Impending Federal Gun Control Laws or Confiscation: States Don’t Fail Us Now !

NULLIFICATION - Gun Control (Clint Eastwood)

       by Diane Rufino, October 4, 2015

Obama Wants our Guns and It’s Time for the States to Make Clear: “We Will Not Comply…. We Will Nullify!”

Obama appears to be intent on burdening the second amendment – a fundamental and essential right of a free people.

The States need to decide where they stand: Either they will protect its people or the country is exactly what Abraham Lincoln envisioned – a country where the states are irrelevant and the federal government reigns absolutely supreme.

The States (and the local sheriffs) are the last line of defense between a rogue federal government and the People. The federal government appears to become more unhinged from the Constitution with each passing day and this should scare everyone. The need to erect lines of protection becomes ever more urgent. And this is where the States and sheriffs need to step in. They need to make clear that they will NULLIFY and INTERPOSE should the federal government attempt to infringe the right of the people to have and bear arms. We know what will be right around the corner should that happen… We only need to look at what happened to the unfortunate people of totalitarian regimes whose leaders confiscated guns. In this country, Patrick Henry explained it better than anyone else. A people who can’t defend themselves cannot assert their rights against the government and are therefore doomed to surrender them.

In 1775, after the British Crown and Parliament set out to punish the colonies for their “rebellious spirit” in frustrating its taxation schemes and its conduct in tossing tea overboard in Boston Harbor in protest of the monopoly established by the Tea Act by imposing the series of laws known as the Coercive Acts (unaffectionately referred to as the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists), the colonies sought to appeal King George III to interpose on their behalf and end the arbitrary and oppressive treatment of them.

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to address the colonies’ collective response to the Intolerable Acts. On October 25, it drafted a respectful response to the King, which would be known as the “Declarations and Resolves” and delegates were then dispatched to present them to him in person. Despite the anger that the colonies felt towards Great Britain after Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, our first Congress was still willing to assert its loyalty to the king. In return for this loyalty, Congress asked the king to address and resolve the specific grievances of the colonies; in particular, it asked that the Acts be repealed. The petition, written by Continental Congressman John Dickinson, laid out what Congress felt was undo oppression of the colonies by the British Parliament. King George would ignore the Declarations and Resolves and rather, he would use them to mock the colonies. He laughed, claiming that while they publicly pledged their loyalty to him, they were probably preparing for armed revolution. He found them ingenuous and not very clever.

[Approximately eight months after the Declarations were presented to King George and without any response, on July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.” On October 27, 1775 that King George appeared before both houses of the Parliament to address his concern about the increased rebellious nature of the colonies. He described the colonies as being in a state of rebellion, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies. With that, he gave Parliament his consent to dispatch troops to use against his own subjects – the very people who looked to him for respect and protection].

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry attended a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention, with a very important issue he intended to address. It would be the second convention held after the Royal Governor of Virginia dissolved the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses, for its solidarity with Massachusetts (after Parliament closed the port of Boston as punishment for the Boston Tea Party). The House of Burgesses would continue to meet, albeit in secret, but would operate in convention (These would serve as Virginia’s revolutionary provisional government).

While he knew the King had ignored the respectful petition by the First Continental Congress and had continued to treat them without the reserved rights afforded all English subjects, Henry could not know for sure that he would authorize military action against them. But he certainly saw it coming.

As tensions were mounting between Great Britain and the colonies, the Second Virginia Convention convened in secret at St. John’s Church in Richmond to discuss the Old Dominion’s strategy in negotiating with the Crown. The roughly 120 delegates who filed into Richmond’s St. John’s Church were a veritable “Who’s Who” of Virginia’s colonial leaders – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry, a well-respected lawyer and orator. Henry had long held a reputation as one of Virginia’s most vocal opponents of England’s oppressive taxation schemes. During the Stamp Act controversy in 1765, he bordered on treasonous activity when he delivered a speech in which he hinted that King George risked meeting the same fate as Julius Caesar if he maintained his oppressive policies. As a recent delegate to the Continental Congress, he resounded Ben Franklin’s call for colonial solidarity by proclaiming, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian; I am an American.”

Henry was convinced that war was around the corner. And he arrived at the Virginia Convention determined to persuade his fellow delegates to adopt a defensive stance against Great Britain. On that fateful evening of March 23, he put forward a resolution proposing that Virginia’s counties raise militiamen “to secure our inestimable rights and liberties, from those further violations with which they are threatened.” The suggestion of forming a colonial militia was not shocking in itself. After all, other colonies had already passed similar resolutions and had begun forming militias. And Henry himself had already taken it upon himself to raise a volunteer outfit in his home county of Hanover. Nevertheless, his proposal was not met with the approval he had hoped for. Many in the audience were skeptical at approving any measure that might be viewed as combative. Britain, after all, was the strongest military power in the world. They still held out hope for a peaceful reconciliation.

After several delegates had spoken on the issue, Patrick Henry rose from his seat in the third pew and took the floor. A Baptist minister who was present that evening would later describe him as having “an unearthly fire burning in his eye.” Just what happened next has long been a subject of debate. Henry spoke without notes, and no transcripts of his exact words have survived to today. The only known version of his remarks was reconstructed in the early 1800s by William Wirt, a biographer who corresponded with several men that attended the Convention. According to this version, Henry began by stating his intention to “speak forth my sentiments freely” before launching into an eloquent warning against appeasing the Crown.

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak and unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us……. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun…… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Less than a month later, shots would be fired at Lexington and Concord. The war that Henry saw coming had finally begun.

Patrick Henry had the intuition to understand that a leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant” cannot be trusted to allow his people to enjoy the freedom that they petition for. And when push comes to shove, the more they demand it, the more oppressive his response would be. And thus, since that leader, King George III, was considered to be unfit to be the ruler of a free people, in the mind of Patrick Henry, if he indeed decided to use force to subjugate the people of Virginia should be prepared with a force of their own to defend their liberty. Henry would later refer to Liberty as “that precious gem.”

A leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Americans still consider themselves a free people. And Americans still want to believe their government believes in their right to be so. But the one problem is that most Americans believe their “government” to be the federal government. A people who understand the foundations and underpinnings of liberty and freedom know that the federal government is not their government but rather their state government is their government. The federal government primarily serves the states, or at least, it was intended that way. Yet for limited objects, expressly defined in Article I, Section 8, its legislation can touch the people.

It is the state government, and not the federal government, that can protect an individual’s inalienable liberties. Which government in recent years has shown disregard for the fundamental rights of the People – federal or state? Which government has enacted the largest tax increase in our nation’s history? Which government has denied people the fundamental right to manage their healthcare? Which government has ignored immigration laws and attempted to fundamentally change the character of the nation illegally? Which government has demanded that marriage laws (based on natural criteria in place for thousands of years) be fundamentally altered? And which government has poised itself for years now to restrain the people in their right to have and bear arms? Again, a government “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

The American states, after fighting and winning a costly war for their independence, had to decide on the best form of government to embrace the values they proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. They asserted the same rights that the British held dear and which they fought to defend, spanning hundreds of years, but their task was to secure them more firmly so that their posterity – “millions yet unborn and generations to come” (from the anti-Federalist paper, Brutus I) – would enjoy the same degree of freedom. They didn’t want Americans to endure the same tortured history as the British, who enjoyed freedom under benevolent kings but oppression and even death under tyrants. Freedom, according to Thomas Jefferson, including as alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, was the right to be free from an aggressive or oppressive government. To that end, the government established by the Constitution of 1787, with powers limited in DC and balanced by the bulk of powers retained by the states, with its separation of powers and elaborate system of checks and balances, with its week judicial branch, and with a Bill of Rights, was believed to provide the best system to preserve the rights they fought for. Furthermore, in America, rights are understood to be inalienable, endowed by our Creator. In Britain, on the other hand, rights are those generously granted by government. Rights were only those limitations on government that Kings recognized by a signature on a charter.

The US Bill of Rights, modeled after the English Bill of Rights of 1689, exists to protect the individual against the government. Included in our Bill of Rights are the rights to be free from a national religion, the right to the free exercise of one’s religion and the rights of conscience. It includes the right of free speech, the right of assembly, the right to a free press, the right to petition the government, the right to have and bear arms, the right to be free in one’s home, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a jury trial, various rights of a person accused of a crime, the right not to have one’s property arbitrarily confiscated by the government, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and others.

The second amendment is currently under unrelenting attack by our current administration, with Obama leading the charge. Just two days ago, he spoke not only about the need for gun control but hinted about possible confiscation. When Obama spoke in reaction to the heinous October 1 attack on Umpqua Community College, in Oregon, he went beyond his usual calls for more gun control and suggested instead that the United States consider following the path taken by Australia and Great Britain.

In the mid-1990s Australia and Great Britain both instituted complete bans on firearm possession. And Obama referenced those bans: “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours – Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

What Obama didn’t clarify is that Australia has no constitution nor does it have a Bill of Rights. The rights of the people are not absolute. Great Britain, which also does not have a constitution, per se, does protect gun rights to some degree in its Bill of Rights of 1689. That document allowed for Protestant citizenry to “have Arms for their Defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law,” and restricted the right of the English Crown to have a standing army or to interfere with Protestants’ right to bear arms “when Papists were both armed and employed contrary to Law.” It also established that regulating the right to bear arms was one of the powers of Parliament and not of the monarch. Thus, the right was not absolute and it was clearly articulated as such. In fact, Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) about the right to have arms being auxiliary to the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” but subject to suitability and allowance by law.

As Mark Levin explained: “The second amendment isn’t in the Bill of Rights to protect you in your hunting rights. The second amendment isn’t there to protect you in your sports-shooting rights. The second amendment was added to the Constitution to protect you against a centralized government. The militia part of the second amendment underscores this point. The point is that the states can maintain militias to protect the states from an oppressive tyrannical central government. I don’t mean to be provocative, but that’s just history. That’s why we have the second amendment.”

What is that history? Our Founding Fathers, having just broken away from Great Britain, understood the new federal government they were ratifying might one day become just as tyrannical. If it had the authority to control citizen access to firearms, then it could disarm them, just as the British attempted to do. This would make any attempts to restore liberties futile. The second amendment was specifically included in the Bill of Rights to prevent this.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said in 1789 that “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” When the Founders wrote of a “well regulated” militia, they meant that militias needed to be well-regulated through training and drilling in order to be effective in battle. It was merely common sense. This could only happen if citizens had unrestricted access to firearms.

The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to have and bear arms is the right which secures all other rights. The First Amendment protects the other rights by permitting the speech and the expression, and the assembly and the petition and the use of the press to call out the government when it tramples on those rights, but the Second Amendment, with its force, is able to secure them, should the government ignore the former. In other words, when the First Amendment fails, the Second is there to preserve and secure the people in their liberty.

