacy” is involved in this case. Texas, by the statute here challenged, bars the performance of a medical abortion by a licensed physician on a plaintiff such as Roe. A transaction resulting in an operation such as this is not “private” in the ordinary usage of that word. Nor is the “privacy” that the Court finds here even a distant relative of the freedom from searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which the Court has referred to as embodying a right to privacy. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967).

If the Court means by the term “privacy” no more than that the claim of a person to be free from unwanted state regulation of consensual transactions may be a form of “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, there is no doubt that similar claims have been upheld in our earlier decisions on the basis of that liberty. I agree with the statement of Mr. Justice Stewart in his concurring opinion that the “liberty,” against deprivation of which without due process the Fourteenth Amendment protects, embraces more than the rights found in the Bill of Rights. But that liberty is not guaranteed absolutely against deprivation, only against deprivation without due process of law. The test traditionally applied in the area of social and economic legislation is whether or not a law such as that challenged has a rational relation to a valid state objective. Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 491 (1955). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment undoubtedly does place a limit, albeit a broad one, on legislative power to enact laws such as this. If the Texas statute were to prohibit an abortion even where the mother’s life is in jeopardy, I have little doubt that such a statute would lack a rational relation to a valid state objective under the test stated in Williamson, supra. But the Court’s sweeping invalidation of any restrictions on abortion during the first trimester is impossible to justify under that standard, and the conscious weighing of competing factors that the Court’s opinion apparently substitutes for the established test is far more appropriate to a legislative judgment than to a judicial one.

The fact that a majority of the States reflecting, after all, the majority sentiment in those States, have had restrictions on abortions for at least a century is a strong indication, it seems to me, that the asserted right to an abortion is not “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental,” Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934). Even today, when society’s views on abortion are changing, the very existence of the debate is evidence that the “right” to an abortion is not so universally accepted as the appellant would have us believe.

To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment. As early as 1821, the first state law dealing directly with abortion was enacted by the Connecticut Legislature.  By the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, there were at least 36 laws enacted by state or territorial legislatures limiting abortion. While many States have amended or updated their laws, 21 of the laws on the books in 1868 remain in effect today. Indeed, the Texas statute struck down today was, as the majority notes, first enacted in 1857 and “has remained substantially unchanged to the present time.

There apparently was no question concerning the validity of this provision or of any of the other state statutes when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted. The only conclusion possible from this history is that the drafters did not intend to have the Fourteenth Amendment withdraw from the States the power to legislate with respect to this matter.

And, as the 10th Amendment states so clearly, “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.” The power to regulate for the safety, health, welfare, and morality of its people are the so-called “Police Powers” reserved by each state under the 10th Amendment. Because the power to regulate abortions was not prohibited to the States under the Constitution or by the 14th Amendment, the power continues to reside with the state. [We are, of course, referring to abortions that aren’t absolutely medically necessary on account of rape or incest or to preserve the life or physical health of the mother; we are referring to the types of abortions that Roe and Doe filed suit for, and the types of abortions that our sexually-active and adventurous progressive/liberal population, which are merely and essentially for convenience].

The Roe v. Wade decision has resulted in the deaths of over 60 million children since that infamous January date.

Liberals and progressives, fearing that a right-leaning Supreme Court may try to limit a woman’s right to an abortion, have taken to their state legislatures to protect that right. And in many cases, as we are witnessing, they are doing so that would probably even offend the Roe court. States like New York and Virginia and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia are pursuing “late-term” abortion bills that essentially remove any meaningful state interest in the life of the unborn such that a woman can terminate her pregnancy at any point, even killing her living unborn. New York has already passed its law – the mis-named Reproductive Health Act, and the others no doubt will soon follow.

As horrible, as horrific, as heinous, as unconscionable as these laws sound, they are perfectly compliant with the Roe v. Wade opinion. That is the sad reality.

These “late-term abortion” laws show just how broad, and how cruel and insidious the Roe decision was (is).

The truth is that 31 states have relaxed abortion laws. At one time North Carolina had a fairly relaxed abortion law, but over the years, the state has exercised its interest in the life of the unborn. Currently, it is seeking to prevent any abortion after 13 weeks, except when the woman’s attending physician is able to explain why an abortion is needed to prevent risk of death to the mother or other medical emergency. 23 states permit a later-term abortion “for the life and health of the mother,” which essentially means that a woman can terminate her pregnancy at any time for any reason, since the Supreme Court has interpreted “health” to mean any number of things – physical, emotional, psychological, financial, familial, because of stigma, and for age or for stress. These 23 states are: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Compare this relaxed standard to the more strict one, which permits a woman to have a later-term abortion only if is necessary “for life and physical health of the mother.” Sixteen (16) states have this more strict standard – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. There are 3 states that allow a full-term baby to be directly killed, but only if the pregnancy poses a direct risk to the mother’s life. Those states are Idaho, Michigan, and Rhode Island.

Now, take special note of these particular states: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont. They don’t even require the pretense of a “health” reason for women to abort their full-term babies. In those 7 states, there are no bans at all on abortion at any stage. Those states are virtual killing fields. As Laurie Higgins wrote in the Illinois Family Institute: “It’s open season on babies who, through no fault of their own, have the misfortune of being conceived in the wrong womb.”

Just to drive home how barbaric a late-term abortion is – the kind of abortion just legalized in New York and the kind that Virginia expressly wanted to legalize, here is how a former abortionist describes the procedure:

“The baby is injected with a poison directly into his skull or torso. He then suffers a hideously painful death, which he will certainly feel because of his developed nervous system. The mother carries the corpse around in her womb for a day. The next day, there is an ultrasound to check if the baby is dead. If he isn’t….. if, by some miracle he survived and has been writhing and suffering in agony for the past 24 hours clinging onto life, then he will be injected again. The following day, the mother delivers her dead child. Sometimes she delivers him at the clinic, but if she can’t make it on time, the clinic is perfectly happy to recommend that she give birth into her toilet.”

What progressives and liberals don’t want the ordinary person to know is that all states allow late-term abortions that threaten a mother’s “life” – not just her “health.” There is no life-threatening condition that would ever necessitate the direct, intentional, active killing of a baby in the womb. There are relatively rare occasions in which continuing a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, but ending a pregnancy does not require the direct, intentional, active killing of a baby. The key word here is “baby,” which means that the unborn is fully-developed or near to being fully-developed and capable of being cared for outside the womb by the mother, caregivers, or by special incubators and machines that can provide the care and protection that the mother’s womb can until term.

If there is a life-threatening condition that would necessitate the termination of a woman’s later-term, near full-term, or full-term pregnancy, the best option for doctors and for the woman is to deliver that baby. There are possible instances (such as cancer, a debilitating heart condition, toxemia, exceedingly high blood pressure, etc) when it may be necessary to remove the baby from its mother’s womb, but it is never necessary to kill him before removing him. There is no medical reason, and certainly no reasonable or moral one, to take that extra step of preemptively killing the child. Doctors can induce delivery or perform a C-section to save a woman’s life in a life-threatening or emergency situation without dismembering, crushing, burning, or chemically inducing cardiac arrest in a baby. In some induced deliveries or C-sections, babies will not survive, but that is wholly different from intentionally killing them.

The point is – the FACT is – that a delivery must happen either way. If a mother in the third trimester decides she doesn’t want or can’t have her baby inside her, she is going to have to deliver him one way or another. The only question is whether she will deliver a dead child or a living one. Giving a lethal injection to the child may be the more convenient route, but since when do we as a society put a greater value on convenience than on life itself. It certainly isn’t the necessary route.

Our options should always fall on the side of respecting and preserving life. We are the nation founded on the great truth that we are created and the moment we are created, we are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights of Life and Liberty.

God help us if we don’t change our thinking on this subject and don’t put an end to the killing fields.

Now, to be fair, most abortions are performed prior to 21 weeks of pregnancy. Agencies like the Center for Disease Control and abortion doctors themselves like to point out that the overwhelming percentage of abortions are performed up to 21 weeks. But, as I’ll make clear later, 21 weeks (which is very close to medical “viability”) does not mark the start of “life.” The fetus became a new living human being before that – being fully formed (just still very tiny) and exhibiting the functions of life (although some are still weak). Heck, a fetus has a heartbeat at around 6 weeks (although it isn’t heard well on an ultrasound until week 8). The point is that although most abortions are performed during the first half of pregnancy, a good portion of abortions are on the living; they are killing unborn babies.

The New York Reproductive Health Act has ignited a new debate on the abortion rights – specifically on the scope of the right and the fact that the Supreme Court never once considered the growing fetus/baby to be a “life,” let alone a unique life (not a clone of the mother).

You can see from the Roe decision, that by giving women an expansive, unfettered right to terminate her pregnancy (under the guise of “controlling her reproduction”), we have ushered in an era of evil. Since the abortion clinics have opened their doors, a parade of horribles has ensued. It appears that dissenting Justice Byron White summarized the majority’s opinion pretty well when he wrote: “At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons — convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical advisor willing to undertake the procedure. And the Court, for the most part, sustains this position: During the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus…” But he shouldn’t have been so kind to the majority. That last sentence should have read: “During the entire length of a pregnancy, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus.” That is exactly what the Roe decision stands for.

Because of this parade of horribles and the clear intent on the part of Democrats/progressives/liberals to of protecting this absolute right as against all those horribles, I have to believe that the Roe opinion can be re-visited for a more compassionate, moral, scientific outcome, and yes, constitutional decision.

For years, I have spoken and written about the Roe v. Wade decision (Supreme Court, January 22, 1973, announcing a fundamental right, or “liberty right” for women in aborting their unborn). I have held the opinion that the decision was perhaps incorrectly decided because its central premise was wrong. The Supreme Court, including conservative justice Antonin Scalia, made the underlying assumption that a “person” means someone who walks around, who has an independent life outside a woman’s womb. And therefore, the Court looked to the “viability” of the fetus in writing its Trimester Approach to when a woman has most control over her reproduction. The “Trimester Test” was the approach the Court used in summarizing the “balancing of competing interests” at stake in a woman’s pregnancy – the woman’s interest in controlling her reproduction and what happens in her uterus, the state’s interest in the life of the unborn, and the unborn’s right to the life it was intended to have. Sadly, the Court, in fleshing out the competing interests in its opinion, made it clear that any threat to a woman’s health in the third trimester (where typically the interests are greatest for the state and for the unborn) outweighs the interests of the other parties. And it explained that the threat need not be medical in nature. The unborn or the pregnancy itself need not pose any physical harm to her. Other types of harm justifying an abortion up until the moment of birth would include emotional, psychological, and even financial. The mere fact that the pregnancy poses stress on the woman would justify an abortion, according to the high Court. That is why Roe v. Wade stands for the general rule that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion at any time during her pregnancy, for any reason. She has an unfettered right to abort her fetus or her unborn baby….. she has a right to an abortion on demand.

Anyway, going back to my concern with the Roe v Wade opinion. I believe the Court used the wrong approach in reaching its opinion. Again, it made the general assumption that a “person” means someone who walks around, who has an independent life outside a woman’s womb. And therefore, the Court looked to the “viability” of the fetus. Viability means that the fetus has reached such a stage of development as to be capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus. Today, medical experts believe a fetus is viable at around 24 weeks (which is about halfway in the second trimester). The proper assessment should have been when the fetus becomes a “life.” We know mere conception doesn’t equate to life; it merely sets in motion what would become fetal development resulting in a fully-formed baby that the mother welcomes into the world to continue its growth and development outside the womb. We also know that life does not equate to viability because viability just asks when the baby can likely survive outside the womb. Implicit in that definition is that there is already a “life.” It just looks to see how advanced in development that life is. The unborn cannot live without the protection and life-sustenance from its mother. Similarly, a newborn also cannot live on its own, without the protection and life-sustenance from its parents or other caregiver. A life scientifically comes into being when there is a heartbeat, when the baby has its organs, and when it is nearly completely differentiated so that really all that is needed is more growth and fine-tuning of its life support systems for the outside world. Under this definition, the unborn is a “life” much earlier than viability.

“Life” = “personhood,” and it should be that simple. What kind of society are we when we go out of our way, legally, emotionally, and psychologically to strip certain groups of their personhood and therefore their rights? The most brutal of killers gets our full attention regarding his rights and his place as “a fellow human being.” But the sweetest, most gentle, the purest, and the most helpless are the ones we minimized and disregard. The 8th Amendment is supposedly a testament to our compassion as a civilized society. If that is so, what is the Roe decision and what is New York’s “late-term abortion” law? I would submit that it is a testament to our savagery and to this the most selfish, self-obsessed, and immoral society. We simply can’t justify these polar extremes of our so-called “civility.”

The key is using “life” as the key determinative is that when there is a “life,” our laws provide protection, including observance of its fundamental rights. I look to the Declaration of Independence which professes:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….

In other words, the minute an individual is created, he or she is endowed with inalienable rights, including the right to Life. Moreover, government is instituted for the primary purpose of secure those rights. It makes no difference whether that individual is 15 years old, 40 years old, 10 years old, 1 month old, or 20 weeks old. The minute it became a living being, it is understood to be entitled to the most essential of all inalienable (those attaching to our very humanity) rights. Technically, according to the words of the Declaration, the minute a new human being is created (joining of reproductive cells at conception; “conception” comes from “conceived” which means a new life, a new human being, has been conceived).

Therefore, a “person,” for purposes of our Rule of Law and our US Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment) includes the unborn. Again, maybe not exactly at conception and for several weeks after that, but certainly, and clearly, towards the end of the first trimester and the beginning of the second trimester. And as such, the unborn “life” has the same fundamental rights as the mother. Once the mother allows the pregnancy to reach the point where life has been created, then she holds no greater interest than the interest the unborn has in continuing its development. In other words, the “competing interests” explanation of a pregnancy shifts greatly. And unlike the Court’s opinion in Roe, where the unborn never was considered a legal “person” in order to take advantage of the rights and liberties enshrined in our Declaration, our Constitution, and our laws and therefore the woman held all the power to decide the unborn’s fate, the approach I believe should have been taken would recognize that the unborn is absolutely a “person” so that a woman does NOT have the unfettered right to abort her unborn, kill it, or otherwise dispose of it.

We can explain the failure of the Supreme Court in Roe using additional legal arguments as well.

The case involved a challenge to a Texas statute that criminalized abortion, which means that Norma McCorvey (aka Roe) filed suit claiming an infringement of an essential (liberty) right protected by the 14th Amendment. Challenges to state law claiming a violation of civil rights or liberty rights recognized by the Bill of Rights are brought under the Due Process Clause of 14th Amendment. Over the years since it was adopted, the Supreme Court has used the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to “incorporate” the liberty rights of the US Bill of Rights as against the states; that is, if the federal government cannot infringe on our religious liberty than neither can the states, if the federal government cannot ban firearms, neither can the states, and so forth and so on.

The 14th Amendment reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

As the Court had noted, it first had to determine if the unborn are considered “persons” within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. It concluded that they were not.

If the Court would have exercised proper interpretation authority and followed its own established 14th Amendment jurisprudence (precedent), it would have taken an originalist approach to the analysis, and the outcome would have been quite different (although not ultimately providing for the right of women to have an abortion; the decision would have been left to the states themselves).

Under an “originalist” approach, the Court would have had to determine what the word “persons” was understood to mean when the 14th Amendment was written and ratified. “Originalism” is often equated with “Textualism” (where judges look at the meaning of the words and intent at the time they were written) A honest analysis would have looked not only at the definition of the term “persons” around the time of 1868, but also at society’s view of abortion at that time. In fact, for a claimed right to be covered by the 14th Amendment and hence free from government/state regulation, that right would have had to have been considered an essential liberty right at the time the Amendment was adopted. In other words, the Court should have asked two questions: “What did the term ‘persons’ mean back in 1868?” And, “Was abortion considered a fundamental liberty right back in 1868?” [That is, the Court should have asked: Was the asserted right to an abortion “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental,” Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934)].

If the asserted right was not recognized at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, that means society was not ready to recognize it as such. To add a new right, one that is clearly defined only by the relaxed moral and sexual societal standards in this progressive/liberal age, the Constitution would need to be amended. And that would require the amendment process outlined in Article V.  We update our Constitution, not by the individual wisdom or opinion of a handful of judges but by the collective will of the people.

Josh Craddick, a Harvard Law student recently had a Law Review article published in which he looked into the definition of “persons.” In his article (“Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?”), he noted that layman’s dictionaries at the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment (adopted on July 28, 1868) treated the concepts of humanity and personhood interchangeably. He also consulted William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, a treatise that had profound influence on legal thinking, was used in American law schools, was relied on by the Supreme Court, and continues to be cited even today in Supreme Court decisions. It is cited at least 10-12 times each year. Blackstone expressly recognized that personhood and the right to life existed before birth. He set forth a simple and clear legal standard: “Where life can be shown to exist, legal personhood exists” (emphasis added). A look back through history shows that there were no laws to specifically protect the unborn prior to “quickening” (when the mother feels the baby begin to kick and move around) and prior to birth, and that makes sense in light of the generally-accepted definition of “personhood.” A pregnant woman was carrying a “life,” and hence she was carrying a new person.

With respect to the second question (“Was abortion considered an essential/fundamental liberty right back in 1868?”), Craddick researched the societal view of abortion back in the day. In his article, he showed that many of the states that voted to ratify the 14th Amendment had laws criminalizing abortion. What does that mean? It seems to confirm that at the time, Americans, state lawmakers, and government officials understood personhood to include the unborn, just as Blackstone defined it. It shows that society in 1868 viewed personhood and life in much the same way that pro-lifers understand.

