A Statesman’s Guide to Proper Lawmaking

 

Just ten years before Thomas Jefferson died and after many years of observing people in offices of political power, he commented: “Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers….” He could have made the same observation in our day nearly two centuries later. Evidence is plentiful to show that when people are elected to public office and especially after they have been in office awhile, they begin to feel they have authority to do about anything they want as long as they can get enough votes to do it.

Any honest student of the U. S. Constitution can easily outline the limits of power of the federal government. That document gives Congress, for example, the power to do about 20 things which can be itemized quickly by reading Article I, Section 8. The 10th Amendment clearly limits the federal government to those express powers outlined and says that all other powers remain with the states and the people. Although the tenth amendment is violated daily on the federal level, no Congressmen can plead innocent of knowing the tenth amendment prohibitions – they are there for all to see.

But what about the vast area of government activity on the state and local levels? Are there specific delineations of powers in state constitutions and city charters so that there can be no misunderstanding as to the powers delegated to these levels of government?

About twenty years ago I undertook the laborious task of reading every bill that was introduced into the legislature of my state. Even though most bills die in committee, I wanted to know what legislators in my state were thinking. I soon discovered that most legislators must think there are no bounds to their lawmaking. I was astonished to see a bill for about any wish any political person ever had. Would you like to give a home to all the poor people? There was a bill to do it! Would you like to provide health care for all the so-called poor people? There’s a bill! Would you like to regulate mothers as to what they can feed their children? There’s a bill! Do you want to save people from their own “stupidity”? There’s lots of bills to do that! You name the idea – any idea, and there probably has been a bill introduced to cover it.  I was amazed. I went again to my state�s Constitution to see if there were perhaps some limitations put on lawmakers as there are on the federal level. Even though most state constitutions are many times longer than the U.S. Constitution, there are few clearly defined limits as to what legislators should be doing and what should be off limits to them. I could not agree more strongly with Jefferson’s observation that our legislators are seriously lacking in understanding as to what their role really is.

Whether limits of power are spelled out in constitutions or not, honest legislators should be bound by higher principles of conduct toward those whom they serve. These higher principles should ring so loudly in the ears of public officials that even in the absence of specific written limits, they should know their bounds.

It is hoped that a discussion of these higher principles will provide a better understanding of the proper role of government and the proper role of an elected public official within that government.

The Origin of Human Rights

Any discussion of government power will always lead the honest student back to the question “Where did our human rights come from?” There can be only two possible answers to this question. Either they were given by God or they are granted by government. If one concludes they are bestowed by government, then one also must accept the idea that these rights can be denied by government. The Founding Fathers flatly rejected this concept and in the Declaration of Independence declared “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.” They further defined the “pursuit of happiness” as the right to have and enjoy the fruits of one’s labors.

Volumes have been written attempting to prove that human rights were God-given, but to the Founders it was so logical and self-evident, the discussion need not be carried further. All individuals have the same God-given rights.

 

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.

 

 

2012: The Need for the Miracle again – The US Constitution

The US Constitution

History is an amazing teacher. There is almost nothing which happens today that has not happened in some form in the past. If we just knew our history, we could tell what would happen when we do certain things by just looking at the consequences when those same events happened before. The key is to learn and cherish the lessons of history so that we can both avoid the tragedies of the past mistakes and at the same time enjoy the blessings of past successes.
So it is with present-day America. What is happening today is an incredible replay of what happened 225 years ago. Because of certain economic, social, and political problems which magnified themselves, especially during the four years after the end of the Revolutionary War, the tiny, new country of the United States was on the verge of collapse. Some of our Founding Fathers were so concerned that they actually felt nothing short of a miracle could save us. Do the following descriptions of events in 1787 sound familiar to us today?

The Expectation that the Nation would soon Collapse – in 1787

Foreign nations and even many Americans did not think the nation could endure much more. England kept her troops on the Canadian border so they could move in quickly to take over. Spain began to seize territory along the Mississippi. Among Americans there was even talk of secession and the forming of three new confederations – New England, Middle States, and the South.

