American Minute with Bill Federer
Though George Washington presided at the Constitutional Convention, George Mason refused to sign the U.S. Constitution.
Because it did not put enough limits on the Federal Government.
George Mason and George Washington were friends, both being from Virginia.
When the Continental Congress chose Washington to be General of the Continental Army, George Mason took his place as Virginia’s delegate to the Continental Congress.
Mason was later a delegate to the Constitutional Convention where he helped write the U.S. Constitution.
When the Constitutional Convention ended, George Washington commented to Marquis de Lafayette, February 7, 1788:
“With regard to the two great points (the pivots on which the whole machine must move) my creed is simply:
First, That the general Government is not invested with more powers than are indispensably necessary to perform functions of a good government …”
Secondly, That these powers … are so distributed among the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches … that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a … despotic or oppressive form; so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the People …”
“Corruption of morals, profligacy of manners, and listlessness for the preservation of the natural and unalienable rights of mankind
… usurpations that may be established … upon the ruins of liberty … against which no human prudence can effectually provide …”
“It will at least be a recommendation to the proposed Constitution that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny, & those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any government hitherto instituted among mortals, hath possessed.
We are not to expect perfection in this world: but mankind, in modern times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government.”
George Mason was one of those insisting on “more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny.”
They were called “anti-federalists.”
They feared the new Federal Government might become too powerful and take away their liberties, as King George III had done.
In addition to George Mason, Anti-federalists included Sam Adams and Patrick Henry, who almost convinced Virginia not to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
George Mason insisted that “restrictive clauses” should be added to prevent an abuse of Federal power.
This earned him the title “Father of the Bill of Rights.”
At the time, Mercy Otis Warren wrote in Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions, 1788:
“The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.”
The PREAMBLE of the Bill of Rights stated:
“The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added …
… RESOLVED … that the following Articles be proposed … as Amendments to the Constitution.”
Elbridge Gerry, who signed the Declaration of Independence and helped write the U.S. Constitution, addressed the first session of Congress as it composed the Bill of Rights, August 17, 1789:
“This declaration of rights … is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government.”
Twelve Amendments were approved by Congress on on September 25, 1789, and signed by two individuals:
Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg as the First Speaker of the House, who was a Lutheran pastor before being elected to Congress;
John Adams as the President of the Senate, who was also Vice-President under George Washington.
After passing the Bill of Rights, Congress requested President Washington issue a National Day of Thanksgiving to God, October 3, 1789, stating:
“I do recommend … the 26th day of November …
to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be …
… for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government …
particularly the national one now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed … to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue.”
The 12 Amendments were sent to the States for their consideration.
After much heated debate in the various State Ratifying Conventions, TEN AMENDMENTS were chosen to limit or handcuff the Federal Government.
These Ten Amendments are called the BILL OF RIGHTS, ratified by the States on DECEMBER 15, 1791.
The FIRST AMENDMENT to restrict the Federal Government began:
“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.”
Insight into the intention of the First Amendment is given by George Mason, the “Father of the Bill of Rights,” who had suggested the wording of the First Amendment be:
“All men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others.”
Additional insight is seen in the debates of the various State Ratifying Conventions.
At North Carolina’s Ratifying Convention, July 30, 1788, Governor Samuel Johnston argued:
“The people of Massachusetts and Connecticut are mostly Presbyterians …
In Rhode Island, the tenets of the Baptists, I believe, prevail.
In New York, they are divided very much; the most numerous are the Episcopalians and the Baptists.
In New Jersey, they are as much divided as we are.
In Pennsylvania, if any sect prevails more than others, it is that of the Quakers.
In Maryland, the Episcopalians are most numerous, though there are other sects.
In Virginia, there are many sects …
I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will see there is no cause of fear that any one religion shall be exclusively established.”
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who was appointed by President James Madison, explained in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833:
“In some of the States, Episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in other, Presbyterians; in others, Congregationalists; in others, Quakers …
The whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the State governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice and the State Constitutions.”
Amendments to the “Federal” Constitution, particularly regarding religion, did not override individual “State” Constitutions.
This is seen by the acknowledgments of religion in the State Constitutions at the time the States debated and ratified the Bill of Rights.
The first State to ratify the Bill of Rights was NEW JERSEY on November 20, 1789.
At that time, New Jersey was operating under its 1776 Constitution, which stated:
“All persons, professing a belief in the faith of any PROTESTANT sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government … shall be capable of being elected.”
MARYLAND was the 2nd State to ratify the Bill of Rights, December 19, 1789.
At that time, Maryland was operating under its 1776 Constitution, which stated:
“No other test … ought to be required, on admission to any office … than such oath of support and fidelity to this State … and a declaration of a belief in the CHRISTIAN religion.”
