The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Prayer Served a Purpose Just as Prayer Always Serves a Purpose

 

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION - Philadelphia Convention Center

by Diane Rufino, October 8, 2018

Here is a trivia question for you:  Who were the oldest and youngest delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, in 1787 ?

The oldest delegate, as many I’m sure remember from your history class, was Benjamin Franklin. He was the delegate from Pennsylvania and he attended the Convention at the ripe old age of 81. The youngest delegate was Jonathan Dayton, age 26, from state of New Jersey.

These two men share in a very special moment at the Convention:

On June 28, almost exactly a month after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia convened, the 81–year-old Benjamin Franklin rose to address his fellow members. He had become frustrated over the constant and fruitless bickering and the inability of the representatives to made any significant progress in amending the federal government. He noted how some members had already left in disgust.

He began by talking about the fact that they were a well-read group of men; they had enjoyed a classical education and some studied further. In preparing for their important task that summer –  of designing an appropriate government to unify the states – they brushed up on their ancient history. They reviewed ancient history and the models of government that were established back then. They analyzed why the Republics of the ancient civilizations and empires ultimately failed. They looked at the modern governments in Europe, but quickly concluded that none were suitable. The delegates at the convention couldn’t find any common ground.

And so he suggested that they appeal to God for help.

And then he delivered the first prayer of the Convention:

Mr. President,

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks in close attendance and in continual reasonings with each other, with different sentiments on almost every question, is melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?  In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.

To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.  And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?  Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?

We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, in Psalm 117:1a, that “Except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this. And I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.

Out of the 55 delegates at the Convention, only a handful were devoutly religious. And here was Franklin, perhaps one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers, calling for prayer and quoting Scripture. As James Madison noted, in the notes he meticulously took of the Convention, many were deeply moved.

New Jersey delegate Jonathan Dayton reported:  “The Doctor sat down; and never did I behold a countenance at once so dignified and delighted as was that of Washington at the dose of the address; nor were the members of the convention generally less affected. The words of the venerable Franklin fell upon our ears with a weight and authority, even greater that we may suppose an oracle to have had in a Roman senate!”

Immediately after Franklin spoke, Roger Sherman of Connecticut seconded his motion for prayer.

But the motion ended up fizzling out among the other participants. There were some who opposed to the motion to appoint chaplains to begin each day with prayer because they had no funds to pay such chaplains. In fact, he recorded his disappointment at the bottom of his prayer speech, writing: “The Convention, except three or four Persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.

What is important to note in this tiny bit of history is that Ben Franklin’s passionate plea served to break the stalemate, or impasse, that was crippling the convention. The delegates were dismissed for three days, and some, moved by Franklin’s words, attended the Old First Reformed Church, where Rev. William Rogers held a special time of prayer for the proceedings. Dayton reported that when the delegates met again on July 2, much of the animosity was gone:  He noted: “We assembled again; and … every unfriendly feeling had been expelled, and a spirit of conciliation had been cultivated.”

While some difficulties continued to arise before the conclusion of the Convention’s business in September, the delegates apparently never returned to the fruitless bickering that had existed prior to June 28th.  It would certainly be an exaggeration to suggest that the drafting in earnest of the US Constitution began as the result of a prayer delivered at the Convention in Philadelphia, but Franklin’s call for prayer clearly played a pivotal role in softening the hearts and opening the minds of the delegates and reminding them that if they intended to proceed with such a critical undertaking without God’s help, all their efforts would be in vain.

 

References:

Ben Franklin’s Call for Prayer in the Constitutional Convention,” Lost Episodes in American History, March 21, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://lostepisodes.us/37/

“Benjamin Franklin’s Request for Prayers at the Constitutional Convention”  – http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/21/benjamin_franklins_request_for_prayers_at_the_constitutional__1.html

“Franklin’s Appeal for Prayer at the Constitutional Convention,” Wallbuilders –  https://wallbuilders.com/franklins-appeal-prayer-constitutional-convention/

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Constitution Day 2018

RWPC - Constitution Day 2018

Today was Constitution Day.

On September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia concluded. 39 of the 55 delegates to the Convention signed the final product, including its primary author, James Madison, and its eldest member, Benjamin Franklin.

The Convention was called by Congress for the specific purpose of “amending the Articles of Confederation.” The specific defects were in the ability of the Congress to collect tax revenue from the states and in its weak authority to regulate commerce among them. But the organizers of the Convention, including James Madison, Edmund Randolph, and Alexander Hamilton had other plans. They intended to scrap the Articles altogether and draft a different form of government altogether, relying somewhat on the Articles of Confederation for guidance. In fact, Madison had already written a draft of that new government prior to the Convention and had asked Randolph, Governor of Virginia and member of one of Virginia’s most prominent families, to present it.

But what Madison had planned (which was a more national type of government; a powerful government of ambitious powers) is not what the majority of delegates could agree on. It would take 4 months of heated discussion and debate to convince Madison that a federal government, a government of limited powers and checks and balances, was the best form of a common government but the only form that the states would ever agree to.

Things didn’t go as smoothly as expected at the convention. Delegates became frustrated over the constant and fruitless bickering and the inability to made any significant progress in amending the federal government. Many left in disgust and many left to go back to their families, becoming frustrated in how long the convention was dragging on.

Benjamin Franklin, ever the optimist ,even at the age of 81, gave a poignant assessment of the Convention in his final speech before the Constitutional Convention:

“I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution: For when you assemble a Number of Men to have the Advantage of their joint Wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those Men all their Prejudices, their Passions, their Errors of Opinion, their local Interests, and their selfish Views. From such an Assembly can a perfect Production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this System approaching so near to Perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our Enemies, who are waiting with Confidence to hear that our Councils are confounded, like those of the Builders of Babel, and that our States are on the Point of Separation, only to meet hereafter for the Purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

To honor Constitution Day, members of the Republican Women of Pitt County and the Eastern NC Tea Party joined with members of the Daughters of the American Revolution to ring bells at 4:00 pm (to mark the time of day the Constitution was signed) on the front steps of the Sheppard Memorial Library in downtown Greenville and then to pass out free pocket constitutions to those inside.

HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY, EVERYONE !!

TENTH AMENDMENT KEEPERS: Keepers of the Tenth!

10th Amendment

by Diane Rufino, July 19, 2016

This short article is intended to alert the reader to the importance of the Tenth Amendment and hopefully inspire him or her to join the Tenth Amendment Movement and help bring government power back to the States in those areas historically belonging to them and reserved to them under the Tenth Amendment.

About the Tenth Amendment Movement:

The Tenth Amendment has its roots in the intent of each State to retain its full sovereignty and its right of self-determination. The Tenth Amendment comes from Article II of our very first constitution, the Articles of Confederation: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”  So concerned about their right of self-determination and their fear of being consumed by a centralized government under the US Constitution as drafted in 1787 at the Philadelphia Convention, that several crucial states were not willing to ratify it in convention. Virginia and New York would not ratify unless they were given assurances that amendments (for a Bill of Rights) would be added, and indeed they proposed several, including one with the language of the Tenth Amendment. To make their position firmer, they included Resumption Clauses with their Ordinances of Ratification which conditioned their ratification on the explicit right to resume all powers when they desired so. “We, the delegates of the people of Virginia do, in the name and on behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.”

Supporters of big government (such as Abraham Lincoln, FDR, LBJ, Obama, many Supreme Court justices, and today’s progressives) have actively down-played the Tenth Amendment because it embodies States’ Rights and state power.  In the years leading up to the War of 1861 and most certainly with that war and afterwards, the political elites in government understood that the ordinary checks and balances provided in the Constitution could be co-opted and controlled, but the most critical of all the checks and balances that our Founders provided on the federal government – the tension created by sovereign states (“Dual Sovereignty,” “federalism”… or as I like to refer to it: “Titan versus Titan”) – is the one they could not, especially the Southern States. And so began the movement to destroy the concept of States’ Rights, the great movement of Thomas Jefferson.  Indeed, most Americans believe what the victor of the War of 1861 (ie, the federal government) has indoctrinated, which is that the sovereignty of the federal government, in all cases, trumps the States and that the States are powerless to oppose the government or leave the Union.  The Tenth Amendment Movement knows that this indoctrination can be reversed by education and by the willing re-assertion of the Tenth Amendment by the States.  The Tenth Amendment Movement is about educating folks and especially members and candidates for state legislatures about the compact nature of the Constitution, which essentially says that the States, as willing parties, mutually agreed to the terms of the Constitution and assented to be bound by it (forming the Union, with its “creature” – the federal government – providing certain functions on their behalf), so long as the terms were faithfully adhered.  Compacts implicate the laws of contract and to some degree the law of agency.

Unquestionably, the Constitution was created as a social compact. It had all the requisites of a contract. There were parties: thirteen States, to which were added those that similarly ratified the document in the years after 1781. There was mutuality: each State promised to give up some of its sovereignty in exchange for what the Union promised to deliver – for receiving a “common defense” and some regulation of commerce between the States where it was necessary to ensure free trade. The Constitution was created by the States and ratified by the States, each acting in Convention. It could only be amended by and between the States. And if there was any doubt about the fact that the Constitution was an agreement entered into by and between the States, Article VII states: “The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same.”  Every one of our Founding Fathers characterized the Constitution as a compact. It was referred to as such in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, in all the State Ratifying Conventions, Anti-Federalist Papers, the Federalist Papers, in the communications by Thomas Jefferson, in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (respectively), in Madison’s 1800 Report, in the several famous speeches by John C. Calhoun, and in the Ordinances of Secession.

It is critical that education by the Tenth Amendment Movement emphasize this compact nature of the Constitution and destroy the constitutional myth espoused by Lincoln to subjugate and consolidate forever the States because only then do certain remedies apply – such as nullification, interposition, and even secession itself.

The Constitution’s text and history before the War of 1861 did NOT change as a result of the surrender at Appomattox. Contracts do not textually change by the use of brute force; contracts change ONLY by the agreement of the parties. The Constitution was still a “constitution between the States” after the war as it was before. It remains so now.

Years ago, it would have been very rare to find folks who supported such critical doctrines such as Nullification and Interposition.  Even talk of States’ Rights seemed to be unpopular.  Which state would even think of daring to question the federal government?  But over the years, as the federal government has become exceedingly ambitious, arrogant, tyrannical, corrupt, reckless, and out of touch with the American people, I’ve seen things change. I’ve watched in seminars how voices of skepticism turned to support. Instead of people telling me such remedies were illegitimate, unconstitutional, and dangerous, all of a sudden, they started asking how to approach their legislators about using them against the federal government.  States are looking to nullification and interposition to finally define boundaries.  States are passing nullification measures on a wide range of issues – Obamacare, federal gun control, hemp, medical marijuana.

I hope that if you believe in the importance of this movement, as I believe, you will get involved, help educate others, and help elect like-minded representatives to your State legislature.  Whether individual freedom will be secured for “generations to come and millions yet unborn” will depend upon how the States choose to value the Tenth Amendment.  And the path that each State takes can be determined through the voice of its people.

How can you get involved?  Contact the Tenth Amendment Center, through its website.  If you have a chapter in your state, contact any of its members.  If you don’t have a chapter, either volunteer to start one or help recruit someone with the necessary time and skills to organize and run it. If you belong to an organization, such as the Tea Party or any other community organization, request that speakers be invited to talk about the Tenth Amendment, Nullification, Interposition, Judicial Activism, the Constitution and Original Intent, and other such topics.

Educate, educate, educate. The most important thing you can do is become educated!  You will find educational articles and updates on my blogsite (www.forloveofgodandcountry.com), on the Tenth Amendment Center website (http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/), and on the Abbeville Institute website (http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/)

Finally, follow my blogsite – Tenth Amendment Keepers (https://tenthamendmentkeepers.wordpress.com) and the Facebook site of the same name.

Together, we must Keep the Tenth Amendment relevant.

10th Amendment - button

THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY HAS BECOME DANGEROUS & DESPOTIC: A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

SUPREME COURT - Judicial Supremacy

by Diane Rufino, July 11, 2015

US CONSTITUTION:  AMENDMENT PROPOSAL

An amendment to replace the States’ influence in the federal government since the 17th Amendment was adopted.

“…If no remedy of the abuse be practicable under the forms of the Constitution, I should prefer a resort to the Nation for an amendment of the Tribunal itself.”  — James Madison, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 1832

AMENDMENT PROPOSAL:

Whereas, “The Creator has made the earth for the living, not for the dead.  Rights and powers can only belong to persons, not to things.”  (Thomas Jefferson).  Rights and powers do not originate or belong to a government, unless that power is exercised for the People – on behalf of them – and NOT against them;

Whereas, the several States, by a compact under the style and title “Constitution for the United States,” and of amendments thereto, voluntarily constituted a general government for special common purposes;

Whereas, the several States are parties to the compact (Constitution), with the people of said States acting in their own conventions to consider, debate, deliberate, and ratify it;

Whereas, our government structure is predicated on separation of powers between the States, as sovereigns, and the federal government, which is sovereign with respect to certain responsibilities;

Whereas, this separation of powers, known as federalism, is a critical feature of our government system, intended to safeguard the “precious gem” of individual liberty by limiting government overreach;

Whereas, there is no provision in the Constitution nor any grant of delegated power by which the States can be said to have (willingly or intentionally) surrendered their sovereignty, for it is clear that no State would have ratified the document and the Union would not have been established;

Whereas, the States were too watchful to leave the opportunity open to chance and using an abundance of caution, insisted that a series of amendments be added, including the Tenth Amendment, as a condition of ratification and formation of the Union;

Whereas, the Preamble to the Bill of Rights expressed the unambiguous intention of those amendments, and reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution”;

Whereas, that relationship between the states and the federal government is defined by the Tenth Amendment, which reads:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”;

Whereas, the critical relationship has been eroded through the many Supreme Court decisions which have transferred power from the States to the federal government in order to enlarge its sphere of influence;

Whereas, the federal government has made itself the exclusive and final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, and as such, its need for power and its discretion – and not the Constitution – have been guiding those decisions.

Whereas, the federal government has created for itself an absolute monopoly over the possession and scope of its powers and has consistently assumed powers it wasn’t meant to have – misappropriating them from the States and from the People;

Whereas, the federal government has used said monopoly to change the nature of the Constitution and redefine its terms without using the lawful route, Article V;

Whereas, the particular security of the people is in the possession of a written and stable Constitution. The branches of the federal government have made it a blank piece of paper by construction;

Whereas, the federal government, through the consolidation and concerted action of its branches and said monopoly, the government has created a government that is bloated, vested with illegitimate powers, coercive, wasteful, corrupt, and out of touch with the People, is one in which less than a quarter of the people have trust in, and most importantly, is one that poses serious threats to the exercise of the freedoms that Americans are promised;

Whereas, the right of judging on infractions of inherent powers is a fundamental attribute of sovereignty which cannot be denied to the States, and therefore they must be allowed to do so;

Whereas, the States need a voice directly in the federal government in order to break up its monopoly and to serve as the only effective check to prevent unconstitutional laws from being enforced;

Therefore, in order to reverse the unintended concentration of power in the federal government and in order to divest it of powers it has misappropriated and assumed for the past 200 years

And Therefore, in order to replace the States’ influence in the federal government since the 17th Amendment was adopted, to recognize their sovereign right to meaningfully defend their sphere of power embodied in the Tenth Amendment, and to have them, as the parties who created and adopted the Constitution and from which the government’s powers derived, be the tribunal which offers the opinions of constitutionality, the following amendment is proposed to alter the make-up of the Supreme Court:

  • The Supreme Court’s membership will increase from 9 to 50. This way, citizens don’t incur the outrage that comes from a decision handed down by a mere 9 mortals, each motivated like other politicians with politics, legacy, passions, opinions, prejudices, personal preferences, ideology, etc., or the more outrageous situation of a 5-4 decision.]
  • Justices to the Supreme Court will be assigned by the States. Each state will select one justice to the Court. That justice will be selected by the particular state legislature (or popular referendum).
  • Justices selected by each state MUST have a documented history of adherence to the original meaning and intent of the Constitution and MUST have cited supporting documentation for its meaning and intent, including the Federalist Papers and the debates in the various state ratifying conventions. [Any change to the Constitution, including to reflect “modern times,” must be in the form of an amendment].
  • Justices can serve an unlimited term, but that term can be shortened upon a showing of incompetence, disloyalty to the state, or by violating the previous provision.
  • Justices will require each law passed by Congress to be prefaced with the particular grant of delegated Constitutional power which grants legal authority for that law. [Having 50 justices will allow the Court to render an initial opinion on the constitutionality of each piece of legislation, thus giving Congress the opportunity to be more cautious and responsible with its office.]
  • The first task of the newly-seated Supreme Court will be to review the federal budget for spending that is not constitutional. The analysis will be used to remind Congress what are the constitutional objects of spending, to adjust federal taxation, and to help return policy-making and legislative power to the states.
  • The next task of the newly-seated Supreme Court will be to invalidate all federal mandates (*) and eliminate all funding the government uses or plans to give/offer the states through “conditioned” grants or other forms of funding, contractual or otherwise. [Mandates are directly in violation of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Congress may not commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states. With respect to federal grants and other forms of funding, if the government’s budget includes funds to “bribe” the states and otherwise attempt to influence state policy or planning, then it clearly overtaxes. Bribing the states or otherwise paying for any of its internal functions or projects is not one of the objects for which Congress can tax and spend under the Constitution. Such funding will end and the reduced federal tax rate will allow the states themselves to tax according to their own schemes to fund their own projects.]
  • The Supreme Court’s new membership will establish new constitutional law jurisprudence. They not be bound by any previous court decision and will agree to establish continuity in jurisprudence only among their own decisions.
  • Congress will not attempt to limit jurisdiction on this newly-organized Supreme Court in an attempt to frustrate the intent of this amendment.
  • Because the Constitution is the peoples’ document – their shield against excessive government in their lives and affairs – the justices will honor the rightful expectation that it is firm and unambiguous in its meaning. “The Constitution of a State is stable and permanent, not to be worked upon by the temper of the times, nor to rise and fall with the tide of events; notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains firm and immovable, as a mountain amidst the raging of the waves.”  [Justice William Patterson, in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance(1795)]. A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed.  The purpose of having a stable and firm constitution is so that when government transgresses its limits, the people can immediately recognize such action. [Thomas Paine].  Any change in the meaning of the US Constitution will be sought through the amendment process provided in Article V.

