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There’s been a lot of talk about our “rights” in the last few months. It’s not new. For 200 years lawyers and politicians and activists have been arguing about the amendments added to the Constitution, how they are interpreted, what they look like in action, how to apply them in a country that has expanded exponentially and in a world that has changed in almost every conceivable way since the nation’s birth.
Eleven years after the Declaration of Independence was drafted, on Sept. 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. By that time, the leaders realized that in order for the states to remain united, they were going to need a stronger, more organized central government with greater power than the Articles of Confederation provided.
In 1789, James Madison of Virginia, recently elected to the new House of Representatives, introduced 19 amendments to the Constitution (the Constitution hadn’t even been ratified by all the states at that point). Ten of Madison’s amendments were ratified by the states in 1791 and came to be known as the Bill of Rights. A total of 33 amendments have been presented to Congress and the states, with 27 of those approved and ratified. Interestingly, the 27th amendment, ratified in 1992, was introduced in … wait for it … 1789. What amendment was so controversial it took 202 years and 223 days to gain approval? The one that deals with congressional pay raises. Go figure.
Most of us have a hard time remembering the preamble to the Constitution, much less all of the amendments. We also tend to be selective in our application of the amendments, which has led to all sorts of discussion and discourse and Supreme Court cases over the decades.
I’m not a scholar of constitutional law, and I won’t pretend to be. In my opinion, the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — is pretty darn close to what I believe our founding fathers, flawed as they were, just like us, had in mind. And theoretically, it should be fairly easy to remember, interpret, and apply in everyday life.
By NIKI TURNER | email@example.com