Founding Principles of America 21: Strong Local Government

Founding Principles of America 21: Strong Local Government

Strong Local Self-government is the Keystone to Preserving Human Freedom.

U.S. Constitution series 21

keyPolitical power automatically gravitates toward the center, and the purpose of the Constitution is to prevent that from happening. The centralization of political power always destroys liberty by removing the decision-making function from the people on the local level and transferring it to the officers of the central government.

This process gradually benumbs the spirit of “voluntarism” among the people, and they lose the will to solve their own problems. They also cease to be involved in community affairs. They seek the anonymity of oblivion in the seething crowds of the city and often degenerate into faceless automatons who have neither a voice nor a vote. ~Skousen

The Golden Key to Preserving Freedom

news_flag_hdr5How different from the New England town spirit, where every person had a voice and a vote. How different from the Anglo-Saxon tribal meetings, where the people were considered sovereign and every man took pride in participating. And how different from ancient Israel, where the families of the people were governed in multiples of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands, and where problems were solved on the level where those problems originated. All of those societies had strong local self-government. This is what the Founding Fathers considered the golden key to preserving freedom. (Skousen, 235-236)

 

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800Jefferson Emphasizes the Role of Strong Local Self-Government

As the Founders wrote their laws, they were determined to protect the freedom of the individual and provide a vigorous climate of healthy, local self-government. Only those things which related to the interest of the entire commonwealth were to be delegated to the central government. (Skousen, 238)

Thomas Jefferson:

National

The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to [perform best]. Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations.

State

State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward [township] direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics, from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.

What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or the aristocrats of a Venetian senate.

welfare-government-charity-madisonJames Madison, “Father of the Constitution”

Deployment of Power Between the Federal Government and the States

The Constitution delegates to the federal government only that which involves the whole people as a nation.

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 [federal powers] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce . . . 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. (Federalist Papers, no. 45, pp. 292-93)

Federal Government to Remain Relatively Small

local-governmentThomas Jefferson emphasized that if the oncoming generations perpetuated the Constitutional pattern, the federal government would be small and cohesive and would serve as an inexpensive operation because of the limited problems which would be assigned to it.

Jefferson wrote:

The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and untied as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only, and let our affairs be disentangled from those of all other nations, except as to commerce, which the merchants will manage the better, the more they are left free to manage for themselves, and our general government may be reduced to a very simple organization, and a very inexpensive one; a few plain duties to be performed by a few servants.

 

NEXT: Founding Principles of America 22: A Free People Should be Governed by Law and Not by the Whims of Men.

 

 

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History Heroes: U.S. Constitution, John Locke, and Founding Fathers

Dinner Topics for Thursday

keyHe that thinks absolute power purifies men’s blood and corrects the baseness of human nature, need only read history to be convinced to the contrary. ~John Locke

John Locke’s Influence on the U.S. Constitution and Founding Fathers

signers3John Locke 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.[5]

Influence on Founding Fathers

The Constitutional Convention began deliberations on May 25, 1787.
Delegates used two streams of intellectual tradition, and any one delegate could be found using both or a mixture depending on the subject under discussion, foreign affairs or the economy, national government or federal relationships among the states. The Virginia Plan recommended a consolidated national government, generally favoring the big population states. It used the philosophy of John Locke to rely on consent of the governed, Montesquieu for divided government, and Edward Coke emphasizing civil liberties. The New Jersey Plan generally favored the small population states, using the philosophy of English Whigs such as Edmund Burke to rely on received procedure, and William Blackstone emphasizing sovereignty of the legislature.
The Convention devolved into a “Committee of the Whole” to consider the fifteen propositions of the Virginia Plan in their numerical order. These discussions continued until June 13, when the Virginia resolutions in amended form were reported out of committee.
All agreed to a republican form of government grounded in representing the people in the states.

Influence

Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on modern liberalism. Michael Zuckert has argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him “le sage Locke”.

 His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, one passage from the Second Treatise is reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, the reference to a “long train of abuses.”

 

Such was Locke’s influence that Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Bacon, Locke and Newton … I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences”.[11][12][13] Today, most contemporary libertarians claim Locke as an influence.
But Locke’s influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self.[14]

Theories of religious tolerance

johnlockeLocke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689–92) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single “true religion” would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.[15]

Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Continued

Dinner Talk: Definition of Classic Liberalism vs. Modern Liberalism

John Locke is called the Father of “Classic Liberalism.” The Founding Fathers were considered liberal at the time of the American Revolution because they were in favor of liberty, and they wanted to change the form of government to allow more liberty.Tories were considered to be conservative, because they wanted to conserve the Britiish monarchy.

