Constitution Week: The Bill of Rights

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Constitution Week Lessons for Homeschoolers

Day Five: The Bill of Rights

Welcome in to session five of our Constitution series, and today we’re going to talk about the Bill of Rights.

constitution lessons for homeschoolers

Many of you may have heard of the Bill of Rights. There are actually 10 amendments to our United States Constitution, and they are known as the Bill of Rights.  An amendment is a change or alteration, and in this context, there is supposed to be a change for the better.

So why did our Constitution need to be altered? Why did it need to be changed? Well, during the Constitutional Convention debates, the Federalists and the Anti-federalists (we talked about these groups in an earlier session) argued about how strong the federal government should be. The Federalists believed in a very strong central government, and the Anti-Federalists felt that there was a real danger to have a very strong central government. They wanted to make sure that the government was strong enough to protect the citizens, but not so strong that it could run right over the rights and liberties of the states and the individual citizens.

Once the delegates had settled on a Constitution, there were several delegates, headed up by George Mason, who stood up and argued forcefully that there really were not enough protections for individual citizens within the Constitution itself, and that what needed to happen was to include a Bill of Rights that would delineate individual rights. The Framers of the Constitution remembered all of the abuses that they suffered at the hands of King George of England before the Revolution. These abuses caused the Colonists to declare independence from England in the first place.

Having remembered all these abuses, and knowing the history of how governments tend to grow and abuse people, a few like George Mason agreed that we really needed a Bill of Rights.

The Federalists said that the Bill of Rights wasn’t necessary:

  • New York state doesn’t have a bill of rights, and you like their government
  • a bill of rights was unnecessary and dangerous
  • failure to list each and every right may be taken to mean that a right doesn’t exist
  • the Constitution itself was a big bill of rights

The Anti-Federalists said, “We dissent because the powers vested in Congress by this Constitution must necessarily annihilate and absorb the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the several states.”

They were prophetic because now that we are over two hundred years down the line, we can see how the Anti-Federalists were so right. We have a situation where the federal government really has absorbed power that the states were supposed to have, and the states are left with very little individual autonomy anymore. We see more and more states rising up and claiming their tenth amendment rights–state’s rights–and actually pushing back on the federal government absorbing and annihilating them.

Nine out of thirteen states needed to vote to ratify the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights was a point of contention in several important states. James Madison had promised to look into drafting a Bill of Rights if delegates would vote to pass the Constitution. He kept his word. He used George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights as a model. He wrote 17 amendments. The Congress passed 12 of them, and the states adopted 10 of them, the Bill of Rights we now have.

The Bill of Rights are meant to protect you as an individual citizen from the tyranny of a very strong government. Which right is your favorite?

I hope that you have enjoyed this series on the Constitution, and that you will have a wonderful time celebrating Constitution Day on September 17th. Please join me in an online class very soon.

Constitution Week Lessons for Homeschoolers

Day One: Why did America need a Constitution

Day Two: Democracy or Republic

Day Three: Checks and Balances

Day Four: Qualifications of Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court

 

 

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