Diane - BLOG pic (Independence Mall) - BEST

INTRODUCTION:

There is one principle upon which the Supreme Court should most firmly stand united. It is explained, proclaimed, assured in Federalist #78: “There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the constitution, can be valid.  To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

The servant has indeed become more powerful than the master.

The reason the servant has become more powerful than its master is because the Supreme Court has expanded and re-defined the authority granted to the Congress and to the Executive in the US Constitution. And in order to do so, it first had to expand and re-define its own authority, which it did in 1803 – only 12 years after it heard its very first case (in 1791).

The first question we must ask is this:  What is a constitution?  A constitution is instrument by which authority for government is delegated from its natural depository. As the Declaration of Independence makes abundantly clear, the laws of Nature and God’s Law have established that man himself is vested with this authority. There is a natural order…  First there is man, then there are communities when men join together, and finally, there is government established by social compact whereby rules and laws are established so that men can live successfully among one another, enjoying security and without surrendering their essential rights and liberties (including property). Thomas Paine, in his publication Rights of Man (1791-92), wrote:  “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”  In other words, government action needs legitimate authority and that authority must be spelled out so that people know at which point power is being abused.

Justice William Patterson explained in more detail the significance of a constitution in one of the Supreme Court’s earliest cases, Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance (1795):  “The Constitution of a State is stable and permanent, not to be worked upon by the temper of the times, nor to rise and fall with the tide of events; notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains firm and immovable, as a mountain amidst the raging of the waves.”   He continued:

“In England, the authority of the Parliament runs without limits, and rises above control. It is difficult to say what the constitution of England is; because, not being reduced to written certainty and precision, it lies entirely at the mercy of the Parliament: It bends to every governmental exigency; it varies and is blown about by every breeze of legislative humor or political caprice. Some of the judges in England have had the boldness to assert, that an act of Parliament, made against natural equity, is void; but this opinion contravenes the general position, that the validity of an act of Parliament cannot be drawn into question by the judicial department: It cannot be disputed, and must be obeyed. The power of Parliament is absolute and transcendent; it is omnipotent in the scale of political existence. Besides, in England there is no written constitution, no fundamental law, nothing visible, nothing real, nothing certain, by which a statute can be tested. In America the case is widely different: Every State in the Union has its constitution reduced to written exactitude and precision. What is a Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people, and is the supreme law of the land; it is paramount to the power of the Legislature, and can be revoked or altered only by the authority that made it. The life-giving principle and the death-doing stroke must proceed from the same hand. What are Legislatures? Creatures of the Constitution; they owe their existence to the Constitution: they derive their powers from the Constitution: It is their commission; and, therefore, all their acts must be conformable to it, or else they will be void. The Constitution is the work or will of the People themselves, in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity. Law is the work or will of the Legislature in their derivative and subordinate capacity. The one is the work of the Creator, and the other of the Creature. The Constitution fixes limits to the exercise of legislative authority, and prescribes the orbit within which it must move. In short, gentlemen, the Constitution is the sun of the political system, around which all Legislative, Executive and Judicial bodies must revolve. Whatever may be the case in other countries, yet in this there can be no doubt, that every act of the Legislature, repugnant to the Constitution, as absolutely void…..

      I hold it to be a position equally clear and found, that, in such case, it will be the duty of the Court to adhere to the Constitution, and to declare the act null and void. The Constitution is the basis of legislative authority; it lies at the foundation of all law, and is a rule and commission by which both Legislators and Judges are to proceed. It is an important principle, which, in the discussion of questions of the present kind, ought never to be lost sight of, that the Judiciary in this country is not a subordinate, but a co-ordinate, branch of the government.”

What makes the Constitution stable and permanent is the strict and consistent understanding of its terms and its intent.   James Madison, who is considered the author of the Constitution, advised: “If we were to look for the meaning of the instrument [Constitution] beyond the face of the instrument, we must look for it, not in the general Convention, which proposed, but in the State Conventions, which accepted and ratified the Constitution.”

BACKGROUND:

In 1776, the 13 original British colonies in America sent delegates to a general congress, who there, for the colonies they represented, made the declaration “that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”  The permeating principle pronounced and proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence was that every people had the right to alter or abolish their government when it ceased to serve the ends for which it was instituted. Each State decided to exercise that right, and all of the thirteen united (with their representatives pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor) to seek independence from Great Britain. A long war ensued. After a heavy sacrifice of life and treasure, the Treaty of Paris was negotiated in 1783, by which Great Britain recognized the independence of the States separately, not as one body politic, but severally, each one being named in the act of recognition.

In 1777, the delegates from each of the thirteen States, met once again in the general congress and agreed to “certain articles of confederation and perpetual union between the States.”  They agreed that the union formed would be a confederation of states. That no purpose existed to consolidate the States into one body politic is manifest from the terms of the second article, which was: “Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States in congress assembled.” The meaning of this article is quite plain.  Under the Articles, representation in the Congress of the Confederation was one vote per state, irrespective of population or the number of delegates in attendance, and the powers available were only those expressly delegated, with all others being reserved to the States separately. Under the Articles of Confederation, the War for Independence (Revolutionary War) was conducted.

On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his troops at the battle of Yorktown, Virginia, and the colonies were finally free!  It was not until September 3, 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, that the Revolutionary War came to its final conclusion.

In the face of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Articles of Confederation, and of the Treaty of Paris, it is clear that in 1783 each State was a sovereign, free, and independent community.

After the pressure and necessity of war was removed, it became clear that the “common government” – the Congress of the Confederation – was impracticable and ineffective to administer the general affairs of the Union; it would need to possess additional powers.  In 1786, 12 delegates from 5 states (NY, NJ, PA, DE, and VA) gathered at a tavern in Annapolis MD to discuss and develop a consensus about reversing the protectionist trade barriers that each state had erected. That was the limited purpose of the convention. Other states were supposed to attend but never made it in time.  (Under the Articles of Confederation, each state was largely independent from the others and the national government had no authority to regulate trade between and among the states).  Alexander Hamilton wrote the Convention’s final report and sent it to Congress. It explained that the delegates decided not to proceed on the business of their mission on account of such a deficient representation, but believed that there was an even more compelling reason to hold another convention. The delegates noted that the Articles possessed “important defects” and lacked enough power to be effective, and if the problems were not addressed, the perceived benefits of the confederation would be unfulfilled. As conveyed in the Report, the delegates to the Annapolis Convention decided that another conference, “with more enlarged powers” should be called and should meet in Philadelphia the following summer to “take into consideration the situation of the United States, to devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.”

And so, the following year, May 1787, delegates from 12 of the 13 states (Rhode Island refused to send delegates), met in Philadelphia for the specific purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation.  They ended up proposing a new form of government (thanks to the dubious scheming and planning by James Madison).  The newly-drafted Constitution for the United States, a voluntary compact, was to be submitted to the States, and, if ratified by 9 of them, would go into effect as between the States so ratifying it.  As it turned out, 11 states ratified and the Constitution became effective in 1788 (with Washington being chosen unanimously by the electoral college to be the first president and the first Congress meeting in March 1789).  North Carolina finally joined the Union (ratified the Constitution) in 1789 after a Bill of Rights was proposed by James Madison in Congress and Rhode Island joined in 1790.  The old union under the Articles was replaced by “a more perfect” union under the US Constitution.

The Union was made “more perfect” because the general government thus created, would be more effective to provide certain common services for all the states. Each state, in adopting the Constitution, contended, believed, and certainly articulated that the general government was one of specifically enumerated powers only and that they reserved the residuary of sovereign powers for themselves, as individual states.

So fearful and apprehensive were the states that the common government would usurp sovereign state powers and attempt to enlarge its powers that they took several steps:

1). They designed a bicameral legislative body that included a body that directly represented the States’ interests.  Before the 17th Amendment was adopted, US Senators were selected by the state legislatures, including on a rotating basis if need be, specifically to provide a check on legislation that burdened states’ sovereign interests or exceeded constitutional authority.  The intent was to include an express federal element to the government structure and to provide an additional and critical Check and Balance on government. The sovereign states would jealously guard their sphere of power directly, at the source.

2). Two of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention (James Madison and Alexander Hamilton) went on to write a series of essays to explain and clarify the language and provisions of the Constitution to assure the states assembled in their state ratifying conventions that the document is one that creates a “common” government of very specified delegated powers.  These are the Federalist Papers, which to this day is the greatest authority on the meaning and spirit of the Constitution. The essays were explanations upon which the states relied in their decision to ratify, much the same way as parties to the purchase and sale of real property rely on contract terms and covenants when they agree to sign and be bound.

3). They conditioned their adoption of the Constitution on certain definitions and assumptions.

4). They demanded a Bill of Rights

5). They included “Resumptive Clauses”

6). The repeatedly referred to the Constitution as a “compact” between the states (the parties) to create a common government

7). They asserted their right of nullification and interposition (the refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of a federal law passed by abuse any Constitutional power or as a result of usurping power from any State or the People themselves)

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 32:  “An entire consolidation of the States into one complete national sovereignty would imply an entire subordination of the parts; and whatever powers might remain in them, would be altogether dependent on the general will. But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States.”

And James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

      The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States.

And again, Hamilton write in Federalist No. 78:  “There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

Even though such assurances were given, there were many who still did not trust that the Constitution could effectively check consolidation of power by the federal (common) government.  Such voices were particularly loud in the state ratifying conventions.  That is why several states either refused outright to ratify (such as North Carolina) or ratified only when promised that a Bill of Rights would be added. To emphasize exactly WHY the Bill of Rights was demanded by the states and why it was added, a preamble was included. The Preamble to the Bill of Rights reads: “Congress of the United States, in the City of New York, on March 4, 1789:  The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added to extend public confidence in the Government to best ensure the beneficent ends of the institution.”  In other words, the first ten (10) amendments were demanded by the States as a condition to joining together in a new Union in order to FURTHER LIMIT the scope of government (should they not understand the limits in Articles I – III) and to REMIND and RESTATE for the purpose of the federal government (all 3 branches) that the government is predicated on federalism – the notion of the states being sovereign and vested with all reserved powers not expressly delegated under Article I, Section 8 (nor prohibited to them under Section 9).

Aside from the Preamble to the Bill of Rights which again was specifically written to explain the reason and intention of the first ten amendments, several states inserted RESUMPTIVE CLAUSES into the adoption texts when they   officially adopted the Constitution.

The RESUMPTIVE CLAUSES were intentionally inserted because of a distrust of the government that would be created under the Constitution. They were meant as express conditions on adoption and continued membership in a Union ruled by a common government.  These states included New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island.  (It is most likely that North Carolina would have included one as well but was given firm assurances that James Madison would draft and send a Bill of Rights to the States to include in the Constitution for their protection).

New York was the eleventh State to assent to the compact of union, and her ratification was particularly important because she was seen as a potential hold-out to the ratification of the Constitution. It was a state dominated by many influential anti-Federalists, including its governor. To make her ratification conditioned on the understanding that only specifically delegated powers were intended for the federal government and nothing more, her ratification text included a declaration of the principles on which her assent was given (ie, a “Resumptive Clause”), which the following language: “That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness; that every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not, by the said Constitution, clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the people of the several States, or to their respective State governments, to whom they may have granted the same…”

Rhode Island’s clause read: “That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness.”  And Virginia’s clause read: “Having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the federal Convention, and being prepared to decide thereon, do in the name and in behalf of the People of Virginia, declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.”

Reassumption (resumption) is the correlative of delegation.

At the time the Constitution was written and then submitted to the States for ratification, most of the Founders – and most notably, most Virginians and New Yorkers – saw the Constitution as a compact.  Reference to this was made in several Federalist essays (No. 39, 43, 44, 49, for example), in many anti-Federalist essays (written to urge skepticism of the Constitution and which prompted the writing of the Federalist Papers), and in several of the state ratifying conventions.  [Dave Brenner documents the compact nature of the Constitution in detail in his book, Compact of the Republic].  In fact, the term was commonly used for at least 100 years after. [See the various articles of secession by the southern states in 1861 and commentary explaining federalism and states’ rights].

James Madison wrote: “There is one view of the subject which ought to have its influence on those who espouse doctrines which strike at the authoritative origin and efficacious operation of the Government of the United States. The Government of the U.S. like all Governments free in their principles, rests on compact; a compact, not between the Government and the parties who formed and live under it; but among the parties themselves, and the strongest of Governments are those in which the compacts were most fairly formed and most faithfully executed.”

In his Report of 1800 to the Virginia House of Delegates, expounding on the Virginia Resolutions which addressed constitutional violations with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798), James Madison explained: “The resolution declares, first, that ‘it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the compact to which the states are parties;’ in other words, that the federal powers are derived from the Constitution; and that the Constitution is a compact to which the states are parties.  Clear as the position must seem, that the federal powers are derived from the Constitution, and from that alone, the committee are not unapprised of a late doctrine which opens another source of federal powers, not less extensive and important than it is new and unexpected. The examination of this doctrine will be most conveniently connected with a review of a succeeding resolution. The committee satisfy themselves here with briefly remarking that, in all the contemporary discussions and comments which the Constitution underwent, it was constantly justified and recommended on the ground that the powers not given to the government were withheld from it; and that, if any doubt could have existed on this subject, under the original text of the Constitution, it is removed, as far as words could remove it, by the 12th amendment, now a part of the Constitution, which expressly declares, “that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

In 1798, in Supreme Court case Calder v. Bull, Justice Samuel Chase discussed the leading doctrines of American constitutional law with respect to states’ rights prior to the Civil War – the Doctrine of Vested Rights (the 10th Amendment) and the Doctrine of Police Powers.  He wrote: “The people of the United States erected their constitutions to establish justice, to promote the general welfare, to secure the blessings of liberty, and to protect persons and property from violence. The purposes for which men enter into society will determine the nature and term of the social compact; and as they are the foundation of legislative power, they will decide the proper objects of it. The nature and ends of legislative power will limit the exercise of it….  There are acts which the federal or state legislatures cannot do without exceeding their authority. There are certain vital principles in our fee republican governments which will determine and overrule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power…..  An act of the legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great principles of the social compact cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority.  There are certain vital principles in our fee republican governments which will determine and overrule an apparent and flagrant abuse of legislative power…..  An act of the legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great principles of the social compact cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority…”

In The Federalist Papers, James Madison addressed the question, ‘On what principle the confederation, which stands in the solemn form of a compact among the States, can be superseded without the unanimous consent of the parties to it?’ He answered: “By recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”

As explained, constitutions speak to the very foundation of law. They provide the authority for a governing body.  Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Every law consistent with the Constitution will have been made in pursuance of the powers granted by it. Every usurpation or law repugnant to it will be null and void.”  And Chief Justice John Marshall explained: “All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803).  Authority is not without limits, otherwise a written constitution would not be necessary. And so there are boundaries. For a government to take a step beyond such boundary would result in a nullity. Nullification is a doctrine that derives not only from the “compact theory” of the Union, but derives from the very nature of constitutions in general.  Nullification essentially states that a law made without legitimate, delegated legal authority is null and void and is not enforceable (on a State or on the People). It is a remedy to prevent government overreach and abuse.  As an effective remedy, of course, the offending law must be identified and then affirmative efforts must be made to prevent its enforcement. Nullification flows from the nature of the Constitution and as such it fundamental and foundational.  It flows from the fact that the Constitution is a compact….  an agreement by parties (the States) to be bound in a union and thereby abiding by the responsibilities (burdens, including the burden of delegating some of its sovereign powers) while benefitting by its service.

As the leading authority on Nullification, Thomas Woods, explains: “The mere fact that a state’s reserved right to obstruct the enforcement of an unconstitutional law is not expressly stated in the Constitution does not mean the right does not exist.  The Constitution is supposed to establish a federal government of enumerated powers, with the remainder reserved to the states or the people.  Essentially nothing the states do is authorized in the federal Constitution, since enumerating the states’ powers is not the purpose.”

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were the Founders (are most influential, to be sure) who articulated Nullification most clearly.

In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Jefferson wrote:

  1. Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799, he wrote:

RESOLVED, That this commonwealth considers the federal union, upon the terms and for the purposes specified in the late compact, as conducive to the liberty and happiness of the several states: That it does now unequivocally declare its attachment to the Union, and to that compact, agreeable to its obvious and real intention, and will be among the last to seek its dissolution: That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence: That the principle and construction contended for by sundry of the state legislatures, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism; since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their powers: That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that anullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour of that instrument, is the rightful remedy……

In the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, James Madison wrote:

RESOLVED……. That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.

The point is that the Constitution created a common government of limited delegated powers.  The delegation of sovereign powers had to come from somewhere, and because of the declaration of liberty proclaimed in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, we know those powers came from the States, and the People themselves. Any delegation of sovereign individual rights is always temporary in nature and any delegation of state powers is temporary as well.  Any assumption of powers not expressly delegated to government remains with the States and People, and every time any branch of government exceeds its delegated powers, it usurps them from the rightful depositories.  The States and our Founders took every possible opportunity to ensure that the government would remain limited in size and scope.  Their goal, their vision was to use the power of the states to limit the power of the federal government. It was the unique design feature that would ensure the greatest degree of freedom and bring to life the promises in the Declaration of Independence.

