The Ninth Amendment

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution does not specifically identify any individual rights like the eight amendments that precede it, rather the Ninth Amendment sets forth a rule of construction that is to guide one when interpreting the Constitution.  It makes the drafter's intent clear that the enumeration of certain rights in the body of the Constitution1 or in the Amendments thereto shall not be considered to be exhaustive or all inclusive, but rather illustrative.  Moreover, when read in conjunction with the Tenth Amendment2 the principal of individual sovereignty and a limited government of delegated powers is firmly established.  Therefore the Ninth Amendment, when interpreted in accordance with the Tenth Amendment,  should be read as establishing a rule of construction that demonstrates that the Constitution, as a whole, should be construed to mean that the people retain all powers (i.e. right or authority) not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor delegated to their respective State governments by the several State Constitutions.

If the people retain all powers not delegated to their respective governments (national, state and local), then the question becomes what rights and/or powers do the people retain?  The answer is not uniform throughout the United States because of differences in State Constitutions and local government charters.  For the most fundamental statement of principle, however, one looks to the Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson penned the following:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed...

In these few phrases, our forefathers acknowledged the fundamental truth that all men are created equal3 and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these (i.e. without limitation) are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Moreover, they clearly stated their view that the only legitimate purpose for any government is to secure men's unalienable rights, for the Declaration of Independence goes on to state "that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends [i.e. securing man's unalienable, God-given rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. . ."  Thus we see that while there may be some differences between States and/or localities the same basic mission for government applies to all.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights represent a more thorough, but (according to the Ninth Amendment) not an exhaustive exploration of the unalienable rights given to Man by the Creator.  Other rights that have been recognized include, the right to privacy, the right to travel, the right of self-defense, the right to pursue one's occupation of choice, the right to marry, and the right to bear children.  Surely many other rights exist as well, but most of our rights exist not in the form of positive declarations of such rights, but rather as implied rights and/or powers that are retained by people when not delegated.  This concept, as well, derives from the Declaration of Independence where our forefathers made it clear that government derives all of its just authority from the consent (i.e. the act of granting one's permission or approval to another by the exercise of one's free will) of the people.

In 1789, the people of this country instituted amongst themselves the national government by entering into a social compact or covenant entitled the Constitution of the United States of America.  In the Constitution it sets forth in a straightforward manner the Powers that the people "consented" to give to the government.  The only creative powers that the people consented to give the national government related to Congress' power "[t]o make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers [referring to those set forth in Article I, Section 8], and all other powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof" (emphasis added).  Thus the implied powers of the U.S. government are strictly limited to those "necessary and proper" for carrying into execution the powers expressly given to it by the people.  No other implied powers can be "justly" exercised by the government without the people consenting thereto through the amendment process set forth in Article V of the Constitution.4  Therefore, according to the Ninth Amendment, "we the people" retain all rights and/or powers not delegated willingly to our local, state and/or national governments in our various Constitutions5 and other organizational documents and all of our God-given unalienable rights, which include (without limitation) Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, regardless of any delegations to the contrary that we may have made.

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