According to its Preamble, the Bill of Rights was written "to ensure the beneficent ends of [the federal government's] institution." James Madison stated that these "guards for liberty" were "more useful than essential." The Bill of Rights itself is the means by which American liberty must be defended, but it only works if we use it. The Founders placed in the first ten amendments to the Constitution the tools to protect all the rights of the American people.
The solution is not to restate or add to our Founding documents but to exercise them as they were intended.
1. Spiritual Awakening - First Amendment
The Founders intended our Constitution only for a moral and religious people. The first step to restoring virtue is to freely exercise religion in accordance with the truth and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. There must be a revolution in the hearts and minds of the people, as John Adams stated, before we can use further processes of change like a Convention of States.
2. Education and Advocacy - First Amendment
Thomas Jefferson told us that as long as the press is free all is safe. This idea presupposes that "we the people" will turn from apathy and in fact be utilizing the free press. The next step in restoring virtue is to speak and publish the truth in American culture at all levels and in every area.
3. Local Associations - First through Fourth Amendments
The right of assembly should be practiced to organize home-based community associations in which people are trained to care for one another. This is the heartbeat of the Bill of Rights and of the virtue solution. These associations of good neighbors will form the structure on which America can build a fresh, principled approach to civic issues as well as together resist the incursion of evil should the need arise.
4. Renewed Jury System - Fifth through Eighth Amendments
The common law grand jury must be restored and regain independence, so that those who violate the law face appropriate legal consequences. The trial jury must also again practice its historic right and duty to render a not-guilty verdict where the law in question is itself unjust.
5. State Sovereignty/Nullification - Ninth and Tenth Amendments
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson agreed that state-level resistance must be the first line of defense against Federal overreach. Each individual and each state must, in each area of civic responsibility, be willing to refuse to comply with edicts that violate God's Law or the U.S. Constitution. Link: Here's an example of a bill that would enforce the law against a recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thomas Jefferson added further specifics to this framework - in particular the area of "local associations" mentioned above - in his writings when he created
what is now known as "Jefferson's Hundreds."
Jefferson believed that
should America come to the brink of tyranny, as long as a free press
still existed for the truth to be spread, hope would not be lost. He stated
that in this event the American people should organize themselves into communities of one hundred households each. These communities of one
hundred would create a new school and elect a constable, a justice of
the peace, a militia captain, jurors, and other officers over their local affairs. They would begin to function on a fully self-sufficient basis, independent of any other group.
The authors of
The Virtue Solution Project do not hesitate to add that they believe an appropriately-modeled church would provide an even greater center for such a community than would a
school. Though Jefferson's approach focused on secular elements, a body of evidence from the Founders demonstrates that a firm civic education must first be religious and moral.
Implementing the structure of Jefferson's Hundreds would
allow the functions of a government acting outside of its limits to simply be phased out
and replaced, while at the same time renewing the understanding and
strength of our citizens by promoting their care for one another and renewing their dependence on each other rather then on faraway government figures. For
Jefferson, the key was education and responsibility at the lowest
possible level. This point - the exercise of virtue - remains the key today.
Our goal is to organize to fulfill a plan similarly focused on the local community and personal character in South Carolina and across the nation.