Are the Founding Fathers too extreme? Is being an advocate for liberty or wanting to make the world a better place incompatible with military service? Somebody seems to think so. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, an organization called Judicial Watch was able to obtain documents from the Department of Defense, which labeled the Founding Fathers as extremists and states, “participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service.” To be specific, it was the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) which claimed in a January 2013 lecture on “Extremism”:
"In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples."
The document further claims:
“Individuals who hold extremist views are in conflict with the standards expected of all military members, and participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service...”
“All nations have an ideology, something in which they believe. When a political ideology falls outside the norms of society, it is known as extremism. When extremists take their ideology to the next level and believe that it is the only right ideology to follow, it becomes supremism.”
My immediate questions involve trying to figure out who decides what the “norms of society” are and what do they mean by “taking it to the next level?” Does that mean holding a rally or protest? A letter writing campaign? Starting a petition?
But here is the really alarming statement in the document:
“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
In the twelve years after the terrorist attacks on 9-11 by Islamic militants, our nation has been engulfed in a Global War on Terror and we continue to seek out, identify and eliminate threats from extremists the world over. At this point however, it seems that extremism has been used so broadly that it can mean anything from a suicide bomber to the signers of our Declaration of Independence only because they signed a document highlighting the sanctity of individual liberty.
“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
-Department of Defense Document, January 2013
We need to understand the parameters this document has set. The document states that you become an extremist simply because your political ideology doesn’t fit the norms of society. Who, we should ask, is in charge of looking at the 300 million plus people in our country and gets to decide what the scope of normal is? How does the government establish whose ideas are normal and whose aren’t? From my understanding of history and the constitution, I have been under the impression that the 1st amendment was established to protect my right to express my ideology and thoughts and religion even if they were unpopular, or outside the “norms of society” if you will. Furthermore, the Department of Defense basically implies that those who advocate for states’ rights, a constitutionally identifiable mechanism of checks and balances, are also extremist.
Here is a real mind bender: the document states that, “Nowadays… many extremists will talk of individual liberties… and how to make the world a better place.” Huh? Lets follow the logic here. If the Department of Defense is setting policy for our military that identifies extremism as an ideology that falls outside the norms of society and they identify extremist behavior as those who advocate liberty and want to make the world a better place then it means that someone has already established that it is “normal” in our society for the majority of people to demonize liberty and to be so immoral as to not want to make the world a better place. What is going on at the Department of Defense that someone could actually get away with writing this? I believe just the opposite; the vast majority of Americans want to enjoy liberty and in fact want to make the world a better place.
Many people have always been under the impression, and rightfully so, that the point of American government was to protect liberty in an effort to make the world a better place. That might still be the case but apparently, someone has decided that the prevailing thought is something else. If you are in the group of people who still hold to the traditional, constitutional and liberty-minded school of thought, this document has branded you an extremist. According to this document, traditional American government and constitutionalism is now so far outside the scope of normal society that the Department of Defense must label it “extremism” and incompatible with U.S. military service. The irony here is that in order to become a member of the U.S. Military, one must still swear an oath to the Constitution, at least for now.
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On September 11th, 2001 I was serving as a rifleman in the United States Marine Corps and was living in the barracks at Pearl Harbor while undergoing annual marksmanship training. I remember a Marine from the sniper platoon waking some of us up early that morning, shaking us nearly out of our racks and shouting: We’re being attacked, their hitting New York and the Pentagon!” I remember being filled with an overwhelming sense of urgency and duty, I didn’t know what we were going to do but I knew we were going to do something.
It wasn’t long before our troops were searching for Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan as they battled Al Qaida and Taliban forces. Back home in America, our D.C. politicians were nearly unanimous in their approval of any legislation crossing their desk that promised better security for our nation and almost overnight, the Department of Homeland Security was born to aid in our safety. National Guard troops patrolled our airports for weeks carrying M-16s and everyone seemed to unite and comply with the inconveniences of security as our government sought out the terrorists. Twelve years have passed and in 2013 these inconveniences have mushroomed into violations of our constitution and infringements of our personal liberty as uncontrollable and unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians implement rules and secret programs aimed at the American people.
