Why We Need the Bill of Rights

FlagThose who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

There are those today who say we don’t need the protections from our government that the Bill of Rights affords American citizens. They are wrong.

They argue that those first 10 amendments to the Constitution are outdated and hold our government back from protecting and providing for us. They are wrong.

Most people think the Founding Fathers were just smart men who made up the Bill of Rights out of thin air or at least their imaginations. They are wrong.

Sadly, schools don’t teach where the Bill of Rights came from. Those amendments put into writing the rights people are granted by God which came from injustices that were done to the Colonists by a tyrannical British government.

The Bill of Rights was born from the British reaction to the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773.

The English King and Parliament increased the tax on tea (the most consumed beverage of the time) that American colonists had to pay. The British government and the East India Company controlled all the tea that was imported into the colonies.

The Sons of Liberty, disguised as Indians, dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea over the course of three hours. This was to send the message Americans didn’t like this taxation without representation.

In retribution, Parliament, encouraged by King George III, passed what is known as the Coercive Acts.

The Boston Port Act said until the city of Boston saw fit to reimburse the East India Company for the cost of the destroyed tea, Bostonians were also required to prove to the crown’s satisfaction that they were peaceable subjects.

The British government insisted on recognition from Massachusetts that British imposed taxes — such as the tea tax — were legally within the purview of Parliament. No free speech for Bostonians.

The British thought the other colonies would not be upset with this since they were not involved.

Wrong! The other 12 colonies rallied to Boston’s aid and the First Continental Congress was convened.

The British government responded by amending the Quartering acts.

Under previous legislation, the colonies were required to provide soldiers with living accommodations in public facilities, such as inns and taverns or unoccupied buildings.
The revised law authorized billeting soldiers in occupied facilities, including private homes. These changes applied to all of the American colonies.

Next they passed a law to provide legal protections to British officials serving in a disobedient colony.

The Administration of Justice Act provided that British officials accused of capital crimes in the execution of their duties in suppressing riots or collecting lawful taxes could avoid hostile local juries. This meant that there was no equal justice for all.

Angry colonists opposed this act because it allowed heavy-handed bureaucrats who were accused murderers to escape colonial justice.

The Massachusetts Government Act placed severe limits on the powers of town meetings. Those meetings were an essential part of American self-government. These limits of freedom to assemble did not sit well with Americans.

The British realized that they could not control the people with soldiers they had in the 13 colonies.

The best way to enforce their tyranny on the American people was to eliminate the people’s ability to own firearms and gun powder. At the time all able-bodied men were considered militiamen who owned their own firearms and had gunpowder on hand to protect their communities.

Redcoats in Boston moved up the Mystic River to seize several hundred barrels of powder from the Charlestown powder house. American colonists believed the British were going to use force to seize arms and ammunition. Americans didn’t like this infringement on their right to bear arms.

The British efforts to bring the colonists under control resulted in the American Revolution. America won that war and freedom was the main objective of the Founding Fathers.

When the constitution of the new Republic was drawn up, the Bill of Rights was added to protect people from their government. They never wanted heavy-handed government officials to try and take their hard-fought-for freedoms away.

The Founding Father learned these two truths the hard way: When government fears the power of the people, there is liberty. A man who owns a gun is a citizen while an unarmed man is a subject. We don’t need to re-learn those lessons the hard way.


The above article appeared first in the Saline Courier.

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