Craddick wrote:

When the Amendment was adopted in 1868, the states widely recognized children in utero as persons. Nearly every state had criminal laws proscribing abortion, and most of these statutes were classified among ‘offenses against the person.’ There can be no doubt whatsoever that the word ‘person’ referred to the fetus.” Twenty‐three states and six territories referred to the fetus as a ‘child’ in their statutes proscribing abortion. At least twenty‐eight jurisdictions labeled abortion as an ‘offense against the person’ or an equivalent criminal classification. Nine of the ratifying states explicitly valued the lives of the preborn and their pregnant mothers equally by providing the same range of punishment for killing either during the commission of an abortion. The only plausible explanation for this phenomenon is that the legislatures considered the mother and child to be equal in their personhood. Furthermore, ten states (nine of which had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment) considered abortion to be either manslaughter, assault with intent to murder, or murder.

The adoption of strict anti‐abortion measures in the mid‐nineteenth century was the natural development of a long common‐law history proscribing abortion. Beginning in the mid‐thirteenth century, the common law codified abortion as homicide as soon as the child came to life (animation) and appeared recognizably human (formation), which occurred approximately 40 days after fertilization. Lord Coke later cited the “formed and animated standard,” rearticulating it as “quick with childe.”

Craddick went on to point out that even by the mid-nineteenth century, courts and states alike, were increasingly rejecting the “quickening” standard as scientifically obsolete and replacing it with fertilization. Imagine that !!

Sadly, we all know the reasons the justices of the Supreme Court made that colossally-erroneous assumption that “personhood” means “someone who walks around, who has an independent life outside a woman’s womb.” First, the Court knew that society couldn’t be responsible for all the unwanted births; the burden they would impose on society would break our system of welfare and social services. Second, the case moved up through the court system at a time when the Women’s Rights Movement was fighting for equality in the workplace and in the home, with equality resting squarely on her ability to determine when, or if, she would reproduce. A woman could not control her career, her future, or even her burden at home if she were to be held hostage by her uterus and her God-given ability to bring forth new life. The Court, obsessed with social justice and equality, saw the case as one to give the Women’s Rights Movement what it wanted – the ability to finally be equal in the workforce.

Germany wanted a racially-pure German race. It felt it had that right as a sovereign country. After all, the Nazi movement was about nationalism. Germany would never be treated and punished, plundered and broken up like it was after the defeat of the Triple Alliance nations in World War I. For Germany to have the ability to engineer a pure German race (a “master-race”), it needed to accept the genocide of the undesirables.

We have to be careful what ambition causes us to sacrifice or condone.

Abortion has become all-too-often synonymous with “convenience.” It’s a “choice” – a choice to be pregnant or not to be pregnant. Again, most times, a woman or girl has an abortion very early on, before there is life inside her. But many times it’s not a “choice”; it’s a baby.

I think a case can be made that the right needs limitations, and if that can be achieved, then women can be both pro-life and pro-choice, if that makes any sense. If we look at a “Balancing of Rights” approach rather than a “Balancing of Interests” approach – that is, if we balance the rights of the woman to control her reproduction with the big daddy of them all, the right to life, of the unborn child, rather than balance the rights of the woman to terminate her pregnancy with the interest of the state in protecting the pregnancy – then we will come to a point in the pregnancy when the developing fetus becomes a “life.” At that point, society can then legally deny abortions (except for situations such as rape, incest, or risk to the woman’s life). A woman will enjoy a period of time to decide whether she wants to continue the pregnancy (hence, pro-choice), but if she waits too long, then she will not be able to abort the baby and will not be able to take a life (hence, pro-life).

We need to have conversations. We need to find common ground between pro-life supporters and pro-choice advocates. We can’t continue to offend so greatly our national conscience. Roe v. Wade needs to be re-addressed. A woman may very well be entitled to a right to abort her pregnancy, but at least that issue needs to decided by a court that is willing to do a correct and honest analysis – recognizing that the unborn becomes a life well before it is born and therefore it has the same rights that every other human being has. A woman may very well have the right to have an abortion if she chooses, but that right can not be so broad or expansive as to include the taking of another life.

We need to get this issue back into court and in front of reasonable-minded justices.

We need to stop the killing fields.

 

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References:
Roe v. Wade, 410 U,S. 113 (1973), Majority Opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, Cornell Law Library – https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/410/113%26amp#writing-USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZO

Roe v. Wade, 410 U,S. 113 (1973), Dissenting Opinion, written by Justice William Rehnquist, Cornell Law Library – https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/410/113%26amp#writing-USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZD

Roe v. Wade, Dissenting Opinion, by Justice Byron White – https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade/Dissent_White and
https://www.scribd.com/document/217330653/Dissent-White

Laurie Higgins, “31 States Permit Full-Term Abortions,” Illinois Family Institute, January 28, 2019. Referenced at: https://illinoisfamily.org/life/31-states-permit-full-term-babies-to-be-killed-in-the-womb-for-virtually-any-or-no-reason/

Joshua J. Craddick, Joshua J. Craddock, “Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 40, No. 2 (2017). Referenced at: file:///C:/Users/diane/Downloads/SSRN-id2970761.pdf [Abstract: What should the legal status of human beings in utero be under an originalist interpretation of the Constitution? Other legal thinkers have explored whether a national “right to abortion” can be justified on originalist grounds. Assuming that it cannot, and that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey were wrongly decided, only two other options are available. Should preborn human beings be considered legal “persons” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, or do states retain authority to make abortion policy?
The late Justice Scalia famously argued for the latter position and pledged he would strike down a federal ban on abortion. But is this view consistent with the original meaning of the term “person”? Using originalist interpretive methods, this paper argues that preborn human beings are legal “persons” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.]

Calvin Freiburger, “Article in Harvard Law Journal Concludes: The Preborn Child is a Constitutional Person,” Live Action, June 1, 2017. Referenced at: https://www.liveaction.org/news/landmark-harvard-essay-preborn-child-constitutional-person/

VIDEO: Dr. Anthony Levatino, former abortion doctor, explains that abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life during pregnancy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=ysl1tRnk-ig [Let me illustrate with a real-life case that I managed while at the Albany Medical Center. A patient arrived one night at 28 weeks gestation with severe pre-eclampsia or toxemia. Her blood pressure on admission was 220/160. A normal blood pressure is approximately 120/80. This patient’s pregnancy was a threat to her life and the life of her unborn child. She could very well be minutes or hours away from a major stroke. This case was managed successfully by rapidly stabilizing the patient’s blood pressure and “terminating” her pregnancy by Cesarean section. She and her baby did well. This is a typical case in the world of high-risk obstetrics. In most such cases, any attempt to perform an abortion “to save the mother’s life” would entail undue and dangerous delay in providing appropriate, truly life-saving care. During my time at Albany Medical Center I managed hundreds of such cases by “terminating” pregnancies to save mother’s lives. In all those cases, the number of unborn children that I had to deliberately kill was zero.]

CHART: State-by-State Later Term Abortion Policies – https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/later-term-abortions/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedDistributions=state-prohibits-some-abortions-after-a-certain-point-in-pregnancy–threshold-for-later-term-abortions–later-term-abortion-permitted-when-pregnancy-threatens-womans&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

State Facts About Abortion: North Carolina (Fact Sheet, May 2018), Guttmacher Institute – https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/state-facts-about-abortion-north-Carolina

Brandon Moseley, “Federal Court Strikes Down an Alabama Abortion Law,” Alabama Reporter, August 23, 2018. Referenced at: https://www.alreporter.com/2018/08/23/federal-court-strikes-down-an-alabama-abortion-law/

GHI Breborowicz,” Early Pregnancy: Limits of Fetal Viability and Its Enhancement,” NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), January 5, 2011; pp. 49-50. Referenced at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11753511 [“Viability” of a fetus, or “fetal viability,” means that the fetus has reached such a stage of development as to be capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus. Viability exists as a function of biomedical and technological capacities, which are different in different parts of the world. Consequently, there is, at the present time, no worldwide, uniform gestational age that defines viability. Viability is not an intrinsic property of the fetus because viability should be understood in terms of both biological and technological factors. It is only in virtue of both factors that a viable fetus can exist ex utero and thus later achieve independent moral status. Moreover, these two factors do not exist as a function of the autonomy of the pregnant woman. When a fetus is viable, that is, when it is of sufficient maturity so that it can survive into the neonatal period and later achieve independent human status given the availability of the requisite technological support, and when it is presented to the physician, the fetus is a patient. In the United States viability presently occurs at approximately 24 weeks of gestational age (Chervenak, L.B. McCullough; Textbook of Perinatal Medicine, 1998)].

“Can a Fetus Feel Pain?,” NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), April 15, 2006; 332 (7546): 909–912. Referenced at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1440624/

“How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy,” American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG), (April 2018). Referenced at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/How-Your-Fetus-Grows-During-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet=false

Traci DeVette Griggs, “New York’s War on Children Hits a New Low on Anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” Family Policy Facts (NC Family Policy Council), January 23, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.ncfamily.org/new-yorks-war-on-children-hits-a-new-low-on-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade/

Roe v. Wade, Texas Bar – https://www.texasbar.com/civics/High%20School%20cases/roe-v-wade.html

Roe v. Wade (1973), as explained by Clarke Forsythe, Senior Counsel for Americans United for Life (AUL) and Melissa Murray, Berkeley Law School professor. [Clarke Forsythe is also the author of the book Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe V. Wade, and Ms. Melissa Murray in addition to being a law school professor, also as the Faculty Director for the Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice]. Referenced at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-us-government-and-politics/civil-liberties-and-civil-rights/amendments-due-process-and-the-right-to-privacy/v/roe-v-wade [See Appendix below for a transcript of this video]
APPENDIX: (Transcript of the Khan Academy Video, as modified a bit by Diane Rufino)

Question: “Mr. Forsythe, could you set the stage for us a little bit. What was going on during this time period?”

Mr. Clarke: “Well, there were efforts in the 1960s to repeal abortion laws in the individual states and when abortion activists were dissatisfied with those efforts, they decided to go into the courts. And around 1969, they took some cases into the courts and ultimately, there were 20 or more cases challenging state laws in the courts between 1969 and 1973. Roe vs. Wade was the case from Texas.”

Ms. Murray: “Roe was litigated in the early 1970s. It was a period of enormous change in the United States. We were beginning to see beginnings of the women’s rights movements, the beginning of the gay rights movement, and of course, the civil rights movement of the 1960s was moving in a lot of different directions. At the time, the question of abortion was very much on the minds of lots of different state legislatures because there had been moves to liberalize much of the criminal law that dealt with matters of sex and sexuality, including abortion. At the time, four states, New York, Alaska, Hawaii, and I believe Washington, had actually taken steps to repeal their laws criminalizing abortion. And about 13 other states had taken efforts to liberalize their laws criminalizing abortions, but in number of other states, around, at least 20 or more, there remained on the books, laws that absolutely criminalized abortion, except in situations where it would be necessary to preserve the woman’s health or life, or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.”

Mr. Clarke: “Abortion rights attorneys sought plaintiffs who could challenge the Texas law and the Georgia law [ie, They were looking for a “test case”]. There were two attorneys from Texas who found Norma McCorvey, who they gave the pseudonym of Jane Roe, for purposes of protecting her privacy.”

Ms. Murray: “And so Norma McCorvey brought this case. She was an unmarried 22 year old woman living in Dallas County, Texas, who found herself pregnant for the third time. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter, and ultimately signed over custody to her mother to raise her since her life wasn’t very stable (she was moving around a lot). She gave her second child up for adoption. When she found herself pregnant for a third time, she wasn’t willing to do either of these things again and so she simply wanted to safely and legally terminate her pregnancy. But this was impossible under the Texas law. Texas had, since the 19th century criminalized abortion in all cases except those instances where it was necessary for the health and safety of the mother. And so she then was faced with the question of what was she going to do. And the only thing she could think to do then (that is, what her lawyers thought, and sought, to do), was to challenge the law as being unconstitutional. So she was put in contact with Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two young women who had recently graduated from law school. Sarah Weddington was only 26 years old at the time she helped Norma McCorvey bring this case. They sued the State of Texas to challenge the constitutionality of Texas’ criminal abortion ban.”

Mr. Clarke: “But as the history shows, there was no trial, there was no evidence, there were no expert witnesses. Jane Roe never testified. As we all know, she never got an abortion. She gave birth and placed her child for adoption.” [In the years after the decision, Norma had a complete change of heart and became a strong opponent of abortion].

Question: “Okay, so Roe was Norma McCorvey. Who was Wade?”

Mr. Clarke: “Henry Wade was the District Attorney for Dallas, Texas, where the case was filed in Federal District Court.”

Questions: “So the case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. How did the Court rule?”

Mr. Clarke: “The Justices declared the Texas and Georgia laws unconstitutional and then rewrote a national law, a national abortion law, in which they said that the states could not regulate or limit abortion in the first trimester. They could regulate more in the second trimester, the second three months of pregnancy, to protect maternal health and they could regulate in the last three months of pregnancy, the last trimester, to protect maternal health or fetal life. The attorneys for the plaintiffs claimed that abortion fell within the right to privacy, even though privacy is not in the text of the Constitution, they said it was derived, or based in the language of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution even though the 14th Amendment doesn’t say anything about abortion, or the unborn child; the 14th Amendment just uses the term liberty. Ultimately the Court said that the right to abortion is part of the right to privacy based on the 14th Amendment.”

Question: “That’s very interesting. I’ve learned through many of these interviews, that this right to privacy is something that is never actually explicitly stated throughout the Bill of Rights, but there’s a penumbra of privacy that you see in a few ways. What was the Court’s reasoning that the right to an abortion could fall under this zone of privacy?”

Mr. Clarke: “If you read the Roe opinion – specifically, on page 152 of the opinion – Justice Blackmun starts out by citing a string of prior Supreme Court cases, beginning about 1910, which elude to a right of privacy which undergirds other rights in the Bill of Rights. Blackmun argued that these cases lead to a general right of privacy, and that this right of privacy is broad enough to encompass a woman’s right to an abortion. But then four pages later, on page 156, Blackmun turns around and says that abortion is inherently different from all those other cases that make up the right of privacy (including the right to use contraception and contraceptive devices to control fertility and reproduction, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) because it involves the taking of a life.”

Ms. Murray: “The right of privacy doesn’t actually come from Roe vs. Wade. It comes from a case decided about eight years earlier, in 1965, called Griswold vs. Connecticut. The issue in the Griswold case was whether a Connecticut state statute that made it a crime to use contraception or even to counsel patients about contraception violated the Constitution. Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut opened up a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut. They were promptly arrested and the clinic was closed. They challenged the statute, arguing that the right to use contraception was a fundamental individual right. Furthermore, they argued that since individuals have the right to use contraception, doctors also have the right to advise patients about such. Patients are entitled to be informed about their medical choices. The Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice William Douglas, agreed with the clinic. In the Griswold case, the Court articulated for the first time this right of privacy. The opinion explained that while the Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create penumbras, or zones, that establish a right to privacy. Together, the First (the right to conscience created by the right to worship freely), the Third (the right to be free in one’s home from the quartering of troops), the Fourth (the right to be safe and secure in one’s own person, one’s home, and with one’s effects from unreasonable government searches and seizures), and the Ninth Amendments create the right to privacy which encompasses marital relations. Douglas, writing for the majority, indicated that this right had actually ‘been percolating in the Court’s decisions for some time.’”

Question: “Did any of the Justices dissent in the Roe decision and if so, why?”

Mr. Clarke: “Well there were two dissents, one by Justice White and the other by Justice Rehnquist. Justice White said that the Court was engaging in raw judicial power (ie, judicial activism) and that the Justices did not have the right or the authority, on account of the 10th Amendment, to strike down the abortion laws of the individual states: it could only rely on a doctrine called ‘substantive due process.’ The justices were addressing the assertion that a woman’s right to an abortion is a fundamental right and hence, under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, it cannot be violated or burdened. The Due Process Clause says that no person can be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” However, there are clear limits as to which individual “liberty” rights are imposed on a state (that is, those which it is obligated to respect and refrain from regulating). In in 1934, the Supreme Court held that due process is violated “if a practice or rule offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” In other words, as explained further by the Court, the right must have been recognized as a liberty right (essential to our sense of ordered liberty) at the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment to be recognized by its Due Process Clause. Justice Rehnquist said that there is clear historical evidence that many states passed abortion limits and prohibitions precisely at the time of the framing of the 14th Amendment in the 1860s and leading up to 1868, which is when the Amendment was added to the Constitution. In other words, this history was evidentiary history. As such, this history of state limits and prohibitions on abortion actually served to contradict the petitioner’s (the birth control clinic’s) assertion that the 14th Amendment was intended to include a right to abortion.”

Question: “It appears that Roe is not the last word on abortion in the United States. There have been several later cases that were important to this as well, like Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, or Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt. Can you talk a little bit about how those cases have altered the scope of the right to abortion?

Ms. Murray: “As soon as Roe was decided in 1973, there was an effort to sort of roll it back and hem it in a little bit. Frank Church, who’s a Senator from Idaho, announced ‘The Church Amendment,’ which basically says that physicians don’t have to perform abortions if doing so would conflict with their conscience or conscientious beliefs. So we see one way to limit the reach of this right – by limiting the number of providers who are available to offer abortions.”