"Twelve years have passed and in 2013 these inconveniences have mushroomed into violations of our constitution and infringements of our personal liberty as uncontrollable and unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians implement rules and secret programs aimed at the American people."
The nearly unanimous compliance with federal intrusions and mandates have entirely faded away and transformed into a nearly unanimous cry of outrage as we learn that our government will stop at nothing to feed its insatiable appetite for more power over the American people. It is true that many of us eagerly joined our nations leaders in an attempt to be patriotic; most of us did so not once entertaining the notion that the land of the free could somehow turn into the land of constant surveillance. Over the last twelve years many of us have come to an understanding; now realizing that we have been so careless with our liberty that we only miss it now that some of it is gone. The people of America are slowly but steadily waking up to the schemes of our government and yet our unconstitutional overlords continue to shirk responsibility by passing the blame when they have been found out.
We have a President who not only has demonstrated his resolve to maintain indifferent to letting our diplomats and troops meet violent deaths in spite of their pleas for help while they were attacked in Benghazi but he also allows his administration to morally transgress every other reasonable expectation of sound government as well. Earlier this year, the Justice Department secretly seized two months of phone records of editors and reporters from the Associated Press with a “secret warrant.” The idea of having a secret warrant to secretly seize someone’s papers and invade their privacy completely undermines the purpose of having a warrant in the first place. Warrants aren’t required for search and seizure in the Bill of Rights to protect the government, they are required to protect the citizen from tyrrany by requiring the government to provide proof to the citizen that checks and balances are being applied through due process to ensure that his rights aren’t being violated. If someone is going to break the law in secret do they really need to get secret permission from another secret person? This is absurd!
"The idea of having a secret warrant to secretly seize someone’s papers and invade their privacy completely undermines the purpose of having a warrant in the first place."
Furthermore, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has issued an order to Verizon to force them to turn over millions of their customers phone records to the National Security Agency. What’s even worse was that the order prohibits Verizon from telling anyone including their customers that their records were turned over! This same government has also inquired about purchasing 30,000 aerial drones for domestic use and our President had a really a hard time saying that they won’t be used to kill American citizens. This is what happens when a nation people fail to exercise stewardship over their liberty and jealously guard their God given rights from the abuse of those they have empowered.
The AP scandal, Benghazi, the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, the Fast and Furious cover up and the list continues to grow. Keep in mind that the man occupying the Oval Office in the White House is that same man who earned the votes of millions based on campaign speeches that went like this:
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“I have said repeatedly that there should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure and respecting our Constitution…”
- Presidential Candidate Barak Obama, 2007
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“I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorist without undermining our constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient, that is not who we are and it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorist…our constitution works.”
- Presidential Candidate Barak Obama, 2007
It is at times like this I am reminded of the very wise words of one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, when he warned us, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Foreclosing on our liberty for the sake of security begs the question: What have we really secured? America has a great tradition of protecting freedom and now more than ever we need to hold the federal government accountable and demand answers from our congress and not let them let President Obama get away with his unprecedented overreach and abuse of power.
In 1968, a young Marine Lance Corporal named Stephen Daniel took a few minutes to mourn his friend who he lost in battle the night before in the jungles of Vietnam. The Lance Corporal wrote home to his parents the following night:
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Mom and Dad: Last night one more Marine died. No one will ever hear or care about it except his parents and us. There is no nation to mourn for him or fly our flag at half-mast. Yet this Marine did more for his country than any President or Senator ever did. His name was Corporal Lee Clark.
