Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15: Bill Of Rights Day

According to this source,
This day was signed into practice by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on December 15, 1941, one hundred and fifty years after the actual signing of the Bill of Rights by our forefathers. Ironically, he proclaimed the holiday just one week after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor initiating the United States' involvement in World War II where freedom issues were at the core of wartime dogma....

While the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, it wasn't until two years later that the ten Bill of Rights were incorporated into the governing document.
George Mason of Virginia, with the Virginia Declaration of Rights, helped to contribute to our Declaration of Independence and to the Bill of Rights, an essential portion of our Constitution:

A call for American independence from Britain, the Virginia Declaration of Rights was drafted by George Mason in May 1776 and amended by Thomas Ludwell Lee and the Virginia Convention. Thomas Jefferson drew heavily from this document when he drafted the Declaration of Independence one month later.

Mason wrote that "all men are born equally free and independant [sic], and have certain inherent natural rights,...among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursueing [sic] and obtaining Happiness and Safety." This uniquely influential document was also used by James Madison in drawing up the Bill of Rights (1789)...
The following is the complete text of our Bill of Rights, with summarizing headers:
First Amendment – Freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly, and to petition the government.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment
– Right for the people to keep and bear arms, as well as to maintain a militia.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment
– Due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, private property.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and other rights of the accused.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Seventh Amendment – Civil trial by jury.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail, as well as cruel and unusual punishment.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment – Powers of states and people
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.
Now is also a fitting time to review some quotations from George Mason. A few samples:
June 12, 1788
Live in a frugal Style, without parade or Ostentation, avoid all unnecessary Expence, & do as much of your Business your selves, as you can...

April 17-26, 1775
We came equals into this world, and equals shall we go out of it. All men are by nature born equally free and independent. To protect the weaker from the injuries and insults of the stronger were societies first formed; … Every society, all government, and every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community. Every power, every authority vested in particular men is, or ought to be, ultimately directed to this sole end; and whenever any power or authority whatever extends further, or is of longer duration than is in its nature necessary for these purposes, it may be called government, but it is in fact oppression.

May 20, 1787
It is easy to foresee that there will be much Difficulty in organizing a Government upon this great Scale, & at the same time reserving to the State Legislatures a sufficient Portion of Power for promoting & securing the Prosperity & Happiness of their respective Citizens.

July 5, 1792
… for at my time of Life, my only Satisfaction and Pleasure is in my Children; and all my Views are centered in their Wellfare and Happiness.

Aug. 22, 1787
...Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a Country. As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of caused & effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities.
From this article about George Mason:

Mason...[called slavery] "that slow poison, which is daily contaminating the minds and morals of our people." At the Constitutional Convention, he spoke against allowing any mention of slavery to appear in the text of the Constitution. He also pressed to include a bill of rights — and when none was put in (this was before the first ten amendments were passed), he urged his home state of Virginia not to ratify our country's key founding documents.

That move cost Mason his long friendship with George Washington, and also knocked him out of the pantheon of Founding Fathers. Had he supported the Constitution, his name would be spoken in the same breath as Washington, Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Instead, he went into history as a leading Anti-Federalist.

Mason...supported freedom of religion and freedom of the press long before these ideas became institutionalized in American life. He was a lifelong champion of liberty whose influence improved the United States in its earliest days.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It is maintaining an updated list of Bill-of-Rights Day commemorations. Please notify David if you learn of a commemoration in your area:

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posted by Always On Watch @ 12/15/2006 08:37:00 AM