Tag Archives: james madison

America’s Sacred Texts

By Jerry McDaniel

After several years spent studying American History and our founding documents, I came to the conclusion that the Founding Fathers left us a perfect plan for governing a free people. Most, if not all the major domestic crises faced by America since its founding could have been avoided had the leaders at the time, followed the precepts of our founding documents. Unfortunately, while the Founders gave us a perfect plan, that plan has never been administered by perfect men. The verdict of history and the Bible is that there are no perfect men, which brings us to the central question. If there are no perfect men, and yet we have a perfect plan of governance, how did we get it?

To appreciate fully the wisdom of the Founder’s plan it is necessary to view it as a single document consisting of three parts. (1) The Declaration of Independence gives the justification for our existence as a separate and independent people and the principles to enable us to govern ourselves successfully. (2) The Constitution presents the plan for governing, embodying those principles, and strengthening the whole while protecting the liberty and independence of all its parts. (3) The Bill of Rights clarifies and amplifies the intent of the Founders for particular elements of the plan.

These three parts of the Founder’s plan, collectively represent the most perfect and complete plan of government ever devised. Since its inception in March,1789 there have been many attempts to improve on the original as our political leaders moved away from its direction and chafed at the restrictions the plan placed on their ambitions. In each attempt to “update” the original, history has shown the effort to be of dubious benefit, with the unintended consequences sometimes far outweighing the intended improvements. For example, there have been seventeen Amendments to the Constitution since the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Most of those have produced marginal benefits with negligible damage to the original plan. Others have been used by revisionists to alter drastically the original plan, to the detriment of the American people and liberty, Amendments 12, 14, 16 and 17, are good examples.

The unity, cohesiveness, and durability of the Founder’s plan is even more remarkable when we consider the diversity of personalities, occupations, education, and interests of the hundreds of people who contributed to its formulation, including the Second Continental Congress, the Philadelphia Convention, and thirteen State Ratifying Conventions. One explanation can be found in the closing paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence”. This phrase is much more than a rhetorical device to add solemnity to the document. It expresses the heartfelt faith of virtually all the Founding Fathers.

In our desire to view ourselves as a secular society ruled by a secular government, we overlook and often deny the most fundamental attribute of our national character; we are a religious people. According to a 2007 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78.4% of all American Adults identify themselves as Christian. 4.7% identify as being affiliated with other than Christian religions and another 5.8% identify as being religious but not affiliated with any particular religious group. 88.9% of all American Adults consider themselves “religious”.  Admittedly, many of those who identify themselves as Christians are not “practicing” Christians, and many more would not meet the Biblical definition of Christian. However, that does not change the fact that we are a Christian nation and have been since our founding.

That is not to say that all the Founding Fathers would be considered as orthodox Christians by today’s doctrinal standards. It is fashionable in today’s secular America to discount the religious influence on the founding of America by pointing out inconstancies between the views of many of the more prominent Founders and what we might consider to be a proper Christian worldview. In doing so, we deny ourselves some of the most valuable lessons of history. There was a wide variety of beliefs then, just as there is now. The Framers that crafted our founding documents were members of Quaker, Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist, and other Christian disciplines, and yet, there were certain beliefs they all held in common. Two of the most important religious characteristics of the Founders were their reverence for the Holy Bible and their faith in the Providence of God. They perhaps possessed the highest degree of Bible literacy of any group of political leaders before or since. The political speech of that era is replete with biblical references.

It is popular for historians to point to the writers of the Enlightenment Era such as John Locke or Montesquieu as providing the guiding principles behind our founding documents. The truth is that political writings of the time contain far more references to Biblical sources than to Enlightenment sources. In fact, Professor Daniel Dreisbach, an historian with American University claims there are more references to the book of Deuteronomy alone, found in the political writings of the Founders, than all of the Enlightenment writers combined. The Bible formed such a large part of the Founders thinking that they routinely referenced it in their speeches and correspondence without attribution, assuming that their audience would automatically recognize the reference. A classic example of this can be found in a speech by Benjamin Franklin to the Philadelphia Convention on June 28, 1787.

“…[T]he longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.”

In this short paragraph, there are at least three distinct biblical references, Psalm, 127, Matthew 10:29, and Genesis 11:8-10. Franklin also refers here, to the Providence of God in the “affairs of men”, as does George Washington in a letter to Brig. General Thomas Nelson in August 1788,

“The Hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”

This was written just before the Presidential election of 1788 and after the completion of the Constitution. It is evident that he was referring to the Divine Hand of God in the Revolutionary War and the events following, including the Confederation and the outcome of the Philadelphia Convention. James Madison had the same thoughts in mind when he wrote Federalist 37. In discussing the difficulties of the Convention in reconciling the differing ideas, opinions and interests of so diverse a group, Madison wrote,

“It is impossible for any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking of the astonishment. It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.”