NORTH CAROLINA was the 3rd State to ratify the Bill of Rights, December 22, 1789.
At that time, North Carolina was operating under its 1776 Constitution, which stated:
“No person, who shall deny the being of GOD or the truth of the PROTESTANT religion, or the Divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding … office.”
SOUTH CAROLINA was the 4th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, January 19, 1790.
At that time, South Carolina was operating under its 1778 Constitution, which stated:
“No person shall be eligible to a seat … unless he be of the PROTESTANT religion … The CHRISTIAN PROTESTANT religion shall be deemed … the established religion of this State.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE was the 5th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, January 25, 1790.
At that time, New Hampshire was operating under its 1784 Constitution, which stated:
“No person shall be capable of being elected … who is not of the PROTESTANT religion.”
DELAWARE was the 6th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, January 28, 1790.
At that time, Delaware was operating under its 1776 Constitution, which stated:
“Every person … appointed to any office … shall … subscribe … ‘I … profess faith in GOD THE FATHER, and in JESUS CHRIST His only Son, and in the HOLY GHOST, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.'”
NEW YORK was the 7th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, February 24, 1790.
At that time, New York was operating under its 1777 Constitution, which stated:
“The United American States … declare … ‘Laws of nature and of NATURE’S GOD … All men are created equal; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights … Appealing to the SUPREME JUDGE of the world … A firm reliance on the protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE’ …
People of this State, ordain … the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination …
Provided, That the liberty of conscience, hereby granted, shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness (sexual immorality).”
PENNSYLVANIA was the 8th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, March 10, 1790.
At that time, Pennsylvania was operating under its 1776 Constitution, signed by Ben Franklin, which stated:
“Each member, before he takes his seat, shall … subscribe … ‘I do believe in one GOD, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.'”
RHODE ISLAND was the 9th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, June 7, 1790.
At that time, Rhode Island was operating under its 1663 Colonial Constitution, which stated:
“By the blessing of God … a full liberty in religious concernements … rightly grounded upon GOSPEL principles, will give the best and greatest security … in the true CHRISTIAN faith and worship of God … They may … defend themselves, in their just rights and liberties against all the enemies of the CHRISTIAN faith.”
VERMONT was admitted as the 14th State to the Union on March 4, 1791.
Later that year, on November 3, 1791, Vermont became the 10th State to ratify the Bill of Rights.
At that time, Vermont was operating under its 1777 Constitution, which stated:
“And each member, before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz. ‘I ____ do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration, and own and profess the Protestant religion.’ And no further or other religious test shall ever, hereafter, be required.”
VIRGINIA was the 11th State to ratify the Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791.
At that time, Virginia was operating under its 1776 Constitution, which stated:
“It is the mutual duty of all to practice CHRISTIAN forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”
Virginia’s ratification completed the necessary three-fourths of the States, thereby putting the Bill of Rights into effect.
Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson certified the adoption of the Bill of Rights on March 1, 1792.
Other States ratified the Bill of Rights at later dates.
KENTUCKY separated from Virginia and became the 15th State in the Union on June 1, 1792.
Later that same year, June 27, 1792, Kentucky ratified the Bill of Rights.
At that time, Kentucky was operating under its 1792 Constitution, which stated:
“Article 8, Section 5: The manner of administering an oath or affirmation shall be such as is consistent with the conscience of the deponent, and shall be esteemed by the legislature the most solemn appeal to God.”
“Article 11, Section 3: That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences … No human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience …
Section 4: That the civil rights … of any citizen shall in no wise be diminished … on account of his religion.”
Section 7: That … the free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the invaluable rights of man, and every citizen may freely speak, write, and print on any subject.”
MASSACHUSETTS did not ratify the Bill of Rights until March 2, 1939.
At the time the Bill of Rights were adopted by the United States, Massachusetts was still operating under its 1780 Constitution, written by John Adams, which stated in Part the First, Article 3:
“Towns … to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily …
Every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.”
GEORGIA did not ratify the Bill of Rights until March 18, 1939.
At the time the Bill of Rights were adopted by the United States, Georgia was still operating under its 1789 Constitution, which stated:
“Article 4, Section 5. All persons shall have the free exercise of religion.”
Georgia’s 1798 Constitution stated:
“Article 4, Section 4. No person … shall … be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping God in a manner agreeable to his own conscience … nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles.
CONNECTICUT did not ratify the Bill of Rights until April 19, 1939.