Today these definitions have almost reversed. Today’s liberals want to change the U.S. Constitution (or destroy it) to decrease the amount of liberty, give more power to the federal government, and remove responsibility from the individual. Today, the Founding Fathers would be considered to be conservative, because they would want to conserve the U.S. constitution which they created, with limited government, and freedom of the people, balanced with individual responsibility.

US Constitution Series 20: Majority Rule, Minority Rights vs. Radical Ideologies

US Constitution Series 20:

Majority Rule, Minority Rights vs. Radical Ideologies

Majority Rule tends toward moderation in elections. Although the Founders instituted Majority Rule for practical reasons, perhaps a bonus is to protect us from dangers of radical ideologies that are dangerous to the very freedoms safeguarded in the Constitution. C.D.

 

President Trump was elected by the majority of the American people. The Democrat Party was defeated because of its radical extremism. It is now in the political minority, by the will of the American people. Rights of minority citizens are respected by the Constitution. However, this does not mean that the American people as a whole are to be ruled by a minority of politicians whose policies threaten the very freedoms safeguarded in the Constitution.

Founding Principles of America #20

From 5,000 Year Leap

By W. Cleon Skousen

 

Majority Rule

Efficiency and dispatch require government to operate according to the will of the majority, but Constitutional provisions must be made to protect the rights of the minority.

One of the most serious mistakes in the structure of the Articles of confederation was the requirement that no changes could be made without the approval of every one of the states. During the Revolutionary War several vital changes were suggested, but in each instance a single state was able to prevent the needed change from being adopted.

Basis for the “Majority” Rule

Delaying action until it had the unanimous approval of all concerned can be disastrous in a time of emergency. It even inhibits healthy progress in normal times. Unanimity is the ideal, but majority rule becomes a necessity. P.229

Majority Rule a Necessity

It has sometimes been argued that a bare majority of one person scarcely justifies the making of a final decision for the whole body. It has been argued that it would be better to have a substantial majority of perhaps two-thirds or three-fourths. In the Constitution a provision of this type was incorporated in the text for the purpose of initiating amendments. A two-thirds majority is also required for the purpose of overriding a Presidential veto.

Minorities Have Equal Rights

Nevertheless, the American Founders had suffered enough from the tyrannical conduct of Parliament to feel highly sensitive to the rights of minorities.

It is the responsibility of the minorities themselves to learn the language, seek needed education, become self-sustaining, and make themselves recognized as a genuine asset to the community. P 231-232

Important Note:

President Trump was elected by the majority of the American people. The Democrat Party was defeated because of its radical extremism. It is now in the political minority, by the will of the American people. Rights of minority citizens are respected by the Constitution. However, this does not mean that the American people as a whole are to be ruled by a minority of politicians whose policies are dangerous to the security of the nation. C.D.

History Facts: Compare and Contrast American Revolution to French Revolution

History Facts:

Compare and Contrast American Revolution to French Revolution

Bastille-Day-Getty-Fr-revolutionBastille Day: Revolutionary Zeal Turns to Tyranny in France

Jarrett Stepman

The euphoria experienced by those who believed they had finally shattered monarchical tyranny and aristocratic privilege was only matched by the horror of the following ‘Reign of Terror.’

2015 was also the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s final defeat, when the combined armies or Prussia and Great Britain vanquished the French Army at Waterloo, Belgium and put an end to the Corsican’s time as a head of state. It effectively concluded the French Republic’s brief experiment in liberty. Beyond the bloody battlefield and the confrontation between great powers, there is a great deal to learn from the life and downfall of Napoleon and the short-lived French First Republic—especially in relation to the success of George Washington’s over two-century old American republic.

A Tale of Two Nations

C.A. Davidson

keyCharles Dickens’ powerful novel, A Tale of Two Cities, is set during the French Revolution, involving characters in the cities of London and Paris. This moving tale gives one pause to consider a tale of two nations—the differences between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

americanrevolutionOnly a few years before the French Revolution, colonial America had rebelled, not against poverty, but against the increasingly tyrannical rule of the British. In America, it was men of property and education, not the poor, who rebelled. For liberty, they invested their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Ironically, it was the French nobility who stepped in with naval support and saved the American Revolution from the brink of failure.

