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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Patrick Henry and Problems concerning the Constitution

"The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing—the expression, We, the people,instead of the states, of America. I need not take much pains to show that the principles of this system are extremely pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous. Is this a monarchy, like England—a compact between prince and people, with checks on the former to secure the liberty of the latter? Is this a confederacy, like Holland—an association of a number of independent states, each of which retains its individual sovereignty? It is not a democracy, wherein the people retain all their rights securely. Had these principles been adhered to, we should not have been brought to this alarming transition, from a confederacy to a consolidated government. We have no detail of these great considerations, which, in my opinion, ought to have abounded before we should recur to a government of this kind. Here is a resolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished: and cannot we plainly see that this is actually the case? The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change, so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this tame relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen? Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans?It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government. Having premised these things, I shall, with the aid of my judgment and information, which, I confess, are not extensive, go into the discussion of this system more minutely. Is it necessary for your liberty that you should abandon those great rights by the adoption of this system? Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings—give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else! But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an old-fashioned fellow. Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old-fashioned; if so, I am contented to be so. I say, the time has been when every pulse of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American; but suspicions have gone forth—suspicions of my integrity—publicly reported that my professions are not real. Twenty-three years ago was I supposed a traitor to my country? I was then said to be the bane of sedition, because I supported the rights of my country. I may be thought suspicious when I say our privileges and rights are in danger. But, sir, a number of the people of this country are weak enough to think these things are too true. I am happy to find that the gentleman on the other side declares they are groundless. But, sir, suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the preservation of the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds: should it fall on me, I am contented: conscious rectitude is a powerful consolation. I trust there are many who think my professions for the public good to be real. Let your suspicion look to both sides. There are many on the other side, who possibly may have been persuaded to the necessity of these measures, which I conceive to be dangerous to your liberty. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. I am answered by gentlemen, that, though I might speak of terrors, yet the fact was, that we were surrounded by none of the dangers I apprehended. I conceive this new government to be one of those dangers: it has produced those horrors which distress many of our best citizens. We are come hither to preserve the poor commonwealth of Virginia, if it can be possibly done: something must be done to preserve your liberty and mine. The Confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium: it carried us through a long and dangerous war; it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses: and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with the government. Take longer time in reckoning things; revolutions like this have happened in almost every country in Europe; similar examples are to be found in ancient Greece and ancient Rome—instances of the people losing their liberty by their carelessness and the ambition of a few. We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman, who presides, against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge that licentiousness is dangerous, and that it ought to be provided against; I acknowledge, also, the new form of government may effectually prevent it: yet there is another thing it will as effectually do—it will oppress and ruin the people. There are sufficient guards placed against sedition and licentiousness; for, when power is given to this government to suppress these, or for any other purpose, the language it assumes is clear, express, and unequivocal; but when this Constitution speaks of privileges, there is an ambiguity, sir, a fatal ambiguity—an ambiguity which is very astonishing. In the clause under consideration, there is the strangest language that I can conceive. I mean, when it says that there shall not be more representatives than one for every thirty thousand. Now, sir, how easy is it to evade this privilege! "The number shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand." This may be satisfied by one representative from each state. Let our numbers be ever so great, this immense continent may, by this artful expression, be reduced to have but thirteen representatives. I confess this construction is not natural; but the ambiguity of the expression lays a good ground for a quarrel. Why was it not clearly and unequivocally expressed, that they should be entitled to have one for every thirty thousand? This would have obviated all disputes; and was this difficult to be done? What is the inference? When population increases, and a state shall send representatives in this proportion, Congress may remand them, because the right of having one for every thirty thousand is not clearly expressed. This possibility of reducing the number to one for each state approximates to probability by that other expression—"but each state shall at least have one representative." Now, is it not clear that, from the first expression, the number might be reduced so much that some states should have no representatives at all, were it not for the insertion of this last expression? And as this is the only restriction upon them, we may fairly conclude that they may restrain the number to one from each state. Perhaps the same horrors may hang over my mind again. I shall be told I am continually afraid: but, sir, I have strong cause of apprehension. In some parts of the plan before you, the great rights of freemen are endangered; in other parts, absolutely taken away. How does your trial by jury stand? In civil cases gone—not sufficiently secured in criminal—this best privilege is gone. But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our representatives, will not abuse the power we put in their hands. I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers. I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny. Happy will you be if you miss the fate of those nations, who, omitting to resist their oppressors, or negligently suffering their liberty to be wrested from them, have groaned under intolerable despotism! Most of the human race are now in this deplorable condition; and those nations who have gone in search of grandeur, power, and splendor, have also fallen a sacrifice, and been the victims of their own folly. While they acquired those visionary blessings, they lost their freedom. My great objection to this government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants. It is urged by some gentlemen, that this new plan will bring us an acquisition of strength—an army, and the militia of the states. This is an idea extremely ridiculous: gentlemen cannot be earnest. This acquisition will trample on our fallen liberty. Let my beloved Americans guard against that fatal lethargy that has pervaded the universe. Have we the means of resisting disciplined armies, when our only defence, the militia, is put into the hands of Congress? The honorable gentleman said that great danger would ensue if the Convention rose without adopting this system. I ask, Where is that danger? I see none. Other gentlemen have told us, within these walls, that the union is gone, or that the union will be gone. Is not this trifling with the judgment of their fellow-citizens? Till they tell us the grounds of their fears, I will consider them as imaginary. I rose to make inquiry where those dangers were; they could make no answer: I believe I never shall have that answer. Is there a disposition in the people of this country to revolt against the dominion of laws? Has there been a single tumult in Virginia? Have not the people of Virginia, when laboring under the severest pressure of accumulated distresses, manifested the most cordial acquiescence in the execution of the laws? What could be more awful than their unanimous acquiescence under general distresses? Is there any revolution in Virginia? Whither is the spirit of America gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched in triumph through our country. Yet the people of this country could not be appalled by their pompous armaments: they stopped their career, and victoriously captured them. Where is the peril, now, compared to that? Some minds are agitated by foreign alarms. Happily for us, there is no real danger from Europe; that country is engaged in more arduous business: from that quarter there is no cause of fear: you may sleep in safety forever for them. Where is the danger? If, sir, there was any, I would recur to the American spirit to defend us; that spirit which has enabled us to surmount the greatest difficulties: to that illustrious spirit I address my most fervent prayer to prevent our adopting a system destructive to liberty. Let no gentlemen be told that it is not safe to reject this government. Wherefore is it not safe? We are told there are dangers, but those dangers are ideal; they cannot be demonstrated. To encourage us to adopt it, they tell us that there is a plain, easy way of getting amendments. When I come to contemplate this part, I suppose that I am mad, or that my countrymen are so. The way to amendment is, in my conception, shut. Let us consider this plain, easy way. "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a Convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by the Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress. Provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall in any manner affect the 1st and 4th clauses in the 9th section of the 1st article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate." Hence it appears that three fourths of the states must ultimately agree to any amendments that may be necessary. Let us consider the consequence of this. However uncharitable it may appear, yet I must tell my opinion—that the most unworthy character may get into power, and prevent the introduction of amendments. Let us suppose—for the case is supposable, possible, and probable—that you happen to deal those powers to unworthy hands; will they relinquish powers already in their possession, or agree to amendments? Two thirds of the Congress, or of the state legislatures, are necessary even to propose amendments. If one third of these be unworthy men, they may prevent the application for amendments; but what is destructive and mischievous, is, that three fourths of the state legislatures, or of the state conventions, must concur in the amendments when proposed! In such numerous bodies, there must necessarily be some designing, bad men. To suppose that so large a number as three fourths of the states will concur, is to suppose that they will possess genius, intelligence, and integrity, approaching to miraculous. It would indeed be miraculous that they should concur in the same amendments, or even in such as would bear some likeness to one another; for four of the smallest states, that do not collectively contain one tenth part of the population of the United States, may obstruct the most salutary and necessary amendments. Nay, in these four states, six tenths of the people may reject these amendments; and suppose that amendments shall be opposed to amendments, which is highly probable,—is it possible that three fourths can ever agree to the same amendments? A bare majority in these four small states may hinder the adoption of amendments; so that we may fairly and justly conclude that one twentieth part of the American people may prevent the removal of the most grievous inconveniences and oppression, by refusing to accede to amendments. A trifling minority may reject the most salutary amendments. Is this an easy mode of securing the public liberty? It is, sir, a most fearful situation, when the most contemptible minority can prevent the alteration of the most oppressive government; for it may, in many respects, prove to be such. Is this the spirit of republicanism? What, sir, is the genius of democracy? Let me read that clause of the bill of rights of Virginia which relates to this: 3d clause:—that government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community. "Of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of mal-administration; and that whenever any government shall be found inadequate, or contrary to those purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal." This, sir, is the language of democracy—that a majority of the community have a right to alter government when found to be oppressive. But how different is the genius of your new Constitution from this! How different from the sentiments of freemen, that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority! If, then, gentlemen, standing on this ground, are come to that point, that they are willing to bind themselves and their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to me, sir, it appears perilous and destructive. I cannot help thinking so. Perhaps it may be the result of my age. These may be feelings natural to a man of my years, when the American spirit has left him, and his mental powers, like the members of the body, are decayed. If, sir, amendments are left to the twentieth, or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone forever. We have heard that there is a great deal of bribery practiced in the House of Commons, in England, and that many of the members raise themselves to preferments by selling the rights of the whole of the people. But, sir, the tenth