THESE are the principles upon which the general government was created.  This was the common understanding of the states in forming the Union.

Supremacy Clause (cartoon - States saluting Constiution)

DISCUSSION:

As predicted and despite the numerous warnings, by such esteemed intellects as Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason (to name a few), members of the federal government have attempted, and have almost always succeeded, in concentrating power in all three branches.  They have weakened the status of the states at every turn. It began, unfortunately, when the very father of our nation, George Washington, supported the very proposition rejected at the Philadelphia Convention and in the ratifying conventions — that the Constitution is not only one of expressly enumerated powers but one of “implied” powers as well (thus enlarging at the time the federal taxing power). And then came the devastating decision by the Supreme Court in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison which proclaimed, without any provision in the Constitution as support, that its decisions on constitutional matters are binding upon the other branches of government, on the States, and on the People.

The monopoly that we see today by the federal government over the meaning and intent of the Constitution, as well as the scope of its powers, was clearly beginning to take shape in 1803.

The Civil War was an unfortunate time in our history.  While the creation of the first National Bank (1791) and then the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) posed the scenarios of what would happen if the federal government attempted to usurp or re-define its powers and what would happen if the government passed laws violative of the Constitution, the Civil War showed us what would happen if the government refused to respect its status under the Declaration of Independence and instead decided to seek its own self-preservation rather than protect the rights of the parties which created it as the agent. In other words, the Civil War presented the case of a rogue government.  Yet, at the end of the Civil War, the Constitution essentially remained unchanged except for the addition of the Reconstruction era amendments – the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.  The balance of power between the States and the federal government, as embodied in the Constitution, remained intact. It was only when the Supreme Court decided to re-interpret and twist and mold the 14th amendment that federalism was significantly eroded.

But then the coup de grace….  the passage of the 17th amendment.

The 17th amendment was added to the Constitution, making Senators elected and accountable only to the people. As we all know, because of the transient nature of habitation – the ability of people to move freely from state to state – as well as the overwhelming influence of immigration, the interests and concerns of the people are most often not the interests and concerns of the state as a sovereign unit. Now Senators cannot be removed for bad voting behavior for six years and have an incredible opportunity and incentive to become not only rogue representatives but to become agents of the government rather than agents of the people.

With the passage of the 17th amendment, the monopoly was firmly established.

And from that point on, the federal government has grown by leaps and bounds, mostly at the hands of a few cloaked individuals.  The turn of the century (1900) saw the rise of the omnipotent and omniscient Supreme Court.  For that, we have Chief Justice John Marshall to thank, with his decision in the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison, as mentioned above.  Thomas Jefferson was president at the time and wrote to Abagail Adams to comment: “The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

Dave Brenner discusses the Marbury decision excellently in his book Compact of the Republic.  Of course, the “compact” is the Constitution itself.  In the book, Brenner writes: “John Marshall’s Supreme Court became the very representation of what the anti-Federalists feared the most – a judiciary that overstepped its own authority and ruled on state law.  Through sweeping court decisions, the Marshall Court carved out the foundations for how the Supreme Court would be perceived more than 200 years later: as a powerful, decisive oligarchy that overturned state law and bound the states to its opinions.”

The book continues:

One of the last actions of the John Adams administration was to pass the Judiciary Act of 1801. This act would become known by Adams’ political opponents as the ‘midnight appointments’ because Adams literally worked feverishly to write and sign the commissions in the last days of his presidency.  Adams hoped to methodically extend the power of the Federalists by appointing relatively large groups of (Federalist) civil officers that would serve for life. One of the commissions was written for William Marbury, an avowed Federalist who Adams wished to make Justice of the Peace for the District of Columbia. 

      The Senate confirmed the appointment of Marbury and many of the other judges. It remains clear that Jefferson, as the newly-inaugurated president, instructed James Madison, the new Secretary of State, not to deliver the remaining commissions to the ‘midnight judges.’  The Constitution did not require him to grant commissions to judges he did not appoint, and it was clear that he did not wish to extend the Federalist judiciary.  After the incredibly contentious 1800 presidential election, Jefferson clearly viewed that contest as a referendum on Federalist rule….

As a result, Marbury brought suit, seeking as his relief a writ of mandamus, an order by the court requiring Jefferson to deliver his commission and thereby allowing him to take his position.

Writing the decision, Chief Justice Marshall held that part of the Judiciary Act – the part that gave rise to Marbury’s commission – was unconstitutional, and therefore he was not entitled to the relief he sought. It would be the first time the US Supreme Court declared an act of Congress to be unconstitutional. The analysis should have ended right there. But Marshall went further. He wrote: “It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases must, of necessity, expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the Courts must decide on the operation of each.”  The decision concluded by saying that “a law repugnant to the Constitution is void, and courts, as well as other departments, are bound by that instrument.” It was the first time a federal court proclaimed judicial supremacy. It was the first time a federal court proclaimed that federal courts have the final say on what the Constitution means.  In other words, this decision declared the basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and once it has rendered its opinion, all the other branches, the States and the people are to bound by that decision. As the Supreme Court likes to remind everyone: “This principle has ever since been respected by this Court and the County as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system.”  (Cooper v. Aaron, 1958)

Marbury’s declaration of judicial supremacy ignores the opinion in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance (1795).  [See above].

It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court would not declare another act of Congress unconstitutional until 1957, when it struck down the Missouri Compromise in Dred Scott v. Sanford].  From that point until June of this year, 2016, the high court has only declared approximately 174 acts of the US Congress (whether in whole or in part) to be unconstitutional, which would amount to about 1 statute per year].

Up until this case, most Founding Fathers and many legal scholars understood that the role of the judiciary was to “render” or “offer” an opinion, to be considered by the other branches.  Indeed, when ratifying the Constitution, the understanding was that the Supreme Court would not have a monopoly over its meaning and interpretation.  Alexander Hamilton assured the state delegations in Federalist No. 78:  “Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive that in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them….    “The Judicial Branch may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.”

In Federalist No. 49, Hamilton wrote: “As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly consonant to the republican theory, to recur to the same original authority, not only whenever it may be necessary to enlarge, diminish, or new-model the powers of the government, but also whenever any one of the departments may commit encroachments on the chartered authorities of the others. The several departments being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common commission, none of them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective powers; and how are the encroachments of the stronger to be prevented, or the wrongs of the weaker to be redressed, without an appeal to the people themselves, who, as the grantors of the commissions, can alone declare its true meaning, and enforce its observance?”

Again, in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, Justice Patterson emphasized: “It is an important principle, which, in the discussion of questions of the present kind, ought never to be lost sight of, that the Judiciary in this country is not a subordinate, but a co-ordinate, branch of the government.”

Without authoritative language in Article III of the Constitution, it was believed that all three branches of the federal government would interpret the Constitution, and check usurpations of power by the other branches. Additionally, some believed that state courts would have the right to determine constitutionality as well.  Article III, Section 1 reads: “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.”  Section 2 lists the types of cases that the courts can hear, including the Supreme Court, and whether those cases have original or appellate jurisdiction).

Indeed, the Constitution does not speak to judicial supremacy, and no one claimed that the federal courts would have a monopoly on determining the constitutionality of all government action.

What the Constitution DOES speak to is Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances.  The officials of two branches are elected by the People. If they are unpopular, the People can use their power at the ballot box. We can see where the Legislative and the Executive can check each other (although clearly, the Legislative branch was vested with the most power; Congress is the People’s house). But nothing makes sense about having a third branch, NOT elected by the people but appointed solely on political and social ideology for a term that doesn’t expire, that is supreme to the others.  What makes sense is that a branch that is not accountable to the people was intended to be exactly what Alexander Hamilton said it would be — the least dangerous branch.

James Madison, the author himself of the Constitution, asked: “I beg to know upon what principle it can be contended that any one department draws from the Constitution greater powers than another in marking out the limits of the powers of the several departments.”   Furthermore, he wrote: “Nothing has yet been offered to invalidate the doctrine that the meaning of the Constitution may as well be ascertained by the Legislative as by the judicial authority.”  Thomas Jefferson was of the same opinion. He wrote: “Each department is truly independent of the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the Constitution in the cases submitted to its action.”

These great men recognized the threat to government balance should the view be otherwise.  “As the courts are generally the last in making the decision, it results to them, by refusing or not refusing to execute a law, to stamp it with its final character. This makes the Judiciary department paramount in fact to the Legislature, which was never intended, and can never be proper,” wrote Madison.  Jefferson wrote: “The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their own sphere of action, but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

In 1820, after witnessing the ready willingness of men once infatuated with the simple language of Constitution and the limited nature of the government, to alter their positions once they sat in a position of power on the Supreme Court, Thomas Jefferson wrote:  “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.”

More than any other branch of government, the US Supreme Court in particular has undermined and destroyed America’s onetime democratic republic. It has chiseled away and eroded the protections promised and pledged to each American by the Declaration of Independence and the boundaries of government established by the US Constitution adopted by the states in their ratification conventions during the years 1787- 1791.  The justices to the Supreme Court are appointed by the President (approved by the Senate, and are rarely denied, except when they are “Borked”), and enjoy permanent tenure with a fixed income for life. They are selected according to ideology only, in the supreme attempt by a president to determine “policy” from the bench. That is, they want the Court to interpret the Constitution in the most liberal manner possible (according to the “Living Document” approach, which means that the Constitution means whatever they decide it means) or according to the letter and spirit under which it was adopted.  It matters not to those who wish a very liberal reading of the Constitution that there is a legitimate way to alter its meaning and interpretation – and that is according to Article V – the “amendment process.”

Speaking about the “human” nature of justices which can cloud their decisions, one often hears someone comment that President Obama “must have something very damaging on Chief Justice John Roberts” to explain why he would have written two very constitutionally tortuous decisions on the healthcare bill in order to save it for the federal government. Judge Andrew Napolitano opined publically that Roberts used tyrannical power to find ways to save Obamacare.  He said the Court “violated every grant of authority and ignored every historical and reliable treatise on the role and limitations of the Court as a branch of government, including those written by the very men who wrote and ratified the Constitution.”  The justices that look to the actual (intended) meaning and spirit of the Constitution (the “strict-constructionists) wrote dissenting opinions and essentially agree with Judge Napolitano.  Justice Scalia offered the most scathing dissent and in fact ended by simply saying “I dissent” rather than the usual “I respectfully dissent.”  Scalia accused the majority of disregarding the plain meaning of words and re-defining terms and called the decision “pure applesauce.”  He accused his colleagues of doing “somersaults of statutory interpretation” and wrote: Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”  When he wrote “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” he was sarcastically hinting that the statute owes its existence more to the Supreme Court than to Congress.

A few weeks ago (June 26, 2015), in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court held that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and therefore protected under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14thAmendment, and accordingly couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Journalist Frank Turek explained why the decision rests on a fatal flaw. Back in March, he penned an article (in anticipation of the case) and wrote: “The Supreme Court is about to decide if the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution requires the states to redefine marriage to include same sex relationships. There are several reasons why the answer is no. The most decisive of these reasons is the fact that when the 14thamendment was passed in 1868, homosexual behavior was a felony in every state in the union … If the people of the United States have ‘evolved’ on the issue, then the Constitution provides them with a very clear and fair way for the document to intelligently ‘evolve’….  They need to convince a supermajority of federal and state legislatures to amend the Constitution. That’s the very reason our Constitution has an amendment process!  If we fail to use the amendment process and permit judges to substitute their own definitions and judgments for what the people actually meant when they passed the law in the first place, then we no longer govern ourselves. Why vote or use the political process if unelected justices strike down our laws and impose their own as they go? … It’s a pretext that allows judges to invent rights and impose any moral (or immoral) position they want against the will of the people.”  Liberty interests are those enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights were included in the Constitution to make sure that the federal government (only) would never violate them. The ‘incorporation doctrine’ is the legal doctrine by which the Bill of Rights, either in full or in part, is applied to the states through the 14th amendment’s Due Process clause. But the Supreme Court, even up until the 1960s, has held that not all the interests outlined in the Bill of Rights are to be incorporated. The only sections of the Bill of Rights that federal courts should apply against state action, according to the Court, are those that have been “historically fundamental to our nation’s scheme of ordered liberty.”  When a federal court reviews a case claiming an asserted right is one protected under “substantive due process” (due process involving “liberty interests”), the court usually looks first to see if there is a fundamental right by examining “if the right can be found deeply rooted in American history and traditions.”  Because the incorporation test includes the clarifiers “historically” or “deeply rooted in American history and traditions,” in making its determination, the Court must look back to the era in our country’s history beginning from our founding up until the adoption of the 14thamendment – or it SHOULD.  Just as not all proposed “new” constitutional rights are afforded judicial recognition, not all provisions of the Bill of Rights have been deemed sufficiently fundamental to warrant enforcement against the states.  Although the Supreme Court has stated in prior decisions (see Loving v. Virginia) that marriage is a fundamental right, the historical perspective is that marriage is between heterosexual couples. The idea of a “fundamental right to marry” invites controversy.  The notion of a “fundamental right” implies firm privileges which the state cannot deny, define, or disrespect unless it finds that the challenged law was passed to further a “compelling governmental interest,” and must have narrowly tailored the law to achieve that interest (ie, the “strict scrutiny” test).  But marriage rules (who can marry, health records required, what formalities are required for marriage, the legal ramifications of marriage, etc) in the United States have always been subject to almost complete state control (pursuant to its traditional police powers).  As the dissent points out: “Removing racial barriers to marriage (Loving v. Virginia) did not change what a marriage was any more than integrating schools changed what a school was. As the majority admits, the institution of “marriage” discussed in every one of these cases ‘presumed a relationship  involving opposite-sex partners.’  In short, the “right to marry” cases stand for the important but limited proposition that particular restrictions on access to marriage, as traditionally defined, violate due process. These precedents say nothing at all about a right to make a State change its definition of marriage, which is the right petitioners actually seek here. What petitioners seek is not the protection of a deeply-rooted right but the recognition of a very new right.”   Re-definition of marriage is something society decides as a whole, through the legislature.  It is not the role of a court. “This Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise ‘neither force nor will but merely judgment.’”  Another dissenting opinion states: “The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance. Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

On June 26, the day the ruling was released, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a scathing criticism: “The Supreme Court has abandoned its role as an impartial judicial arbiter and has become an unelected nine-member legislature. Five Justices on the Supreme Court have imposed on the entire country their personal views on an issue that the Constitution and the Court’s previous decisions reserve to the people of the States.”

Thomas Paine wrote:  “A constitution defines and limits the powers of the government it creates. It therefore follows, as a natural and also a logical result, that the governmental exercise of any power not authorized by the constitution is an assumed power, and therefore illegal.”  The Supreme Court, while improperly assuming the power to decide what powers the states have and what they don’t have and thereby shuffling power from the states to the federal government, has ushered in an era of a technically illegal government.

With respect to the federal judiciary, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “This member of the Government was at first considered as the most harmless and helpless of all its organs. But it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is, ad libitum, by sapping and mining slyly and without alarm the foundations of the Constitution, can do what open force would not dare to attempt.”

Furthermore, he wrote: “The Constitution on this hypothesis is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”  (in a letter to Spencer Roane, 1819)

Similarly, he wrote: “The judiciary of the United States is a subtle core of sappers and miners constantly working underground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a coordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. The opinions are often delivered by a majority of one, by a crafty Chief Judge who sophisticates the law to his mind by the turn of his own reasoning.”   (in a letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 1820)

And again, he commented: “The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary: an irresponsible body, working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”    (in a letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821)

Joseph Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), wrote: “The truth is, that, even with the most secure tenure of office, during good behavior, the danger is not, that the judges will be too firm in resisting public opinion, and in defense of private rights or public liberties; but, that they will be ready to yield themselves to the passions, and politics, and prejudices of the day.” 

US Rep. Joseph Nicholson (1770-1817) warned:  “By what authority are the judges to be raised above the law and above the Constitution? Where is the charter which places the sovereignty of this country in their hands? Give them the powers and the independence now contended for and they will require nothing more, for your government becomes a despotism and they become your rulers. They are to decide upon the lives, the liberties, and the property of your citizens; they have an absolute veto upon your laws by declaring them null and void at pleasure; they are to introduce at will the laws of a foreign country, differing essentially with us upon the great principles of government; and after being clothed with this arbitrary power, they are beyond the control of the nation, as they are not to be affected by any laws which the people by their representatives can pass. If all this be true – if this doctrine be established in the extent which is now contended for – the Constitution is not worth the time we are now spending on it. It is, as its enemies have called it, mere parchment. For these judges, thus rendered omnipotent, may overleap the Constitution and trample on your laws; they may laugh the legislature to scorn and set the nation at defiance.”

If the federal government acts outside the scope of its delegated and carefully enumerated powers, and has sanction by the Supreme Court, then it’s no better than an armed mob.  While a mob has the power of organized civil unrest and perhaps violence to coerce and strip others of rights and liberty, the government assumes a power of law to coerce and deprive.

By design, the separation of functions into separate branches (Separation of powers) and the system of checks and balances that our Founding Fathers provided has always been intended to act as a safeguard against the federal government’s potential tyranny and oppression. The history of the Supreme Court shows how, almost immediately, it began to enlarge certain clauses in the Constitution – the Necessary and Proper Clause, the Commerce Clause, and the General Welfare Clause. Patrick Henry called these “sweeping clauses” because he felt they might ultimately be used by the federal government to sweep authority away from the states.  And he was right. Not only has the Court interpreted the clauses as positive grants of power to Congress but it has also interpreted them as limitations on the States to regulate internally, for their own interests and for their citizens. The Commerce Clause, for example, has been interpreted broadly to give the government extreme powers to regulate commerce, both interstate and intrastate.  It has also been interpreted to prevent states from regulating commerce within their borders and also to prevent individual farmers, for example, from growing too much wheat on his property for fear that he may consume that which he grows and thus not engage in commerce (thus affecting commerce!)  The General Welfare clause has become an independent grant of power to Congress rather than as a statement of purpose qualifying the power to tax.

