Today is Bill of Rights Day, the 220-year anniversary of this revered document's addition to the U.S. Constitution in 1791. The Anti-Federalists had demanded a Bill of Rights to ensure that the federal government created in 1789 would not morph into the type of tyranny that the American colonists had resisted in the Revolution.
It might seem like a difficult day to celebrate, however, as we consider the current state of liberties in our nation. With the militarization of police, the erosion of requirements for search and seizure, the presidential powers used as a blanket for deplorable detention policies, the raging war on drugs, invasive TSA "security" procedures and so much else, today's governing principles at times seem to reflect the authorship of George Orwell more than that of James Madison.
U.S. history reminds us of why so many early Americans wanted a Bill of Rights. They understood that governments abused their power, a truth that has since been corroborated by our presidents' actions time and again. Within the first decade of the new government, President John Adams turned his back completely on the First Amendment, signing the Alien and Sedition Act that criminalized criticism of his administration. It was a brazen violation of one of the most fundamental human rights.