Was the Bill of Rights Necessary?

A pin given to me by my Godmother to remind me of the perseverance of honeybees

With hindsight being 20/20, I feel that the Bill of Rights was a necessary amendment to the Constitution. There are so many social issues today that are only cleared up by these amendments that I daresay our struggle for freedom would be much greater.

I do wonder, however, if the Bill of Rights had not been incorporated within the Constitution if the interpretation of social issues the Supreme Court has ruled on would be the same? One of the concerns of the Federalists was that by including a list of restraints on government they would also be including implication of permission for the government right to do everything else. Therefore, the way the original document was drafted makes the assumption that the government can do nothing except what it is given explicit instruction to do.

Without the Bill of Rights I wonder if that opinion of assuming the government was “completely limited except for…” rather than “free to do what it wants except for…” would have prevailed? Would many of the social issues we face today be dealt with on a state level? I consider the state level for many social issues more appropriate because as the Anti-Federalists pointed out we are a vast country with different cultures, ideals, beliefs, and all of those things are affected by location. To have laws appropriate for these individual locations would be beneficial. We would not excpect the beliefs and laws of the French to be the same in Spain, would we? Fundamental law differences by state would not have worked, ultimately, as the Fugitive Slave Clause demonstrated clearly. Or in the very least, America would not have remained a unified world power for so long.

Like I said at the beginning: hindsight is 20/20 and it was necessary because the Amendments 14-16, along with the Emancipation Proclamation, were more clearly defined with the solid layout of what it means to be a citizen of the US in the Bill of Rights. With an accurate “checklist” of citizen rights in place it was much harder for anyone to argue that a slave, an African American, or a woman, was not a citizen of full rights. I recently visited the African-American Museum in Liverpool and found written arguments in the display that allude to the “rights” of American citizens and how those rights could not be extinguished for one based purely on the color of his skin. It seemed unfathomable to the English that it wasn’t so easily resolved in the American mind. The idea of Americans having certain rights in a clear and defined document made those rights concrete for reference generations later and the freedom of many.

So ideally, no we would not have needed the Bill of Rights and our government would have known it had no permissions except those we gave it. But being our country was already in the throes of destroying an entire race of human beings and suppressing the female gender, I believe it was very necessary to incorporate the Bill of Rights for the future of America.


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