Worthless Money Was Destroying Our Society – in 1787

Because there was no national monetary system under the Articles of Confederation, hundreds of entities began printing paper money. John Adams lamented:
“I am firmly of the opinion … that there never was a paper pound, a paper dollar, or a paper promise of any kind, that ever yet obtained a general currency [as money] but by force or fraud, generally by both. That the army has been grossly cheated; that the creditors have been infamously defrauded [some closed their shops to prevent being paid off with worthless paper money]; that the widows and fatherless have been oppressively wronged and beggared; that the gray hairs of the aged and the innocent, for want of their just dues, have gone down with sorrow to their graves, in consequence of our disgraceful depreciated paper currency.”

National Humiliation reached the its low point – in 1787

The exciting idea of self-government began to turn sour. It seemed the growing problems were too much for a new nation to handle. The inability to solve such problems as huge mounting debts, lack of military readiness, breaking long-standing agreements, disdain of foreign powers, etc. was humiliating. Alexander Hamilton lamented:
“We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the last stage of national humiliation. There is scarcely anything that can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent nation which we do not experience.
“Are there engagements to the performance of which we are held by every tie respectable among men? These are the subjects of constant and unblushing violation.
“Do we owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence? These remain without any proper or satisfactory provision for their discharge.
“Are we in a condition to resent or to repel the aggression? We have neither troops, nor treasury, nor government.
“Is respectability in the eyes of foreign powers a safeguard against foreign encroachments? The imbecility of our government even forbids them to treat with us. Our ambassadors abroad are the mere pageants of mimic sovereignty.”

A Very Real Potential of Economic Collapse from Huge Debt – in 1787

Founders Francis Corbin and Thomas Johnston were aghast to think of having to borrow money to pay interest on money previously borrowed!
Johnston : “The United States are bankrupt. They are considered such in every part of the world. They borrow money, and promise to pay. They have it not in their power, and they are obliged to ask of the people, whom they owe, to lend them money to pay the very interest.”
Corbin: “The consequences of deranged finances … what confusions, disorders, and even revolutions, have resulted from this cause, in many nations! …The debts due by the United States and how much is due to foreign nations! No part of the principal is paid to those nations; nor has even the interest been paid as honorably and punctually as it ought. Nay, we were obliged to borrow money last year to pay the interest. What! borrow money to discharge the interest of what was borrowed, and continually augment the amount of the public debt! Such a plan would destroy the richest country on earth.”

A Spirit of Profligacy Is Engulfing the People – in 1787

In times of depression, both economical and moral, people often turn to the vices to forget or run from their ills. Listen to John Williams of New York describe the situation in 1787:
“Unhappily for us, immediately after our extrication from a cruel and unnatural war, luxury and dissipation overran the country, banishing all that economy, frugality, and industry, which had been exhibited during the war.
“Sir, if we were to reassume all our old habits, we might expect to prosper. Let us, then, abandon all those foreign commodities which have hitherto deluged our country, which have loaded us with debt, and which, if continued, will forever involve us in difficulties. How many thousands are daily wearing the manufactures of Europe, when, by a little industry and frugality, they might wear those of their own country! One may venture to say, sir, that the greatest part of the goods is manufactured in Europe by persons who support themselves by our extravagance. And can we believe a government ever so well formed can relieve us from these evils?
“What dissipation is there from the immoderate use of spirits! Is it not notorious that men cannot be hired, in time of harvest, without giving them, on an average, a pint of rum per day? So that, on the lowest calculation, every twentieth part of the grain is expended on that particle; and so, in proportion, all the farmer’s produce.

