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9/19/11 Capitol ReportPosted Monday, September 19, 2011, at 10:50 AM
The sausage making of American politics has always been messy. From the inception of the Constitution to the recent debt ceiling debate, both sides of the political spectrum fight hard on principles even if it skews the public's view of our governmental institutions.
While the legislative process can look like a bench-clearing brawl at a baseball game, it has preserved our liberty for over 200 years. With the help of the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights, both debated vigorously in their own right, we are ensured our freedom will continue unabated.
Sunday marks the 222 anniversary of Congressional approval for the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments in our Constitution protecting individual rights from infringement by the government. The newly approved rights were then sent to the states for ratification.
A guarantee of individual rights were conspicuously absent from the original document that emerged from the Constitutional Convention. The delegates briefly debated the inclusion of individual rights, but rejected the proposal. This led to a vigorous debate as bitter as today's political discourse.
The framers, and most notably, James Madison who today is considered the "Father of the Constitution," believed that personal liberty would be sufficiently protected through the separation of powers. They said the separation of powers would make it difficult for an oppressive majority to gain power and then use that power to quash the rights of the minority.
The Anti-Federalists opposed ratifying the Constitution because they believed it threatened liberty. They suggested that if the delegates to the convention wanted to protect individual rights, they would have included them.
Thomas Jefferson put the final nail in the coffin by writing a letter to Madison calling the omission of a bill of rights a major mistake. In the letter, Jefferson said that people on earth were entitled to a bill of rights to protect them from every government on earth.
The Federalists, seeing the writing on the wall, agreed to take up a series of amendments called the Bill of Rights when the first Congress met. The compromise ensured the ratification of the Constitution.
When the first Congress met in 1789, Madison kept his word and drafted several amendments. Ten were passed and ratified by the states. Others were voted down by the Congress, and one wasn't ratified by the states.
Some in the Congress thought this was a frivolous exercise because individual rights were inherent and couldn't be denied by any government. It was also argued that the Bill of Rights could eventually harm liberty because rights not enumerated in the Constitution could be infringed.
Madison was firm in his belief that including the Bill of Rights would rally citizens against future oppressive government actions. He also believed the inclusion of individual rights would install the judiciary as the "guardian of those rights." The Bill of Rights were passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification on Sept. 25, 1789.
We are blessed to live in America where our liberty is guaranteed. However, we wouldn't have it without the vigorous opposition and debate of the Anti-Federalists. Their insistence to include individual rights in our Constitution is why we have the Bill of Rights, today. Good things can happen through vigorous debate.
We owe a lot to our founding fathers, including the Anti-Federalists. Their wisdom has made us a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. Their faith, foresight and fortitude in writing the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, have made liberty the default position for all democracies. This week, let's remember all our founding fathers whose vision continues to guard our liberty.
Last week, I briefly identified a new member of the 163rd District, Shana Alexander which I am proud to have joining my team. This opening occurred because of the tireless work and concern by the previous player, Dan Hutton. He was offered a promotion working for the Speaker of the House Steven Tilley. Dan's dedication and willingness to help on issues pertaining to the 163rd will always exist. Besides all that, we still room together in Jefferson City. Thank you Dan for a job well done.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. Our Malden district office will be closed this week due to the continuing special session. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call our Jefferson City office at 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.