Among the many thoughtful details that the founders bequeathed to the rest of us is the purposeful naming of our nation; The United States of America. A single moniker like “America” would have neglected the composure of independence and cooperative defiance necessary to earn the crucial signatures on the Declaration of Independence and, soon afterward, the Articles of Confederation wherein the new country’s name was made official. The basic tenet behind the name is captured plainly in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
The Ninth of our Bill of Rights reads, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Tenth and final component to our Bill of Rights reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Together, Amendments Nine and Ten cover all liberties not specifically addressed in Amendments One through Eight. Herein lies the answer to that question you asked yourself back in Algebra II, “When would I ever use axiomatic set theory in real life?”
First, let’s clarify two terms; “enumeration” as used in the Ninth Amendment and “the United States” as used in the Tenth Amendment. To enumerate means to establish or to specify. In the Tenth Amendment, the United States means the federal government. Both amendments are intending to institute restrictions on government by axiomatic set theory.
The Ninth Amendment calls out two sets of rights; those that are specifically named in the United States Constitution and those that are not. The theorem being advanced here is that the Constitution does not “constitute” the citizens’ complete set of rights. The Founding Fathers had always held the concern that documenting a finite set of rights might imply that those not mentioned would be considered nonexistent. Note the careful wording in the Declaration of Independence that people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” [emphasis added].
Founding father Alexander Hamilton was highly skeptical of even adding a bill of rights to the United States Constitution. This signer of the Constitution went so far as to “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.”
Using an example of the First Amendment, Alexander Hamilton asks, “Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?” Hamilton believed the push for these first ten amendments to be the “indulgence of an injudicious zeal for bills of rights.”
But the people wanted a bill of rights in order to keep Congress in check. They felt it worth the risk that ratifying the first Ten Amendments might insinuate that people derive their powers from the consent of the government, rather than opposite truth that was proclaimed as self-evident in the Declaration of Independence.
The Tenth Amendment implies two sets of powers; those that are delegated to the federal government and those that are prohibited from the States. The point here is that the federal government is designed to be a minimal entity that endeavors for nothing outside of the responsibilities and authorities detailed in the Constitution. States, on the other hand, are permitted to take on whatever authorities are assigned to them by their respective residents, with some exceptions that are detailed in the U.S. Constitution.
Article I gives the United States the power to “coin money.” It simultaneously prohibits the states from coining money. So, our money always reads, “United States of America” and never, for example, “State of Arizona.”
The list of powers given to the federal government is not exhaustive and the list of restrictions on the states is short. The theorem here is that the citizens sit on the top of the food chain, having received their rights from God Himself. They may consent to some burdens of state government, but should never find themselves subjugated by an ambitious federal government.
Any American with a nominal capacity for critical thinking will realize that the majority of our elected representatives have broken loose from the moorings of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Their faith in altruism has betrayed the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and government is many times larger than was ever envisioned by Bill of Rights author James Madison.
Our nation has sadly given custody of elected office to people who seek contrived utopia over natural law. Alexander Hamilton’s cautions are realized, that “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?”
America’s path to restoring freedom is to remember the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The Founding Fathers gave us the outline in the succinct and eloquent words of the Bill of Rights. They also gave us countless quotes of caution. “How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!” - Samuel Adams in a letter to John Pitts, 1776
This is the final article of a six-part series on the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. For the complete set, see http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/markbaisley/