Ninth Amendment: Stretch Marks on the Bill of Rights

The Ninth Amendment is one of the most controversial of the amendments because it’s another of those inkblot tests. The Bill of Rights itself almost didn’t make it.


Alexander Hamilton calls a bill of rights dangerous


While drafting the Constitution, Hamilton claimed that a citizens’ bill of rights was not only irrelevant but even dangerous. He opposed including one in the original Constitution.


We know now that a Bill of Rights was added, so how come Hamilton lost the debate? Because the other framers dismissed his concern that these amendments would be limiting. Instead, they included the Ninth Amendment:


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


This short sentence has been the source of numerous legal controversies, including Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established women’s reproductive rights.



The Ninth Amendment causes debate over “new rights”


The Ninth Amendment has been used, some say, to create new rights that were never intended by the founders in the original Constitution. Others say that in the founders’ wisdom, they allowed flexibility for the legal system and the Congress to evolve with the times. The Ninth Amendment was a kind of release valve, in this interpretation.


Democratic citizenship is hard. The goal of the History Doctor is to create the intellectual background necessary for it, so all Americans can participate in these great national conversations. I hope it’s a journey that you will go on as well.


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