There is one trick that the progressive left likes to use which is to fragmentize the constitution in order to get the meaning that they want. A good example of this is the commerce clause where they use the narrow phrase ‘regulate commerce’ to suggest that congress has the power to regulate commercial activities.

They fail to read the entire sentence which suggest that congress only has the power to regulate commerce between states, Indian tribes, and foreign nations which sounds more like the basic power to control the flow of goods across a border. They hope that the public will not read the document in its entirety and use a few sentence fragments to get the meaning they want.

Recently, in this article it has been reported that Obama is going to ignore the debt cap and is claiming another sentence fragment in the fourteenth amendment. That fragment is “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law”. When you take that one sentence fragment as it is it sounds like all public debts are valid but if you look at the entire sentence “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. ” it says something much different.

The entire sentence basically says all public debts authorized by law (which happen to include pensions and bounties) that were incurred for the suppression of an insurrection or rebellion shall not be questioned. That is about the strangest sentence in the United States constitution that I have ever heard and really seems kind of pointless. The next sentence starts out with “But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States”.

Now it makes sense. This was passed right after the civil war and it is saying all debt occurred in the aid of the union forces shall be valid while all debts incurred for the confederate forces shall not be valid. In other words, the constitution was dissolving all debts that the southern states incurred during the civil war and this amendment essentially made them invalid. The poor suckers who loaned money to the confederacy will not be getting paid back.

This really isn’t about the fourteenth amendment but about the ability of the progressive left to distort the constitution at will in order to get the meaning they want which is why we have to beware of the sentence fragment. A sentence is a complete idea and that idea can only be expressed when the sentence is in its whole.

Any piece of a sentence can not possibly express the idea that the complete sentence that it came from means. Example: “A dog sleeps” is different than “A dog sleeps all the time”. One is describing a bodily function while the other is saying that dogs are lazy. Even the meaning of a sentence by itself can be incomplete without the paragraph it is a part of which is why everyone has to read the constitution in its context in order to understand what it means.

Edward Browning Bosley
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