Mr. Clarke: “In fact, the Court has kind of cut back on Roe vs. Wade in four cases over the years. But then in 2016, it appeared to return to its original position that the state nor federal government would tolerate any impermissible burden to a woman’s right to an abortion:
Harris vs. McRae [A 1980 case in which the Court acknowledged that federal funding could be limited for abortions. The Court held that states participating in the Medicaid program (established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act) were not obligated to fund medically necessary abortions. Title XIX of the Social Security Act was enacted to provide federal financial assistance to states that chose to reimburse certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons. Beginning in 1976, Congress passed a number of versions of what was known as the “Hyde Amendment” which severely limited the use of federal funds to reimburse the cost of abortions under the Medicaid program. Cora McRae, a pregnant Medicaid recipient, challenged the Hyde Amendment, filing suit against Patricia R. Harris, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Supreme Court found that a woman’s freedom of choice did not carry with it “a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices”].
Planned Parenthood vs. Casey [A 1992 case in which the Supreme Court upheld various restrictions to an immediate abortion (an “abortion on demand”). The Pennsylvania state legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989, to required informed consent and a 24 hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent (the law allows for a judicial bypass procedure). A married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to abort the fetus. These provisions were challenged by several abortion clinics and physicians. In a bitter, 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court again re-affirmed Roe, but it upheld most of the Pennsylvania provisions. For the first time, the Court imposed an articulable standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion, which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” Under this standard, the only provision to fail the undue-burden test was the husband notification requirement]. Other similar cases involving restrictions on immediate access to an abortion reached the same conclusion.
Whole Woman’s Health versus Hellerstedt [In 2016, the Supreme Court flipped. In this case, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of a Texas law that put limits on physicians performing abortions and on the abortion facilities themselves. A group of abortion providers sued the state. In a 5-3 opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer (remember, Justice Scalia had passed in February or 2016 and so it was only an 8-member Court at the time) the Supreme Court noted that the provisions that were challenged did not actually offer the medical benefits that they claimed to offer. Hence, as a matter of constitutionality, they were insufficient to justify the burdens on access that each of those provisions imposed.

Question: “What do you see as the future of Roe vs. Wade?”

Mr. Clarke: “Well, the Supreme Court has failed as the national abortion control board. It cannot monitor abortion. It can’t intervene, it can’t regulate or legislate itself, it can’t act as public health administrators, and it can’t investigate. And so I believe it’s absolutely certain that the Court, sooner or later, will have to overturn the Roe decision because of this failure and return the matter to the states.”

Ms. Murray: “Remember, when they were talking about repealing or reforming those abortion laws we referred to earlier, from the 1960s and 70s, it was connected in a big way to the growing women’s rights social movement. Perhaps the most critical question of that movement asked ‘What will be the role of women going forth in a modern society.’ When the question of contraception came before the Court in 1965, one of the questions was whether women should be allowed to control her reproduction and to choose when to have children…. Should she be allowed to control the timing of births in order to accommodate her career. It’s the same issue that came up in the abortion debate. If women were to have equal opportunities in the workforce, they would need to determine when they would become mothers and to determine the timing of their children. They would also need the flexibility to determine if they even wanted a child in the first place.”

Question: “So we’ve learned that the decision to legalize abortion in Roe vs. Wade was based on the right of privacy, which the Supreme Court has inferred from the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Since the Roe decision, a number of other cases have set limits on abortion and abortion clinics. Clarke Forsythe argues that the Supreme Court has failed in regulating abortion and that the issue should be returned to the states. Melissa Murray, by contrast, suggests that the decision in Roe is crucial to giving women the freedom to join the workforce and make decisions about when to have children.

To learn more about his case, visit the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution and Khan Academy’s resources on US Government and Politics.

This Thing We Call “Sovereignty”

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - early draft

by Diane Rufino, February 20, 2019

On September 3, 1783, representatives from the American states, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay, and a representative of King George III signed the Treaty of Paris to officially end the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. The first Article of that Treaty acknowledged:

“His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free SOVEREIGN and Independent States; that he treats with them as such, and for himself his Heirs & Successors, relinquishes all claims to the Government, Propriety, and Territorial Rights of the same and every Part thereof.”

In the Declaration of Independence, the document that  preceded the Treaty, the document which “proclaimed to a candid world” that the States were separating themselves from the political bonds with Great Britain (seceding from the British Empire) and declaring themselves independent, our Founders articulated the government theory that justified their act of secession and their independence. It was premised on the doctrine of INDIVIDUAL SOVEREIGNTY. This doctrine was articled by these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness……… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….”

In other words, the individual was born to be free and meant to live free. He has rights so foundational, so fundamental, so integral to his humanity, that they can never ever be taken away from him, or violated or burdened by government. In fact, as the Declaration says, governments are instituted for the primary purpose of securing the rights of the individual (while also establishing a peaceful ordered society for individuals to so enjoy their freedom). The people would always be greater than government.  Governments would always be subordinate to the will of the people. The rights of the individual would always be the priority in the American States. Governments would always be considered “temporary,” to exist at the will of the people and only to the extent that it protects their rights, keeps them safe, and extends their happiness. Government would never have any right or power to pursue or secure its own permanent existence. (Too bad Abraham Lincoln didn’t understand this founding principle; over 650.,000 lives could have been spared)

The first constitution of the “united States,” establishing the first union, was the Articles of Confederation. Article II of that document declared that “Each state retains its SOVEREIGHTY, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”  This provision would be the historical precursor to our Tenth Amendment.

The Tenth Amendment essentially states the very same thing; it just doesn’t include the phrase “each state retains its sovereignty.” But that fact is certainly implied.  Government powers reside with a sovereign state or entity.

This union, as we all know, was dissolved when each state convened a state convention to consider the ratification of the US Constitution of 1787 and therefore to form “a more perfect union.”  In other words, each state, as the Declaration described for the course of action with respect to Great Britain, “dissolved the political bonds” holding it together with other states.  Several states had issues with the new Constitution, skeptical of the new government so formed and the powers it was delegated, and so their ratifications were “conditioned” on several things: on amendments, on a Bill of Rights, and even on the fidelity of the government (its ability to remain limited). Four states that stand out in particular are New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The first to ratify conditionally was Massachusetts. The state wanted a Bill of Rights to be included (it reserved the right to consider its ratification null and void should one not have been added). The first three states, however, took their conditioned stance more forcefully; they included “Resumption Clauses” in their ratification documents.  That is, they reserved the right, as SOVEREIGN states, to resume all the powers they had delegated in the Constitution.

Virginia included this provision in its ratification:  “Do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

New York included this provision:  ““That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same……”

And Rhode Island included this provision:  “That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same……..”

Why did these states reserve the right to resume the (limited) government powers that were delegated by the Constitution to the new common government?  Because they were SOVEREIGNS with inherent rights to rule.

So what does this word “Sovereign” mean?  What is “Sovereignty”?  Many people don’t exactly know what the these terms mean and their significance.

Sovereignty is inextricably linked to the supreme right to govern and the supreme power to govern.

Government in the United States requires the understanding of three terms: Self-government, sovereignty, and social compact.

Sovereignty is the power to rule; to make laws and to govern; a sovereign is a country, government, or entity that has supreme power or authority.  The individual is a sovereign. It is a self-evident truth that individuals are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  “Unalienable” or “inalienable” means “incapable of being taken away.” Just as individuals, as sovereigns, have certain inalienable rights, other sovereigns (such as countries, governments, entities) have rights that can never be divested or taken away. That is what New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island articulated and re-asserted in their Resumption Clauses.

Individual Sovereignty is the inherent and independent right to do all that is necessary to govern oneself. In the United States, the People are sovereign. In fact, only the individual is truly sovereign, because only the people, and not government, have inherent rights to life, liberty, and property, along with the right to protect and preserve it.

Governments govern people, and without people, there would be no need for government. In other words, the sovereign individual precedes government. Government has to get its powers (its authority to make law and to enforce laws) from somewhere and it’s the people who assign it those powers. They delegate the rights they themselves originally were vested with to govern themselves and their property to the government; dominion (jurisdiction) and power originate from the individual.

In the United States, we enjoy self-government, or at least, we used to. Increasingly government has taken it upon itself (at the federal, state, and local level) to tell us what we can and can’t do. When our country was founded, the people were trusted with self-government; they were, for the most part, moral and upstanding people who valued family and decency. They worked, provided for themselves, raised their families right, and therefore required minimal laws to constrain their conduct. But we all know what happened to the fabric of society and the character of too many people in our country; and so, more and more laws were required.

But let’s get back to government and the government philosophy on which our country was founded.   Government power originates from the people, for the people – “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The Declaration of Independence tells us this.  Government arises out of social compact. John Locke tells us this, and being that our Declaration was written with Locke’s philosophy in mind, our Declaration also tells us this.  The federal government was established by the social compact known as the US Constitution. The federal government is its “creation” – an agent to serve the states. State governments are established by the compacts that are the state governments.

John Locke’s philosophy of government is based on nature and natural law (Natural Law is referenced in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence).  Each person is an individual, of course. God created each of us with rights in our personhood; he didn’t create us with “collective rights.” Those would be “civil rights.” Long ago, human beings migrated around, to find land to farm, to provide food for themselves, to herd their animals, to provide shelter, to be near a ready food source, etc. They existed, pretty much, as individuals. But then as they populated, more and more individuals came to occupy the same area.  And that was OK because man is a social creature.

Because man is a social creature, he forms together into communities. And in order that communities run smoothly and common services be provided to protect everyone’s rights and property, governments are instituted. And so, individuals delegate some of their sovereign power of self-defense and self-preservation to a government. That is why the bulk of government is always supposed to be closest to the individual, where it is most responsible and most accountable. Our rights and liberties are most protected when people have the frequent opportunity to see their elected officials and look them in the eye, and when those officials see a personal story behind acts of legislation, etc.

This is exactly what our Declaration of Independence tells us about our individual sovereignty. In the first paragraph, we are told that our sovereignty is based on Natural Law and God’s Law – “to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The only rightful power our government has is the power that the People – by the consent of the governed and according to the precise language and intent of our Constitution – have temporarily delegated to it. In that grant of power, in a system based on the Sovereignty of the Individual, there is always a mechanism to take that power back. That is why the Declaration explicitly states that the People have the right to “alter or abolish” their government (when it becomes destructive of its aims). In fact, that right is so important and so fundamental, it is listed with the other inherent rights that individuals possess. In other words, what the Declaration is saying is that the People of the “united States” have the right to reclaim the sovereign power that they temporarily delegated to that government to govern and protect their liberties.

Again, this is because our system was premised on the Sovereignty of the Individual.

When government exceeds its powers, it takes powers away from other sovereigns that hold those powers – which are the States and the People (recognized or re-stated in the Tenth and Ninth Amendments, respectively).  Abuse of power is necessarily a usurpation of the rights of others. When government exceeds its powers, we are told that our only right is at the ballot box. This would indicate that the people are no longer recognized as sovereigns.  When government exceeds its powers, states have been told they must comply or they are coerced into complying. This would indicate that states are no longer viewed as sovereigns. But nothing has changed constitutionally to warrant this change in outlook or in government philosophy. The Declaration tells us, and sovereignty dictates, that individuals always have the right to resume their inherent rights and powers to govern. This, in plain terms, means that individuals always have the inherent right to secede (or abolish their bonds with government, including abolishing government completely) or to refuse to comply with an illegitimate, immoral, or arbitrary law (as Rosa Parks did). Similarly, states have the inherent right to resume their powers to govern within their borders and over their jurisdiction.  That resumption can take several forms, including secession (permanent, perhaps even violent), or nullification (peaceful; exercising the right not to recognize or enforce actions of the federal government that are in abuse of its powers).

Nullification and Secession are two rightful and reserved remedies reserved to the parties under compact theory.

If individuals or states no longer have a mechanism to take it back, then they are no longer sovereigns. If the government tells We the People that we don’t have the right, or the power, to “alter or abolish” our government for abuse or tyranny, then we have already lost our freedom and our system of government is no longer based on the sovereignty of the individual. If the States are told that they no longer have a recognized right of secession, then they are nothing more than geographical boundaries in one consolidated land, under the dominion and subjugation of the federal government.

Without the sovereignty that our country was founded on, the unique character of our government system – the premise that our rights come from God and that government is obligated to secure them, and that because we are such sovereigns, we can “alter and abolish” our government – becomes now merely a myth; it’s folklore…. “There once was a time……”  The fact is that government has taken over; IT has become the supreme sovereign. It has become so powerful that it has extinguished the sovereignty of the People and the States, or at least has whittled the reserved powers of the State down to nothing (token sovereignty).  We, in the United States, now enjoy our rights only to the extent that government allows us to. That’s the reality. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently threatened that Democrats will one day soon use the Emergency Powers Act to confiscate guns. And Senator Elizabeth Warren wants a near confiscatory income tax on the very wealthy. What the US Congress can’t, or won’t do, the federal courts will…  and they do.

If sovereignty is stripped and if rights and powers are permitted only to the extent that government allows, how are we any different from any other country where government is supreme over the individual?

In 1868, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to secession. (Texas v. White). It concluded that when the Constitution was signed, a permanent, perpetual Union was created. (However, Justice Salmon Chase did acknowledge that secession might be permitted if ALL states decided together to dissolve the Constitution and the Union or if the people revolted… In other words, only if people are willing to lay down their lives might they be permitted to wrestle sovereign power from the government). In a letter he wrote in 2006, Justice Scalia also opined that there is no right of secession. And in 1958, the Supreme Court ruled that States have no right to try to remind the federal government of its constitutional limits and to prevent its encroachments upon the rights of the people through nullification efforts (Cooper v. Aaron).

So, next time you hear people profess the opinion that the Supreme Court has given the final word on efforts to reclaim sovereign power, ask yourself: “Does it have the authority to permanently deny sovereignty?”  It does not.  It doesn’t even have the authority to temporarily deny it.  Sovereignty was not surrendered permanently in the creation of the US Constitution.

Nullification is an essential first step in reclaiming power that the federal government has unilaterally and inappropriately usurped from the states and from We the People. No one wants to exercise the right of secession. I’d like to think we would all prefer to remain in a harmonious relationship with our fellow states, if that can be possible.

 

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Does President Trump Have Authority to Secure Our Southern Border?

trump - with wall behind him (jan. 2019)

by Diane Rufino (also referencing an article by Publius Huldah), January 15, 2019

QUESTION:  Can President Trump seal off our southern border?

There are three theories, perhaps even four, upon which President Trump can close our southern border, including providing a permanent, physical barrier:

(1)  IMMIGRATION AUTHORITY.  The President can suspend entry of individuals from Mexico and countries of Central and South America, per an express provision of the US Immigration & Nationality Act, and per the opinion of the Supreme Court in the recent case of the so-called “Muslim ban.”  Since the restraints in place at the order are currently ineffective to prevent the uncontrolled illegal entry into our country, a physical barrier would be necessary (under the “Necessary & Proper Clause”)

If Trump takes this option, he neither needs to get Congressional approval nor approval of (or review from) the courts. Neither can stop him because they have already given him that authority and recognized that he was given that authority. Congress did so in federal law (Title 8, Chapter 12 of the US Code – “Immigration & Nationality Act”) and the Supreme Court re-affirmed (in Trump v. Hawaii, June 2018).

Title 8, Chapter 12 of the U.S. Code, which governs “inadmissible aliens,” reads:

“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Notice some key language in that statutory provision:  “for any such period as he shall deem necessary”  and “impose on the entry of aliens ANY restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Again, every power that Congress is delegated (Article I, Section), including the power it willingly delegated to the President on this particular immigration issue, is subject to the “Necessary & Proper” Clause which the Supreme Court interpreted as “pretty much any means necessary which the government believes will help carry out the particular responsibility.”

The president has the authority to close the borders. And no lower court can stop him with an injunction…..  if he chooses to go this route.

(2)  DUTY TO REPEL INVASION. Congress can seal off the border pursuant to the authority granted to it to call up the militia (“to repel invasions”; Article I, Section 8) and pursuant to the DUTY delegated to the federal government in general to repel invasion (Article V, Section 4).  Additionally, Article II, Section 3 requires the President, as the Chief Executive of government power, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Article I, Section 8 authorize s Congress to call up of the Militia for three (3) purposes: To execute the Laws of the Union; To suppress Insurrections: and To repel Invasions.

Article IV, Section 4 reads: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

Article IV talks about a GUARANTEE.  It delegates an absolute responsibility on the federal government to provide certain protections for the States – to guarantee each State a republican form of government and to protect each against invasion. States are entitled to EXPECT this absolute guarantee. So, if Congress refuses to do its part, then the responsibility shifts to the President. In the end, the federal government MUST – absolutely MUST – protect all states against an invasion.

Indeed, there is an invasion of illegal aliens into our country, imposing severe burdens on our resources (including education, health services, social services, our tax dollars, and our law enforcement system. Taxpayers are entitled to the expectation that the money siphoned off their hard work and property will go only to those who are legal citizens in this country. More seriously, there is an invasion of illegal criminals, gangs, drug cartels and drug traffickers, and human traffickers. Prisons house disproportionate numbers of Hispanic criminals.