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights expresses the States’ intention in demanding a Bill of Rights as a condition to ratification. It reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, that in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, which shall extend the ground of public confidence in the Government, and will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution” According to the Preamble, the federal government is PROHIBITED from even contemplating the issue of abridging the rights guaranteed in the second amendment. The liberty rights contained in the Bill of Rights demand an ABSOLUTE BAN by the federal government action in those areas. Being that the Supreme Court has been in the business of enlarging the rights contained in those amendments (ie, privacy rights, for example, rights of criminals), we can assume that our right to have and bear arms is similarly enlarged.

Although the Bill of Rights was adopted after the Constitution was ratified, it was the absolute assurance by James Madison that he would draft a Bill of Rights and have it submitted and adopted by the First US Congress (June 8, 1788) that convinced several skeptical, and important, states to finally ratify. In other words, BUT FOR the fact that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution to further protect the rights of the People and the States, the Constitution would never have been adopted and the Union, as we know it, would not have been formed. After the delegates concluded their convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, it was clear that the Constitution that had been written was not very popular (particularly with the anti-Federalists). Some very important delegates refused to even sign it and some promised to do all they could to prevent its ratification by the states. Edmund Randolph and George Mason (both of VA), Elbridge Gerry (of MA), John Lansing and Robert Yates (both of NY), and Martin Luther (of DE) all refused to sign because of a lack of Bill of Rights and a deep concern that the government created would endanger the rights of the States. Yates would go on to write some of the strongest anti-Federalist essays, under the pen name Brutus, and fellow New Yorker, Governor George Clinton, would write some as well (under the name Cato). Two of our most important Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, although asked to be delegates to the Convention, declined because they were suspicious of those running the Convention (namely Madison, whom they suspected to have ambitious plans for the meeting). They believed a government stronger than the Articles would compromise the sovereignty of the States.

Indeed, it was unclear whether the Constitution would be ratified by the States. The Constitution was in deep trouble in the conventions of four states – Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. They were some of the biggest states. The first three were the most important and influential of the States. Without the guarantee of a Bill of Rights, those states were not going to ratify. The formation of a “more perfect union” appeared to be in jeopardy. Even with the guarantee, the votes for ratification were by a fairly slim margin. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution outright. It was not until a Bill of Rights was added that it called another ratifying convention to take another vote.

Does anyone believe that a constitution that expressly created a government as large, bloated, concentrated, oppressive, arrogant, monopolistic, and corrupt as the one in existence today would have been drafted and produced by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787? Does anyone believe that the delegates in attendance at that convention, the great leaders of our founding generation, knowing their concerns to respect the spirit of the Revolution and to protect their state sovereignty (and yield as little sovereign power as possible), would have drafted and signed such a document? And even if such a document would have been produced at the Convention, does anyone believe a single State would have ratified it and surrendered essentially all of its sovereignty? NO WAY !! There is no way that Virginia or New York or Massachusetts or North Carolina would have ratified it. NO WAY! None of them would have ratified it.

And yet we’ve allowed the government – what it’s become – to assert, unchallenged, that whatever it does and says is the supreme law of the land. Tyranny is defined as the action of an unjust and oppressive government. For a country that defines the boundaries of government on its people through a written constitution, tyranny occurs when unconstitutional laws are forced – enforced – on the people. After all, when a government assumes powers not delegated to it, it naturally has to usurp them from their rightful depository, which in the case of the United States is the States and the People.

Our government – all three branches – continue to act to mock individual liberty and states’ rights. Certainly our president does so at every given opportunity. Our government – all three branches – continues to act to ignore and frustrate the will of the People even though a democracy is their birthright. As Daniel Webster once wrote: “It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.” (note that this quote is the forerunner to Lincoln’s famous line in the Gettysburg Address).

The federal government, which was conceived as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” unfortunately now only rests on two of those legs. In has failed for many years now to be a government “for the people.”

Enough is enough.

Gun Rights mark a line in the sand. That line represents a tolerance of government that absolutely cannot be crossed. If government should attempt gun control that burdens or attempt confiscation, the line will have been crossed. The Supreme Court WOULD HAVE TO IMMEDIATELY STRIKE THAT ACTION DOWN. Hell, the Supreme Court has held over and over again that any action by government that should happen to burden even ever so lightly a woman’s right to have an abortion cannot be tolerated. And an abortion actually and absolutely KILLS another human being – an innocent and helpless one. The right to an abortion is NOT mentioned in the Constitution and certainly NOT in the Bill of Rights. The right to have and bear arms is. It is addressed plainly and without condition or pre-condition in the second amendment. By applying the same rational as the Court uses to ensure women their unfettered right and access to an abortion, the government MUST NOT in any way, shape, or form burden an individual’s right to have and bear arms. The right to bear arms is rooted in the natural rights of self-defense and self-preservation. The right to have an abortion is rooted in the selfish goal of convenience.

When the government crosses that line, the Declaration of Independence tells us what the Peoples’ rights are, under the theory of social compact (which the US Constitution is):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Should the government attempt to burden or deny the American people of their gun rights, our natural right of self-defense (even from our own government) and self-preservation (to live free, as our Creator endowed us and as nature intended) allows us to dissolve our government – that is absolve us from allegiance to it – and establish a new government that is dedicated to the protection of our God-given liberties. Personally, I believe the Constitution is perfect; it just needs verbage that makes it absolutely clear that its very terms are its limitations, there are no elastic clauses or implied powers, there is no independent legislative power attached to the General Welfare or Necessary and Proper clauses, no object expressly delegated to the legislative branch is allowed to be delegated to an un-elected group of people, Congress is expressly forbidden to tax and spend for any reason other than what is listed expressly in Article I Section 8, a provision should be included to give the states the power to audit the spending budget of the government for strict constitutionality, a provision should be added to require Congress to balance its budget every year, the Supreme Court can only offer an opinion which is subject to an appeal to the State courts, the “Wall of Separation” is removed from federal court jurisprudence, the president’s powers must be severely limited by additional language in the Constitution, presidents will no longer be allowed to issue executive orders, the bar for impeachment of a president will be lowered and in certain cases Congress MUST issue articles of impeachment and seek to remove him, consequences will be provided for in the Constitution for representatives and officials who violate their oath of office, the 14th amendment must be clarified as not intending to include the incorporation doctrine (so that the Bill of Rights once again only applies to the actions of the federal government), the 16th and 17th amendments must be repealed, an outright prohibition and a provision should be added that states that when the federal government over-steps its authority that threatens the balance of power between federal government and the states, it shall be viewed as a fatal breach of the compact that binds the states and as such they have the option of dissolving their allegiance. However, if the Constitution cannot be amended to assure that a future government remains adherent to its limits, then James Madison has set the example for us. We don’t have to “amend” the Constitution if we believe it to be seriously flawed. We can simply start from scratch.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence continues:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….”

Our government has been intent on enlarging and redefining its powers almost from the very beginning. It has done everything it has wanted to do to achieve the things it believed it needed to do or simply wanted to do (as in Barack Obama’s case). A government dependent on the separation of powers for proper functioning has become a government monopoly to ignore proper functioning in order to become what the British Kings used to be…. Supreme, domineering, coercive, and oppressive. The people’s government has been replaced by the government’s government. Liberty-loving Americans have been disposed to suffer long enough. Threats to take away our gun rights, however, would be the final straw.

Should Obama and his administration do more than simply talk about gun control and possible confiscation, it would be incumbent upon the states to NULLIFY any legislation or policy and then INTERPOSE for the protection and security of the People to have and bear arms. The next step, should the government fail to back down, would be to declare the federal action or actions to constitute a FATAL BREACH of the compact that brought the states together in the union and therefore the bonds of allegiance are severed and the Union creating the “United States” is thereby dissolved. The federal government would therefore have no jurisdiction except within the District of Columbia, I suppose.

The states need to act – NOW. Each state needs to adopt resolutions and enact legislation protecting the gun rights of its citizens. Those that respect the second amendment need to start attracting gun manufacturing and ammunition industry to their states. The states need to put the president and the administration, and including the federal courts, on notice of their intentions.

If the federal government intends to or attempts to violate the second amendment, the People need to know they can count on their government – that is, their state government. I hope their response will be clear and collective – WE WILL NOT COMPLY… WE WILL NULLIFY! Liberty will require such a response.

References:

Patrick Henry’s Speech, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/news/patrick-henrys-liberty-or-death-speech-240-years-ago

Congress Petitions English King to Address Grievances, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-petitions-english-king-to-address-grievances

King George III Speaks to Parliament of American Rebellion, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-george-iii-speaks-to-parliament-of-american-rebellion

Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. Referenced at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolves.asp

“Obama Trashes the Constitution and No One Says a Damn Thing!”, Mark Levin Show. Referenced at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mark+levin+obama+trashes+the+constitution+and+no+one+says+a+thing Also referenced at: http://therightscoop.com/mark-levin-obama-trashes-the-constitution-and-nobody-says-a-damn-thing/

“Obama Goes Beyond Mere Gun Control; Hints at Confiscation,” Breitbart News, October 3, 2015. Referenced at: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/10/03/obama-goes-beyond-mere-gun-control-hints-confiscation/

“The Second Amendment: It’s Meaning and Purpose, The Tenth Amendment Center, September 22, 2014. Referenced at: http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2014/09/22/2nd-amendment-original-meaning-and-purpose/

“Madison’s Introduction of the Bill of Rights,” usconstitution.net. Referenced at: http://www.usconstitution.net/madisonbor.html

Appendix:

The Intolerable Acts included the following:
(i) Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston to all colonists until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.
(ii) Massachusetts Government Act, which gave the British government total control of town meetings, taking all decisions out of the hands of the colonists.
(iii) Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America.
(iv) The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in private homes as a last resort.

by Diane Rufino, October 4, 2015

Obama Wants our Guns and It’s Time for the States to Make Clear: “We Will Not Comply…. We Will Nullify!”

Obama appears to be intent on burdening the second amendment – a fundamental and essential right of a free people.

The States need to decide where they stand: Either they will protect its people or the country is exactly what Abraham Lincoln envisioned – a country where the states are irrelevant and the federal government reigns absolutely supreme.

The States (and the local sheriffs) are the last line of defense between a rogue federal government and the People. The federal government appears to become more unhinged from the Constitution with each passing day and this should scare everyone. The need to erect lines of protection becomes ever more urgent. And this is where the States and sheriffs need to step in. They need to make clear that they will NULLIFY and INTERPOSE should the federal government attempt to infringe the right of the people to have and bear arms. We know what will be right around the corner should that happen… We only need to look at what happened to the unfortunate people of totalitarian regimes whose leaders confiscated guns. In this country, Patrick Henry explained it better than anyone else. A people who can’t defend themselves cannot assert their rights against the government and are therefore doomed to surrender them.

