BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
Today we remember a bit of the history of the Bill of Rights, Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution, which was ratified Dec. 15, 1791.
James Madison, considered by many to be the Father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was a small man of physical stature at a height of five-feet-four inches and weighing 100 pounds. He was truly a giant in stature for his contributions to U.S. history
Madison had a twofold part in securing the Constitution. First, he convinced George Washington to attend the Constitution Convention in 1787. Washington’s influence for the adoption of a Constitution was pivotal as he also recognized the Articles of Confederation were weak and could not secure the future of our toddling nation.
Secondly Madison’s “Virginia Plan”, was adopted by majority of delegates as the foundation for the Constitution. Though a Bill of Rights was fought for by George Mason and others for inclusion into the Constitution it was left out, but only on the contention by several states indicating they would not sign the Constitution unless promises were made that a Bill of Rights be included.
Madison was originally against the idea of a Bill of Rights. He thought the articles of the Constitution as written already inferred rights and that by listing them that they would be the only rights.
George Mason would say of the adopted Constitution, “There is no declaration of rights, and the laws of the general government being paramount, the declarations in the separate states are no security…”
Thomas Jefferson, who was in Paris at the time of the Constitutional Convention, would write to Madison, “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth.”
Good men do listen to reason though, as Madison did from his mentor Thomas Jefferson, and would take up the cause to ensure the people would have defined rights they could identify with, stand for and fight for, even against their own government if needed.
On June 8, 1789, James Madison would introduce a list of 39 amendments to the Constitution and they would be modified into 12 Articles. Of those, Articles three through twelve would be adopted as the First Amendments to the Constitution and be considered the “Bill of Rights”.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote in the Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
To follow are your Bill of Rights that many have fought and died for your freedom to enjoy them.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
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.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
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.