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Liberty is Null and Void April 18, 2012

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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America was founded as a Federal Republic.  This means our nation was designed to have two levels of sovereignty.  The States which pre-date the central government and which created the central government is to be one level and the central government they created was to be the second.   The separate States first combined to found a central government when they drafted and ratified the Articles of Confederation in 1781.  This combination was strengthened and expanded in the writing and ratification of the Constitution in 1789.  However, in both of these new beginnings it was always stated and assumed that the States were the building blocks out of which the whole was built.

The Anti-Federalists sought to safe guard the inherent rights of the Sovereign States in the face of a proposed national government which concentrated power and superseded the primacy of the States.  The Anti-Federalists are often dismissed by those of succeeding generations who have been educated by the victorious philosophical descendants of the Federalists, as mere obstructionists and people of no-account.  However, their ranks were filled by some of the greatest names of the Revolutionary times such as Samuel Adams, George Mason, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson.

Another well-known leader of the Antifederalists, Patrick Henry, questioned the very legitimacy of what are possibly the most famous words in the document: “We the People” when he said, “I have the highest veneration for those gentlemen; but, sir, give me leave to demand, What right had they to say, We, the people? My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, Who authorized them to speak the language of, We, the people, instead of, We, the states? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great, consolidated, national government, of the people of all the states.”

Once the Constitution was maneuvered through the ratification process most of the Anti-Federalists faded into the background.  Forgotten were their war time services and forgotten were their warnings that a central government once established would inevitably grow in power to eclipse the States.

In the early days of the Republic the former Anti-Federalists attempted to keep alive the idea that it was the States which had created the central government and that the States therefore had the authority to determine if the central government had overstepped the authority which had been delegated to them by the States.  They proposed to do this through a process known as Nullification.

Nullification is the process through which they believed a State could suspend a federal law within its borders. In opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts of the Adams Administration Thomas Jefferson and James Madison first enunciated this concept in1798. The tactic was accepted as a legitimate tool of the States by the Hartford Convention in 1814.  It was seen as a logical and legal protection against the encroachment of the central government upon the sovereign rights of the States.

The idea that a state or a combination of States could nullify what they perceived as unconstitutional laws passed by the central government which exceeded the delegated powers granted to it remained a point of contention until it reached a crisis in 1832.

The enactment of tariffs which were believed to be advantageous to the rapidly industrializing North and injurious to the agrarian South brought the question to a head.  South Carolina led the way by adopting an Ordinance of Nullification which stated that the tariffs, “are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State.”

This was countered by President Jackson’s Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832.  In this proclamation President Jackson stated, “I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”

Immediately after the President issued his proclamation Congress passed the Force Act.  This law authorized the use of military force against any state resisting the tariff acts. The President being the man of action immediately sent warships to Charleston harbor and ordered the strengthening federal fortifications there. The situation staggered towards war as both the central government and the government of South Carolina prepared to dispute the Doctrine of Nullification on the field of battle.

It was at this critical juncture that Henry Clay who had not been able to find any other State willing to join South Carolina earned his reputation as the Great Compromiser. On the same day the Force Bill passed, Clay negotiated the passage of the Tariff of 1833. This law provided for the gradual reduction of the tariff over ten years until it reached the levels which existed in 1816.  Jackson signed both measures thus priming and holstering the Federal power at one time.  In response South Carolina repealed its Ordinance Nullification while at the same time reaffirming its belief in the legality of Nullification by nullifying the Force Bill. President Jackson knew he had won a victory and sought to move on by ignoring this face saving action.

After this crisis the issue of nullification died down.  However, the belief that this was a viable and legal recourse for the States did not disappear, it instead evolved into the belief that the States which had created the Union could or should be able to nullify the union itself.  This in turn led to the secession of Southern States beginning with South Carolina.

This next crisis precipitated the Civil War.  This most deadly of all American wars destroyed the balance.  The power of the States was crushed by the overwhelming power of the central government.  Since that time the central government has grown, and grown, and grown until today it has become Leviathan.  Not the sea monster referred to in the Bible but the soul crushing all controlling political and social government described by Thomas Hobbs.

Today this debate over the relationship between the central government and the States has resurfaced.  As an administration moves aggressively to transform America beyond any semblance of a federal structure into a centrally-planned and totally controlled socially engineered society citizens from sea to shining sea are searching for ways to return to the limited government won by the Revolution and supposedly safe-guarded by the Constitution.

One of the most revolutionary proposals is a direct descendant of the Doctrine of Nullification.  The Repeal Amendment is supported by citizens and their representatives in every State and in the Federal Congress.  This proposed amendment states, “Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.”  As of today, no State has passed the Amendment, and it has not gained enough support in Congress to advance past the proposal stage.

This proposed amendment is designed to restore the validity of the 9th and 10th amendments which have been fundamentally supplanted and submerged by the ever growing power of the central government.

The 9th Amendment states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  The 10th Amendment states, “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.”

Unless we rebuild the reality of a balanced federal system we will soon find ourselves locked in the embrace of an all-powerful central government.  This Leviathan will seek to regulate the smallest details of our lives and the spirit of totalitarianism we spent the last half of the twentieth century fighting will win by default as the change our fellow citizens voted for brings the death of hope.

