It seems that these days people tend to think that the Constitution consists of the Bill of Rights and nothing more. In many ways, they're right, since the main body of the text has been perverted to such an extent that Professor Seidman's recent suggestion has already come to pass. I'm of the belief that our current mess is directly proportional to the extent to which we have strayed from the Founders' original intent, but that's a discussion for another day.
But what if there had been no Bill of Rights in the first place? With the current debate about limitations to our 2nd Amendment rights, I thought it'd be a good time to revisit Alexander Hamilton's words from Federalist 84:
"I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power." [emphasis mine]
For those of us who believe in the natural rights theory of human existence, Hamilton's argument makes eminent sense. Why give "men disposed to usurp" a hook upon which they can hang their claims for power? Would we be in a better position regarding those rights had they not been clearly expressed? Or would Jefferson's observation that "(t)he natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground" have overwhelmed us years before?