The Story of the Tenth Amendment

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Those of us whose conservative conversions occured in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I think, are particularly fascinated by the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. We also mourn over its senseless destruction by Congress, courts, and citizens.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.

How simple. How refreshing. How freedom-loving. For those whose civics classes centered around Native-American rights and women’s sufferage lectures, the straightforward concept of this amendment may be too simple to grasp. Try this:

The Constitution speaking to the new members of the 110th Congress, introducing herself:

“I am the Constitution of the United States of America. I was born September 17, 1787 and baptized by the several states in 1789. My husbands have all died, leaving me to fend for myself. I see you have their portraits and statues adourning your walls and this great city. Thank you. I miss them, too.

“I’d like you to meet my 10th son, born in a litter of 10, in 1791. Being the runt of the litter, he is, of course, my favorite. (Please don’t tell the others, though; I love them, too. Even the 14th, who is so shamefully misunderstood by everyone.)”

“The Tenth, as we call him, speaks directly to you and to that court a few blocks from here. But do they listen? Do you hear what he tells you?

“When I see the way you ignore him, I think of Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Future. Remember the little boy and little girl huddled under the robe of the grim reaper? Remember what Scrooge’s guide told him about them?

‘This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.’

“My Tenth, poor little fellow, warns you the same. You ignore the boy at your own peril. You ignore the writing on his brow–a concept so simple, so easy for you to disregard in your sophistication and achievement and fame. But listen, please, while you still can.

“My Tenth is telling you what his Fathers believed, what you claim in you campaign speeches to believe. He’s talking about me, his mother. He’s telling you, ‘Listen to my mother!’

“He speaks so softly that you’ll need to turn off your iPods and stop the side conversations to hear him. But what he says is, perhaps, more profound than anything ever written. He says, ‘If my mother, the Constitution, doesn’t tell you, Congress, to do something, it’s the same as her telling that you must not do it. Unlike God, Mother doesn’t have time to list the things you’re not permitted to do–and there are so many. After all, you aren’t a creature of God, but of Man. Man is free to do all but a short list of things, but you are permitted to do only that stated in the Constitution, and no more. You are constrained–the people are merely guided.'”

The Congress sat in nervous silence. A few throats cleared. Some people, mostly on the left side of the aisle, looked down at the blue carpet and seemed restless, even angry. They seemed wishing to be adjourned. Others, mostly on the right, seemed to want to hear more, as if they recognized a favorite lullaby their mothers used to sing them. A tiny group, too small to count, really, all on the Right, wept quietly. They loved the Tenth and saw its mother’s pain and wondered what its Fathers would say about this and previous Congresses. They knew the Fathers’ thoughts would not be kind.

Ed Morrissey’s piece on Captain’s Quarters inpsired this story. I hope, like Ed, that our candidates understand the simple little sentence at the end of the Bill of Rights. I wonder, sometimes, weather anyone does. Mark Trapscott’s piece on the 10th Amendment through Fred Thompson’s eyes seems to have inspired Ed. Please read them all. More from Instapundit.



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