There are 48 US-Mexico border crossings – LEGAL crossings. But thousands upon thousands each year evade these legal points of entry to come to this country illegally, hoping to take advantage of our government’s refusal to enforce our country’s immigration laws and to take advantage of every benefit that America offers. (Note though that is the US were to go to war and impose a draft, illegals would not be called). There are approximately 414,000 illegals apprehended each year by a severely-limited and constrained task force of border agents. Imagine how many make it across the border and are not able to be apprehended. The numbers are staggering. And in the past several months, the rate of illegal crossings has increased 37%.  New American (online journal) estimates that 14,000 of these are violent criminals.

Most aliens that come to the United States illegally do so for a better life, for a chance to make more money. But the open border and uncontrolled illegal immigration brings other problems into our country. The United States is one of the key destination countries, if not the key destination country, for thousands of men, women, and children trafficked from all areas of the world. These victims are trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs; instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into our country each year, certainly prompting a humanitarian crisis.

And then there is the increase in drug smuggling across the border. Seizures of hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, and fentanyl spiked to the highest levels in years. The numbers reflect the trend of cartels turning to more potent drugs in pursuit of profits, as many of the individual states have decriminalized the use of marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. In the past two years, enough fentanyl (a synthetic opioid which is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, and can be fatal the first time a person takes it) came into our country from across the southern border to kill every person in the United States. Two Hispanic men were arrested last year in NJ with enough fentanyl to kill the entire population of New Jersey and New York City (with intent to distribute). In NJ alone, in 2016, there were over 800 overdoses from fentanyl, and fentanyl was found in 2% of heroin that was tested in the state. Users are unaware of this. Just recently, in Nebraska, two Hispanic men were arrested for possession of enough fentanyl to kill about 28 million people (with intent to distribute and sell).

Finally, there is a significant increase in MS-13 gang membership and activity. MS-13 is a notoriously brutal gang based in El Salvador. In 2005, the Bush administration waged war on the deadly gang (similar to what President Trump is doing), and gang activity was stifled, but under the Obama administration, especially from 2012-2016, the gang has been able to rebuild itself. This resurgence represents a very serious threat to public safety in communities where MS-13 has rebuilt itself. The resurgence is directly connected to the illegal arrival and resettlement of more than 300,000 Central American youths and families that came here, undeterred, during the Obama years. All criminal gangs are a threat to public safety, but MS-13 is a unique problem because of the unusually brutal crimes its members have committed, its success in using intimidation to victimize and control people in its territory, and its focus on recruiting young members, often in schools. Technically, because most of the gang members are illegal, they could be targeted and removed from the communities they terrorize by law enforcement and ICE. However, because of sanctuary policies, and the proliferation of sanctuary states, cities, and communities, these gang members are protected from apprehension.

Taken together, it sure sounds like our country is being invaded. And that being so, every state is entitled to protection against it by the federal government. The simplest way to protect the states is simply to enforce our immigration laws and to seal and secure the border with a physical barrier. Make no mistake, we are suffering an invasion of individuals who are first seeking to evade our laws (the cornerstone of our society), and secondly, to do us harm (whether intentional or not, and whether violent or simply by overloading our resources, inciting protests and instability, or presenting a political crisis).

(3)  DECLARE A NATIONAL EMERGENCY (pursuant to the National Emergencies Act).  The goal of this approach is to get border wall funding thru the National Emergencies Act, by diverting money allocated to the military to use to build the wall.  The reason this option is an attractive option to President Trump is because once he declares a “national emergency,” a decision that is entirely within his discretion (and which many presidents before him did, for much more urgent matters), he is able to set aside many of the legal limits on his authority. He would become vested with certain “emergency powers,” such as by instantly becoming Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, or by vesting in him a broad, undefined executive powers. President FDR used national emergency powers to intern Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Bush used them to pursue warrantless wiretapping related to the war on terror, and President Obama on account of the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009.  (Actually, Obama claimed a state of emergency, thus invoking the Act, a total of 12 times].

The National Emergencies Act of 1976 authorizes presidents to issue an emergency declaration, but under certain constraints; he can only use powers Congress has already codified by law and he has to say which powers he’s using. The 1976 law was actually passed to rein in presidential abuse with relation to national emergencies. Past presidents such as FDR, Truman, and Nixon abused the power [In the 1952 case, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of President Truman’s seizure and control of most of the country’s steel mills, in anticipation of a strike by the United Steelworkers of America. The Court ruled that Truman had over-stepped his authority].

The first thing President Trump would need to do is issue an emergency proclamation, explaining the nature of the emergency. Then he would need to identify which powers he intends to use. If Trump were to try to get border wall funding through the National Emergencies Act, the question then becomes which existing laws he could use to get the money. The Brennan Center for Justice believes there are at least 130 laws that contain special powers Trump could access (other legal experts say there are as much as 136 laws). Apparently, the law Trump is particularly interested in is one that allows him to reallocate military spending on construction projects for the wall. One law allows the defense secretary, after a national emergency declaration, to direct the army’s civil works program to construct a structure needed for national defense and use the military budget to do it. Another lets the secretary direct other military services for construction projects. For example, money could come out of the budget for building housing on military bases for service members and into the budget for the wall.

The White House has also reportedly directed the Army Corps of Engineers to take a look at its budget for potential funds to divert to the wall, including $13.9 billion from a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year designed for relief projects in California, Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico.

Alternatively, Trump could declare a “state of immigration emergency,” which unlocks an immigration emergency fund, which is generally supposed to be used to help states feed and house migrants and process their claims. The problem with this choice is that the immigration emergency fund doesn’t have nearly enough money to meet the amount requested – $5.7 billion.

Note, though, that the National Emergencies Act contains a mechanism for Congress to overrule the president by passing a joint resolution (both House and Senate). With Democrats in control of the House, it would presumably pass there easily, but most likely it would not pass the Senate, where Republicans recently increased their majority.

(4)  THE PRESIDENT’S DUTY TO ENSURE THE LAWS ARE ENFORCED.  Again, as mentioned above, Article II, Section 3 requires the President, as the Chief Executive of government power, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. If Congress won’t provide the necessary funding (less than 1% of the total US budget, and a fraction of what Congress spends on “pork” projects), than President Trump may have to accept funding from other sources, including donations.

Those are my thoughts anyway.

The real authority, however, is my good friend, renown Constitutional attorney and activist, Publius Huldah. In her latest article , “Yes! Trump Has the Constitutional Authority to Secure Our Southern Border,” she goes into detail as to why President Trump has the authority to secure our southern border.  Please take a read:

 

YES!! TRUMP HAS CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY TO SECURE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER, by Publius Huldah

Instead of reading our Constitution and seeing what it says, Americans get their legal advice from what “everybody says.”

Now, they are hearing about “emergency powers”, and are in a tail spin. Did Congress’ “Emergency Powers Act” delegate to the President the power to call whatever he wants an “emergency” and then do what he deems best?

Our focus shouldn’t be on what can be called an “emergency,” but what does our Constitution authorize the federal government to do (if anything) with respect to the hot topic of the day?

Let’s look at Migration (immigration) in the context of the hordes of aliens storming thru our Southern Border. What does our Constitution say about it?

Art. I, § 9, clause 1, delegates power over Migration (immigration) to Congress. So Congress is to make the immigration laws; and the President, as Chief Executive, is to put Congress’ laws into effect.

Art. IV, § 4 REQUIRES the United States to protect each of the States against Invasion.

Art. I, § 8, clauses 15 and 16, authorize the calling up of the Militia for three (3) purposes: to execute the Laws of the Union; to suppress Insurrections; and repel Invasions.

Art. II, § 3 authorizes the President to recommend to Congress such measures as he deems necessary and expedient; to convene Congress on extraordinary occasions; and requires him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed (that includes the immigration laws.)

Art. II, § 2, provides that the President is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He is Commander-in-Chief of the Militia when it is called into active service of the United States. As noted above, the Militia may be called into active service to “repel invasions”.

So those are the Constitutional Provisions which apply to the invasion of our Southern Border.

America is finished if we don’t control our Southern Border. Congress and the President have clear constitutional authority – actually, they have the DUTY – to control our Southern Border.

The best way the control the Southern Border is to build a wall. [I know from personal observation during the Cold War that the wall the Soviets built between East and West Germany prevented people in the East from escaping to the West.]

What if Congress refuses to fund the wall? Must the President tell the American People, “Well, I tried. But my hands are tied. You better get ready for civil war.”

No! Art. IV, § 4 imposes on the United States the Duty to protect each of the States against invasion. If Congress won’t do it, the President must. He is Chief Executive of the United States. For him to refuse to act for the reason that Congress won’t fund the wall would be as contemptible as the Husband and Father who refuses to get armed to protect his Family because the government says he can’t be armed.

So, the President may solicit donations from the American People for funds, labor, and construction materials, to build a wall.

About “calling up the Militia” to “repel invasions” —   Well, we no longer have the Militia provided for at Art. I, §8, clauses 15 and 16. During 1903, the American People and their federal and state legislators (who had all “mainlined” on Progressivism) went along with the federalizing of the Militia. This was done with the federal Dick Act of 1903 (Militia Act of 1903), which converted the Militia into the National Guard, which is an adjunct of the federal military.

If we still had the “Militia of the several States,” it would be obvious that the Militia must be – and could be – called into national service to repel the “invasion” coming through our Southern Border.

But since we no longer have the Militia, we must rely on the closest thing to a Militia we have left, which is the National Guard. Congress has passed laws which authorize the President to call the National Guard into national service. The Militia Act of 1903 established the creation of the National Guard of the United States as the primary organized reserve force for the U.S. armed forces, thus federalizing state militias. The National Defense Act of 1916 gave the President authority, in case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of the emergency. And the National Guard Mobilization Act of 1933 made the National Guard a component of the Army

The point is that the President probably has authority to call up the National Guard to protect our Southern Border and the construction workers while the Wall is being built.

But if push comes to shove, the President has the Clear Duty to protect our Southern Border and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Remember – the Questions are always: “What does the Constitution authorize” & “What Duties does the Constitution impose on the federal government?”

There is no substitute for reading the Constitution for yourself. Article by Article – and then seeing how the Articles all work together – hand in glove.

 

References:

Publius Huldah, “Yes! Trump Has the Authority to Secure Our Southern Border,” Publius Huldah blog, January 15, 2019.  Referenced at:  https://publiushuldah.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/yes-trump-has-constitutional-authority-to-secure-our-southern-border/

Cort Kirkwood, “Trump Can Close the Border, Former Federal Prosecutor Says,” New American, October 25, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/immigration/item/30446-trump-can-close-the-border-former-federal-prosecutor-says

Hilary Hurd, Yishai Schwartz, “Supreme Court Travel Ban Ruling Summary,” Lawfare, June 26, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.lawfareblog.com/supreme-court-travel-ban-ruling-summary

11 Facts About Human Trafficking, Do Something.  Referenced at:  https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking

Raphael Carranza, “Harder Drugs, Higher Profits: US-Mexico Border Sees a Shift in the Kinds of Drugs Seized,” azcentral, February 23, 2018.  Referenced at:  https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2018/02/23/united-states-mexico-border-patrol-drugs-seized/353260002/

“Synthetic Opioid Overdose Data,” Center for Disease Control.  Referenced at: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/fentanyl.html

Jessica M. Vaughan, “MS-13 Resurgence: Immigration Enforcement Needed to Take Back Our Streets,” Center for Immigration Studies, February 21, 2018. Referenced at:  https://cis.org/Report/MS13-Resurgence-Immigration-Enforcement-Needed-Take-Back-Our-Streets

Emily Stewart, “How Trump Could Use a National Emergency to Get His Border Wall, Explained,” VOX, January 11, 2019.  Referenced at:  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/8/18172749/trump-national-emergency-government-shutdown-wall

Elizabeth Goitein, “What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency,” The Atlantic, January-February issue.  Referenced at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/presidential-emergency-powers/576418/    [Elizabeth Goitein is a co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice]

A Bill of Rights is What All Free People Are Entitled to Against Every Government

bill of rights - with james madison

by Diane Rufino, January 3, 2019

Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference……”    –  Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

December 15 marks a very special day in our founding history – On that date in 1791, the first 14 states (Vermont had just been admitted to the Union as the 14th state), ratified the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, known collectively as our Bill of Rights. We often take it for granted that these first ten amendments, our Bill of Rights, are included in our Constitution, but if we want to point to one reason the colonies went to war for their independence from Great Britain, it was to permanently secure the rights embodied in our Bill of Rights from all reaches of government. Without the Bill of Rights, the revolution would have been in vein.  Thomas Jefferson, probably the Founder who exerted the most pressure on James Madison for a Bill of Rights, advised: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.”  He wrote this to Madison on December 20, 1787, almost three months after the Constitution had been signed by its drafters in Philadelphia.

On Bill of Rights Day, we reflect upon those rights guaranteed in the first nine amendments (the tenth being a restatement of federalism – the strict separation of power between the federal government and the States) but more importantly, we should come to appreciate the efforts of certain particularly liberty-minded Founders who fought against great odds to make sure that our Constitution in fact included a Bill of Rights. After all, James Madison, considered the Constitution’s author, and most of the other Federalists did not see the need for a Bill of Rights and thought the Constitution wholly sufficient without it. That was the status of the Constitution when it went to the states for ratification.

What is a “Bill of Rights”?  A bill of rights, sometimes called a Declaration of Rights or a Charter of Rights, is a list of the most important rights belonging to the citizens of a country – rights that the King or other form of government must respect. The purpose is to protect those rights against infringement either by law or by conduct from public officials. The US Bill of Rights is the Declaration and enumeration is the individual rights memorialized in the Constitution intended to protect the individual against violations and abuses of power by the government. In that respect, our Bill of Rights is like most other bill of rights (including the English Bill of Rights is 1689 and the great Magna Carta of 1215).  This history of England, including the movement of groups of people (like the Puritans and Pilgrims), to the New World, is a history continually seeking for the recognition and security of fundamental human liberties. And early colonial history continued that tradition of setting out the rights and privileges of the individual in their government charters.

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights explains its clear purpose. It reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

In other words, the Bill of Rights is a further limitation on the power of government, above and beyond those limitations already imposed by its very design and delegation of limited powers.

HISTORY:

Again, a Bill of Rights (or Declaration of Rights, or Charter of Rights), is a list of the most important rights belonging to the citizens of a country that the King or other form of government must respect. Bills of rights may be “entrenched” or “unentrenched.”  A bill of rights that is “entrenched” cannot be amended or repealed by the governing legislature through regular procedure, but rather, it would require a supermajority or referendum. Bills of rights that are “entrenched” are often those which are part of a country’s constitution, and therefore subject to special procedures applicable to constitutional amendments. A bill of rights that is not entrenched (“unentrenched”) is merely statutory in form and as such can be modified or repealed by the legislature at will.

The history of the world shows that there have been limited instances where the rights of the people have been enumerated and/or protected by a Bill of Rights. This history includes the following charters, documents, or bills of right:

  • Magna Carta (1215; England) rights for barons
  • Great Charter of Ireland (1216; Ireland) rights for barons – Ireland became independent of Great Britain in 1937
  • Golden Bull of 1222 (1222; Hungary) rights for nobles – which interestingly, included the right of Nullification
  • Charter of Kortenberg (1312; Belgium) rights for all citizens “rich and poor”
  • Twelve Articles (1525; Germany) – considered the first draft of human rights and civil liberties in continental Europe after the Roman Empire.
  • Petition of Right (1628; England)
  • English Bill of Rights 1689
  • Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789; France) – inspired by Thomas Jefferson
  • The US Bill of Rights (1791)

The roots of our modern-day liberty originated in England, as far back as 1100, culminating there with the English Bill of Rights in 1689 and ultimately providing the blueprint for our very own US Bill of Rights in 1791. The roots of liberty, including the roots of our very own American liberty rights, can be found in the selection of charters and documents listed below:

  • The 1100 Charter of Liberties (also called the Coronation Charter) – The 1100 Charter of Liberties was a written proclamation offered by Henry I of England and issued upon his accession to the throne in 1100. It sought to bind the King to certain laws regarding the treatment of nobles, church officials, and individuals – most notably, certain marriage rights, rights of inheritance, amnesty rights, rights for the criminally-accused, and environmental protection (forests). It is considered to be the precursor to the Magna Carta.

