The Dillard Doctrine

Urban Conservative Commentary on Politics & Life

The Constitution and Individual Freedom: Remarks at the First Landing Patriots Constitution Day Celebration

Had the opportunity last night to speak at a Constitution Day celebration held by the 9/12 First Landing Patriots in Virginia Beach. If the opening paragraphs sound familiar…well, they are.

Some of the greatest minds our country has ever known are those who created and authored the American experiment.  These Founding Fathers, as we’ve come to call them, codified into our nation’s fabric the concept of natural law-the acknowledgement that the fundamental rights of all men come from a God who created and ordained the universe by his design and for his purpose. At the core of this concept was freedom-the belief that all individuals are of sound enough mind to make their own decisions about what is best for their lives.

To the Founders, this gift of freedom was the foundational principle for the natural rights of all men-the ability to live, live freely, and pursue those things that makes our lives happy. These natural rights are given by God and allow us as humans to realize the gift of freedom that He gave to us. These rights cannot be taken from men; however, we accept certain restrictions on these rights for the greater goal of living in a civilized society.  These concepts were both included in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights;  that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

For the Founders, these rights were inherent in every man from birth, and were derived from the freedom granted to us by God.

The Founders needed an instrument of government that would work to preserve and protect this individual freedom. The result of their work-or rework, as their first attempt did not explicitly address the rights of the individual-was the document we celebrate today; our Constitution.

Beyond establishing the rules by which our government will govern, the Constitution also places the liberty of the individual beyond government’s reach. The first ten amendments-the Bill of Rights-are the vehicle by which the inalienable rights of man are secured. Nowhere in the Constitution is individual liberty-and, in parallel, individual sovereignty-more clearly set aside in importance than in the 10th Amendment:

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.

This amendment pushes all powers not enumerated to the federal or state government back down to the individual; in fact, it is the only amendment in the Constitution that specifically enumerates the basic power to govern to the individual.

One of the prevalent historical attacks on the Constitution is the opinion that, at its authorship, it reduced slaves to 3/5s of the worth of free citizens and sought to perpetuate slavery as an institution. In reality, the 3/5s Compromise, as it’s known, was a tool that had at its core purpose the end of slavery and the extension of freedom to all America’s inhabitants. The compromise had nothing to do with the worth of a slave as a man or woman; rather it sought to lessen the number of slaves that could be counted towards representation in the hopes that, ultimately, a strong anti-slavery Congress would emerge and slavery could be ended without endangering the union.

Our nation’s founders sought to leave their young country a means of preserving a strong government that balanced its power with the rights of all men to live freely. They wanted a government powerful enough to defend its citizens, but not so powerful that it could trample on their rights at will. In writing the Constitution, the Founders were able to create that government, which has stood ever since, despite attacks and repeated attempts to infringe upon the rights it secures.

Written by Coby Dillard

September 16, 2010 at 9:00 am

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