In 1775, after the British Crown and Parliament set out to punish the colonies for their “rebellious spirit” in frustrating its taxation schemes and its conduct in tossing tea overboard in Boston Harbor in protest of the monopoly established by the Tea Act by imposing the series of laws known as the Coercive Acts (unaffectionately referred to as the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists), the colonies sought to appeal King George III to interpose on their behalf and end the arbitrary and oppressive treatment of them.

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to address the colonies’ collective response to the Intolerable Acts. On October 25, it drafted a respectful response to the King, which would be known as the “Declarations and Resolves” and delegates were then dispatched to present them to him in person. Despite the anger that the colonies felt towards Great Britain after Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, our first Congress was still willing to assert its loyalty to the king. In return for this loyalty, Congress asked the king to address and resolve the specific grievances of the colonies; in particular, it asked that the Acts be repealed. The petition, written by Continental Congressman John Dickinson, laid out what Congress felt was undo oppression of the colonies by the British Parliament. King George would ignore the Declarations and Resolves and rather, he would use them to mock the colonies. He laughed, claiming that while they publicly pledged their loyalty to him, they were probably preparing for armed revolution. He found them ingenuous and not very clever.

[Approximately eight months after the Declarations were presented to King George and without any response, on July 6, 1775, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution entitled “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms.” On October 27, 1775 that King George appeared before both houses of the Parliament to address his concern about the increased rebellious nature of the colonies. He described the colonies as being in a state of rebellion, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies. With that, he gave Parliament his consent to dispatch troops to use against his own subjects – the very people who looked to him for respect and protection].

On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry attended a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention, with a very important issue he intended to address. It would be the second convention held after the Royal Governor of Virginia dissolved the colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses, for its solidarity with Massachusetts (after Parliament closed the port of Boston as punishment for the Boston Tea Party). The House of Burgesses would continue to meet, albeit in secret, but would operate in convention (These would serve as Virginia’s revolutionary provisional government).

While he knew the King had ignored the respectful petition by the First Continental Congress and had continued to treat them without the reserved rights afforded all English subjects, Henry could not know for sure that he would authorize military action against them. But he certainly saw it coming.

As tensions were mounting between Great Britain and the colonies, the Second Virginia Convention convened in secret at St. John’s Church in Richmond to discuss the Old Dominion’s strategy in negotiating with the Crown. The roughly 120 delegates who filed into Richmond’s St. John’s Church were a veritable “Who’s Who” of Virginia’s colonial leaders – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry, a well-respected lawyer and orator. Henry had long held a reputation as one of Virginia’s most vocal opponents of England’s oppressive taxation schemes. During the Stamp Act controversy in 1765, he bordered on treasonous activity when he delivered a speech in which he hinted that King George risked meeting the same fate as Julius Caesar if he maintained his oppressive policies. As a recent delegate to the Continental Congress, he resounded Ben Franklin’s call for colonial solidarity by proclaiming, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian; I am an American.”

Henry was convinced that war was around the corner. And he arrived at the Virginia Convention determined to persuade his fellow delegates to adopt a defensive stance against Great Britain. On that fateful evening of March 23, he put forward a resolution proposing that Virginia’s counties raise militiamen “to secure our inestimable rights and liberties, from those further violations with which they are threatened.” The suggestion of forming a colonial militia was not shocking in itself. After all, other colonies had already passed similar resolutions and had begun forming militias. And Henry himself had already taken it upon himself to raise a volunteer outfit in his home county of Hanover. Nevertheless, his proposal was not met with the approval he had hoped for. Many in the audience were skeptical at approving any measure that might be viewed as combative. Britain, after all, was the strongest military power in the world. They still held out hope for a peaceful reconciliation.

After several delegates had spoken on the issue, Patrick Henry rose from his seat in the third pew and took the floor. A Baptist minister who was present that evening would later describe him as having “an unearthly fire burning in his eye.” Just what happened next has long been a subject of debate. Henry spoke without notes, and no transcripts of his exact words have survived to today. The only known version of his remarks was reconstructed in the early 1800s by William Wirt, a biographer who corresponded with several men that attended the Convention. According to this version, Henry began by stating his intention to “speak forth my sentiments freely” before launching into an eloquent warning against appeasing the Crown.

I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation?

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak and unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us……. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun…… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Less than a month later, shots would be fired at Lexington and Concord. The war that Henry saw coming had finally begun.

Patrick Henry had the intuition to understand that a leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant” cannot be trusted to allow his people to enjoy the freedom that they petition for. And when push comes to shove, the more they demand it, the more oppressive his response would be. And thus, since that leader, King George III, was considered to be unfit to be the ruler of a free people, in the mind of Patrick Henry, if he indeed decided to use force to subjugate the people of Virginia should be prepared with a force of their own to defend their liberty. Henry would later refer to Liberty as “that precious gem.”

A leader “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Americans still consider themselves a free people. And Americans still want to believe their government believes in their right to be so. But the one problem is that most Americans believe their “government” to be the federal government. A people who understand the foundations and underpinnings of liberty and freedom know that the federal government is not their government but rather their state government is their government. The federal government primarily serves the states, or at least, it was intended that way. Yet for limited objects, expressly defined in Article I, Section 8, its legislation can touch the people.

It is the state government, and not the federal government, that can protect an individual’s inalienable liberties. Which government in recent years has shown disregard for the fundamental rights of the People – federal or state? Which government has enacted the largest tax increase in our nation’s history? Which government has denied people the fundamental right to manage their healthcare? Which government has ignored immigration laws and attempted to fundamentally change the character of the nation illegally? Which government has demanded that marriage laws (based on natural criteria in place for thousands of years) be fundamentally altered? And which government has poised itself for years now to restrain the people in their right to have and bear arms? Again, a government “whose character is thus marked by every act which defines a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

The American states, after fighting and winning a costly war for their independence, had to decide on the best form of government to embrace the values they proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. They asserted the same rights that the British held dear and which they fought to defend, spanning hundreds of years, but their task was to secure them more firmly so that their posterity – “millions yet unborn and generations to come” (from the anti-Federalist paper, Brutus I) – would enjoy the same degree of freedom. They didn’t want Americans to endure the same tortured history as the British, who enjoyed freedom under benevolent kings but oppression and even death under tyrants. Freedom, according to Thomas Jefferson, including as alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, was the right to be free from an aggressive or oppressive government. To that end, the government established by the Constitution of 1787, with powers limited in DC and balanced by the bulk of powers retained by the states, with its separation of powers and elaborate system of checks and balances, with its week judicial branch, and with a Bill of Rights, was believed to provide the best system to preserve the rights they fought for. Furthermore, in America, rights are understood to be inalienable, endowed by our Creator. In Britain, on the other hand, rights are those generously granted by government. Rights were only those limitations on government that Kings recognized by a signature on a charter.

The US Bill of Rights, modeled after the English Bill of Rights of 1689, exists to protect the individual against the government. Included in our Bill of Rights are the rights to be free from a national religion, the right to the free exercise of one’s religion and the rights of conscience. It includes the right of free speech, the right of assembly, the right to a free press, the right to petition the government, the right to have and bear arms, the right to be free in one’s home, papers, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a jury trial, various rights of a person accused of a crime, the right not to have one’s property arbitrarily confiscated by the government, the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and others.

The second amendment is currently under unrelenting attack by our current administration, with Obama leading the charge. Just two days ago, he spoke not only about the need for gun control but hinted about possible confiscation. When Obama spoke in reaction to the heinous October 1 attack on Umpqua Community College, in Oregon, he went beyond his usual calls for more gun control and suggested instead that the United States consider following the path taken by Australia and Great Britain.

In the mid-1990s Australia and Great Britain both instituted complete bans on firearm possession. And Obama referenced those bans: “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours – Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”

What Obama didn’t clarify is that Australia has no constitution nor does it have a Bill of Rights. The rights of the people are not absolute. Great Britain, which also does not have a constitution, per se, does protect gun rights to some degree in its Bill of Rights of 1689. That document allowed for Protestant citizenry to “have Arms for their Defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law,” and restricted the right of the English Crown to have a standing army or to interfere with Protestants’ right to bear arms “when Papists were both armed and employed contrary to Law.” It also established that regulating the right to bear arms was one of the powers of Parliament and not of the monarch. Thus, the right was not absolute and it was clearly articulated as such. In fact, Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) about the right to have arms being auxiliary to the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” but subject to suitability and allowance by law.

As Mark Levin explained: “The second amendment isn’t in the Bill of Rights to protect you in your hunting rights. The second amendment isn’t there to protect you in your sports-shooting rights. The second amendment was added to the Constitution to protect you against a centralized government. The militia part of the second amendment underscores this point. The point is that the states can maintain militias to protect the states from an oppressive tyrannical central government. I don’t mean to be provocative, but that’s just history. That’s why we have the second amendment.”

What is that history? Our Founding Fathers, having just broken away from Great Britain, understood the new federal government they were ratifying might one day become just as tyrannical. If it had the authority to control citizen access to firearms, then it could disarm them, just as the British attempted to do. This would make any attempts to restore liberties futile. The second amendment was specifically included in the Bill of Rights to prevent this.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said in 1789 that “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” When the Founders wrote of a “well regulated” militia, they meant that militias needed to be well-regulated through training and drilling in order to be effective in battle. It was merely common sense. This could only happen if citizens had unrestricted access to firearms.

The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual’s right to have and bear arms is the right which secures all other rights. The First Amendment protects the other rights by permitting the speech and the expression, and the assembly and the petition and the use of the press to call out the government when it tramples on those rights, but the Second Amendment, with its force, is able to secure them, should the government ignore the former. In other words, when the First Amendment fails, the Second is there to preserve and secure the people in their liberty.

The Preamble to the Bill of Rights expresses the States’ intention in demanding a Bill of Rights as a condition to ratification. It reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, that in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, which shall extend the ground of public confidence in the Government, and will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution” According to the Preamble, the federal government is PROHIBITED from even contemplating the issue of abridging the rights guaranteed in the second amendment. The liberty rights contained in the Bill of Rights demand an ABSOLUTE BAN by the federal government action in those areas. Being that the Supreme Court has been in the business of enlarging the rights contained in those amendments (ie, privacy rights, for example, rights of criminals), we can assume that our right to have and bear arms is similarly enlarged.

Although the Bill of Rights was adopted after the Constitution was ratified, it was the absolute assurance by James Madison that he would draft a Bill of Rights and have it submitted and adopted by the First US Congress (June 8, 1788) that convinced several skeptical, and important, states to finally ratify. In other words, BUT FOR the fact that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution to further protect the rights of the People and the States, the Constitution would never have been adopted and the Union, as we know it, would not have been formed. After the delegates concluded their convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, it was clear that the Constitution that had been written was not very popular (particularly with the anti-Federalists). Some very important delegates refused to even sign it and some promised to do all they could to prevent its ratification by the states. Edmund Randolph and George Mason (both of VA), Elbridge Gerry (of MA), John Lansing and Robert Yates (both of NY), and Martin Luther (of DE) all refused to sign because of a lack of Bill of Rights and a deep concern that the government created would endanger the rights of the States. Yates would go on to write some of the strongest anti-Federalist essays, under the pen name Brutus, and fellow New Yorker, Governor George Clinton, would write some as well (under the name Cato). Two of our most important Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, although asked to be delegates to the Convention, declined because they were suspicious of those running the Convention (namely Madison, whom they suspected to have ambitious plans for the meeting). They believed a government stronger than the Articles would compromise the sovereignty of the States.

