Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787, “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth ... and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.” Yet, some of the Founding Fathers — such as Alexander Hamilton — fought tooth-and-nail against codifying any limit on politicians’ power. And the second president — John Adams — did all that he could to destroy any restraints on the feds’ power to suppress criticism of the government.
The Bill of Rights did not give freedom to Americans; instead, the Bill of Rights expressly prohibited the government from violating pre-existing rights of the people. The Bill of Rights was not “radical” according to the beliefs of Americans of that era; instead, it codified rights both long recognized in English common law or that had been carved out over centuries of resistance to English tyranny. The Founding Fathers had difficulty getting the Constitution approved in many states not because it was “radical” in protecting people’s rights from the government — but because it was perceived as concentrating too much power within the federal government to violate the rights of the people.
President Obama is upholding the tradition of invoking the Bill of Rights to muddle Americans’ political thinking. When he formally proclaimed Bill of Rights Day last December, he declared that “fidelity to our fundamental values is one of America’s greatest strengths.... As Americans, we must keep striving to live up to our founding ideals.” Obama made this declaration after signaling that all the high-ranking Bush administration officials who authorized torture and other war crimes would face no federal prosecution.
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