The purpose of the American Revolution was to change the ruling laws, not to kill the king. Many colonists, including Benjamin Franklin, had close ties with England. Franklin was the leader in trying all possible avenues of diplomacy; revolution was the last resort. George Washington scrupulously avoided abusing military power by consistently deferring to the directives of the civilian government, and he always put the needs of his men before his own. He refused to be king. Noble of character he was; greedy and power-hungry he was not. American leaders did all they could to avoid anarchy. They sought the help of God in their endeavor, and received miraculous help when it was needed.

The French Revolution, on the other hand, appears to have been driven by vengeance and hatred. Without a doubt, terrible injustices existed, as vividly depicted by Dickens and in Victor Hugo’s magnificent novel, Les Miserables. The French peasants were at a great disadvantage, because their poverty seemed insurmountable, and they lacked education and money; therefore they had no power to exercise influence on their oppressors. It is unfortunate that they resorted to terror. The mass murder of innocents resembled the ethnic cleansing of evil regimes in the twentieth century.

The French revolutionary participants were certainly godless. The mindless killing thoroughly disqualified them from any divine assistance. By killing the upper class, and their families, and their servants, and anyone remotely related, they also purged the society of education, law, culture, and other refinements necessary to civilized society.  Only anarchy resulted from their efforts. The old oppressors were merely replaced by a new tyrannical regime, more brutal than ever. It was bad enough that some even looked to figures like Napoleon to save them, but that really didn’t work well, either.

constitutionThe Americans went on to create a Constitution that is a model of liberty for the rest of the world. This Constitution provides maximum freedom, limited power in the national government, and the majority of the power to the states and people. The success of the nation has been in proportion to the degree of fiscal responsibility and law-abiding character manifest by the elected government officials. Because America was free, she became prosperous. Like many other European countries, France learned the best governing principles from the United States Constitution, only after long years of struggle.

Copyright 2011 © by Christine Davidson

faith-and-freedomWhy Young Adults need to know about Judeo-Christian Heritage and Freedom of Religion

History Facts, William Blackstone, and Law of God

History Facts, William Blackstone, and Law of God

Dinner Topics for Wednesday

William Blackstone Quotes

keyMan, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this. ~Blackstone

The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures. These precepts, when revealed … tend in all their consequences to man’s felicity [happiness]. (Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England. 1:29-60, 64)

Those rights, then, which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as are life and liberty, need not the aid of human laws to be more effectually invested in every man than they are: neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable. On the contrary, no human legislature has power to abridge or destroy them, unless the owner shall himself the owner shall himself commit some act that amounts to a forfeiture. (Blackstone: Commentaries on the Laws of England)

Laws for human nature had been revealed by God, whereas the laws of the universe (natural law) must be learned through scientific investigation. (Commentaries, p.64) Blackstone stated that “upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws …” (Ibid., p.65)

“Free men have arms; slaves do not.”
William Blackstone

“The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state: but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press: but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.”
William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume 4: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769

 

William Blackstone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blackstone_from_NPGSir William Blackstone KC SL (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle-class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke College, Oxford in 1738. After switching to and completing a Bachelor of Civil Law degree, he was made a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford on 2 November 1743, admitted to Middle Temple, and called to the Bar there in 1746. Following a slow start to his career as a barrister, Blackstone became heavily involved in university administration, becoming accountant, treasurer and bursar on 28 November 1746 and Senior Bursar in 1750. Blackstone is considered responsible for completing the Codrington Library and Warton Building, and simplifying the complex accounting system used by the college. On 3 July 1753 he formally gave up his practice as a barrister and instead embarked on a series of lectures on English law, the first of their kind. These were massively successful, earning him a total of £60,000 in 2014 terms, and led to the publication of An Analysis of the Laws of England in 1756, which repeatedly sold out and was used to preface his later works.

On 20 October 1758 Blackstone was confirmed as the first Vinerian Professor of English Law, immediately embarking on another series of lectures and publishing a similarly successful second treatise, titled A Discourse on the Study of the Law. With his growing fame, Blackstone successfully returned to the bar and maintained a good practice, also securing election as Tory Member of Parliament for the rotten borough of Hindon on 30 March 1761. In February 1766 he published the first volume of Commentaries on the Laws of England, considered his magnum opus—the completed work earned Blackstone £1,648,000 in 2014 terms. After repeated failures, he successfully gained appointment to the judiciary as a Justice of the Court of King’s Bench on 16 February 1770, leaving to replace Edward Clive as a Justice of the Common Pleas on 25 June. He remained in this position until his death, on 14 February 1780.