On July 9, 1868, during the Reconstruction era – the era when the US Congress radically transformed the southern states – the 14th amendment was added to the Constitution. As the nation entered the 20th century, not only did the Supreme Court have the “sweeping” or “elastic” clauses, but all of a sudden, it had this brand new tool in its arsenal to sap power from the States.  Beginning in 1925, it began to incorporate the Bill of Rights as prohibitions against the States, through the Due Process clause of the 14th amendment. In this first case, Gitlow v. New York, the 1st amendment’s Guarantee of Free Speech was applied to the states.  Through the “Incorporation Doctrine,” the Court has held if the federal government cannot burden the rights recognized in those amendments, the states may not either. And so the trend continued, particularly in the second half of the 20thcentury and now into the 21st century. By turning again and again to the 14th amendment, the Supreme Court has overturned state laws restricting the rights of speakers (and most recently, allowed states to censor speech), has struck down state laws permitting prayer in public schools, has forced states to remove Christian symbols from public property and forced them to censor prayer before state and local meetings, has forced them dismiss gender identify in marriage laws and required them to redefine marriage, has forced them to forcibly integrate schools and now to forcibly integrate neighborhoods, and has overturned state laws restricting the rights of criminal defendants, private property owners, gun owners, members of racial and ethnic minorities, and others.  In short, the Supreme Court has used its unchecked power at the bench to use whatever authority or non-authority it wishes in order to neuter the states, recreate the United States as a boundary-less, one-size-fits-all nation, cookie-cutter type nation, and usher in sweeping social change.  Typically today, as we have seen year after year, cases that pit the rights of states against the power of the federal government are usually decided by a closely-divided Supreme Court, with Justice Anthony Kennedy acting as the swing voter. It’s hard to imagine that a mere difference in opinion, represented by a 5-4 majority, can abolish traditional norms and dismantle historic institutions, and thus change the entire social landscape of a nation.

At one point, the clear meaning of the Bill of Rights was recognized, as stated in its Preamble: “The Conventions of a number of the states, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, in order to extend the ground of public confidence in the Government and will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”  The Bill of Rights was clearly intended as a set of limitations on the powers of the federal government.

This point was emphasized by the Marshall Court in 1822.  In the case Barron v. Baltimore, a profitable businessman suffered losses due to the buildup of sand in the Baltimore Harbor and particularly in the area of his wharf, denying him the deep waters he needed.  He then sued the city for the losses caused by the sand-build up.  In the decision, Chief Justice Marshall found that the limitations on government articulated in the 5th amendment were specifically intended to limit the powers of the national government. Citing the intent of the framers and the development of the Bill of Rights as an exclusive check on the government in Washington D.C., Marshall argued that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in this case since the 5th amendment was not applicable to the states.  The decision read:

Had the framers of the Bill of Rights intended them to be limitations on the powers of the State governments, they would have imitated the framers of the original Constitution and have expressed that intention. Had Congress engaged in the extraordinary occupation of improving the Constitutions of the several States by affording the people additional protections from the exercise of power by their own governments in matters which concerned themselves alone, they would have declared this purpose in plain and intelligible language.”

The Bill of Rights was NEVER intended to be applicable to the States. If that was even a consideration at the time that the States were debating whether to adopt the Constitution, they never would have done so.

Despite the efforts by the Supreme Court to twist constitutional jurisprudence, the 14thamendment was not intended to make the Bill of Rights applicable to the states.  It was an amendment passed in 1868 in somewhat conjunction with the 13th amendment in order to make sure that the civil rights of the newly-freed blacks would not be infringed.  Under the original Constitution, citizens of the United States were required to be first a citizen of some State, which is something that blacks could not claim (thanks to the Dred Scottdecision).  This is why it was imperative for the first section to begin with a definition of citizenship so that no State could refuse recognition of newly freed slaves as U.S. citizens and thereby leaving them with less protection and remedies under State laws of justice compared with a white citizen. The goal and function of the 14th amendment’s first section was to give legal validity to the Civil Rights Bill of 1866. The goal of both the Civil Rights Act and then the amendment was to put an end to criminal black codes established under former rebel States that at the time were being administered under policies of President Andrew Johnson.  The author of the language of the 14th amendment, Rep. John Bingham of Ohio admitted that he borrowed the language for both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses from Chapters 39 and 40 of the Magna Charta.  He further explained:

(a)  That the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States refer only to those privileges and immunities embraced in the original text of the Constitution, Article IV, Section II.  [See House Report No. 22, authored by Rep. Bingham on January 30, 1871]

(b)  That “citizens of the United States, and citizens of the States, as employed under the 14th amendment, did not change or modify the relations of citizens of the State and the Nation as they existed under the original Constitution.”

As Alan Mendenhall writes that any debate over the 14th amendment must address the validity of its enactment. “During Reconstruction, ratification of the amendment became a precondition for the re-admittance of former Confederate states into the Union.  [This has been termed] ‘ratification at the point of the bayonet’” because in order to end the military rule imposed by the victorious North during Reconstruction and in order to be allowed to have representatives in Congress, the southern states were required to ratify the 14thamendment. “The conditional nature of this reunification belies the claim that the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified by any mutual compact of the states.”  For this reason, and for many others that are legally, ideologically, and constitutionally sound, it should be emphasized that many learned constitutional scholars are convinced that the 14th amendment was never constitutionally – legitimately – adopted.

Just a few years after the (questionable) adoption of the 14th amendment, in 1873, the Supreme Court heard its first case addressing it, The Slaughterhouse Cases.  The cases were a consolidation of three suits challenging a Louisiana law that established the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughtering Company and required that all butchering of animals in New Orleans be done in its facilities. The Louisiana law was enacted for health concerns; it wanted to control animal blood that was seeping into the water system.  The law seriously interfered with the businesses of individual butchers who were accustomed to slaughtering animals on their own property.  It not only required them to do their butchering away from the city at the facilities of the Crescent City Livestock Company, but also to pay a fee for doing so. The law essentially created a monopoly. Justice Samuel F. Miller, joined by four other justices, held that the 14thamendment protected the privileges and immunities of national and NOT of state citizenship. The case involved state regulations of slaughterhouses to address the health emergencies resulting from animal blood that was seeping into the water supply. In the opinion, Justice Miller wrote that the 14th amendment was designed to address racial discrimination against former slaves rather than the regulation of butchers:

The first section of the fourteenth article, to which our attention is more specially invited, opens with a definition of citizenship — not only citizenship of the United States, but citizenship of the States. No such definition was previously found in the Constitution . . . . But it had been held by this court, in the celebrated Dred Scott case, only a few years before the outbreak of the civil war, that a man of African descent, whether a slave or not, was not and could not be a citizen of a State or of the United States. This decision, while it met the condemnation of some of the ablest statesmen and constitutional lawyers of the country, had never been overruled.  To remove this difficulty primarily, and to establish a clear and comprehensive definition of citizenship which should declare what should constitute citizenship of the United States, and also citizenship of a State, the first clause of the first section was framed.  That its main purpose was to establish the citizenship of the negro can admit of no doubt.

       The next observation is more important in view of the arguments of counsel in the present case. It is, that the distinction between citizenship of the United States and citizenship of a State is clear recognized and established.  We think this distinction and its explicit recognition in this amendment of great weight in this argument, because the next paragraph of this same section, which is the one mainly relied on by the plaintiffs. . . speaks only of privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and does not speak of those of citizens of the several States.

      Was it the purpose of the fourteenth amendment, by the simple declaration that no State should make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, to transfer the security and protection of all the civil rights which we have mentioned, from the States to the Federal government? And where it is declared that Congress shall have the power to enforce that article, was it intended to bring within the power of Congress the entire domain of civil rights heretofore belonging exclusively to the States?  All this and more must follow, if the proposition of the plaintiffs in error be sound. For not only are these rights subject to the control of Congress whenever in its discretion any of them are supposed to be abridged by State legislation, but that body may also pass laws in advance, limiting and restricting the exercise of legislative power by the States, in their most ordinary and usual functions, as in its judgment it may think proper on all such subjects. And still further, such a construction followed by the reversal of the judgments of the Supreme Court of Louisiana in these cases, would constitute this court a perpetual censor upon all legislation of the States, on the civil rights of their own citizens, with authority to nullify such as it did not approve as consistent with those rights, as they existed at the time of the adoption of this amendment. The argument we admit is not always the most conclusive which is drawn from the consequences urged against the adoption of a particular construction of an instrument. But when, as in the case before us, these consequences are so serious, so far-reaching and pervading, so great a departure from the structure and spirit of our institutions; when the effect is to fetter and degrade the State governments by subjecting them to the control of Congress, in the exercise of powers heretofore universally conceded to them of the most ordinary and fundamental character; when in fact it radically changes the whole theory of the relations of the State and Federal governments to each other and of both these governments to the people; the argument has a force that is irresistible, in the absence of language which expresses such a purpose too clearly to admit of doubt.

       We are convinced that no such results were intended by the Congress which proposed these amendments, nor by the legislatures of the States which ratified them.

      The war (the Civil War) being over, those who had succeeded in re-establishing the authority of the Federal government were not content to permit this great act of emancipation to rest on the actual results of the contest or the proclamation of the Executive [the Emancipation Proclamation], both of which might have been questioned in after times, and they determined to place this main and most valuable result in the Constitution of the restored union as one of its fundamental articles.’

In other words, Justice Miller’s point is that the meaning and purpose of the 14thamendment is to negate the Dred Scott decision, legally establish citizenship rights to freed slaves and to ensure the privileges and immunities of national citizenship (as provided in Article IV, Section 2 of the US Constitution].  For example, as Miller explains, “the 15th amendment declares that ‘the right of a citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.’ The negro having, by the 14th amendment, been declared to be a citizen of the United States, is thus made a voter in every State of the Union.”  The 14th amendment does nothing to alter the relationship between the federal government and state governments, nor does it remove any sovereign state power that existed prior to the amendment.

Clearly, Justice Miller did not believe the federal government was entitled under the Constitution to interfere with authority that had always been conceded to state and local governments.

To be clear that the amendment did not include or intend the “incorporation doctrine,” another proposed amendment during the same era can confirm this.  In December 1875, Senator James Blaine of Maine (rhymes) proposed a joint resolution that would “incorporate” the 1st amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom as a limitation on the States.  It read: “

No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefor, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect; nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.”

The amendment would become known as the Blaine Amendment. The effect was to prohibit the use of any public funds (federal or state) for any religious school. The bill passed the House but failed in the Senate. This amendment is significant (but ignored by the Supreme Court) because of this implication:  If the 14th amendment was already understood to apply the Bill of Rights against the States, then why would such an amendment even need to be proposed.  Furthermore, it was struck down by the Senate, particularly because it was seen as an improper effort to keep schools free from religion and also because it was seen as targeted religious persecution. The mid-1800s saw a great influx of Catholics into the country. They soon began establishing their own schools, where Catholic children could recite their own prayers and read from their own version of the Bible. The creation of these schools made many Protestants worry about whether the government would start funding Catholic schools and so the Blaine Amendment arose from this concern about the “Catholicization” of American education.

SUPREME COURT - government v. states

As explained above, prior to the 1890s, the Bill of Rights was held only to apply to the federal government, which was a principle solidified even further by the Supreme Court’s decision in 1922 in the case Prudential Insurance Company of America v. Cheek.  The case concerned the state of New York’s ability to restrict freedom of speech.  The decision read: “As we have stated, neither the 14th amendment nor any other provision of the Constitution of the United States imposes upon the states any restrictions about ‘freedom of speech’ or the ‘liberty of silence’; nor, we may add, does it confer any right of privacy upon either persons or corporations.”

In 1930, in the case Baldwin v. Missouri, the Supreme Court found that an inheritance tax imposed on intangible property (bonds and promissory notes) to property in Missouri held by a dying woman in Illinois violated the due process clause of the 14th amendment. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a realist, was becoming worried that the Supreme Court was overstepping its boundaries with respect to the 14th amendment and scolded his fellow bench members in what would be one of his last dissents:

I have not yet adequately expressed the more than anxiety that I feel at the ever increasing scope given to the 14th amendment in cutting down what I believe to be the constitutional rights of the States. As the decisions now stand, I see hardly any limit but the sky to the invalidating of those rights if they happen to strike a majority of this Court as for any reason undesirable. I cannot believe that the amendment was intended to give us carte blanche to embody our economic or moral beliefs in its prohibitions. Yet I can think of no narrower reason that seems to me to justify the present and the earlier decisions to which I have referred. Of course the words due process of law, if taken in their literal meaning, have no application to this case; and while it is too late to deny that they have been given a much more extended and artificial signification, still we ought to remember the great caution shown by the Constitution in limiting the power of the States, and should be slow to construe the clause in the 14th amendment as committing to the Court, with no guide but the Court’s own discretion, the validity of whatever laws the States may pass.

Originalists (those who interpret the Constitution according to the original meaning and intent) and non-originalists alike have been skeptical over the years of the Court’s 14thAmendment substantive due process jurisprudence.  2 of the 3 current “originalist” members of the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, reject the substantive due process doctrine, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has called it a “judicial usurpation” and an “oxymoron.” [See Chicago v. Morales, 1999  andU.S. v. Carlton, 1994]   Many non-originalists, like Justice Byron White, have also been critical of substantive due process. As he made obvious in his dissents in Moore v. East Cleveland and in Roe v. Wade, as well as his majority opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick (the first Supreme Court sodomy case), he argued that the doctrine of substantive due process gives the judiciary too much power over the governance of the nation and takes away such power from the elected branches of government. He argued that the fact that the Court has created new substantive rights in the past should not lead it to “repeat the process at will.”  He further wrote that guaranteeing a right to sodomy would be the product of “judge-made constitutional law” and would send the Court down the road of illegitimacy.  While originalists generally do not support substantive due process rights, they do not necessarily oppose protection of the rights.  Rather, they believe in the paths that have been traditionally, and constitutionally, provided – through legislation and through the amendment process.

Yet despite the legislative history surrounding the amendment and established jurisprudence regarding the limited reach of the “Privileges and Immunities Clause” in theSlaughterhouse Cases, the Supreme Court would later turn to the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses to strike down state laws.  As mentioned earlier, incorporation of the Bill of Rights into state law began with the case Gitlow v. New York (1925), in which the Supreme Court upheld that states must respect freedom of speech. By the last half of the 20th century, nearly all of the first 8 amendments were found to be incorporated into state law through the 14th amendment. (All except the 3rd amendment, and certain parts of the 5th, 7th, and 8th). The 9th and 10th amendments apply expressly to the federal government, and so have not been incorporated.  Despite its narrowly-intentioned purpose, the 14th amendment is cited in US litigation more than any other amendment.

The use of the 14th amendment as a sword against the States has blurred state boundaries and has all but reduced the state governments to looking after its day-to-day responsibilities. In most cases, the governments have become enforcement arms of the federal government.  What the government can’t do legislatively, judicially, or through executive action, it can accomplish through federal grants and funding (“money with strings”).

Again, the federal government is supposed to legislate only pursuant to the express powers delegated in the Constitution and for the express objects listed in Article I, Section 8.  The 10th amendment emphatically states that all remaining (reserved) sovereign powers remain with each State.  The definition of a “sovereign” includes the understanding that it has a fundamental, unquestioned right to make all necessary laws for those in its jurisdiction, as well as for its self-preservation and self-defense.  Our government system is based on the notion of Dual Sovereignty.  That is enshrined in the 10th amendment.  The federal government is sovereign when it comes to those objects that the States delegated to it under the Constitution and the states are sovereign when it comes to everything else.  In other words, when it comes to legislation and policy, the States have broad power within their individual spheres. Nothing written or originally intentioned in the Constitution (before the Court was given the chance to change things, through interpretation and judicial construction) has changed that balance.  And that is why the federal government has no “Police Powers.”  Only the states have police powers.  What are “police powers”?  In the United States, a state’s police power comes from the 10th Amendment, which gives states the rights and powers “not delegated to the United States.” States are thus granted the power to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, health, and morality of its people.  The Supreme Court, at least until the turn of the 20th century (1905), has consistently held that the police power of a state embraces any law for such purposes that a state believes are necessary to protect and benefit its people, as long as such law does not infringe on any power delegated to the general government in the Constitution.  Morality is outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court because then the decision rests on the morality of the justices.  Welfare is a state issue, unless it is an issue that touches on “all Americans, in general.”  The Supreme Court must stick to an opinion based on the interpretation of the Constitution.

In 1932, Justice Brandeis, in the case New State Ice Co. v. Liebermann wrote: “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” (dissenting opinion).  The term “states as laboratories of experimentation” is, of course, a not only a reference to federalism but a statement of one of its greatest benefits – innovation and solutions. The case concerned the constitutionality of an Oklahoma statute forbidding the manufacture and distribution of ice without a license. Under the challenged statute, the state was authorized to issue such a license only upon a showing “of the necessity for a supply of ice at the place where it is sought to establish the business.”  The plaintiff was denied a license because it was deemed that there was a sufficient supply.  A six-Justice majority invalidated the statute under the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment as an unwarranted interference with the right to engage in private business in a lawful occupation.  In his dissent, Justice Brandeis laid out some of his growing frustrations with the Court’s substantive due process jurisprudence.  The full comment reads: “There must be power in the States and the Nation to re-mould, through experimentation, our economic practices and institutions to meet changing social and economic needs. I cannot believe that the framers of the 14thamendment, or the States which ratified it, intended to deprive us of the power to correct the evils of technological unemployment and excess productive capacity.  To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

In 1982, in the case Southcenter Joint Venture v. National Democratic Policy Committee, Justice Utter wrote:  “Federalism allows the states to operate as laboratories for more workable solutions to legal and constitutional problems.”  In that case, the Washington Supreme Court held that the Washington Constitution’s protection of free speech does not extend to privately owned shopping malls, thus not adopting the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence as relating the Free Speech from the federal perspective. Justice Utter criticizes the majority for borrowing heavily from federal precedents, contending that the Washington courts need not follow the Supreme Court’s lead.

