It’s All About Liberty

The founding generation had many reasons for wanting to form a ‘more perfect union.’

Having fought a long bloody war for freedom, many recognized the advantages the union offered in terms of mutual defense. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Along those same lines, many founders believed the states would fare better in international relations interacting with other world powers as a united entity. Even operating as a union, the Americans were at a significant power disadvantage when dealing with England, France, Spain and other European powers. Separately, they would have virtually no power.

Then there were the economic advantages of a union. In much the same way unity increased diplomatic power, it also increased the America’s economic power.

Alexander Hamilton even argued that a single general government would conserve American resources.

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An Anti-Federalist’s Purpose for Proposing the Supremacy Clause

As the Philadelphia Convention concluded,  55 delegates returned to their home states and began the promotion/demotion phase of the ratification process. This process commenced with the convention delegates addressing the citizens of each state and each state’s ratification delegation.  Each Framer communicated his comprehension of the legal elements of the charter negotiated for during this historic endeavor.

The delegates generally represented two distinct factions known as the Federalists, supporters of ratification, and the Anti-Federalists, those opposed to the proposed constitution. Delegates regularly traded intellectual barbs through written prose promulgated in the local periodicals of the states.

An occurence which became commonplace during this process was Maryland’s Attorney General, Luther Martin responding to letters written by the Landholder,  a nom de plum (pen name), utilized by fellow Philadelphia Convention delegate Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut,  in which Mr. Ellsworth attempted to minimize Martin’s contributions and negatively impact his service.

Martin’s letter was published in the Baltimore Maryland Gazette on March 19, 1788.

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Where is the Power to Suspend Habeas Corpus?

The Constitution’s Suspension Clause (Art. I, Section 9, cl. 2) limits when the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended. But the Constitution doesn’t seem to grant the federal government power to suspend the writ in the first place. Why not? And why limit a power never given?

In an Aug. 17 Wall Street Journal piece, constitutional law professor Nicholas Quinn Rosenkrantz infers that Congress has the sole suspension authority from the structure of the constitutional text. He writes:

“Since the Suspension Clause appears in Article I of the Constitution, which is predominately about the powers of Congress, there is a strong argument that only Congress can suspend the habeas writ.”

He concludes that when President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ, he probably intruded on Congress’s prerogative, and thereby exceeded his constitutional authority. (Professor Rosenkrantz also gives Lincoln credit for trying to cure the constitutional defect.)

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Nullification is a Constitutional Principle

There is no easier way for tyranny to take hold than for a People to remain silent when they know, or should know, what their rights are. There is no easier way for a government to usurp the natural rights of a People to govern themselves than for them to stand by and let that government legislate when it has no authority to do so.

The early colonists certainly didn’t miss an opportunity to stand up for their rights. In fact, the Sons of Liberty formed (much like today’s Tea Party and Tenth Amendment Center) to point out where Britain was violating their rights and to help organize opposition and protest. Samuel Adams, the leader of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, wrote the following in 1769 with these words:

DEARLY BELOVED,

REVOLVING time hath brought about another anniversary of the repeal of the odious Stamp Act,—an act framed to divest us of our liberties and to bring us to slavery, poverty, and misery. The resolute stand made by the Sons of Liberty against the detestable policy had more effect in bringing on the repeal than any conviction in the Parliament of Great Britain of the injustice and iniquity of the act . It was repealed from principles of convenience to Old England, and accompanied with a declaration of their right to tax us; and since, the same Parliament have passed acts which, if obeyed in the Colonies, will be equally fatal. Although the people of Great Britain be only fellow-subjects, they have of late assumed a power to compel us to buy at their market such things as we want of European produce and manufacture; and, at the same time, have taxed many of the articles for the express purpose of a revenue; and, for the collection of the duties, have sent fleets, armies, commissioners, guard acostas, judges of admiralty, and a host of petty officers, whose insolence and rapacity are become intolerable. Our cities are garrisoned; the peace and order which heretofore dignified our streets are exchanged for the horrid blasphemies and outrages of soldiers; our trade is obstructed ; our vessels and cargoes, the effects of industry, violently seized; and, in a word, every species of injustice that a wicked and debauched Ministry could invent is now practiced against the most sober, industrious, and loyal people that ever lived in society. The joint supplications of all the Colonies have been rejected; and letters and mandates, in terms of the highest affront and indignity, have been transmitted from little and insignificant servants of the Crown to his Majesty’s grand and august sovereignties in America.

