Bill of Rights. Good, bad, or indifferent?

In Federalist No. 84, Alexander Hamilton writes:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?

I can see both sides of this argument:

  • By listing certain rights, other are ignored and those in power will infringe on those unlisted rights, even if they are included in the ninth and tenth amendments.
  • On the other hand, it is possible the government would have more easily infringed on our rights if they were not written down for posterity.
  • Maybe the Bill of Rights has made no difference in either direction as the Constitution is increasingly ignored and reinterpreted. The government has simultaneously grown its power and reduced our rights so that the Federalist argument against bills of rights and the Anti-Federalist argument for them turn out to be the same thing: different methods of limiting the growth of government, both of which failed over time, but only after working well for many decades.

I must admit that I have an ulterior motive in bringing this up. I am writing about this in my next book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (And if you have a great idea or quote, I may even quote you in my book.) So please, comment below.

4 responses to “Bill of Rights. Good, bad, or indifferent?

  1. Michael, I think of the Bill of Rights like the poles that mark mountain roads–it can’t stop the snow, but it might just prevent a plow from driving off the edge of a cliff.

    • How useful are those poles when a third of population (liberals) removed and weakened them and another third (moderates) ignore them? The other third (conservatives) yell and scream about their value and even try to strengthen them, but more poles have been removed and weakened than have been added or strengthened.

  2. Pingback: The Bill of Rights: Good, Bad, or Indifferent? | The Path to Tyranny Blog

  3. Pingback: The Bill of Rights: Good, Bad, or Indifferent? « Sago

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