Words from our Forefathers
When Noah Webster wrote this public letter to the dissenting members of the Convention of Pennsylvania, published in the Daily Advertiser of New York on the 31 of December, 1787, he could not foresee a time when land owners in the United States of America would be even more restricted in many ways that what they faced at the time in Europe. With the EPA and many other government agencies, we have gone far beyond the restrictions that they faced then. Now we have to have the government approve what we build, what we till and plant, how much dust we are allowed to stir up, and even how we use any water on our property. They can declare it a wetland and fine you or forbid you from using it even if it has no water on it and is surrounded by a subdivision. I wonder what he would say today?
I wonder at his thought at the Constitution that he helped to establish would be perverted in the ways that it has been to become instead of an acclamation of our freedom and rights to a tool being used to limit us from those freedoms and rights? I wonder what he would say to those currently trying to limit our rights to bear arms?
“America” [Noah Webster]
To the DISSENTING MEMBERS of the late Convention Of Pennsylvania.
But to complete the list of unalienable rights, you would insert a clause in your declaration, that every body shall, in good weather, hunt on his own land, and catch fish in rivers that are public property. Here, Gentlemen, you must have exerted the whole force of your genius! Not even the all-important subject of legislating for a worldcan restrain my laughter at this clause! As a supplement to that article of your bill of rights, I would suggest the following restriction:—“That Congress shall never restrain any inhabitant of America from eating and drinking, at seasonable times, or prevent his lying on his left side, in a long winter’s night, or even on his back, when he is fatigued by lying on his right.”—This article is of just as much consequence as the 8th clause of your proposed bill of rights.
But to be more serious, Gentlemen, you must have had in idea the forest-laws in Europe, when you inserted that article; for no circumstance that ever took place in America, could have suggested the thought of a declaration in favor of hunting and fishing. Will you forever persist in error? Do you not reflect that the state of property in America, is directly the reverse of what it is in Europe? Do you not consider, that the forest-laws in Europe originated in feudal tyranny, of which not a trace is to be found in America? Do you not know that in this country almost every farmer is Lord of his own soil? That instead of suffering under the oppression of a Monarch and Nobles, a class of haughty masters, totally independent of the people, almost every man in America is a Lord himself—enjoying his property in fee? Where then the necessity of laws to secure hunting and fishing? You may just as well ask for a clause, giving licence for every man to till his own land, or milk his own cows. The Barons in Europe procured forest-laws to secure the right of hunting on their own land, from the intrusion of those who had no property in lands. But the distribution of land in America, not only supersedes the necessity of any laws upon this subject, but renders them absolutely trifling. The same laws which secure the property in land, secure to the owner the right of using it as he pleases. Read more at the Online Library of Liberty!
The Federal Convention, 17 September 1787
In the debate between Federalists and Anti-Federalists over the need for a bill of rights, Anti-Federalists generally believed that the absence of a written declaration was a major defect of the proposed Constitution. Without a bill of rights, they claimed, the government may become one of unlimited powers and trample on the rights and liberties of the people. Most Federalists argued that a written declaration of rights was unnecessary in theory and ineffectual in practice. In practical terms, Federalists claimed that the people’s rights and liberties are protected by the numerous constitutional safeguards that provide for mutual checks among the departments of government. Further, they insisted, the real security for the people’s rights is achieved by connecting the interests of the rulers with the interests of the people so that the rulers will have no motive to invade the rights of the people; or they argued that the true security for rights and the preservation of liberty can only be achieved by the ongoing perseverance of a freedom-loving people of sound sense and honest hearts. In theoretical terms, many Federalists claimed that the very idea of a constitution of enumerated and limited powers removes the need for a bill of rights. Elaborating on the notion of constitutionalism, they maintained that because the people delegate power to the government, and not vice versa, all powers that are not delegated are necessarily reserved to them as men or as citizens. The enumeration of the rights of the people carries with it the potential for abuse, for in the future it may be presumed that only those rights listed belong to the people. And it would be sheer folly, they said, to attempt to enumerate all the rights of mankind Online Library of Liberty