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From the Archives: ‘Intellectual Activist’ Robert Tracinski traces origins of the Ninth Amendment

‘Intellectual Activist’ Robert Tracinski traces origins of the Ninth Amendment
January 2, 2011 12:58 AM MST

In an interview last month with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner coinciding with the Jefferson Area Libertarians’ celebration of Bill of Rights Day, Robert Tracinski expressed his view of the meaning and importance of the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Tracinski is editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist (, a position he has held since 1996 with the three-decade-old publication. He is also an active member of the Jefferson Area Tea Party.

Ratification debates
lost history of the ninth amendmentThe origin of the Ninth Amendment can be found in the debate over ratification of the Constitution and whether it should include a bill of rights.

“The argument in favor of a bill of rights was very strong,” Tracinski said, because “we need to have these protections to keep government in check.”

Yet, he added, there was “one really good argument against a bill of rights” made by James Madison and others, which can be summed up as “the minute you put this down on paper and say, ‘these are your rights,’ it invites [the government] to say, ‘OK, those are your only rights, that’s all we have to limit ourselves to, and anything else we can do.’”

There was a desire among the Founders, Tracinski noted, to “not create this assumption that these are the only rights people have.”

Specifically to address this argument, in drafting the Bill of Rights, Madison included the language of the Ninth Amendment, which was based on a suggestion made by the Virginia ratifying convention.

Virginia’s “suggested wording was then fine-tuned and honed and brought down to this,” what we now call the Ninth Amendment, in order to “head off that idea that these are the only rights you have because they’re the only ones that are written down,” Tracinski explained.

Revival of constitutionalism

Robert Tracinski The Intellectual Activist
Reflecting on current affairs, Tracinski said that “what excites me about today is we are seeing a revival of constitutionalism.”

The American constitutional creed, he reiterated, “isn’t just a series of legal statements in a document [but] it’s a whole way of thinking about the role of government, a whole way of thinking about the limitations on government and the rights of the people.”

The concept of a constitutional creed, Tracinski concluded, “is something I see people taking more seriously, studying in more depth, and – hopefully -- reviving the constitution not just as a document but as a way of thinking, as a philosophy of government.”

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on January 2, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

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