Just a few years after L.Cpl. Daniel lost his friend, Cpl. Clark, in battle, the U.S. Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971. Part of this act set Memorial Day to be observed as the last Monday in May rather than on a particular date on the calendar and with its passage Congress did little more than to create a national three-day weekend. In its 2002 Memorial Day address, the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated:
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"Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
Unfortunately, I believe the VFW is right on the mark. While several towns still observe this day of remembrance, many towns and communities have lost their traditional Memorial Day parades to history. Many young people fail to recognize the ultimate sacrifices that American men and women have made during some of the most uncertain times in our nations history. Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words really mean.
By noon on Memorial Day, many people will have spent countless hours and even days planning some type of get-together for their family, friends or co-workers complete with BBQ and lemonade to enjoy as their kids play games in the yard. Many people will enjoy this time with their families and they will be sure to mention a soldier or Marine they know of that didn’t make it home but many others will only think about having a good time.
"Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words actually mean. "
This Memorial Day, please take a moment, not just to think about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but to talk about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Mention to your kids that the reason the school closed down for a day was so they could have time to remember the kids whose father was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. We all need to do what we can to protect the sanctity of Memorial Day; to remember that it has more to do with body bags than BBQ. While we are getting together with some of your friends, lets have enough courage to mention the courage of those 18 year olds who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to enjoy a day off in their honor.
Many people have personally known someone who has paid for our freedom with their life however; I would say that most Americans haven’t had the honor. If you don’t personally know of anyone that you can specifically remember on Memorial Day, lets do L.Cpl. Daniel a favor and remember his buddy Cpl. Lee Clark. Lets think about what L.Cpl. Daniel must have gone through and then think about how hard it must have been for Cpl. Clarks family the moment they received the news that there young son was killed by the enemy half-way around the world while he fought for his life and the life of his Marines. Then remember that these Marines and there families aren’t alone. Let’s not let these heroic deeds go without showing some degree of gratitude; lets be sure to demonstrate our gratefulness. 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl. Tremblay
U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock said it best when he coined the term “Freedom isn’t free.” We have been blessed in America but it has cost our fighting men and their families dearly. To say that freedom isn’t free would also imply that it costs us each something as well. I suppose that if we only depended on the acts of others to keep us free without any sacrifice of our own then our freedom would be free but since freedom “isn’t” free, I would have to ask what have we done, as individuals, for the security of our liberty. Can we honestly say that we have completed the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers to ensure they didn’t give their life in vain? I would argue that each American has a profound duty to guard our freedom however we are able. Whether its working on campaigns or as an activist for some important issue or by showing up on election day to choose your leaders, we all have a responsibility to fight for freedom at home also. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “All gave some, some gave all” but would it be a terrible thing for us to let the greatness of our country slip away, little by little, election after election, only to have some of Americas bravest and youngest have given all for nothing? It is no small weight of responsibility that we bear, as Americans, to ensure that we complete the sacrifices made by our fallen countrymen.
It is incumbent on us to remember that the purpose of our entire government is to help keep us free, the military shares this responsibility at the risk of life and limb. Let us at home support and defend the Constitution that they swore an oath to support and defend. Two of my friends and Marine Corps brothers were killed in action in Iraq. I served with them both back in the early 2000s. I want to thank them both, 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl Tremblay, I miss them and I am honored to have known them and to have served with them and I will never forget what they have done for myself and my fellow Americans and I promise that I will do my best to complete the sacrifice they have made and I will always fight for the freedom of the people and for the security of their liberty.
Economic prosperity follows the path of least resistance- it always has and it always will. When we keep 100% of our income, we are free to use all of it to meet our needs and wants. The more income that we loose to taxes, fees and red tape, the less economic freedom we have simply because we have less money to spend on our needs and wants. This means that the more income we are forced to surrender, the more our choices begin to narrow in the marketplace.
We might be able to spend $100 on healthcare, car repairs, utilities or food but when $25 of the $100 is taken from us, we have to find a way to make the remaining $75 meet the same needs and now we have less freedom of choice in the marketplace. If we have all of our $100 taken from us than we have no freedom over our economic choices because we have no money.
Economic prosperity follows the path of least resistance.
