But for a Word
This is a repost of a post that I put up a year ago, but it is still relevant and I decided that it was worth reposting!
In the post I put up previously about the founding Father’s there was something that struck me! Roger Sherman stated:
There is one amendment proposed by the convention of South Carolina respecting religious tests, by inserting the word other, between the words no and religious in that article, which is an ingenious thought, and had that word been inserted, it would probably have prevented any objection on that head. But it may be considered as a clerical omission and be inserted without calling a convention; as it now stands the effect will be the same”
This was written in his second letter to the New Haven Gazette on the 25th of December 1788. It made me wonder how much history would have changed if that word, other, had been inserted in between the words no and religious?
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
From the Congressional Debates of 1789, we have this discussion on Religious Amendments:
August 15, 1789 First Federal Congress (Amendments-religious reference)
The House again went into a Committee of the Whole on the proposed amendments to the Constitution. Mr. Boudinot in the chair.
The fourth proposition being under consideration, as follows:
Article 1. Section 9. Between paragraphs two and three insert ‘no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.
Mr. SYLVESTER had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to abolish religion altogether.
Mr. VINING suggested the propriety of transposing the two members of the sentence.
Mr. GERRY said it would read better if it was no religious doctrine shall be established by law.
Mr. SHERMAN thought the amendment altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as Congress had ‘no authority whatever delegated to them by the Constitution to make religious establishments; he would, therefore, move to have it struck out.’
Mr. CARROLL As the rights of conscience are, in their nature, a peculiar delicacy, and will little bear the gentlest touch of governmental hand; and as many sects have concurred in opinion that they are not well secured under the present constitution, he said he was much in favor of adopting the words. He thought it would tend more towards conciliating the minds of the people to the government than almost any other opinion he heard proposed. He would not contend with gentlemen about the phraseology, his object was to secure the substance in such a manner as to satisfy the wishes of the honest part of the community.
Mr. MADISON said he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the state conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion, that under the clause of the Constitution, which gave power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience, and establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.
Mr. HUNTINGTON said that he feared, with the gentleman first up on this subject, that the words might be taken in such latitude as to be extremely hurtful to the cause of religion. He understood the amendment to mean what had been expressed by the gentleman from Virginia; but others might find it convenient to put another construction on it. The ministers of their congregations to the eastward were maintained by contributions of those who belong to their society; the expense of building meeting houses was contributed in the same manner. These things were regulated by bylaws. If an action was brought before a federal court on any of these cases, the person who had neglected to perform his engagements could not be compelled to do it; for a support of ministers or buildings of places of worship might be construed into a religious establishment.
By the charter of Rhode Island, no religion could be established by law; he could give a history of the effects of such a regulation; indeed the people were now enjoying the blessed fruits of it. He hoped, therefore, the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure the rights of conscience, and the free exercise of religion, but not to patronize those who professed no religion at all.
Mr. MADISON thought, if the word ‘National’ was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion, to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word ‘National’ was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.
Mr. LIVERMORE was not satisfied with the amendment; but he did not wish them to dwell long on the subject. He thought it would be better if it were altered, and made to read in this manner, that Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.
Mr. GERRY did not like the term National, proposed by the gentleman from Virginia, and he hoped it would not be adopted by the House. It brought to his mind some observations that had taken place in the Conventions at the time they were considering the present constitution. It had been insisted upon by those who were called anti-federalists, that this form of government consolidated the union; the honorable gentleman’s motion shows that he considers it in the same light. Those who were called anti-federalists at that time, complained that they were in favor of a federal government, and the others were in favor of a National one; the federalists were for ratifying the constitution as it stood, and the others did not until amendments were made. Their names then ought not to have been distinguished by federalists and anti-federalists, but rats and anti-rats.
Mr. MADISON withdrew his motion but observed that the words single ‘no National religion shall be established by law’, did not apply that the government was a national one; the question was then taken on MR. LIVERMORE’s motion, and passed in the affirmative 31 for it, and 20 against it.(5)
(End of Religious Reference)
I find it odd that people can read the amendment and clearly understand that the government is not allowed to infringe on the rights of the press, and yet as the same time ignore the statement that this same government is forbidden from infringing upon the rights of the people to practice their religion and to assemble peaceably as they will.
ARTICLE THE THIRD.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition to the government for a redress of grievances.
I also find it odd that those we elect to serve us and defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of American, assume that their role is instead to change that very document into something that suits their ideas of what should be. We have a responsibility to those who come after us to teach them the true meaning of what the oath of affirmation says.
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
We have strayed very far from our beginnings, so far that children today seem to believe that our President serves as a Monarch, instead as part of a trinity of three equal branches of government with each having their own established jobs to do. We have let Presidents take power by way of Presidential Signings that has no real basis in law, and yet they use this power to force their will upon the people even when the people who elected them cry out for change. Our current discussion of limiting the rights of the people is another power grab that goes totally against the Constitution and knowing it, our leaders intend to do all they can to steal this right away from the people. This was not unforeseen by those very writers of the Constitution:
“A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms.”
Mr. GERRY: This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government; if we could suppose that, in all cases, the rights of the people would be attended to, the occasion for guards of this kind would be removed. Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous and prevent them from bearing arms.
What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures, with respect to a militia as to make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins. This was actually done by Great Britain at the commencement of the late revolution. They used every means in their power to prevent the establishment of an effective militia to the eastward. The Assembly of Massachusetts, seeing the rapid progress that administration were making to divest them of their inherent privileges, endeavored to counteract them by the organization of the militia; but they were always defeated by the influence of the Crown.
These gentlemen knew what it was like to be under an oppressive government. They understood the probability that there would come a time when our government no longer served the people but instead used force to impose their will upon them. They wanted to prevent this from happening.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now.
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” (Quoting Cesare Beccaria)
The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.
The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.
No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.
To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association—the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.
I think myself that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. (Back then!)
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter.
In matters of style, swim with the current;
In matters of principle, stand like a rock.
What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?
The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.
The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.
When wrongs are pressed because it is believed they will be borne, resistance becomes morality.
Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.
Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law,” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.
It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.
Liberty is the great parent of science and of virtue; and a nation will be great in both in proportion as it is free.
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
In a government bottomed on the will of all, the…liberty of every individual citizen becomes interesting to all.
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
Most bad government has grown out of too much government.
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first. Read more at