“We don’t need a Bill of Rights in the new Constitution” … that’s what James Madison told an incredulous Patrick Henry, the immediate past Governor of Virginia, when he returned from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the fall of 1787.
Patrick Henry had refused to participate in the Constitutional Convention because of his fear of the tyranny of strong central authority … he had said,” I smell a rat!” He was deeply suspicious of strong central authority and feared any government that was not physically close to the rank and file individual. On the other hand, James Madison was appalled by the internecine bickering of the states, particularily on matters of commerce, and their inability to form a solid national government to advance the concerns of the rebel colonies into the realm of nations. Madison’s approach was to closely define the powers of the Federal government, so as to limit its powers … Henry read the document with an eye to the possibilities for premeption of individual and States rights. His comment to Madison was to note that the new Constitution, if administered by foes of freedom or by those seeking self aggrandizement, could be used to impose “a greater tyranny than that we have just overthrown.”
Madison believed that the Constitution as written should be adopted. He, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote the famous “Federalist Papers” to urge adoption.
What many of us do not know is that Patrick Henry, James Monroe, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, Melancton Smith, George Clinton and others vehemently opposed the Constitution unless a “Bill of Rights” was written into it. There was an extremely intense national debate about this in the papers, in state conventions and in public meetings. Many of these men wrote down their views about it in the newspapers, in pamphlets, essays and in personal letters. Their writings resulted in the “Anti-Federalist Papers.” The upshot of this battle was that, in order to win adoption, the Federalists, most importantly James Madison, agreed to amend the Constitution in the first Congress to include a “Bill of Rights.”
Today, the Constitution without the “Bill of Rights” would be unthinkable. As a matter of fact the only thing that many, if not most, people know about the Constitution is the “Bll of Rights.” Most of us believe that our freedoms come from the “Bill,” but the exact opposite is the case. The Bill of Rights was encoded into the Constitution from the Rights already gained from the Revolutionary War and then placed lovingly residing in the constitutions of the many states. The fact is that the “Bill of Rights” was amended to the Constitution to prevent those in the new Federal government from tinkering with our most precious rights in federal law. If the 2nd Amendment was not in the Constitution could you, in this day and age, naively believe that we would not prohibited by Federal law from bearing arms? The 2nd Amendment was put into the Constitution so that we the people could protect ourselves from Federal tyranny.
Madison was satisfied with his checks and balances. The Legislative checking the Executive and providing for the judicial system and being its paymaster; the Executive vetoing the Legislative and appointing the judiciary (with the approval of the Senate); the House controlling the money; the Judiciary interpreting the Constitution; and dozens of other more subtle checks along with the constitutionally delegated limiting list of powers, mostly in Article I section 8, were enough for him.
But Patrick Henry was a better judge of humanity than Madison … he knew that there would be men in the Federal government who would pervert the meaning and intent of the Constitution for their personal or philosophical gain, either to modify it or destroy it. What would happen if all three branches of the Federal government ganged up together to usurp the powers of the states or the people? Henry could see it in 1787 and it has come to pass. The Federal bureaucracy is becoming an omnipotent tyrant. Henry’s addition to the “Bill” was the 10th Amendment …
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.
Any law promulgated by the Federal Government not specifically delegated to it by the Constitution is no law at all … any judicial determination or interpretation of the Constitution not specifically supported or intended by those who ratified it is void and of no effect. No place in the Constitution does it say that the federal government can stop a farmer from feeding his family or stock food that he has grown. No place in the Constitution does it say that a State Legislature can be reapportioned by the Federal Courts. No place in the Constitution does it say that Federal Courts can make fiat laws about marriage. No place in the Constitution does it say that there can be a Fish and Wildlife Service that can manage Sage Hens or small fish or snails or Wolves with the boundaries of a Sovereign State.
The 10th Amendment demands that we in the states put a legal stop to these and myriads of other intrusions on our freedoms by nullifying these actions … the freedom of the country … our personal freedom depends on it. And we must act now … the beast is upon us.