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Who Needs the Bill of Rights?


This is a continuation of the article "Samuel Adams and the Green Dragon."


At the time of the debates over the ratification of the Constitution the desire for a bill of rights protecting the people in their choice of worship was the most crucial. It is significant that, although it was taxes, the Stamp Act and England’s attempt to disarm them that enervated the colonists to take action against Gr. Britain, the right to religious freedom was the one most debated previous to the Revolutionary War. As we read what Richard Fiske says about the need for a bill of rights we can imagine the thinking behind such reasoning. It even makes me shudder to read about it. But these were/are real fears. 


It did not even provide that nobody should be burned at the stake or stretched on the rack, for holding peculiar opinions about the nature of God or the origin of evil


We are so used to freedom because such things have been out-moded in our country we forget they are happening elsewhere. In fact, we’ve been hearing about just kinds of things in the media daily. Can it happen here? Hopefully what our Founders argued for will be upheld. But we have to be as wise as those colonists were. 


As Massachusetts was warming up to debate the question of ratification of the Constitution, the Virginians provided the argument that a Bill of Rights should be insisted upon before ratification. 


Richard Henry Lee wrote a letter to Gerry (both of Virginia), urging that Massachusetts should not adopt the Constitution without insisting upon sundry amendments; and in order to consider these amendments, it was suggested that there should be another Federal Convention. At this anxious crisis, Washington (another Virginian!) suddenly threw himself into the breach with that infallible judgment of his which always finds a way to victory. "If another Federal Convention is attempted," said Washington, " its members will be more discordant, and will agree upon no general plan. The Constitution is the best that can be obtained at this time. The Constitution or disunion are before us to choose from. If the Constitution is our choice, a constitutional door is open for amendments, and they may be adopted in a peaceable manner, without tumult or disorder."


Peaceable! Isn’t that a wonderful way to solve problems? It can be done when we have honorable men like Madison, Gerry, Washington and Judge Roy Moore! 


Soon, Massachusetts and the other states, approving of Washington’s suggestion, followed Virginia in ratifying the Constitution.


When we look at the list of objections they put forth it is no wonder they hesitated. Fiske states that, Inspiration poetryChief among the objections to the Constitution had been the fact that it.... did not guarantee religious liberty, freedom of speech and of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble and petition the government or a redress of grievances. It did not provide against the quartering of soldiers upon the people in time of peace. It did not provide against general search-warrants, nor did it securely prescribe the methods by which individuals should be held to answer for criminal offences. It did not even provide that nobody should be burned at the stake or stretched on the rack, for holding peculiar opinions about the nature of God or the origin of evil. 


That such objections to the Constitution seem strange to us to-day is partly due to the determined attitude of the men who, mid all the troubles of the time, would not consent to any arrangement from which such safeguards to free thinking and free living should be omitted. 


WE HAVE A BILL OF RIGHTS! Does everyone you know understand what those amendments "guarantee"? Whether one attends a church, home schools, owns a business it is imperative that we be willing to study, know, understand and do whatever it takes to protect those precious rights which our Founders labored so hard to produce - yes, and for which they shed their blood.


How much are you willing to do to save our Bill of Rights?


Much of the information and quotations for this article are from: Fisk, John, The Critical Period of American History-1783-1789, Houghton Mifflin Co. Publishers, 1888, p.326-329

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