The Federal Government Hanging By A Thread – in 1787

Fisher Ames was convinced that the federal government was headed for dissolution and anarchy if a stronger Constitution is not adopted:
“Who is there, that really loves liberty that will not tremble for its safety, if the federal government should be dissolved. Can liberty be safe without government?
“The period of our political dissolution is approaching. Anarchy and uncertainty attend our future state. But this we know — that Liberty, which is the soul of our existence, once fled, can return no more.
“The Union is essential to our being as a nation. The pillars that prop it are crumbling to powder. The Union is the vital sap that nourishes the tree. If we reject the Constitution, — to use the language of the country, — we girdle the tree, its leaves will wither, its branches drop off, and the mouldering trunk will be torn down by the tempest…. The Union is the dike to fence out the flood. That dike is broken and decayed; and, if we do not repair it, when the next spring tide comes, we shall be buried in one common destruction.”

A Breakdown of Law and Order Was Turning Good Neighbors into Enemies – in 1787

Listen to John Smith, a patriot and spokesman from Massachusetts in 1787, describe what he observed happens in a nation when freed government breaks down and when anarchy then leads to tyranny:
Smith: “Mr. President, I am a plain man, and get my living by the plough. I am not used to speak in public, but I beg your leave to say a few words to my brother plough-joggers in this house. I have lived in a part of the country where I have known the worth of good government by the want of it. There was a black cloud that rose in the east last winter, and spread over the west…. I mean, sir, the county of Bristol ; the cloud rose there, and burst upon us, and produced a dreadful effect. It brought on a state of anarchy, and that led to tyranny. I say, it brought anarchy. People that used to live peaceably, and were before good neighbors, got distracted, and took up arms against government…. I am going, Mr. President, to show you, my brother farmers, what were the effects of anarchy, that you may see the reasons why I wish for good government. People, I say, took up arms; and then, if you went to speak to them, you had the musket of death presented to your breast.
“They would rob you of your property; threaten to burn your houses; oblige you to be on your guard night and day; alarms spread from town to town; families were broken up; the tender mother would cry, `O, my son is among them! What shall I do for my child?’ Some were taken captive, children taken out of their schools, and carried away. Then we should hear of an action, and the poor prisoners were set in the front, to be killed by their own friends.
“How dreadful, how distressing was this! Our distress was so great that we should have been glad to snatch at anything that looked like a government. Had any person, that was able to protect us, come and set up his standard, we should all have flocked to it, even if it had been a monarch; and that monarch might have proved a tyrant; — so that you see that anarchy leads to tyranny, and better have one tyrant than so many at once.”

The Desperately Needed Miracle Happened – in 1787

Two hundred twenty-five years ago, the Founders barely escaped these disasters. They struggled to adopt the Constitution and its marvelous saving principles. George Washington called it a miracle:
“It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the delegates from so many different states … should unite in forming a system of national government.”
James Madison wrote saying it was “impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.”
After only two years so many problems had been solved that Washington was able to write:
“The United States enjoys a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for.”
The next day he wrote to David Humphreys:
“Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it…. Our public credit stands on that [high] ground which three years ago it would have been considered as a species of madness to have foretold.”

The Miracle Can Happen Again In Our Day – in 2012

We could continue to enumerate problems that existed in 1787, but do the ones listed sound very familiar? Did you also notice what the only real solution was in 1787? It remains the only solution in 2012.

Over the past few years My Freedom Library has distributed thousands of pocket-size copies of the Constitution. We are prepared to distribute thousands more this year alone to help Americans do today what Americans did in 1787 – bring our nation back from the brink of disaster.
Our hope is that Americans will become so conversant with this little booklet that they can teach directly from it, they can ask questions directly from it, they can challenge false political philosophies directly from it, they can show candidates directly from it that it really is the only political platform they need.
Re-energizing this document will save America. Will you commit to do it yourself?

(Click on this link or copy and paste this address into your browser to order your Pocket Constitution)
http://www.myfreedomlibrary.com/products/books/Pocket_Constitution.html

Sincerely,
Earl Taylor, Jr.