 

  • The Magna Carta of 1215 (“the Great Charter”) – The barons at the time, frustrated by ten years of excessive taxation by King John in order to finance a campaign to regain lands in France only to watch the King return home in defeat, consolidated their power and threatened to renounce him. Over the next eight months, they made repeated demands to the King, requesting that he give them a guarantee that he would observe their rights. But these negotiations amounted to nothing. And so, on May 5, 1215, the barons gathered and agreed to declare war on him. On May 17, the barons captured London, the largest town in England, without a fight, and finally, King John took notice. With London lost and ever more supporters flocking to the side of the barons, he sent word that he would meet with them to discuss terms of peace.. Over the next few days, the barons assembled in great numbers on the fields of Runnymede, a relatively obscure meadow that lies between the town of Staines and Windsor castle, where King John was based. Negotiations took place over the next several days and finally, on June 15, King John affixed his seal to the document that would become known as the Magna Carta (or “The Great Charter”). The Magna Carta enumerated an expansive list (63 “chapters”) of rights for barons, and also provided the remedy of Nullification.  The principles extended beyond the often-recognized origin of the “No Taxation Without Representation” doctrine in chapter 12 (and hence the creation of a “people’s body” which addressed matters of taxation and spending) and the Due Process clause of chapter 39. The concepts of “Trial by Jury” and “No Cruel Punishments” are present in chapter 21; and the forerunner of the “Confrontation Clause” of our 6th Amendment addressed in chapters 38, 40, and 44. But the most important contribution of the Magna Carta is the claim that there is a fundamental set of principles which even the King must respect. Above all else, Magna Carta makes the case that the people have a “right” to expect boundaries from the King in their lives and with respect to their property. They have a right to expect “reasonable” conduct.  [King John would go on to ignore the promises he made in signing the Magna Carta]

 

  • The Petition of Right of 1628 – In 1628, under the leadership of Sir Edward Coke, a legal scholar-turned-practical politician, Parliament petitioned Charles I, son of the recently deceased King James I, to uphold the traditional rights of Englishmen, as set forth in the Magna Carta. It was an appeal to his sense of being a just King. Charles was already on his way to being a notorious tyrant. Parliament was not only fed up with is participation in the Thirty Years War (a highly destructive European war) against its consent, but when it refused to provide Charles the revenue to fight the war, he dissolved the body (several times, actually). That would lead Charles to raise revenue other ways – by gathering “forced loans” and “ship money” without Parliamentary approval (hence, taxation without representation in violation of the Magna Carta) and arbitrarily imprisoning those who refused to pay. Among the customary “diverse rights and liberties of the subjects” listed in the Petition of Right were no taxation without consent (as mentioned), “due process of law,” the right to habeas corpus, no quartering of troops, the respect for private property, and the imposition of no cruel punishment. King Charles did not consider himself bound by the Petition and so, he simply disregarded it. He would later be officially tried for high treason by a rump Parliament and beheaded in 1649. [The Petition of Right would have a profound effect on our US Bill of Rights: The Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment, the “Criminal Trials” clause of the 6th Amendment, and the “Civil Jury Trial” clause of the 7th Amendment all are influenced by the Petition of Right.  Furthermore, during the 1760s, the American colonists articulated their grievances against King George in terms similar to those used by Lord Coke in the Petition of Right to uphold the rights of Englishmen].

 

  • The English Bill of Rights of 1689 – After the Bloodless Revolution or “Glorious Revolution” (in which the English Parliament instigated a bloodless coup, replacing King James II with his daughter, Mary II and her husband, William III), Parliament set to right the abuses of its previous kings – Charles I, Charles II, and James II. It drafted and adopted a bill of rights, known as the English Bill of Rights, as which set out certain basic civil rights and clarified the right of secession for the British Crown. It was presented to William and Mary in February 1689 as a condition to the offer to become joint ruling sovereigns of England.  It was contractual in nature so that the acceptance of the throne was tied to their express promise to recognize the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights. A violation of that agreement would terminate the right of William and Mary to rule. The Bill of Rights lays down limits on the powers of the monarch and sets out the rights of Parliament. It further, and most importantly for this discussion, sets out certain rights of the individual, including:  the right to bear arms for self-defense, the right of Due Process, the right to petition government, such criminal defense rights as the right to be free from excessive bail, the right to a jury trial for the crime of high treason, and the right against any cruel and/or unusual punishment, the guarantee that there would be no taxation without representation, the right to be free of a standing army in times of peace, and the right to be free of any quartering of troops.  [Great Britain is unlike the United States in that it has no formal Constitution; rather, the English Bill of Rights, taken together with the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 are considered, in total, as the uncodified British constitution].

 

  • The colonies being organized under grants and agreements from England, it was assumed that English traditions applied. The colonists considered themselves British subjects and as such, they believed they were entitled to all the rights and privileges of Englishmen. That is why they reacted as they did to the taxes imposed by Parliament, why one protest theme was “No Taxation Without Representation,” why the Sons of Liberty formed, why they harassed the colonial stamp collectors and stamp masters until they resigned, why they engaged in acts of civil disobedience (such as preventing the British from unloading their ships at colonial ports) or hanging colonial governors in effigy, why they tossed crates of tea into the Boston Harbor, why men like Patrick Henry called for the raising and training of colonial militias, and why they were willing to confront the Redcoats with their muskets when they sought to destroy the stockpiles of colonial ammunition. It seemed that once again, as English history has shown true, Englishmen would have to exert their rights and demand that the King to respect them. Proper boundaries would once again have to be established.

 

  • King John’s rejection of the Magna Carta (1215) and King Charles’s rejection of the Petition of Right (1628) proved to our Founding Fathers that the system established in Great Britain provided only arbitrary security for individual rights. They would need to come up with a different system of government, grounded on more “enlightened” principles and “enlightened” government philosophy. And that is exactly what they did in the Declaration of Independence – announcing that the American states were united on the concept of Individual Sovereignty, that government power originated from the People, to serve the People, and not from kings (“the Divine Right of Kings”) to serve kings.

With what many believe to be divine guidance and protection, the thirteen original colonies fought and won their independence from Great Britain in 1781. Lord Cornwallis surrendered his British troops to General George Washington, Commander of the Continental Army, on October 19, 1781 and the Treaty of Paris, signed in September 1783, marked the official end of the struggle. Since the colonies worked together in a collaborative effort to communicate grievances and concerns to King George and Parliament and to engage in a concerted effort to prevent war, but then once war came, to fight and manage the war effort, it seemed only natural to continue to collaborate in their independence. The first attempt at a loose union of states, under the Articles of Confederation, was not very successful. The government lacked the enforcement power needed to effectively act on behalf of the states, such as the power to collect revenue to pay the war debt.

Taking note of the limitations of the common government (the Confederation Congress, aka, Congress of the Confederation, or sometimes even referred to still as the Continental Congress), certain members of our founding generation instigated for a Convention to amend that government. Eventually, in February 1787, Congress called for such a Convention to meet in May in Philadelphia “to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government [the Articles of Confederation] adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” And so, the Convention did convene on May 25, 1787 in Philadelphia with delegates from all the states except Rhode Island. The Constitutional Convention, as it came to be known, quickly changed direction – from amending the Articles of Confederation to designing an altogether different form of government. James Madison would be the architect of that plan (the Virginia Plan).  The collective wisdom of the delegates at the Convention identified the weakness of the Virginia Plan, which for the colonies was the creation of a “national” government, with concentrated power in that government, rather than a “federal” government which left most of the sovereign power with the states. A federal government, with the sovereignty of the States keeping the sovereign power of the federal government in check, was the form of government that the delegates preferred. A government that could remain checked against abuses was one that honored the fiercely independent and freedom-loving nature of the colonies and one which would address the reasons for the revolution against Great Britain.

In the summer of 1787, delegates from the 13 states convened in Philadelphia and drafted a remarkable blueprint for self-government — the Constitution of the United States. The first draft set up a system of checks and balances that included a strong executive branch, a representative legislature and a federal judiciary.

The Constitution was remarkable, but deeply flawed. For one thing, it did not include a specific declaration – or bill – of individual rights. As it turned out, and luckily for us as depositories of certain “inalienable rights” as well as civil rights (those belonging to individuals living in a society, subject to the rule of law), the lack of a Bill of Rights turned out to be an obstacle to the Constitution’s ratification by the states that could not be overcome. The Federalists opposed including a bill of rights on the ground that it was unnecessary. According to James Madison, a leading Federalist, a Bill of Rights was not necessary, arguing that because the general government was one of limited powers, having only those powers specifically delegated to it and none touching on individual rights. Besides, he said, a Bill of Rights would only create confusion (inferring that any other right or privilege not listed in the Bill of Rights would be fair game for federal regulation) and also, state governments could ensure these freedoms without the need for a federal mandate. The Anti-Federalists, who were afraid of a strong centralized government and knowing that history has clearly shown that governments tend to concentrate power and tend towards centralization and then tyranny/abuse, refused to support the Constitution without one.

At the close of the Philadelphia Convention, on September 20, 1787, the delegates left with mixed feelings about the document they drafted. Of the 55 delegates to the Convention, only 39 signed it.  Of the 16 that did not sign, some left early (for business, health reasons, family concerns, or out of protest) and some refused to sign out of protest. Some of the more important delegates (ie, position and/or influence in their states) who refused to sign were the following:  George Mason of Virginia (because it did not contain a Bill of Rights), Luther Martin of Maryland (because it violated states’ rights), John Mercer of Maryland (because it did not contain a Bill of Rights), Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts (because it did not contain a Bill of Rights), John Lansing and Robert Yates, both of New York (because it created too strong of a government, which he characterized as much more “national” than “federal”), and Edmund Randolph of Virginia (because it contained insufficient checks and balances to prevent government abuse). Had some of our most active and influential founding fathers attended the Convention, there would have been far greater opposition to the final product. Those who refused to attend or who were unable to included: Patrick Henry (refused to attend, he “smelled a rat” who he believed would try to vest the common government with too much power), Richard Henry Lee (refused to attend because he too didn’t trust the motives of those who called it), Thomas Jefferson (was acting as Ambassador to France at the time, but offered to advise the delegates by correspondence), John Adams (was acting as Ambassador to Great Britain at the time), Samuel Adams (refused to attend because he rejected the purpose of the Convention) and John Hancock (refused to attend for the same reason as Sam Adams).

Many of those who refused to sign the Constitution vowed to fight its ratification at the state conventions – George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, the delegates from Maryland, Luther Martin and John Mercer, and the delegates from New York, John Lansing and Robert Yates. And some strong anti-Federalists who were not delegates at Philadelphia would oppose it as well –Richard Henry Lee, Sam Adams, John Hancock, James Monroe (Virginia), and New York’s Governor George Clinton (who wrote several anti-Federalist essays under the pen name “Cato”). Add to these “big guns” the biggest ones of all – Thomas Jefferson, who was as strong a proponent of a Bill of Rights as one could be, and Patrick Henry, perhaps our most vocal and passionate orator for liberty. Jefferson would have advised Madison to include one, and certainly would have taken issue with Madison’s position on the matter, even though he would have had to do so by correspondence. Perhaps that is the reason why Madison lapsed during the final days of the Convention in updating Jefferson as to the discussions and decisions made in the Convention. It wasn’t until a month after the Convention wrapped up, on October 24, that he finally wrote to him again and sent him a copy of the draft Constitution. We do know that as the debate intensified over a Bill of Rights, Jefferson wrote Madison with his strong opinion, including his letter of December 20, 1787, in which he wrote: “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.”   [The Appendix at the end of this article contains the full commentary in Jefferson’s letter relating to the lack of Bill of Rights in the new Constitution].

On September 28, 1787, the Confederation Congress (aka, Congress of the Confederation) advised the states to begin calling their ratifying conventions, and several did so immediately. Madison left the Philadelphia Convention uncertain what the outcome of the ratification process would be. The dissent by Edmund Randolph and George Mason, both from his home state, and then their refusal to attach their names to the Constitution weighed very heavily on his mind. As Kevin Gutzman pointed out in his book James Madison and the Making of America, the influence that those two men alone had in the overall ratification process potentially could more than counter the entire “unanimity” of the Convention.

As we will see, Madison not only played a leading role in bringing about the Philadelphia Convention (he and Alexander Hamilton orchestrated the report to the Confederation Congress – the Annapolis Report – which made the recommendation that a convention be called in May 1787 in Philadelphia to address the defects of the Articles of Confederation), but he also played a critical supporting role (through his writings) in the debates in the state ratifying conventions, and then a more formal role when ratification seemed to be doomed. The Constitution was “his baby” and he was going to do all he could to see it adopted and a stronger union created. [In September 1786, a conference was called in Annapolis, Maryland to discuss the state of commerce in the fledgling nation. The national government had no authority to regulate trade between and among the states. The conference was called by Virginia, at the urging of Madison, to discuss ways to facilitate commerce and establish standard rules and regulations. Only five of the 13 states sent any delegates at all].

Between November 20, 1787 and January 9, 1788, five states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut – ratified the Constitution with relative ease, although the bitter minority report of the Pennsylvania opposition was widely circulated. Despite overwhelming success with these early conventions, the Federalists were well aware of the difficulties that lay ahead. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York were still to come and they knew that North Carolina and Rhode Island weren’t going to sign. In other words, the difficult journey still lied ahead because the anti-Federalist (opponents of the proposed Constitution) were aggressively campaigning against ratification, six states were in doubt, and the magic number of 9 states (Article VII – when 9 states ratified the Constitution, it would take effect) might never be achieved.

In the month after the close of the Convention, Madison found himself in New York and with some time to spare. It didn’t look good; too many political heavyweights were lining up against ratification. New York was unlikely to approve the Constitution. When John Lansing and Robert Yates abandoned the Philadelphia Convention, as Gutzman wrote, “they said that they had not been sent to Philadelphia to replace the Confederation with a national government.” New York’s strongest political figure, its Governor, George Clinton, sided with Lansing and Yates. Alexander Hamilton, a delegate to the Convention from NY, advised Madison that the best way to improve the chances of ratification in his state was to appeal directly to the electorate through the newspapers. After all, several anti-Federalists were already writing articles and other publications criticizing the Constitution and condemning the ambitious government it believed it created.

In addition to the anti-Federalist essays written by Governor Clinton (“Cato”), there were other, also powerful, essays published to criticize the Constitution and to highlight its many flaws. There was “Brutus” from New York (likely Robert Yates or Melancton Smith, or maybe even John Williams), “Centinel” from Pennsylvania (Samuel Bryan), “Agrippa” from Massachusetts (James Winthrop), and the “Federal Farmer” from Virginia (most likely Richard Henry Lee, or maybe Mercy Otis Warren). The is no list to identify with certainty which individuals authored the essays. Agrippa published 11 Letters “To the people,” and 5 essays “To the Massachusetts Convention” by February 5. Brutus published 11 of his 16 essays, Cato published all of his 7 essays, Centinel published 14 of his 18 letters, and Federal Farmer published all of his 18 letters between October 1787 and the start of the Massachusetts ratifying convention, which was January 9, 1788. Much to the dismay of the Federalists, the flood of Anti-federalist essays were starting to have their impact on the electorate and on more importantly, on the election of delegates, and key conventions were yet to meet (namely, New York and Virginia).  In fact, in both those states, the majority of delegates selected would be anti-Federalists.

[New York would call for its convention on February 1, select its delegates from April 29 to May 3, and set its date for June 17. Virginia would select its delegates in March, and set a date of June 2 for its convention].

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and prominent NY figure, lawyer John Jay agreed to address the anti-Federalist campaign, convinced that rejection of the Constitution would condemn the states to an unworkable union. It is likely that Madison took charge from the beginning, laying out a theme or roadmap for the essays, making sure that the criticisms of the anti-federalists were addressed, making sure the provisions of the Constitution that were most contentious were addressed and effectively explained, and that the arguments in favor of the Constitution were made that he wanted. When Jay became very ill, the bulk of the essays would have to be split between Hamilton and Madison; Jay would only be able to write 3 essays. The three men responded to each and every one of the criticisms of the anti-Federalist, in essay form, under the pen name “Publius.” Beginning in October 1787, these men penned 85 essays for New York newspapers and later collected them into 2 volumes entitled The Federalist (later to be referred to as The Federalist Papers), which addressed each concern of the anti-Federalists, analyzed the Constitution, detailed the thinking of the framers, anticipated scenarios posed by the critics, and explained what each provision meant. The Federalist Papers gave assurances that the fears of the anti-Federalists were unfounded and mere speculation and conjecture. One reading the Federalist Papers would believe the federal government to be one of strict and limited powers and without any threat of overstepping or abusing its powers. Comparing the government explained in the Federalist Papers to the one today would be to compare a pea to a grapefruit.

In contrast to its predecessor states (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut), the Massachusetts convention was angry and contentious, and at one point, it erupted into a fistfight between Federalist delegate Francis Dana and anti-Federalist Elbridge Gerry when the latter was not allowed to speak. The impasse was resolved only when revolutionary heroes and leading anti-Federalists Samuel Adams and John Hancock agreed to ratification on the condition that the convention also propose amendments. In other words, Massachusetts’ ratification was a “conditional” one. [The convention’s proposed amendments included a requirement for grand jury indictment in capital cases, which would form part of the Fifth Amendment, and an amendment reserving powers to the states not expressly given to the federal government, which would later form the basis for the Tenth Amendment. Massachusetts’ Ratification is provided in the Appendix at the end of this article].

The next contentious convention would be in Virginia – in June.

