Friday, August 4, 2017

Let’s Study the Constitution, Part 9

By Susan Frickey, Center for Self-Governance student
The Ninth Amendment, also known as the “silent” Amendment, says “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
What does this mean? What makes the Ninth Amendment unique is that it guarantees protection of all our rights even though they may not be specifically mentioned in the Constitution. Just because the document is silent on some natural rights does not mean they do not exist. The Ninth Amendment closes the loophole. 
Language of Liberty
James Madison was concerned that any attempt to enumerate fundamental liberties would be incomplete and might imperil other freedoms not specifically put forward.  He said, “If an enumeration be made of all our rights, will it not be implied that everything omitted is given to the general government?”
The Ninth amendment is the only one that had no predecessor in English Law. It stems solely from the genius and experience of those who framed and ratified the Constitution.
Remember too that the principles established in the Declaration of Independence laid the foundation of our Constitution. The Declaration states that all men “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 . . .”
The Framers didn’t believe they were creating or granting these liberties in the Bill of Rights. They were merely acknowledging the natural rights that exist for all men, a fact that no proper government could deny.
The Tenth Amendment reads, “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.”
The Constitution limits the authority of the federal government by specifically defining its powers. That is the purpose of the document.  As the 10th Amendment provides, powers not delegated to the federal government belong to the people or to the states.
Why did the Framers emphasize the importance of the powers reserved to the States and to the People? At the time, many state representatives were concerned that the Constitution provided too much authority to the federal government; authority with which the federal government could potentially usurp the sovereign rights of the States. The Founders feared a powerful federal government, having just fought a war of independence against a tyrannical monarchy. Clearly they had no desire to replace one totalitarian state with another. The Framers wanted local and state governments to retain as much authority as possible. Without the Tenth Amendment, state representatives would not have ratified the Constitution.
Powers retained by the States and the People shifted to the federal government with the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments in 1913 and again during the Great Depression beginning in 1933. With FDR’s “New Deal” federal programs, many people without jobs or hope turned to the federal government as their safety net and America’s first social programs were born. Americans forgot that the limited role of the federal government was to protect their rights, bring justice and provide for the national defense.  These and a few other responsibilities were offered on a very short list in Article 1, Sec. 8. Tragically, the American people began trading the Framers’ principles of limited government for a federal bureaucracy which promised to fill daily needs; a responsibility divinely delegated to individuals and the Church.
The Tenth Amendment’s idea of limiting the federal government’s control has been severely weakened by many years of gradual changes in how we view what is and is not a federal responsibility. It’s like the story of the camel in the sandstorm that just wants to stick his nose inside the tent to get away from the sand…and then his whole head…and before you know it, an enormous camel is wreaking havoc inside the tent.
Americans are the most rights-conscious people in history. We have the genius, dedication and persistence of the Framers to thank for that.  The Bill of Rights is a constant reminder that our natural rights come from God, not government, that the federal government’s control over the people is restrained and that ultimately, all political power resides with the people.
In America, the system is designed so we can govern ourselves.  It’s the most successful experiment in self-government the world has ever known. But it will continue to survive only if we the people participate in maintaining its original design.
The entire nine-part series “Let’s Study the Constitution” is archived on
ReferencesThe United States Constitution Made Easy, by Lonnie D. Crocket; The Words We Live By, by Linda Monk; Original Documents,,
The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and may not reflect the views of CSG. Learn more at

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