Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Bill of Rights: Widely Misunderstood

OK, now that I've started on this political kick, it's going to be real hard to get me to stop. Once I get on a tear about politics, I am up on the soap-box telling it from the mountain like it is - and people will just have to put up with it until they've finished letting me have my say!

So: The Bill of Rights: Pretty Straightforward? Or...Widely Misunderstood?

Sharp-eyed readers know already, from the post title. The Bill of Rights is one of the most widely-misunderstood bulwarks we have. We can't properly apply the Bill of Rights without an understanding of what the Founding Fathers meant by that, what they were getting at, what their intentions were. And it's pretty obvious to me from a close reading of the biographies of the Founding Fathers involved, a perusal of their private letters, and my general assessment of the mood and character of the times as reflected in the language of the Bill of Rights itself, it ought to be clear to anyone that the Bill of Rights was intended as sarcasm. The Founding Fathers were being sarcastic, there.

A lot of people missed that. I admit, the tone is pretty subtle.

See, but now that I point it out, everybody's going to feel pretty sheepish. Sorry about that folks! But it can't be helped. Go read it for yourself, go ahead. The Bill of Rights is positively dripping with sarcasm, and the early drafts were even worse! But Hancock was like: "Come on guys. We don't need to make it that obvious. They're going to think we're insulting their intelligence. The American people are pretty sharp, let's credit them with being able to pick up on a few subtleties."

Madison's original draft of Amendment 1 is particularly telling:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Suuuuure we won't. Or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press - why would we do a thing like that? Or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Because we reeeeeally want to hear those petitions and grievances.

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