There is freedom in compromise
By the closing gavel of America’s first Congress, a new representative government of the people had made the dreams of the Constitution’s drafters real, enshrining the first rights of conscience, petition, privacy and the rule of law into a Bill of Rights.
American lawmakers adopted the first 10 Amendments all at once, in 1791, culled from more than 200 suggested changes during the state ratification debates over the previous two years. This was Congress’ first contract with America, which is to say our first contract with ourselves. James Madison took the responsibility of drafting the words, having already taken the responsibility of assembling the pieces, and he wrote to clarify the people’s guaranteed rights and explain the limits to the government’s power, established for the protection of its citizens.
Looking back from today, it’s still a monumental moment, as Yale’s Akhil Amar has said a “hinge-point” in human history, between tyranny and democracy. But there has always been a gap between rights promised and rights delivered in America. The Founders failed to confront the institution of slavery. The enfranchisement of women took more than a century to get right, and even today we still have pay inequality. The history of Native Americans is littered with broken contracts and abuses. And a