“Where’s the justice, where’s the law;
raise your healthy voice.”
I often wonder if people have ever stopped to think about the reasons for which our government was established, and if there are any limits to the things they believe it can and cannot do for them. From the conversations I have had with people, I seriously doubt it. What makes things worse is, that when presented with facts, people reject them; often violently, because to them the lie has become their truth and they cannot face the fact that all that they believe in is based upon the lies they have been taught/told. It’s like noted scientist Carl Sagan said, “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
Whether you have or have not asked that question of yourself, I’m going to ask you now; can you give me at least one of the reasons for which our system of government was established; and more importantly, can you tell me where the answer is found? If you can answer even one of those questions, you are more informed than 99% of the people living in this country; and as my friend told me just the other day, saying that 1% can is being very generous.
The purposes for which our government was established are found in the Preamble to the Constitution. Many believe the Preamble to be a grant of power within itself; but this is not the case. As Joseph Story wrote in Section 462 of his Commentaries on the Constitution, “And, here, we must guard ourselves against an error, which is too often allowed to creep into the discussions upon this subject. The preamble never can be resorted to, to enlarge the powers confided to the general government, or any of its departments. It cannot confer any power per se; it can never amount, by implication, to an enlargement of any power expressly given. It can never be the legitimate source of any implied power, when otherwise withdrawn from the constitution. Its true office is to expound the nature, and extent, and application of the powers actually conferred by the constitution, and not substantively to create them.”
When researching for this article, I turned to two dictionaries of law for the meaning of the word Preamble. Black’s Dictionary of Law defines it as follows: A clause at the beginning of a constitution or statute explanatory of the reasons for its enactment and the objects sought to be accomplished.
Bouviers Dictionary of Law describes it thusly: A preface, an introduction or explanation of what is to follow: that clause at the head of acts of congress or other legislatures which explains the reasons why the act is made.
The Preamble to our Constitution does not grant our government any power or authority; it only explains the purposes those who wrote it sought to accomplish. So, if the Preamble is only a statement of intent describing why the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention wrote our Constitution, what exactly did they hope to accomplish by writing it? The only way to answer that is to read the Preamble, which says, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
There is this mistaken belief among people that, due to the words, ‘We the people…’ that the Constitution was an act of the people establishing a system of government for themselves. That belief is not entirely accurate. To understand the inaccuracy of that belief you have to first have a complete understanding of the words sovereign and sovereignty.
I know I’ve probably talked about it dozens, if not hundreds of times, but sovereignty is the supreme or absolute political power in a nation/country. Sovereignty is the source, or wellspring from which all delegated authority originates. In the United States, sovereignty resides not in the government, but in the people. Therefore, it can be said that sovereignty is the supreme political power in a country, and that sovereigns are those who hold that power.
I know there are a great many people who scoff at what they derisively call, the sovereign citizen movement, but that is due to the fact that they themselves do not understand the meaning of the words sovereign and sovereignty. When I talk of sovereignty I get these looks from people as if they are thinking that I’ve lost my mind. Regardless of what they think of me, I’m basing my beliefs on historical fact; which makes me wonder what they are basing their beliefs upon.
As early as 1793 the Supreme Court of the United States held, “…at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country…”
Then as recently as 1958 this was reaffirmed by a lower court in the case of Perry v. United States, “In the United States, sovereignty resides in the people who act through the organs established by the Constitution…”
As sovereigns it is fully within our power to gather together and choose for ourselves what laws to enact and which to revoke; that would be what people today mistakenly believe our government to be, a democracy. A pure democracy is a system in which the people themselves gather together and make the law. However, in a country as large as ours, and with so many conflicting interests, a pure democracy is simply not feasible.
The next step up from that is a Representative Democracy, where the people vote for others to enact laws for them; with the majority vote all that is required to enact law. In all honesty, this is the system I think most people in this country believe we have. The problem with any form of democracy is that there are no safeguards for the rights of the minority; a simple majority is all that is needed to deprive the minority of their rights, as there are no limits placed upon the governing body as to what laws they may enact.
