Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Our Dysfunctional Republic Part 4

It is estimated that close to a million people visit our nations National Archives every year. For many of those people, it must be similar to a pilgrimage to see a sacred part of our nations history. I wonder though, how many of those visitors could tell you what the Constitution actually says? If the percentage is similar to what I have encountered, I would venture to guess that not many at all could tell you much about what the Constitution actually says.

Not only is that unfortunate, it is truly pathetic. This document describes exactly what our government can and cannot do. How can the people of this country know if, and when, their government is overstepping their authority if they do not understand what authority their government has to begin with?

I have used this quote by Patrick Henry on a previous occasion, but I feel it is important enough that it be considered again, "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government-- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."

If you were to take the time to examine the laws our government has been passing you would find that our government is doing just what Patrick Henry said the constitution was to safeguard us from. The tables have been turned and that the laws our government is passing are, for all intensive purposes, restraining the people of this country and infringing upon our personal liberties.

Article 6 of the Constitution clearly states that, "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; ... shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby..."

To understand what is meant by the individual clauses of the Constitution you must have a rudimentary understanding of English, a decent vocabulary, and the proper usage of grammar. Take the above sentence from Article 6, "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in the pursuance thereof...shall be the supreme law of the land." That could easily be misunderstood, or misrepresented to mean that all laws passed by the government are the supreme laws of the land. Not so! Look up the word pursuance and you will see that it means, the act of carrying into effect. So, in truth what that statement says is that the Constitution, and all the laws that are passed which aid in carrying into effect those contained within it are to be considered the supreme law of the land. It does not mean that every law that our government passes is legal, valid, or to be considered binding.

In the Federalist Papers, #78, written by Alexander Hamilton, we find the following, "There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid."

The Constitution was, as Patrick Henry explained, an 'instrument for the people to restrain the government'. Think of it as a handbook, a guide, so the people would know just exactly what the government could and could not do. So according to Article 6, it is the supreme law of the land, and according to Alexander Hamilton, 'No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.' Therefore if we are not informed as to what the Constitution says, we cannot be know if the laws our government is passing are within it's powers or if they are beyond their powers.

Each and every elected official, from the president to all our senators and congressmen are bound by oath to support that document. They are there to represent the people of this country, not to rule over them. Thomas Jefferson once said, "The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government..."

Before I go any further I want to explain something. You will by now have noticed that I rely heavily upon quotations by our founding fathers. The reason for this is best explained in a quote by James Madison, "Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."

What Madison meant is that to truly understand the Constitution, you must rely upon the historical background behind it. If you do not, the Constitution is open to misinterpretation which will lead to a form of government that does not follow the guidelines contained within it. The best way to understand the Constitution is to rely upon the writings of those who created it. Only they can explain what they meant by the words contained within it.

The Constitution was fought for and debated upon by people who had recently fought a war for their independence from a tyrannical government. They wanted to ensure that the form of government they created would never end up like the one they had just fought. Every article, every clause, every phrase of the Constitution should be read keeping that thought in mind.

The Constitution, as ratified, contains seven articles and ten amendments, which are known as the Bill of Rights. Article 1 covers the legislative branch of the government. Article 2 covers the Executive branch, or the President and Vice President. Article 3 covers the Judicial branch. Article 4 covers the rights of the states in respect to the union. Article 5 covers the process for amending the Constitution. Article 6 covers the legal status of the Constitution, and Article 7 covers the ratification process.

One final note before I start my discussion of Article 1. The terms legislative and Executive need be understood by all who wish to understand the functions of those particular branches of our government. Legislative comes from the root word legislate, or to create law. The Executive comes from the root word execute, or to do what is called for (as by law). In the Federalist Papers, # 75, Alexander Hamilton states, "The essence of the legislative authority is to enact laws, or in other words, to prescribe rules for the regulation of the society: while the execution of the laws and the employment of the common strength, either for this purpose, or for the common defence seem to comprise all the functions of the executive magistrate." In other words, the Congress has the power to create the laws, while the president puts them into effect and makes sure they are enforced. If you understand that it will be much easier to understand the violations that have taken place by the various branches of our government. be continued

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