I agree with Franklin, Washington and Madison in their conclusions that the plan of government set forth in our founding documents bears clear evidence of the providence of God in its creation. Lest I be misunderstood, let me point out that the Divine Providence of our founding is different from the inspiration of Scripture. In inspiration, God deals with individuals directly so that each book of the Bible has a single author. With Providence God works “behind the scenes” so to speak, using multitudes of people and events, often seemingly unrelated, to bring about His will. Providence can only be seen through the lens of hindsight. It is only through observing the formation and progress of our nation in history, that we can appreciate the Providence of God and that we can confidently declare our founding documents to be America’s Sacred Texts.

Bookmark and Share

Still Waiting For That Republican Form of Government?

liberty-bell“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…” ~~Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution

Throughout our history, the one thing all American Patriots have agreed on is that republicanism is the ideal political philosophy for our form of government.  The Framers not only believed in this principle, they also knew what it meant.

Like patriotism, freedom, liberty, democracy and deity, republicanism is an abstract term and therefore difficult to precisely define.  Most modern nations lay claim to the label of “Republic”, yet few are governed by republican principles.  It is obvious that the Soviet Socialist Republics that made up the Soviet Union, The Republic of China, and the United States of America do not have the same form of government.  Yet, they all bear the name “Republic”.

If Thomas Jefferson, THE champion of republicanism found its definition elusive, it is no wonder that the average American has difficulty in wrapping their mind around the concept.

“It must be acknowledged that the term republic is of very vague application in every language… Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say purely and simply it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally according to rules established by the majority; and that every other government is more or less republican in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816

In searching the Founding Documents and other writers of the era to discover the idea the Framers had in mind when they wrote Section 4 of Article IV, we come up with two principles that seem to define its core meaning: The rule of law, and representative government. Neither of these is adhered to, in the constitutional sense, by our government today.

The Rule of Law

It is true that the rule of law is necessary for an ordered society.  It is equally true that the rule of law has throughout history, been the primary tool of tyranny.  Therefore, it is evident that the Founding Fathers did not simply have in mind a “nation ruled by law and not by men” when they devised a republican form of government for our nation.  What they meant by “republican government” was a government ruled by laws derived from a Constitution written and approved according to the collective will of all the people, clearly setting forth the authority and duties of government and restricting it to those powers only.  Article VI of the Constitution declares it, along with its duly ratified Amendments to be “The Supreme Law of The Land” and “the judges in every state shall be bound thereby”.

In order for a Constitution to be effective as a basis for government it must be (a) written, (b) permanent, and (c) unchangeable other than by lawful amendment procedures.  The claim by our present Administration that the Constitution is a “work in progress” to be altered and “perfected” by each succeeding generation is a contradiction of the very meaning of the word itself.  It undermines the foundation of republican government and places the liberties of our citizens at the mercy of whatever group of politicians that happens to be in power at any given time.

Article I of the Constitution declares, “ALL legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”  Through the years, Congress has devised the means for escaping responsibility and accountability for particularly onerous and unpopular laws by establishing bureaucracies and departments within the Executive Branch with “rule making” (legislative) powers.  The torrent of regulations and rules flowing from these bureaucratic, regulatory agencies, sometimes by executive order and frequently by judicial mandate, are direct violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution which gives ALL legislative powers to the Congress.

Representative Government

Closely associated with the principle of “rule of law”, is that of “representative government“.  It was clearly the intent of the Framers that law governing the activities and welfare of the people would be made by representatives, chosen by them, to serve in this capacity for a short period of time.  While Congress collectively may be said to be elected by the people, individually each member is elected by less than one percent of the total population.

It is this fact, among others, that prompted the Framers to place strict restraints on the powers of Congress, limiting it to matters of national necessity.  James Madison summed up the powers of the national government in Federalist No. 41.

“That we may form a correct judgment on this subject, it will be proper to review the several powers conferred on the government of the Union; and that this may be the more conveniently done they may be reduced into different classes as they relate to the following different objects:

  1. Security against foreign danger;
  2. Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations;
  3. Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States;
  4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility;
  5. Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts;
  6. Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers.”

