Tomorrow, December 15, is the 221st birthday of the Bill of Rights.
My family has a rumor that we’re very distantly related to Patrick Henry. I’m not sure if it can be proven, but I like believing – and so does most of my family – that we’re related to the guy who is credited with saying “give me Liberty or give me Death.” The famous quote was from right before the Revolutionary War, but the sentiment shaped his life’s politics.
Patrick Henry was one of the leaders of the Anti-Federalists, who were worried the Constitution would give too much power to the government and limit the freedom of individuals. The Anti-Federalists fortunately lost the fight against the adoption of the Constitution, creating a unique federal system of government with specific checks and balances that is of, by and for the people.
However, it is because of the Anti-Federalists, with Patrick Henry at the helm, that the Bill of Rights came to be. The Anti-Federalists insisted that the ratification of the Constitution hinge on an agreement that a series of amendments would be passed to protect the rights of the people. The Bill of Rights was adopted on December 15, 1791, four years after the ratification of the Constitution. And so Patrick “give me Liberty” Henry helped secure the individual rights and liberties we enjoy today in America.
It should go without saying, but without the Bill of Rights, there would be no freedom of religion, speech, association, press, or petition, protecting the a person’s right to believe and say whatever they want without government influence or censorship. There would be no right to privacy, protecting a person’s right to be free of unwarranted and unwanted government intrusion into one's private life. There would be no due process of law, protecting a person’s right to be treated fairly by the government.
It is from the Bill of Rights and the civil rights Amendments, the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments, that the ACLU finds its mission. The ACLU fights government abuse and vigorously defends individual freedoms. We stand up for these rights when it is unpopular, and sometimes when nobody else will.
So, given my rumored relative, is it any wonder I work for an organization that unwaveringly stands on the side of individual liberty and freedom?
I don’t think so. Defending liberty is what we do.