A Constitution That Protects, Rather Than Grants, Natural Rights

billofrightsOn September 17, 1787 the United States Constitution was signed by the framers and ultimately ratified by each of the 13 states*. The U.S. Constitution was a monumental accomplishment in the history of mankind.  For the first time in modern history, a government was established with the sole purpose of protecting the freedoms of individuals. Until that point all other modern governments had been established with the purpose of protecting the power of the ruling class – monarchs, dictators, oligarchies.  Since that time, many other governments have also been established with the purpose of protecting the ruling class including those from socialist, communist, fascist and monarchal governments (**examples below). The U.S. Constitution did something different: it was established on the proposition that government was designed to protect the rights of individuals that they naturally possessed. Other governments have been built on the assumptions that people did not have any rights that were not granted by the government itself.

It is essential to understand the concept of Natural Rights when it comes to understanding the U.S. constitution.  These are rights that every individual has that, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, are innate to each individual by action of “Nature and of Nature’s God” and among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  We have the right to speak freely not because a government document granted that right, but because we are created with that natural right. We have the ability to defend ourselves with arms, again as a natural right, not because Congress passes a law that says we may.  We have the right to own property and to trade our property and our services in a free market. We have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and to expect due process of law because we possess that natural right at our creation. That is why the Constitution’s Bill of Rights expressly states in many ways “Congress shall make no law infringing …” freedom of religion, the right to bear arms and the right to be secure in our homes and lives from an intrusive government.

President Obama has complained that the U.S. Constitution is a document of “Negative Liberties”.  Here the President refers to the concept of a government having liberties. This claim is a false since no government can ever have a “natural” liberty. Indeed our Constitution almost exclusively places restrictions on the government and given the history of governments of men, this was an appropriate and miraculous innovation of the American Revolution. This is in contradistinction to documents like the U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.  The U.N. document mistakenly asserts that people are granted rights that are contained within its document***. The obvious problem here is that there are certainly rights not listed by the U.N. that individuals possess simply by being born (e.g. the right to bear arms is not listed by the U.N. or the European Union Constitution). Individuals should always be suspicious of and reject any authority figure or organization that claims it grants rights to them.  When the government states it will grant you food that means it can decide who shall not have food. When the government states it will grant health care, that means it can decide who shall be subject to health care rationing with prolonged suffering and earlier death.   As President Gerald Ford observed “A government big enough to give you everything you need is big enough to take away everything you have.”

Even today there are powerful forces calling for revision of our U.S. Constitution. The highest search rank for “Constitution Day” on “Google” (9/18/13) brings us an article from “Al Jazeera America”(on 9/17/13) that calls for a complete re-write of the Constitution. That should cause great concern among those who love freedom. Sadly, the government’s enumerated powers of the U.S. constitution are now routinely ignored by all three branches of government as each leadership group within claim more power to themselves to rule over citizens or take actions that are unwise and strictly forbidden. Examples include President Obama attacking Libya without an act of War and in violation of the War Powers Act, spying on citizens by the NSA, Congressional laws that redistribute money and freedom from one preferred political group to another and the Supreme Court’s strained reading of the Constitution to uphold the individual mandate of Obamacare as a “tax”.

Thank be to God for the U.S. Constitution and those brave men and women who have defended it through the last two centuries with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Let us honor their legacy by continuing to defend the U.S. Constitution and fighting daily for our natural rights. Citizens should jealously guard their liberties protected by the Constitution and should never think- not even for a second – that document written by a group of men could “grant” those liberties already bestowed by God at their creation.

* It was then sent to the state legislatures for ratification which finally occurred on June 21, 1788 with nine states signing. All 13 states had ratified by January 10, 1791. The first Congress was actually convened on March 4, 1789 and President Washington was inaugurated to the office on April 30, 1789. The bill of Rights was ratified December 15, 1791.

** Such as the Napoleonic France, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the modern European Union, recent varieties of Egyption governments and the Saudi monarchy.

*** U.N. Article 2 of Declaration of Human Rights”Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”