In 1995, in United States v. Lopez, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that criminalized the possession of a gun within 1000 feet of a school.  At the end of his concurrence, Justice Anthony Kennedy professed respect for areas of traditional state concern and the role of the states as “laboratories of democracy”:

While it is doubtful that any State, or indeed any reasonable person, would argue that it is wise policy to allow students to carry guns on school premises, considerable disagreement exists about how best to accomplish that goal. In this circumstance, the theory and utility of our federalism are revealed, for the States may perform their role as laboratories for experimentation to devise various solutions where the best solution is far from clear.

        The statute now before us forecloses the States from experimenting and exercising their own judgment in an area to which States lay claim by right of history and expertise, and it does so by regulating an activity beyond the realm of commerce in the ordinary and usual sense of that term. Justice Kennedy, in his concurrence, argued that the Commerce Clause should be read to allocate to the states exclusively the power to regulate gun use in school zones. This result, he wrote, is dictated by federalism, under which “the States may perform their role as laboratories for experimentation.”

In another case before the Supreme Court that same year, U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thorton, Justice Kennedy described federalism as the Framers’ attempt to “split the atom of sovereignty.”  The case involved the (constitutional) qualifications for congressional office and the time, place, and manner of elections.

There are some state officials who urge their state legislatures to acknowledge their sovereign status and to look more to their own constitutions rather than to US Constitution. For example, Justice Bablitch of the Wisconsin Supreme Court wrote in 1991: “The Wisconsin Constitution is not and has never been intended to be a potted plant. It can serve, if this court chooses to give it life, as a bedrock of fundamental protections for all Wisconsin citizens…. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, if not encouraged, the use of state constitutions for just such a purpose. It is consistent with our deeply held notions of federalism, our notions that states should be encouraged to be the laboratories of the nation.. .. We may, in many if not most cases, reject an alternative interpretation [ie, construe the state constitution differently from the federal].  But we should at least look.”

To the Supreme Court justice, the historical record is of little importance or concern.  To be sure, the historical record hardly, if ever, mattered in their deliberations.  Rarely are the original debates and writings of the ratification conventions cited.  They have only been cited 122 times total in the over 30,000 cases they’ve ruled upon in the 225 years the high court has been deciding cases. They were only cited 30 times in the first 100 years of the Court’s existence – in the formative years. Sadly, they haven’t been consulted as the authority on the meaning and intent of the Constitution as they clearly are.  In fact, when the Supreme Court goes so far to side with Alexander Hamilton, an outlier at the Constitutional Convention (who wanted a monarchy), an outright enemy of the Constitution (wanted a consolidated government of unlimited powers), an ideological enemy of the very men who wrote the Constitution (went up against them during George Washington’s term with respect to the taxing power and the elastic clauses), and contradicted in words and actions the very assurances he wrote in the Federalist Papers, knowing that the Union would be predicted on those assurances, as opposed to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, other Founders, and the leaders in the state conventions, there can be no other explanation than that the Court will do whatever it takes to seek the ends it desires.  If the original Convention (Philadelphia, 1787) and ratification debates were cited, they would have “served to refute every conflicting claim regarding the elastic clauses,” as Dave Brenner wrote, and would have served to refuse every illegitimate power grab they sanctioned.

With almost every decision, and certainly with decisions handed down during the Obama administration, the Supreme Court’s mantra has been: “WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY.”  It has shown that it will go through incredible lengths and legal acrobatics to save a federal law. It will distort the Constitution in ways the American people – including the intelligent ones – would never imagine.  Yet it will never do the same for the states.  While enlarging every possible delegation of power for the government, it has never once enlarged the states’ domain under the 10th amendment.  While reading every clause and every delegation in the broadest sense possible for the government, it has never once done so for the states.  And therefore, the delegate balance of power has shifted further and further towards Washington DC – a body of lawmakers and politicians who sit far away from, and secluded from, the communities where citizens live.

The shift is so striking and alarming that citizens are urging their state legislatures to assert state sovereignty and state representatives are submitting such bills and resolutions. These measures assert state sovereignty under the 10th amendment, re-assert their position that the government is one of delegated powers only, and emphasize that powers not delegated are reserved to the state.  Some of the measures go farther and announce that if the federal government continues to usurp powers, those efforts will be met with nullification and interposition.  Some states have already enacted various nullification bills. Indeed, nullification has never been such a popular topic. By mid-2009, ten states had already introduced bills and resolutions declaring and reaffirming their sovereignty, and another 14-15 states were considering it.  New Hampshire’s resolution (HCR 6) included a rather interesting and long dissertation and culminated in the statement “That any Act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States of America or Judicial Order by the Judicatories of the United States of America which assumes a power not delegated to the government of United States of America by the Constitution for the United States and which serves to diminish the liberty of the any of the several States or their citizens shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution for the United States of America by the government of the United States of America. (The resolution was not passed by the state house, as it was deemed to be not judicious to do so).  Montana’s bill was very similar and it almost passed.

The shift is also so striking and so alarming that Americans are finally beginning to imagine how the colonists felt under British rule and why they would urge for separation from the mother country.  In some states, talk of secession is a regular part of talk radio (Vermont, for example), and has been for the past several years. In 2012, after a New Orleans resident petitioned the White House to allow Louisiana to secede from the United States, 69 separate petitions, spanning all 50 states, were filed with the White House (the “We the People” online petition system).  The site was launched on November 7, 2011, the day after Obama was elected for his second term.  President Obama had promised to respond to each petition that collected at least 25,000.  As of the deadline for the petitions, 47 states easily reached the threshold and some collected significantly more.  Texas, for example, collected over 100,000 signatures.  Most petitions made an excellent case for secession and separation from the federal government. States like New York explained that it would be far better off, economically especially, if it broke legal ties.

President Obama indeed responded.  Essentially the answer was NO….  A state has no right to secede. It is stuck with the federal government, whether it likes it or not.  This is the response the White House issued on January 11, 2013:

Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States “in order to form a more perfect union” through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot — a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, ‘in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual.’ In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that ‘the Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.’

        Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ — all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.”

Essentially, the site, the initiative by the government was a ruse; a mere “feel-good” initiative.  It gave the people the illusion that they flex their muscles and their voice and have their frustrations heard and internalized.  As Commodus’ sister Lucilla told her conniving brother in the movie GLADIATOR: “Give the people their illusions.”  As we watched the freight train that is the Obama administration forge full speed ahead with his plans, we sadly note that the voices of frustration never gave our president a moment’s pause.

The people used to believe in our system of checks and balances – especially the courts – to reign in the violent swings in government from side to side (extreme left and extreme right) and restore a tolerable balance in government. The people used to believe they had a voice in their government through the ballot box. But being constrained by an aggressive two-party system where neither party offers voters any hope of reigning in the tentacles of government or divesting it of the objects of its spending. What fringe groups fail to achieve at the ballot box, they can achieve through the activism of progressive courts.  Judges no longer uphold or strike down legislation, based on their legitimacy; for quite some time now, they’ve also been in the business of legislating from the bench.  For the most part, federal courts have become the enemy of the people.  Representatives run for congressional office, and even for president, on a platform of promises, pretending that their allegiance is with their people. And then when they take their oath and assume their office, their allegiance changes. They clearly become agents for the federal government, putting its goals above those of their constituency.  Political leaders move along ideological line, even within the same party, making sure that grassroots voices and other voices of frustration can never translate into political weight. Mark Levin commented once that political leaders act like Josef Stalin, cleaning out all opposition in the Kremlin. Power corrupts.  There is a reason that Americans have never viewed the federal government with more distrust.  Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, only about 22% of Americans feel they can trust their government.  That percentage is less for Congress alone.  Less than a quarter of Americans believe that their representatives take their concerns to heart.  Less than that believe they can change the course their government is on.  [See Pew Research].

When you have a candidate who runs not on economic promises but on a promise “to protect your phone” (that is, to protect your right not to have the government collect your messages), then you know that all is certainly not well in the United States. When people are fighting an ideological war with their government leaders over its right to censor your speech, to tell you that you can’t display a flag, to force you to violate your sacred rights of conscience, to control your healthcare decisions, to force you to purchase its insurance policies, to put you on a Homeland Security Department watch list simply because you adhere to traditional notions of government and society, to outfit the IRS with 16,000 new goons to investigate you to enforce Obamacare alone, to question your right to own and possess a gun for your safety, and to force you to live in a one-size-fits-all, borderless society that defies laws of science and human nature, then you know your government has become hostile to the reasons it was created in the first place.

Frustration with the federal monopoly is growing.  Limits need to be restored and reliable Checks and balances need to be put into place. Otherwise, our sunset years will be spent reminiscing about what it was once like to live in the greatest, freest country on Earth.

Right now, we have to ask: Who watches the watchers?  The Supreme Court is untouchable. Its decisions are final; unreviewable. They stand as precedent (stare decisis) for as long as the justices themselves, and themselves alone, decide.  The Court’s nine justices decide the fate of both federal and state law, but of course, as it is a branch of the federal government, sitting in Washington DC, immersed in its politics and in closer contact with DC officials than state players, it is impossible to see how it can be an impartial tribunal. The federal government will never divest itself of its powers, even though most of them are misappropriated, stolen from the States and the People.

As explained earlier, the three branches of government have worked to support one another rather than check one another. The US Constitution was written in plain and simple language so that every American could understand it and understand the boundaries of government on his or her life. People know when their government – this government – has transgressed limits and has overstepped its authority.  When ordinary people can figure it out and then watch as the branches do what they do to allow the conduct to go forward and affect their lives, they have no confidence in their government structure. They don’t believe there are reliable procedures in place to arrest the growing evil and tyranny that we all understand government has displayed. Liberty, which is defined as the extent to which people can exercise their freedoms, is secure when there are such procedures in place and government can be contained.  The transformation of government from that of limited powers to one of vast concentrated powers by its decisions has undermined the liberty interests of the People. The most important and powerful check on the abuse of government, as discussed above, is the separation of government powers among two sovereigns; dual sovereignty.  The 10th Amendment reminds us of the balance of power: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  By pitting the two sovereigns against one another, the balance is maintained.  Each one jealously guards and protects its sphere of power.  The only problem is that one sovereign has a monopoly over the determination of its sphere. The federal government has made itself the exclusive and final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself.  And as such, its need for power and its discretion – and not the Constitution – have been guiding those decisions. The other sovereign, the States, have no chair at the table.  And the only way our system can work — that is, work to protect the rights of the people rather than promote its own interests and longevity – is if the states get that chair at the table.

“If it be conceded that the sovereign powers delegated are divided between the General and State Governments, it would seem impossible to deny to the States the right of deciding on the infractions of their powers, and the proper remedy to be applied for their correction. The right of judging, in such cases, is an essential attribute of sovereignty, of which the States cannot be divested without losing their sovereignty itself…. The existence of the right of judging of their powers, so clearly established from the sovereignty of States, as clearly implies a veto or control, within its limits, on the action of the General Government, on contested points of authority . . . . to arrest the encroachment.”   [John C. Calhoun, South Carolina Expositionand Protest, 1828]

In light of this mandate, and in light of the fact that it has been the Supreme Court, as the self-appointed final tribunal to decide on constitutional matters which has done the most harm to the precarious balance built into our government structure, the following amendment should be proposed and passed in order to effect meaningful change to the federal judiciary and to our government structure in general.  In short, the amendment proposes to alter the manner in which justices are appointed to the Supreme Court.  With the proposal, justices will no longer be appointed by the President but instead will be appointed by each state.  Rather than 9 justices, the membership of the Court will increase to 50, thereby giving the tribunal more credibility. The common – or federal – government will finally have a representation of the states in, to ensure fairness and equal representation of sovereign interests.

It is a moral imperative that we should seek to restore the proper balance.

How fitting, and ironic it should be to end this proposal for a constitutional amendment with a line from Chief Justice Roberts in his infamous healthcare decision (NFIB v. Sibelius, 2012):  “The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.”

References:
James Madison, Report on the Virginia Resolutions, Jan. 1800; Elliot 4:546–50, 579.

House of Delegates, Session of 1799–1800. (aka, Madison’s Report of 1800).  Referenced at:  http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch8s42.html

Allen Mendenhall, “Is the Fourteenth Amendment Good,” Mises Daily, January 2, 2015.  Referenced at:  https://mises.org/library/fourteenth-amendment-good

P.A. Madison, “Historical Analysis of the Meaning of the 14th Amendment’s First Section,”Federalist Blog, last updated August 2, 2010.  Referenced at: http://www.federalistblog.us/mt/articles/14th_dummy_guide.htm

Frank Turk, “Why the 14th Amendment Can’t Possibly Require Same-Sex Marriage,”Townhall, March 17, 2015.  Referenced at: http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2015/03/17/why-the-14th-amendment-cant-possibly-require-samesex-marriage-n1971423/page/full

Prudential Ins. Co. of America v. Cheek, 259 U.S. 530 (1922)

Barron v. Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833)

Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)

Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795).  Referenced at: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/2/304/case.html

The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873)  – The first US Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th amendment

New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, 285 U.S. 262, 311 (1932)

Baldwin v. Missouri, 281 U.S. 586, 595 (1930)

Southcenter Joint Venture v. National Democratic Policy Comm., 780 P.2d 1282 (Wash. 1989).

United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995)

State v. Seibel, 471 N.W.2d 226  (Wis. 1991) (Bablitch, J., dissenting)

US Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 US 779 (1995)

Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386 (1798)

Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958)

Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999)

U.S. v. Carlton, 512 U.S. 26 (1994)

Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977)

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)   [A woman has the fundamental right to have an abortion]

Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986)   [A gay man has no fundamental right to engage in sodomy and states are allowed to enact laws to prohibit the conduct. The Court will protect rights not easily identifiable in the Constitution only when those rights are “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty”]   Note: This case was overturned in Lawrence v. Texas, 2003, in which the Court said it had taken too narrow a view of substantive due process and liberty interests in the earlier case and now (that the strong voice in the Bowers case, Justice White, was no longer on the Court), the Court agreed that intimate consensual sexual conduct is a liberty interest protected by the substantive due process clause of the 14th Amendment].

Obergefell v. Hodges, June 26, 2015.  (Gay Marriage decision of 2015).    Referenced at: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

Dave Brenner, Compact of the Republic, Life and Liberty Publishing, Minneapolis, MN (2014).

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, Bill of Rights Institute.  Referenced at: http://billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/primary-source-documents/virginia-and-kentucky-resolutions/

Edwin S. Corwin, “A Basic Doctrine of American Law,” Michigan Law Review, Feb. 1914; pp. 247-250.  Referenced at:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1276027?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.  [Addresses the case Calder v. Bull].

Jefferson Davis  [The Abbebille Review, June 2014.  http://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/review/the-doctrine-of-states-rights/

“Quotes from the Founding Fathers,” RenewAmerica, March 13, 2009.  Referenced at: http://www.renewamerica.com/article/090313

James A. Gardner, “The “States-as-Laboratories” Metaphor in State Constitutional Law,”Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 2.  Referenced at:http://scholar.valpo.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1888&context=vulr

James G. Wilson, “The Supreme Court’s Use of the Federalist Papers,” Cleveland State University, 1985.  Referenced at: http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1265&context=fac_articles

The White House Online Petition System, “Our States Remain United.  January 11, 2013.  Referenced at:  https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/our-states-remain-united

New Hampshire’s State Sovereignty Resolution (HCR 6 – “A Resolution Affirming States’ Rights Based on Jeffersonian Principles”)  –  http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2009/HCR0006.html

John C. Calhoun, South Carolina Exposition and Protest (1828).  Referenced at: http://www2.bakersfieldcollege.edu/kfreeland/H17a/activities/Ch11docs.pdf

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, press release (June 26, 2015).  Referenced at: http://gov.texas.gov/news/press-release/21131

Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (1791-1792).  Referenced at: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1786-1800/thomas-paine-the-rights-of-man/

The Federalist Papers.  Referenced at:  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/fed.asp

* Federal mandates:  Federal mandates include requirements imposed on state, local, or tribal governments or on entities in the private sector that are not conditions of aid or tied to participation in voluntary federal programs.]

Nullification v. Article V Constitutional Convention: Where is the Honest and Open Debate?

Mark Levin (with smirk)

by Diane Rufino, January 5, 2014

When the original 13 states came together to discuss the possibility of establishing a confederacy, at the urging of Benjamin Franklin (“Join or Die”), they did so with a great deal of hope, but also a great deal of trepidation. The hope was that a federal government might be formed that could provide greater security and stability to the colonies.  The hope was that it might handle the few issues that were common to all the states but which could not be dealt with by the states individually. The fears, on the other hand, were that this government might come to gain an enormous amount of power; that this power might come to be concentrated in the hands of very few; and that the federal government as a whole might end up overreaching its authority and end up meddling in affairs that ought rightly to be left to the states and the various local governments (if not individuals themselves).

The Constitution created a limited government, which is evidenced in four obvious ways: (1) The Constitution was framed in such a way that the power of the federal government would be split between three separate branches – each acting as a check-and-balance on the power of the others; (2) The power of the federal government as a whole was limited to certain specific areas;(3) Government power structure was split between two co-equal sovereigns – the individual states and the federal government (emphasized or restated by the Tenth Amendment); and (4) A Bill of Rights (“further declaratory statements and restrictive clauses to prevent the government from misconstruing or abusing its powers..”) to put further limitations on government power.

