HOW TO BUILD A BILL OF RIGHTS

 April 2018 

In 1789, Little Jim Madison and a bunch of other guys were sitting around a table, cigar smoke thick in the air and a bunch of empty and half-empty tankards of ale in front of them. It was late.

   "Why the hell are we here, again?" someone asked.

   Jim shook his head, and replied - for about the twentieth time, it seemed to him. "Look, some of the States won't sign our new Constitution until we write up something to go along with it that says that the Feds won't try to infringe on 'State's rights,' whatever that means. If that's what we need to get the damn thing ratified, let's get it done. I'm getting sick of the whole business."

   "Okay, Jim, but some of this stuff doesn't make much sense. For instance, what's this about quartering soldiers in private houses? Who says 'quartering,' anyway?"

    "Look, I got a bunch of suggestions from the states, and tried to fit them all in. If you think you can do better, let's hear it."

    Someone sitting in shadows behind the main table then spoke up. "Okay, but I'm concerned about this 'well-armed militia" thing. I know which 'Southern gentleman' put it in. He's concerned about his slaves rising up and killing him and his whole family..."

   "Come on!" said another voice. "It's that asshole, Alexander Hamilton, still trying to establish a national army, that has the locals worried. They just want assurances that only the states can declare war."

    "Okay," interrupted Jim, "Maybe it's not very clear..."

    "Not clear?" asked the voice from the shadows. "It's fucking unclear! Maybe it's okay for now, because it's pretty much meaningless as an issue, but what about in the 21st Century when firearms manufacturers will be trying to convince Congress that the Government can't do anything to control AK-47s and other military-type assault weapons in the hands of deranged civilians?"

    "That will positively not happen," said Jim. "I mean, they aren't going to let civilians have nuclear bombs, are they?"

    "Nuclear bombs? Jim, what the fuck are you talking about? If you're going to get all science-fictiony on us, why don't we throw in ray guns and light sabers, while we're at it!"

   "Okay, but I'm just saying... When Tom drafted the Constitution - which, by the way, I recall most of you guys liked - he planned for this type of thing by having a 'supreme court' - totally separated from the politicians..."

   "Like us, you mean?"

   "Yeah, like us. These guys won't be influenced by party politics. They'll be able to use the basics of the Constitution, their own smarts, and an understanding of what the world is like to decide what is needed at that point in history. It's foolproof; just like we protect the Country from an over-zealous President, the court protects the Country from us."

   "Foolproof, you say?"

   One of the others interrupted. "Come on, you guys, I'd like to get home in time for a couple hours in bed with my pretty wife."

   "I'd like a couple hours in bed with someone's pretty wife, myself," someone else mumbled.

   "Okay, okay," agreed Jim. "Let's break this up. But it really is foolproof. And, remember, there's another saver: if the Congress doesn't like what the Court comes up with, they can call a Constitutional Convention, and do whatever clarifying or re-writing is necessary."

   "Like that's going to happen," somebody muttered as they all headed for the door."

   "Yeah," said Little Jim to himself, as he blew out the last lantern, "Like that's going to happen."


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