Indeed, it was unclear whether the Constitution would be ratified by the States. The Constitution was in deep trouble in the conventions of four states – Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. They were some of the biggest states. The first three were the most important and influential of the States. Without the guarantee of a Bill of Rights, those states were not going to ratify. The formation of a “more perfect union” appeared to be in jeopardy. Even with the guarantee, the votes for ratification were by a fairly slim margin. North Carolina had rejected the Constitution outright. It was not until a Bill of Rights was added that it called another ratifying convention to take another vote.

Does anyone believe that a constitution that expressly created a government as large, bloated, concentrated, oppressive, arrogant, monopolistic, and corrupt as the one in existence today would have been drafted and produced by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787? Does anyone believe that the delegates in attendance at that convention, the great leaders of our founding generation, knowing their concerns to respect the spirit of the Revolution and to protect their state sovereignty (and yield as little sovereign power as possible), would have drafted and signed such a document? And even if such a document would have been produced at the Convention, does anyone believe a single State would have ratified it and surrendered essentially all of its sovereignty? NO WAY !! There is no way that Virginia or New York or Massachusetts or North Carolina would have ratified it. NO WAY! None of them would have ratified it.

And yet we’ve allowed the government – what it’s become – to assert, unchallenged, that whatever it does and says is the supreme law of the land. Tyranny is defined as the action of an unjust and oppressive government. For a country that defines the boundaries of government on its people through a written constitution, tyranny occurs when unconstitutional laws are forced – enforced – on the people. After all, when a government assumes powers not delegated to it, it naturally has to usurp them from their rightful depository, which in the case of the United States is the States and the People.

Our government – all three branches – continue to act to mock individual liberty and states’ rights. Certainly our president does so at every given opportunity. Our government – all three branches – continues to act to ignore and frustrate the will of the People even though a democracy is their birthright. As Daniel Webster once wrote: “It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.” (note that this quote is the forerunner to Lincoln’s famous line in the Gettysburg Address).

The federal government, which was conceived as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” unfortunately now only rests on two of those legs. In has failed for many years now to be a government “for the people.”

Enough is enough.

Gun Rights mark a line in the sand. That line represents a tolerance of government that absolutely cannot be crossed. If government should attempt gun control that burdens or attempt confiscation, the line will have been crossed. The Supreme Court WOULD HAVE TO IMMEDIATELY STRIKE THAT ACTION DOWN. Hell, the Supreme Court has held over and over again that any action by government that should happen to burden even ever so lightly a woman’s right to have an abortion cannot be tolerated. And an abortion actually and absolutely KILLS another human being – an innocent and helpless one. The right to an abortion is NOT mentioned in the Constitution and certainly NOT in the Bill of Rights. The right to have and bear arms is. It is addressed plainly and without condition or pre-condition in the second amendment. By applying the same rational as the Court uses to ensure women their unfettered right and access to an abortion, the government MUST NOT in any way, shape, or form burden an individual’s right to have and bear arms. The right to bear arms is rooted in the natural rights of self-defense and self-preservation. The right to have an abortion is rooted in the selfish goal of convenience.

When the government crosses that line, the Declaration of Independence tells us what the Peoples’ rights are, under the theory of social compact (which the US Constitution is):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Should the government attempt to burden or deny the American people of their gun rights, our natural right of self-defense (even from our own government) and self-preservation (to live free, as our Creator endowed us and as nature intended) allows us to dissolve our government – that is absolve us from allegiance to it – and establish a new government that is dedicated to the protection of our God-given liberties. Personally, I believe the Constitution is perfect; it just needs verbage that makes it absolutely clear that its very terms are its limitations, there are no elastic clauses or implied powers, there is no independent legislative power attached to the General Welfare or Necessary and Proper clauses, no object expressly delegated to the legislative branch is allowed to be delegated to an un-elected group of people, Congress is expressly forbidden to tax and spend for any reason other than what is listed expressly in Article I Section 8, a provision should be included to give the states the power to audit the spending budget of the government for strict constitutionality, a provision should be added to require Congress to balance its budget every year, the Supreme Court can only offer an opinion which is subject to an appeal to the State courts, the “Wall of Separation” is removed from federal court jurisprudence, the president’s powers must be severely limited by additional language in the Constitution, presidents will no longer be allowed to issue executive orders, the bar for impeachment of a president will be lowered and in certain cases Congress MUST issue articles of impeachment and seek to remove him, consequences will be provided for in the Constitution for representatives and officials who violate their oath of office, the 14th amendment must be clarified as not intending to include the incorporation doctrine (so that the Bill of Rights once again only applies to the actions of the federal government), the 16th and 17th amendments must be repealed, an outright prohibition and a provision should be added that states that when the federal government over-steps its authority that threatens the balance of power between federal government and the states, it shall be viewed as a fatal breach of the compact that binds the states and as such they have the option of dissolving their allegiance. However, if the Constitution cannot be amended to assure that a future government remains adherent to its limits, then James Madison has set the example for us. We don’t have to “amend” the Constitution if we believe it to be seriously flawed. We can simply start from scratch.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence continues:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security….”

Our government has been intent on enlarging and redefining its powers almost from the very beginning. It has done everything it has wanted to do to achieve the things it believed it needed to do or simply wanted to do (as in Barack Obama’s case). A government dependent on the separation of powers for proper functioning has become a government monopoly to ignore proper functioning in order to become what the British Kings used to be…. Supreme, domineering, coercive, and oppressive. The people’s government has been replaced by the government’s government. Liberty-loving Americans have been disposed to suffer long enough. Threats to take away our gun rights, however, would be the final straw.

Should Obama and his administration do more than simply talk about gun control and possible confiscation, it would be incumbent upon the states to NULLIFY any legislation or policy and then INTERPOSE for the protection and security of the People to have and bear arms. The next step, should the government fail to back down, would be to declare the federal action or actions to constitute a FATAL BREACH of the compact that brought the states together in the union and therefore the bonds of allegiance are severed and the Union creating the “United States” is thereby dissolved. The federal government would therefore have no jurisdiction except within the District of Columbia, I suppose.

The states need to act – NOW. Each state needs to adopt resolutions and enact legislation protecting the gun rights of its citizens. Those that respect the second amendment need to start attracting gun manufacturing and ammunition industry to their states. The states need to put the president and the administration, and including the federal courts, on notice of their intentions.

If the federal government intends to or attempts to violate the second amendment, the People need to know they can count on their government – that is, their state government. I hope their response will be clear and collective – WE WILL NOT COMPLY… WE WILL NULLIFY! Liberty will require such a response.

References:

Patrick Henry’s Speech, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/news/patrick-henrys-liberty-or-death-speech-240-years-ago

Congress Petitions English King to Address Grievances, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-petitions-english-king-to-address-grievances

King George III Speaks to Parliament of American Rebellion, History.com. Referenced at: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-george-iii-speaks-to-parliament-of-american-rebellion

Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress. Referenced at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolves.asp

“Obama Trashes the Constitution and No One Says a Damn Thing!”, Mark Levin Show. Referenced at: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mark+levin+obama+trashes+the+constitution+and+no+one+says+a+thing Also referenced at: http://therightscoop.com/mark-levin-obama-trashes-the-constitution-and-nobody-says-a-damn-thing/

“Obama Goes Beyond Mere Gun Control; Hints at Confiscation,” Breitbart News, October 3, 2015. Referenced at: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/10/03/obama-goes-beyond-mere-gun-control-hints-confiscation/

“The Second Amendment: It’s Meaning and Purpose, The Tenth Amendment Center, September 22, 2014. Referenced at: http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2014/09/22/2nd-amendment-original-meaning-and-purpose/

“Madison’s Introduction of the Bill of Rights,” usconstitution.net. Referenced at: http://www.usconstitution.net/madisonbor.html

Appendix:

The Intolerable Acts included the following:
(i) Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston to all colonists until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.
(ii) Massachusetts Government Act, which gave the British government total control of town meetings, taking all decisions out of the hands of the colonists.
(iii) Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America.
(iv) The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in private homes as a last resort.

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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: The Power to Right Constitutional Wrongs

NULLIFICATION - John Greenleaf Whittier (Abolitionist and Nullifier)    by Diane Rufino, July 9, 2015

THOMAS JEFFERSON wondered how the country would respond in the case its government passed a law that was clearly unconstitutional. As Secretary of State under our first president, George Washington, he already witnessed the wheels of government try to enlarge provisions in the Constitution to give the administration unchecked powers to tax and spend. Washington would establish the first National Bank. Jefferson knew the trend would continue. And it did.  Our second president, John Adams, signed the Alien & Sedition Acts into law, which were laws addressing the Quasi War (undeclared) with France at the time. The French Revolution just killed off the monarch and his family and tensions flared up between the new French republic and its old rival, England. There was an influx of French immigrants and Americans were split in their support of the old French system or the new republic. Although the Alien Acts (3 of them) were offensive, it was the Sedition Act that was most glaringly so. The Sedition Act made it a crime (fines and jail sentences) should any person “write, print, utter, or publish, OR cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, OR assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States….”   The Constitutional red flags went up at once.  The immediate violations jumped out to men like Jefferson and Madison, and many others. While the Alien Acts violated the 10th Amendment and the Due Process clause of the 5th Amendment, the Sedition Act was a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment and its guarantee of Free Speech (most importantly, political speech!)  John Adams, a Federalist, saw nothing wrong with any of the laws.  Neither did his Federalist co-members of government or his Federalist judges.  Thomas Jefferson, the Vice President at the time (since he got the second highest votes in the election of 1796) wasn’t a Federalist. He was a Republican-Democrat (a party he founded).  [Notice that the Sedition Act protected everyone from slander EXCEPT the VP !!].  The Checks and Balances didn’t work. Political power was more important than the rights the government was created to protect!

