Bill of Rights a forgotten document

After fighting a war to win liberty from a tyrannical government, Anti-Federalists — a faction of our Founding Fathers led primarily by Patrick Henry distrustful of a strong national government — pushed for amendments to the Constitution to identify fundamental natural rights and civil liberties.  Such a Bill of Rights, they believed, was necessary because of the known propensity of governments generally to usurp powers not delegated to it.  

Yet some, such as James Madison, initially fought such a move, based on the principle that there is no need to say what a government cannot do, because that could imply it can do everything else. 

In the final analysis, however, Madison took the lead in the Congress in support of the first ten amendments to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights, because not to do so likely would have doomed the entire process.  He therefore, but reluctantly, drafted 12 proposals to settle concerns of Anti-Federalists; 10 were initially ratified. 

The political and legal battles pitting individual liberties against growing government power have been waged ever since; even to the 112th Congress set to convene within days.  Historically and currently, government has notched far more victories on its belt than has the citizenry.  Clearly, one reason for the continued growth of government power – and the necessarily corresponding reduction in individual liberty – has been the growing public misunderstanding of the intended role of government and the distressing ignorance of our Constitution itself. 

According to a survey conducted earlier this month for the Bill of Rights Institute by Harris Interactive, for example, nearly half of the American people – some 42 percent — believe that the communist phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is part of one of the more important documents in American history. Through ignorance and forgotten history, Karl Marx has morphed into James Madison in the mind of the American people. 

Other aspects of the survey are equally disconcerting, though not necessarily surprising. Fifty-five percent do not realize that education is not a First Amendment right; despite no such guarantee anywhere in either the Bill of Rights or the body of the original Constitution. 

Only 20 percent can identify the Tenth Amendment as the part of the Bill of Rights that reserves powers not expressly authorized in the Constitution to the states or the people themselves. And a stunning 60 percent could not recognize the powers of the government deriving from the consent of the governed as a unique American principle. 

As the lack of understanding of fundamental rights fades away, so too will the Rule of Law. Rights will be treated as permissions granted by the government, and the pendulum will continue to swing toward statism. 

In this coming New Year, perhaps we can all resolve to do more to raise awareness to the documents that protect the liberties we have so fortunately lived under. But I’m not sure I would urge holding one’s breath waiting for such enlightenment to take place.

- by Bob Barr, The Barr Code

130 comments Add your comment

Michael H. Smith

December 31st, 2010
6:31 am

Don’t worry Mr. Barr, you didn’t hit any socialist liberals. Everything you wrote went over their heads.

carlosgvv

December 31st, 2010
7:45 am

All politicans have a desire for power and will fight to get as much as they possibly can. An informed citizinery in our country is the main counter to this. Unfortunately, America has been dumbing down since the early 60’s and is still doing so. So, look for our politicans to grab more and more power in the years to come.

Eric

December 31st, 2010
8:11 am

Amen! Great article once again, Mr. Barr.

sean smith

December 31st, 2010
8:38 am

I’m sure all of the continuing cuts to education by new Deal are going to exasperate this problem. Of course Republicans like an ignorant populous, they are easier to manipulate.

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
9:04 am

Bill of Rights a forgotten document,…no s#*@. We can forget a person we met last week,why are kunservatives yearning for the good ole days?
A 230 year old document SHOULD be forgotten by now,considering WE THE PEOPLE weren’t the intended beneficiaries. Remember,slaves(blacks) and women weren’t a part of the equation. If guys like you can’t remember that FACT,then why remember EVERYTHING ELSE verbatim.

Conservatism=American Experts on Exclusion of Non-Rich and Non-White Males.

go fly

December 31st, 2010
9:35 am

Big Jim, there is a mechanism in place to amend the “230 year old document” when necessary, and that process was used years ago to include women and blacks in their rightful equal places. What other amendments do you propose to the remainder of the document?

Jennifer Wewers

December 31st, 2010
9:41 am

How about a series of columns that explain the Bill of Rights, one right at a time?

Class of '98

December 31st, 2010
9:53 am

Ah yes, the great liberal argument… that conservatives are at the same time rich, powerful and also uneducated and ingnorant.

Still trying to figure that one out.

I guess all those welfare recipients and other Obama voters read the Wall Street Journal every day huh?

Jeb

December 31st, 2010
10:01 am

Bob:

Funny you had not problem with this under the Bush admin.

jconservative

December 31st, 2010
10:04 am

Barr I concur in your thinking.

