By Jerry McDonough
When our Founding Fathers gathered to build a federal government, they decided to found this government on a Constitution based on and complimentary to the constitutions of each individual state of the time. After the original draft of the 1787 Federal Constitution, it was decided that this Constitution should protect each individual person in America from a central government and thus the Bill of Rights was added. The states adamantly opposed the Federal Constitution unless the Bill of Rights protected state’s rights and individual rights, otherwise the federal Constitution would not be ratified.
The result was that each state and not the federal government would now protect the rights of the citizenry. So adamant were the states on this matter that Rhode Island wanted an amendment which would “guarantee to each State its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this constitution expressly delegated to the United States.” Before South Carolina would ratify the federal Constitution its delegates stated, “This Convention doth also declare that no Section or paragraph of the said Constitution warrant a Construction that states do not retain every power not expressly relinquished by them and vested in the General Government of the Union.” Thus the interpretation of the other nine amendments was insured by the addition of the Tenth Amendment, which guaranteed states rights, to the Bill of Rights which was then added to the federal Constitution in its entirety.
The First Amendment was written solely to prohibit the United States government from interfering with states rights when it began with the words, “Congress shall make no law…”
Further proof of that the sole intent was protection of citizen’s rights was that at ratification several states continued to have state religions into the nineteenth century. The federal Supreme Court allowed this because it recognized that the states were bound by their respective constitutions first and foremost.
Founding Father and Chief Justice John Marshall further defined the power of the Bill of Rights when he wrote in the 1833 case of Barron versus Baltimore, “In almost every convention by which the Constitution was adopted, amendments to guard against the abuse of power were recommended. These amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the general government…not against those of local governments…. These amendments contain no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the State governments. This court cannot so apply them.”
Basically, Justice Marshall concluded that the First amendment protected states from the federal government. Unfortunately, after the War Between the States the First Amendment began to morph into a whole new meaning. The Lincoln administration began the process whereby state’s rights were interpreted in favor of a more powerful central government and until this day the First Amendment, as well as the entire Bill of Rights, continues to be interpreted with a federal bias. Although socialism is a minority belief system of the elites, it is insidious and unrelenting. John Adams was probably the first American elitist who firmly believed the ordinary citizen to be incapable of ruling himself and therefore must be cared for by an elitist hierarchy. Liberty lost can never be regained.
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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Phil Billington at firstname.lastname@example.org.