And so, convictions quickly followed. Journalists, publishers, and even congressmen were fined and jailed. Not a single person targeted was a Federalist. The only ones targeted were Republicans.  The men who wrote our founding documents – Jefferson and Madison – began a series of correspondences to discuss what should be done to prevent such unconstitutional laws from being enforced on people who had a rightful expectation of exercising the liberties promised in the Declaration and in the Bill of Rights. (And of course they had to be very careful lest they be convicted under the law!)  Jefferson saw that there are 3 possible remedies when a government tries to enforce unconstitutional laws..  (1) Seek an opinion from the Judiciary;  (2) Secession; or  (3) Nullification.  Jefferson advised against the first two remedies.  He said the first was unpredictable and unreliable. He believed justices were men motivated by the same passions, political motivations, thirst for power and legacy, and opinions as politicians and could not be counted on to be impartial interpreters of the Constitution. He also realized that the judiciary was only one branch of government (the least powerful at the time), and although it would render an opinion, Congress and the President were not required to abide by its ruling. Furthermore, the courts were all Federalists at the time and were part of the problem!.  Jefferson said secession was certainly a legitimate option (after all, the Declaration itself was a secessionist document), but said it was far too extreme and every effort should be made to keep the union together in a workable fashion.  The third option, he said, was “the rightful remedy.”  Nullification, he said, was the remedy inherent in the states’ ratification of the Constitution, inherent in the doctrine of federalism, a remedy grounded in law itself, and the remedy that would allow hot tempers to cool and would prevent states from threatening to leave the Union.  Madison agreed.

Nullification is the doctrine which states that any law that is made without proper legal authority is immediately null and void and therefore unenforceable. Laws have to be enforced by officials – federal and state. When the government passes a law pursuant to its powers, it is supreme and binding. Every level of enforcement recognizes the law. States are obligated to uphold it and help enforce it.  An example are the federal immigration laws.  When the government passes a law that it has no authority to make – such as the Sedition Act, which offends the 1st Amendment which is a strict prohibition on the government with respect to individual speech (political speech) – then in terms of legality, the law is null and void.  For a government to try to enforce it would be an act of tyranny. (Tyranny is defined as a government that abuses its powers and enforces unpopular laws).  Since the law is null and void, no enforcement agency should force the law on the people. Government will never admit its law is unconstitutional or unenforceable and so it is up to the states and the communities (and their enforcement agencies) to prevent such law from being enforced.  The states are the rightful parties to stand up for the people against a tyrannical act of government. When the government assumes power to legislate that it was not granted in the Constitution, it usurps (or steals it) from its rightful depository, which are either the States or the People (see the 10th and the 9th Amendments).  Every party must always jealously guard its sphere of government; it’s bundle of rights.  States have their powers of government and people have their rights of self-government (ie, control over their own lives, thoughts, actions, and property). Again, if we look at the Sedition Act, the government under John Adams passed the law by attempting to steal the rights of free speech from the People.

Well, immediately, Jefferson and Madison got out their pens and drafted the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and of 1799 (Jefferson, for the Kentucky state legislature) and the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 (Madison, for the Virginia state legislature).  Both states passed them, declaring that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable in their states.  The Virginia Resolutions were especially forceful because they announced that the state of Virginia would take every step possible to prevent the enforcement of the laws on its people.

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 government hates the doctrine of Nullification and has used every opportunity to discredit it.  And it makes sense.  And doctrine that gives power to the States is offensive to the federal government. It makes them harder to control. We all know how angry the government gets when any state criticizes or attempts to frustrate the government’s laws, policies, and agenda.  Nullification, like secession, is a fundamental sovereign power reserved to each state. Since the states did not form the Union by unlimited submission to the common government they created, certain powers remain vested in them.  Despite what Lincoln and Obama may claim, the states did NOT create, or attempt to create, or even envision creating a “perpetual” Union by ratifying the Constitution.  Those words are merely wishful thinking by despots and revisionists.

NULLIFICATION - When Injustice Becomes Law, Nullification Becomes a Duty

The biggest tool the government has in its arsenal to shut down the discussion of Nullification is RACISM.  According to the government’s position – as evidenced in texts, government spokespersons, liberal pundits, college professors – Nullification is a racist doctrine that was used to help the states resist integration following Brown v. Board of Education (1953). For years, the southern states were demonized and punished by the northern states for the Civil War (War of Northern Aggression) and because the North was forcibly and quickly transforming their society, there were actions that would clearly be classified as “reactive” and “lashing out.” The North, as the victors of the war, had the benefit of writing history and telling the “official” story.  Nullification was used once in the south after the Brown decision. It was used by the governor and state legislature of Arkansas to prevent integration of the schools in the state (they amended the state constitution). They believed the decision was arbitrary and unconstitutional and believed the court had no power to enforce it. After all, approximately 1/5 of the entire membership of Congress signed a statement in 1956 pretty much declaring the same thing. They also feared what would happen given the level of hostility in the state. But Little Rock continued to move forward with its plan for desegregation. Eventually, in 1958, the Little Rock School Board filed suit asking for a court order allowing them to delay desegregation. They alleged that public hostility to desegregation and opposition created by the governor and the state legislature created an intolerable and chaotic situation. The relief the plaintiffs requested was for the African-American children to be returned to segregated schools and for the implementation of the desegregation plan to be postponed for two and a half years. The case went to the Supreme Court, which declared that no state had the right to ignore any of its decisions. Citing Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison, the Court emphasized that its decisions are binding on all the states and that to ignore them is to “wage war on the Constitution.” In other words, opponents of nullification assert that this case stands for the premise that states cannot nullify federal laws.

Racism invites passion. It questions motives, clouds judgment, obscures facts, and shuts down debate. Racism assumes that no party has any grievance or concern more important than that of the African-American. It assumes there is no part of history more important than slavery, abolition, and Jim Crow.  Racism never dies, according to the government.  Racism never dies, according to the irresponsible media.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that our current government is fanning the flames once again in history of racism and making sure we are once again defined as a racist nation. In this time when Nullification should be the topic everyone wants to re-address, the countering argument will always be: “Look, they’re trying to go back to the days of segregation.”

And so, I wanted to write this to emphasize the REAL story of Nullification..  and the REAL success of Nullification.  It wasn’t in light of the Alien & Sedition Acts. It wasn’t the publication of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (because, let’s be honest, most of the other states were too timid to adopt similar resolutions and so the states, in the end, didn’t stand up to the government as Jefferson and Madison had hoped. There were probably 2 reasons for this: (1) The Acts were set to expire at the end of Adams’ term, which was only 2 years away so why get their panties in a wad; and  (2) the Union was extremely fragile at this point  – rebellions all over the place over the government’s authority to tax and collect – and the states didn’t want to exacerbate the situation.  The real success story of Nullification was in the rejection of the Constitution’s Fugitive Slave Laws.

Yes, the American flag, believe it or not, was the official flag of a slave nation for 77 years (1788 – 1865).  Slavery was protected in the United States by the Constitution for those years. Although slave importation had been abolished by the time the Constitution was ratified and the Union was created, the institution itself was still constitutional. Not only was it constitutional, but slaves, as property, were required (by the Constitution) to be returned to their owner. State agents, courts, and instrumentalities were required to enforce these federal laws.  But abolitionists in the North, like Rosa Parks herself sitting on a seat in a public bus, knew that the laws were revolting and fundamentally wrong.  Through civil acts of disobedience, like Ms. Parks refusing to give up her seat, those in states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, either outright enacted laws which nullified Fugitive Slave Laws or they acted to frustrate or otherwise render useless any attempt to enforce them. Nullification was a very successful way for escaped slaves to finally realize freedom in the North. It’s pretty hard to claim Nullification is racist, like its opponents do, when it served such a public good (while the US Constitution protected something so evil).   The following video does an amazing job to educate people on the history of Nullification and to explain its power to right wrong.

https://www.facebook.com/tenthamendmentcenter/videos/10152871564545764/?fref=nf  (from the Tenth Amendment Center)

A Government That Wants to Control Us, Not Represent Us

TYRANNY   by Diane Rufino

George S. Liberty recently wrote a rant about government on his blogsite after he watched a news clip about Jonathan Gruber, the controversial architect of Obamacare.  His theme was how audacious and contemptible the government has become regarding the American people.  Clearly, the government has little respect for the people. It feigns loyalty to them only when it comes to election time or when it serves its purposes in enlarging the federal institution. As George wrote: “It’s clear that government feels it must oversee us rather than represent us. It knows best.”

The federal government is steadily becoming more antagonistic and repugnant to the People.  Its interests are not the interests of the American people. In fact, too many times, its interests are exactly opposed to their interests.  Look at the immigration issue, look at the erosion of race relations at the direct hands of the current administration, and look at the soft stance the current administration is taking with respect with the greatest evil the world has encountered since Nazi Germany and its designs for genocide of the Jews and world domination.  When has America ever stood by and watched its citizens being brutally beheaded?  The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, for example, which violates so many precious American liberties that this article dares not even go into them, was passed with a level of deception and duplicity that hasn’t been seen in this country since the days of the Civil War and Reconstruction. As if the backdoor deals, threats, and political promises make by the President weren’t enough, as if his promise to the American people, through an interview with George Stephanopolous, that the mandate was not a tax only to have the mandate officially classified as a tax (and supported and justified by the government’s taxing power) wasn’t enough, and as if the promises of lower healthcare costs (and retention of one’s doctor) only to see costs skyrocket, doctors lost, and businesses suffer wasn’t enough, we now learn that the architect of the healthcare bill “counted on the stupidity of the American people” in getting the bill passed in the court of public opinion.  He said that if more people knew what was written in the bill, it would have never passed. “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.  In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass… Look, I wish we could have made it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

This government – OUR government – a government supposedly of the people, by the people and for the people –  purposely set out to deceive We the People.  Wow.  I mean, WOW!  Can you believe the audacity of our government?  King George III of England seemed audacious at one time.  He and the British Parliament took the liberty of taxing the American colonies to cover the costs incurred by the British in fighting the French in the French & Indian War (to clear claim to the New World territories) and the costs to protect them.  Yes, the tax was ultimately being used to serve and benefit the colonies, but it was the fact that the King didn’t first provide them with a seat in Parliament to give them representation with respect to legislation that affected them which set them off.  This failure of the King to safeguard their rights as Englishmen (as laid out in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, among other charters) is what gave birth to the Sons of Liberty, led to the Boston Tea Party, the shots at Concord & Lexington, the Declaration of Independence, and ultimately to our secession from Great Britain.  The lack of transparency, the duplicity, the contempt, etc…..  King Obama and his Congress of rats and weasels all of a sudden don’t seem much different from King George.

As I hear news story after news story showing just what a leviathan that our government has become – in both size and attitude –  I can’t help but reflect upon the genius of our Founding Fathers.  Thomas Jefferson repeatedly explained how government would work best. In 1816, he wrote to his friend Joseph Cabell: “”The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the function he is competent to.  Let the National Government be entrusted with the defense of the nation and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the

counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.  It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.”  The federal government was never intended to have such concentrated power and authority over the states and over the lives and property of the people. Whatever happened to these documents: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…..”     And “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.”