My personal favorite “forgotten” Amendment is the 9th:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Rights “… retained by the people”. They are ours. Government cannot take them away.

This Amendment says “other” rights are not dependent on government. Yet, as Barr says, we are all sitting around asking government to “grant” us rights or allowing government to “take away” rights.

And, at the ballot box, we are assisting government in taking away our rights.

We need to go to the ballot box with the thought that “just about everything is none of the government’s business”.

If candidate wants to pass a law that says someone cannot do something; that candidate needs to lose the election.

And, this is the Amendment that allowed James Madison to support the Bill of Rights. As Barr says, Madison had a fear that listing rights may imply that any not listed were retained by government. The 9th Amendment says NO, the unlisted rights are retaained by the people.

We need to guard this one with every fiber of our being.

Happy New Year to all!

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
10:17 am

Class of ‘98

Do you think that republicans don’t get elected by low income/unintelligent/lowest common denominators? You probably do.
Also,the word is IGNORANT.

go fly

That demonstrates why we should temper our fervor for THE FOUNDING FATHERS.You don’t know what their intent was because you weren’t there.
Why don’t we just follow the Magna Carta,or the Koran.They’re both older than our country,but that would require not blindly following christianity and its principles. While on the subject,The Founding Fathers weren’t all christians. Masons,Deists,with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin professing a distaste for organized religion.

Not acceptable by kunservative standards. Makes you wonder why we should heed a 230 year old document when there are MUCH older doctrines,MUCH OLDER RELIGIONS. But this is where SABOTAGE comes into the English language,an act of cowardice meant to tip the scales in your favor.

Rhett

December 31st, 2010
10:19 am

Big Jim is busy hanging out on his porch with his boom box waiting for his reperations check to be delivered. Of course the Kunservatives are holding up the mail.

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
10:23 am

Jeb
Don’t expect this CHAMPION of AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES to speak out agaainst kunservatism. To beat a dead horse,Bob Barr proudly used OUR MONEY to get Bill Clinton for lying about having an affair. I repeat, Bob Barr proudly used OUR MONEY to get Bill Clinton for lying about having an affair.

Why hasn’t Bob Barr tried to impeach GWBush for lying about WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION,MISSION ACCOMPLISHED,ETC.?

Short answer,HEROES TO AMERICA are swine.

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
10:24 am

Rhett

I work for a living.

Jeb

December 31st, 2010
10:27 am

Good point Big Jim. The hypocracy is remarkable.

Rafe Hollister

December 31st, 2010
10:36 am

Bob: Liberals, as you know, are not fans of the Constitution. I read yesterday, where one said, how can you intrepret something written over a 100 years ago. What a stupid statement.

We know Obama has said repeatedly that the Constitution is incomplete because it limits government, but doesn’t require Gov to provide healthcare, welfare, social justice, etc.

As long as education remains controlled by Gov, our children will be purposely mislead about what the Constitutional limits to government are. Thank God for the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, or we would not have perservered this long as a great nation.

Jeb

December 31st, 2010
11:01 am

Everyone knows education should be controlled by the church!

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
11:06 am

Rafe Hollister

I didn’t know that PRESIDENT Obama created welfare,healthcare,social justice,etc.

Thanking God for being born right(in the kunservative minds) is sick and twisted.But like this topic,the ONLY ones who count are kunservatives.

Are you guys still associating portable radios with Blacks? I guess Jesse Jackson makes radios. Anyone looking for an Al Sharpton produced
handgun,since we are the ONLY criminals/animals in God’s kingdom.

Now back to my boom box,carjacking,and enjoying all the white women I can. Women seem to like black men even more when their fathers hate us!

Unless you’re a vampire,you weren’t around long enough to KNOW whether
we would have perservered this long. Sickos.

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
11:13 am

Jeb

I was considering taking some of my YEAR’s worth of leave time and going to Europe,seriously. But I remembered that the Earth was flat!
Silly me! I felt so stupid when realized this I almost asked my preacher to make God punish me. Oh well,back to the cotton fields.

That’s where kunservatives feel my KIND should be.

Anyone in the mood for a good ole fashioned bloodletting?Witch hunt?Lynching? Those activities would make for a nice Sunday,after church.

resno2

December 31st, 2010
11:50 am

If Republicans “like an ignorant populous” how did obama get elected, and why are pelosi/reid/frank/et al, still in office?