At this point, I wanted to provide a timeline of the State Ratifying Conventions:

Timeline of State Ratifying Conventions:

Delaware – December 7, 1787 –  Delaware ratified the Constitution, 30-0.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/delaware-ratifies-30-0/ ]

Pennsylvania – December 12, 1787 – Pennsylvania ratified, 46-23.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/pennsylvania-ratifies-46-23/ ]

New Jersey – December 18, 1787 –  New Jersey ratified, 38-0.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/new-jersey-ratifies-38-0/ ]

Georgia – December 31, 1787 – Georgia ratified, 20-0.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/georgia-deed-of-ratification/ ]

Connecticut – January 9, 1787 –  Connecticut ratified 128-40.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/connecticut-ratifies-128-40/]  

Massachusetts – February 6, 1788 – The delegates to the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention were split on whether to ratify the Constitution or reject it, and so they came up with a compromise.  The high road explanation is that responsible leaders from both parties, including Adams and Hancock, convened and said, “Look, we’ve been at this now for nearly a month. We’re not making any progress whatsoever. The country is in crisis and if Massachusetts doesn’t sign, then we’re down the tubes. Is there some way we can come to some common ground on this?” And the common ground was that Massachusetts would ratify now with an expectation that in the First Congress amendments would be proposed to alter the Constitution. This is known as the Massachusetts Compromise. And enough people bought into it because Hancock bought into it, that it swayed enough delegates to ensure ratification. So the high ground is the sense of crisis, the sense of duty, the sense of Hamilton‘s remark in Federalist 85 that states would be better off signing quickly and working within the system, and that sense that Massachusetts had a responsibility to step up and take the lead. Ultimately, the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention ratified 187-168 with 9 proposed amendments – again with the understanding and expectation that a Bill of Rights would be added.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/stagethree/ ]

New Hampshire – February 14, 1788  – A majority of the delegates to the New Hampshire Ratifying Convention were opposed to ratification, and so the delegates to the convention voted to postpone until June 18, at which time they would take up the issue of ratification again.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/stagethree/ ]

Rhode Island – March 24, 1788 – Rhode Island rejected the call for a state ratifying convention; the state had no intention of even considering a new constitution.

Maryland – April 26, 1788 – Maryland ratified 63-11.   [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/stagefour/#maryland ]

South Carolina – May 23, 1788 – South Carolina ratified, 149-73, with 5 Declarations and Resolves.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/tansill/ratification-southcarolina/ ]

New Hampshire – June 21, 1788 – New Hampshire ratified 57-47, with 12 proposed amendments.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/new-hampshire-ratifies-57-47-with-12-proposed-amendments/ ]

Virginia – June 25, 1788 –  Virginia ratified 89-79, with 20 Bill of Rights and 20 proposed amendments.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/virginia-ratifies-89-79-with-20-proposed-amendments/ ]

On July 2, 1788, the Confederation Congress (still under the Articles of Confederation at the time), adopted the ratification of the US Constitution. The old union (13 colonies-turned-states) was dissolved at that point and a new union, comprising the states that had ratified up until this point (DE, PA, NJ, GA, CT, MA, NH, MD, SC, and VA) was formed.

New York – July 25-26, 1788 – New York ratified on July 26, after debating the day before whether to ratify with amendments or not. It ratified by a slim margin, 30-27, with 25 Bill of Rights and 31 proposed amendments.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/new-york-ratifies-30-27-with-31-proposed-amendments/ ].  The first three Bill of Rights read:

(1)  That all Power is originally vested in and consequently derived from the People, and that Government is instituted by them for their common Interest Protection and Security.

(2)  That the enjoyment of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are essential rights which every Government ought to respect and preserve.

(3)  That the Powers of Government may be reassumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the Government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same; And that those Clauses in the said Constitution, which declare, that Congress shall not have or exercise certain Powers, do not imply that Congress is entitled to any Powers not given by the said Constitution; but such Clauses are to be construed either as exceptions to certain specified Powers, or as inserted merely for greater Caution.  [= “RESUMPTION CLAUSE.”  This condition to ratification, as the states of Virginia and Rhode Island also exercised this condition, is critical to understanding the reserved right of a state to secede from the Union].

(4)  That the People have an equal, natural and unalienable right, freely and peaceably to Exercise their Religion according to the dictates of Conscience, and that no Religious Sect or Society ought to be favored or established by Law in preference of others.

(5)  That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well-regulated Militia, including the body of the People capable of bearing Arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free State;

North Carolina – August 2, 1788 – North Carolina voted 184-84 against ratification.  [http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/vol4/northcarolina0802/ ]

On September 13, 1788, the Confederation Congress prepared for the new government to take its place. On January 7, 1789, presidential electors were selected, and on February 4, the first election was held to select representatives to the new government under the US Constitution. The candidates receiving the top votes for president were George Washington and John Adams, and so they became the country’s first president and vice-president, respectively. James Madison was elected to the first US Congress from the state of Virginia. The first US Congress was inaugurated on March 4, and finally, on March 30, Washington was inaugurated. He delivered what would become one of the most memorable and often-cited Inaugural addresses.

The first government created by the US Constitution was installed.

North Carolina – November 21, 1789 –  North Carolina ratified 194-77, with 20 Bill of Rights and 21 proposed amendments

Rhode Island – May 29, 1790 –  Rhode Island ratified 34-32, with 18 Bill of Rights and 21 proposed amendments.  [Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/tansill/ratification-rhodeisland/ ]

***  Timeline of Ratification of the US Constitution, Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/bor/timeline/.  By clicking on the State Ratifying Convention, you can pull up the debates, the votes, and the proposed amendments associated with each state’s vote.  Also, I have included, in the Appendix at the end of this article, the proposed Bill of Rights and/or proposed amendments proposed by the certain states in their ratifications].

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Having co-written The Federalist Papers to help secure ratification in New York, James Madison left the state for Virginia, to take up the battle there. [The Virginia Convention would be held before the New York Convention, two weeks before, but as it turned out, they would continue simultaneously].  Back in Virginia, Madison would have to face Patrick Henry, George Mason, Edmund Randolph, James Monroe, Richard Henry Lee (one-time president of the Continental Congress) and William Grayson (VA representative in the Continental Congress). George Mason had authored the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights and the state constitution (chief author, at least) so he would clearly be a forceful authority on the necessity of a Bill of Rights. Mason and Lee would mount the most strenuous opposition to the proposed Constitution, in favor of amending it to include a Bill of Rights. Patrick Henry would oppose it on states’ rights grounds as well. He urged that Virginia hold out for amendments.

Virginia elected its delegates to the Convention in March 1788, and many men – many prominent men – ran for a seat. Interestingly, some of the more prominent men who chose not to run, or who did not win, included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Beverley Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, and a few others. The most prominent men who were elected included James Madison, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Governor Edmund Randolph, James Monroe, William Grayson, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, George Nicholas, former VA Governor Benjamin Harrison V, and John Marshall (who would go on to become our most influential Supreme Court Chief Justice). Of the 168 delegates, the majority were anti-Federalists.

In his book James Madison and the Making of America, Gutzman goes into detail with respect to Mason’s objections to the proposed Constitution. He wrote:

On October 7, Mason sent a letter to [George] Washington including his objections to the Constitution. An amended version of notes he had made during the Philadelphia Convention, this document essentially repeated complaints Mason had raised then: There was no Declaration of Rights, and the Supremacy Clause meant state declarations would be unavailing; the House was too small; the Senate had money powers, although it did not represent the people; the combination of legislative and executive powers in the Senate endangered liberty’ the federal judiciary would swallow up the state judiciaries and thus allow the rich to oppress the poor; the president lacked an executive council, which meant he would be led by the Senate; and the vice-president, in limbo between the Senate and the executive branch, was a dangerous personage – besides which he would give one state three Senate votes, which was unfair.

In addition to these objections, Mason also went public with his Philadelphia Convention prediction that the Commerce Clause would empower the eight northern states to abuse the five southern ones. There would be a tendency for Congress to read almost anything into the Necessary & Proper Clause, which threatened both states’ rights and individuals’ rights.  [James Madison and the Making of America, pg. 189]

Virginia’s Convention met from June 2 – June 27. The Convention would end up pitting Patrick Henry against James Madison, with the former spending much more time on the floor speaking.  Henry was Madison’s most formidable antagonist in the ratification fight.  Henry was perhaps our most passionate founding father, being known for his fiery speeches and his imagery. He was the voice of the revolution. As Gutzman wrote: “He was the great guardian of Virginians’ self-government and inherited rights. He was also an orator without parallel, one who could cause hair to stand up on the necks even of his most devout opponents.”  He did not disappoint at the Convention.

On June 8, he took to the floor to accuse the proposed government created by the Constitution of being a consolidated one. His position was that a confederated government (under the Articles) was being replaced by a consolidated government. He objected to the introductory phrase “We the People…,” claiming that it conjured up the notion that the government would be a consolidated national one. He wanted the language changed to “We the States…”  In his speech that day, he said:

“It is said eight States have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve States and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government. Having premised these things, I shall, with the aid of my judgment and information, which, I confess, are not extensive, go into the discussion of this system more minutely. Is it necessary for your liberty that you should abandon those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else: But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an fellow: Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old fashioned: If so, I am contented to be so: I say, the time has been when every pore of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American: But suspicions have gone forth-suspicions of my integrity-publicly reported that my professions are not real. 23 years ago was I supposed a traitor to my country; I was then said to be the bane of sedition, because I supported the rights of my country: I may be thought suspicious when I say our privileges and rights are in danger.”

One of the more contentious days came on June 24; the Convention was winding down. George Wythe opened the day’s proceedings with a speech in favor of ratifying the Constitution before amending it. Madison followed, emphasizing many of the same themes he and Hamilton and Jay had addressed in The Federalist essays. Just as the elderly Benjamin Franklin had urged his fellow delegates in Philadelphia to quit their bickering and work together for the greater good at, Madison essentially tried to make the same point in Richmond. As to the position that amendments should be added before Virginia ratified, Madison argued that it was unreasonable. He didn’t think it was reasonable to expect the other states (eight of them) to retract their unconditional ratifications in order to accommodate Virginia’s demand that the Constitution be first amended, and particularly to include a Bill of Rights. Up until that point, Madison had remained relatively quiet at the Convention. And even when he spoke, he came across as meek. But he was never one to project very well. When he spoke on the 24th, it was in a strained, quiet tone. But he spoke articulately and rationally, and he addressed the many concerns of the anti-Federalists.

When he concluded, he yielded the floor to Henry. From Gutzman’s book:

An account given by Federalist Archibald Stuart proves the point. Henry concluded his speech by calling attention to ‘the awful dangers” attendant upon their vote. “I see beings of a higher order, Henry thundered, “anxious concerning our decision.”  “Our own happiness alone is not affected by the event – All nations are interested in the determination. We have it in our power to secure the happiness of one half of the human race….”    [James Madison and the Making of America, pg. 233]

The Convention was getting ready to take a vote when an obscure delegate endorsed Patrick Henry’s call for a list of amendments. “The delegate said that he could not vote for ratification until he was assured that amendments protecting Virginians’ historic rights would be recommended. Madison answered that he would not oppose any ‘safe’ amendments (but continued to assert that he believed it unnecessary, and perhaps even dangerous.’” [Ibid, pg. 235]

Ultimately, on June 25, the delegates voted against first proposing amendments to the other states prior to Virginia’s ratification (ie, having the other states recall their unconditional ratification and re-consider ratification after amendments were added) and voted 89-79 in favor of ratification, with proposed amendments.  On June 27, the Convention adopted a set of 40 proposed amendments. A committee, headed by law professor George Wythe, drafted the amendments – 20 enumerated individual rights (Bill of Rights) and the other 20 enumerated states’ rights. The amendments were forwarded to the Confederation Congress. [Virginia’s Ratification is provided in the Appendix at the end of this article. Take note of its Bill of Rights – it includes a “Resumption Clause”].

While there were delegates at several conventions who supported an “amendments before” approach to ratification, it soon shifted to an “amendments after” for the sake of trying to hold the Union together. Ultimately, only North Carolina and Rhode Island waited for amendments from Congress before ratifying.

Four days prior to the conclusion of the Virginia Convention, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire ratified the Constitution. What makes that date special is that when New Hampshire ratified, with its 12 proposed amendments, the required number of state ratifications, according to Article VII of the Constitution, had been met to establish the Constitution. [Article VII – “The ratification of the conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same.”} The Constitution would become operational. A new union (comprised of those states that had ratified) was created and the new frame of government would be established.

The New York ratification convention met on June 17, 1788, while the Virginia Convention was still debating ratification. As with Virginia, a majority of its 67 delegates were anti-Federalists. (The New York Convention would last over month – from June 17 until July 26). On the opening day, the anti-Federalists, led by Governor Clinton, clamored for a Bill of Rights and fought to preserve the autonomy of the state against what it believed were actual and potential federal encroachments. Hamilton (the only NY delegate to the Philadelphia Convention to sign the Constitution) and the Federalists, on the other hand, contended that a stronger central government would provide a solid base from which New York could grow and prosper. While the debates were contentious, the Federalists were ultimately successful and on July 26, the Constitution was ratified by a very slim margin, 30-27, but with 25 Bill of Rights and 31 proposed amendments. The Convention also voted to call for a second federal convention.  [New York’s Ratification is provided in the Appendix at the end of this article. Take note of its Bill of Rights – it includes a “Resumption Clause”].

On September 13, 1788, the Articles of Confederation Congress certified that the new Constitution had been ratified by more than enough states for the new system to be implemented and directed the new government to meet in New York City on the first Wednesday in March the following year. On March 4, 1789, the new frame of government came into force with eleven of the thirteen states participating – and without a Bill of Rights.

Opposition to the new Constitution among leading Virginians lingered. It would continue to be a thorn in James Madison’s ass…  the man who deceived the states into sending delegates to Philadelphia believing they were tasked with proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation (when all along, he wanted them to take up the issue of an all-new scheme of government – his scheme, the “Virginia Plan”), the man who thought his scheme had finally been realized, and the man who supposedly held that “not a letter of the Constitution” should be altered.

After Virginia’s ratification and New York’s ratification, the future of the Constitution, as ratified, was not certain.  New York wanted to call another federal convention (to amend the new Constitution?  To get rid of the new Constitution?) and several powerful Virginians, with Patrick Henry taking the lead, seemed likely to move for the same.

As fate would have it, Madison set his sights on the US Senate. But there was one problem for him – the Constitution (pre-17th Amendment) empowered the state legislatures to elect senators, but the VA state legislature (VA General Assembly) was comprised of many enemies he had made in his efforts to deceive the states at the Philadelphia Convention, to write the Constitution, and to secure its ratification, including the great Patrick Henry. And Henry and his fellow anti-Federalists got the chance to get even: in its selection of Senators,  the legislature chose Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson.

Both Richard Henry Lee and William Grayson agreed with Patrick Henry that the Constitution should have been amended to include a Bill of Rights (at the least) before it was ratified. Both, it seems, would favor a second convention.

Madison, at this point, was warming somewhat to the notion of amendments, but it’s not sure if he was warming because he agreed that a Bill of Rights is essential to limit powers of government or if he was just nervous that the issue might be the one to sink his Constitution. One thing is for certain though, he would have rather the Constitution be amended by the first option in Article V (amendments proposed by Congress and then sent to the states for adoption) than by a second convention (the second option in Article V; a convention of states). Kevin Gutzman addressed this in his book:

For one thing, some states would oppose a convention so strongly that they would reflexively oppose any amendment it might propose. For another, it would be easier to have Congress propose amendments than to follow the process in Article V of the Constitution for convening another meeting like the one at Philadelphia. Finally, another convention would include members with extreme views on both ends of the political spectrum, enflame the public mind, and produce nothing conductive to the general good. He had seen how the first convention had worked, and he did not want to hazard a second – which, too, would undermine the impression of the American republic’s stability left in European capitals by the success of the recent ratification campaign.  [James Madison and the Making of America, pg. 241]

Defeated in his bid for the US Senate, Madison decided to stand for the House of Representatives. But again, he would be at the mercy of his nemesis, Patrick Henry. Henry wielded power in the General Assembly, and that power included the ability to draw congressional districts. To spite Madison, he helped draw a map that put Montpelier (Madison’s home) in the same district as James Monroe’s house. In the Richmond Convention, Monroe had aligned himself with Henry, Mason, and Grayson and had voted “nay” on the vote for ratification. “Because Monroe had been an authentic hero in the revolution – suffering a significant wound in Washington’s great victory at Trenton – and had established a respectable legislative record in both Virginia and in the Congress of the Confederation, his opposition would be formidable.” [Ibid, pg. 241]

Madison campaigned against Monroe, and due to the contentious issue of the Constitution lacking a Bill of Rights, Madison softened on the issue of adding amendments. Perhaps all the letters that Jefferson sent him at this time emphasizing the need for a Bill of Rights had something to do with it.  “If pursued with a proper moderation and in a proper mode [meaning that the First Congress would propose amendments for the states’ approval, per Article V], they would serve the double purpose of satisfying the minds of well-meaning opponents and of providing additional guards in favor of liberty.”  [Ibid, pg. 242].  Taking Madison at his word and believing him to be a man of his word, voters selected him over Monroe for the US House of Representatives.

On March 4, 1789, the first US Congress was seated, in New York City’s Federal Hall. The first thing to do was to organize itself. On April 1, the House of Representatives elected its officers, and the Senate did the same on April 6. Also on the 6th, the House and Senate met in joint session and counted the Electoral College ballots for the selection of president. George Washington was certified as president (having been unanimously selected) and John Adams as vice president.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the nation’s first president, also at Federal Hall, delivering the Inaugural Address that James Madison had written for him. In that message, Washington addressed the subject of amending the Constitution. He urged the legislators:

“Whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience; a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen, and a regard for public harmony, will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question, how far the former can be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted…..”