The highly intuitive and intellectual geniuses that debated and drafted our Constitution knew very well what could happen if the populace became complacent and tacitly surrendered their freedom to the designs of government. Thomas Jefferson and others warned that government would tend to grow itself and put its own interests above those of the people.  The delegates to the Philadelphia Convention thought they addressed this problem by creating separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches and by building into government various levels of checks and balances.  Madison’s essays – Federalist No 47 and No. 51 – addressed these important design features.  Aside from the separation of powers and the systems of checks and balances, our Founders believed the two most powerful checks on government would be the States (federalism; Tenth Amendment) and the People themselves (ever vigilante of their liberties).

The question is this: Once government becomes self-serving rather than freedom-serving, are we stuck with it?  The answer is no.  Lucky for us, the sheer brilliance of our Founders can be seen in the plain words of our country’s charter of freedom – the Declaration of Independence:

“…….That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But the obvious follow-up question is this:  At what point do we “alter or abolish” our government?  Jefferson addresses that question in that second paragraph:

“…… Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.“

At this point, so many of our precious liberties – certainly our rights to property and now our rights to make basic choices regarding our lives, our associations, our conscience, and our health – are not secured by our government. In fact, government is assaulting and eroding them. Our right to bear arms, the one right that helps us secure all others, has become ever so tenuous.  Is now the time to “alter or abolish” our government?

Judging by the sheer volume of Americans that the government has managed to shackle to its existence and its programs, individual liberty may no longer be that “precious gem” (as James Madison once called it at the Virginia Ratifying Convention) that should be placed above all else. There was a time when it was.

And government knows this.  Perhaps that was the very intent of government when it set on its path to become the great leviathan that it currently is. Maybe it knew that the people had to be coerced into surrendering their liberties – by promising them stuff and taking care of them from cradle to grave and by convincing them that the promise of guaranteed freedom isn’t the same as a guaranteed paycheck or guaranteed housing or guaranteed healthcare.

Maybe those government officials who have sought over the years to use the full power of the government to divest it of its constitutional moorings studied Federalist No 51.  In that essay, James Madison wrote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

People can’t control government like they are supposed to if government controls them.  And make no mistake about it…. Government today DOES control the American people.

Combine the complacency that people have on account of the emphasis that the leviathan places on social and welfare programs with the “experience that hath been shown” of human nature to be “disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  This looks like a perfect recipe for government longevity and acceptance of tyranny.  And so, in one of his arguments, George S. Liberty writes: “The government will continue to take, and take, and take. And it will push, push, and push –  all in the design to sustain itself at the expense of the populacebecause it knows that people are more inclined to suffer the consequences than to right themselves. The government banks on the fact that we are timid.”

It cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals — that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government — that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.

In other words, in this country, it is freedom that is enlarged.….   NOT the government.  Freedom must endure at all costs; NOT government.  Government must not be perpetual, if it be at the expense of individual freedom.  But individual freedom MUST be perpetual, even and perhaps especially at the expense of government.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “Unless the mass retains sufficient control over those entrusted with the powers of their government, these will be perverted to their own oppression, and to the perpetuation of wealth and power in the individuals and their families selected for the trust. Whether our Constitution has hit on the exact degree of control necessary, is yet under experiment.” (in a letter to M. van der Kemp, 1812)  Maybe our future generations of Americans are better served in our public schools by spending a month every year learning what our Founding Fathers had to say about civic duty instead of constantly re-learning about slavery and Jim Crow (the wounds that no one seems to want to let heal).

So, where are today’s Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Sam Adams, and George Washington?

If ever we needed these men – or their spirits – it is now.

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/

 

Two Ways of Educating

Education - Indoctrination Center        by  Diane Rufino, December 24, 2013

At some schools, usually independent (not accepting federal dollars) and religious, students read old books, including Plato’s Republic.  In the Republic, they read the story of Gyges’ ring that makes the wearer of it invisible.  One of Socrates’ conversants in the Republic, a young man named Glaucon (who happened to be Plato’s older brother; both were students of Socrates), raises the question: ‘Why would a man in possession of such a ring not use it to do and obtain whatever he wishes?  Why would he not use the ring’s powers, for instance, to become a tyrant?’  In response, Socrates turns the discussion to another question: ‘What is the right way for a man to live?  What is just by nature and what is unjust?’

In parochial schools, such as John Paul II Catholic High School (where I teach), students are also regularly guided by the teachings of the Bible. With respect to the teachings of Jesus, it was Jesus himself who boiled the lessons down to two commandments. When asked by a teacher of law which of God’s laws are most important (Mark 12:28-31), Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  As with books like the Republic, the teachings of the Bible emphasize the proper way for a man to live.  They establish a value system of love, compassion, and charity.  They teach that individuals should use their talents, their abilities, their powers to do good, and not just for themselves but for others as well.

These Socratic questions were once at the center or core of education. But in American education as a whole, and thanks in great part to policies directed by the federal government, these questions have been abandoned. Teaching ‘morality,’ as it turns out, is too offensive.  Even sadder is the tacit denial that such a focus in education serves no sound social purpose.  Thankfully, these Socratic and Socratic-type questions remain at the center or core of education at many institutions that believe that a proper education includes an emphasis on morality and ethics.

At John Paul II Catholic High School, St. Peter’s, and other parochial schools, and perhaps some charter schools as well, there is often a core group of course that all students, regardless of their path, are required to take. This core has a unifying principle, as explained above, such as the idea that there is a right way to live.

Compare this to the “core” that defines the latest bright idea of the education establishment – Common Core.  At its core is the imposition of national one-size-fits-all, copyrighted and licensed educational standards on American public schools all across the country for top-down universal control over the teaching of our children. When one looks into Common Core, it becomes clear that it has no unifying principle, such as I have described above.

Absent the kind of questions posed by Socrates in the Republic or the lessons of community found in the Bible, or in the plays of Shakespeare that pit good versus evil/right versus wrong, modern educators treat students chiefly as factors of production, as moldable young adults to be trained for productive jobs, as dictated by the economy at the time.  And although we all wish productive jobs for our children, as parents we know that they are not chiefly job-seekers or factors of production. “After all, how many of us, if we were given the choice between having our children earn a lot of money and being bad, or struggling economically and being good, would choose the former?”

Another example of the turn taken by modern education is exemplified by a passage from the Teacher’s Guide for Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, published in 1991 by the College Board – the influential organization that, among other things, administers the SAT exam. It was written by an English professor from Agnes Scott College in Georgia:

“AP teachers are implementing the best of the new pedagogies that have influenced leading institutions of higher learning. Perhaps most importantly, as Arthur Applebee explains, ‘objectivity’ and ‘factuality’ have lost preeminence.  Instruction has become ‘less a matter of transmittal of an objective and culturally sanctioned body of knowledge,’ and more a matter of helping individuals learn to construct their own realities.  This moves English courses away from the concept of subject matter to be memorized and toward ‘a body of knowledge, skills, and strategies that must be constructed by the learner out of experiences and interactions within the social context of the classroom.’  Emphasis is on the processes of language and thought, ‘processes that are shaped by a given cultural community and which also help students become part of the cultural community.’  Contemporary educators no doubt hope students will shape values and ethical systems as they engage in these interactions, acquiring principles that will help them live in a mad, mad world.”

Thomas Jefferson, perhaps one of our more prolific Founding Fathers, wrote or had his hand directly in at least four of the five organic laws that provide the ideological and legal foundation of our country. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance, gave direction to James Madison in his drafting of the US Constitution, and provided the voice of reason and conscience to Madison again when it came time to add a Bill of Rights.  The Northwest Ordinance, adopted in 1787, and passed again in 1789, contains the following beautiful sentence: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary for good government and the happiness of mankind, the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”  Accordingly, Congress proceeded to give 1/36th of the land in the vast Northwest Territory – including Michigan and four other states – as an endowment, controlled by the states, to support education in each township.

Consider the current text of the North Carolina state constitution (the constitution of 1971; see below), which sets forth government’s obligations in the state. Article I, Sec. 15 (Education”) provides:  “The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.”  Article IX, Sec. 1 deals specifically with Education in the state.  That section (“Education encouraged”) reads: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Could the difference be more stark between the older and newer goals of education?  Between leading students toward an understanding of the right way to live in a comprehensible world, and telling them they must shape their own values and make their own reality in a world gone mad?  And why aren’t more states, like my state of North Carolina which has vowed to guard and maintain its right to provide education to its citizens (and to promote morality), rejecting Common Core?

So, what is the right way for a man and a woman to live?

Do we trust that question to a government that has vowed to remain neutral on religion and on morality (tipping clearly towards immorality) and conducts itself in every instance without ethics?  Or do we reflect on that question in our own states and ask ourselves what we would like to expect from our own citizens?  Ultimately, parents want to be proud of their children.

 

[Note: The NC state constitution has been amended several times. The original constitution, adopted in 1776 by the general assembly (no input from the people) created the government for the new state; the constitution of 1868 was adopted and submitted to the US Congress for approval as required for re-admission to the Union after the Civil War (later amended to end discrimination against African Americans); and the constitution of 1971, which reorganized the entire state government in light of the requirements of the modern economy and society (more of a reorganization rather than adding anything new)].

 

**  [This short article is based on an article by Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College, Dec. 2013, Vol. 42, No. 12.]

 

A Review of Federalism: The Significance of James Madison’s Report of 1800

States Rights - States Have Rights Too

A Review of Federalism:  The significance of James Madison’s Report of 1800 in Transforming the 10th Amendment into the Predominant Provision Recognized by the Courts in Protecting Federalism 
by Diane Rufino, December 8, 2013

**  This article is taken almost exclusively from a 2005 paper by Professor Kurt Lash, Univ. of Illinois School of Law), published in the Loyola School of Law Report

In a speech opposing the chartering of a national bank in 1791, James Madison argued that only an unduly broad interpretation of federal power would allow Congress to create the Bank of the United States. He would have to remind those in power, which were the Federalists, of the great lengths they went through to create a Constitution of limited powers and to satisfy the States that they would not be giving up any sovereign power that they did not agree to.  Indeed, in their efforts to secure votes in favor of the Constitution, Federalists had assured the State Ratifying Conventions that the Constitution would not be construed in such an expansive manner, and the ratifying states themselves had issued declarations and proposed amendments which established their understanding that the Constitution would not be so construed.  The adoption of the pending Ninth and Tenth Amendments would make this assumed limited construction of federal power an express constitutional mandate.  In that speech, Madison argued:

The explanations in the State Ratifying Conventions all turned on the same fundamental principle, and on the principle that the terms necessary and proper gave no additional powers to those enumerated. (At this point, he read several passages from the debates of the Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina Ratifying Conventions), showing the grounds on which the Constitution had been vindicated by its principal advocates against a dangerous latitude of its powers, charged on it by its opponents.)

     The explanatory declarations and amendments accompanying the ratifications of the several states formed a striking evidence wearing the same complexion.

