by Clay Barham

What two functions do each of us have that always says we are an individual? It is our mind and our mouth, what we think and what we say. No one can take that away from us. No one can punish us for the thoughts we entertain and how we express them. However, they can try and always have. What are the two most dangerous threats to any dictator? What we think and what we tell others about what we think.

The mind and mouth of the slave are two things that a dictator can never be sure of from anyone they rule. Fear is their only weapon of choice. Fear of retribution, once thought is discovered, is the only way to keep the mind and mouth in check.

In America, following its war of independence and its three constitutions, several of our “Founders” believed it necessary to chain the third constitution down with words that were simple and more forceful to preserve individual freedom. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison demanded a Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the newly ratified Federal Constitution.

The first of those ten amendments dealt specifically with the mind and the mouth, with our thoughts and how we express those thoughts. They felt it was not sufficiently nailed down for posterity to prevent political interference with thought and speech. Here it is, just as it was agreed early in the life of our Constitution, which established a small, limited, well defined central government. It was the first of ten to prevent tampering with liberty for the benefit of a few over the many, as is done today.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

To the freedom of the mind and the mouth they added the right to share with others and express to government, what they were thinking and saying, without fear of reprisal by government. In doing that, it expresses what was in the founder’s minds as to their distrust of the new government, as borne out today. The boisterous 2009 Town Hall meetings, on the issue of national health care, demonstrated the view of the people running the government as critical of the citizens speaking out against their legislative proposals. Their terms to describe those objecting, make their minds and mouths appear criminal.

Why, after the convention delegates spent four hot months shaping a new constitution, would these men go a step further in limiting the constitution as they did? They knew, without these plain, simple, forceful words, the politician would have found a backdoor and route to tyranny, as they are doing today while ignoring the constitution. It happened before the ink on the constitution was dry, with the passing and enforcement of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

It took a new rebellion in 1800, when the Federalists were tossed out of office and Thomas Jefferson was elected President. What glorious foresight he and Madison demonstrated fighting for a Bill of Rights. The First Amendment declared religion and its participation the first right, which is the right of thought. The following rights involved how we expressed our thoughts. All the rights in this amendment define the individual as the principle, not the community.

America prospered because of minds and mouths that were free. Men and women were free to think, to conceive, to believe and to achieve what they believed, and they prospered. As they prospered, their families prospered. As their families prospered, so did their communities.

Reflecting individual freedom and the supremacy of legitimate individual self-interests, when compared to the interests of the community, this amendment protects for each individual the right to think thoughts from his own mind, practice his or her own religion, to go to church, speak openly on the concepts of his beliefs and thoughts, print notices in the paper, or print his own paper, to gather with a group of like minded people and to tell elected and appointed officials in government what he thinks.

The present American government is just one step behind arresting and prosecuting people who complain about the wrongs committed by arrogant bureaucrats.

Clay Barham [send him email] has been a candidate for the California legislature and a stand-in talk show host for ABC.  He was educated in physical and behavioral sciences, with a Ph.D. in sociology.  He is the author of five books, including Foundations of Modern American Conservatism and Liberalism: The Roots of Freedom and Tyranny.  His latest is The Changing Face of Democrats: Libertarian Roots Lost.  Visit his website at

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