At the time the Bill of Rights were adopted by the United States, Connecticut, called “The Constitution State,” was still operating under its 1662 Charter from King Charles II and its 1639 Fundamental Orders, derived from Pastor Thomas Hooker’s sermon of 1638, which stated:
“Oath of the Governor … swear by the great and dreadful name of the Ever-living God, to promote the public good and … all wholesome laws … according to the rule of God’s word; so help me God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is clear from all contemporary documentation, that the Bill of Rights was not intended for the Federal Government to outlaw State acknowledgements of Christianity, God or religion.
Writing in regards to the Amendments limiting the Federal Government, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808:
“I consider the Government of the U.S. as interdicted (prohibited) by the Constitution from inter-meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.
This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the U.S (9th & 10th Amendments) …”
“Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General (Federal) government.
It must then rest with the States as far as it can be in any human authority …
I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines …
Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets.”
The Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress prepared The Constitution of the United States of America-Analysis and Interpretation (Edward S. Corwin, editor, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1953, p. 758), which stated:
“In his Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833, Justice Joseph Story asserted that the purpose of the First Amendment was not to discredit the then existing State establishments of religion, but rather ‘to exclude from the National Government all power to act on the subject.'”
Justice Joseph Story wrote in A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, 1840:
“We are not to attribute this prohibition of a national religious establishment to an indifference to religion in general, and especially to Christianity (which none could hold in more reverence than the framers of the Constitution) …
Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the Amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.
An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation …”
“But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men or to punish them for worshiping God in the manner which they believe their accountability to Him requires …
The rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power. They are given by God, and cannot be encroached upon by human authority without a criminal disobedience of the precepts of natural as well as of revealed religion.
The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”
Jefferson stated in his Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805:
“In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General (Federal) Government.
I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercise suited to it; but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of State and church authorities by the several religious societies.”
Things began to change with the 14th Amendment.
In 1889, John Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott Co.) gave the definition of “RELIGION” and then hinted of the novel use of the 14TH AMENDMENT:
“‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ …
By establishment of religion is meant the setting up of state church, or at least conferring upon one church of special favors which are denied to others …
The Christian religion is, of course, recognized by the government, yet … the preservation of religious liberty is left to the States …
This provision and that relating to religious tests are limitations upon the power of the (Federal) Congress only …
Perhaps the Fourteenth Amendment may give additional securities if needful.”
The 14th Amendment was passed July 28, 1866, to force Southern Democrat States to give rights to freed slaves.
Republican Congressman John Farnsworth of Illinois stated of the 14th Amendment, March 31, 1871:
“The reason for the adoption (of the 14TH AMENDMENT) … was because of … discriminating … legislation of those States … by which they were punishing one class of men under different laws from another class.”
But in solving one problem it created another.
The 14th Amendment was sponsored by Republican Congressman John Bingham of Ohio.
When asked if he feared the 14th Amendment might open the door for the Federal Government to usurp rights away from the States, Rep. John Bingham replied:
“I repel the suggestion … that the Amendment will … take away from any State any right that belongs to it.”
Nevertheless, shortly after the 14th Amendment was ratified, activist Federal Judges began to do just that.
Darwinist philosopher Herbert Spencer influenced Harvard Law School dean Christopher Columbus Langdell to apply evolution to the legal process.
Rather than upholding the intent of those who wrote the laws, Langdell introduced the idea that laws could evolve through a series of “case precedents.”
This effectively added a second way to change laws.
The FIRST way to change laws requires motivating a majority of citizens to elect Congressmen and Senators, who in turn, need a majority to pass a law, which in turn needs to be signed by the President, who was elected by a majority.
The SECOND way to change laws is much easier. Simply find an evolutionary, activist judge who is willing to subtly evolve the definitions of words that are in existing laws to push the will of a minority.
This evolutionary view influenced Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., to challenge the tradition that the Constitution should only be changed when two-thirds of the State legislatures, or two-thirds of both the Senate and House, propose an Amendment, and three-fourths of the States ratify it.
Holmes’ biographer wrote in The Justice from Beacon Hill (1991), that he:
“… shook the little world of lawyers and judges who had been raised on Blackstone’s theory that the law, given by God Himself, was immutable and eternal and judges had only to discover its contents.
It took some years for them to come around to the view that the law was flexible, responsive to changing social and economic climates …
Holmes had … broken new intellectual trails … demonstrating that the corpus of the law was neither ukase (an edict) from God nor derived from Nature, but … was a constantly evolving thing.”
Federal Courts proceeded to use the 14th Amendment, along with an expanded reading of the “general welfare clause” and the “commerce clause,” to evolve the role of the BILL OF RIGHTS, particularly the first eight Amendments, from limiting the Federal Government to instead limiting the State Governments.
James Madison wrote to James Robertson, April 20, 1831:
“With respect to the words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them.
