Drafting the Bill of Rights: Being a Fly on the Wall

As it happened: the birth of the Bill of Rights

Welcome dear reader, as we take a trip through time, back to when our forefathers were writing that fateful and world famous bit of legislation so beloved and contested over in our time, the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights. We hover now above them, fully able to see and hear all that transpires below:

Bill of RightsAn assembled mass of varied citizens crowd the Philadelphia State House in 1789. There are farmers in work clothes, lawyers in well formed suits, merchants in wool jackets and even a few women are milling about. All are standing and in an excited and exhilarated mood.

SPEAKER: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Let us begin please! We must vote in those Amendments to the Constitution that we wish to have ruling our lives. Let us begin with the 1st Amendment – The rights of free speech, press religion and assembly. Could I hear….

AGITATED FARMER HOLDING A MUSKET: Hold on there! Let’s get on with the most important amendment first!

SPEAKER: What is that sir?

FARMER: The right to bear arms.

SPEAKER: Who are you sir?

FARMER: The head of a new organization called the NRA.

SPEAKER: What does that stand for may I ask?

FARMER: Nantucketers Running Amuck.

SPEAKER: We will be getting to that Amendment in a moment, sir.

FARMER: Well, guns is more important that a bunch of ninnies ballyhooing about their right to cry about things in the newspaper any time they wants to!

SPEAKER: Sir, I am sorry, but we have to go in the order we have set up already.

FARMER: This cow dung is more important than our guns?! Who came up with this agenda, the Communists?

SPEAKER: I’m sorry sir, but Communism hasn’t been invented yet. Let us continue. Yes, I recognize the bearded gentlemen to the right.

BEARDED GENTLEMAN: Thank you. My being Jewish I wish to support the right of religious choice…

FARMER: What is that bull-roar? Listen here, mister, this here is a Christian nation and if you don’t like it you kin get the hell back to whatever place yer religion started out of!

SPEAKER: Sir! We are having a democratic meeting here! All have the right to speak and hold whatever religious beliefs they find true in their hearts without oppression by others.

FARMER: Horse feathers! I got somethin’ here says he kin git his curly haired head the hell out of here. (He raises his gun toward the Jewish man and gets a shot over his head. The Jewish man runs out in panic.)

SPEAKER: That is enough! Sir, I am going to have to ask you to turn over your weapon. We cannot have a civilized meeting with such aggressiveness present.

FARMER: I’m allowed to have weapons!

SPEAKER: That law we are working on, but it isn’t passed yet. If you wish to stay, give the grenadine arm please.

FARMER: Oh, alright! (He hands the gun off) But let’s make sure we add a clause that says we have the right to bear arms!

WELL DRESSED DANDY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the issue of search and seizure which is being suggested in the idea for the Fourth Amendment. This would be a law to protect against officials searching a premises without approval of the owner.

FARMER: What is this malarkey? Can you say that agin in normal Inglish?

DANDY: What it is saying, my good sir, is that no one can get in your house and take things from you. Like your guns, for instance.

FARMER: Oh, well, hey! Now there’s an Amendment I can go along with! Say, you’re OK for a guy who dresses like a sissy! (He claps the dandy hard on the back, causing him to pitch forward.)

NEWSPAPERMAN: And I would like to put in my two bits about freedom of the press which is essential to the formation of a great nation. I…

FARMER: What the hell? Who do you think you are? Do you think the ratty-assed stuff you print on paper is more important than this? (He pulls out a musket ball pistol. The newspaperman dives for cover. He puts a ball in the floor before them.)

NEWSPAPERMAN: (He point out from under a table.) I wrote an article just about this very thing. Honest men shouldn’t have guns disguised upon their person!

FARMER: Ah, yes I should! I have my right to keep my baby close at hand!

SPEAKER: Again, sir, could you please surrender your weapon here in the presence of your countrymen?

FARMER: I have the right to a concealed weapon!

SPEAKER: That concept hasn’t been invented yet. You will have to wait on that idea until someone comes up with handguns. Now, would you please relinquish your weapon?

FARMER: I will do it, but you are fascists for asking.

SPEAKER: I am sorry, sir, but Fascism has not been invented either.

FARM WOMAN: Sir Speaker! I wish to speak on the part of the Amendment concerning free speech..|

FARMER: Shut up woman!

FARM WOMAN: I dare say!

FARMER: Hold your tongue, wench! You have nothing to say!

FARM WOMAN: It is my right!

FARMER: I’ll show you what rights are! (He pulls another gun, a blunderbuss, out from under his cloak. The woman runs to the back of the room in horror.) Here is where rights start! Out of the barrel of a gun!

FARM WOMAN: You are mad!


FARMER: My arse! You let her and others start shooting off their mouths and who knows what will happen! You let too many people flap their lips and you end up with too many people just doing what they want.

SPEAKER: Guards! Remove this man! Take away his gun! (Two large men grab the farmer and get his blunderbuss.)

FARMER: (Yells as he is dragged away.) You can’t do this to me! I have my rights! (He catches his second wind.) I knew this would happen! The government just took away my guns! This is what happen when you give too much power to people! They can’t control themselves! We knew this would happen! (He continues on as he is dragged through the door.)

SPEAKER: Now perhaps we can get something done. Now, the gentlemen whose hand is raised.

MERCHANT: In regards to the man just dragged away, maybe now would be a good time to go over the Amendment concerning the right to a trial by jury…

FARM WOMAN: And maybe we should reconsider the one about forbidding cruel and unusual punishment…

Roger Freed