part of that body cannot continue oppressions on the rest of the people. English liberty is, in this case, on a firmer foundation than American liberty. It will be easily contrived to procure the opposition of one tenth of the people to any alteration, however judicious. The honorable gentleman who presides told us that, to prevent abuses in our government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America. A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment? In what situation are we to be? The clause before you gives a power of direct taxation, unbounded and unlimited, exclusive power of legislation, in all cases whatsoever, for ten miles square, and over all places purchased for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, &c. What resistance could be made? The attempt would be madness. You will find all the strength of this country in the hands of your enemies; their garrisons will naturally be the strongest places in the country. Your militia is given up to Congress, also, in another part of this plan: they will therefore act as they think proper: all power will be in their own possession. You cannot force them to receive their punishment: of what service would militia be to you, when, most probably, you will not have a single musket in the state? for, as arms are to be provided by Congress, they may or may not furnish them. Let me here call your attention to that part which gives the Congress power "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States—reserving to the states, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither—this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory. Our situation will be deplorable indeed: nor can we ever expect to get this government amended, since I have already shown that a very small minority may prevent it, and that small minority interested in the continuance of the oppression. Will the oppressor let go the oppressed? Was there even an instance? Can the annals of mankind exhibit one single example where rulers overcharged with power willingly let go the oppressed, though solicited and requested most earnestly? The application for amendments will therefore be fruitless. Sometimes, the oppressed have got loose by one of those bloody struggles that desolate a country; but a willing relinquishment of power is one of those things which human nature never was, nor ever will be, capable of. The honorable gentleman's observations, respecting the people's right of being the agents in the formation of this government, are not accurate, in my humble conception. The distinction between a national government and confederacy is not sufficiently discerned. Had the delegates, who were sent to Philadelphia, a power to propose a consolidated government instead of a confederacy? Were they not deputed by states, and not by the people? The assent of the people, in their collective capacity, is not necessary to the formation of a federal government. The people have no right to enter into leagues, alliances, or confederations; they are not the proper agents for this purpose. States and foreign powers are the only proper agents for this kind of government. Show me an instance where the people have exercised this business. Has it not always gone through the legislatures? I refer you to the treaties with France, Holland, and other nations. How were they made? Were they not made by the states? Are the people, therefore, in their aggregate capacity, the proper persons to form a confederacy? This, therefore, ought to depend on the consent of the legislatures, the people having never sent delegates to make any proposition for changing the government. Yet I must say, at the same time, that it was made on grounds the most pure; and perhaps I might have been brought to consent to it so far as to the change of government. But there is one thing in it which I never would acquiesce in. I mean, the changing it into a consolidated government, which is so abhorrent in my mind.[The honorable gentleman then went on to the figure we make with foreign nations; the contemptible one we make in France and Holland; which, according to the substance of the notes, he attributes to the present feeble government.] An opinion has gone forth, we find, that we are contemptible people: the time has been when we were thought otherwise. Under the same despised government, we commanded the respect of all Europe: wherefore are we now reckoned otherwise? The American spirit has fled from hence: it has gone to regions where it has never been expected; it has gone to the people of France, in search of a splendid government—a strong, energetic government. Shall we imitate the example of those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid government? Are those nations more worthy of our imitation? What can make an adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they have suffered in attaining such a government—for the loss of their liberty? If we admit this consolidated government, it will be because we like a great, splendid one. Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and a number of things. When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty: our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of every thing. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors: by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balance, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble. Would this constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects. Consider our situation, sir: go to the poor man, and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig-tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society,—you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of the sight of the common people: they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people: it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee; but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations. When I thus profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people, I shall be told I am a designing man, that I am to be a great man, that I am to be a demagogue; and many similar illiberal insinuations will be thrown out: but, sir, conscious rectitude outweighs those things with me. I see great jeopardy in this new government. I see none from our present one. I hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, in full array, those dangers, if there be any, that we may see and touch them. I have said that I thought this is a consolidated government: I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government? Suppose it should prove oppressive, can it be altered? Our bill of rights declares, "that a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal." I have just proved that one tenth, or less, of the people of America—a most despicable minority—may prevent this reform or alteration. Suppose the people of Virginia should wish to alter their government; can a majority of them do it? No; because they are connected with other men, or, in other words, consolidated with other states. When the people of Virginia, at a future day, shall wish to alter their government, though they should be unanimous in this desire, yet they may be prevented therefrom by a minority at the extremity of the United States. The founders of your Constitution made your government changeable: but the power of changing it is gone from you. Whither is it gone? It is placed in the same hands that hold the rights of twelve other states; and those who hold those rights have right and power to keep them. It is not the particular government of Virginia: one of the leading features of that government is, that a majority can alter it, when necessary for the public good. This government is not a Virginian, but an American government. Is it not, therefore, a consolidated government? The sixth clause of your bill of rights tells you, "that elections of members to serve as representatives of the people in the Assembly ought to be free, and that all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage, and cannot be taxed, or deprived of their property for public uses, without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good." But what does this Constitution say? The clause under consideration gives an unlimited and unbounded power of taxation. Suppose every delegate from Virginia opposes a law laying a tax; what will it avail? They are opposed by a majority; eleven members can destroy their efforts; those feeble ten cannot prevent their passing the most oppressive tax law; so that, in direct opposition to the spirit and express language of your declaration of rights, you are taxed, not by your own consent, but by people who have no connection with you. The next clause of the bill of rights tells you, "that all power of suspending law, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without the consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised." This tells us that there can be no suspension of government or laws without our own consent; yet this Constitution can counteract and suspend any of our laws that contravene its oppressive operation; for they have the power of direct taxation, which suspends our bill of rights; and it is expressly provided that they can make all laws necessary for carrying their powers into execution; and it is declared paramount to the laws and constitutions of the states. Consider how the only remaining defence we have left is destroyed in this manner. Besides the expenses of maintaining the Senate and other house in as much splendor as they please, there is to be a great and mighty President, with very extensive powers—the powers of a king. He is to be supported in extravagant magnificence; so that the whole of our property may be taken by this American government, by laying what taxes they please, giving themselves what salaries they please, and suspending our laws at their pleasure. I might be thought too inquisitive, but I believe I should take up very little of your time in enumerating the little power that is left to the government of Virginia; for this power is reduced to little or nothing: their garrisons, magazines, arsenals, and forts, which will be situated in the strongest places within the states; their ten miles square, with all the fine ornaments of human life, added to their powers, and taken from the states, will reduce the power of the latter to nothing. The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans, they will preserve, and hand down to their latest posterity, the transactions of the present times; and, though I confess my exclamations are not worthy the hearing, they will see that I have done my utmost to preserve their liberty; for I never will give up the power of direct taxation but for the scourge. I am willing to give it conditionally; that is, after non-compliance with requisitions. I will do more, sir, and what I hope will convince the most skeptical man that I am a lover of the American Union—that, in case Virginia shall not make punctual payment, the control of our custom-houses, and the whole regulation of trade, shall be given to Congress, and that Virginia shall depend on Congress even for passports, till Virginia shall have paid the last farthing, and furnished the last soldier. Nay, sir, there is another alternative to which I would consent;—even that they should strike us out of the Union, and take away from us all federal privileges, till we comply with federal requisitions: but let it depend upon our own pleasure to pay our money in the most easy manner for our people. Were all the states, more terrible than the mother country, to join against us, I hope Virginia could defend herself; but, sir, the dissolution of the Union is most abhorrent to my mind. The first thing I have at heart is American liberty: the second thing is American union; and I hope the people of Virginia will endeavor to preserve that union. The increasing population of the Southern States is far greater than that of New England; consequently, in a short time, they will be far more numerous than the people of that country. Consider this, and you find this state more particularly interested to support American liberty, and not bind our posterity by an improvident relinquishment of our rights. I would give the best security for a punctual compliance with requisitions; but I beseech gentlemen, at all hazards, not to give up this unlimited power of taxation. The honorable gentleman has told us that these powers, given to Congress, are accompanied by a judiciary which will correct all. On examination, you will find this very judiciary oppressively constructed; your jury trial destroyed, and the judges dependent on Congress. In this scheme of energetic government, the people will find two sets of tax-gatherers—the state and the federal sheriffs. This, it seems to me, will produce such dreadful oppression as the people cannot possibly bear. The federal sheriff may commit what oppression, make what distresses, he pleases, and ruin you with impunity; for how are you to tie his hands? Have you any sufficiently decided means of preventing him from sucking your blood by speculations, commissions, and fees? Thus thousands of your people will be most shamefully robbed: our state sheriffs, those unfeeling blood-suckers, have, under the watchful eye of our legislature, committed the most horrid and barbarous ravages on our people. It has required the most constant vigilance of the legislature to keep them from totally ruining the people; a repeated succession of laws has been made to suppress their iniquitous speculations and cruel extortions; and as often has their nefarious ingenuity devised methods of evading the force of those laws: in the struggle they have generally triumphed over the legislature. It is a fact that lands have been sold for five shillings, which were worth one hundred pounds: if sheriffs, thus immediately under the eye of our state legislature and judiciary, have dared to commit these outrages, what would they not have done if their masters had been at Philadelphia or New York? If they perpetrate the most unwarrantable outrage on your person or property, you cannot get redress on this side of Philadelphia or New York; and how can you get it there? If your domestic avocations could permit you to go thither, there you must appeal to judges sworn to support this Constitution, in opposition to that of any state, and who mav also be inclined to favor their own officers. When these harpies are aided by excisemen, who may search, at any time, your houses, and most secret recesses, will the people bear it? If you think so, you differ from me. Where I thought there was a possibility of such mischiefs, I would grant power with a niggardly hand; and here there is a strong probability that these oppressions shall actually happen. I may be told that it is safe to err on that side, because such regulations may be made by Congress as shall restrain these officers, and because laws are made by our representatives, and judged by righteous judges: but sir, as these regulations may be made, so they may not; and many reasons there are to induce a belief that they will not. I shall therefore be an infidel on that point till the day of my death. This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints toward monarchy; and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American? Your President may easily become king. Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this government, although horridly defective. Where are your checks in this government? Your strongholds will be in the hands of your enemies. It is on a supposition that your American governors shall be honest, that all the good qualities of this government are founded; but its defective and imperfect construction puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs, should they be bad men; and, sir, would not all the World, from the eastern to the western hemisphere, blame our distracted folly in resting our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or bad? Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty! I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed, with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt. If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute! The army is in his hands, and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him, and it will be the subject of long mediation with him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish his design; and, sir, will the American spirit solely relieve you when this happens? I would rather infinitely—and I am sure most of this Convention are of the same opinion—have a king, lords, and commons, than a government so replete with such insupportable evils. If we make a king, we may prescribe the rules by which he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as shall prevent him from infringing them; but the President, in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from under the galling yoke. I cannot with patience think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, one of two things will happen: he will come at the head of his army, to carry every thing before him; or he will give bail, or do what Mr. Chief Justice will order him. If he be guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes teach him to make one bold push for the American throne? Will not the immense difference between being master of every thing, and being ignominiously tried and punished, powerfully excite him to make this bold push? But, sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not, at the head of his army, beat down every opposition? Away with your President! we shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch: your militia will leave you, and assist in making him king, and fight against you: and what have you to oppose this force? What will then become of you and your rights? Will not absolute despotism ensue? [Here Mr. Henry strongly and pathetically expatiated on the probability of the President's enslaving America, and the horrid consequences that must result.] What can be more defective than the clause concerning the elections? The control given to Congress over the time, place, and manner of holding elections, will totally destroy the end of suffrage. The elections may be held at one place, and the most inconvenient in the state; or they may be at remote distances from those who have a right of suffrage: hence nine out of ten must either not vote at all, or vote for strangers; for the most influential characters will be applied to, to know who are the most proper to be chosen. I repeat, the control of Congress over the manner, &c., of electing, well warrants this idea. The natural consequence will be, that this democratic branch will possess none of the public confidence; the people will be prejudiced against representatives chosen in such an injudicious manner. The proceedings in the northern conclave will be hidden from the yeomanry of this country. We are told that the yeas and nays shall be taken, and entered on the journals. This, sir, will avail nothing: it may be locked up in their chests, and concealed forever from the people; for they are not to publish what parts they think require secrecy: they may think, and will think, the whole requires it. Another beautiful feature of this Constitution is, the publication from time to time of the receipts and expenditures of the public money. This expression, from time to time, is very indefinite and indeterminate: it may extend to a century. Grant that any of them are wicked; they may squander the public money so as to ruin you, and yet this expression will give you no redress. I say they may ruin you; for where, sir, is the responsibility? The yeas and nays will show you nothing, unless they be fools as well as knaves; for, after having wickedly trampled on the rights of the people, they would act like fools indeed, were they to publish and divulge their iniquity, when they have it equally in their power to suppress and conceal it. Where is the responsibility—that leading principle in the British government? In that government, a punishment certain and inevitable is provided; but in this, there is no real, actual punishment for the grossest mal-administration. They may go without punishment, though they commit the most outrageous violation on our immunities. That paper may tell me they will be punished. I ask, By what law? They must make the law, for there is no existing law to do it. What! will they make a law to punish themselves? This, sir, is my great objection to the Constitution, that there is no true responsibility—and that the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves. In the country from which we are descended, they have real and not imaginary responsibility; for the mal-administration has cost their heads to some of the most saucy geniuses that ever were. The Senate, by making treaties, may destroy your liberty and laws for want of responsibility. Two thirds of those that shall happen to be present, can, with the President, make treaties that shall be the supreme law of the land; they may make the most ruinous treaties; and yet there is no punishment for them. Whoever shows me a punishment provided for them will oblige me. So, sir, notwithstanding there are eight pillars, they want another. Where will they make another? I trust, sir, the exclusion of the evils wherewith this system is replete in its present form, will be made a condition precedent to its adoption by this or any other state. The transition, from a general unqualified admission to offices, to a consolidation of government, seems easy; for, though the American states are dissimilar in their structure, this will assimilate them. This, sir, is itself a strong consolidating feature, and is not one of the least dangerous in that system. Nine states are sufficient to establish this government over those nine. Imagine that nine have come into it. Virginia has certain scruples. Suppose she will, consequently, refuse to join with those states; may not she still continue in friendship and union with them? If she sends her annual requisitions in dollars, do you think their stomachs will be so squeamish as to refuse her dollars? Will they not accept her regiments? They would intimidate you into an inconsiderate adoption, and frighten you with ideal evils, and that the Union shall be dissolved. 'Tis a bug-bear, sir: the fact is, sir, that the eight adopting states can hardly stand on their own legs. Public fame tells us that the adopting states have already heart-burnings and animosity, and repent their precipitate hurry: this, sir, may occasion exceeding great mischief. When I reflect on these and many other circumstances, I must think those states will be found to be in confederacy with us. If we pay our quota of money annually, and furnish our ratable number of men, when necessary, I can see no danger from a rejection. The history of Switzerland clearly proves that we might be in amicable alliance with those states without adopting this Constitution. Switzerland is a confederacy, consisting of dissimilar governments. This is an example which proves that governments of dissimilar structures may be confederated. That confederate republic has stood upwards of four hundred years; and, although several of the individual republics are democratic, and the rest aristocratic, no evil has resulted from this dissimilarity; for they have braved all the power of France and Germany during that long period. The Swiss spirit, sir, has kept them together; they have encountered and overcome immense difficulties with patience and fortitude. In the vicinity of powerful and ambitious monarchs, they have retained their independence, republican simplicity, and valor. [Here he makes a comparison of the people of that country and those of France, and makes a quotation from Addison illustrating the subject.] Look at the peasants of that country and of France; and mark the difference. You will find the condition of the former far more desirable and comfortable. No matter whether the people be great, splendid, and powerful, if they enjoy freedom. The Turkish Grand Signior, alongside of our President, would put us to disgrace; but we should be as abundantly consoled for this disgrace, when our citizens have been put in contrast with the Turkish slave. The most valuable end of government is the liberty of the inhabitants. No possible advantages can compensate for the loss of this privilege. Show me the reason why the American Union is to be dissolved. Who are those eight adopting states? Are they averse to give us a little time to consider, before we conclude? Would such a disposition render a junction with them eligible; or is it the genius of that kind of government to precipitate people hastily into measures of the utmost importance, and grant no indulgence? If it be, sir, is it for us to accede to such a government? We have a right to have time to consider: we shall therefore insist upon it.Unless the government be amended, we can never accept it. The adopting states will doubtless accept our money and our regiments; and what is to be the consequence, if we are disunited? I believe it is yet doubtful, whether it is not proper to stand by a while, and see the effect of its adoption in other states. In forming a government, the utmost care should be taken to prevent its becoming oppressive; and this government is of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation. The other states have no reason to think, from the antecedent conduct of Virginia, that she has any intention of seceding from the Union, or of being less active to support the general welfare. Permit me, sir, to say, that a great majority of the people, even in the adopting states, are averse to this government. I believe I would be right to say, that they have been egregiously misled. Pennsylvania has, perhaps, been tricked into it. If the other states who have adopted it have not been tricked, still they were too much hurried into its adoption. There were very respectable minorities in several of them; and if reports be true, a clear majority of the people are averse to it. If we also accede, and it should prove grievous, the peace and prosperity of our country, which we all love, will be destroyed. This government has not the affection of the people at present. Should it be oppressive, their affections will be totally estranged from it; and, sir, you know that a government, without their affections, can neither be durable nor happy. I speak as one poor individual; but when I speak, I speak the language of thousands. But, sir, I mean not to breathe the spirit, nor utter the language, of secession. I have trespassed so long on your patience, I am really concerned that I have something yet to say. The honorable member has said, we shall be properly represented. Remember, sir, that the number of our representatives is but ten, whereof six is a majority. Will those men be possessed of sufficient information? A particular knowledge of particular districts will not suffice. They must be well acquainted with agriculture, commerce, and a great variety of other matters throughout the continent; they must know not only the actual state of nations in Europe and America, the situations of their farmers, cottagers, and mechanics, but also the relative situations and intercourse of those nations. Virginia is as large as England. Our proportion of representatives is but ten men. In England they have five hundred and fifty-eight. The House of Commons, in England, numerous as they are, we are told, are bribed, and have bartered away the rights of their constituents: what, then, shall become of us? Will these few protect our rights? Will they be incorruptible? You say they will be better men than the English commoners. I say they will be infinitely worse men, because they are to be chosen blindfolded: their election (the term, as applied to their appointment, is inaccurate) will be an involuntary nomination, and not a choice. I have, I fear, fatigued the committee; yet I have not said the one hundred thousandth part of what I have on my mind, and wish to impart. On this occasion, I conceived myself bound to attend strictly to the interest of the state, and I thought her dearest rights at stake. Having lived so long—been so much honored—my efforts, though small, are due to my country. I have found my mind hurried on, from subject to subject, on this very great occasion. We have been all out of order, from the gentleman who opened to-day to myself. I did not come prepared to speak, on so multifarious a subject, in so general a manner. I trust you will indulge me another time. Before you abandon the present system, I hope you will consider not only its defects, most maturely, but likewise those of that which you are to substitute for it. May you be fully apprized of the dangers of the latter, not by fatal experience, but by some abler advocate than I!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The General Welfare Clause: An Anti-Federalists Warning about Hamiltonian Republicanism