Blackstone’s legacy and main work of note is his Commentaries. Designed to provide a complete overview of English law, the four-volume treatise was repeatedly republished in 1770, 1773, 1774, 1775, 1778 and in a posthumous edition in 1783. Reprints of the first edition, intended for practical use rather than antiquary interest, were published until the 1870s in England and Wales, and a working version by Henry John Stephen, first published in 1841, was reprinted until after the Second World War. Legal education in England had stalled; Blackstone’s work gave the law “at least a veneer of scholarly respectability”.[1] William Searle Holdsworth, one of Blackstone’s successors as Vinerian Professor, argued that “If the Commentaries had not been written when they were written, I think it very doubtful that [the United States], and other English speaking countries would have so universally adopted the common law.”[2] In the United States, the Commentaries influenced John Marshall, James Wilson, John Jay, John Adams, James Kent and Abraham Lincoln, and remain frequently cited in Supreme Court decisions.

Read more about William Blackstone

 

Constitution Series 19: Founding Principles of America, Limited Government

US Constitution Series 19

Founding Principles of America: Limited Government

 

NOTE: The slavery issue was an example of abuse of power by the states. Some of the states were also engaging in religious persecution. It was necessary for the federal government to guarantee unalienable rights to all Americans, not just a powerful few. After the Civil War, the 14th amendment was passed to remedy that. Now, the pendulum of power has swung violently in the other direction, with the federal government abusing our freedom of religion, speech, and many other constitutional rights. ~C.D.

Limited Government

Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to government, all others being retained in the people

signers3No principle was emphasized more vigorously during the Constitutional Convention than the necessity of limiting the authority of the federal government. …the Founders were determined to bind down its administrators with legal chains codified in the Constitution.

It will be recalled that one of the reasons many of the states would not adopt the original draft of the Constitution was that they feared the encroachments of the federal government on the rights of the states and the people. The first ten amendments were therefore added to include the ancient, unalienable rights of Anglo-Saxon freemen so there could be no question as to the strictly limited authority the people were conferring on their central government. Notice how carefully the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are worded:

 

The Ninth Amendment

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Tenth 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 people felt that the hedging up of federal authority was absolutely essential because of their experience with corrupt and abusive governments in the past. (Skousen, 223-224)

Alexander Hamilton

alexanderhamiltonThere is, in the nature of sovereign power, an impatience of control that disposes those who are invested with the exercise of it to look with an evil eye upon all external attempts to restrain or direct its operations . . .This tendency is not difficult to be accounted for. It has its origin in the love of power. Power controlled or abridged is almost always the rival and enemy of that power by which it is controlled or abridged.

Original Balance between Federal Government and States

The separation of powers between the states and the federal government was designed to reinforce the principles of limited government. The federal government was supreme in all matters relating to its responsibility [such as national defense], but it was specifically restricted from invading the independence and sovereign authority reserved to the States. The Founders felt that unless this principle of dual sovereignty was carefully perpetuated, the healthy independence of each would deteriorate and eventually one or the other would become totally dominant.

Alexander Hamilton

This balance between the national and state governments. . .is of utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights, they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits, by certain rivalship which will ever subsist between them.

Where Power Rivals Power

The Founders felt that by having a wholesome balance between the federal and state governments, the people would have recourse to one of the other in case of usurpation or abuse by either.

 

Why the Founders would have frowned on the 17th Amendment

constitution2But would the states be able to protect themselves from the might of the federal government if the Congress began legislating against states’ rights? Originally, the states could protect themselves because U.S. Senators were appointed by the state legislatures, and the Senate could veto any legislation by the House of Representatives which they considered a threat to the rights of the individual states. Unfortunately, the protection of states’ rights by this means was completely wiped out by the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.

That amendment provided that Senators would thenceforth be elected by popular ballot rather than appointed by the state legislatures. This meant the sates as sovereign commonwealths had lost their representation on the federal level, and their Senators would be subject to the same popular pressures during an election campaign as those which confront the members of the House of Representatives.

