It should be noted, moreover, that the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 also sheds light on the ideas and ideals of the generation that drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Passed by the Continental Congress on July 13, 1787, while the Federal Convention was meeting in Philadelphia, the Northwest Ordinance was later affirmed by the first Congress under the new Constitution. Its purpose was to provide a frame of government for the western territories that later became the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Freedom of Expression - Dress Code
David Griggs, a student at Elmhurst High School, challenged his school's dress code that banned "apparel depicting...symbols of violence." Griggs had been disciplined for wearing a T-shirt in support of the United States Marine Corps that featured a picture of an M-16 rifle and the Creed of the US Marines which ends: "I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me." He sued the school district in federal district court, claiming the dress code was overbroad. The court agreed with him. The judges saw no sign that the T-shirt caused disruption at school and no other student had complained about the T-shirt message. In the court’s opinion the school system policy as applied to this particular T-shirt served “no legitimate pedagogical concern.”
My ebook has gone live on Amazon and in 24 hours has become Amazon’s #1 New Release in the Quotational Reference book category. This ebook includes 52 of my favorite quotations, each with a brief essay about what the quotation means. While the ebook can be read in its entirety and in any order, it is designed so that each quotation and essay is read weekly over the course of the coming year and it can be accessed right from your phone or tablet.
It should be noted that the Tenth Amendment does not say that powers not expressly delegated to the United States are reserved to the States. The authors of the Bill of Rights considered and specifically rejected such a statement. They believed that an amendment limiting the national government to its expressed powers would have seriously weakened it.
This last amendment in the Bill of Rights was probably the one most eagerly desired by the various State conventions and State legislatures that had demanded the addition of a bill of rights to the Constitution. Throughout the country, the basic uneasiness with the new Constitution was the dread that the Federal government would gradually enlarge its powers and suppress the States’ governments. The Tenth Amendment was designed to lay such fears to rest.
The Second Amendment to the Bill of rights of the United States Constitution states "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." In order to understand that right, the modern reader must understand the semantics of the eighteenth century....
Another way to ascertain what the framers of the Bill of Rights intended by their amendments, and what the first Congress and the ratifying State legislatures understood by the amendments’ language, is to consult Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765), and the early Commentaries on the Constitution (1833) and Commentaries on American Law (1826), written, respectively, by Joseph Story and James Kent. As eminent judges during the early decades of the Republic, both Story and Kent were more familiar with the constitutional controversies of the first five presidential administrations than any judge or professor of law near the close of the twentieth century can hope to be.
The Constitution recognizes no “absolute” rights. A Justice of the Supreme Court observed years ago that “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.” Instead, the First Amendment is a reaffirmation of certain long-observed civil freedoms, and it is not a guarantee that citizens will go unpunished however outrageous their words, publications, street conduct, or mode of addressing public officials. The original, and in many ways the most important, purpose of freedom of speech and press is that it affords citizens an opportunity to criticize government—favorably and unfavorably—and to hold public officials accountable for their actions. It thus serves to keep the public informed and encourages the free exchange of ideas.
The Second Amendment also affirms an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Since the Amendment limits only Congress, the States are free to regulate the possession and carrying of weapons in accordance with their own constitutions and bills of rights. “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms,” observed Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court in his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), “has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” Thus a disarmed population cannot easily resist or overthrow tyrannical government. The right is not absolute, of course, and the Federal courts have upheld Federal laws that limit the sale, possession, and transportation of certain kinds of weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. To what extent Congress can restrict the right is a matter of considerable uncertainty because the Federal courts have not attempted to define its limits.
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 the Government for a redress of grievances.
Forbidding Congress to station soldiers in private houses without the householders’ permission in time of peace, or without proper authorization in time of war, was bound up with memories of British soldiers who were quartered in American houses during the War of Independence. It is an indication of a desire, in 1789, to protect civilians from military bullying. This is the least-invoked provision of the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has never had occasion to interpret or apply it.
Here again the Bill of Rights reaffirms venerable protections for persons accused of crimes. The Amendment guarantees jury trial in criminal cases; the right of the accused “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation”; also the rights to confront witnesses, to obtain witnesses through the arm of the law, and to have lawyers’ help.