Article 1 Section 8 Clause 1 states: The Congress shall have 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; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; This Clause is known as the taxing and spending clause and is used repeatedly by both parties to justify just about everything they spend our hard earned money on. What did our Founding Father's say about it? Has it's purpose or meaning been perverted? Even during our Founder's ratification debates this clause brought two very different sets of ideas to argue. Did the Anti-Federalists (those who supported a Bill of Rights to be attached to the Constitution) warn our nation? . Richard Henry Lee who wrote as the Federal Farmer said "to lay and collect internal taxes, in this extensive country, must require a great number of congressional ordinances, immediately operating upon the body of the peoples; these must continually interfere with the state laws, and thereby produce disorder and general dissatisfaction, till the one system of laws or the other, operating upon the same subjects, shall be abolished...Further, as to internal taxes, the state governments will have concurrent powers with the general government, and both may tax the same objects in the same year;and the objection that the general government may suspend a state tax, as a necessary measure for the promoting the collection of a federal tax, is not without foundation." Brutus in Anti-Federalists No. 5 writes: "To detail the particulars comprehended in the general terms, taxes, duties, imposts and excises, would require a volume, instead of a single piece in a news-paper. Indeed it would be a task far beyond my ability, and to which no one can be competent, unless possessed of a mind capable of comprehending every possible source of revenue; for they extend to every possible way of raising money, whether by direct or indirect taxation. Under this clause may be imposed a poll-tax, a land-tax, a tax on houses and buildings, on windows and fire places, on cattle and on all kinds of personal property: — It extends to duties on all kinds of goods to any amount, to tonnage and poundage on vessels, to duties on written instruments, newspapers, almanacks, and books: — It comprehends an excise on all kinds of liquors, spirits, wines, cyder, beer, etc. and indeed takes in duty or excise on every necessary or conveniency of life; whether of foreign or home growth or manufactory. In short, we can have no conception of any way in which a government can raise money from the people, but what is included in one or other of three general terms. We may say then that this clause commits to the hands of the general legislature every conceivable source of revenue within the United States. Not only are these terms very comprehensive, and extend to a vast number of objects, but the power to lay and collect has great latitude; it will lead to the passing a vast number of laws, which may affect the personal rights of the citizens of the states, expose their property to fines and confiscation, and put their lives in jeopardy: it opens a door to the appointment of a swarm of revenue and excise officers to pray [sic] upon the honest and industrious part of the community, eat up their substance, and riot on the spoils of the country. We will next enquire into what is implied in the authority to pass all laws which shall be necessary and proper to carry this power into execution. It is, perhaps, utterly impossible fully to define this power. The authority granted in the first clause can only be understood in its full extent, by descending to all the particular cases in which a revenue can be raised; the number and variety of these cases are so endless, and as it were infinite, that no man living has, as yet, been able to reckon them up. The greatest geniuses in the world have been for ages employed in the research, and when mankind had supposed that the subject was exhausted they have been astonished with the refined improvements that have been made in modem times, and especially in the English nation on the subject — If then the objects of this power cannot be comprehended, how is it possible to understand the extent of that power which can pass all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying it into execution? It is truly incomprehensible. A case cannot be conceived of, which is not included in this power. It is well known that the subject of revenue is the most difficult and extensive in the science of government. It requires the greatest talents of a statesman, and the most numerous and exact provisions of the legislature. The command of the revenues of a state gives the command of every thing in it. — He that has the purse will have the sword, and they that have both, have every thing; so that the legislature having every source from which money can be drawn under their direction, with a right to make all laws necessary and proper for drawing forth all the resource of the country, would have, in fact, all power. Were I to enter into the detail, it would be easy to shew how this power in its operation, would totally destroy all the powers of the individual states. But this is not necessary for those who will think for themselves, and it will be useless to such as take things upon trust, nothing will awaken them to reflection, until the iron hand of oppression compel them to it." William Symmes Jr. stated that the term general welfare might be applied to any expenditure whatever instead of just the enumerated powers of congress. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter in June of 1817: "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 doctrine. Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only land-mark 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." Patrick Henry who first started demanding taxation be done only at the local level in 1765 said this in the Stamp Act: "Resolved, therefore, That the General Assembly of this Colony, together with his Majesty or his Substitutes, have, in their Representative Capacity, the only exclusive Right and Power to lay Taxes and Imposts upon the Inhabitants of this Colony: And that every Attempt to vest such Power in any other Person or Persons whatever, than the General Assembly aforesaid, is illegal, unconstitutional and unjust, and have a manifest Tendency to destroy British as well as American Liberty." It is clear while reading through these quotes from these Founding Fathers that they were worried about this clause being to vague and that at some future point in America that the general government would abuse it for their own purposes instead of defense of the States. Some even went so far as to try to have this clause removed from the Constitution before ratification. Time has only shown these Patriots to be correct in that congress would trample States' Rights through taxation and other means by declaring that this clause makes it constitutional.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nullification: Is it Constitutional?

