“A Republic, If You Can Keep It” -Benjamin Franklin

Bill of Rights(Image Source)
By The Right-Wing Teen

Do you know your rights? In a very real way, our First Amendment rights of free speech, religion, and assembly are under attack by tyrannical governors, mayors, and other so-called leaders. In light of recent, widespread government overreach, it’s important to know what we, as American citizens, are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in The Bill of Rights.

The United States government is a Constitutional Republic. This means a government accountable to the people and governed by the “rule of law.” A republic starts with a free individual with the right to govern himself. The people then elect representatives to make policy decisions on their behalf. None of the founding documents mentions a “democracy.” This is because the founders viewed democracy as dangerous to the rights of minorities. The Constitution applies equally to all citizens, not just the majority.

In other words, the main difference between a republic and a democracy is the Constitution that limits power in a republic, in an effort to protect the rights of individuals against “mob rule.” The U.S. Constitution was designed to safeguard against an overly centralized, tyrannical power in which minorities have only those privileges granted by the good graces of the majority. No one is above the law, and the country is not run by a ruling class. Abraham Lincoln called it a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” This is the essence of a republic.

The U.S. Constitution

In May of 1787, fifty-five delegates from thirteen states gathered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. America had just won its independence from England. The states were working together under a loose agreement called the Articles of Confederation, but the Founding Fathers decided to create a Constitution that would establish a government for the United States.

George Washington was chosen as president of the Constitutional Convention. Among the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution were Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. They argued and debated over the content of the constitution all summer long. The document still stands as a working model of cooperation and compromise. The U.S. Constitution incorporates the combined wisdom of some of the brightest minds in American history, who not only had a great love of their country, but also had a beautiful command of the English language.

The U.S. Constitution was approved and signed on September 17, 1787. When asked about the type of government they had created, Ben Franklin famously replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.” At the time Franklin signed the Constitution, he said, “I consent Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best.”

Not everyone, however, was satisfied with its adoption. Patrick Henry, for one, was concerned about the usurpation and abuse of power by the federal government. He thought the Constitution would give too much power to the central government, while taking away too many freedoms and rights from the states.

After the U.S. Constitution was approved, Henry fought tirelessly to see that the first ten amendments were added to limit the government’s power more strictly, and to guarantee the protection of the people’s basic individual liberties. Called the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution were adopted in 1791. They establish the basic freedoms of Americans and protect the rights of individual citizens, thereby furthering public confidence in the government and proactively preventing abuse of its powers.

The Bill of Rights

  1. Guarantees the free exercise of religion, speech, and the press.
  2. Guarantees the right of the people to own and bear firearms.
  3. Soldiers cannot be lodged in private homes unless the homeowner agrees.
  4. Citizens are protected against unreasonable searches and seizure of their property.
  5. Protects the rights of people on trial for crimes.
  6. Guarantees people accused of crimes the rights to a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury.
  7. Guarantees people the right to a trial by jury for other types of cases.
  8. Prohibits excessive fines, excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments.
  9. Specific rights listed in the Constitution do not take away other rights that may not be listed in the Constitution.
  10. Any powers not specifically given to the federal government belong to the states or the people.

Three Reminders from the Bill of Rights

The Constitution of the United States does two things. It states where your rights come from, and it limits what rights the government can take from you. Moreover, Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, wrote that there are three important things to notice about the Bill of Rights.

First, the Bill of Rights does not give people rights. Human rights preexist government. Our ancestors understood that rights come from nature and God, not from government. We’re the only country in the history of humanity whose founding documents enshrine the primacy of the citizen – the individual – over government, and specifically limit the role of government in people’s lives.

Second, the Bill of Rights serves as a reminder that federal officials have no legitimate power to criminalize speech, ban protests against the government, force people to subscribe to a certain religion, seize people’s guns, or punish people without trial by jury and due process of law. The founders knew that federal power would inevitably attract people to public office who would do the types of things that were being restricted.

Third, the Bill of Rights contains no emergency or crisis exception. That’s because our ancestors knew that historically crises and emergencies were the typical way by which people lost their liberties at the hands of the government. During such times, people become afraid and their natural tendency is to look to the government to keep them safe and secure. They forget that the biggest threat to liberty is their very own government, as reflected in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They eagerly trade away their liberty for “security.” Later, when the crisis or emergency has passed, they discover that the government is unwilling to give up the power it has acquired over them.

Wise Words from the Founders

Experts consider the U.S. Constitution to be one of the most remarkable documents in human history. Daniel Webster said, “Miracles do not cluster. Hold on to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands—what has happened once in six thousand years may never happen again. Hold on to your Constitution, for if the American Constitution shall fail there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

Even though the U.S. Constitution was highly regarded by Ben Franklin, he suspected that it was “likely to be administered for a course of years and then end in despotism…when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

While the intended meaning of the Constitution is sometimes distorted by those who would like to change it to suit their purposes, the original intent of the framers is still visible within the Bill of Rights, waiting to shine forth among nations.

You have a rich heritage of freedom that is your right and privilege as an American citizen. Don’t let wannabe dictators take it away from you.

The Citizens Rule Book is a pocket-sized booklet that informs American citizens of their rights. Contents include:

  • The complete text of The Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution, and The Bill of Rights.
  • Quotes by our Founding Fathers – John Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others.
  • The Ten Commandments compared to the Communist Manifesto.
  • A Handbook for Jurors, covering important topics about jury duty and juror’s rights.
  • All of the above in a handy pocket size, for only $1.00 each! At this low price, everyone in the family can have their own copy. Order yours at HomeschoolPatriot.com

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