Does the Constitution Grant Us Rights?

I made a sarcastic comment to someone the other day while listening to a news story that went like this, "They probably believe that the Constitution grants us rights instead of setting out the limited powers of government."

The response I got shocked me.

"Well, doesn’t it grant us rights like free speech?"

After I finished my primal scream, I calmly asked how a document by "We the People" forming the government could grant rights back to the People they did not already have. The stunned silence made me aware that I needed to start my own one man crusade, oops, I mean jihad to educate the masses. So, if you understand that neither the Constitution nor the Government can grant any rights to the People, then skip this unless you are just curious where I am going.

Lets start from the basics. The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Uh oh. Doesn’t the Bill of Rights grant us rights?

Nope, it only sought to enumerate and protect those that were considered important enough to list.

It does not contain phrases like, "The People shall have the right to free speech." It contains language like, "Congress shall make no law… abridging free speech…" or "..the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

If the People did not already have the right to free speech, how could Congress abridge it?

But I digress.

The US Constitution is a document firmly founded in the principle of Enumerated Powers. The document is meant to set forth the limited powers that the People were granting the government "to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranqility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty."

The first sentence of Article I, Section 1 says it all. "All legislative Powers herein granted…"

It is clear that the People are granting certain powers to the government. The People are not being granted rights. Article I. Section 8 even lists those specific powers granted.

In fact, James Madison and many of the Founding Fathers (how is that for politically incorrect free speech) argued against having the first eight amendments as they thought them redundant because those rights remained with People. But Alexander Hamilton and others felt it was necessary as those were some of the very rights the King had taken from the People.

As a compromise, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added to complete the Bill of Rights and assuage those against listing any rights for fear that those listed may be considered the only important ones.

The Ninth Amendment truly makes clear for those that may believe otherwise that all rights are the Peoples.

"The enumeration in the constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the People."

And if you doubt that the Constitution was meant to give only limited powers, the Tenth Amendment should alleviate them.

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People."

Well now that we all understand that we are not given rights, then we can understand that we have no right to anything that has to be given to us by others, like healthcare. But, I’ll save that one for another post.