The history of Nullification has a long history in the US. It started in 1798 when congress passed a set of Acts known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. At the time congress was worried about a possible war with France (ironic that even then war concerns trumped liberty) and thought it prudent to outlaw speech they deemed supportive of the French. These Acts were supported and passed by the Federalists who used them mainly to suppress political opposition from the Anti-Federalists/Democratic-Republicans. Two Founders, Madison and Jefferson, argued that these two Acts were (and are) unconstitutional. In response they created the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. In the Kentucky Resolution Jefferson states: "That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress. While Madison is the author of the Virginia Resolution and of the Constitution, it is interesting to note that even though he was a Federalist he came to this conclusion: "That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact to which the states are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact--as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights, and liberties, appertaining to them." Through nullification, the States have the ability to uphold the Constitution and the Oath in Article 6 clause 3. This was a way for States to act as a check or safeguard against a tyrannical federal government in case it absorbed powers not enumerated in the first three Articles. They also included the 10th amendment in the Bill of Rights to clarify this. The 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. Unfortunately the Supreme Court has a long history of ignoring States Rights and always being in favor of expanding federal powers that were never delegated to the general government. This started with Justice John Marshall and has continued to the present day. The biggest test to date of nullification and States Rights was the War for Southern Independence more commonly known as the Civil War.Originally the war started out not about slavery but about self governorship. The reason I say for Southern Independence is that the States believed that the Constitution was a contract between the themselves and as such could be ended when so desired. This means that as the States entered into the contract voluntarily, they could also leave as they had not given up their sovereignty. In fact the Revolutionary War was fought because the Colonists refused to implement Parliament's taxes and laws which thereby nullified them. The Founders then understood that nullification could happen at many different levels of government, especially when Thomas Jefferson wrote this in the Declaration of Independence: "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." When laws are passed by Congress that violate the Constitution then it is the duty of the respective States to preserve civil liberties at all costs. Congress will always find a new excuse or reason to pass a law. If our States fail to act as a check on the federal system then we can be sure to repeat history and We the People will once again be forced to rise up and act as the ultimate check on the system with a revolution.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A New Declaration of Independence