For 200 years, this structure has been eroded, always at the hand of the federal government. After numerous overt acts of usurpation, constitutional amendments, and loose interpretations of the Constitution itself, each of the branches of government has managed to seize more power than it was ever meant to have. Now, as we see and feel most acutely, the federal government involves itself in matters that are neither federal in nature nor are subject to its jurisdiction.  It insinuates itself into virtually every aspect of public and private life, including political, economic, and social.  When we listen to a young mother in Alabama cry because the new healthcare mandate has increased her insurance premiums each month by over $100 and has presented her with a dilemma that is causing her great heartache and distress (she wants to work and do the right thing, but if she does, she can’t afford the increase in healthcare premiums, and so she is faced with the choice that puts and her family on welfare), then we understand how destructive the government has become and how far it has strayed from its intended purpose.

Those who support Nullification have put the alert out years ago. They assert that the federal government can rightfully be divested of such unconstitutional power by having the States call the government out on its conduct and refusing to enforce unconstitutional laws. But Nullification is not a term or a concept that the average American has heard before and so it has not been roundly embraced.  But it is catching on finally. In fact, support is growing exponentially. As more and more people (Thomas Woods and Mike Church, for example) and groups (The Tenth Amendment Center) educate those who are willing to listen, audiences are finding that it makes sense and is indeed a constitutional and viable remedy.

And then there are others, such as famed radio personality, Mark Levin, who advocate for a different approach.  Mr. Levin recently wrote a book entitled “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic,” in which he proposes what he believes is the ONLY viable solution to restoring constitutional governance, which is an Article V State Convention.

In his book, Mr. Levin writes:

I undertook this project not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured, is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite – that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan.  The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to disfigure mangle the constitutional order and undo the social compact. To disclaim the Statists’ campaign and aims is to imprudently ignore the inventions and schemes hatched and promoted openly by their philosophers, experts, and academics, and the coercive application of their designs on the citizenry by a delusional governing elite. Their handiwork is omnipresent, for all to see – a centralized and consolidated government with a ubiquitous network of laws and rules actively suppressing individual initiative, self-interest, and success in the name of the greater good and on behalf of the larger community. The nation has entered an age of post-constitutional soft tyranny

Unlike the modern Statist, who defies, ignores, or rewrites the Constitution for the purpose of evasion, I propose that we, the people, take a closer look at the Constitution for our preservation.  The Constitution itself provides the means for restoring self-government and averting societal catastrophe in Article V.  Article V sets for the two processes for amending the Constitution, the second of which I have emphasized in italics:

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress….”

Importantly, in neither case does the Article V amendment process provide for a constitutional convention. The second method, involving the direct application of two-thirds of the state legislatures for a Convention for proposing Amendments, which would thereafter also require a three-fourths ratification vote by the states, has been tried in the past but without success.  Today it sits dormant.

The fact is that Article V expressly grants state legislatures significant authority to rebalance the constitutional structure for the purpose of restoring our founding principles should the federal government shed its limitations, abandon its original purpose, and grow too powerful, as many delegates in Philadelphia and the state conventions had worried it might.   [Levin, pp. 1-13]

Levin then goes on to propose a set of eleven (11) Amendments – which he terms “Liberty Amendments” – that an Article V Convention might want to propose in order to rebalance the government (the creature created by the Constitution):  These proposed Amendments include:  (1) term limits for members of Congress; (2) the election of Senators to be returned to state legislatures; (3) term limits for Supreme Court Justices (and the opportunity for federal and state legislatures to override Supreme Court decisions with a supermajority); (4) limits on federal spending (with an eye to curbing federal debt); (5) limits on taxation; (6) limits on how much power Congress can delegate to the federal bureaucracy; (7) limiting the federal government from interfering with economic activity that does not pertain to interstate or international trade; (8) requiring the government to compensate property owners for the devaluation of property caused by regulations; (9) allowing the states to amend the constitution directly (without having to go through Congress); (10) granting states the right to overturn the laws and regulations of Congress with a supermajority;  and (11) requiring voters to produce photo identification at election booths.

Notice that Mr. Levin writes that “in neither case does the Article V amendment process provide for a constitutional convention.”  Why would he include that statement?  Both conservatives and liberals have routinely referred to an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments” as a “Constitutional Convention” or Con-Con for well over 30 years, and likely much longer.  Is it possible that they ALL have mistakenly assumed that the words “constitutional convention” are found in Article V?  Is it possible the government itself is also mistaken?  When the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on November 29, 1979, regarding the role of Congress in calling an Article V convention, the official name of the hearing as published by the Government Printing Office in a 1,372-page document was “Constitutional Convention Procedures.” This hearing was held because the number of states petitioning Congress to hold an Article V convention to propose a balanced budget amendment was rapidly approaching the necessary 34 states.

And what about the “populist lovefest,” better known as the Harvard Conference on the Constitutional Convention, held at Harvard on September 24-25, 2011, which was cosponsored by the Harvard Law School and (surprisingly) by the Tea Party Patriots as well?  Of course, Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments” hadn’t been published yet, so the people at Harvard and the Tea Party Patriots didn’t realize that they were using a forbidden phrase, “constitutional convention,” to refer to an Article V convention.

Perhaps it’s worthwhile to take a look at that Conference and watch videos of the various panel discussions to understand why holding a constitutional convention could open Pandora’s Box.  The host of the Conference, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, and the moderator of the Closing Panel, Richard Parker, both committed populists, advocated for greater democracy in our country. They believe more and more issues should be decided by popular vote.  (Parker can trace his political history back to the 1960s organization, Students for a Democratic Society).  They believe that holding an Article V constitutional convention will help get them where they want to go.

Perhaps the reason Levin wants to deny the validity of the phrase “constitutional convention” is that one of the most persuasive arguments against holding such a convention is based on the contention, the criticism, and indeed the fear that such a convention could become a “runaway” convention based either on the inherent nature of “constitutional conventions” or on what transpired at our original “Constitutional Convention” in 1787.

How is it that Mr. Levin is convinced that an Article V convention could never become a “runaway” convention?  On page 15 of his book he writes: “I was originally skeptical of amending the Constitution by the state convention process. I fretted it could turn into a runaway convention process…. However, today I am a confident and enthusiastic advocate for the process. The text of Article V makes clear that there is a serious check in place. Whether the product of Congress or a convention, a proposed amendment has no effect at all unless ‘ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…’  This should extinguish anxiety that the state convention process could hijack the Constitution.”

So, in this excerpt, Levin admits that he shares the concerns of others that an Article V convention could turn into a “runaway convention.”  Yet he is confident that he has overcome those concerns with his belief that “Article V makes clear that there is a serious check in place,” namely the requirement of ratification of amendments by three-fourths of the states. There are several reasons why Levin should not be so assured that this is a “serious check” in place to stop a runaway convention.  Larry Greenley points these reasons out in his article, “Levin’s Risky Proposal: A Constitutional Convention”:

First, the “ratification by three-fourths of the States” requirement of Article V already has failed to prevent undesirable amendments from being ratified. Consider the 16th Amendment (the federal income tax), the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators), and the 18th Amendment (prohibition). All three were ratified by at least three-fourths of the states, but most constitutionalists would likely agree that all three were bad amendments and should not have been ratified. In particular, many constitutionalists think that changing the method of choosing U.S. senators from appointment by state legislatures to direct election by the voters in each state as provided by the 17th Amendment has been extremely damaging to our constitutional republic. James Madison spoke ever so strongly for this important design feature at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, in his rebuttal of Patrick Henry who accused the Constitution of potentially granting too much power to the federal government.  “The deliberations of the members of the Federal House of Representatives, will be directed to the interests of the people of America. As to the other branch, the Senators will be appointed by the State Legislatures, and secures AN ABSOLUTE DEPENDENCE OF THE FORMER ON THE LATTER.”  The Senate was a direct “federal” element within the very design of the federal government. Its power to refuse to approve a legislative act of the House that is against the reserved powers and interests of States is precisely what the doctrine of Nullification provides.

Second, it is hard to predict just how much pressure the American public can put on state legislators or state convention delegates to get some future undesirable amendment or amendments ratified by the three-fourths rule. We all know what happens when big money and special interests groups send out their tentacles. When big money, special interest groups, and political power pour in to try to influence the delegate-selection process and the convention business itself, the people lose their voice.  Experience has shown that we can’t trust public servants once they go behind closed doors. We saw what happened with the healthcare bill.

Third, it is quite possible that an Article V constitutional convention would specify some new method of ratification for its proposed amendments. After all, our original Constitutional Convention in 1787, an important precedent for any future constitutional convention, changed the ratification procedure for the new Constitution from the unanimous approval of all 13 state legislatures required by the Articles of Confederation to the approval by 9 state conventions in Article VII of the new Constitution.

But for those who are not quite comforted by Levin’s argument that Article V provides the very means to control its convention, he offers still another method to ease our concerns about a runaway convention. On page 16, he quotes from Robert G. Natelson, a former professor of law at the University of Montana: “[An Article V] convention for proposing amendments is a federal convention; it is a creature of the states or, more specifically, of the state legislatures. And it is a limited-purpose convention. It is not designed to set up an entirely new constitution or a new form of government.”  Too many others, including notable intellectuals, constitutional scholars, and even former US Supreme Court justices beg to disagree on this point.

Many constitutionalists will also agree that Levin is encouraging Americans to play with fire by promoting a constitutional convention. Just because the Constitution authorizes Article V conventions to amend the Constitution doesn’t mean that it would be wise at this time in our nation’s history to call one.

While pro-Article V convention enthusiasts tell us that this is a great time for an Article V convention because the Republican Party controls 26 of the 50 state legislatures (the Democrats control 18, five are split, and one is non-partisan), and therefore could surely block the ratification of any harmful amendments proposed by an Article V convention, they are omitting from this analysis that very many of the Republican state legislators are not constitutionalists, and could end up in alliance with Democrats to ratify some harmful amendments. Not to mention the likelihood that constitutionalists would be in the minority at the convention for proposing amendments itself.

There is no doubt that Mr. Levin has done his homework with respect to the Article V Convention.  But it is clear from the strong and sometimes rabid response to his book that he has not made the case strong enough to quell the legitimate fears of many who believe such a Convention is akin to opening a can of worms. I use the expression because it means: “something that (often unexpectedly) sets in motion that which has unanticipated and wide-reaching consequences.”  Or as TN Tenth Amendment Center leader Michael Lotfi puts it: “An Article V constitutional convention of the states is not the right answer; it is the bullet to a loaded revolver pointed at the Constitution.”  Knowing that the Nullification movement is gaining momentum, Levin made it a point, in promoting his book, to try to discredit the “rightful remedy” of Jefferson and the “duty of the states” approach of Madison.  He did not do it in a civil, educated manner but rather resorted to referring to Nullification as “idiocy” and Nullifers as “kooks.”  I imagine that if Thomas Jefferson were listening to Mark Levin’s assertion of how to address a government that willingly and defiantly passes unconstitutional laws, he would think he was a “kook.”

I would also think that Jefferson would conclude that people who think narrowly, as Levin does in his book and in his commentary to promote his book (including the rejection of nullification) are incapable of saving a republic that is on the brink of imploding.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

The only object upon which the Constitution acts is the federal government. It is its playbook; it defines its jurisdiction. It is also its restraining order. Yet each time the government did not wish to be confined by it, it used one of the three branches (most notably the Supreme Court) to reinterpret it and enlarge government powers, regardless that the ONLY way the government can rightfully be altered is by amendments (Article V). The point is that the government has refused to adhere to the limitations set forth in the Constitution…. the limitations that the States demanded and relied upon when debating and deciding whether to relinquish some of their sovereign power and ratify the compact that formed the government.  So here is Levin’s solution:  Even though the Constitution clearly defines the government’s powers and sets forth limitations, and even though the government has repeatedly and systematically refused to adhere to those limitations, he believes the only way to limit the government going forward is to make the States go through a series of hurdles (Article V’s requirements) in order to try to add a new set of restrictive amendments.  Levin himself has pointed out that such a State Convention may not successfully happen and even if it does, it may take up to 20 years or more add such amendments.  We can predict what will happen.  The government will ignore them or quickly find a way to erode them or get around them.  There is no guarantee that the amendments will restore the proper balance of power in government.  According to Levin, the parties who have been the victims of the government’s usurpations, the States and the People themselves (the rightful depositories or reservations of sovereign power) – have no other recourse or remedy except to take their slim chances with an Article V State Convention, a remedy that has NEVER been used before and hence has no proven record of success.  In other words, the States and the People MUST abide strictly by the provisions of the Constitution when the federal government has never done so.  Levin stands by his proposition even though the people of the states already have the extra-constitutional right to convene a constitutional convention by virtue of the Declaration of Independence. That’s exactly what the Philadelphia Convention was…  an exercise of this right (which is referred to as the Theory of Popular Sovereignty), because the Articles of Confederation created a so-called “perpetual Union.”

Article XIII of the Articles read: “Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State…..  And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.”

The Theory of Popular Sovereignty wasn’t just the design of men like Thomas Jefferson (VA), John Adams (MA), Benjamin Franklin (PA), Roger Sherman (CT) and Robert R. Livingston (NY), the committee appointed on June 11, 1776 by the Continental Congress to draft the Declaration of Independence, it was indeed a consensus notion among the whole of our Founding Fathers. Consider for example what Edmund Pendleton, president of the Virginia Ratifying Convention, said to the delegates on June 5, 1788:

We, the people, possessing all power, form a government, such as we think will secure happiness: and suppose, in adopting this plan, we should be mistaken in the end; where is the cause of alarm on that quarter? In the same plan we point out an easy and quiet method of reforming what may be found amiss. No, but, say gentlemen, we have put the introduction of that method in the hands of our servants, who will interrupt it from motives of self-interest. What then?… Who shall dare to resist the people? No, we will assemble in Convention; wholly recall our delegated powers, or reform them so as to prevent such abuse; and punish those servants who have perverted powers, designed for our happiness, to their own emolument.

Although there are some ambiguities in this passage, Pendleton appears to be assuring the delegates that if the Constitution turned out not to secure happiness for Americans, then it could be reformed by the “easy and quiet” methods of Article V.  However, if the Article V process were to be subverted by “our servants,” the state and federal legislators, then We the People (the sovereign people) would assemble in convention, wholly recall and reform the delegated powers of the Constitution, and punish the offending servants.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg addressed the topic of a Constitutional Convention with skeptism back in 1986.  He wrote:

As we look forward to celebrating the bicentennial of the Constitution, a few people have asked, “Why not another constitutional convention?”

I would respond by saying that one of the most serious problems Article V poses is a runaway convention.  There is no enforceable mechanism to prevent a convention from reporting out wholesale changes to our Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Moreover, the absence of any mechanism to ensure representative selection of delegates could put a runaway convention at the hands of single-issue groups whose self-interest may be contrary to our national well-being.
A constitutional convention could lead to sharp confrontations between Congress and the states. For example, Congress may frustrate the states by treating some state convention applications as invalid, or by insisting on particular parliamentary rules for a convention, or by mandating a restricted convention agenda. If a convention did run away, Congress might decline to forward to the states for ratification those proposed amendments not within the convention’s original mandate.

History has established that the Philadelphia Convention was a success, but it cannot be denied that it broke every restraint intended to limit its power and agenda.  Logic therefore compels one conclusion: Any claim that the Congress could, by statute, limit a convention’s agenda is pure speculation, and any attempt at limiting the agenda would almost certainly be unenforceable.  It would create a sense of security where none exists, and it would project a false image of unity.

Opposition to a constitutional convention at this point in our history does not indicate a distrust of the American public, but in fact recognizes the potential for mischief. We have all read about the various plans being considered for Constitutional change. Could this nation tolerate the simultaneous consideration of a parliamentary system, returning to the gold standard, gun control, ERA, school prayer, abortion vs. right to life and anti-public interest laws?

As individuals, we may well disagree on the merits of particular issues that would likely be proposed as amendments to the Constitution; however, it is my firm belief that no single issue or combination of issues is so important as to warrant jeopardizing our constitutional system of governance at this point of our history, particularly since Congress and the Supreme Court are empowered to deal with these matters.

James Madison, the father of our Constitution, recognized the perils inherent in a second constitutional convention when he said an Article V national convention would “give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partisans on both sides; it would probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already heated too many men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric. Under all of these circumstances, it seems scarcely to be presumable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good.  Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first convention which assembled under every propitious (promising) circumstance, I would tremble for the result of a second.”
Let’s turn away from this risky business of a convention, and focus on the enduring inspiration of our Constitution.

The bicentennial should be an occasion of celebrating that magnificent document. It is our basic law; our inspiration and hope, the opinion of our minds and spirit; it is our defense and protection, our teacher and our continuous example in the quest for equality, dignity and opportunity for all people in this nation. It is an instrument of practical and viable government and a declaration of faith — faith in the spirit of liberty and freedom.

Arthur Goldberg

Constitutional attorney, Publius Huldah, also rejects the Article V Convention as the effective means to restore our country to its intended constitutional republic.  She takes the position that as the rightful depositories of government power are the Individuals and resistance to tyranny is not only a natural right but a duty. She therefore supports the rightful remedy of Nullification to enforce obedience to the Constitution.  She writes, in her article Mark Levin Refuted: Keep the Feds in Check with Nullification, Not Amendments!, that the Oath of Office, addressed in Article VI, last clause, requires both federal  and state officials to support and defend the Constitution.  This requires them to refuse to submit to – ie, to nullify! – acts of the federal government which violate the Constitution.  “This is how they “support” the Constitution!”  As to Mr. Levin’s assertion that an Article V Convention is the proper, safe, and legal mechanism to restore constitutional limitations to a government historically unwilling to abide by them, she argues that while he admitted (on pg. 15 of the book) that the process has the potential to turn into a “runaway” convention, he never successfully explained why Article V can effectively prevent that from happening.