"The Political Fate of America"

Having recently read and studied the chapter in The Real George Washington entitled, “The Ratification Fight”, I have had the strong impression that Washington faced in his day some of the same intensity against the Constitution that we face in our day. The main difference is those who opposed the Constitution in his day felt the proposed plan of government would give too much power to the federal government and lead to tyranny. Today, those who express opposition to the traditional restraints on government as contained in the Constitution are from the other side of the spectrum–they are seen as thinking the Constitution does not contain enough power to solve America’s problems and insist the Constitution needs to be stretched to place enormous power mostly in the hands of the executive to deal with today’s challenges.

In his day, Washington attempted to quite the fears of the opposition in these simple words:

My creed is simply:

First, that the general government is not invested with more powers than are indispensably necessary….

Secondly, that these powers…are so distributed among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a monarchy… so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the people ….

The proposed Constitution…is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of tyranny…than any government hitherto instituted among mortals. ( The Real George Washington, p. 503, emphasis added)

After eight states had ratified, Washington wrote to Lafayette, “A few short weeks will determine the political fate of America for the present generation and…a long succession of ages to come.” (p. 504-505)
About those “checks and barriers”

We seem today to have our own “few short weeks” to make a difference and save our Constitution from the opposition coming from the other side of the spectrum. It is almost incredible to see the rapid deterioration of our freedom and liberty. What some of us thought may happen over a decade to two is happening over a month or two.

As we observe our new president making friends and deals with foreign leaders, some of whom have been staunch enemies of America, we must remind ourselves of the “checks and barriers” provided in the Constitution to prevent our president from unilaterally making deals with scheming foreign dictators. Here are a few of those protections:

All executive agreements with foreign nations must have the
approval of the Senate or, in some cases, the whole congress

From Article II.2.2 of the Constitution it is clear that the President shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided that two-thirds of the Senators who are present concur with the provisions thereof. (see Provision #153, The Making of America, p. 548 )

This provision gives the people of the United States the right not to be subject to any agreement with a foreign nation which has not received the consent of two-thirds of the Senators who were present when the matter was presented to them.

By definition, any agreement between two nations must be considered a treaty. Hence it is not constitutionally valid until ratified in Congress.

During the time of the Continental Congress (1774-1781) the only body authorized to make treaties on behalf of the states was the Congress itself. The same principle applied under the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789). However, it was appreciated that under the complexity of the foreign relations arising in the future it would be necessary to allow the executive officers of the government to negotiate various treaties and then present them to some branch of the Congress for approval. Recognizing this necessity, the Constitution provided that this task should fall upon the President and his officers — but before any treaty could go into effect it had to be presented to the Senate and have the approval of at least two-thirds of its members. There are some treaties which require the concurrence of the House of Representatives. This would include any treaties which involve the expenditure of funds. Until the House has approved a bill authorizing such e xpenditures the treaty cannot be implemented.

As we see our president making agreements with foreign nations, he must be reminded (and he has taken an oath to do so) that no agreement is valid unless it has the Senate’s approval after an open and public debate.

The United States is not subject to any international law
without the approval of Congress

From Article I.8.10 of the Constitution it is clear that the people of the states empower the Congress to define and punish offenses against the law of nations. (see Provision #94, The Making of America , p. 436)

This provision gives the Congress the exclusive right to determine by legislative definition the offenses committed by other countries against the United States in violation of the law of nations (commonly referred to as “international law”).

Offenses against the law of nations are rules which “reason, morality, and custom” have established among civilized nations of Europe as their public law. Since the United Nations was organized there has been a powerful attempt to bring America under the control of foreign bodies made up of people who are opposed to our concept of unalienable rights and individual freedom. There members want to make America subject to decisions of the World Court, where these laws can be enforced against the citizens of the member countries. For several reasons this is a dangerous practice. First of all, Americans could be hauled up without any protection from their own Bill of Rights. Furthermore, people are often appointed to sit on this court who are sympathetic to the Communist philosophy. The major Communist countries have never joined the World Court; however, they have urged the United States to join. When the United States agreed to have international disputes settled by this court, the Connelly Reservation provided that the United States would reserve the right to determine when the court would have jurisdiction over its American citizens. Several Presidents have tried to get the Connelly Reservation repealed as a gesture of “good faith and good will” toward the World Court concept. Congress, however, has continued to consider the World Court unsatisfactory as a fair tribunal to settle international problems because of the way it is presently structured.