Since that time, there has been no veto power which the states could exercise against the Congress in those cases where a federal statute was deemed in violation of states’ rights. The Senators who used to be beholden to their state legislatures for their conduct in Washington are now beholden to the popular electorate. Federal funds appropriated for a state are generally a source of popular acclaim, and Senators, like Congressmen, usually hasten to get them approved.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the people may want to take another look at the present trend and consider the advantages of returning to the Founders’ policy of having state legislatures in the United States Senate. It might give us another generation of Senators like Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, and Henry Clay. (Skousen, 225-227

NEXT—

Founding Principles of America 20: Efficiency and Dispatch require Government to operate according to the will of the majority, but Constitutional provisions must be made to protect the rights of the minority

[Once again, the Constitution has been skewed. Despite the voice of the majority of people and states on traditional marriage, a small, very loud minority is intimidating the majority. Because of this, #20 will be combined with #21]

Founding Principles of America 21: Strong Local Self-Government

Founding Principles of America 18: Unalienable Rights of Constitution Protected by Written Records of History

 

Constitution Series 18: Rights from God protected by Constitution, Records of History

Constitution Series 18:

Rights from God protected by Constitution, Records of History

Founding Principles of America:

28 Great Ideas that changed the world

5000leapThe practical application of this book review of Skousen educated wisdom is to leverage “We, The People’s” knowledge to easily expose ignorance, anarchy and tyranny, and hold the government accountable.

From The 5,000 Year Leap—A Miracle that Changed the World

By W. Cleon Skousen

US Constitution Series 18

Our Unalienable Rights from God are Best Protected by Written Records of History

keyoldThey had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator. ~Omni 1:17

 

No written records, no history

The one weakness of the Anglo-Saxon common law was that it was unwritten. Since its principles were known among the whole people, they seemed indifferent to the necessity of writing them down.

“Until the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity it was unwritten and like all customary law was considered immutable. “ (Lovell, English Constitutional and Legal History, 7)

magna-cartaHowever, the Norman Conquest taught the Anglo-Saxons in England a bitter lesson. Many of their most treasured rights disappeared in a flood of blood and vindictive oppression. In fact, these rights were retained very slowly over a period of centuries and gradually they were written down. In A.D. 1215, during a national crisis, the sword was virtually put to the throat of King John in order to compel him to sign the Magna Charta, setting forth the traditional rights of freemen.

During that same century the “Model Parliament” came into being, which compelled the King to acknowledge the principle of no taxation without representation.

Through the centuries, the British have tried to manage their political affairs with no written constitution and have merely relied upon these fragmentary statures as a constitutional reference source. These proved helpful to the American Founders, but they felt that the structure of government should be codified in a more permanent, comprehensive form.

It will be appreciated, therefore, that the tradition of written constitutions in modern times is not of English origin but is entirely American, both in principle and practice.

Mayflower-compact-hero2-ABeginnings of a Written Constitution in America

The first written charter in America was in 1620, when the Mayflower Compact came into being. Later the charter concept evolved into a more comprehensive type of constitution when Thomas Hooker and his associates adopted the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639. It is interesting that the Connecticut charter makes no reference to the Crown or the British Government as the source of its authority. (Skousen, 217-218)

American Constitution Represents Wisdom of Many

signers3Montesquieu pointed out that when it comes to legislating (which includes the setting up of constitutions), the writing of the statute or charter is “oftentimes better regulated by many than by a single person.” In harmony with this same sentiment, the American Founding Fathers considered it wise to “legislate” their constitution by filtering it through the wisdom and experiences of many delegates assembled in a convention rather than leaving it to the genius of some individual.

It is always difficult to operate through a committee, a group, or a convention as the Founding Fathers did. Nevertheless, the history of the convention demonstrates that the final product was far stronger than any individual could have written it. Time has also proven the tremendous advantage of having a completely written document for reference purposes rather than relying upon tradition and a few scattered statutes as the fundamental law of the land. (Skousen 220-221)

Why Young Adults need to know about Judeo-Christian Heritage and Freedom of Religion

NEXT—

Principle 19: Only Limited Powers should be delegated to Government; all others being Retained in the People

 

 

US Constitution Series 17: Checks and Balances in the Constitution Prevent Abuse of Power

 Checks and Balances in the Constitution Prevent Abuse of Power

 

From The 5,000 Year Leap—A Miracle that Changed the World

By W. Cleon Skousen

A System of Checks and Balances Should Be Adopted to Prevent the Abuse of Power

Failure to use Checks and Balances effectively Causing Problems Today

Just how difficult this task turned out to be is demonstrated in a number of problems which have arisen in our own day. The failure to use the checks and balances effectively has allowed the judiciary to create new laws (called judicial legislation) by pretending to be merely interpreting the old ones. Failure to use the checks and balances has also allowed the President to make thousands of new laws, instead of Congress, by issuing executive orders. It has allowed the federal government to invade the reserved rights of the states on a massive scale. It has allowed the legislature to impose taxes on the people never contemplated by the Founders of the Constitution. (Skousen, 207-208)