Publius writes: “The claims of the nullification deniers have been proven to be false.  To persist in those claims – or to do as Levin seems to do and ignore the remedy of nullification – is intellectually and morally indefensible.  Instead, they continue to tell us that what we need is a “convention of the States” to propose amendments to the Constitution, and that this is the only way out. They tell us, the only way to deal with a federal government which consistently ignores and tramples over the Constitution is to amend the Constitution!   Do you see how silly that is?”

Publius Huldah

Michael Lotfi, the Associate Director of the Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center, wrote an excellent article comparing the Article V State Convention remedy of Mark Levin to Nullification, the remedy of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (collectively, the authors of all our foundational documents, except the Articles of Confederation).  The article is entitled: Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Why Levin is Wrong.  (See prior post on this NC TAC site).  He wrote: “Calling for a convention to amend the Constitution with amendments shows absence in sound judgment.”  Further, he wrote: “Levin proposes an Article V constitutional convention of the states as salvation. Not only is an Article V constitutional convention not the right answer, it is the bullet to a loaded revolver pointed at the Constitution.”

Lotfi talks about some of the unconstitutional laws, agencies, and actions that the government has imposed over the years – “the NSA, NDAA, ObamaCare, the Patriot Act, EPA, DOE, every war since the 1940s, federal gun laws, etc.  These laws and agencies all fly in the face of the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments.”  He asks how a process that potentially may take as long as 20 years but more likely won’t work at all will address these gross usurpations.  We must not forget that these amendments were adopted as EXPRESS limitations on the federal government.  The Preamble to the Bill of Rights explains it best: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

How is it that the government can find a way to limit the effect of the first ten amendments when those amendments were intended to limit the government and keep those particular objects OFF LIMITS with respect to the federal government?

Mr. Lotfi gives a wonderful explanation of the legitimacy of Nullification.  He writes:

The powers delegated to Congress are few and defined. The Tenth Amendment provides explicit validation for nullification, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” (emphasis added).

In regards to nullification, does the Constitution delegate this power to the federal government? It obviously does not. Does the Constitution explicitly prohibit nullification? It does not. It can now easily be concluded that nullification is a power reserved for the people of their respective states.

The Ninth Amendment expounds even further the right to nullification. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Jefferson explained that nullification was a natural right belonging to the people and their respective states. Because the Constitution does not expressly prohibit nullification, the federal government cannot deny or disparage this natural right of the people.

Just as so many intellectuals have requested that Mark Levin stop the name-calling and have an intellectual, honest, and dignified debate on the topic of Nullification, Mr. Lotfi has done the same.  He ends his article with this message: “Levin is perhaps the most appreciated and admired political talk show host in America. Rightfully so, he has earned his accolades. However, with such clout comes an incredible responsibility to not only seek truth, but to display the humility and courage to admit when you are wrong.”

Michael Lotfi

Mr. Lotfi hit the nail on the head in his article with respect to Nullification. He addressed what I believe is the most powerful of the opponent’s arguments – Madison’s remarks following the Nullification crisis of 1832. Most are too uneducated or too shallow in their willingness to read more than a page of history and so they just don’t get that Madison was trying to explain that the particular situation wasn’t one that can be rightfully addressed by nullification. Nullification, at its core, requires an act by the federal government that exceeds the powers delegated to it under the Constitution. Congress rightfully has the power to legislate regarding tariffs. The Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 (tariffs of abomination) were within Congress’s rightful exercise of power. And so nullification was not the proper or rightful remedy to challenge it or to assert as the basis for non-compliance. The real argument was the one that Calhoun originally made, which rested on the Compact Nature of the States. He claimed that when the States came together and drafted the Constitution and then ratified it, they were guided by the concept of social compact. They agreed to give up some of their sovereign power (a “burden,” in contract terms) in return for the understanding that the federal government so created (the creature) would be their “common agent” and would serve them equally (the “benefit,” in contract terms). Even James Madison, and many of our other founders, acknowledged the compact nature of the Constitution. At the VA Ratifying Convention, Madison prefaced his speech with these words:  “A Federal Government is formed for the PROTECTION of its individual members.” Calhoun argued that under the compact nature of the Constitution, the common or federal government was supposed to serve all the states equally. The tariff, as you know, benefitted the North exclusively, at great detriment to the South. This unequal treatment of the Southern states is what really led to the secession of the Southern states – not the issue of slavery. Lincoln’s election simply meant “more of the same.”

Again, as Publius pointed out in her article Mark Levin Refuted: “The claims of the nullification deniers have been proven to be false.”  The truth, as she brilliantly explains, is that resistance to tyranny is a natural right (the natural right to protect one’s sovereign rights) and Nullification is the rightful tool of resistance.  Just as resistance is a natural right, nullification is the natural remedy.

Publius is a scholar and is brilliant.  Mark Levin is a scholar and is brilliant, as well.  The most brilliant men of all are Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and if you have any doubt of that, then you are all hypocrites for living under the very free society they secured for you. The difference between scholars like Publius and Mr. Levin is which view point they choose to endorse, given their extensive knowledge and understanding. Publius is a scholar of history and of original intent. She understands that the Constitution is not a stand-alone document but is grounded in the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence and in the doctrine of Social Compact.  She is an attorney.  Mark Levin is also an attorney and understands history. Unfortunately, he has chosen to ignore some of the background that rounds out the understanding of our founding documents.  As we are all aware, there are those who support Mark Levin and those who support those who endorse Nullification.  I am troubled that someone as brilliant as Mark Levin can so cavalierly disregard Nullification and resort to the unsophisticated approach of calling those not in his camp a bunch of kooks. This truly troubles me because I believe scholars should be above that and try to promote their points of view through robust discussion and debate. That’s how our Founding Fathers did it. And that was the climate at the Philadelphia Convention which produced the final design of our federal government. The one area that debate and discussion could not produce the just result was with respect to slavery.  Georgia and South Carolina simply refused to go along if the concession wasn’t made.  Personally, I don’t think one remedy is exclusive over the other; I think the sound approach is finding a way to REPEAL any amendment that increases the power of the federal government and destroys its original design (such as the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and parts of the Fourteenth amendments) while using NULLIFICATION to frustrate the enforcement of any unconstitutional federal law, policy, or court decision. I think the sound approach is recognizing the POWER that both approaches offer in limiting the power and reach of the federal government (outside its constitutional limits) and using them BOTH for the effective transfer of power back to the People. That’s what it’s all about, right??

And so, with this article, I want to ask all of you to please put the good of the country first and please find the untainted authorities to educate yourselves on Nullification. Jefferson and Madison are good starts – Read the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 and the Virginia Resolution of 1798, as well as Madison’s Virginia’s Report of 1800, but most importantly, read the circumstances under which Jefferson and Madison sought to re-assert the compact/founding principles of nullification…. the government was starting to trample on our Bill of Rights!!)  Nullification is a good way to hold the federal government at bay while we figure out the best ways to divest the federal government of its liberty-killing powers. There are valid criticisms of an Article V Convention, and I advance that position with the others.  If Mark Levin can PROMISE ABSOLUTELY that a group of state delegates can produce amendments that are clearly limited to transparent goals and which will LIMIT the government (and not in fact enlarge its powers, as some states seem inclined to do), then perhaps we should continue our discussion and debate on the Convention. But I don’t think he can do so.

As Joe Wolveton II, JD writes: “Enforcing the Constitution and demanding that states stand up to their would-be federal overlords accomplishes the same goal as Levin’s proposed con-con without putting the Constitution so close to the shredder that an Article V convention could become.”

Mark Levin may have personal popularity, powerful friends in the media, the ability to shut down much of the criticism of his book, and a powerful bully pulpit in his radio show and his guest appearances on the top news outlet, but he doesn’t have the same understanding of liberty and its preservation as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and our other Founding Fathers had.

Nullification must continue not only to be the remedy of choice, but of right.

“No matter the soothing words and the slate of scholars standing with Levin,” Wolverton emphasizes: “the convention they’re calling for would be beyond the control of the people or their representatives and could result in the proposal by the assembled delegates of potentially fatal and irreversible alterations to our Constitution that could very well end up being ratified.”

 

References:

Mark Levin, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, New York, N.Y.: Threshold Editions, 2013, 272 pages, hardcover.

Arthur Goldberg (former US Supreme Court Justice), “Steer Clear of Constitutional Convention,” Miami Herald, September 14, 1986.  http://www.governamerica.com/issues/domestic-issues/21-constitutional-convention?start=10

Joe Wolverton II, JD, “Levin, Limbaugh, Hannity Calling for Con-Con, “ The New American, August 22, 2013.  http://www.governamerica.com/issues/domestic-issues/21-constitutional-convention?start=10

Larry Greenley, “Levin’s Risky Proposal: A Constitutional Convention,” The New American,  October 27, 2013.  http://www.governamerica.com/issues/domestic-issues/21-constitutional-convention?start=10

Michael Lotfi, “Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Why Levin is Wrong,” The Washington Times, December 27, 2013.  http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/american-millennial/2013/dec/27/nullification-vs-article-v-constitutional-conventi/

Publius Huldah, “Mark Levin Refuted: Keep the Feds in Check with Nullification, Not Amendments!”.  https://publiushuldah.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/mark-levin-refuted-keep-the-feds-in-check-with-nullification-not-amendments/

 

Constitution Day 2013

Constitution - #2  by Diane Rufino

Last Tuesday was Constitution Day – September 17.  It marks the day that the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 concluded and the final draft of Constitution was signed by the delegates who attended.  It is fitting that this is the day we choose to honor the US Constitution.  As we all probably know, the Convention was called in a somewhat devious and misleading manner.  James Madison and others from Virginia called the Convention (after securing a promise that the most beloved man in America would serve as its president – George Washington) for the express purpose of AMENDING the Articles of Confederation and tweaking the Continental Congress (the government at the time) to make it more effective. The most glaring defect of the common government was its ability to raise the revenue it needed to carry out its functions.

All the states sent delegates except Rhode Island.  And so 12 of our original 13 states participated in Philadelphia. Collectively they appointed 70 individuals to the Constitutional Convention.  But a number of our most important Founding Fathers did not accept or could not attend. These included Richard Henry Lee (of VA), Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Jefferson, who authored the Declaration, was overseas at the time, acting as Minister to France. And Patrick Henry did not trust the intentions of some of the delegates.  He found out the real intention of the Convention – to scratch the Articles entirely and to write a new Constitution and design a new government.  Patrick Henry suspected that New York’s delegate, Alexander Hamilton, a strong monarchist, would try to get his way and fashion our new government after the British Monarchy. And so Henry declined to go to Philadelphia, claiming: “I smell a rat.”

And so when a total of 55 delegates from the states met in Philadelphia, they soon found out the real purpose of the gathering. Some did not take the news very well and argued that they did not have the proper authority to abandon the Articles of Confederation.  James Madison, George Mason and Edmond Randolph, all of Virginia, arrived in Philadelphia well-prepared. In fact, Madison was the first to arrive.  He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, with a Plan already prepared and a blueprint for the new Constitution and government in place. Although he authored the Plan, it was Randolph, who was Governor of Virginia at the time, who proposed it at the Convention – in the form of 15 resolutions. It was known as the Virginia Plan. It called for a strong NATIONAL government with many centralized functions and also with a UNIVERSAL VETO power over the States.  Madison called it a “universal negative.” Under Madison’s Virginia’s Plan, the government would have the power to veto any state law “for any case whatsoever.”

Luckily, the Virginia delegation couldn’t sell all of their plan to the other states and the Convention turned out to be a 4-month exercise in compromise and well-intentioned debate.  In the end, on September 17th, we got a constitution that created a limited FEDERAL government.  It was quite different in many respects from the government that the Virginians proposed. Luckily, the overwhelming number of delegates at the Convention that year did not believe in concentrating too much power in a common government; they believed that government is most responsive when it is closest to the People and so they remained steadfast that the bulk of government power must remain with the States.  A government that is closest to the People can serve them best and can be “altered or abolished” by them when circumstances demand it.

The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton (of NJ), aged 26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm that he had to be carried to sessions in a chair. They brought with them the interests of their States and their people. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge and a keen eye on the prize they fought for in the American Revolution (which Patrick Henry would later describe as “that precious jewel – Liberty”).  They brought with them their understanding of what a common government should do to serve them and also to serve a common good for all States.  Not one State intended to surrender its sovereignty or its influence.  Not one state intended to surrender its individual identity for a “national” identity.

In the close of the Convention, only 39 delegates would feel compelled to sign the Constitution.  Many refused to sign because there was no Bill of Rights.  More than half of the Virginia delegation wouldn’t sign, including Mr. Randolph himself and George Mason (who wrote Virginia’s Bill of Rights). Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts was another powerhouse that refused to sign it.  A Bill of Rights, they argued, was an absolute necessity to limit any government.

The particular opposition by George Mason is most compelling.  While Elbridge Gerry was, by most accounts, cantankerous, irritable, and most disagreeable to many things and Randolph was likely sulking since his Plan was rejected in good part and believing that the States would ultimately reject a new constitution anyway, it was Mason who refused to sign based on pure principle.

George Mason didn’t trust a large republican government…  not without a Bill of Rights, that’s for certain.  He believed certain stipulations were necessary to protect the liberties of the People from the reaches of government.  James Madison, on the other hand, argued against a Bill of Rights. It was his position that such stipulations weren’t necessary due to the nature of the Constitution. He argued that the Constitution specifically enumerated the powers that were delegated to the federal government. That is, the document explained what the government COULD do and not what it COULD NOT do.  He feared if a Bill of Rights was included, it could ultimately backfire on the People. He feared that if a Bill of Rights was added to prohibit the government from intruding on rights A, B, and C, then it could be inferred that the government could intrude on rights D, E, and F. Madison explained that if you listed some individual rights, you must list them all and that would necessarily change the Constitution from forbidding the federal government from doing anything not enumerated to something that allows the government do whatever it wants as long as it is not listed in a Bill of Rights.

But Mason wasn’t convinced by fellow his fellow Virginian’s rationale.  For Mason, it came down to principal, basic human nature, and the enormity of history that taught us what happens when government has the ability to concentrate power. In early 1776, before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and helped frame Virginia’s constitution. George Mason was exceedingly proud of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, and was pleased that it became a model for other states. In part, the Declaration of Rights provided:

SEC.1 That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

SEC. 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

SEC.3.  Government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration and […] when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

The document had sixteen sections, but it’s quite clear that these short paragraphs encompassed America’s Founding Principles, which Thomas Jefferson would later incorporate into the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Mason simply did not trust a government to police itself.

Even Thomas Jefferson agreed.  He wrote James Madison from his post in France that a Bill of Rights should be added: “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

The decision of whether to add a Bill of Rights ultimately came down to the States in their Ratifying Conventions. And George Mason, along with Patrick Henry, would do all they could to derail the ratification of the Constitution until proper assurances and restraints were added.

At the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June 4, 1788, Mason took the floor and addressed the delegates:  “Does any man suppose that one general national government can exist in so extensive a country as this? I hope that a government may be framed which may suit us, by drawing a line between the general and state governments, and prevent that dangerous clashing of interest and power, which must, as it now stands, terminate in the destruction of one or the other. When we come to the judiciary, we shall be more convinced that this government will terminate in the annihilation of the state governments: the question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people.  If such amendments be introduced as shall exclude danger, I shall most gladly put my hand to it. When such amendments as shall, from the best information, secure the great essential rights of the people, shall be agreed to by gentlemen, I shall most heartily make the greatest concessions, and concur in any reasonable measure to obtain the desirable end of conciliation and unanimity…”

Patrick Henry accused the Virginia delegation of abandoning the spirit of the Revolution by taking the Constitution at face value and trusting a common government to respect the sovereign powers of the States and limit itself to expressly-delegated objects.  On June 5, 1788, he addressed the members of the Ratifying Convention with these words:

“When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different.  Liberty, sir, was then the primary object.

      We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty; our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government.

      Consider our situation, sir; go to the poor man and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society; you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of sight of the common people; they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people; it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee, but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations.

 I profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people. I have said that I thought this a consolidated government; I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government?  Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered?  Our Bill of Rights (Virginia’s) declares that ‘a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.’ 

      The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans they will preserve and hand down to their latest posterity the transactions of the present times……

      Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings…  Give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!   Guard it with jealous attention. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…

At this point, the adoption of the Constitution seemed unlikely. Virginia would likely not ratify and neither would New York, and North Carolina clearly would not ratify. Without Virginia, Madison realized, there could be no hope of ever building a coalition to adopt it.  Madison needed Virginia. And so he began working tirelessly for ratification. He teamed up with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on a series of articles (collectively called “The Federalist Papers”) that were published in newspapers all throughout the States making the case for ratification. And then he changed his stance on a Bill of Rights. He promised to include a bill of rights as the first order of business for the new federal congress. This finally brought George Mason around, which then helped tip Virginia towards ratification.

In the end, as we know, the Constitution was ratified by the States and we became a “more perfect Union” in 1788.  On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making it the Law of the Land.  Virginia and New York ratified it within a month and North Carolina wouldn’t ratify it until over a year later (November 1789).

The Federalist Papers, the debates in the various State Ratifying Conventions, and the Bill of Rights itself continue to be a lasting testament to the limited nature of the US Constitution.

In past years, Tea Parties, Constitutional groups, and other conservative organizations honored Constitution Day by passing out pocket Constitutions.  We have asked people to take the time to read it and become familiar with it.  But perhaps the real message we need to send is how all our Founding documents fit together and why the Constitution still matters.