These “enumerated powers” are spelled out in Article I, Section 8 and emphasized in the Tenth Amendment.  For a commentary on the more controversial ones click HERE.

The idea of a federal legislature, not accountable to the collective will of the people, making laws affecting the lives all the people regardless of their unique circumstances and needs, was precisely what the Founders were attempting to avoid when they established a republican form of government with clear boundaries between the powers of the national and state governments.

This principle has been so corrupted over the past century that we now find ourselves in the absurd position where citizens of our poorest states are taxed to fund the profligate spending of those in some of our richest states; Where frugal and productive citizens find the fruits of their labor confiscated from them “by law” to provide luxuries to citizens in other states who are less productive and less frugal than themselves.

That a Congresswoman elected by a fraction of the citizens of one state can dominate legislation and spending affecting the citizens of all states, or that a Senator from one of our least populous states can impose his will by legislation on the most minute details of the lives of more than three hundred millions of citizens would be unthinkable by our Founding Fathers.

It is these perversions of government that have led to revolutions in the past and will again in the future, if allowed to go unchecked.  Whether the revolution takes place at the ballot box or in the streets remains to be seen.

Take a Breather America

minute-man-2-lithoAmerica is caught up in a self-perpetuating hysteria over the retention bonuses paid out to executives at AIG after it received some $170 billion in bailout money.  Politicians eager to distract us from government’s involvement in our economic woes point to corporate greed as the culprit, using the bonuses as exhibit “A”.  The story is dutifully hyped by the mass media and the lemming like followers of the media becomes incensed, demanding that something be done.  In turn, Washington politicians elbow their way to the cameras, each trying to outdo the other in assuring the voters that they are going to get even with those greedy capitalists on their behalf.

It’s time we all take a deep breath and a closer look at what is really going on.  Keep in mind; these were retention bonuses, not performance bonuses.  Companies finding themselves in serious financial circumstances will often offer key executives retention bonuses to discourage them from abandoning the company prematurely, assuring its ultimate demise.  It’s kind of like a NFL team quarterback, after a thirteen and three season, announcing plans for retirement.  The team may offer him a huge bonus in order to keep him on for another season.  If the next year turns out to be a three and thirteen season, no one then demands he return the bonus.

That’s partly because we do not consider it our money although it is paid with money the team ultimately got from the fans.  Our fearless leaders in Washington remind us daily that the bonus money paid to AIG executives is taxpayer money.  That is not entirely correct.  At one time, it was the taxpayer’s money, before it was confiscated by the IRS.  Once you send your check to Washington, it becomes the government’s money.  Proof of that is the fact that after the government has possession of it, the taxpayers have little or nothing to say about how it is spent.  Should the government be successful in getting the entire $165 million dollars back, do you really think they are going to send you a check for $110?  That is approximately the share that would be due each taxpayer, if each made an equal payment toward payment of the bonuses.

As a part of the pols pitch to the voters, we are told the executives who got the bonuses are the same ones that wrecked the company to begin with.  However, ask the same politician what the names of the executives are, or exactly what job they performed and they cannot tell you.  The reason is that they have not been publicly identified, and after the furor stirred up by our politicians, their names should not be made public for security and safety reasons.  The truth is that neither you, I, nor anyone in Washington knows who received a bonus or whether the decision to pay them was a good or bad business decision.  After the fact, it seems not to have been a good one, but the fact is that the only ones who know for sure are the people who made the decision in the first place.

Undaunted by the facts or the Constitution, The house passed a bill on Thursday levying a 90% tax on bonuses paid by companies receiving more than $5 billion in bailout money to executives earning more than $250,000 before the bonus payment.  Charlie Rangel assured us that state and local taxes will get the remaining ten percent. (In California the tax will be 101%)  Before we start cheering, we should consider that if Congress can reach back and confiscate the prior earning of one group, they could do the same thing with any group, including us.

Those who oppose the “Bonus Confiscation Bill” use the Constitution as their argument against it.  Article I, Section 9 says, “No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed”.  Many Constitutional scholars however point out that this section of the Constitution applies only to criminal laws passed after the fact that would hold someone criminally liable for acts committed before they were declared illegal.  Courts historically have taken this view.  Regardless of whether the new tax is unconstitutional, it is certainly un-American.  It violates the sense of fairness by changing the rules after the play has been made.

The “bill of attainder” and “ex post facto” section of the Constitution was debated at the Philadelphia Convention on August 22, 1787.  The notes taken by James Madison provide us with some interesting insights as to the thinking of the Framers.