Madison knew that as long as the concerns of the anti-Federalists regarding the Constitution remained unaddressed, the threat of a new convention would remain, and so he would take the initiative to propose amendments (comprising a Bill of Rights) himself.  By taking the initiative to propose amendments himself through the Congress, he hoped to preempt a second constitutional convention that might, it was feared, undo  the difficult compromises of 1787, and open the entire Constitution to reconsideration, thus risking the dissolution of the new federal government. Writing to Jefferson, he stated, “The friends of the Constitution, some from an approbation of particular amendments, others from a spirit of conciliation, are generally agreed that the System should be revised. But they wish the revisal to be carried no farther than to supply additional guards for liberty.” He also felt that amendments guaranteeing personal liberties would “give to the Government its due popularity and stability.” Finally, he hoped that the amendments “would acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free government, and as they become incorporated with the national sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion.” [Historians continue to debate the degree to which Madison considered the amendments of the Bill of Rights necessary, and to what degree he considered them politically expedient; in the outline of his address, he wrote, “Bill of Rights—useful—not essential—”].  (see Wikipedia)

On June 8, Madison introduced a series of Constitutional amendments in the House of Representatives for consideration. Among his proposals was one that would have added introductory language stressing natural rights to the Preamble. Another would apply parts of the Bill of Rights to the states as well as the federal government. Several sought to protect individual personal rights by limiting various Constitutional powers of Congress. He urged Congress to keep the revision to the Constitution “a moderate one,” limited to protecting individual rights.

Madison was deeply read in the history of government and used a range of sources in composing the amendments. The English Magna Carta inspired the right to petition and to trial by jury, for example, while the English Bill of Rights of 1689 provided an early draft for the right to keep and bear arms and also for the right against cruel and unusual punishment.

The greatest influence on Madison’s text, however, was existing state constitutions, and especially Virginia’s. Many of his amendments, including his proposed new preamble, were based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which were drafted in 1776 by another great nemesis, anti-Federalist George Mason. To reduce future opposition to ratification, Madison also looked for recommendations shared by many states. He did provide one, however, that no state had specifically requested: “No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.” He did not include an amendment that every state had asked for, one that would have made tax assessments voluntary instead of contributions. Madison’s proposed the following constitutional amendments:

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 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 defense.

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 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.

[References:  See the Appendix, at the end of this article, for James Madison’s Speech in the House of Representatives, June 8, 1789, proposing a Bill of Rights, and also see Wikipedia: “United States Bill of Rights”].

The House passed a joint resolution containing 17 amendments based on Madison’s proposal. The Senate changed the joint resolution to consist of 12 amendments and rejected Madison’s suggestions for the Preamble. A joint House and Senate Conference Committee settled remaining disagreements in September. On October 2, 1789, President Washington sent copies of the 12 amendments adopted by Congress to the states. Again, the states would have to call up conventions – this time to debate and ratify the proposed amendments.

In the meantime, North Carolina finally ratified the Constitution, 194-77, with 20 Bill of Rights and 21 proposed amendments. She remained true to her principles – that she would not ratify a constitution without a Bill of Rights included.  Note that while North Carolina was second to last to ratify the Constitution, she was third to ratify the Bill of Rights, on December 22, 1789).

On December 15, Virginia was the eleventh state to adopt the amendments. Having been adopted by the requisite three-fourths of the several states (there being 14 States in the Union at the time, as Vermont had been admitted into the Union on March 4, 1791), the ratification of Articles Three through Twelve was completed and they became Amendments 1 through 10 of the Constitution – also known as our US Bill of Rights. President Washington informed Congress of this on January 18, 1792.

The original First and Second amendments fell short of the required 3/4 majority to make it into the Constitution, but interestingly, the original proposed second amendment (which addressed when Congress can change its pay) finally was adopted in 1992 to become our last amendment, the 27th amendment.

Note that the US Bill of Rights applies only to action by the federal government. It places limits only on its power. As most of you may know from your state constitutions, states have included similar guarantees of liberty of their own. Article I of the North Carolina State Constitution, for example, lists the NC Bill of Rights. The 14th Amendment has been mis-applied to incorporate all guarantees of rights and privileges on the states, and in fact, the 14th amendment, even though it was never constitutionally ratified, is the number one basis for all constitutional challenges.

It is a shame that the cartoon depiction of the Bill of Rights attached leaves off the 9th and 10th Amendments. The 9th Amendment states that the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. And the 10th Amendment states that all powers not expressly delegated to the federal government by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the states are reserved to the states or to the people. These amendments underscore the unique foundation of American liberty – that government is not the ultimate sovereign and individuals enjoy only those rights and privileges the government is generous enough to grant them. In America, rights are endowed on each individual by the Creator, inseparable from our very humanity, and government power derives from the natural and inherent right of each person to govern himself and to protect himself, his family, and his property. This is the concept of Individual Sovereignty referred to in the Declaration of Independence, the document that provides the foundational principles, the rights, and expectations for each State in this Union (despite what the federal government might say). It is the document that recognized each state as an independent sovereign for the world to take note; it is the document for which the Treaty of Paris of 1783 addressed to end the war for American Independence. The treaty included this provision: “Britain acknowledges the United States (New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia[15]) to be free, sovereign, and independent states…..

James Madison wrote: “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example … of charters of power granted by liberty. This revolution in the practice of the world, may, with an honest praise, be pronounced the most triumphant epoch of its history, and the most consoling presage of its happiness.”

I urge everyone to take time today and read the Bill of Rights and understand what each guarantees and why. After all, they protect your most essential liberty rights.

 

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References:

Kevin R.C. Gutzman, James Madison and the Making of America; St. Martin’s Press (NY), 2012.

Gordon Lloyd, “The Bill of Rights,” Teaching American History. Referenced at:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/bor/roots-chart/

The Six Stages of Ratification – Stage III: Winter in New England: Postpone and Compromise (Massachusetts – February 6, 1788 and New Hampshire (postpones) – February 24, 1788) –http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/stagethree/

Report of the House Select Committee, July 28, 1789 –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/report-of-the-house-select-committee/

House Debates Select Committee Report, August 13-24, 1789 –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/house-debates-select-committee-report/

Ratification of the Constitution, State-by-State –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/overview/

US Constitution, Virginia’s Ratification, from the Library of Congress (from its copy of Elliot’s Debates) –   https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_va.html

Day-to-Day Summary of the Virginia Ratifying Convention  –   http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/virginiatimeline/   OR  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/virginia/

US Constitution, New York’s Ratification, from the Library of Congress (from its copy of Elliot’s Debates) – https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_ny.html

Day-to-Day Summary of the New York Ratifying Convention  –  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/newyorktimeline/     OR:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/newyork/

The Debates in the Several State Ratifying Conventions (Elliott’s Debates) – http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/elliot/   [On this site, you can click on links for the following state conventions and it will bring you to calendars so you can see what they did on a day-by-day basis: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina]

James Madison Proposes a Bill of Rights to Congress, June 8, 1789) – http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1786-1800/madison-speech-proposing-the-bill-of-rights-june-8-1789.php

United States Bill of Rights,” Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

Patrick Henry’s Speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 8, 1788 – http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1786-1800/the-anti-federalist-papers/speech-of-patrick-henry-(june-5-1788).php

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, dated December 20, 1787, Founders Online –  https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-12-02-0454

Chart: Approval of the Bill of Rights in Congress and the States — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

 

APPENDIX #1  (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, dated December 20, 1787, on the topic of the new Constitution and the lack of a Bill of Rights)

“…….I have little to fill a letter. I will therefore make up the deficiency by adding a few words on the Constitution proposed by our Convention. I like much the general idea of framing a government which should go on of itself peaceably, without needing continual recurrence to the state legislatures. I like the organization of the government into Legislative, Judiciary and Executive. I like the power given the Legislature to levy taxes; and for that reason solely approve of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For though I think a house chosen by them will be very ill-qualified to legislate for the Union, for foreign nations etc. yet this evil does not weigh against the good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle that the people are not to be taxed but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves. I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the great and little states, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence. I am much pleased too with the substitution of the method of voting by persons, instead of that of voting by states….  There are other good things of less moment. I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of Nations. To say, as Mr. Wilson does that a bill of rights was not necessary because all is reserved in the case of the general government which is not given, while in the particular ones all is given which is not reserved might do for the Audience to whom it was addressed, but is surely gratis dictum, opposed by strong inferences from the body of the instrument, as well as from the omission of the clause of our present confederation which had declared that in express terms. It was a hard conclusion to say because there has been no uniformity among the states as to the cases triable by jury, because some have been so incautious as to abandon this mode of trial, therefore the more prudent states shall be reduced to the same level of calamity. It would have been much more just and wise to have concluded the other way that as most of the states had judiciously preserved this palladium, those who had wandered should be brought back to it, and to have established general right instead of general wrong. Let me add that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference……”

[Reference:  https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-12-02-0454 ]

 

APPENDIX #2  (James Madison’s Speech in Congress, June 8, 1789, proposing a Bill of Rights)

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 on 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 5th 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 subjects, 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, as 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, their 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 as present feel much inclined to join their support to the cause of federalism, if they were satisfied in 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 shew 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 who 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 re-union 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 that are not come in, that we have seen prevailing [in] those states which are.

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 re-consideration 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 was opened, if 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 provision against encroachments on particular rights, and those safeguards which they have been long accustomed to have interposed between them and the magistrate who exercised the sovereign power: nor ought we to consider them safe, while a great number of our fellow citizens think these securities necessary.

It has been 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 2st. 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 amount 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 2st, 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 2st, 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 by 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 office; 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 defense.

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 2st, 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 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 classes 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, came 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 the 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 the 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 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 defense; 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 mean 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 them who are 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 or 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, because 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 the 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. Beside 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 may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the 4th resolution.

It has been said, that it is necessary 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 does it 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. Beside 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 operation 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 tranquility 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 lesser 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, etc.” 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 controvers 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 gentlemen 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 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 dispatch in the business of amendments, if I was 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.

[Reference:  http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1786-1800/madison-speech-proposing-the-bill-of-rights-june-8-1789.php ]

 

APPENDIX #3  (STATE RATIFICATIONS):

I.  NEW YORK RATIFICATION (on July 26, 1788), with 25 Bill of Rights:

WE the Delegates of the People of the State of New York, duly elected and Met in Convention, having maturely considered the Constitution for the United States of America, agreed to on the seventeenth day of September, in the year One thousand Seven hundred and Eighty seven, by the Convention then assembled at Philadelphia in the Common—wealth of Pennsylvania (a Copy whereof precedes these presents) and having also seriously and deliberately considered the present situation of the United States, Do declare and make known.

— That all Power is originally vested in and consequently derived from the People, and that Government is instituted by them for their common Interest Protection and Security.

—  That the enjoyment of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are essential rights which every Government ought to respect and preserve.

—  That the Powers of Government may be reassumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the Government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same; And that those Clauses in the said Constitution, which declare, that Congress shall not have or exercise certain Powers, do not imply that Congress is entitled to any Powers not given by the said Constitution; but such Clauses are to be construed either as exceptions to certain specified Powers, or as inserted merely for greater Caution.  [Note:  This provision, or condition is known as a “RESUMPTION CLAUSE.”  This condition to ratification, as the states of Virginia and Rhode Island also exercised this condition, is critical to understanding the reserved right of a state to secede from the Union].

—  That the People have an equal, natural and unalienable right, freely and peaceably to Exercise their Religion according to the dictates of Conscience, and that no Religious Sect or Society ought to be favored or established by Law in preference of others.

—  That the People have a right to keep and bear Arms; that a well-regulated Militia, including the body of the People capable of bearing Arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free State;

—  That the Militia should not be subject to Martial Law except in time of War, Rebellion or Insurrection.

—  That standing Armies in time of Peace are dangerous to Liberty, and ought not to be kept up, except in Cases of necessity; and that at all times, the Military should be under strict Subordination to the civil Power.

—  That in time of Peace no Soldier ought to be quartered in any House without the consent of the Owner, and in time of War only by the Civil Magistrate in such manner as the Laws may direct.

—  That no Person ought to be taken imprisoned, or disseised of his freehold, or be exiled or deprived of his Privileges, Franchises, Life, Liberty or Property but by due process of Law.

—  That no Person ought to be put twice in Jeopardy of Life or Limb for one and the same Offence, nor, unless in case of impeachment, be punished more than once for the same Offence.

—  That every Person restrained of his Liberty is entitled to an enquiry into the lawfulness of such restraint, and to a removal thereof if unlawful, and that such enquiry and removal ought not to be denied or delayed, except when on account of Public Danger the Congress shall suspend the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

—  That excessive Bail ought not to be required; nor excessive Fines imposed; nor Cruel or unusual Punishments inflicted.

—  That (except in the Government of the Land and Naval Forces, and of the Militia when in actual Service, and in cases of Impeachment) a Presentment or Indictment by a Grand Jury ought to be observed as a necessary preliminary to the trial of all Crimes cognizable by the Judiciary of the United States, and such Trial should be speedy, public, and by an impartial Jury of the County where the Crime was committed; and that no person can be found Guilty without the unanimous consent of such Jury. But in cases of Crimes not committed within any County of any of the United States, and in Cases of Crimes committed within any County in which a general Insurrection may prevail, or which may be in the possession of a foreign Enemy, the enquiry and trial may be in such County as the Congress shall by Law direct; which County in the two Cases last mentioned should be as near as conveniently may be to that County in which the Crime may have been committed. And that in all Criminal Prosecutions, the Accused ought to be informed of the cause and nature of his Accusation, to be confronted with his accusers and the Witnesses against him, to have the means of producing his Witnesses, and the assistance of Council for his defense, and should not be compelled to give Evidence against himself.

—  That the trial by Jury in the extent that it obtains by the Common Law of England is one of the greatest securities to the rights of a free People, and ought to remain inviolate.

—  That every Freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person his papers or his property, and therefore, that all Warrants to search suspected places or seize any Freeman his papers or property, without information upon Oath or Affirmation of sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive; and that all general Warrants (or such in which the place or person suspected are not particularly designated) are dangerous and ought not to be granted.

—  That the People have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult for their common good, or to instruct their Representatives; and that every person has a right to Petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of Grievances.

—  That the Freedom of the Press ought not to be violated or restrained.

—  That there should be once in four years an Election of the President and Vice President, so that no Officer who may be appointed by the Congress to act as President in case of the removal, death, resignation or inability of the President and Vice President can in any case continue to act beyond the termination of the period for which the last President and Vice President were elected.

—  That nothing contained in the said Constitution is to be construed to prevent the Legislature of any State from passing Laws at its discretion from time to time to divide such State into convenient Districts, and to apportion its Representatives to and amongst such Districts.

—  That the Prohibition contained in the said Constitution against ex post facto Laws, extends only to Laws concerning Crimes.

—  That all Appeals in Causes determineable according to the course of the common Law, ought to be by Writ of Error and not otherwise.

—  That the Judicial Power of the United States in cases in which a State may be a party, does not extend to criminal Prosecutions, or to authorize any Suit by any Person against a State.

—  That the Judicial Power of the United States as to Controversies between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States is not to be construed to extend to any other Controversies between them except those which relate to such Lands, so claimed under Grants of different States.

—  That the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States, or of any other Court to be instituted by the Congress, is not in any case to be increased enlarged or extended by any Fiction Collusion or mere suggestion;

—  And That no Treaty is to be construed so to operate as to alter the Constitution of any State.

Under these impressions and declaring that the rights aforesaid cannot be abridged or violated, and that the Explanations aforesaid are consistent with the said Constitution, And in confidence that the Amendments which shall have been proposed to the said Constitution will receive an early and mature Consideration: We the said Delegates, in the Name and in the behalf of the People of the State of New York Do by these presents Assent to and Ratify the said Constitution. In full Confidence nevertheless that until a Convention shall be called and convened for proposing Amendments to the said Constitution, the Militia of this State will not be continued in Service out of this State for a longer term than six weeks without the Consent of the Legislature thereof; — that the Congress will not make or alter any Regulation in this State respecting the times places and manner of holding Elections for Senators or Representatives unless the Legislature of this State shall neglect or refuse to make Laws or regulations for the purpose, or from any circumstance be incapable of making the same, and that in those cases such power will only be exercised until the Legislature of this State shall make provision in the Premises; — that no Excise will be imposed on any Article of the Growth production or Manufacture of the United States, or any of them within this State, Ardent Spirits excepted; And that the Congress will not lay direct Taxes within this State, but when the Monies arising from the Impost and Excise shall be insufficient for the public Exigencies, nor then, until Congress shall first have made a Requisition upon this State to assess levy and pay the Amount of such Requisition made agreeably to the Census fixed in the said Constitution in such way and manner as the Legislature of this State shall judge best, but that in such case, if the State shall neglect or refuse to pay its proportion pursuant to such Requisition, then the Congress may assess and levy this States proportion together with Interest at the Rate of six per Centum per Annum from the time at which the same was required to be paid.

[Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/new-york-ratifies-30-27-with-31-proposed-amendments/ ].

 

II.  VIRGINIA RATIFICATION (June 25, 1788), with 20 Bill of Rights and 20 proposed amendments:

Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia, June 26, 1788. Virginia ratified the Constitution in two steps. The first was the declaration of ratification. The second was a recommendation that a bill of rights be added to the Constitution, and that a list of amendments also be added in accordance with Article 5.  [Reference: https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_va.html ]

Step 1:

WE the Delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly, and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, DO in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will: that therefore no right of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives acting in any capacity, by the President or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes: and that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States.  [Note:  This provision, or condition is known as a “RESUMPTION CLAUSE.”  This condition to ratification, as the states of New York and Rhode Island also exercised this condition, is critical to understanding the reserved right of a state to secede from the Union].

With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the searcher of hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction, that, whatsoever imperfections may exist in the Constitution, ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by a delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments previous to the ratification.

