Most educated people of the eighteenth century, such as the Founding Fathers, subscribed to Natural Rights Theory, the idea that every human being has a considerable number of innate rights, simply by virtue of being a human person. When the US Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, many at that time felt that the federal government outlined by the Constitution would be too strong, and that rights of individual citizens against the government had to be clarified. This led to the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, which were ratified at the same time as the Constitution. The first eight of these amendments list specific rights of citizens. Some leaders feared that listing some rights could be interpreted to mean that citizens didn't have other, unlisted rights. Toward this end, James Madison and others produced the Ninth Amendment, which states: the fact that certain rights are listed in the Constitution shall not be construed to imply that other rights of the people are denied.
Constitutional traditionalists interpret the Ninth Amendment as a rule for reading the rest of the constitution. They would argue that "Ninth Amendment rights" are a misconceived notion: the amendment does not, by itself, create federally enforceable rights. In particular, this strict reasoning would be opposed to the creation of any new rights based on the amendment. Rather, according to this view, the amendment merely protects those rights that citizens already have, whether they are explicitly listed in the Constitution or simply implicit in people's lives and in American tradition.
More liberal interpreters of the US Constitution have a much more expansive view of the Ninth Amendment. In their view, the Ninth Amendment guarantees to American citizens a vast universe of potential rights, some of which we have enjoyed for two centuries, and others of which the Founding Fathers could not possibly have conceived. These scholars point out that some rights, such as voting rights of women or minorities, were not necessarily viewed as rights by the majority of citizens in late eighteenth century America, but are taken as fundamental and unquestionable in modern America. While those rights cited are protected specifically by other amendments and laws, the argument asserts that other unlisted right also could evolve from unthinkable to perfectly acceptable, and the Ninth Amendment would protect these as-yet-undefined rights.
The passage provides support for which of the following?
- AThe right to privacy, not mentioned at all in the Bill of Rights, must have its constitutional basis in the Ninth Amendment.
- BMadison would have been in favor of women's right to vote.
- CCertain parts of the Bill of Rights are open to divergent interpretations.
- DTwentieth-century amendments that explicitly added new rights weakened the Ninth Amendment.
- EIn the absence of the Ninth Amendment, the American Federal Government would have interpreted the list of rights in the Bill of Rights as setting a strict limit on the possible rights that American citizens could enjoy.