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Who coined the name “United States of America”?

by Jon Roland, Constitution Society

In another forum a participant took the position that the authoritative version of the Declaration of Independence was not the one signed by the members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, but the versions printed and sent to the states, which changes in capitalization and punctuation of some of the words. That is not correct.

The editorial changes from the original signed document to the copies that were transmitted to the states did not change the meaning. The document is its meaning, not the details of language or style, and an accurate translation into another language would be the same document.

As a hypothetical, suppose the printers had changed the meaning in some substantive way. Would their version then have been the authoritative one, even though it was not confirmed by the Continental Congress? Suppose the printer had inserted the word “not” in some of the copies, sent to some but not all of the states, changing the meaning from declaring independence to not declaring independence. Would the states that got the “not” have remained subject to Britain while the others were independent? Nonsense. The authoritative act was the voice vote to declare independence on July 2, not the signed document, which was evidence of the act, not the act itself.

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A Founder’s Proclamation of Universal Truths and the Frogs Desiring a King

In an letter addressed to the citizens of Maryland, Convention Delegate and Maryland Attorney General, Luther Martin explained his motives for withholding support for the newly constructed general government prior to ratification of the Constitution.

This letter was published in the Baltimore Maryland Gazette on April 4, 1788. The thought provoking sentiments of Mr. Martin are as true today as they were in his era. Especially regarding the history of mankind and negative traits of human nature when they exert undue influence upon societies. Mr. Martin exposes the deficiency of a Bill of Rights to the charter, while proclaiming commons sense principles necessitous for establishing a virtuous system of governance.

To the Citizens of Maryland,

If those, my fellow citizens, to whom the administration of our government was about to be committed, had sufficient wisdom never to err, and sufficient goodness always to consult the true interest of the governed, – and if we could have a proper security that their successors should to the end of time be possessed of the same qualifications, it would be impossible that power could be lavished upon them with too liberal a hand.

Power absolute and unlimited, united with unerring wisdom and unbounded goodness, is the government of the Deity over the universe! But remember, my fellow citizens, that the persons to whom you are about to delegate authority, are and will be weak, erring mortals, subject to the same passions, prejudices and infirmities with your-selves; and let it be deeply engraven on your hearts, that from the first history of government to the present time, if we begin with Nimrod, and trace down the rulers of nations to those who are now invested with supreme power, we shall find few, very few, who have made the beneficent Governor of the Universe the model of their conduct, while many are they who, on the contrary, have imitated the demons of darkness.

We have no right to expect our rulers will be more wise, more virtuous, or more perfect than those of other nations have been, or that they will not be equally under the influence of ambition, avarice, and all that train of baleful passions, which have so generally proved the curse of our unhappy race.

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How Do We Determine the Original Meaning of the Constitution?

How do we determine the meaning of the Constitution? Where do we ultimately find the authoritative source for original understanding? Do we look to the Supreme Court? To the Federalist Papers? To notes from the Philadelphia Convention?

Actually, we should look to the ratifiers. They were the ones who represented the people and agreed to approve the Constitution. Jefferson affirmed this idea.

“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

This video, with narration from the audio version of Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty, explains this idea in more depth.

WATCH IT:

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Should ALL laws be enforced? Madison said NO!

In a day and age when the federal government is despised, out-of-control and has so many laws on the books that it makes your head spin, there is at least one ‘conservative’ who is concerned that the federal government isn’t dishing out enough law and order.

In a recent post at the conservative legal blog Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki finds it appalling that the Department of Justice is celebrating the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. He doesn’t feel this way because of his opinion on DOMA, but rather he is concerned that the law is being disrespected by the Obama administration.

“I am clearly not alone in being concerned about the unwillingness of state and federal officials to defend the duly-enacted laws of their states. Indeed, refusing to defend the law and acquiescing in an adverse judgment against it seems tantamount to a retroactive veto by the Executive Branch. If Eric Holder is ‘delighted’ that the law is invalid, wouldn’t the appropriate response in our system of government be for the President to propose the repeal of the law with which he disagrees, rather than effectively retroactively vetoing it?”

Zywicki has a point about the law being disrespected by the Obama administration. From drone murders, to illegal surveillance, to arming drug gangs as a pretense to curtail gun rights, to funding Islamic extremist dictators, the Obama administration has made a complete mockery of the rule of law in America. But the recent DOMA ruling isn’t the case to complain about. Whether you support the decision or not, the idea of state non-compliance with federal laws shouldn’t be on trial here. The problem with our country clearly isn’t the fact that too many states have rebelled against the edicts of the federal government. On the contrary, it has been the states routinely jumping into the federal snake pit that has gotten us into this mess.

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