 

Checks and Balances in the Constitution

A number of procedures were tried in various states to protect the will of the people, but they were montesquieumostly ineffective. The American Founding Fathers were impressed by the concept of checks and balances set forth by Charles Montesquieu. They eventually achieved a system of checks and balances far more complex than those envisioned by Montesquieu. These included the following provisions:

  1. The House of Representatives serves as a check on the Senate since no statute can become law without the approval of the House.
  2. At the same time the Senate (representing the legislatures of the states before the 17th Amendment) serves as a check on the House of Representatives since no statute can become law without its approval.
  3. A President can restrain both the House and the Senate by using his veto to send back any bill not meeting with his approval.
  4. The Congress has, on the other hand, a check on the President by being able to pass a bill over the President’s veto with a two-thirds majority of each house.
  5. The legislature also has a further check on the President through its power of discrimination in appropriating funds for the operation of the executive branch.
  6. The President must have the approval of the Senate in filling important offices of the executive branch.
  7. The President must also have the approval of the Senate before any treaties with foreign nations can go into effect.
  8. The Congress has the authority to conduct investigations of the executive branch to determine whether or not funds are being properly expended and the laws enforced.
  9. constitutionThe President has a certain amount of political influence on the legislature by letting it be known that he will not support the reelection of those who oppose his program.
  10. The executive branch also has a further check on the Congress by using its discretionary powers in establishing military bases, building dams, improving navigable rivers, and building interstate highways so as to favor those areas from which the President feels he is getting support by their representatives.
  11. The judiciary has a check on the legislature through its authority to review all laws and determine their constitutionality.
  12. The Congress, on the other hand, has a restraining power over the judiciary by having the constitutional authority to restrict the extent of its jurisdiction.
  13. The Congress also has the power to impeach any of the judges who are guilty of treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors.
  14. The President also has a check on the judiciary by having the power to nominate new judges subject to the approval of the Senate.
  15. The Congress has further restraining power over the judiciary by having control of appropriations for the operation of the federal court system.
  16. The Congress is able to initiate amendments to the Constitution which, if approved by three-fourths of the states, could seriously affect the operation of both the executive and judicial branches.
  17. The Congress, by joint resolution, can terminate certain powers granted to the President (such as war powers) without his consent.
  18. The people have a check on their Congressmen every two years; on their President every four years; and on their Senators every six years. (Skousen, 211-213)

 

George Washington on the Importance of Preserving the Founders’ Checks and Balances System

George WashingtonThe spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.

The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes.

To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.

If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.

The Founders’ Device for “Peaceful” Self-Repair

signers3During nearly two centuries that the Constitution has been in operation, it has carried the nation through a series of traumatic crises. Not the least of these have been those occasions when some branch of government became arrogantly officious in the administration of its assigned task or flagrantly violated the restrictions which the Constitution placed upon it. As President Washington indicated, there is a tendency for some of this to occur continually, as is the case in our own day, but when it reaches a point of genuine crisis there is built-in Constitutional machinery to take care of it.

Other Countries lack Means of Peaceful Self-Repair

By way of contrast, we have scores of nations which claim to have copied the United States Constitution, but which failed to incorporate adequate checks and balances. In those countries, the only remedy, when elected presidents have suspended the constitution and used the army to stay in power, has been to resort to machine guns and bombs to oust the usurper. This occurs time after time. What the Founders wished to achieve in the Constitution of 1787 was machinery for the peaceful means of self-repair when the system went out of balance.

 

The Blessing of Domestic Tranquility

church-1Some of us have had to travel or live in nations during a time of turmoil and revolution. Even one such experience will usually convince the most skeptical activist that there is nothing to be gained and a great deal to be lost by resorting to violence to bring about political change. Once a constitution has been established and the machinery developed for remedy or repair by peaceful means, this is the most intelligent and satisfactory route to pursue. It requires more patience, but given time, the results are more certain.

To solve problems by peaceful means was the primary purpose of the United States Constitution.

