This article is the first in a series on the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. My purpose in posting this exposé is to do my part in calling Americans back to their spawning grounds of liberty. Based on recent trends, I fear that if we don’t frequent our founding principles then Ronald Reagan’s warning could be realized, that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
The primary motivation for constructing a Bill of Rights was citizen apprehension over the formation of a centralized federal government. The United States existed as a sovereign nation beginning with the signing of the Declaration of Independence from England. Each of the 13 original states owned a distinct culture and set of values, sharing the common priority captured succinctly in Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense: “But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain… that in America THE LAW IS KING.”
A full eleven years passed before the colonies ratified the United States Constitution. This formalizing of the union was a hard sell, as every state valued their freshly earned sovereignty. Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote 85 essays, now known as the Federalist Papers, to promote the idea of uniting the union under a common constitution.
The greatest fear of committing to a constitution was what mathematicians may refer to as an Axiom of Abstraction; that codifying a set of rights could be interpreted as the complete set of rights. So while the Constitution grants the federal government its powers, many felt it necessary to augment this framework with a minimal set of rights preserved for the citizens.