Our Wonderful Bill of Rights: The Ninth and Tenth Amendments

The Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates that the rights enumerated in the Constitution and in the first eight Amendments do not preclude the existence of other rights belonging to the people. In other words, we as Americans reserve to ourselves all rights not expressly delegated to our federal government. Various U.N. treaties would effectively remove this safeguard.

The Ninth Amendment states that “the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” U.N. treaties typically offer a comprehensive catalogue of rights, providing no guarantee of rights not specified.

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates that the States and the people retain all powers not expressly granted to the Federal Government. Various Supreme Court decisions, however, have turned that clearly stated principle inside out. In a 5-4 decision, the Court declared that congressional term limits are “contrary to the Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½fundamental principle of our representative democracy’ embodied in the Constitution that Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” The Constitution contains no such wording, but does establish minimum age limits – as well as citizenship and residency requirements – for all members of Congress.

The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his 88-page dissent to the term limits decision, “Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each state of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress.” The Tenth Amendment, in fact, guarantees them that right.

However, Justice John Paul Stevens argued that “the power to add qualifications [for congressional representatives] is not within the Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½original powers’ of the state, and thus is not reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.” Yet, the clear intent of the Tenth Amendment is to reserve to the states, and to the people, all powers not expressly delegated to the Federal Government. Even a Supreme Court Justice should be able to understand something that simple.

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