(Skousen, 214-215)

NEXT: 18th Principle—The Unalienable Rights of the People are most likely to be Preserved if the Principles of Government are Set Forth in a Written Constitution

US Constitution Series 16: Our Government has 3 Parts—Law, President, and Courts

 

 

 

US Constitution Series 16: Our Government has 3 Parts—Law, President, and Courts

Dinner Topics for Wednesday

US Constitution Series 16: Three Separate Branches of Government—Legislative, Executive, and Judicial

John Adams Pushes Separation-of-Powers Doctrine: Law, President, and Courts

3-branches-govtIn 1776, when it first became apparent that the American people would have to set up their own government, John Adams practically stood alone in advocating a government built on a separation of powers. Even before the Declaration of Independence he was advocating a new national government with three separate departments but found himself severely criticized for such a revolutionary idea. (Skousen, 198)

John Adams Studies the “Divine Science” of Good Government

It is interesting that John Adams should have been the first among the Founding Fathers to capture the vision of Montesquieu in setting up a self-repairing national government under the separation-of-powers doctrine. As we pointed out earlier, he looked upon politics as a “divine science,” and determined to devote his life to its study. (Skousen, 199)

John Adams Writes Separation of Powers into a the Massachusetts Constitution

[I]n spite of all the opposition John Adams encountered, he did succeed, almost single-handedly, in getting his state to adopt a constitution based on separation of powers. (Skousen, 201)

 

The Modern Apostle of the Divine Science of Good Government Unappreciated for a Century

johnadams2In later years, Adams was successful in getting his ideas incorporated in the U.S. Constitution, but he was never able to gain a genuine acceptance of himself. Even though he was elected the first Vice President of the United States and the second President, he very shortly disappeared into history with scarcely a ripple. A hundred years after the founding of the country, neither Washington nor Massachusetts had erected any kind of monument to John Adams. It was only as scholars began digging into the origins of American constitutionalism that John Adams suddenly loomed up into proper perspective. Even he suspected there would be very few who would remember what he had attempted to accomplish. (Skousen, 201)

 

A Constitution for 300 Million Freemen

Nevertheless his political precepts of the “divine science” of government caught on. Even Pennsylvania revised its constitution to include the separation of powers principle, and Benjamin Franklin, one of the last to be converted, finally acknowledged that the Constitution of the United States with its separation of powers was as perfect as man could be expected to produce. He urged all of the members of the Convention to sign it so that it would have unanimous support.

John Adams said it was his aspiration “to see rising in America an empire of liberty, and the prospect of two or three hundred millions of freemen, without one noble or one king among them.” (Koch, The American Enlightenment, p. 191)

NEXT—

Principle 17: A System of Checks and Balances to Prevent the Abuse of Power

US Constitution Series 15: Government, Liberty, and Business Economy

 

 

 

U.S. Constitution, James Madison, and Founding Fathers

Dinner Topics for Monday

James Madison

from Wikipedia

madisontyrannydefineJames Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 (O.S. March 5)  – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman and political theorist, the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817). He is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the United States Constitution and as the key champion and author of the United States Bill of Rights.[1] He served as a politician much of his adult life.

After the constitution had been drafted, Madison became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it. His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced the Federalist Papers (1788). Circulated only in New York at the time, they would later be considered among the most important polemics in support of the Constitution. He was also a delegate to the Virginia constitutional ratifying convention, and was instrumental to the successful ratification effort in Virginia. Like most of his contemporaries, Madison changed his political views during his life. During the drafting and ratification of the constitution, he favored a strong national government, though later he grew to favor stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life.

In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. He is notable for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights“.[4] Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and what became the Federalist Party in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called by historians the Democratic-Republican Party)

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation’s size. After his election to the presidency, he presided over renewed prosperity for several years. As president (1809–17), after the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against Great Britain, he led the nation into the War of 1812. He was responding to British encroachments on American honor and rights; in addition, he wanted to end the influence of the British among their Indian allies, whose resistance blocked United States settlement in the Midwest around the Great Lakes. Madison found the war to be an administrative nightmare, as the United States had neither a strong army nor financial system; as a result, he afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed.