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than 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.  Such has been the patient sufferance of these States; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present and former Congress' is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. They have refused to obey their Oaths to uphold the Constitution. They have passed laws favoring certain industries so as to create an aristocracy. They have relinquished their power and duties to the President thereby ending a Republican form of government so promised. They have plundered our national treasury for the sake of foreigners through a central banking system. They have erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent throughout the Nation swarms of Officers to harass our People, and destroy their substance. They have combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving them Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent by declaring it a penalty or a fee. For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury through the excuse of terrorism. For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses such as terrorism. For altering fundamentally the form of our Federal Government. They have excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and have endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless United Nations, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Congress, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the representatives of a free people. Nor have we been wanting in attention to our American brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by our legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our liberties. We have appealed to our native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We, therefore, publish and declare; that the citizens of the united States are absolved from all Allegiance to the American congress, and that all political connection between them and the Federal Government, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, have the full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States have the right to do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Whats wrong with the Supreme Court?

This last week of June has been a controversial one for the Supreme Court. Their decision that corporations are equal to individuals as well as saying that Congress has the authority to force individuals to buy a certain product through threat of fines has made it seem like the Court no longer uses the Constitution or any of the Federal Convention notes as a means to keep the original intent of our Founders alive.What does the Constitution say in regards to these two cases? In Article 3 it describes what the Supreme Court can have jurisdiction over. This means that if the Court wants to hear the case then it can do so according to Section 2. However, there are many instances in which the Court has ruled against the Constitution or did not get involved when they should have. In 1798 the Federalists (those Founders who wanted a strong central government) passed a set of Acts called the Alien and Sedition Acts in order to suppress the voice of the Anti-Federalists (those founders who wanted a Bill of Rights and a limited central government). These acts caused division among the Federalists with James Madison saying, "It would seem a mockery to say that no laws should be passed for preventing publications from being made, but that laws might be passed for punishing them in case they should be made."(The Virginia Report 1800) The Supreme Court failed to bring these Acts for judicial review as that power was not established until 1803 in Marbury v. Madison. In 2001 Congress passed another Act that once again expanded government power and defied the Bill of Rights. This Act is the Patriot Act and it violates the 1st,4th and 6th amendments. So far the Supreme Court has not brought this for judicial review yet. It is no surprise then that the Court once again failed to act as a check on the system when looking at Citizens United and Affordable Car Act better known as Obamacare. The Citizens United bill would have put restrictions on how corporations could corrupt or influence the political system. The Court failed to overturn their previous decision by saying that corporations have the same rights as individuals and therefore can contribute to political campaigns. This enables them to offer huge amounts of money that most Americans and small business' can not match giving the corporations the ability to bribe the politicians. This in turns gives the politicians an excuse to turn a blind eye towards illegal activities and towards their constituents. Sen. Bernie Sanders said it best when he said, "As a result of the Supreme Courts' refusal to reconsider its decision in Citizens United, we are rapidly moving toward a nation of the super-rich, by the super-rich, and for the super-rich. That is not what America is supposed to be about." Thomas Jefferson even warned what could happen if corporations were allowed to influence campaigns when he wrote "“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." We have started to see this happen with how the big banks are foreclosing on millions of homes, some of those illegally. The Courts' decision on Obamacare is sadly not surprising in that these nine unelected individuals seemed to forget the how to keep laws moral and what the Constitution says. Laws, in order to be moral must defend individual Rights (life, liberty, property). To use law offensively as is the case here, is to convert law into a social engineering or to legalize plunder. How is this social engineering? By declaring that government can force you to buy a product it is teaching future generations that there is no limit to governments power and that not even the Constitution will be regarded as law. This legalizes plunder by forcing you to buy products from a company thereby reducing the amount of money available to your family. This is the same type of tyranny that the Founding Fathers faced with the British Stamp Acts. However, the Court declared this Act constitutional because it was a tax and congress has the authority to tax. There is just one problem with that assessment, the 16th amendment clearly states that taxes can only be levied on incomes, no matter the source. So if you are buying something, this would fall under a States Right issue as Congress does not have the authority to levy taxes on individuals purchasing products (a sales tax) according to Article 1 Section 9 clause 4. The Court also claims that the Congress has this power because its regulating commerce but Article 1 Section 8 clause 3 says that Congress can only regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the States (to prevent them from taxing goods to heavily from other States) and the Indian tribes, not individuals. Another clause from the Constitution that is being used to support this Act is the general welfare clause. James Madison warned America of the possible abuse of this clause by saying, "If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress. ... Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America." How can America go about fixing unconstitutional laws written by a power hungry Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court? Nullification is the answer. Thomas Jefferson argued that States have the right to nullify Federal laws that violate the Constitution in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts.In 1798, Jefferson wrote the Kentucky Resolutions that said because the Constitution was a treaty between the several States that only gave certain limited powers to the federal government, any power not given but used was null and void.He also warned that Congress could not use the necessary and proper clause for anything it wanted as that would destroy the point of the document.These two cases can be nullified by the respective States, but only if the People put pressure on their local governments to set an example and follow the law.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Purpose of Gun Control

Gun control is a subject that almost everyone has an opinion on. Those on the left and even some on the right argue its about safety and security . Some on the right argue that gun control in some forms is ok while libertarians, in keeping with the idea of limited government, for the most part argue that any form of gun control is prohibited by the simple phrase "shall not be infringed upon". As such arguments still exist, there are three questions that will be answered.

