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Disputing Textbooks: Constitutional Rights

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This column series offers replies to what is published in the current “text books,” which are adopted by the State and school districts.

BY HAMILTON HANSON

We use that term generously when we want to win an argument about how much we really do NOT know about our national governance. I would be very happy to deliver to all of you almost as many Constitutions for MY Republican form of government as you would like to distribute to your families (great stocking stuffers), your clubs, your co-workers, ad infinitum. I would also be happy to talk with any schools that will accept them.

I invite each of you to tell me where the word rights or “right” is written in the document. By my making such a challenge, you should accept that it is not there. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 contains the phrase: Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. That is the ONLY Constitutional right written into the original document.

Now, it is true that there are rights in the Amendments to the Constitution, but not in the original document. Rather than the 1787 wording, I’ll use today’s common language – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, right to peaceably assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances.

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So, in Amendment I, we have added TWO RIGHTS!! There are three FREEDOMS, but only two more rights.
Amendment II provides for the right to bear and keep arms. Amendment IV provides for the right to be secure in their persons. Amendment VI provides for a speedy and public trial and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor and have the assistance of counsel.
Amendment VII provides the right to a trial by jury. Amendment IX declares that there may be more rights than those written in the Constitution.

Thus, there are not many Rights written into the Constitution itself, and there are not many more provided by the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the document. It is extremely important that each of us knows and understands the origin of ANY Constitutional rights and the source of some of the most major rights that we do have which come from the Amendments to the document, not the Constitution itself.

The Amendments are very interesting in that what many refer to as Constitutional Rights are really limits placed on the national government when dealing with the general population. Most of the wording is: Congress shall not make any law; no soldier may be quartered in any house; Amendment V says that no person may be held (plus many words to determine the conditions of such “holding”); Amendment VII states that no fact tried by a jury, etc.; Amendment VIII speaks to “excessive bail”; Amendment X says the powers not delegated.

All of these comments are operational provisions of the national government’s dealings with the citizenry. There is no indication of Rights. So, the phrase “Constitutional Right” is a very limited defense of a position in any argument.

In these “chats” it is very important for me that our students be taught this information about their governing document.

Mr. Hamilton may be reached at [email protected]

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