Government should let people keep more of their own hard earned money rather than just paying more taxes, fees and costs associated with mountains of red tape. When people are allowed to keep more of their own money they have more freedom and more choices available to them in the market place. This drives competition which lowers prices and increases quality of products and services. It always has, it always will. Freedom works.
"I consider the foundation of the [Federal] Constitution as laid on this ground: That "all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people." [10th Amendment]
To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition."
--Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on National Bank, 1791
Among the first orders of business of the First Congress was the debate over establishing a bill of rights. Although the Constitution had made the separation and enumeration of powers very clear, the American people and the States wanted certain rights of the people to be explicitly stated within its text. After securing their independence from Britain, our Founding Fathers understood, better than anyone else, what freedoms a despotic and tyrannical government would attempt to take from the people.
The rights enumerated to the people in the bill of rights are those that are required to be exercised by the people if they are to retain their power over the government. For example, the inherent freedom of speech is one that any despotic government must take in order to control information. After all, knowledge is power; so whoever controls the dissemination of information has the power. Similar to the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, religion, and the right to bear arms and maintain a militia are all just as necessary to the people so they always have the means of establishing themselves as the ultimate authority over the government.
Not everyone believed that the bill of rights was necessary. For example, Alexander Hamilton believed that the structure of the Constitution was enough to bind down the federal government. He explains that the Constitution is set up so that the people of America “surrender nothing” by delegating powers to the central government. In that sense, Hamilton was right. Any federal legislation that falls outside of the confines of the Constitutional limits of Congressional power is by default unconstitutional; it is a breach of contract; it is an invasion of the sovereignty of the State or the States and the will of We the People. In Federalist No. 84, Alexander Hamilton uses the Preamble of the Constitution to explain that a bill of rights is not necessary. Hamilton wrote:
“[Our Constitution is] professedly founded upon the power of the people...Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing; and as they retain everything they have no need of particular reservations. ‘WE, THE PEOPLE of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’ Here is a clear recognition of popular rights...”
Hamilton then went on to reference several articles, sections, and clauses which did, in fact, identify the structure of the new government as one that protects the rights of the people. Hamilton’s main fear was that the enumeration of certain rights would lead to the belief that those certain rights were all the rights of the people and that they were granted by the benevolence of the government. In the end, the will of the people and the States led to the ratification of the bill of rights.
With one hundred proposed amendments supplied to Congress by the States, James Madison initiated the debate. Of the proposed amendments, only ten were selected for ratification as the people’s bill of rights. Two amendments chosen for ratification, the ninth and tenth, were designed to be solid reinforcements of the limited role of the federal government. These two amendments did not enumerate any rights to the people; rather, they were composed in a manner that identified the rights of the people as almost completely unlimited.
The ninth amendment to the United States Constitution was written to explain that the people have rights that go beyond what is expressed in the bill of rights, thus eliminating Hamilton’s fear that a bill of rights would be identified as the entirety of the rights of the people. The Ninth Amendment states:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
The Ninth Amendment gives explicit attention to the protection of liberty by preventing the federal government from reaching beyond its delegated powers. In other words, the Ninth Amendment is saying “just because we list some of the people’s rights it does not mean that we have listed all of the people’s rights.” It also means, “all the rights of the people need to be protected but here is a short list of the ones that need special attention.” The Ninth Amendment is not a delegation of power; it is a statement of understanding The Ninth Amendment ensures the context of the bill of rights as a protection of the people’s liberty; not as granting the peoples liberty. James Madison stated this understanding as he proposed the bill of rights on the House floor when he said:
“It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exception to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration, and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the general government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that may be guarded against.”
Just as the Ninth Amendment is written to reinforce personal liberty, the Tenth Amendment is written to reinforce the limitations of the federal government by making it clear that undelegated powers belong to the people unless given by the people to the States or the federal government. Just in case the Preamble to the Constitution wasn’t clear enough; incase Article 1 Sections 3 and 8 were not made clear at all; in case Article 2 Section 2 and Article 4 Section 4 left the American people wondering whether the States or the federal government had more authority to govern the people, our Founding Fathers added one last reinforcement for State sovereignty. That last reinforcement of State sovereignty came with the ratification of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. The Tenth Amendment says that before Congress can act, it must point to one of their enumerated powers as the source of their authority; and if they do not have that power enumerated to them, then it is a power left to the people. The Tenth Amendment states:
“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 the people.”