No people, what we have is a Republic; which is similar to a Representative Democracy, but which has a written law which clearly outlines the shape our government is to take, the powers of each branch, and more specifically, the overall power held by the government itself. We do have a democratic process by which majority votes are all that is required to elect those who represent us and enact law, but there is a written law which places limits upon what areas our government may legislate upon. That is a clear distinction which many people simply do not want to accept; for it would mean that if they were to accept this principle that many of the things they have come to expect from government would suddenly go away.
I kind of got off track here, but I believe it was necessary to explain these things so that you would have a fuller understanding of what I wanted to say. So let’s continue with the discussion of whether or not our system of government was established by the people of this country.
One of the big problems I think people have when discussing subjects such as this is that they look at things from their perspective in whatever age, or era they live in. There isn’t a sole alive today who lived in a time when we did not have a federal government, so they cannot picture what life would have been like without it. But there was a time when it did not exist, and if you want to understand the nature of and purpose for government you have to put yourself into the mindset of those who lived prior to the drafting and ratification of the Constitution.
In 1787 the United States was a Confederation; a loose alliance of sovereign and independent States; each of whom had their own system of government. They had joined together as a Confederation to fight a common enemy; the British, and remained a Confederation for their mutual benefit afterwards to show unity to the world that they were capable of existing as a nation.
Whether the Confederation Congress established created by the Articles of Confederation truly was inept, or whether or not those were mere fabrications to support the belief that a stronger central government was necessary is irrelevant at this point. What is relevant is that in 1787 the State Legislatures chose delegates to attend a convention in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation, with the sole authority to propose amendments that would strengthen the powers of Congress to meet the needs of the Confederation.
Of course we all know that is not what happened. As soon as they had a quorum they locked the doors and decided to throw the Confederation into the trash heap and write an entirely new document, creating an entirely new system of government. Nonetheless, those attending what we now call the Constitutional Convention were acting on the authority given them by the State Legislatures which had chosen them. This is a crucial point, and you need to keep it in mind as we continue.
Although the delegates to this convention were overstepping their delegated authority, the fact is that the Articles of Confederation was the existing law which granted their government its authority, and therefore any amendments or alterations to it would have to be done in accordance to the manner they prescribed.
The manner in which the Articles of Confederation could be altered or amended is found in Article 13, where it states, “And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.”
No where exactly in that quote does it say that alterations to the Articles of Confederation were to be made by the people; I don’t see it, do you? The State Legislatures were the governing bodies of each State, and they acted solely by virtue of delegated power; given to them by the true sovereigns; the people.
When the Constitution was finally completed, and voted upon by the delegates to the convention which produced it, it was then sent to the State Legislatures for their consideration. That should have been the end of it. Either all the State Legislatures would have agreed to it and the system of government it established went into effect, or it was rejected and the existing Congress remained in power.
What happened though is that the terms for ratification found within the Constitution itself, (a document that at this time was nothing more than a mere proposal for a NEW system of government) were used to ratify it. It’s almost like that ridiculous quote Nancy Pelosi made a few years back, “We have to pass the law so we can find out what’s in it.”
So instead of the State Legislators deciding whether or not to accept or reject this proposed new form of government, ratification assemblies were held in the various States; consisting of people drawn from among the great body of the people. Whether this was done because the Preamble declares that the Constitution be ordained and established by We the People, or whether it was done because nobody really knew what to do about it is beside the point. The point is that although it was eventually ratified by consent of the people of each State, it was originally written under the delegated authority of the States themselves.
Therefore, a very strong argument can be made that the Constitution is a compact between the States to establish a system of government over them, which was then ratified by the voice of the people; as they are the true sovereigns and have the final say in what form of government they might choose to live under.
I had hoped to fit everything I wanted to say into one single document. I see that I will not be able to do that now; so now would be as good a time as any for an intermission. I will continue this in another segment soon.