Father of the Constitution

constitution2The Articles of Confederation established the United States as a confederation of sovereign states with a weak central government. This arrangement did not work particularly well, and after the war was over, it was even less successful. Congress had no power to tax, and as a result was not paying the debts left over from the Revolution. Madison and other nationalists, such as Washington and Alexander Hamilton, were very concerned about this. They feared a break-up of the union and national bankruptcy.[20] The historian Gordon S. Wood has noted that many leaders such as Madison and Washington, feared more that the revolution had not fixed the social problems that had triggered it, and the excesses ascribed to the King were being seen in the state legislatures. Shays’ Rebellion is often cited as the event that forced the issue; Wood argues that many at the time saw it as only the most extreme example of democratic excess. They believed the constitution would need to do more than fix the Articles of Confederation. Like the revolution, it would need to rewrite the social compact and redefine the relationship among the states, the national government, and the people.[19]

As Madison wrote, “a crisis had arrived which was to decide whether the American experiment was to be a blessing to the world, or to blast for ever the hopes which the republican cause had inspired.”[21] Partly at Madison’s instigation, a national convention was called in 1787. Madison was crucial in persuading George Washington to attend the convention, since he knew how important the popular general would be to the adoption of a constitution. As one of the first delegates to arrive, while waiting for the convention to begin, Madison wrote what became known as the Virginia Plan. The Virginia Plan was submitted at the opening of the convention, and the work of the convention quickly became to amend the Virginia Plan and to fill in the gaps.[22][23] Though the Virginia Plan was an outline rather than a draft of a possible constitution, and though it was extensively changed during the debate (especially by John Rutledge and James Wilson in the Committee of Detail), its use at the convention led many to call Madison the “Father of the Constitution”.[24] He was only 36 years old.

During the course of the Convention, Madison spoke over two hundred times, and his fellow delegates rated him highly. For example, William Pierce wrote that “…every Person seems to acknowledge his greatness. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention… he always comes forward as the best informed Man of any point in debate.” Madison recorded the unofficial minutes of the convention, and these have become the only comprehensive record of what occurred. The historian Clinton Rossiter regarded Madison’s performance as “a combination of learning, experience, purpose, and imagination that not even Adams or Jefferson could have equaled.”[25] Years earlier he had pored over crates of books that Jefferson sent him from France on various forms of government. The historian Douglas Adair called Madison’s work “probably the most fruitful piece of scholarly research ever carried out by an American.”[26] Many have argued that this study helped prepare him for the convention.

Federalist Papers and ratification debates

The Constitutionsigners3 developed by the convention in Philadelphia had to be ratified. This would be done by special conventions called in each state to decide that sole question of ratification.[29] Madison was a leader in the ratification effort. He, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers, a series of 85 newspaper articles published in New York to explain how the proposed Constitution would work, mainly by responding to criticisms from anti-federalists. They were also published in book form and became a virtual debater’s handbook for the supporters of the Constitution in the ratifying conventions.[30] The historian Clinton Rossiter called the Federalist Papers “the most important work in political science that ever has been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States.”[31] They were not scholarly arguments or impartial justifications for the constitution, but political polemics intended to assist the federalists in New York, which was the only state to have a coordinated anti-federalist movement. Madison was involved in the project mainly because he was a delegate to the lame duck Confederation Congress, which was meeting in New York.

If Virginia, the most populous state at the time, did not ratify the Constitution, the new national government would likely not succeed. When the Virginia convention began, the constitution had not yet been ratified by the required nine states. New York, the second largest state and a bastion of anti-federalism, would likely not ratify it if Virginia rejected the constitution, and Virginia’s exclusion from the new government would disqualify George Washington from being the first president.[32] Virginia delegates believed that Washington’s election as the first president was an implicit condition for their acceptance of the new constitution and the new government. Without Virginia, a new convention might have been held and a new constitution written in a much more polarized atmosphere, since the constitution did not specify what would happen if it was only partially ratified. The states might have joined in regional confederacies or allied with Spain, France or Britain, which still had North American colonies.[33] Arguably the most prominent anti-federalist, the powerful orator Patrick Henry was a delegate and had a following second only to Washington (who was not a delegate). Most delegates believed that most Virginians opposed the constitution.[32] Initially Madison did not want to stand for election to the Virginia ratifying convention, but was persuaded to do so because the situation looked so bad. His role at the convention was likely critical to Virginia’s ratification, and thus to the success of the constitution generally.[32]

Father of the Bill of Rights

Though the idea for a bill of rights had been suggested at the end of the constitutional convention, the delegates wanted to go home and thought the suggestion unnecessary. The omission of a bill of rights became the main argument of the anti-federalists against the constitution. Though no state conditioned ratification of the constitution on a bill of rights, several states came close, and the issue almost prevented the constitution from being ratified. Some anti-federalists continued to fight the issue after the constitution had been ratified, and threatened the entire nation with another constitutional convention. This would likely be far more partisan than the first had been. Madison objected to a specific bill of rights[41] for several reasons: he thought it was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted; that it was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and that at the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.[4]

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