Keep the faith.  Keep the peace.  We shall overcome.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the Historian of the Future and the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2012 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens

 

The Constitution Failed May 19, 2011

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Uncategorized.
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People often ask me, “How could you write a book entitled The Constitution Failed?”  If the Constitution was written to ensure a limited government and if today we have an unlimited central government my question is, “How can anyone contend that the Constitution hasn’t failed?”

We know that for the last 100 years the Progressives have sought progress by changing the Constitution, which was written to establish unbreakable boundaries for government, without recourse to the amendment process.  The Framers knew that without these boundaries government would grow into a millstone around the neck of the American people.  Instead of a document establishing solid limits the Progressives say it is a living document that can be re-interpreted with each passing year evolving into whatever the current leaders may desire.

Our twin headed Progressive party of power expands and twists the General Welfare, the Commerce, and the Supremacy clauses to sanction any executive, legislative, judicial, or regulatory action they wish to impose whether it’s a welfare state, energy policies, or the mandatory purchase of insurance.  However, nothing is more symbolic of the current irrelevance of the Constitution to our leaders than the utter contempt they hold for the 9th and 10th Amendments.

Back during the original debate to ratify the Constitution these two sentinels of limited government were forced upon the proponents of a strong central government by those much maligned patriots the Anti-Federalists.  The Constitution never would have been ratified without an assurance that the first order of business for the new government would be the ratification of the Bill of Rights.  The capstone of these sacred rights is the 9th and the 10th Amendments which state:

The 9th Amendment, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The 10th Amendment, “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.”

I present the following examples of how our Progressive central government infringes upon the rights of the States and the people:

Term limits:

While in almost every instance that voters have had an opportunity to voice their opinion they have overwhelmingly approved term limits, and the courts have just as consistently overturned the will of the people.  Through ballot initiatives and Constitutional amendments to State Constitutions the people have spoken, but instead of the voice of the people we hear the commands of the elites.

The Supreme Court in a classic five-to-four decision in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (1995) said the states don’t have the authority to limit the terms of their own congressional delegations.  They further ruled that unless the Constitution is amended neither the states nor Congress has the power to limit the number of terms members of Congress can serve. Dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out that the majority ignored the clear meaning of the Tenth Amendment.  Since there is no explicit denial of the power to limit terms to the States in the Constitution the 10th Amendment clearly states this power is reserved to the States.

Immigration:

When the Governor and legislators of Arizona attempted to address the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who are pouring over their borders with Mexico each year they first had to admit that the Federal Government was not enforcing their own laws.   After the central government ignored their petitions and pleas for help for years the government of Arizona acted to protect their citizens.

Immediately, the Justice Department sued to block the law, contending it violates the U.S. Constitution.  The Arizona law was subsequently struck down by the Federal Courts using the Supremacy Clause for their justification.  Judge Richard Paez, said, “By imposing mandatory obligations on state and local officers, Arizona interferes with the federal government’s authority to implement its priorities and strategies in law enforcement, turning Arizona officers into state-directed [Homeland Security] agents.”  When it reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a three judge panel said, “Congress has given the federal government sole authority to enforce immigration laws, and that Arizona’s law violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution”  The Federal Government has abdicated its responsibility to protect Arizona from invasion and in their opinion a law that requires law enforcement officials to enforce the law goes too far.

The intrusive actions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):

Legislators in Texas decided to take action to protect their citizens from what many considered to be overly aggressive pat-downs.  The reaction of the TSA to Texas attempting to protect their citizens from the molestation the Federal l Agency calls a pat-down is indicative of the attitude our central government has towards any infringement of their absolute power.  On their website The TSA Blog the gatekeepers of the air said, “What’s our take on the Texas House of Representatives voting to ban the current TSA pat-down? Well, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article. VI. Clause 2) prevents states from regulating the federal government.”  This says it all.  As far as our Federal masters are concerned there is no limit to their power.

Obamacare: Mandating action and penalizing inaction:

The Federal Government is attempting to enforce the mandatory purchase provisions of Obamacare alternately as authorized by the Commerce Clause and as a tax, depending on which argument they think a judge will uphold.  This massive invasion of personal liberty is currently being challenged by 28 States as being beyond the bounds of the Constitution.  Currently two judges have ruled it unconstitutional and three have ruled it constitutional.  If this is provision wherein not taking an action is considered either engaging in commerce and thereby subject to regulation or if a non-action is taxable what is left of our precious freedom?  What other non-actions will now be under the power of the government.  If a government can control our non-actions what does that say about their power over our actions?

By ignoring the unambiguous meaning of the 9th and 10th Amendments and by stretching and twisting the meanings of a few vague clauses the Progressive leaders of our Federal government have interpreted our Constitution to mean anything needed to do anything desired.  Once the words lose their meanings, once the sentences can mean anything the Progressives want, what power does the Constitution have to limit government?

Ultimately this is a message of hope because I trust in the ability of the American people to solve any problem they confront.  However, we have to admit there is a problem before we can solve it, and if we refuse to admit there is a problem we have no chance of solving it. The problem is our limited government has become unlimited and does whatever it wants.  How can I say, “The Constitution Failed”?  What I am saying is our system is broken, it is no longer functioning as designed, and we need a re-set button.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

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