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Constitution Monday: Unwritten Rights

Here is the Ninth Amendment in the Bill of Rights:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Founders were a suspicious lot, and rightly so. On the one hand you had a faction that demanded that at least basic rights be written into the Constitution lest the new federal government take those away. You also had another faction that feared that listing out rights in the Constitution would allow the government to deny any right not specifically listed.

In today’s world, no agreement would have been reached and we’d either be a bunch of squabbling, occasionally warring states or some European colony. But while the Founders were suspicious, they were also pragmatic. So they compromised and split the difference. Certain rights near and dear to the Founders would be put in writing, and a warning not to disparage other, unwritten rights would be put into the Constitution as well.

Seemingly an elegant solution, but one that has caused a lot of controversy over the years.

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