     And these explanatory (and restrictive) amendments, proposed by Congress itself, should be good authority along with the debates in the State Conventions; all these renunciations of power proceeded on a rule of construction excluding the latitude (the scope) now contended for. These explanations are the more to be respected, as they had not only been proposed by Congress, but ratified by nearly three-fourths of the states. (He then read several of the articles proposed, remarking particularly on the 11th and 12th, which would eventually become our 9th and 10th amendments).  The eleventh amendment was intended to guard against a latitude of interpretation while the twelfth would excluding every source of power not within the Constitution itself.

     With all this evidence of the sense in which the Constitution was understood and adopted, the bill should not pass. If the bill should pass, then it will be said that the adoption of the Constitution was brought about by one set of arguments and but it is administered under another set and this will give the People cause for concern. 

     If the power were in the Constitution, Congress could exercise it, but it is not and therefore the exercise of it involves the guilt of usurpation, and establishes a precedent of interpretation that levels all the barriers which limit the powers of the general government and protect those of the state governments.     

      In conclusion, it appears on the whole, that the power exercised by the bill was condemned by the silence of the Constitution; was condemned by the rule of interpretation arising out of the Constitution; was condemned by its tendency to destroy the main characteristic of the Constitution; was condemned by the expositions of the friends of the Constitution whilst depending before the public; was condemned by the apparent intention of the parties which ratified the Constitution; was condemned by the explanatory amendments proposed by Congress themselves to the Constitution; and I hope it will receive its final condemnation, by the vote of this house.”

A few months after Madison gave this speech, Virginia voted in favor of the last 10 of the 12 proposed amendments and the Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution.  This Bill, like the Constitution itself, begins with a preamble: 

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, 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 institutions.

As suggested by the Preamble, some amendments are declaratory clauses while others are restrictive clauses. A restrictive modifying clause is an adjective clause that is essential to the meaning of a sentence because it limits the thing it refers to.  A declaratory clause, on the other hand, merely re-states or re-emphasizes a particular principle.  With that in mind, the Ninth Amendment acts as a restrictive clause while the Tenth stands as a declaration of principle.  The Ninth Amendment reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  The Tenth Amendment 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.”  Specifically, as Madison wrote and as he articulated in his speech opposing the chartering of a National Bank, the Ninth Amendment was submitted by the States to “guard against a latitude of construction,” while the Tenth would “exclude every power not within the Constitution itself.”  As a restrictive clause, the Ninth preserves the principle enshrined in the Tenth.  Without such a rule preventing “misconstruction,” of the Constitution, the declaratory Tenth Amendment risks becoming an empty promise.  Together, however, the two amendments prevent the “misconstruction or abuse” of federal power. This was the express intent of the States in adopting the Constitution. Nothing could be clearer. And again, if this message wasn’t clear, the preamble to the Bill of Rights provided a bold, unambiguous, statement of the like.

The proper construction of federal power soon became an issue during the debate over the first Bank of the United States.  In his opinion opposing the creation of the Bank, Thomas Jefferson argued that the “latitude of construction” adopted by the Bank’s proponents would destroy the principle of enumerated powers declared in the Tenth Amendment.  “I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground:  that all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.” [XIIth amendment.] To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

Echoing Jefferson’s concerns, Attorney General Edmund Randolph concluded:  “A similar construction on every specified federal power, will stretch the arm of Congress into the whole circle of state legislation. . . . Let it be propounded as an eternal question to those who build new powers on this clause, whether the latitude of construction which they arrogate will not terminate in an unlimited power in Congress?”

Both Jefferson and Randolph read the Tenth Amendment as confirming the establishment of a federal government of enumerated powers, with all nondelegated powers reserved to the states. Unduly broad constructions of enumerated federal power threatened to undermine this arrangement by creating, in essence, a government of unlimited power.  Accordingly, Randolph and Jefferson advocated a rule of strict construction in order to preserve the principle announced by the Tenth Amendment.  The rule preserved the principle.

Madison, of course, read the Ninth Amendment to express just such a rule, and early constitutional commentators agreed.  In the very first Supreme Court opinion discussing the Ninth Amendment, Justice Joseph Story followed the Madisonian reading of the Ninth and used it to support a limited construction of federal power.  In the 1820 case Houston v. Moore, Justice Story wrote that federal power to discipline the militia should not be read as exclusive of the concurrent power of individual states to establish their own rules of militia discipline, so long as those rules did not conflict with any federal statute.  Story declared that, “In all other cases not falling within the classes already mentioned, it seems unquestionable that the States retain concurrent authority with Congress, not only upon the letter and spirit of the eleventh amendment of the constitution, but upon the soundest principles of general reasoning.”

Madison and Story were not alone in their reading of the Ninth as a federalist rule of interpretation.  In his 1803 View of the Constitution, St. George Tucker likewise presented the Ninth Amendment as supporting a federalist rule of strict construction of federal power, as did constitutional commentator John Taylor. [Tucker wrote: “As a federal compact, it is to be construed strictly, in all cases where the antecedent rights of a state may be drawn in question (citing the Tenth Amendment).  As a social compact, it ought likewise to receive the same strict construction, wherever the right of personal liberty, of personal security, or of private property may become the subject of dispute; because every person whose liberty or property was thereby rendered subject to the new government, was antecedently a member of a civil society to whose regulations he had submitted himself, and under whose authority and protection he still remains, in all cases not expressly submitted to the new government (citing the Ninth and Tenth Amendments).”  John Taylor wrote, with respect to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments: “The precision of these expressions is happily contrived to defeat a construction, by which the origin of the union, or the sovereignty of the states, could be rendered at all doubtful.”]

Unlike Madison, Jefferson and Randolph, who believed that preserving the Tenth required the addition of a rule of construction, St. George Tucker believed that the Tenth Amendment itself expressed a rule of strict construction. According to Tucker, under the Tenth Amendment, the Constitution “is to be construed strictly, in all cases where the antecedent rights of state may be drawn in question.”  This reading of the Tenth Amendment seems somewhat awkward.  The text of the Tenth simply declares that Congress is granted only those powers enumerated in the Constitution.  The text says nothing about how broadly those delegated powers are to be construed.  Nevertheless, after 1800 and for the next one hundred and fifty years, courts and commentators cited both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments as expressing rules of strict construction of federal power.

This fact may surprise readers used to reading the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in opposition to one another or in reading them as having no real force of constitutional construction.  Since Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court has often read the Ninth Amendment as support for its judicial invalidation of state laws, while the Tenth is most commonly associated with “states’ rights.”  Historically, however, the two amendments were read in pari materia, meaning “acting on the same matter.”  They both represented a limitation on the power of the federal government to interfere with the states. As late as 1948, the Supreme Court continued to apply both amendments as twin guardians of federalism. In Bute v. Illinois, the Supreme Court considered whether allowing a defendant in a non-capital criminal prosecution to represent himself, without inquiring into whether he desired or could afford an attorney, violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.  Because the Sixth Amendment required such an inquiry in federal court, the issue was whether this rule was incorporated against the states.  In a 5-4 decision, Justice Harold Burton rejected the claim and provided an extended analysis of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments and their roles in interpreting the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. According to Justice Burton:

One of the major contributions to the science of government that was made by the Constitution of the United States was its division of powers between the states and the Federal Government. The compromise between state rights and those of a central government was fully considered in securing the ratification of the Constitution in 1787 and 1788.  It was emphasized in the “Bill of Rights,” ratified in 1791.  In the ten Amendments constituting such Bill, additional restrictions were placed upon the Federal Government and particularly upon procedure in the federal courts.  None were placed upon the states.  On the contrary, the reserved powers of the states and of the people were emphasized in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.  This point of view is material in the instant cases in interpreting the limitation which the Fourteenth Amendment places upon the processes of law that may be practiced by the several states, including Illinois. In our opinion this limitation is descriptive of a broad regulatory power over each state and not of a major transfer by the states to the United States of the primary and pre-existing power of the states over court procedures in state criminal cases.”

In Bute, Justice Burton linked the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the need to preserve “Home Rule,” or, as earlier courts had phrased it, the right of a state “to determine for itself its own political machinery and its own domestic policies.”  Preserving that right required a rule of construction.  The Court in Bute applied such a rule, noting that the principles underlying the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are “material in the instant cases in interpreting the limitation which the Fourteenth Amendment places upon the processes of law that may be practiced by the several states.”

In limiting the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court’s decision in Bute echoes similar reasoning in the 2000 United States v. Morrison decision, which narrowly interpreted the reach of Congress’s Section 5 powers under the Fourteenth Amendment in order to preserve state autonomy. Specifically, the Court cited the Tenth Amendment in support of its limited reading of federal power.  By the time the Court decided Morrison, however, the Ninth Amendment had already disappeared from the judicial debate (and perhaps civil debate) on federal powers.  In the majority decision authored by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, it was the Tenth Amendment alone that provided the basis for the Court’s rule of strict construction.

This disappearance of the Ninth presents us with a mystery and should give us cause for concern.  Given that it is the Ninth, not the Tenth, which literally expresses a rule of construction, how did the Tenth Amendment come to share an equal role with the Ninth as a rule of limited construction of federal power?

More directly, how did the Tenth come to replace the Ninth Amendment as a limiting rule of construction?  Madison’s public description of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments compounds this mystery.  As Madison drafted both amendments, participated in the Congressional debates, and is considered the “Father of the Constitution, one would think Madison’s description of the Ninth as the relevant rule of construction would carry particular weight.

Ironically, it appears that Madison himself may have played a key, if unintentional, role in refocusing attention away from the Ninth and onto the Tenth Amendment as the textual basis for a rule of strict construction.  In one of the most influential documents Madison ever produced, The Report on the Alien and Sedition Acts, (also known asMadison’s “Report of 1800”), Madison presented the Tenth Amendment as the central constitutional text for constraining the interpretation of federal power.  Although Madison’s reliance on the Tenth Amendment in his Report corresponds to his interpretation of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in his speech on the Bank of the United States, his “Report of 1800” took on a life of its own – as would the Tenth Amendment.

The Tenth Amendment would undergo this transformation in light of the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.  This transformation would also serve to remind states of their obligation when faced with unconstitutional federal legislation. (The terms “Nullification” and “Interposition” would be coined at this time to define that obligation).

In the aftermath of the so-called XYZ Affair, in which French officials demanded bribes from an American peace delegation, and in the midst of heightening tensions with France, Congress enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts (which were actually a series of four statutes: the Alien Act, the Alien Enemies Act, the Naturalization Act, and the Sedition Act).  The Sedition Act made the common law offense of seditious libel a federal crime, and inflaming an already politically charged atmosphere, Federalist judges enforced the Act against critics of the Adams Administration. Defenders of the Sedition Act came dangerously close to claiming that Congress had an unenumerated power to enforce the common law. The author of the “Report of the Minority on the Virginia Resolutions,” commonly believed to be John Marshall, argued that there was a “common or unwritten law which pervades all America, and which declares libels against government to be a punishable offence.”  According to the Report, “to contend that there does not exist a power to punish writings coming within the description of this law, would be to assert the inability of our nation to preserve its own peace.”