Take them in an … unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
In a figurative sense, activist judges took the handcuffs off the wrists of the Federal Government and placed them on the States.
Judges removed from States’ jurisdiction responsibility over trade disputes, union strikes, and even what farmers could grow on their farms.
Federal Court cases included:
- Freedom of speech and press, Gitlow v. New York, 1925 (re: Socialists) and Fiske v. Kansas, 1927 (re: Unions);
- Freedom of press, Near v. Minnesota, 1931 (re: anti-Catholics);
- Freedom of assembly, DeJonge v. Oregon, 1937 (re: Communists).
Federal Judges removed from States’ jurisdiction responsibility for freedom of religion in cases regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses:
- Cantwell v. Connecticut, 1940;
- Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 1940;
- Jones v. Opelika, 1942;
- Taylor v. Mississippi, 1943;
- Martin v. Struthers, 1943;
- United States v. Ballard, 1944;
- Saia v. New York, 1948;
- Niemotoko v. Maryland, 1951.
Cases of anti-Catholic discrimination were appealed to the Supreme Court:
- Pierce v. Society of Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, 1925;
- Everson v. Board of Education, 1947.
Federal Courts created a case by case “crucible of litigation” method (Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985) by which the First Amendment took on an increasingly anti-religious interpretation.
Ronald Reagan addressed the Alabama State Legislature, March 15, 1982:
“The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.”
Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Cooley wrote in The General Principles of Constitutional Law (2nd Ed., 1891, p. 282):
“The Second Amendment … was meant to be a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers …
The people … shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose.”
Thomas Jefferson warned Charles Hammond, 1821, how Federal judges would be tempted to usurp power:
“The germ of dissolution of our … government is in … the Federal judiciary … working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow … until all shall be usurped from the States.”
The Bill of Rights is now experiencing a new challenge, as exhibited by signs carried by fundamentalist Muslim demonstrators, such as one in Dearborn, Michigan, as reported Dr. Irwin Lutzer in The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent (2013):
“We will use the freedoms of the Constitution to destroy the Constitution.”
This view is exemplified by Sharia organizer Anjem Choudary of Islam4UK declared (London Daily Express, Oct. 15, 2009):
“We have had enough of democracy and man-made law … We will call for a complete upheaval of the British ruling system … and demand full implementation of Sharia in Britain.”
Dwight Eisenhower warned of this (TIME Magazine, October 13, 1952):
“The Bill of Rights contains no grant of privilege for a group of people to destroy the Bill of Rights.
… A group … dedicated to the ultimate destruction of all civil liberties, cannot be allowed to claim civil liberties as its privileged sanctuary from which to carry on subversion of the Government.”
Daniel Webster stated February 23, 1852:
“The Constitution has enemies, secret and professed … They have hot heads and cold hearts.
They are rash, reckless, and fierce for change, and with no affection for the existing institutions of their country …
Other enemies there are, more cool, and with more calculation. These have a deeper and more fixed and dangerous purpose …
There are those in the country, who profess, in their own words, even to hate the Constitution.”
Lawmakers are increasingly faced with the dilemma — should freedom of speech be for groups whose ultimate goal is to censor and eliminate freedom of speech?
Should freedom of religion be extended to those with an agenda and track record of abolishing freedom of religion?
Should “sharia-practicing” Muslims, as well as intolerant enforcers of previously unheard of sexual agendas be allowed to demand freedoms for themselves — while bullying others to surrender their freedoms?
Employing the tactic of “psychological projection,” intolerant groups accuse their opponents of what they are guilty of.
An example was cited in “Congress Committing High Crime and Misdemeanor in Impeachment” (Ryan Saavedra, DailyWire.com, 12/4/19), where those pushing impeachment were guilty of the “abuse of power” that they were accusing the President of:
“George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley slammed … the House Judiciary Committee, suggesting that Congressional Democrats would be committing the high crimes and misdemeanors — not President Donald Trump — with the way that they are conducting their impeachment efforts …
If this Committee elects to seek impeachment on the failure to yield to congressional demands in an oversight or impeachment investigation, it will have to distinguish a long line of cases where prior presidents sought the very same review while withholding witnesses and documents,’ Turley said, according to his prepared remarks.
‘Basing impeachment on this obstruction theory would itself be an abuse of power — by Congress.’”
Practicing “psychological projection,” hateful organizations even put up websites where they post lists of those they hate.
Addressing entrenched, deep-state politicians and bureaucrats usurping power from the people, Eisenhower addressed the Governors’ Conference, June 24, 1957:
“The National Government was itself the creature of the States …
Yet today it is often made to appear that the creature, Frankenstein-like, is determined to destroy the creators.”
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.