Why We Have the Bill of Rights

The anti-federalists were realists. They knew that power hungry opportunists existed in America as well as the rest of the world. Thus the Federal Government made certain promises and guarantees to the states to limit the power of the central government. For example, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This was not to "separate church and state" as we're often told. Rather, at the time at least 5 of the states had state churches, and didn't want the federal government interfering with them. Another example "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." "Well, we have a national military now, so we don't need militias today," many people argue. I'll grant that we have a national military, and that might be part of the problem. However, this amendment guarantees that citizens have the right to keep arms and form state Militias for the "security of a free state." This one was added to guarantee that if the Federal Government overstepped its authority, the People could rise up and overthrow the tyrannical rule, just as they overthrew the tyrannical rule of the English Parliament and King George.

One of the anti-Federalists, under the pseudonym Cato, explained the need to restrain the power of the central government:

"It is a duty you owe likewise to your own reputation, for you have a great name to lose; you are characterized as cautious, prudent and jealous in politics; whence is it therefore, that you are about to precipitate yourselves into a sea of uncertainty, and adopt a system so vague and which has discarded so many of your valuable rights. Is it because you do not believe that an American can be a tyrant? If this be the case you rest on a weak basis; Americans are like other men in similar situations, when the manners and opinions of the community are changed by the causes I mentioned before, and your political compact inexplicit, your posterity will find that great power connected with ambition, luxury, and flattery, will as readily produce a Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America, as the same causes did in the Roman empire."

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