Step 2:  Virginia, do by these presents assent to, and ratify the Constitution recommended on the seventeenth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven (September 17, 1787), by the Federal Convention for the Government of the United States; hereby announcing to all those whom it may concern, that the said Constitution is binding upon the said People, according to an authentic copy hereto annexed, in the words following:

Wythe reported, from the Committee appointed, such amendments to the proposed Constitution of Government for the United States, as were by them deemed necessary to be recommended to the consideration of the Congress which shall first assemble under the said Constitution, to be acted upon according to the mode prescribed in the fifth article thereof; and he read the same in his place, and afterwards delivered them in at the clerk’s table, where the same were again read, and are as follows:

That there be a Declaration or Bill of Rights asserting and securing from encroachment the essential and unalienable rights of the people in some such manner as the following:

1st. That there are certain natural rights of which men when they form a social compact cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of life, and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2d. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees, and agents, and at all times amenable to them.

3d. That the Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.

4th. That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator or judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.

5th. That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular elections, in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall direct.

6th. That elections of Representatives in the legislature ought to be free and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community, ought to have the right of suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the people without their own consent, or that of their representatives, so elected, nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

7th. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws by any authority without the consent of the representatives, of the people in the legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8th. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty (except in the government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself.

9th. That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property but by the law of the land.

10th. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to enquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful, and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.

11th. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is one of the greatest securities to the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.

12th. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments, or regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.

13th. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

14th. That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his papers, and property; all warrants therefore to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or property, without information upon oath (or affirmation of a person religiously scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive, and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to apprehend any suspected person without specially naming or describing the place or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.

15th. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every freeman has a right to petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of grievances.

16th. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and ought not to be violated.

17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power.

18th. That no soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the laws direct.

19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

20th. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.

[References:  https://www.usconstitution.net/rat_va.html  and http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/virginia-ratifies-89-79-with-20-proposed-amendments/ ]

 

III.  MASSACUSETTS RATIFICATION (“Conditional Ratification,” February 6, 1788), with 9 proposed amendments:

The Convention have impartially discussed, and fully considered the Constitution for the United States of America, reported to Congress by the Convention of Delegates from the United States of America, and submitted to us by a resolution of the General Court of the said Commonwealth, passed the twenty fifth day of October last past, and acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in affording the People of the United States in the course of his providence an opportunity deliberately and peaceably without fraud or surprise of entering into an explicit and solemn Compact with each other by assenting to and ratifying a New Constitution in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty to themselves and their posterity; Do in the name and in behalf of the People of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts assent to and ratify the said Constitution for the United States of America.

And as it is the opinion of this Convention that certain amendments and alterations in the said Constitution would remove the fears and quiet the apprehensions of many of the good people of this Commonwealth and more effectually guard against an undue administration of the Federal Government, The Convention do therefore recommend that the following alterations and provisions be introduced into the said Constitution.

First, That it be explicitly declared that all Powers not expressly delegated by the aforesaid Constitution are reserved to the several States to be by them exercised.

Secondly, That there shall be one representative to every thirty thousand persons according to the Census mentioned in the Constitution until the whole number of the Representatives amounts to Two hundred.

Thirdly, That Congress do not exercise the powers vested in them by the fourth Section of the first article, but in cases when a State shall neglect or refuse to make the regulations therein mentioned or shall make regulations subversive of the rights of the People to a free and equal representation in Congress agreeably to the Constitution.

Fourthly, That Congress do not lay direct Taxes but when the Monies arising from the Impost and Excise are insufficient for the public exigencies nor then until Congress shall have first made a requisition upon the States to assess levy and pay their respective proportions of such Requisition agreeably to the Census fixed in the said Constitution; in such way and manner as the Legislature of the States shall think best, and in such case if any State shall neglect or refuse to pay its proportion pursuant to such requisition then Congress may assess and levy such State’s proportion together with interest thereon at the rate of Six per cent per annum from the time of payment prescribed in such requisition.

Fifthly, That Congress erect no Company of Merchants with exclusive advantages of commerce.

Sixthly, That no person shall be tried for any Crime by which he may incur an infamous punishment or loss of life until he be first indicted by a Grand Jury, except in such cases as may arise in the Government and regulation of the Land and Naval forces.

Seventhly, The Supreme Judicial Federal Court shall have no jurisdiction of Causes between Citizens of different States unless the matter in dispute whether it concerns the realty or personally be of the value of three thousand dollars at the least. nor shall the Federal Judicial Powers extend to any actions between Citizens of different States where the matter in dispute whether it concerns the Realty or personally is not of the value of Fifteen hundred dollars at the least.

Eighthly, In civil actions between Citizens of different States every issue of fact arising in Actions at common law shall be tried by a Jury if the parties or either of them request it.

Ninthly, Congress shall at no time consent that any person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States shall accept of a title of Nobility or any other title or office from any King, prince or Foreign State.

And the Convention do in the name and in behalf of the People of this Commonwealth enjoin it upon their Representatives in Congress at all times until the alterations and provisions aforesaid have been considered agreeably to the Fifth article of the said Constitution to exert all their influence and use all reasonable and legal methods to obtain a ratification of the said alterations and provisions in such manner as is provided in the said Article.

[Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/massachusetts-ratifies-187-168-with-9-proposed-amendments/ ]

 

 IV.  SOUTH CAROLINA RATIFICATION (May 23, 1788), with 5 Declarations and Resolves

And Whereas it is essential to the preservation of the rights reserved to the several states, and the freedom of the people under the operations of a General government that the right of prescribing the manner time and places of holding the Elections to the Federal Legislature, should be forever inseparably annexed to the sovereignty of the several states. This convention doth declare that the same ought to remain to all posterity a perpetual and fundamental right in the local, exclusive of the interference of the General Government except in cases where the Legislatures of the States, shall refuse or neglect to perform and fulfil the same according to the tenor of the said Constitution.

This Convention doth also declare that no Section or paragraph of the said Constitution warrants a Construction that the states do not retain every power not expressly relinquished by them and vested in the General Government of the Union.

Resolved that the general Government of the United States ought never to impose direct taxes, but where the monies arising from the duties, imposts and excise are insufficient for the public exigencies nor then until Congress shall have made a requisition upon the states to Assess levy and pay their respective proportions of such requisitions And in case any state shall neglect or refuse to pay its proportion pursuant to such requisition then Congress may assess and levy such state’s proportion together with Interest thereon at the rate of six per centum per annum from the time of payment prescribed by such requisition

Resolved that the third section of the Sixth Article ought to be amended by inserting the word “other” between the words “no” and “religious,”

Resolved that it be a standing instruction to all such delegates as may hereafter be elected to represent this State in the general Government to exert their utmost abilities and influence to effect an Alteration of the Constitution conformably to the foregoing Resolutions.

Done in Convention the twenty third day of May in the year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and eighty eight and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth

[Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/tansill/ratification-southcarolina/ ]

 

V.  NEW HAMPSHIRE RATIFICATION (June 21, 1788), with 12 proposed amendments:

In Convention of the Delegates of the People of the State of New—Hampshire June the Twenty first 1788.

The Convention having Impartially discussed and fully considered the Constitution for the United States of America, reported to Congress by the Convention of Delegates from the United States of America & submitted to us by a Resolution of the General Court of said State passed the fourteenth Day of December last past and acknowleging with grateful Hearts the goodness of the Supreme ruler of the Universe in affording the People of the United States in the Course of his Providence an Opportunity, deliberately & peaceably without fraud or surprise of entering into an Explicit and solemn compact with each other by assenting to & ratifying a new Constitution in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, Insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to themselves & their Posterity—Do In the Name & behalf of the People of the State of New—Hampshire assent to & ratify the said Constitution for the United States of America. And as it is the Opinion of this Convention that certain amendments & alterations in the said Constitution would remove the fears & quiet the apprehensions of many of the good People of this State & more Effectually guard against an undue Administration of the Federal Government— The Convention do therefore recommend that the following alterations & provisions be introduced into the said Constitution.—

First, That it be Explicitly declared that all Powers not expressly & particularly Delegated by the aforesaid Constitution are reserved to the several States to be, by them Exercised.—

Secondly, That there shall be one Representative to every Thirty thousand Persons according to the Census mentioned in the Constitution, until the whole number of Representatives amount to Two hundred.—

Thirdly, That Congress do not Exercise the Powers vested in them, by the fourth Section of the first Article, but in Cases when a State shall neglect or refuse to make the Regulations therein mentioned, or shall make regulations Subversive of the rights of the People to a free and equal Representation in Congress. Nor shall Congress in any Case make regulations contrary to a free and equal Representation.—

Fourthly, That Congress do not lay direct Taxes but when the money arising from Impost, Excise and their other resources are insufficient for the Public Exigencies; nor then, untill Congress shall have first made a Requisition upon the States, to Assess, Levy, & pay their respective proportions, of such requisitions agreeably to the Census fixed in the said Constitution in such way & manner as the Legislature of the State shall think best and in such Case if any State shall neglect, then Congress may Assess & Levy such States proportion together with the Interest thereon at the rate of six per Cent per Annum from the Time of payment prescribed in such requisition—

Fifthly. That Congress shall erect no Company of Merchants with exclusive advantages of Commerce.—

Sixthly, That no Person shall be Tried for any Crime by which he may incur an Infamous Punishment, or loss of Life, until he first be indicted by a Grand Jury except in such Cases as may arise in the Government and regulation of the Land & Naval Forces.—

Seventhly, All Common Law Cases between Citizens of different States shall be commenced in the Common Law—Courts of the respective States & no appeal shall be allowed to the Federal Court in such Cases unless the sum or value of the thing in Controversy amount to three Thousand Dollars.—

Eighthly, In Civil Actions between Citizens of different States every Issue of Fact arising in Actions at Common Law shall be Tried by Jury, if the Parties, or either of them request it—

Ninthly, Congress shall at no Time consent that any Person holding an Office of Trust or profit under the United States shall accept any Title of Nobility or any other Title or Office from any King, Prince, or Foreign State.—

Tenth, That no standing Army shall be Kept up in time of Peace unless with the consent of three fourths of the Members of each branch of Congress, nor shall Soldiers in Time of Peace be quartered upon private Houses without the consent—of the Owners.—

Eleventh, Congress shall make no Laws touching Religion, or to infringe the rights of Conscience—

Twelfth, Congress shall never disarm any Citizen unless such as are or have been in Actual Rebellion.—

And the Convention Do. In the Name & behalf of the People of this State enjoin it upon their Representatives in Congress, at all Times untill the alterations and provisions aforesaid have been Considered agreeably to the fifth Article of the said Constitution to exert all their Influence & use all reasonable & Legal methods to obtain a ratification of the said alterations & Provisions, in such manner as is provided in the said article—And That the United States in Congress Assembled may have due notice of the assent & Ratification of the said Constitution by this Convention.—It is resolved that the Assent & Ratification aforesaid be engrossed on Parchment, together with the Recommendation & injunction aforesaid & with this Resolution—And that John Sullivan Esquire President of Convention, & John Langdon Esquire President of the State Transmit the same Countersigned by the Secretary of Convention & the Secretary of the State under their hands & Seals to the United States in Congress Assembled.

[Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/new-hampshire-ratifies-57-47-with-12-proposed-amendments/ ]

 

VI.  NORTH CAROLINA RATIFICATION (November 21, 1789), with 20 Bill of Rights:

Resolved, That a Declaration of Rights, asserting and securing from encroachment the great Principles of civil and religious Liberty, and the unalienable Rights of the People, together with Amendments to the most ambiguous and exceptional Parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought to be laid before Congress, and the Convention of the States that shall or may be called for the Purpose of Amending the said Constitution, for their consideration, previous to the Ratification of the Constitution aforesaid, on the part of the State of North Carolina.

Declaration of Rights:

1st. That there are certain natural rights of which men, when they form a social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of life, and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2d. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees, and agents, and at all times amenable to them.

3d. That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.

4th That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator or judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.

5th. That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular elections; in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall direct.

6th. That elections of Representatives in the legislature ought to be free and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community, ought to have the right of suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the people without their own consent, or that of their representatives, so elected, nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

7th. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws by any authority without the consent of the representatives, of the people in the Legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8th. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty (except in the government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself.

9th That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property but by the law of the land.

10th. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful, and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.

11th. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is one of the greatest securities to the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.

12th. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments, or regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.

13th. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted

14th. That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his papers, and property: all warrants therefore to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or property, without information upon oath (or affirmation of a person religiously scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive, and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to apprehend any suspected person without specially naming or describing the place or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.

15th. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every freeman has a right to petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of grievances.

16th. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of Liberty, and ought not to be violated.

17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

18th. That no soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the Laws direct

19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

20th. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.

Amendments to the Constitution:  (21 amendments were proposed, but I only included the first here):

  1. THAT each state in the union shall, respectively, retain every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the Federal Government.

[Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/tansill/ratification-northcarolina/ ]

 

VII.  RHODE ISLAND RATIFICATION (November 21, 1789), with 18 Bill of Rights:

We the Delegates of the People of the State of Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantations, duly elected and met in Convention, having maturely considered the Constitution for the United States of America, agreed to on the seventeenth day of September, in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, by the Convention then assembled at Philadelphia, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (a Copy whereof precedes these presents) and having also seriously and deliberately considered the present situation of this State, do declare and make known

1st That there are certain natural rights, of which men when they form a social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing and protecting Property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2d That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the People; that magistrates therefore are their trustees and agents, and at all times amenable to them.

3d That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness [Note: This is a “RESUMPTION CLAUSE.”  New York and Virginia also included such a clause/condition in their ratifications], :-That the rights of the States respectively, to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same; and that those clauses in the said constitution which declare that Congress shall not have or exercise certain powers, do not imply, that Congress is entitled to any powers not given by the said constitution, but such clauses are to be construed as exceptions to certain specified powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.

4th That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, and not by force or violence, and therefore all men, have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favored, or established by law in preference to others.

5th That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government, should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the public burthens, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the mass of the people, and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular elections, in which all, or any part of the former members, to be eligible or ineligible, as the rules of the constitution of government and the laws shall direct.

6th That elections of representatives in legislature ought to be free and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community ought to have the right of suffrage, and no aid, charge tax or fee can be set, rated or levied upon the people, without their own consent or that of their representatives so elected, nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

7th That all power of suspending laws or the execution of laws, by any authority without the consent of the representatives of the people in the legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8th That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty; (except in the government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself.

9th That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned or disseised of his freehold, liberties, privileges, or franchises, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty or property but by the trial by jury, or by the law of the land.

10th That every freeman restrained of his liberty, is intitled to a remedy, to enquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same if unlawful, and that such remedy ought not to be denied or delayed.

11th That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man the antient trial by jury, as hath been exercised by us and our ancestors, from the time whereof the memory of man is not to the contrary, is one of the greatest securities to the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolate.

12th That every freeman ought to obtain right and justice, freely and without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that a establishments or regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.

13th That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted.

14th That every person has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of his person, his papers or his property, and therefore that all warrants to search suspected places or seize any person, his papers or his property, without information upon oath, or affirmation, of sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive, and that all general warrants (or such in which the place or person suspected, are not particularly designated,) are dangerous, and ought not to be granted.

15th That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together, to consult for their common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every person has a right to petition or apply to the legislature for redress of grievances.

16th That the people have a right to freedom of speech and of writing, and publishing their sentiments, that freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and ought not to be violated.

17th That the people have a right to keep and bear arms, that a well-regulated militia, including the body of the people capable of bearing arms, is the proper, natural and safe defense of a free state; that the militia shall not be subject to martial law except in time of war, rebellion or insurrection; that standing armies in time of peace, axe dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be kept up, except in cases of necessity; and that at all times the military should be under strict subordination to the civil power; that in time of peace no soldier ought to be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, and in time of war, only by the civil magistrate, in such manner as the law directs.

18th That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, ought to be exempted, upon payment of an equivalent, to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

Under these impressions, and declaring, that the rights aforesaid cannot be abridged or violated, and that the explanations aforesaid, are consistent with the said constitution, and in confidence that the amendments hereafter mentioned, will receive early and mature consideration, and conformably to the fifth article of said constitution, speedily become a part thereof; We the said delegates, in the name, and in the behalf of the People, of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence-Plantations, do by these Presents, assent to, and ratify the said Constitution. In full confidence nevertheless, that until the amendments hereafter proposed and undermentioned shall be agreed to and ratified pursuant to the aforesaid fifth article, the militia of this State will not be continued in service out of this State for a longer term than six weeks, without the consent of the legislature thereof; That the Congress will not make or alter any regulation in this State, respecting the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators or representatives, unless the legislature of this state shall neglect, or refuse to make laws or regulations for the purpose, or from any circumstance be incapable of making the same; and that n those cases, such power will only be exercised, until the legislature of this State shall make provision in the Premises, that the Congress will not lay direct taxes within this State, but when the monies arising from the Impost, Tonnage and Excise shall be insufficient for the public exigencies, nor until the Congress shall be have first made a requisition upon this State to assess, levy and pay the amount of such requisition, made agreeable to the census fixed in the said constitution, in such way and manner, as the legislature of this State shall judge best, and that the Congress will not lay any capitation or poll tax.

[Reference:  http://teachingamericanhistory.org/ratification/tansill/ratification-rhodeisland/ ]