"Why not include a provision that everybody shall, in good weather, hunt on his own land and catch fish in rivers that are public property and that Congress shall never restrain any inhabitant of America from eating and drinking, at seasonable times, or prevent his lying on his left side, in a long winter's night, or even on his back, when he is fatigued by lying on his right."
Noah Webster
(1758-1843) American patriot and scholar, author of the first dictionary of American English usage (1806) and the author of the 1828 edition of the dictionary that bears his name.
During the debates on whether the Bill of Rights should be added to the Constitution. Webster opposed adoption as unnecessary.
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Reader comments about this quote:
Wow! Was he ever wrong. I'd like to know the rest of what was being said in that debate. I only give it a thumbs down because of what we know today. I don't know why he said it and the context of the debate. I don't question his patriotism in this post.
 -- Dan     
    Great analogy
     -- RobertSRQ     
    As it turned out, that provision *should* have been added, since Congress has attempted (often successfully) to restrict all of those things except sleeping on one's left side -- and I have no doubt that will be proposed eventually.
     -- Joe, North Caldwell, NJ     
    Hunting on your land may be one thing, but before building on it, be sure and get that environmental impact study and pray that no endangered worm is found. And even though no rain has fallen on the property for 20 years, the EPA may declare your property to be a "wetland " and there goes the neighborhood.
     -- jim k, austin     
    I think he is trying to say that the universe of our rights is much larger than what is encompassed by the Bill of Rights. The main relationship of the individual to the Constitution and the government, which it empowered, is the phrase and I paraphrase, "powers not given to the government of the United States are left to states and/or individuals". Noah was being facetious! I give him 5 stars for a comedian.
     -- Waffler, Smith, Arkansas     
    Webster's point was that by adding the Bill of Rights, the People might get confused that the Constitution was granting these rights. The Bill of Rights grants no rights to anyone -- read it -- it declares specifically what Congress may NOT do, not what the People may do. Webster was concerned even though the 10th Amendment said that the people had other rights and that these amendments were not to be construed to say that everything not mentioned was up for grabs. He argued that enumerating the restrictions on our inalienable rights could in fact be corrupted into these being our only rights. Indeed, government now claims to have the right to make laws that prohibit what we may eat or drink -- I suppose that should have been put in the Bill of Rights, too. However, since it wasn't, Congress has claimed the right to tell us what we may grow, what we may eat, how we may treat our bodies, how we may travel -- they even ignore the Bill of Rights altogether as long as they have a majority of voters who don't care. I understand Webster's concern, and it seems he was right -- if we are to have a Bill of Rights then we should have reserved a lot more rights specifically even if it sounded dumb the first time (like declaring that Congress shall make no law abridging the right to eat, drink, and breathe).
     -- E Archer, NYC     
    Why not include the basic right to be "let alone"? Why not include the right of "Privacy"? Because if we did that, the government would have very little to do...and they don't like that.
     -- J Carlton, Calgary     
    If they didn't have the 2nd Amendment to decide that yes, it does mean an individuals right to bear arms, then they wouldn't have the 2nd to say yes, it's ok to regulate that right. On the other hand doesn't regulation violate "shall not be infringed"?
     -- Dan     
    lol Dan, only in a Representative Republic with a Declaration of Independence, Preamble, Constitution and an encyclopedia of historical references on the subject would "shall not be infringed" mean that said inalienable right could be curtailed through regulation. ;-) What were you thinking? wow Waffler, you woke up, thanks, said well.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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