Does Taking an Oath on the Constitution Count for Anything?


News stories are making their way around that newly sworn-in CIA Director John Brennan took the oath of office on the 1787 draft version of the Constitution.

“There’s one piece of this that I wanted to note for you,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at their daily briefing. “Director Brennan was sworn in with his hand on an original draft of the Constitution that had George Washington’s personal handwriting and annotations on it, dating from 1787.”

Anyone familiar with constitutional history knows that the 1787 version of the Constitution does not contain the first Ten Amendments – the Bill of Rights. Several states would not ratify the Constitution as drafted. They wanted further assurance that the national government would be limited. The full-version of the Constitution that includes the first Ten Amendments (12 were proposed) was finally ratified on May 29, 1790.

Some people see the makings of a conspiracy because the Constitution on which Brannan took his oath did not include the Bill of Rights. Personally, I don’t see it, for three reasons. First, the original Bill of Rights-less Constitution is a document of enumerated powers. If there is no power granted in the Constitution, then the Federal government doesn’t have that power. Some have argued that adding the Bill of Rights was a mistake since it gave the national government the right to rule on the items listed, thus, giving it jurisdiction in decision making. A right given can be a right taken away.

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