Is it really about the guns? Those that support gun control show statistical data of how many times guns are used in crimes but not how often used in self-defense. According to Gary Kleck (a criminologist at Florida State University) guns are used 2 to 2.5 million times a year in self-defense while the BoJ recorded(in 1993) 1.3 million times that guns were used to help in the commission of a crime. This means that guns are used at least twice as often for defense rather than in crime. Another thing the pro gun control crowd leaves out is the total amount of crimes committed. In the same year that these studies took place, there were over 43 million crimes in the US. So if these numbers have held true (violent crime rates have dropped since 1993 according to the FBI) then why are guns being targeted? Guns are targeted because its easier to control the numbers of firearms rather then knives. Most knives you can buy with a simple id and no proof of a clean criminal record. Guns on the other hand have serial numbers that make them easier to track thus the reason these anti gun groups demand registration. These same groups say only police and military personal should have guns. The whole reason for this is its easier to control people who do not have the capacity to defend themselves.

The second question is what really happens when gun control laws are enacted? Is society more peaceful? Does the crime rate, especially violent crime, go down? Many that favor gun control bring up Japan. Japan however, is a much different society. The Japanese have no 4th or 5th amendments. This means that their police are allowed to enter your property and search it to find anything illegal. Most Americans would find this a gross violation as did the founding fathers. On the other side of the argument there is Switzerland.The Swiss have a low gun crime rate as well but they differ from the Japanese by having all males keep their assault weapons and military equipment in their homes as opposed to an armoury. Australia and the United Kingdom both have strict gun control laws as well and yet have seen an increase in the violent crime rate. With many States in the US now passing concealed carry laws, the violent crime rate has been and continues to drop.

Why should a free society be an armed society? Does it make citizens safer or does it make it easier to be a criminal? The main purpose to allow citizens the Right of keeping and bearing arms is defense.The Right to life that is inalienable to humans as written in the Declaration of Independence logically extends us the Right to defend that life. Through this reasoning, one should not be prohibited from using the most effective tool. An armed society creates an issue for those willing to harm their neighbors for they usually do not want to put their own lives in jeopardy. When governments order citizens to turn in firearms, they disarm the law-abiding citizen and turn him into a serf. The criminals on the other hand gain the advantage when citizens are disarmed because they will not turn in their weapons as they aren't concerned with laws to begin with. A freeman should always be able to defend his life and property, whether its from a single criminal or an abusive government.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fascism in America

Fascism, it can't happen here! So many people from both the republican and democratic parties claim, even some that have studied political history.This ideology is often misunderstood and used so frequently it has no meaning today. So what is it? What does it require? Is it unique only to one form of government or is it found in both parties? If it is found in both parties,how is it enacted?

Fascism is an ideology that believes in forcing an individual to submit to the leader's will or a party's control. It usually starts off as a populist movement with collectivists ideas. Examples would be the communist revolutions in China and Russia (and a few other nations), the National Socialist Workers Party in Germany and the Progressive movement in the United States.The intended result of the leaders of these movements is a totalitarian government. Fascism also entails the merging of corporate and governmental powers.

So what does fascism require? It requires a few things in order to be implemented. The first is a charismatic leader. A second prerequisite is a national crisis which could happen in various forms like hyperinflation (economic) or massive civil disturbances. A crisis enables the leader to prey on humans craving for stability. By restoring this stability, most people no longer question or think about the policies enacted. This apathy only furthers the agenda. Those that do question are quickly discredited or deemed enemies of the nation. In Nazi Germany, the few Christian ministers that spoke out were eliminated. This policy of eliminating unwanted people is more easily done during a massive civil disturbance and are perpetrated by some type of a national police organization. These silinced minorities creates an environment of fear that only enables the leader/party to keep their will or agenda going.

Fascism is not unique to any one form of government. In Germany, they had a republican form of government while Russia and Italy had monarchies. The US is a republic with some of the various states being more democratic then republican. It can be found much easier then people admit.

Can it be found in the US in todays political scene? The answer is in the affirmative. Both of the mainstream parties are guilty of implementing fascist laws and regulations. With Congress seceding power to the executive branch, it makes this happen at a faster pace. At the same time though, congress is passing laws that either limits or directly prohibits the exercising of your political rights. Examples are the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the tresspassing bill, and CISPA to name a few. These laws are fundamentally unconstitutional and downright treasonous.

Some of these laws create organizations not authorized by the Constitution and are used by the executive branch to bypass the Constitution all together. Such as the FDA raiding farms to confiscate raw milk or the DEA and ATF in imposing restrictions on certain chemicals and guns a person can obtain. At the same time you have the EPA restricting coal power. The DHS, with the claim its fighting terrorism, instead spends considerable resources spying on American citizens.

America,  a nation no longer free as the founding fathers intended, has bought into the false claim that fascism can not happen here. This apathy will be a death sentence for the people and economy of a once free and prosperous nation. The chains of tyranny have bound the people and those that will not resist deserves the chains that set upon them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shared Sacrifice?

Have you heard? We're all supposed to sacrifice for the good of the nation, at least that's what some politicians say. The reason for their saying we need to share in the sacrifice is the state of our ailing economy. There are some major problems with those that say we need to share in the sacrifice.

The first problem is what type of sacrifice is not always clear. The individual usually explains its because of the economy and never really gets into specifics. This lack of detail enables the politicians to make the claim that they are sacrificing as well.

The second problem is that politicians are passing laws throughout the country prohibiting Americans from helping the needy. One such city is New York, which has banned food donations because the city can't monitor salt levels. This then forces people who would be helped by various charities to become dependent on government. This has a direct effect on debt in that it makes the city to need even more money. They have also passed laws prohibiting vegetable gardens which creates more demand for commercial farm products.

The third problem is that these same politicians expect us to do the sacrificing and not them. While Americans continue to deal with an economy that isn't producing enough jobs and falling incomes, the political elite continue to profit at the expense of the people. With an average income of $174,000, our house and senate members don't seem to mind telling us to sacrifice. 

How do we get them to help in this 'shared sacrifice'? For starters we could make it so every year the budget is not balanced, they do not receive pay. Another way is we could make it that the only way they get pay raises is if they can get us to vote yes by putting it on the ballot.  The third way is to limit their pay to that of the average American salary.

