Memorial Day: Remembering the Rights they Protect

Memorial Day

The enlistment oath for each member of the US Armed Services states they will:

"support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic"

This wasn't always the case... the oath has changed over the years.

In 1862, the oath to affirm support to the Constitution of the United States replaced the oath calling for allegiance to the United States of America itself. That is a subtle but important difference. It aligned the military oath with the oath of office of the President and all other government officials.

It means that anyone who enlisted in the armed forces for the past 150+ years (since the civil war) did so to support and defend the constitution.

What does it mean to support and defend the constitution? Let's break in down.

1) "We the people" are the first three words of the document and form a succinct summary of the entire thing. Our constitution makes it clear that the government is granted power by the people. Not the other way around. We, the people, are in charge.

2) Separation of limited powers between the three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. And many administrative rules around those branches.

3) The Federal Government shall protect each state against invasion and against domestic violence.

4) A bill of rights was not included in the original constitution because is was deemed implicit and evident that all rights were retained by the people and the states. However, a few states refused to ratify the constitution until a few rights were explicitly spelled out. This was not an enumeration of rights granted by the government. Instead this was a sample of the rights inherit in all humans. They were some of the most important and most often violated rights. Therefore, the Bill of Rights enumerated these rights as a guide and example of the rights protected by the constitution and all those who swear an oath to protect it.

Amendment 1) Protects all the civil rights and liberties: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. We can believe what we want. We can say what we want. We can print what we want. We can assembly (peaceably) when and where we want. We can call our government into question whenever we want. We are free to think and convey the most egregious and perverted thoughts. Those thoughts often do not resonate with a single member of the government or the military. However, every member of government and the military is honor bound to allow those thoughts to be expressed. This conveys the Voltaire-esque principle: "I wholly disapprove of what you say—and will defend to the death your right to say it." It is the responsibility of society and the individual listener to dispel these thoughts. It is not the responsibility of the government to judge and quell these expressions.

Amendment 2) Protects the right to bear arms. It does not grant this right. That is a right already inherent as a natural right of being human. This amendment purely adds special protection to that right. The founders wanted to make sure that every citizen was capable of defending the constitution. The founders wanted to make sure no future government would ever try to disarm its citizens. That is often the first step down a dark and bloody path.

Amendment 3) Further protects property rights by prohibiting soldiers from occupying private homes during peace without consent of the owner.

Amendment 4-8) Are explicits limits on government representatives when dealing with those accused or suspected of a crime. They enumerate some of the rights and protections of those accused of a crime. For example, preventing government representatives from harassing citizens unless a court issues a proper Warrant.

Amendments 9 and 10) Two of the most important amendments when trying to understand the mindset of the founders. They were trying to capture the essence of individual liberty in the most succinct and future-proof way possible. The 9th states what I stated above multiple times… rights listed in the constitution are examples of the rights we already hold. The list is not exhaustive. The list does not grant us rights but protects them. The 10th limits the federal government and provides any remaining power to the state and individuals.

Over the last 200+ years… we added a few more amendments to deal with the end of the civil war and slavery, to expand voting rights, to establish the income tax, and some other administrative cleanup:

Amendment 11) Clarify that states can not be sued by citizens

Amendment 12) Change vice-president rules

Amendment 13) End slavery

Amendment 14) Defines citizenship, ensures due process and equal protection

Amendment 15) Voting rights amendment number 1… all races can vote

Amendment 16) Defines income tax

Amendment 17) Modified how senators were elected

Amendment 18) Prohibition (of alcohol)

Amendment 19) Voting rights amendment number 2… all sexes can vote

Amendment 20) Sets dates terms begin/end and succession plan.

Amendment 21) Repeal 18th amendment (Prohibition of alcohol)

Amendment 22) Presidential term limits

Amendment 23) Allocate DC residents some electoral college votes in presidential elections

Amendment 24) Voting rights amendment number 3… eliminate poll taxes

Amendment 25) More succession planning, and the ability to remove a sitting president if unfit.

Amendment 26) Voting rights amendment number 4… change minimum age to 18 (from various ages in each state but mostly 21)

Through all 26 amendments, liberties were never reduced (except the income tax - but that is a topic for another post). They were always preserved or expanded. That is what American Forces swear to protect: the rights of the Individual.


If you agree with the above, you might be a libertarian and not know it. Check out the World’s Smallest Political Quiz to see where you land. If you want to help expand Liberty in California. Donate and support Tim Ferreira for Lt. Governor.