Happy Bill of Rights Day!

    This is the 216th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. This should  be one of the most honored civic days on the American calendar. Unfortunately, most Americans never notice the occasion -in the same way that many people seem not to notice how the government is increasingly violating their constitutional  rights.

    If a citizen does not know his rights, then, for all practical purposes in his disputes with government officials, he does not have them.  A 1991 poll commissioned by the American Bar Association found that only 33 percent of Americans surveyed knew what the Bill of Rights was.  A Gallup poll found that 70 percent of respondents did not know what the First Amendment was or what it dealt with.  Given this level of ignorance, it is surprising that politicians have not usurped even more power.

    At the least, people could celebrate the anniversary of the Bill of Rights’  ratification by sitting and quietly reading the original Bill of Rights.  Since  the text itself is less than 500 words, it should not take most high school graduates more than half an hour to read.  Perhaps some docile Americans will be snapped awake to learn the Founding Fathers formally recognized peole’s right not to be subjected to “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

    The essence of the Bill of the Rights was to place limits on the power of government and to enshrine the rights of individuals.  Recognizing the anniversary of the Bill of Rights could encourage a whole different attitude on  the relation of the citizen to the state – in contrast to the annual Washington celebration of the anniversary of the FDR’s signing of the Social Security Act, which should be marked annually by rattling of tens of millions of tin cups.

  A 1937 Senate report aptly declared that “the Constitution . . . is the people’s charter of the powers granted those who govern them.” The Bill of Rights recognized the rights of American citizens—it did not bestow those rights on a conquered populace. Americans of the Revolutionary Era would only permit a national government to come into existence if the leaders of that government would solemnly pledge to limit their power in perpetuity. The Bill of Rights has never provided perfect protection, but it is an invaluable standard by which to judge the legitimacy of any law or government policy.

     Americans need to return to the principles of the Founding Fathers in order to understand the abuses of contemporary governments – and to learn how to put government back in its place.


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7 Responses to Happy Bill of Rights Day!

  1. Dirk W. Sabin December 15, 2007 at 4:44 pm #

    Gee, I wonder if El Putz, Leeder of the Frei Wurld said anything about this important day during his Saturday Radio Address? No?

    I do think we should heartily celebrate Social Security Day though mister Bovard. In adition to your tin rattling parade, might we then have something along the lines of that wonderful bit of mayhem in Pamplona. Instead of bulls, I recommend we have a Running of the Lobbyist, on April 16, where the suited shills of K Street run for their tawdry lives from a crowd of drunken taxpayers who are armed with those large chew toys twisted from certain parts of the anatomy of said bulls we shall refrain from identifying in detail.
    Pizzle Whippings for all on April 17!

  2. Jim December 15, 2007 at 5:25 pm #

    Dirk, I hadn’t heard about these chew toys before but it sounds like it might be appropriate.

    That would certainly be far more fun than watching the president and congressional leaders bloviate.

  3. Joe December 16, 2007 at 9:41 am #


    I’m surprised. You’re slipping in your old age :-). You say “the Founding Fathers gave them (docile Americans) a right …”, but the Fourth Amendment says “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”, which implies the right pre-exists and is not granted by the document.

    Happy Boston Tea Party Day!


  4. Jim December 16, 2007 at 10:00 am #

    Joe – thanks for pointing out the error. I crafted this entry yesterday primarily with an op-ed I wrote more than a decade ago. Shoulda re-read my old stuff before putting it online…

    Your comment spurred me to amend the blog. I added a paragraph I wrote on exactly this issue in Freedom in Chains (1999)

  5. W Baker December 16, 2007 at 11:23 am #

    Thanks, Dirk, I shall never look at – to say nothing of eat – beef jerky again!

  6. Dirk W. Sabin December 17, 2007 at 12:24 pm #

    Sorry but I myself became aware of this unfortunate dog chew toy as a result of a Tom Waits song from his recent 3 CD set. Mr. Waits has a fine ability to unearth some of the stranger aspects of our besotted Consumer Culture. Properly used, they would make a fine close-in conflict billy club.

  7. Tory December 17, 2007 at 4:09 pm #

    Happy birthday Bill of Rights; whatever that is.