J.B. STONER

December 31st, 2010
11:57 am

DO YOU IGNORANT PEOPLE STILL NOT GET IT ??

WATCH GLENN BECK AND YOU WILL GET THE WHOLE PICTURE ON THIS SUBJECT……….

OH, BY THE WAY, HE IS ON FOX NEWS , MON.-FRI AT 5 PM….

TUNE YOUR A$$ES IN.

YOU’LL BE GLAD YOU DID….

killerj

December 31st, 2010
11:58 am

12 gauge, a beer, middle finger is all you need to know, Happy New Year to all! Go Tea Party.

david

December 31st, 2010
12:01 pm

The only hope for liberty is to elect the folks at http://www.lp.org

luangtom

December 31st, 2010
12:02 pm

Spot on, Mr. Barr. Y’all will never get the liberals or the DemoKraps to even read the Bill of Rights. Who amongst them would want less governance? Certainly not the cradle-to-grave advocates that we have seen so much of in the last few years. Ignorance is bliss……

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 31st, 2010
12:04 pm

According to a survey conducted earlier this month for the Bill of Rights Institute by Harris Interactive, for example, nearly half of the American people – some 42 percent — believe that the communist phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is part of one of the more important documents in American history.

With all due respect, I find that hard to believe.

luangtom

December 31st, 2010
12:07 pm

Forgot to add….the Bill of Rights composers certainly could not have foreseen that Federal government would create “Czarships” under the appointment of the President. Maybe it is time for the Congress to enact a Bill to add to those already there that would prohibit the President from appointing all of these “Czars” that we currently see being put in place. Circumventing approval of the Senate for them during recess is the only way Obummer can get them situated. That loophole needs to be addressed. I am sure our forefathers had never even thought of a President having the authority to circumvent the Senate approval process.

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
12:09 pm

killerj,luangtom,jb stoner=Lowest Common Denominator

Tune in to Glenn Beck and you will get the whole picture? Do you guys really believe all knowledge comes from Fox News? Disturbing.

Big Jim

December 31st, 2010
12:12 pm

I thought the teabaggers gave way to their previous affiliation,..The Dixiecrats aka modern day republicans.

Robert

December 31st, 2010
12:25 pm

Sorry, this is on my mind:
The United States military manpower is approximately 1.5 million. roughly 10% being recruited and 10% leaving the military each year.
For those that did not serve their country in the military, stayed back, developed businesses, enjoying the fruits of the country, etc.
WHY DO YOU NOT HIRE VETERANS? We are talking 100,000 to 200,000 people THAT SHOULD BE PLACED IN JOBS, WHO HAVE PROVEN SKILLS, TRAINING.
WITH EVERYONE PUSHING FOR THE DREAM ACT, WHY CAN’T YOU REDIRECT THAT ENERGY FOR VETERANS?
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

Kamchak

December 31st, 2010
12:28 pm

Michael H. Smith

December 31st, 2010
1:01 pm

Rafe Hollister

December 31st, 2010
10:36 am

Thanks Rafe. Limiting the rights of government and protecting our unalienable rights from government is why the Constitution exists. The legal weight of the Constitution rests on the Declaration of Independence – Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.

Liberals think the Constitution exists to protect government authority and that our rights are granted to us by government.

Billybob

December 31st, 2010
1:02 pm

Looks like big jim needs a hug and like every good lib only wants the laws/rights that he believes are ‘fair’ and to hell with everything else that he deems is wrong. Spoken like a true statist/big gub’t lib. Oh, happy new year….

Ghost of Christmas Future

December 31st, 2010
1:04 pm

Beware Want and Ignorance, for on their head is written “doom”.

[...] BOB BARR: Bill of Rights a forgotten document [...]

Mrs. Norris

December 31st, 2010
1:14 pm

I agree with Hillbilly Deluxe. I also find that very hard to believe. I’m not sure who the “Bill of Rights Institute” or “Harris Interactive” are but I think they are full of ..it. Thank you for pointing that out and thank you Kamchak for looking into it.

Gerry S.

