My neighbor is a great guy, and we are good friends.  I live in the same building as he does, and we co-exist pretty well.

I don’t have any complaints about him.

Well, maybe one.

My neighbor borrowed an old laptop of mine so he could get some much needed work done.  I wasn’t using it, and I was happy to help out a friend. I trusted him to give it back when he was finished.  But it’s been two years since I have seen my computer; my neighbor now uses it to keep records for his business.  I have come to accept that I won’t be seeing it again.

So, what does this have to do with Arizona Prop 120?

Well, the federal government is doing the same thing to Arizona.

In a report by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, Prop 120 co-sponsor Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) wrote, “Western states are at a distinct disadvantage compared to the states east of the Mississippi because we don’t have control of all the land within our borders. The federal government controls (and mismanages) a major part of our land and interferes with mining, ranching, farming, grazing, water management, and many other aspects that are vital to our state economy, education, tourism, and our general prosperity.”

Democrats, however, argue that releasing these lands from federal protection would remove them from the jurisdiction of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and other unconstitutional federal laws that preserve natural resources, with supposedly catastrophic results for the state’s environment.

The federal government owns roughly 635-640 million acres, 28 percent of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.  Most of these lands are in the West and Alaska.

So, what really is the deal with Arizona and it’s land?

I have followed a paper trail leading all the way back to a promise made in 1763, when colonial charters gave seven colonies the right to claim “western” lands.

In 1780 – Robert Morris funded the revolution, giving not only his sacred honor, but also $2 million. After that, he was tapped. He died broke, giving everything he had to the war.  Yet we still needed more money to fund the revolution.  The decision was to sell western lands.  However, the seven original colonies holding the right to claim the lands initially were upset. In fact, it almost led to a civil war during the revolution. It was called the great embarrassment. The Continental Congress convinced the states to cede the lands to the Congress to hold in trust, to create new states, and pay for the war debt.

The land issue in Arizona all stems from promises made to states and territories to use the land to create new states and pay the public debt…and nothing more.  This caused a contentious debate,  and you can follow it in the “Land Ordinance” documents written between 1780 and 1833.

In 1833, then president Andrew Jackson paid the public debt off.  During this time Henry Clay, senator from Kentucky, proposed a bill with the idea of taking money from disposal of the land (since the war debt has been paid and the lands still needed to be disposed of) and putting it into a fund to buy influence over mayors and states governments. The bill surprisingly passed both houses and went  to Jackson, a lawyer who grew up and spent most of his time in the territories, not the states.  His veto spelled the whole thing out, tracing it all the way back to before the Revolution.

Now, waiving all considerations of equity or policy in regard to this provision, what more need be said to demonstrate its objectionable character than that it is in direct and undisguised violation of the pledge given by Congress to the States before a single cession was made, that it abrogates the condition upon which some of the States came into the Union, and that it sets at naught the terms of cession spread upon the face of every grant under which the title to that portion of the public land is held by the Federal Government?

SO… the whole issue rests on the engagements made BEFORE the constitution was written, and Jackson said that not only did the federal government NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY to do anything with the lands except dispose of them, but since the debt was paid, monies from the disposal of the lands was to be given to the states, and not put in a federal government bribery kitty.  Jackson wrote in his veto statement:

The Constitution of the United States did not delegate to Congress the power to abrogate these compacts. On the contrary, by declaring that nothing in it ” shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States or of any particular State,” it virtually provides that these compacts and the rights they secure shall remain untouched by the legislative power, which shall only make all “needful rules and regulations” for carrying them into effect. All beyond this would seem to be an assumption of undelegated power.

Keep in mind, this is a statement written by the President…not a political pundit or Republican critic.

For more detailed information on this check out Ken Ivory’s presentation “Liberating Our Lands” here.

The truth is, Arizona doesn’t need permission to reclaim it’s federal land. They don’t need an amendment, or a resolution, or proposition, or a decree.  The burden falls on the Federal Government to dispose of it…well over 200 years ago.  It’s pretty obvious that Arizona’s land…and my computer, are not going to be returned anytime soon, but that doesn’t change the ownership of either.

Passing Arizona Prop 120 is a good start; it affirms the people of Arizona have control over their state.  It also reminds the federal government of it’s long overdue promise to dispose of these lands.  Most of all, it’s your duty as a citizen to resist D.C. whenever it assumes undelegated powers over the states or the people respectively.

John Michaels
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