In recognizing Constitution Day I’d like to share some thoughts from recent study and reading on the Constitution. Any quotes not clearly cited by a person are taken from (and may or may not be word for word) “The Revolution – A Manifesto” by Ron Paul.
– The Constitution & (some of) the Duties of Citizenship –
The Founding Fathers believed that the government created by Constitution required virtue of it’s people, demonstrated by a willingness to care for themselves and their families and to show consideration for the rights of others. John Adams said, “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”
We have the the responsibility as citizens to stay informed about and engaged with our government. We are responsible for learning how government operates and knowing what our government is doing. An understanding of constitutional principles including individual rights, federalism and limited government are fundamental to American citizenship. Voting both is a privilege and a responsibility which Samuel Adams once called, “one of the most solemn trusts in human society.” All of the above is apart of our duties as American citizens.
Some important dates:
1781 – Government established as “league of friendship” for the 13 sovereign and independent states after the Revolution under the Articles of Confederation.
May 14th, 1787 – Federal Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pa., to revise the Articles of Confederation.
June 18th, 1787 – Alexander Hamilton presents monarchy as the ideal plan for government; debate between the large and small states becomes increasingly acrimonious.
August 6th, 1787 – First Draft of the Constitution presented to the delegates.
September, 1787 – In the early days of September, the matter of electing the executive was resolved, establishing the electoral college.
September 17th, 1787 – With the exception of Virginians Edmund Randolph, George Mason and Elbridge Gerry who staged a last minute appeal for amendment, the delegates formally signed the Constitution and the Convention is adjourned at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
September 25th, 1789 – The first Congress of the United States proposes 12 amendments to the Constitution to the state legislatures, 10 of which are ratified; these become the Bill of Rights.
Amendment 10 in the Bill of Rights effectively limits the power of the Federal government by stating: “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.”
“The Executive branch has expanded far beyond what the Framers of the Constitution envisioned. One mechanism that has strengthened it is the executive order, and instrument by which presidents have exerted powers that our Constitution never intended them to have. An executive order is a command issued by the president that enjoys his auhority alone, not having passed by congress. Executive orders can have legitimate functions. Presidents can carry out their constitutional duties or direct their subordinates by executive order, for instance.” “But they can be a source of temptation for ambitious presidents, since they can always try to get away with using them as a substitute for formal legislation that they know they cannot get to pass. He can thereby circumvent the normal, constitutional process. The first 20th century president Theodore Roosevelt who served a full term, two in fact, issued over a thousand executive orders! And his distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt issued over 3000! “With executive orders, presidents can commit our troops to undeclared wars, destroy industries or make unprecedented solciay-policy changes. And they remain unaccountable because usually this is done behind closed doors in the oval office and executed in stealth.”
“Americans must remember that the Constitution was designed not merely to prevent the Federal Government from violating the rights that later appeared in the Bill of Rights. It was also intended to LIMIT the Federal Government’s overall scope. Article 1 Section 8 lists the powers of congress. Again according to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, all powers not delegated to the Federal Government by the States (Article 1 Section 8) not prohibited to the States in the Constitution (Article 1 Section 10) are reserved to the states or to the people. Thomas Jefferson believed that this principle formed the very foundation of our Constitution. It was a guarantee that the experience Americans endured under the British Empired would not be repeated, and that political decisions would be made by their own local legislatures rather than by a distant central government that would be much more difficult, if not impossible for them to control.”
“Jefferson’s approach to the Constitution, which he adamently believed could be understood by the average person and was not some secret teaching that had to be divined by immortals in black robes – was refreshingly simple. If a proposed federal law was not listed among the powers granted to congress in Article 1 Section 8, then no matter how attractive it seemed, it had to be rejected on unconstitutional grounds. If it were especially wise or desirable, there would be no difficulty in amending the Constitution to allow for it. The Framers wanted it to be known there was a critical difference between the British King and the President as envisioned by the Constitution.”
“The Constitution has much to say regarding foreign policy, and for half a century both major parties have ignored what it has to say, especially when it comes to the initial of hostilities. Both parties have allowed the president(s) to exercise powers of which the Framers of the Constitution thought they had deprived him.”
“In the Korean war, president Harry Truman sent Americans halfway around the world without so much as a nod in the direction of Congress. In spite of it’s complete lack of constitutional foundation, this belief that the president may take the country to war on his own authority, without consuting anyone has become the conventional wisdom in today’s both major parties, although there has been a modest backlash against it since the Iraq war. Interestingly enough, one of the chief critics of Truman’s exercise of power was Senator Robert A. Taft, one of the most conservative Republicans of his day, and nicknamed, “Mr. Republican” speaking on the Senate floor Taft denounced Trumans arguments and behavior in no uncertain terms:
‘I desire this afternoon to discuss only the question of the power claimed by the president to send troops anywhere in the world and involve us in any wa in which he chooses to involve us. I wish to assert the powers of Congress, and to point out that Congress has the powers to prevent any such action by the president, that he has no such power under the Constitution; and that it is incumbent upon Congress to assert clearly its own constitutional powers unless it desires to lose them…’
In 2002 as the war in Iraq loomed, Ron Paul proposed to Congress to officially declare war against Iraq, making clear that he also intended to oppose his own measure. The point was to underscore the constitutional responsibility to declare war before commencing major military operations, rather than leaving the decision up to the president or passing resolution that delegate to the president the decision-making power over war. Following his statement, the Chairman of the International Relations Committee responded by saying, “There are thing in the constitution that have been overtaken events, by time. Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no longer relavent to a modern society. We are saying to the president, use your judgement. [what you have proposed] is inappropriate, anachronistic; it isn’t done anymore.” WOW! what a relief we have people in our government who are bold enough to decide which constitutional provisions they’ve decided are no longer “relavent”.
The power to go to war was consciously and for good reason put in the hands of the people’s elected representatives in the legislature! This is just one of many examples in the past 50 – 100 years how we as Americans have forgotten and/ or turned our heads on th Constitution and in turn have allowed Congress and our Federal government to do the same.
“In the 21st century, the Constitution is like an elephant at the tea party that everyone pretends not to be noticed”
The Constitution and Bill of Rights to the American people is comparable to the Bible for Christians (or any particular revered book for a certain religion). It is the root of all beliefs and truths. It is the single most important document that we have to rally behind and fight for. In both documents we find true freedom.
I heard someone say something to the extent of this, We need a strong willed president, but also has self-restraint, self-discipline. The restraint to use and abuse his powers. The self-discipline to always consciously avoid of abusal of the what has become unlimited power at his disposal. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but that’s my version of it. Anyways, that what I believe we need in a president. I’m sick and tired of presidents for the past 2 decades (atleast!) saying they are going to change things, do this or that; LITTLE has improved. I’m tired of the 2 major parties feeding American citizens a five-coarse meal of garbage. In my opinion every year the difference between the two gets grayer and grayer.