Congress shall make no law..

According to the wiki, the Bill of Rights is the name by which the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known. Thought that I would take a few minutes to list and comment on them amendment by amendment.. right by right.. not that I have anything new or insightful to offer.. just thought it might help me to do it.
  1. 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.

    The original concern seemed to be keeping the government out of religion. These days the focus seems to be more about keeping religion out of government.

  2. 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.

    Pro-gun folks often do not like the Militia part of this right. I am not against people owning hunting rifles and even handguns. I do not favor citizens owning automatic weapons.. the designation of weapon seems to indicate a problem.

  3. 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.

    Not sure what the background of this is but there seems to be a concern about the abuse of power by the government. This may not be as much of a concern these days but the threat is still there when the Kansas City, Kansas government used "eminent domain" to seize control of private property for a NASCAR racetrack.

  4. 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.

    Search and seizure of private property further addresses the concerns of the founders that citizens should be protected against the government. I wonder what the founders would think about the Patriot Act?

  5. No person shall be held to answer for any 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.

    Again the Militia is mentioned.. I might have to research that a bit more. I love the way that our founders protected citizens against self incrimination and double jeopardy. Interesting how the seizure of private property is mentioned again.

  6. 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 where in 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.

    I think that the founders never imagined the current day quagmire of legislative processes when the penned "the right to a speedy and public trial". It is an aspect of our court system that is troubling.. seems that it sometimes takes years for an accused person to receive justice.

  7. 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 re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    The right to stand before your peers in court speaks to the desire to limit judgments to the professionals. It speaks loudly to the belief that everyday people are qualified to make these determinations of guilt and innocence.

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

    The protection against cruel and unusual punishment keeps over-jealous jurists from inflicting fines and imprisonments that are not appropriate to the crime. Interesting how the right protects people that have broken the law.

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

    The founders seem to have understood that these ten rights were not complete. The additional amendments to the constitution seems to bear this out.

  10. 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.

    There seems to be a concern that the federal government would expand and usurp powers that not only states, but individual citizens themselves, should retain. This speaks to me about the need to reduce bureaucracy in government.
In summation I think that these rights provide a wonderful delineation and limitation of the powers of government. Reading these gives me a wonderful picture of what the founders wanted for our government. It speaks to me about their desire to have a limited government that was focused more about the rights of people than their leaders.

What popped out for you when you read the Bill of Rights?


  1. During the colonial days, the British Army could occupy people's homes. The quartering act was a way of prohibitting this. This is part of the strife with ireland and scotland in that the UK quartered their armies there instead of in england.

  2. what jumps out at me Bob is the simplicity -- even moreso when you consider that the entire constitution (including the BOR) fits on just six pages.

  3. Hi Bob,

    The forced quartering of soldiers in the homes of civilians was quite common in much of Europe as well as Britain. As you can imagine, the consequences of this practice were often quite severe.

    The oral history of my mother's family includes this story. Food was far from plentiful at the time and the youngsters in my however many greats grandfather's family were often very hungry. Forced hospitality meant any soldier quartered with civilians had priority when it came to food and were otherwise considered above the rules of the household and such was the case in my ancestor's house too. In this particular case, the soldier sent one of the boys to the bakery for bread and on the way home, the hungry child pilfered some small bits of the end of the loaf to silence his growling stomach. When the soldier saw what the boy had done, he backhanded the boy for stealing. In defense of his son, however many greats Grandfather pushed the soldier who then fell down the stairs. It was never explained what happened to the soldier, but apparently the consequences of this act were severe enough that the entire family grabbed whatever they could carry and ran for their lives, eventually taking a ship to America. They were shipwrecked at least once during the voyage and finally landed in Galveston, Texas, a long way from their intended destination. Making their way North, they finally settled in the tri-state area of Southern Indiana, Ohio, and Northern Kentucky. Unfortunately much of the family's written history was lost along with the family Bible in a major flood of the Ohio River early in the last century.

    BTW, there is still a thriving German community in Galveston or at least was until recent hurricanes devastated the area. Apparently other Deutchland voyagers decided Galveston was a fine place to settle.

  4. @jrchaard - Thanks for the info.

    @Ed - That simplicity stood out to me too.

    @crownring - What a great story!


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