On this day in 1791 the Bill of Rights were ratified by three-fourths of the states. At the insistence of the Anti-Federalists led by Thomas Jefferson the first 10 amendments were added to the new Constitution.
They might more properly be called a Bill of Prohibitions, since they are not so much a delineation of rights as a list of things the federal government may not take away from individuals and the states and local governments.
This is our day to celebrate the First Amendment prohibition against establishing a state religion, despite odd rulings about nativity scenes and posting the Ten Commandments, and the right of free speech and press, despite McCain-Feingold limits on campaign spending and advertising.
This is our day to celebrate the Second Amendment, despite requirements to register handguns and other laws.
We celebrate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, despite the Hiibel case in which Larry Hiibel was arrested for not giving his name to a Humbolt County deputy.
There’s the Fifth’s protection against taking of property except for public purposes that was bounced by the Kelo decision that let government take property for private development.
As for the Sixth’s right to speedy and public trial? Forget it. No explanation needed.
The right to trial by jury according to the Seventh? Try that in traffic court, buddy.
No cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth’s prohibition. Lifetime sentences for possession of pot belie that one.
The Ninth’s and 10th’s guarantees that rights not delineated are prohibited to feds? Let’s see the states try to set the drinking age or voting age or speed limits.
There’s still the Third’s prohibition against housing troops in private homes.
Happy birthday, Bill of Rights, long may you be respected.