First, let’s ask what IS a Constitution?  Our Founders gave us that answer.

The Supreme Court, with John Jay (author of some of the Federalist Papers) as the Chief Justice, told us in 1795:

What is a Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people and is the supreme law of the land…
       It is stable and permanent, not to be worked upon by the temper of the times, nor to rise and fall with the tide of events; notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains firm and immovable, as a mountain amidst the raging of the waves.”   [Opinion in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795)]

A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”   — Thomas PaineRights of Man (1791-1792)

The purpose of a written constitution is to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights.” — Thomas JeffersonNotes on Virginia, 1782.

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to W. Nicholas (1803)

Does it sound like our Constitution was intended to become a LIVING, BREATHING DOCUMENT?

The reality is that the Constitution is not a stand-alone document.  And I think that is where our discussions have failed.  Our founding documents fit together as follows:

(i) The Declaration of Independence.  It proclaims our philosophy of sovereignty, rights, and government.  It establishes the order in our country and puts government in perspective. The individual precedes government. Government must serve the individual by protecting his rights.

(ii) The US Constitution.  It designed a government (checked by the sovereign powers of the States and the People) to embrace the philosophy set forth in the Declaration.

(iii) The Bill of Rights.  It further limits the authority of the federal government (as the preamble to the Bill of Rights states: “In order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…..”)

We enjoy our God-given rights because our founding documents boldly assert that only We the People have the right to determine our government, since it is only by the voluntary and temporary delegation of our rights to govern ourselves that government exists. We have the right to “alter or abolish” government when it becomes destructive of its ends (which is first and foremost to protect and preserve our rights to Life, Liberty, and Property and the right to defend them). Nowhere in any of our founding documents is government given a life of its own; it has no right or power to seek its own self-interests nor to preserve, insure, or protect its existence. Yet today, government’s interests are placed above those of the People. Government has made sure that it has the exclusive power to define its own powers.

Our creature has become our master.

Too often the Supreme Court uses a skewed perspective. Instead of asking:  ’Are citizens’ rights being violated by this law?’  the Court asks: ‘Is the violation of citizens’ rights justified because of overriding government goals and objectives?’  Too often the answer the court delivers is ‘yes.’  When your rights get in the way of a government objective, you lose.

       Government created to protect your rights should have no goal higher than the protection of those rights. When government’s own goals override your rights, government is acting unconstitutionally. Government often states that these violations of citizens’ rights are necessary ‘for the good of society.’  Society is ill served by laws which violate the rights of the citizens making up that society.

       The Constitution (and the federal government it brought into existence) was created by the states to serve the states. It sets forth the rules for how the government must behave and says, in effect (in the tenth amendment)  ’Any powers that we did not give to you are ours; we’re still the boss.’

This is like exercising parental control. You tell your child how to act, with whom he (or she) may associate and what time he must be home. You assign household chores and responsibilities. In short, you establish rules of proper conduct.

       Suppose that this works fine for a while, but as your child grows, he begins testing the boundaries you had set and breaking the rules, but you do nothing to prevent it. One day you realize that your child is making his own rules, even telling you what to do and what you cannot do. If you object that he is not acting within the rules you set down, he says that he knows better than you what your rules mean. If you try to assert your own rights, you are punished — your child is now bigger and stronger than you are. Your child’s allowance demands are ever increasing. If you don’t do something to correct the situation soon, you’ll be declared incompetent and your child will control all aspects of your life.”

The Tea Party and Constitutional groups take a lot of criticism.  The media, for example, says that the Tea Party has lost steam and has lost relevance.  And sometimes, I admit it, I wonder if it might be true. But when I celebrate Constitution Day and when I continue studying the Constitution and what our Founders intended, and when I have those “light bulb” moments when I begin to understand why certain principles were incorporated into our founding documents, I am reminded of why the Tea Party was founded in the first place and why it is so important.  And I am re-inspired to be a part of it, as well as the Tenth Amendment Center.  It’s because the Tea Party is the party of the Constitution.  We understand its relevance……   We understand why our Founders rejected that Virginia Plan in Philadelphia and why they spent four months building the consensus for a government that would be delegated only limited powers and that would be restrained by a series of checks and balances.

We understand that the problems our country faces today are all a direct consequence of the federal government’s failure to keep itself limited to the express powers delegated to it by the States back in 1791 AND the States’ failure to stand up and remind the government of its limits.

We understand – because we know that America is still defined by the Declaration of Independence – that every time the federal government oversteps its constitutional authority, it is taking sovereign power away from We the People and from the States.  And it has to stop.   We are slowly (maybe not slowly) slipping back into tyranny.

There is a lot at stake in the American experiment. Ours is a nation founded on an ideal and nothing else.  Whether that grand ideal will survive depends on whether the American experiment is successful or not. What is that ideal?  It is the notion that individuals are sovereign and that they are endowed with Natural rights that are “self-evident” and “inalienable” which are an integral part of their very humanity. Since these rights come from our Creator, they cannot be deemed to be granted by government. Hence government is powerless to take them away or violate them. In fact, governments are instituted to serve the People and to protect those rights.

It was from that ideal that our Founders understood the great challenge that would be presented:  How to keep the role of government strictly limited in order that liberty is enlarged and that government is prevented from growing into a new form of tyranny.  They studied history and were well-aware that the nature of any government is to control and gain more power from those it governs. And that in that challenge, we understand why the Constitution is still relevant.  At one time it defined a limited government and it offered numerous protections against those governmental intrusions which they knew would come eventually.  The Constitution still holds the power of limited government and still defines the proper relationship between the People, the States, and the federal government. The key is to put that document, with its original meaning and its original intent, back to work for the American people and for the protection of their inalienable rights.

The Tea Party summoned the spirit of the Revolution to resurrect the Constitution. They went back to the days of peaceful civil disobedience, ownership of their rights and destiny, engagement of their government in their civil liberties, and robust discussion of what it means to be a “free” people.

They took the name “Tea Party” because of its rich historical significance. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773 as a protest against the tax on tea imposed by a government in a far-off land that did not permit its representation in the legislative process (Parliament).  Earlier that year, the British government passed the Tea Act, which authorized the British East India Company to ship tea directly to colonies while the government levied a tax of three pence on each shipment. While the Tea Act actually lowered the price of tea for colonists (so that even with the tax, the colonists were still paying less for tea), many colonists were still angry at being taxed at all.

“Taxation without Representation” was a rallying cry that was particularly significant. The taxes the British tried to collect were modest and the revenue collected was to be spent entirely in the colonies for their benefit and protection. It wasn’t even going to be sent back to the mother country. So why all the fuss and cry of “tyranny”?  It was because the real reason for American Revolution was the lack of political machinery to protect the colonists’ rights.  In short, our founding agitators and revolutionaries weren’t as concerned about the insignificant tax on tea as they were with the underlying violations of their basic human rights.

The American experiment will continue to be successful only as long as we continue to be as vigilante and protective of our rights and as long as we continue to demand that government keep its distance. And so, as we recognize Constitution Day each year on September 17, we should re-commit to our Revolutionary spirit as Americans and read our founding documents in that light. As Jefferson warned, we shouldn’t render our government one of general and unlimited power because we’ve tacitly allowed it the exclusive domain to interpret the Constitution as it sees fit.  We can all know the meaning and intention of the Constitution simply by doing our homework and reading what words of wisdom our Founders left. We don’t need government officials or judges to tell us.  Government wants power.  People want liberty.

As Patrick Henry warned on June 5, 1788 when he addressed the Virginia Ratifying Convention: (paraphrasing) “When we lose the American spirit and our mental powers have decayed, then our liberty will be gone forever.”

Nullification and A Few Good Men

Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessup #2

by Diane Rufino, June 22, 2013

I am an attorney. I studied the law. I studied Constitutional Law.  Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News Senior Analyst, was my Con Law professor and not only taught me constitutional law jurisprudence but taught me the passion in understanding how this great document defines our government and protects our individual rights.

Having said that, it should be noted that law schools teach Constitutional Law and not the Constitution. They don’t teach the Constitution from the Founders’ point of view, they don’t refer to the Federalist Papers, and they rarely even refer to decisions as “judicial activism.” The Constitution is taught not according to what it was intended to mean, but rather, according to the many landmark Supreme Court decisions which have interpreted it, defined it, and in almost all cases, broadened it. As one law student put it: ” I don’t know about the experience of other people who have attended law school, but I’d estimate that we spent perhaps only 0.5% of the time between two semesters of Constitutional Law learning about what the Constitution says and what the Founding Fathers intended. We spent no time on the Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was only mentioned simply as a historical fact and no more was discussed on the matter. The intent of the Founders can’t be found anywhere in my Con Law book or any other books we read. In fact, the only time I recall reading about the Founder’s intent was when Justice Scalia wrote the opinion, the concurring opinion, or the dissent in cases.”

Considering that the foundation of government in our country is based on the Constitution, wouldn’t it make more sense to teach lawyers how best to preserve its integrity rather than inspire them to help dismantle it?  Wouldn’t it be exceedingly prudent to teach students what the Constitution means, why it was drafted and intended as it was, and what essential principles and ideals underlie it?

Unfortunately, although I attended public school before much of the current progressive agenda kicked in, I still never learned much about our founding history, our founding documents, or our founding principles. I know it has only gotten “progressively worse,” if you’ll excuse the pun. After high school, I went to college, then graduate school, then took post-graduate classes, and then finally went to law school. All the while I had to work while taking classes in order to support myself or, as in the case of law school, I had just gotten married and was giving birth to my four children (pregnant my entire time in law school). The point is that life was happening. I was just going with the flow, doing the best I could, and trying to get by. I had no extra time to read the Anti-Federalist Papers, the Federalist Papers, the Notes on the Debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and the debates surrounding the state ratifying conventions. So when I left law school, I knew what judges have said about the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, but I didn’t know what our very Founders said or intended with that document.

Luckily (and I do mean “luckily”), I lost my job in 2010 when the economy tanked. When it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to find a job any time soon, I finally committed myself to study the documents I should have studied BEFORE going to law school and reading what judges have said. I can tell you that a study of our Constitution from the perspective of our Founding Fathers and the states who were initially were skeptical of it was one of the most eye-opening experiences for me. All of a sudden, things began to make sense. The story of our founding is inspiring, but no more inspiring than those men who used their brilliant minds to find the proper philosophy to explain the role of government, who used their debate skills to come up with the best design of government, who used their keen sense of intuition to include the proper procedural checks (and balances) to keep the branches of government within their respective spheres, and who used the proper words to draft a constitution that would most effectively and securely protect individual inalienable rights and right to have a government by the consent of the governed.  Never have I felt more proud or felt so lucky to be born an American. I have done my best to educate others ever since. I hope every American will find the opportunity to have the same epiphany that I did.

Of all the principles and ideals that our country was founded on, my greatest passion is States’ Rights and Nullification. Perhaps it’s because those two concepts are the ones which have been most vilified and eroded over our history, and most certainly since the time of the Civil War. Or maybe it’s perhaps because Thomas Jefferson is my favorite Founding Father and aside from the fact that he drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance, and gave us our Right of Religion, he clearly expressed the viewpoint that in order to keep the federal government limited in scope, the States would have to be willing to defend their sovereignty.  I’ve been writing about Nullification for years. Nullification, in short, stands for the principle that any law passed without proper authority is not a valid law and is not enforceable on a people. In the US, the Constitution lists what authority the federal government and acknowledges that whatever powers were not delegated expressly to the government are reserved by the states. Article VI, Section 2 (the Supremacy Clause) states that the Constitution and all laws passed in pursuance to it are supreme law.  The reverse is therefore implied and true – that all laws NOT passed in pursuance to powers delegated by the Constitution are not supreme. The states therefore have no obligation to recognize or enforce them. This is the concept of Dual Sovereignty which is the unique and most brilliant feature of our government system. Since both the States and the federal government are sovereign over their respective powers, each will forever act as “jealous guardians” over those powers and prevent each other from encroaching into their domain. The Sons of Liberty, in effect, “nullified” such Intolerable Acts passed by the British Crown/Parliament as the Tea Act, the Stamp Act, and the Quartering Act when they engaged in simple acts of civil disobedience which prevented their enforcement. The Sons of Liberty harassed colonial Stamp agents so thoroughly that they resigned and the British could not collect the tax on paper goods. The reason they protested those Intolerable Acts was because they knew their rights as colonial British subjects and knew that they were being violated. The King was acting outside his authority to rule the colonies.  As most people are unaware, nullification (although not known by that term until Jefferson coined it in the Kentucky Resolves of 1799) is a firmly-entrenched constitutional principle. It was discussed at every stage of the drafting and ratification of the Constitution..  again, not by that term, of course. In the Constitutional Convention, delegates roundly rejected James Madison’s version of a strong centralized government. (He was initially a Nationalist). Madison called for a centralized government that was not limited in its powers. As if that wasn’t enough, he called for a “government veto” whereby the federal government could veto any action by any state that it did not approve of. The other delegates, mostly Federalists, quickly rejected that part of the Plan (the Virginia Plan). If there would be any “veto,” it would be a “state veto” which would be the power of any state to  declare when the government had overstepped its limited, constitutional bounds, and encroached into the states’ sovereign powers. A state veto is the same as Nullification. The Senate branch of the Legislature (pre-17th Amendment) was a direct “state veto” power within the structure of government. If the states felt that any piece of legislation was without proper authority or in abuse of authority, its Senators would simply vote it down. (That’s why we need to abolish the 17th Amendment and re-establish the Senate as a body devoted to States’ interests). The states’ ratifying conventions also spoke about the right and duty of states to exercise its “veto” power.  It was always assumed that under the “compact nature” of the Union (ie, the states signing the Constitution, agreeing to equally delegate some of their sovereign power to the federal government and to be commonly bound… thus, the “united” States), the states had the power to remind the government of what powers it had and did not have.

Nullification is based on the federal nature of our government, on the Supremacy Clause, and most strongly, on the compact nature of the Constitution. Americans are not taught their founding history and are certainly not taught the principles that underlie their government. They talk about “checks and balances” but only the simple ones – the president’s veto power and the federal courts. But the most important of checks and balances is indeed this notion of Dual Sovereignty and the WILLINGNESS OF STATES to STAND UP TO UNCONSTITUTIONAL CONDUCT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT !!

The problem, at least in my state of North Carolina, is that state officials are too afraid to assert state sovereignty. It’s offensive to hear the reasons they give. Here are a few of the explanations that GOP leaders in our state house and senate have personally given to me: “It is not our place to second-guess the actions of the federal government.”  “We will never use strong language against the federal government. It’s just not going to happen.”   ”Nullification is an out-dated, racist doctrine that was used to perpetuate slavery. It has no basis in the constitution and is illegitimate.”  “The Tenth Amendment no longer means what it used to. In fact, the Constitution in general no longer means what it used to.” When I asked why that is so, the senator answered: “It’s simple… We lost the Civil War.”  It’s morons like this who will sit back and watch as this government treats its citizens worse than King George treated the colonists. The only difference is that the colonists were intensively protective of their human rights and had a backbone.

This past Wednesday, I traveled to Washington DC to attend the “Audit the IRS” rally.  My husband tried to discourage me from going. He said it would end up being like all the other rallies – exercises in futility. He thought I shouldn’t waste my time and energy (as well as my monthly allowance for books !!) on the trip and just stay home with the kids. Maybe when it’s all said and done, the rally will end up just being a feel-good event. But I told him the real reason I enjoy making the trips to DC to protest. I enjoy seeing Americans all fired up and willing to stand up for the Constitution and for the ideals that made this country great. It does my heart good. I’m always humbled at all the people who travel great distances and at great inconvenience. The folks I stood next to on Wednesday were from Washington state. It just shows me that if things were to get more serious – if they were to get really bad – there still are a lot of patriots in this country who are willing to pick up where the Sons of Liberty left off. The spirit of the Revolution is not dead. It lives on. In fact, I’m positive that it is growing. And when I go to these rallies, I’m reminded of that. And I’m reassured.  Also, I’m always so happy to spend the day with folks who use words like Constitution, Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, Limited Government, Inalienable Rights, States’ Rights, and Consent of the Governed.

It reminds me of that movie A FEW GOOD MEN, with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. Nicholson, as Colonel Jessup, takes the stand and delivers that famous dialogue:

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? ….. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

We use words, as I just mentioned, like Constitution, Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, Limited Government, Inalienable Rights, States’ Rights, and Consent of the Governed… as the backbone of the liberty that we seek to defend. Our opposition, while enjoying the very freedom that is protected by our founding documents and founding ideals, uses those very same words as a punchline and even as a means to target us for government intimidation and to label us as potential domestic terrorists.

So many people buy into the government’s indoctrination that they must be good stewards of the state and obey laws without questioning them. They regurgitate views of state sovereignty and nullification that would make Abraham Lincoln and the post-Civil War government proud.  They think that states have no rights and certainly that they themselves, as individuals, have no power to make a difference in the policies and dealings of government. In reality, the answer to all of the problems associated with a large, centralized, unconstitutional government lies with the States and the People. Nullification has always been in the arsenal of constitutional remedies. It is the most viable remedy at this point. Furthermore, We the People, have power as well. The power over government has always resided in the People. We just have to be reminded of that, become educated, learn how to use that power, and most of all, be willing to step up and use it!!

For those who would like to learn more about Nullification and how it can be used to fit the federal government back within the boundaries of the Constitution, please consider attending the Nullify Now! event in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, October 19th at the Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St.  The event, organized by the NC Tenth Amendment Center, is part of a nationwide tour to educate and engage people as to this doctrine, which Thomas Jefferson termed “the Rightful Remedy.”  Tickets are available athttps://www.facebook.com/events/471571826264409/?fref=ts.