These problems can be fixed. By allowing liberty to flourish, our nations prosperity will come back. The individualist is what has always made this country great, not these collectivism ideas. Remember, forced charity is not real charity.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Libertarian Government

What might a libertarian run country look like? After two centuries of two party rule, we know for certain what the republican and democratic parties have in store for our nation. Many argue that one or the other is wrong but few seem to ask what if both are wrong and disastrous for our nation? Both parties claim to follow the Constitution and yet each year we have even more laws and more regulations.

What would happen if a libertarian became president and the libertarians got control of congress? Would liberty really flourish? I would argue that Thomas Jefferson gave us an example of what a libertarian government would be like in 1801 when he became president. When Jefferson ran for President, the Federalist party claimed that there would be nothing but chaos in the streets and foreign armies would invade. The same has been said about two libertarians currently running for president, Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. Jefferson's presidency however, showed that this was not the case.

What could we expect from a Ron Paul or Gary Johnson presidency? We could expect certain government agencies being deleted from the federal budget as well as our troops being brought home. We could also expect an end to the 40 year failed drug war. We could also be certain that the surplus money from ending the drug war and eliminating various departments would go towards paying our national debt down. But what about our national security you may ask or wonder. The Republican establishment claims that these two men would destroy our nations ability to defend itself.This is a falsehood promoted by corporate media. Ron Paul's plan would indeed shrink the defense budget, but only by eliminating the wasteful use of our resources by bringing our troops home, and securing our own borders. Gary Johnson's plan would end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home. He would also stop the nation building that's going on.

The most important issue to most Americans this election is the economy. With Romney and Obama both saying that the economic recovery has started, millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed today. Both Romney and Obama have their own ideas, but both receive huge campaign donations from big banks and corporations. Why one must ask did these companies who claimed they were broke were able then to make these huge contributions? The answer is pretty easy, its because these two men are willing to sell their allegiance to the highest bidder.

What would Paul and Johnson do for our economic mess that we are still in? Both would lower taxes and try to keep the government out of our lives as much as possible.  By doing so they acknowledge that we do in fact own ourselves. By deregulating many sectors, it will in turn enable more competition and force these big corporations to not depend on bribed politicians. It would make starting business' easier and thus create more jobs. We could then compete once again in the global economy.

What if libertarians controlled congress?  If libertarians controlled congress,  I could see many laws and acts being repealed.  For example,  the NDAA and the Patriot Act. Corporations would no longer be subsidized or receive bailouts. States that overspend their budgets might finally make some real improvement by knowing they won't get those bailouts either and we the people would have more income to use as we need as a result of little or no income tax on individuals. This extra income would further boost our economy and raise our standard of living.

Does this sound like a situation you would enjoy? Could this even be possible with how entrenched the two party system is? One thing is for sure, we are individuals who can make a difference through our actions and dedication. May our nation once again be the land of the free.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Case for Limited Government : Part 3

Our current system is set up so that the continued enslavement of our people will not be noticeable. Enslavement you ask? Slavery was ended over 100 years ago! I would say incorrect. We have become slaves for the corrupt government that should be bound by the chains of the Constitution. We have a government that ignores and brutalizes the very people they claim to serve. They pay lip service to the Constitution while shredding the Bill of Rights with laws like the Patriot Act and NDAA. While claiming to regulate Wall Street and their banks, congress ignores the Federal Reserve's creating money out of thin air, thus devaluing our currency and creating inflation that makes the poor poorer. With domestic enemies like these, who needs foreign enemies? Must we continue on this path of national suicide?

The Case for Limited Government : Part 2

The anti-federalists (who supported the Constitution but wanted a Bill of Rights added to it) asked just that question.  They argued that nothing would stop the government from violating our Rights and that the government is only there to enforce contracts that are entered into voluntarily. By keeping the government limited only to that and defense, could our nation retain liberty and be prosperous. They warned that without a Bill of Rights, than the people would have no legal written contract ensuring their Rights. They fought against a national bank by saying the bank could just print money to fund everything which would in the end destroy our economy. They also argued for the States to have the final say, so as to ensure those liberties granted by our Creator. Now we fast forward to 2012. Who was right? Was the federalists or the anti-federalists proven correct? Do we need to rethink our current ideologies?

The Case for Limited Government : Part 1

What is limited government?  Can the government actually be limited?  If yes, how so? What is the result if government is limited? These questions regarding the role of government have been debated for over 200 years. It all started in 1787 in Philadelphia during the Federal Convention.  The federalists (who wanted our republic to be modeled after the British)  argued in favor of abolishing the States and creating a national bank. They also argued that the Constitution would prevent this new government from becoming intrusive and overbearing.  They claimed it would also prevent it from violating our Rights. These arguments are hard to understand when put into the context of the time. After fighting a 7 year long war for independence, why would we replace a known tyrannical system with a replica of it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

A third war?

Dear Congressional representatives,

I understand that you are currently looking at H.R. 4310 also known as the National defense authorization act of 2013. May I remind you that you represent the people of your district. You should ask yourselves a few questions regarding this bill:
1) what was the original intent of the common defence clause in Section 8 article 1 of the Constitution?
2) what would this war cost us in terms of resources?
3) how will this affect our national debt?
4) are we able to take care of even more wounded soldiers?
5) will the federal reserve have to print more money to pay for other budgetary shortfalls?
6) will any other unconstitutional bills get passed for 'security' reasons?
7) how will this make We the People more prosperous and free?

The founding fathers agreed that standing armies and national banks were both dangerous and would cause our nation to lose its liberties. This has been proven true throughout history.  I urge you to give some serious thought to these questions. The unintended consequence of your next foreign adventure could be violent demonstrations and even revolution.

Sincerely,

A very concerned citizen

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What if...

What if the Constitution was enforced? What if agencies like the TSA and DHS didn't exist? What if the government understood the notion that we own ourselves? What if the government respected the market? What if the US dollar was worth something? What if the federal reserve was regulated as a normal bank? What if the united States was once again the beacon of liberty? What if the united States could return to its former splendor? What if people started waking up to the cronyism running rampant? What if people started defending the Constitution?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some thoughts for decriminalizing drugs

The federal and state governments could easily save billions of dollars by ending the unconstitutional drug war. The federal government alone spends about $50 billion a year fighting this war without end. This does not include the cost of locking up these individuals. The states spend millions more and still no end in sight. There are costs that are ignored when fighting this war. They are: corruption charges against police and judges who get involved for some extra money, imprisonment of nonviolent members of society. The imprisonment of these nonviolent individuals also causes our national GDP to shrink as they are no longer able to be productive while at the same.time increases the welfare costs that burden the taxpayers. By decriminalizing these substances, we can put some of that money to treatment centers while increasing our GDP and reducing the need to dole out billions of foreign aid to those nations that supply the substances.