Brenton Stransky has a great piece in American Thinker about the future requirement, buried in the so-called “stimulus bill,” for all Americans to report their weight and body fat so Big Brother, I mean Uncle Sam, can tell us what to eat and what to avoid. The bill created a new “National Coordinator for Health Information Technology” (Orwell would love that title), and last week, HHS released new regulations about using that office to “monitor every American’s body mass index, or BMI — a measure to estimate healthy body weight” (quoting Stransky). Thus we see the creeping increase of excessive federal power that oozes from a huge, mostly unread law with a wonderful name (the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” another Orwellian masterpiece), and threatens to seep into every corner of our lives.
The Founding Fathers wouldn’t be surprised at any of this; they had been there, seen that, done it, and they wanted nothing of it. That’s why so many of our Founding Fathers warned that a new Constitution couldn’t be ratified without a Bill of Rights, especially the right to a civil trial by jury. When proponents of the Constitution argued that “economic necessity” required swift ratification without a Bill of Rights, fiery Patrick Henry, he of “Give me liberty or death!” fame, responded:
You are not to inquire how your trade might be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of government. Is it necessary for your liberty, that you should abandon those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of trial by jury, and the liberty of the press, necessary for your liberty?… Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…” (J. Kendall Few, In Defense of Trial by Jury, quoting William Wirt, The Life of Patrick Henry, pp. 289-90, by DeSilver, Thomas & Co., 1836)
And make no mistake, Patrick Henry and the Founding Fathers were clear that “trial by jury” was for civil claims as well as criminal cases. George Mason of Virginia, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (which included a mandate for civil jury trials), was the first delegate to the Constitutional Convention to recommend that the Constitution be prefaced with a Bill of Rights. He refused to vote to ratify the Constitution because it included no guarantee of individual rights, which for him specifically included, “trial by jury in civil causes.” When James Madison presented his draft of the Bill of Rights to the Convention on June 8, 1789, he characterized the right to a civil jury trial as “one of the best securities of the rights of the people.”
The Founders knew that each and every right enumerated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution is critical to maintaining individual freedom against an encroaching and suffocating federal government. Every American who cherishes our freedom and the Founders’ legacy should recognize the 7th Amendment as a bulwark against Big Brother. Every time we compromise that right through federal preemption of state law with immunity from civil suits, or court decisions which arbitrarily limit our ability to file a civil suit in federal court, we invite Big Brother to dictate our weight, our Internet habits, and the full range of personal actions.