When our president and other executive officials express fondness for laws, philosophies, and customs of other countries it is in direct conflict with the Constitutional requirement that Congress is the only body that can define our law and declare when we are in violation of those laws. It is a dangerous practice to turn such power over to international bodies such as the United Nations. The authors of our Constitution foresaw this situation.

Only Congress can set rules concerning the treatment
and disposition of captured people and land

From Article I.8.11 of the Constitution it is clear that the people of the states empower the Congress to make rules concerning that which may be captured on land or on water. This provision gave Congress the exclusive right to regulate the capture of prisoners or the taking of land from the enemy. (see Provision #93 in The Making of America, p.443)

When we see our president make decisions as to detainees and other military matters, we must remind ourselves that it is our representatives in Congress that have the authority to make such rules in such matters, not the president.
Only Congress can build up the military by calling up the state militias

From Article I.8.15 of the Constitution it is clear that the people of the states empower the Congress to call forth the state militia when needed to: (1) execute federal laws, (2) suppress insurrections in the states, or (3) repel invasions from abroad.

This provision gave the Congress the right to order up the state militias singly or en masse to accomplish any of the three purposes specified in this provision.

It will be noted that the calling forth of the various state militias is not within the power of the President but must be done by the Congress. Even the Congress is restricted to three situations:

1. To execute the laws of the union — the requirements of the Constitution, the acts of Congress, and the treaties.
2. To suppress insurrections — which are open and active opposition to the execution of the law.
3. To repel invasions by an enemy intent on military conquest or the overthrow of the government.

Here again, both the President (who is not granted authority to call up the militia) and the Congress (which is limited to the circumstances when the militia may be called) are prevented from achieving an armed dictatorship and go around attempting to police the whole world.
Only Congress can authorize expenditure of tax money and then
only for those enumerated powers when they benefit the entire nation

From Principle #79 (from Article I.8.1): The people of the states empower the Congress to expend money (for the enumerated purposes listed in Article I, section 8), provided it is done in a way that benefits the general welfare of the whole people. (see Provision #79 in The Making of America, p. 387)

This provision gave the Congress the right to expend funds for all of the purposes itemized in Article I, section 8, provided that it was done for the general welfare of all the people and not for individuals or preferred groups.

From the days of the Founders a continuous storm of controversy has gravitated around the proper interpretation of this provision. In the Constitution this provision simply says: “The Congress shall have the power … to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” However, we have stated the meaning in Principle 79 (above) the way Jefferson and others said it was supposed to be interpreted.

Thomas Jefferson explained that this clause was not a grant of power to “spend” for the general welfare of the people, but was intended to “limit the power of taxation” to matters which provided for the welfare of “the Union” or the welfare of the whole nation. In other words, federal taxes could not be levied for states, counties, cities, or special interest groups , private businesses, etc.

For decades, the Constitutional spending restraints of the Founders have been so ignored by Congress and the president that it is a pure political free-for-all in the United States’ Treasury.
A lasting foundation for happiness

When the Constitution was finally ratified and the cries of the anarchists subsided, George Washington was the first to recognize the power that had guided their hands to produce such a remarkable document of balanced and limited government. Said he:

We may, with a kind of pious and grateful exultation, trace the fingers of Providence through those dark and mysterious events which first induced the states to appoint a general convention, and then led them one after another…into an adoption of the system recommended by that general convention, thereby, in all human probability, laying a lasting foundation for tranquility and happiness, when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming rapidly upon us. That the same good Providence may still continue to protect us, and prevent us from dashing the cup of national felicity just as it has been lifted to our lips, is [my] earnest prayer. (The Real George Washington, p. 505-6)

Is this not the same prayer of concerned Americans today as we seek to restore the beautiful plan of government we call the Constitution?

Sincerely,

Earl Taylor, Jr.