The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Most legal scholars agree that the Ninth Amendment does not itself confer rights. Rather, wrote one constitutional expert, it is “a rule about how to read the Constitution.” That is, just because certain rights are not enumerated in the Bill of Rights does not mean they don’t exist.
The Ninth Amendment stems from a debate about the Bill of Rights itself. After the Revolutionary War, people organized together to develop a new system of government. While everyone seemed to agree that the freedoms they had just fought so hard to win needed enduring protections, there was a lack of consensus when it came to developing a system of laws that protected every individual’s God-given freedoms, while at the same time achieved security and order. There were two vastly different schools of thought – one group known as the Federalists favored delegating expansive powers to a central or federal government therefore limiting states’ rights and endangering individual liberties. The other group, the Anti-Federalists sought to limit the powers of a central government and ensure sacred freedoms and liberties were adequately protected against the risk of tyranny and corrupt governments.
The Anti-Federalists were against ratifying the Constitution without a Bill of Rights declaring the fundamental rights owed to the citizens of the new republic. The Federalists were opposed to this. While reasonable minds may differ, the Bill of Rights was ratified as part of our Constitution – and continues to endure.
Unlike the first eight amendments, which prohibit or restrict government action understood to abridge rights of the individual, the Ninth Amendment governs constitutional rights of the people that may not have been enumerated specifically, but which are inherent. With a keen, and first-hand, understanding of government’s rapacious desire to acquire more power, the Anti-Federalists reasoned that a government in the future might claim that God-given rights of the people did not exist if they were not already guaranteed.