December 31st, 2010
1:17 pm

I usually agree with Bob B arr on Bill of Rights issues, but, like most Republicans, he misquotes the 10th Amendment. The text doe not contain the word “expressly” in limiting the federal government’s powers. For this very reason, the Supreme Court has consistently held that this Amendmednt is virtually meaningless. It was the predecessor to the Constitution — the Articles of Confederation — which, in its Article II, limited the federal government’s powers by the inclusion of this word “expressly.” I expect this kind of loose analysis from so-called experts like Joe Miller of Alaska but not from our local expert.

Kamchak

December 31st, 2010
1:17 pm

Michael H. Smith

December 31st, 2010
1:44 pm

Liberals usual guess as wrongly as they think…

Kamchak

December 31st, 2010
1:48 pm

Liberals usual[sic] guess as wrongly as they think…

Then what is it that you use to read minds?

Ouija board?
Tarot cards?
Tea leaves?
Crystal ball?

joeliberal

December 31st, 2010
1:54 pm

F@CK THE BILL OF RIGHTS

Michael H. Smith

December 31st, 2010
1:57 pm

I don’t have to read minds or guess. All I do is read what liberals write and listen to the things they say to arrive at the general consensus of liberal thought.

joeliberal

December 31st, 2010
2:08 pm

yadda yadda yadda…THE CONSERVATIVES love to talk about the “good ole days”…. liberals embrace the future

MrLiberty

December 31st, 2010
2:09 pm

One’s oath to protect and defend the constitution also seemed to be forgotten by all those who voted in favor of the Patriot Act (that means YOU Bob). The libertarians have known for a long time that those in government have no respect for either the constitution or the bill of rights. That’s why we abandoned the two-faced warfare/welfare party a LONG time ago. Nice of you to finally join them. At least one vote too late I am afraid.

Kamchak

December 31st, 2010
2:10 pm

All I do is read what liberals write and listen to the things they say to arrive at the general consensus of liberal thought.

So—all that I have to do is read what Dale Robertson wrote, and I can judge all tea-baggers based on that?

Michael H. Smith

December 31st, 2010
2:20 pm

I’m curious Mr. Barr, I mean your knowledge of Constitutional principle and needless to say law is better than mine. Is this infamous mantra espoused by Karl Marx, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” Constitutional?

It appears to be the case, by default if nothing else.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bob Barr. Bob Barr said: Barr Code: Bill of Rights a forgotten document http://bit.ly/fIB4JP [...]

BillyRob

December 31st, 2010
2:24 pm

Big Jim like many liberals does not respect the constitution. While he is a little dumber than most, the undelying sentiment is that we should make the government do whatever we want it to. The constitution to most liberals is just a historical curiosity to be twisted to allow them to do as they please.
They see the underlying notion of limited government as irrelevant.
The consequence of course is tryany.

ROCKERBABE

December 31st, 2010
2:25 pm

Liberal is not a dirty four letter word. In fact, those of us who are more open-minded have fought for years to have the Bill of Rights applied to women, native Americans, Asians and those of African descent. Most of us more open-minded folks know exactly what is in the Bill of Rights and the Constituion, we just prefer to see the documents as living documents that are as modern as computers and as timeless as the blue sky.

All of this business about the federal government and its powers as little to do with our founding documents. All of the griping about social security, medicare and the deficit have to do with spoiled children and the fact that there is no free lunch and the bill has come due and the kids do not want to pay up.

Mr. Barr has gotten his retirement and his benefits and I doubt he will give them up without a fight. Too bad he doesn’t respect the rest of us and our predictment; of course, I am no 7 figure salaried person of consequence, so I guess, I, like most of the average working Americans can just get screwed.

All of this talk about the Bill of Rights is just talk. It is a cover for greed, selfishness and a vehicle to turn this country into a 3rd nation. Where the rich hold everything of value and the rest of us fight over crumbs; too tired and sick to do anything else.

Take your concern for the Bill of Rights Mr. Barr and go elswhere. Until us girls get “ours” you can’t expect anything other than what is going on. Your concern is too little, too late and misplaced.

Michael H. Smith

December 31st, 2010
2:27 pm

So—all that I have to do is read what Dale Robertson wrote, and I can judge all tea-baggers based on that?

Only if one lone person can form a consensus, which they can’t.

joeliberal

December 31st, 2010
2:38 pm

since OBAMA got into office, all rightwing zealouts suddenly want to protect the constituition; funny they didnt want to “protect” the constituition when GWB lied about WMD’s and declared war on a nation for no reason…BOB BARR is just a far right zealout who longs for the mythical “good ole days”