In this series about the Constitution, we are exploring the natural, unalienable rights recognized in the U.S. Constitution keeping in mind the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we covered in the preceding series about the Declaration of Independence.
The original Constitution is divided into seven Articles, not counting the amendments that were added later. The first four Articles are subdivided into Sections. Article I addresses the Legislative Power, or Congress, and also contains certain prohibitions related to the power of the United States. It provides that Congress shall be an elected body, with its members being elected in relation to the population and the States they represent. This provision reaffirms that the power of Congress resides in an emanates from the people and , by extension, from the respective States that the people have chosen to create. Article I also prohibits certain acts that would adversely affect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It prohibits ex post facto laws, which are laws that make an act illegal after the act has been committed, when the act was not illegal when committed. It prohibits bills of attainder, which would are laws that impose penalties without a judicial proceeding. It prohibits laws that impair the obligation of contracts, which are laws that change the contractual obligations after the same have been greed by the parties. It limits when the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended. The writ of habeas corpus is a legal remedy to pursue the release of a person that has been illegally apprehended. Furthermore, section 8 of this Article recognizes the existence of the militia, which consisted of all the people capable of bearing their own arms, and which was the originator of the revolution and the key to its success. It authorizes Congress “to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” You may remember the , movie The Patriot with Mel Gibson, when his son Gabriel goes to church and says to the men there “I am here to call forth the Militia of South Carolina.” He was calling the ordinary citizens to fight for independence with their own arms. That is the Militia, and it plays an absolutely critical role in the structure of the Constitution. Keep this in mind as we will discuss it again when we analyze Article II and the amendments to the Constitution in future parts of this series.
We then see that in the first Article of the Constitution, the founding fathers were careful in safeguarding basic freedoms, and recognized the existence of our natural unalienable right to be armed for our common defense. In the next part of this series, we will explore Article II which deals with the Executive Power.