“Mr. Gerry & Mr. McHenry moved to insert after the 2d. sect.  Art: 7, the Clause following, to wit, “The Legislature shall pass no bill of attainder nor any ex post facto law…”

“Mr. Elseworth contended that there was no lawyer, no civilian who would not say that ex post facto laws were void of themselves. It can not then be necessary to prohibit them…”

“Mr. Wilson was against inserting any thing in the Constitution as to ex post facto laws. It will bring reflexions on the Constitution — and proclaim that we are ignorant of the first principles of Legislation, or are constituting a Government which will be so…”

“Doc. Johnson thought the clause unnecessary, and implying an improper suspicion of the National Legislature…”

The clause carried, seven ayes to three nays.  To me, the most interesting comments were those made by Mr. Elseworth, Mr. Wilson, and Dr. Johnson.  The language here implies that Elseworth, Wilson and Johnson considered it almost an insult to suggest such a clause because it implied an “ignorance of the first principles of legislation, or are constituting a government which will be so.”  Dr. Johnson also felt it would imply a suspicion of the National Legislature.

We can assume that the three Nay votes, although not recorded by name, were from these three gentlemen. Their objection was not to the idea itself but to the absurdity of thinking any legislator would even consider passing an ex post facto law.

A more cogent argument against the bill is found in Article I, Section 10 which forbids the states to, …“pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…”  The inviolability of our contract laws provides the underpinning for our entire economic system.  If we allow Congress to pass a law “impairing the obligation of contracts”, there is no limit to the ability of Congress to intervene in our business affairs.

It may not be time yet to break out the pitchforks and march on Washington, but the time is certainly drawing closer.

States Drawing the Line on Washington Power Grabs

minute-man-2-lithoOne of the major challenges facing the Founders in 1787 was how to form a national government while still maintaining the sovereignty of the various individual states.  They solved this problem with the “enumerated powers” section [Art.1, Sec. 8] in the Constitution followed by the Tenth Amendment.  We have a unique form of government, partly national, and partly federal.  James Madison details this quirk in our system in Federalist No. 39.

Almost from its inception, politicians in the central government have attempted to consolidate government in Washington, gradually weakening its republican and federal components.  During the twentieth century, those wishing to consolidate the United States into one central government with branches or chapters in the various state capitols took advantage of the Sixteenth Amendment of 1913 and the power it gave Washington to expand its control over state governments.

The Tax Code is used as a device to reward behavior by states and citizens its deems desirable and punishing behavior it deems undesirable.  Through giving or withholding tax incentives and grants it effectively controls state social programs, education, health care and a major part of its laws dealing with commerce and manufacturing.  As the federal government gains more and more power over state government, it increases the demands made on state governments and taxpayers through “unfunded mandates”.

Of course, the argument over “funded” or “unfunded” mandates by the federal government is not really the issue.  That is merely a question of whether the taxes taken from citizens of the various states makes the round trip to Washington before being spent, or are spent by the state government before Washington gets its “rake off”.  The real issue is whether the federal government has the legal authority to issue the mandates in the first place.

At least twenty states have begun to push back, introducing resolutions in their respective Legislatures that says to the Federal government “enough is enough”.  A number of internet sites have begun to publicize states’ effort to rein in the federal government and regain some of the legitimate powers reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.  The article most often quoted is the one by Jerome Corsi in World Net Daily.

A more detailed treatment of states’ efforts can be found here.

This is an important movement that should be supported by every citizen who values the Constitution and the limited government it demands.

The Obama Gamble

minute-man-2-litho

Was the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States a bridge too far for the socialist movement?  Since the beginning of our Republic, the political struggle has been between a liberal big government and a conservative limited government.  The early contests were between the federalists led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams and the republicans led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The federalists won the first round by winning the Presidency and both houses of Congress in 1796.  Jefferson won the second round by battling them from his position as President of the Senate and then defeating them in the election of 1800, which he referred to as the revolution of 1800.  In a letter to Judge Roan dated September 6, 1819 he writes,

“I had read in the Enquirer, and with great approbation, the pieces signed Hampden, and have read them again with redoubled approbation in the copies you have been so kind as to send me. I subscribe to every tittle of them. They contain the true principles of the revolution of 1800, for that was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form; not effected indeed by the sword, as that, but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people. The nation declared its will by dismissing functionaries of one principle (federalism), and electing those of another (republicanism), in the two branches, executive and legislative, submitted to their election.”

