"I know not what treason is, if sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not treason" — Cato’s Letters
This is all well and good. Conservatives have long seen the Tenth Amendment as a practical check on the powers of the central government and testament to the founders belief in local governance. Indeed, liberty breathes when power checks power.
But it is not enough to simply use the Tenth Amendment. If liberty loving Americans wish to fully secure their natural rights they should look to the much more radical and libertarian Ninth Amendment.
The Ninth Amendment protects rights not even listed in the Constitution. It was the anti-federalist insurance policy that the newly formed federal government misconstrued the language of the document to deny any individual rights.
Senator Rand Paul once explained it well:
“We need to defend the entire Bill of Rights. What does the Ninth Amendment say? Most people forget about the Ninth Amendment, but the Ninth Amendment was one of the most important parts of the Bill of Rights. In fact, the Bill of Rights would have never passed without the Ninth Amendment because many of the critics said, well, if you list certain rights, the people will think that’s all of the rights, and they’ll think that that’s a complete listing.
"So the people who put the Bill of Rights on the Constitution said we need to make sure they know this is just the beginning. It’s an impartial or incomplete list of your Bill of Rights. So the Ninth Amendment says those rights not listed are not to be disparaged because your rights come from your Creator and they are unlimited.”
Founding Americans believed in much more than local democracy — that is, they believed in much more than unrestrained government powers whether national or local — they also believed the powers of any government at any time, even a government acting in the name of the people, must be in accordance with natural law. They believed each individual person’s liberty was as natural as the air we breathe and our rights in relation to one another as numerous as the stars.
In other words, our liberty precedes any government and is the ultimate check, the great bulwark, against the powers of the State.
As Judge Andrew Napolitano spotlights in his book Suicide Pact:
“In fact, the Drafters enshrined the protection of the rights inherently held by persons prior to any social compact in the Constitution itself, as the Ninth Amendment, ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’…The use of the word retained all but tips the Framers’ hands as to their recognition of the source of rights as being individual humanity.”
The Ninth Amendment makes it clear. The American Constitution presumes your liberty.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently, the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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