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States Need To Remind Federal Government That There Are Constitutional Limitations

Two Mississippi state representatives, Gary Chism and Jeff Smith, filed a bill to form the Joint Legislative Committee on the Neutralization of  Federal Laws.  This is an effort to reign in the federal government’s constant assault on States’ rights.

Contrary to popular belief and contrary to what our public school system teaches our children, the federal government does not have the power to create any law it wants.  There are limitations of powers built into the Constitution that the federal government has purposely ignored for over a century now, and it’s gotten totally out of control.

Our Founding Fathers created a system of government based on the experience of States living under the Articles of Confederation.  Under the Articles, States were nation states that created their own laws.  Some of those laws would naturally be biased in favor of their own State.  For example, the State of New York was able to create laws that dictated that only businesses in the State of New York could do business inside the State of New York.  That would have placed a heavy burden on businesses in surrounding states that already had contractual obligations to businesses inside New York.  New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and others would be limited in the business they could conduct.

States could make laws that could possibly lead to law suits, boundary disputes, and even war.  Our Founders saw this problem and decided to do something about it.

So they devised a Constitution that created a federal government that acted as an agent to the States, nothing more and nothing less.  To prove this let’s take a look at two things that show this as the intentions of the Founding Fathers;  the 10th Amendment and James Madison’s Federalist 45.

10 Amendment – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The words of the 10th Amendment, written in plain, every day speech that the voters would understand, means that if the federal government wants to obtain a specific power, and that power was not specifically given to the federal government inside the Constitution, then the federal government does not have the right to claim that power, and furthermore, that power all ready belongs to the States.

That is a powerful claim and one that is backed up by Federalist 45, written by James Madison known as the Father of the Constitution.

In Federalist 45, among other things, Madison says the following:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security. As the former periods will probably bear a small proportion to the latter, the State governments will here enjoy another advantage over the federal government. The more adequate, indeed, the federal powers may be rendered to the national defense, the less frequent will be those scenes of danger which might favor their ascendancy over the governments of the particular States.

Madison declares that the powers to the federal government are few and defined while every other power will go to the States and are numerous and indefinite.

Madison even defines the types of powers for each.  For example, he says “The former will be exercised principally on external objects” which means that the federal government will only deal with nationhood issues.  He goes on to give examples of this, such as “war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” These are issues of nationhood that the Founders didn’t want the States to be fighting over.  Madison was describing a neutral party that would be given very limited powers to handle the things that States would naturally be biased over on issues of nationhood.

In other words, the Founding Fathers’ intentions of creating a federal government were that States should not have to worry about national issues

Madison then goes on to mention the issues that the States will handle, being “all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” That means EVERYTHING not specifically listed as a power given to the federal government.

Remember that the States had to ratify the Constitution by agreeing to the articles and clauses contained within the document.  During the ratification process while States were arguing the merits of the document, produced by the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers were written by Founding Fathers who were expressing exactly what their beliefs were and what they understood to be the meaning of the Constitution as spelled out for State considerations of ratification, and published in newspapers .  In short, the Federalist Papers, next to personal letters and books written by Founding Fathers, are the best body of evidence we have to a clear understanding of the intentions of our Founding Fathers and the creation of the United States of America.

What this means is that whenever the federal government wants to give itself a power that is clearly not listed as a federal power in the Constitution, the federal government must go through the amendment process, which is, an amendment can be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a Constitutional Convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.  Once the amendment is agreed upon at the federal level it is then sent out to the States for ratification.  Three-fourths, or 38 out of 50 States, must agree with the amendment for ratification.  This is a difficult process to endure and the Founding Fathers made it that way on purpose to make it all the more difficult for the federal government to become a leviathan, as it is today, except the federal government of today gained its powers not via the amendment process but by charlatans and snake oil salesmen in government who violated the Constitution by ignoring the Constitutional limitations prescribed by the Founders.

The Founding Fathers made the amendment process difficult for another reason.  They understood that they were not perfect (In order to form a more perfect union), and that there might be powers they may have overlooked that the federal government may indeed need in the future, but they created an amendment process where powers given to the federal government would be clearly decided by the States, because to the Founding Fathers, the federal government was created as an agent to service the States on issues of nationhood only.

Today the federal government is clearly out of control.  Over the last one hundred years the concept of Constitutional limitations of  federal authority has been turned upside down, even though the original concept is still legally valid.  Today we have members of Congress who do not understand the original concept of the Constitution, and worse, we have members of the Supreme Court who agree with the Progressive viewpoint that the federal government is the all powerful government body that rules over all 50 states while that is the direct opposite of the original intentions of the Founders and what is still the legitimate concept found in the Constitution up until this day.

A very powerful argument can be made that the serious problems we have in our country today are tied to the fact that we have strayed off course of the Founding vision and the concepts of limited federal powers written in our Constitution.  We now have politicians and citizens who believe that the federal government was created to help the poor or to be the great equalizer through redistribution programs that at one time were understood as Communism.

The remedy of most of the problems the country experiences today is to get back on the path of Constitutional law and Constitutional government.  That is the antithesis of the Progressive movement that is today once again flexing its muscles in Washington, D.C., and we will continue to slide further and further into the ash heap of history as the world’s greatest experiment ever created.

RPW



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