The principle of government Jefferson referred to was the principle of a federation of independent and sovereign states united under a federal government of limited size with enumerated powers versus a consolidated government with all power residing in a national capitol.

A quarter-century later, Jefferson, looking back on his years of public service, writing in a petition to the Virginia Legislature, described this episode in his career as “the most important in its consequences, of any transaction in any portion of my life;”   While the federalists ceased to exist as an organized party by 1824, their influence has continued down through history.  The Supreme Court more or less kept them in check until the influence of European socialism began to gain a foothold in America during the twentieth century.

Their ultimate goal and their political tactics have remained steady for over two hundred years. Their aim is to consolidate state government powers under the control of Washington. Since Roosevelt, their techniques for gaining power have changed little.  The method used is to exaggerate problems into crises and use them to expand the power of the federal government.  The Recession of 1930-31 that Roosevelt turned into the Great Depression and then used it to expand government power more than at any other time in history provided the template for all future expansions.

Economic cycles, crime, drugs, communism, wars, and other chronic problems of society have been used to diminish liberty and increase government power.  The two most recent examples are the changing weather patterns and the economy.  The slogan for democratic campaigns is consistently “the worst economy since the Great Depression”.  This theme is carried on year after year regardless of the economic facts.  Unrelenting pressure is kept on the institutions of our society combined with the unremitting propaganda from the left to gain one incremental step at a time.

Incrementalism has been the hallmark of the socialist movement for the past century.  As the American people become more accustomed to the small changes that occur over time, they pay less attention to their disappearing liberties.  The election of 2008 was perhaps the most monumental since the revolution of 1800.  The socialist movement abandoned its past practice of incremental advances and decided to go for “the whole enchilada” with the candidacy of Barack Obama.

I fear those who cling to the hope that Obama will govern from the center are in for a major disappointment.   He was elected to bring about radical socialistic changes in the American system and everything in his rhetoric prior to the election and everything in his life experiences indicate that he is likely to do so, his proposed appointments and modified positions since the election, not withstanding.

The best hope for America is that he will overreach to a degree that even a conditioned electorate cannot overlook.

As Thomas Jefferson noted in the Declaration of Independence, “all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, that 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.”

If Barack Obama carries into practice all the policies he alluded to in his campaign he may very well cross a threshold of despotism the American people will not tolerate.  If so he could set in motion the same forces Adams set in motion in 1796 and the Democratic Party could follow the Federalist Party into the dustbin of history.  2010 and 2012 could be a repeat of the revolution of 1800.


Obama’s Global Poverty Program

Obama has promised to double our foreign aid budget to $50 billion, if he is elected President in November. A part of that increase is Senate Bill S.2433, the Global Poverty Act of 2007, a bill sponsored by Obama that proposes to cut global poverty in half by the year 2050. The bill has been reported out of committee and placed on the Senate calendar awaiting action by the full Senate.

In arguing for or against the bill on its merits, a substantial argument could be made to support either side. There is a much more fundamental question to be argued however, than simply whether the aim of the bill is worthwhile, whether it is in our national interest, whether it will contribute to global stability, or what the price tag will be in increased spending. The basic question that should be asked on this and all other bills that come before Congress is whether it complies with the Constitution.

Before the Ink had dried on the Constitution, anti-constitutionalists began devising ways to circumvent its restrictions on the powers of government. During the first hundred years of our republic, their efforts met with limited success. During the twentieth century, however, anti-constitutional thinking gained momentum and by the beginning of the twenty-first, the U.S. Constitution has become little more than an interesting historical relic from the past.

Today, its most frequent use is to supply a line for the swearing in ceremony of public officials, “I do solemnly swear…to the best of my ability, [to] preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” While every public official takes this oath, from the local cop on the beat to the President of the United States, for most it has little or no affect on the way they carry out their duties once in office.

At the same time, it is the document most often referenced by those wishing to gain some personal privilege from government. “I have a constitutional right to… (Fill in the blank)”. You have probably heard this assertion hundreds of times during your lifetime, but how many times have you ever heard someone actually quote the Constitution, Article and Section to back up their claim? Probably few, if any. That’s because very few people, including our elected officials know what the Constitution truly says.

Barack Obama, in spite of the fact that he taught constitutional law for over a decade in one of the premier universities in America, is merely another of those politicians who either do not understand the constitution or are counting on the constitutional ignorance of the citizenry in order to implement their agenda. The Global Poverty Act is an ideal legislative example to illustrate this point. No matter how you interpret or misinterpret the Constitution, this Act is clearly unconstitutional.

