On December 15, 1791, the first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified. 228 years later, we commemorate their enshrinement in the annals of human history. They affirm, in detail, the unalienable rights that Thomas Jefferson avowed in the Declaration of Independence, debar the Government’s infringement of those rights, and establish certain vital protections for the People against the inevitable and relentless wannabe-violator of rights known as Government.

When was the last time you read them all? Why not take a couple minutes and read the 482 words that protect you from people who would happily and eagerly use the force of government to do unto you whatever they wish?

Amendment I
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.

Amendment II
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.

Amendment III
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.

Amendment IV
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.

Amendment V
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.

Amendment VI
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 defense.

Amendment VII
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.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

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

Amendment X
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.

That didn’t take long, did it?

It’s inevitable that some of these protections matter more to some of us than others do, and that there is a spectrum of such prioritizations across the populace. It is vital to remember, however, that the Bill of Rights is not a menu, wherein people can decide which ones they want enforced and which they feel should be left behind as historical relics. Anyone who believes in liberty, and that should be everyone, should demand the government adhere to these rules and limits in the strictest sense, and not try to twist and squirm around and past them.

Governments have a tendency to grow. In size, in scope, in breadth and depth, and in intrusiveness. Even the slightest infringement, once entrenched, is incredibly difficult to reverse, because most politicians don’t like being told they can’t do something, because people instinctively seek the promise of safety in times of crisis, and because opportunists exploit those times of crisis to give themselves power to do what they previously couldn’t.

Guard and defend your rights jealously and persistently. All of them, even the ones you think you’ll never need. Heed, also, the message of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which tell us that all our rights, not just the listed ones, are protected, and that the Government is only permitted to do the things explicitly noted in the body of the Constitution.

As private citizens, our relationship with the government is one of suspicious delegation. We give the government some power, in order that our rights be protected and preserved, that our ability to lead our lives and pursue our happiness is enhanced, and that our nation’s functioning is facilitated. But, we distrust the government with that power, so we limit it, and we divide it up across three branches (one of which is itself split in two). And, we (should) embrace an added set of limits, ratified 228 years ago today.

Every day of the year has several “holidays,” and December 15th is no exception. Today is National Cupcake Day, National Lemon Cupcake Day, Cat Herders’ Day, National Wear Your Pearls Day, and National Wreaths Across America Day, in addition to Bill of Rights Day. We can celebrate some or all of the others, but one stands miles above the rest in deserved commemoration. I’ll be raising a glass.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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