I'm no historian, no legal scholar, no Constitutional expert, nothing like that. But I always thought, from everything I had learned about United States history that one of the cornerstones of our system was respect for private property.
One of the foundations of our legal system is English Common Law, which is where we get the idea that "a man's home is his castle." In one's own home, one is sovereign. None may enter without permission from the owner or a court, and the owner can defend his home with lethal force if necessary.
During the American Revolution, the Colonies united to issue the Declaration of Independence. One of the most stirring phrases from that magnificent work is in the preamble:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In one of the earlier drafts, the enumerated rights were "Life, Liberty and Property." Jefferson put that forth, as it was a common slogan at the time, but was persuaded that "property" was not a inalienable, God-given right, but a legal right.
After the Revolution, when the Articles of Confederation had proven woefully lacking, the former colonies got together and formed a Constitution. And no sooner had they finished that they immediately went ahead and amended it on the spot. They prepared a list of Rights (NOT granted by the government, but innate to all men and ACKNOWLEDGED by the government) and put them together in a list of the first ten Amendments.
When one looks closely at the Bill of Rights, with an eye towards the right of private property, it becomes abundantly clear that that right is intrinsic in our most precious freedoms.
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.
Where can someone keep arms but in one's own home? In one's castle? If the founding fathers' intent for this amendment was to be satisfied by a National Guard, there would be no need to "keep" the arms, only to "bear" them -- they could be safely stored in armories until needed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This is the most underused and least respected Amendment. The idea that the government would force people to put up soldiers in their own homes against their will is so foreign to Americans today as to be inconceivable. But it is a sign of just how repugnant the King's practice of doing just that was to the Colonists that they felt it necessary to enshrine it in the Constitution, and behind only the rights to religion, speech, assembly, free press, redress of grievances, and bearing arms -- and ahead of the others.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I have absolutely nothing to add to this one. Res ipsa loquitur -- "the thing speaks for itself."
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Here, in my humble opinion, is where the Supreme Court went completely daft and treated the Constitution like Charmin. "nor shall private property be taken for public use" is, to me, an astonishingly simple phrase. "Public use" is NOT synonymous with "private use, but public benefit." This is simple theft by conversion, done under color of law.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Here we see exactly how important they felt matters of property could be. $20.00 was a hell of a lot more money back then than it is now, but they wanted to make absolutely certain that no government officials (even judges) could make arbitrary decisions regarding people's property. If the amount in question passed a certain amount, the allegedly wronged party could insist that he receive justice not from one man in a robe, but 12 of his peers.
During the Civil War, a lot of Confederates put a great deal of effort into pushing the notion that the war was not about slavery. They spoke loudly and passionately about it being a matter of States' Rights. But the second-loudest argument was that it was a matter of Property -- the Northerners were fixin' to violate the property of the Southerners. In fact, they intended to first take away their slaves, then take their land and give it to the former slaves. And it was a powerful argument, that swayed more than a few people.
In January 1865, General Sherman surveyed the vast, abandoned plantations of Georgia (the owners had fled the approaching war) and looked at the Army's surplus of livestock, and issued Special Field Order #15, promising former slaves "40 acres and a mule." Many former slaves, mistaking that for a general policy to be enforced all across the former Confederacy, rushed south to claim their rewards. It wasn't the promise of freedom that sent them headlong into a former war zone, the lands where they had been enslaved -- they were already free in the north -- but the promise of property.
But, alas, it appears it all was for naught. Five justices of the Supreme Court have taken that history and given it the Royal Flush.
For years, I've listened to the liberals screaming and wailing and howling about how Big Business really runs things around here, about how the Corporate Interests will end up totally running everything and screwing the Little Guy, and the Republicans will be right there helping them. For years, I've found that laughable and signs of the raving paranoia among the Left. But let's look at those five Justices:
John Paul Stevens, appointed in 1975 by Gerald Ford.
Anthony M. Kennedy, appointed in 1988 by Ronald Reagan.
David H. Souter, appointed in 1990 by George H. W. Bush.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed in 1993 by William Jefferson Clinton.
Stephen G. Breyer, appointed in 1994 by William Jefferson Clinton.
Three of the five, appointed by Republicans. It's slight consolation that the other four were put on the Court by Nixon, Reagan, and Bush.
Remember this day, when President Bush is given the opportunity to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. This is exactly why many people view that right as the most important duty of a president.
What a shame that insiders predict that the most likely Justices to retire soon are not among those named above. And why it is so critical that Justices realize that it is their solemn duty to Interpret the law, not Make it. And that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land.