As far as seditious libel and free speech were concerned, according to John Marshall, the Federalists, and even President John Adams himself, the freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment did not extend to such “licentious” acts as libeling the government.

By appearing to embrace the unwritten power to enforce the common law, the defenders of the Sedition Act seemed to reject the principle of enumerated federal power.  Although the Ninth Amendment guarded against explansive constructions of delegated powers, it was the Tenth Amendment which declared that all non-enumerated powers are reserved to the States. Accordingly, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson raised the hue and cry that Congress had transgressed the boundaries of federal power established by the Tenth Amendment. They communicated aggressively during this time and contemplated what the proper response would be when the federal government exceeds its constitutional limitations and imposes a palpable violation on the people.  In his Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 (Nov. 10, 1798), Thomas Jefferson wrote:

That it is true, as a general principle, and is also expressly declared by one of the amendments to the Constitution, 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”; and that, no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press, being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the states or to the people.”

In his Virginia Resolutions of 1798, Madison called on the states to join with Virginia and Kentucky in declaring, “That the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional; and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each, for cooperating with this state, in maintaining unimpaired the authorities, rights, and liberties, reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  He would go on to explain that the proper measure would be Interposition, which is the right of the states to “interpose” – or intervene – between the federal government and the people of the state to protect their rights and liberties and preserve the proper balance of government.

“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.”

A year later, Thomas Jefferson authored another set of resolutions so that Kentucky could re-affirm its position.  In the Kentucky Resolutions of 1799, Jefferson 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 a NULLIFICATION, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy: That this commonwealth does upon the most deliberate reconsideration declare, that the said Alien and Sedition laws, are in their opinion, palpable violations of the said constitution; and however cheerfully it may be disposed to surrender its opinion to a majority of its sister states in matters of ordinary or doubtful policy; yet, in momentous regulations like the present, which so vitally wound the best rights of the citizen, it would consider a silent acquiescence as highly criminal…

Madison defended the positions taken in the Virginia Resolutions in his Report on the Alien and Sedition Acts (aka, “Madison’s Report of 1800”)  In his Report, Madison further explained that Congress’s attempt to exercise unenumerated common law powers violated the constitutional principle that “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 (as the Tenth Amendment), 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.”

Ultimately, the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison defeated the Federalists in the election of 1800, due in no small part to popular reaction against the Alien and Sedition Acts.  Madison’s celebrated “Report of 1800,” which Spencer Roane referred to as the Magna Charta of the Republicans, became a foundational document for 19th century advocates of states’ rights.  The Report was so influential that Madison’s Tenth Amendment-based argument against the Acts had the effect of eclipsing the Ninth as the core constitutional provision requiring the strict construction of federal power.

It is difficult to overstate the influence of Madison’s Report of 1800 among states’ rights theorists in the decades between Jefferson’s election and the Civil War.  St. George Tucker referred to Madison’s Report numerous times in his 1803 constitutional treatise, A View of the Constitution of the United States, repeating in particular Madison’s claim that Congress had exceeded the bounds established by the Tenth Amendment. When Jonathan Elliot compiled the materials for his great compilation (1836), The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, among the few post-adoption sources that he added was “The Report on the Virginia Resolutions, by Mr. Madison.”  It was not unusual for nineteenth century courts to refer to what was known as Madison’s “Celebrated Report” in discussing the scope of federal law.

In fact, courts in later decades viewed the struggle over the Alien and Sedition Acts and the election of 1800 as a referendum on the proper interpretation of the Constitution.  Writing in the 1860’s, Judge Bell of the Texas Supreme Court described the event as a titanic struggle over an unduly expansive interpretation of federal power:

I take it for granted that we will not . . . go back to that latitude of construction, and to the reasoning by which the federalists of 1798 claimed for the congress of the United States the power to exercise a censorship over the press, as a means necessary and proper to carry into effect the power to suppress insurrections. We have been accustomed to read, with the interest that attaches to the drama, the history of the great struggle which elevated Mr. Jefferson to the presidency. It is the first conspicuous landmark in the history of the government of the United States under the constitution. It has always been claimed that the republican party performed a patriotic service in resisting the tendency to a rapid consolidation of powers in the general government, and that their illustrious leader was the faithful sentinel who saw the danger to the constitution, and met it with a noble devotion to the cause of liberty. . . . and in every step which has been made towards a strict construction of the constitution, the people have hailed the triumph of sound principles and felt renewed confidence in the stability of republican institutions.”

States’ rights advocates in particular relied on Madison’s Report of 1800 as a critical guide to state autonomy and proper interpretation of the Constitution.  Virginia Chief Judge Spencer Roane cited Madison’s Report in support of his contention that the Supreme Court had no authority to reverse the decision of Virginia’s highest court.  When Chief Justice John Marshall upheld the Second Bank of the United States in McCulloch v. Maryland(1819), Roane published a series of essays critical of the McCulloch decision in the Richmond Enquirer under the pseudonym “Hampden.” Repeatedly referring to the odious precedent of the Alien and Sedition Acts and Madison’s “celebrated Report” of 1800, Roane argued that Congress and the Supreme Court had once again invaded the reserved powers of the States:

It has been our happiness to believe, that in the partition of powers between the general and state governments, the former possessed only such as were expressly granted . . . while all residuary powers were retained by the latter. . . . This, it is believed, was done by the constitution, in its original shape; but such were the natural fears and jealousies of our citizens, in relation to this all important subject, that it was deemed necessary to quiet those fears, by the 10th amendment to the Constitution.”

Tying the hated Sedition Acts to Marshall’s opinion in McCulloch, Roane argued that “the latitude of construction now favored by the Supreme Court, is precisely that which brought the memorable Sedition Act into our code.”  In a famous paragraph, Roane declared, “that man must be a deplorable idiot who does not see that there is no earthly difference between an unlimited grant of power, and a grant limited in its terms, but accompanied with unlimited means of carrying it into execution.”

Consider this question:  Has the Supreme Court’s application of the Tenth Amendment rendered it particularly vulnerable to criticism?   In 1941, in a case defining the boundaries of the federal Commerce Clause, United States v. Darby, the Supreme Court declared that it would uphold federal regulation of purely intrastate commerce if Congress reasonably concluded that the activity in question affected interstate commerce.  In doing so, the Court gave the federal government great latitude in defining the scope of its powers.  The Court rejected the idea that the Tenth Amendment required strict construction of federal power. According to Justice Harlan Stone, who authored the majority opinion:

Our conclusion is unaffected by the Tenth Amendment . . . . The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered.  There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and state governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.  From the beginning and for many years the amendment has been construed as not depriving the national government of authority to resort to all means for the exercise of a granted power which are appropriate and plainly adapted to the permitted end.”

Indeed, even at the moment of its adoption, Madison acknowledged that the Tenth Amendment was unnecessary and the Clause was criticized in the State Ratification Conventions as having no “real effect.”  As one can imagine, this disclosure is quite popular with those most interested in an energetic and concentrated federal government and those interested in restricting federal power.

Despite these criticisms, however, current federal jurisprudence (current rule of constitutional construction), holds that the Tenth Amendment has both a textual basis and historic application.  The accidents of history that led to the rise of the Tenth Amendment and the fall of the Ninth have resulted in the invocation of the right principles in the wrong context.  Originally, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were meant to work together: The Tenth declaring the principle of reserved non-enumerated power, and the Ninth ensuring that the powers reserved to the states would not become a null set through the overly broad construction of enumerated federal authority.  Both principles were thought necessary in order to guarantee the people’s retained right to local self-government.  In other words, without the Ninth Amendment, the Tenth Amendment does indeed become a mere truism.

Understanding the proper source of this rule of construction and how it became associated with the Tenth Amendment vindicates the jurisprudence of the Tenth even as it refocuses attention back to the Ninth Amendment.  Absent this refocusing, the Tenth Amendment and its attendant federalist jurisprudence remains vulnerable to criticism and, ultimately, reversal.

In other words, understanding the history of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments is necessary, if only to save the Tenth Amendment from itself.  A renewed appreciation of the textual (contextual) roots of federalism seems particularly relevant as both sides of the political spectrum now have come to embrace the value of state autonomy and as the doctrine of Nullification becomes more popular.

Refocusing the rule of construction back to the Ninth Amendment does not reduce the Tenth to a mere truism. The Tenth Amendment not only denies unenumerated powers to the federal government, it also forbids placing any unenumerated restrictions on the states.  According to the text, “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.”  Just as the first portion of the Tenth Amendment limits the powers of the federal government to no more than those enumerated in the text, the second portion limits restrictions on the states to no more than those enumerated in the text; all other powers are reserved to the states or to the people.

The Tenth Amendment, just as the Ninth Amendment, establishes “further declaratory and restrictive clauses, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its (federal government) powers.”  (Preamble to the Bill of Rights).  Not only is the federal government further limited in its powers under Constitution, but it is expressly limited from stepping into the sphere of reserved rights held by the People and the States.  

Restoring the Tenth Amendment to its proper place in the arena of constitutional interpretation does nothing to endanger federalism.  Rather, it places federalism – as well as liberty, and the guarantees in the Declaration of Independence – on firmer ground.

The key, clearly, to restoring the proper balance of government power and restoring power to the parties from which it rightfully originated and to which it rightfully belongs is to return to the critical jurisprudence of original intent and strict construction. Unfortunately, big government proponents and liberal law school professors like to demonize judges who adopt this approach and indoctrinate both law school students and low-information and uneducated Americans. They like to declare that the US Constitution is outdated and incapable of addressing the issues of today’s America and in direct contradiction and willful disregard of the men who wrote and defined the document and the duly-assembled institutions that debated and ratified it, they classify it incorrectly as “a living breathing document.”  The longer we allow the indoctrination to take place, the more firmly the notion will become entrenched with a people who no longer knows what their rights are or how, procedurally and ideologically, they are secured and protected.

The task we face is EDUCATION, EDUCATION, and more EDUCATION.  We need to take on the liberals and progressives at every turn and debate them on the merits, with the ultimate goal being the preservation of a government system so properly divided among sovereigns and so richly pitted with reliable checks and balances that the rights and liberties of mankind, so forcibly asserted and fiercely defended throughout the ages, will be secured for the ages and will not begin that dark descent into oppression that robs them of that divine spark and that exercise in freedom that moves civilization forward and makes us a more successful and exemplary nation.

Reference:  The article above is almost exclusively comprised of Professor Kurt Lash’s 2005 Loyola Law School article on James Madison’s Report of 1800:

Kurt T. Lash, “James Madison’s Celebrated Report of 1800: The Transformation of the Tenth Amendment,” Loyola School of Law, Legal Studies Paper No. 2005-30, November 2005.  [Kurt T. Lash is a professor at the University of Illinois School of Law]