The two most popular ruses for circumventing the clear meaning of the Constitution and nullifying the restrictions it places on government are the “living document” canard and a clever use of the phrase “general welfare” coupled with the so-called “elastic clause” found in Article 1, Section 8.

Of all the devices used by constitutional heretics to deny the limits placed on congressional power by the Constitution, none is more disingenuous or more easily proven false than the idea that the Constitution is a “living document” that evolves and changes as the needs and desires of the nation changes over time.

The pervasiveness of this heretical doctrine among our political leaders was indicated by Al Gore during his 2000 bid for the presidency. In describing the type of judges he would appoint to the Supreme Court, he stated; “I would look for justices of the Supreme Court who understand that our Constitution is a living and breathing document, that it was intended by our founders to be interpreted in the light of the constantly evolving experience of the American people.”

Barack Obama has expressed a similar view of the Constitution on numerous occasions, both in his campaign rhetoric and in his prior work as legislator, lawyer and university lecturer.

The founders did foresee the probability that the Constitution as written, would not always meet the needs of a thriving, advancing society that was constantly changing as new discoveries were made and new circumstances arose in domestic and international affairs. At the same time, they recognized the dangers in trusting the Constitution to the fickle whims of popular opinion or the ambitious machinations of politicians.

To protect the Constitution from the vagaries of politics and the shifting sentiments of the populace, they constructed an elaborate, yet flexible, process for making the changes needed. It was their intention that the Constitution not be interpreted to meet the evolving needs of the nation, but rather, that it be amended to meet those needs. Otherwise, Article 5 which lays out the procedures for amending the Constitution has no meaning or purpose.

The mere existence of Article 5 is the strongest possible argument against the concept of a living constitution. If the Constitution could be changed simply by a legislative act or the ruling of a federal court there would be no reason for Article 5 and its inclusion in the Constitution would be little more than a mockery of the principles of constitutional government.

The longest standing heresy concerning the Constitution is the application of the term “general welfare” to refer to a separate power in addition to those listed. It was first introduced by Alexander Hamilton founder of the Federalist Party and applied in a minor degree by John Adams, our second President, and the Marshall Court appointed by him. That the term would be misused by government to assume powers not delegated to it by the Constitution was anticipated by the anti-federalists before the Constitution was ratified and became a major issue of contention between the anti-federalists and the federalists that threatened to stand in the way of ratification.

The term itself appears twice in the Constitution, once in the preamble and once in the first clause of Article 1, Section 8. In the preamble, which reads,

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”;

It is obvious that promoting the general welfare was just one of the goals in establishing a new government. The means of achieving these goals was to be the Constitution which followed.

Promoting the general welfare is the end and the Constitution is the means. To attribute a deeper meaning to this phrase other than the obvious is a violation of the rules of structure in writing. The term is used in a similar manner in Article 1 as one of the purposes for empowering Congress to levy and collect taxes.

Section 8 of Article 1 is a single complex sentence consisting of one independent clause and eighteen dependent clauses. The sentence contains eighteen semicolons and one period. In this instance punctuation is important because James Madison used it in Federalist Number 41 to argue against the use of the term “general welfare” as an additional power delegated to the Congress, and to ridicule those who feared otherwise.

“…It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.”

“Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms ‘to raise money for the general welfare.’ ”

”But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars.”

“But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter….”

Thomas Jefferson writing on the same subject in a letter to Albert Gallatin, June 16, 1817 wrote,

“You will have learned that an act for internal improvement, after passing both Houses, was negatived by the President. The act was founded, avowedly, on the principle that the phrase in the constitution which authorizes Congress “to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,” was an extension of the powers specifically enumerated to whatever would promote the general welfare; and this, you know, was the federal[ist] doctrine. Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money…”

The “Global Poverty Act” fails to pass Constitutional muster on at least two grounds. Even if the term “general welfare” alluded to an additional congressional power, the act would still be unconstitutional. The clause reads, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes … [to]… provide for the general welfare of the United States”. The Global Poverty Act is designed to provide for the general welfare of all other nations of the world except the United States.

Furthermore, the practice of making direct grants to other nations from taxpayer money (foreign aid) is not among the enumerated powers listed in the Constitution and is therefore unconstitutional in all cases.

It is high time we decided, as a nation, whether we wish to continue as a constitutional republic or adopt a different form of government. We can express our preference in the coming election by voting for or against the candidacy of Barack Obama.

Copy and e-mail this link to a friend: Illinoisconservative.com/obamas-global-poverty-program