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Weekly Column: Our Bill Of Rights

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Many do not recall that December 15 is an important anniversary for our government: we celebrate our Bill of Rights.  As Americans we are afforded certain rights illuminated in what is known as the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution.  They include our freedom of religion, speech, of the press, our right to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition our government to address injustices.  They spell out our right to bear arms, our protection from unreasonable searches and seizures and pledge fair treatment for those accused of wrongdoing.  We proclaim December 15 as Bill of Rights Day to reflect that three-fourths of the states had ratified those important first 10 amendments by December 15, 1791.  In the more than 230 years since the ratification of the Bill of Rights, 17 more Amendments have been added to our Constitution, abolishing slavery, extending voting rights and more.  These rights seem synonymous with our Constitution and our American principles.  However, they have been fought for from the very beginning and are worthy of our celebration and protection along with our Constitution in which they are intertwined. 

National Archive historians note, “The Constitution might never have been ratified if the framers hadn't promised to add a Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments to the Constitution gave citizens more confidence in the new government and contain many of today's Americans' most valued freedoms.”  As part of the process for their ratification, 17 amendments to the Constitution were introduced and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1789 as a joint resolution.  As National Archive historians report about the ratification, “The Senate changed the joint resolution to consist of 12 amendments. A joint House and Senate Conference Committee settled remaining disagreements in September. On October 2, 1789, President Washington sent copies of the 12 amendments adopted by Congress to the states. By December 15, 1791, three-fourths of the states had ratified 10 of these, now known as the ‘Bill of Rights.’”  

The original Joint Resolution passed by Congress in 1789 proposing the 12 amendments to the Constitution is now among our collective American treasures on permanent display in the National Archives, in Washington, D.C.  Fittingly, it is just steps away from where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are displayed.  

The Preamble to the 1789 Joint Resolution of Congress Proposing 12 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution reads, “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”  We have significant challenges in reigning in the overreach of the federal government.  Our Constitution and Bill of Rights remain our most effective tools in preventing and fighting abuse of federal power. 

News of what happens to people in countries around the world, including Iran, China and Russia, where peaceful objections to their government are silenced are heart wrenching, steady reminders of how prophetic and dear our rights as Americans remain.  On this Bill of Rights Day, and everyday really, I thank Idahoans and Americans across our country and around our world who steadfastly defend these rights. 


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