Suprynowicz: Our Second National Holiday
Vin Suprynowicz on Bill of Rights Day:
Americans make a big hubbub over the Fourth of July.
True, the victory of 1781 was an amazing triumph, and the vision of those gathered in Philadelphia five years before — that men may rightfully form or disband governments at will, for the higher purpose of protecting our God-given individual rights — is still worth celebrating.
But that confederation of free men ended after a mere dozen years, on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the new United States Constitution, making it the law of the land. At that point, the organization of free peoples created by the Declaration of Independence — the one we still celebrate each July — passed away.
Our government school teachers tell us this was necessary because the Articles of Confederation “weren’t working out.” But they are woefully light on specifics. Push them, and most will mutter uncertainly some trivia about seaboard states charging tariffs on goods transshipped to landlocked states. Point out that the first landlocked states — Vermont and Kentucky — weren’t admitted until 1791 and 1792, and they will usually fall into a puzzled, grumbling silence.
Anyway, there it is: The people fell for the siren song of “federalism,” accepting solemn promises that the powers of the new central government would be sharply limited to those expressly spelled out — funding a Navy, granting patents and copyrights, coining metal money. Not much more.
Fast forward 220 years. As a recipe for limited government, this Constitution now matches the creature it’s supposed to describe about as well as a Chihuahua’s carry-on “Pet Kennel” would fit a loping Irish wolfhound.
The prima facie proof of this failure now stares at us from every acre of the former marshland north of the Potomac, a granite necropolis and memorial park to our deceased freedoms at least a hundred times larger in manpower and frenzied ambition to control our lives than Mr. Jefferson could ever have imagined (though one suspects Mr. Hamilton would have smiled.)
In the face of this unchained monster, our thin remaining hope against outright tyranny lies in the fact that Rhode Island and North Carolina (bless them) outright refused to ratify that Constitution until a Bill of Rights was added — while Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia And New York all ratified only on the condition that some such set of amendments be quickly appended, as was solemnly promised.
And so, on the day we should probably celebrate as our SECOND great national holiday, on Dec. 15, 1791, Virginia became the 11th state to ratify the first 10 proposed amendments, Mr. Madison’s “Bill of Rights” — though a better name might be the “Bill of Prohibitions” on government conduct — thrown together in an attempt to placate such vociferous anti-federalists as Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee...
Read the rest here, along with a related essay.
Sic transit gloria mundi.