“All the powers we forgot to give the federal government and all the powers we forgot to tell the States they don’t have....those powers then, are by default, given to the States and to the people.”
“If they didn’t put it in the Constitution then they didn’t put it in Washington!”
It was America’s intent all along to keep the States free from intrusiveness that might someday come from an overbearing and tyrannical central government. Also, many people do not know that Article II of the Articles of Confederation, America’s first form of government, had a similar provision which clearly stated the same point:
“Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress Assembled.”
Much like the previous declaration in the Articles of Confederation, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution defines the scope of federal power as only that power enumerated to the federal government by We the People. All power that is not enumerated to the federal government must necessarily remain with the States or the people. To further assure the American people of this limit on the federal government’s ability to intervene in their lives, James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45:
“The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite. The former [federal power] 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.”
Should the people ever decide to enumerate any more power to the federal government, we can amend the Constitution to legally provide for that delegation of power. We have already discussed the amendment procedure which is detailed in Article 5 of the Constitution.
This is why we call it the federal government; because it is a federation of sovereign States. Governments exist on two levels in America: the defined sovereignty of the federal government and the indefinite sovereignty of the State governments. Madison referred to this when he said, “The powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.” State Sovereignty is not unlimited, simply because the States have delegated some power to Congress. States do however have indefinite sovereignty because of the indefinite issues that exist outside of those powers delegated to Congress. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and the drafter of the Bill of Rights, had this to say about the sovereignty of the States:
“[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general.”
By this point, we have come to understand that the United States Constitution is saturated with the idea of having sovereign States; free to exercise all the powers reserved to them outside of those delegated to the federal government. Not only have we found that the States have a larger array of powers but we have also found out that the federal government exist only for the benefit of the States so that they may enjoy domestic tranquility, a general welfare and have provided for them, a common defense. We have also discovered that the federal government, according to the Constitution prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, could only operate with the consent of the States. It is obvious, considering the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, that just as our government operates only with our consent for the protection of our rights, so does the federal government operate only with the consent of the States to protect the sovereignty of the States.
Copyright 2012 by Paul Curtman, All rights reserved. Don't Tread On Me! The Constitution and State Sovereignty. 2009
Although one of the most debated issues at the Constitutional Convention was the apportionment of United States Senators to the States, the principles that defined the role of the Senator were understood and agreed upon. From the text of Article 1 Section 3, prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, we understand that the role of Senator is designed to be a check on the Federal government from the State in a sole effort by the State to maintain it’s Constitutional sovereignty. Here is the first part of Article 1 Section 3 prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, explains the purpose of having US Senators and the reason they were originally appointed by the State legislatures. Madison believed that in order for the States to protect the freedom of their citizens, they must be active participants in the affairs of the Federal government. Here are Madison’s words:
“Whenever power may be necessary for the national government, a certain portion must be necessarily left with the states, it is impossible for one power to pervade the extreme parts of the United States so as to carry equal justice to them. The state legislatures also ought to have some means of defending themselves against the encroachments of the national government. In every other department we have studiously endeavored to provide for its self-defense. Shall we leave the states alone un-provided with the means for this purpose? And what better means can be provided than by giving them some share in, or rather make them a constituent part of, the national government?”
I like how Madison started out by saying "Whenever power may be necessary for the national government..." because he is implying that the national government does not always need power. The state legislatures, he says, must have a means of defending themselves against the encroachments by the federal legislature and the best way to do that is to give the states a mechanical function within the federal legislature. That is the purpose of the Uited States Senate- to jealously guard the jurisdiction of the states. So now, in those cases in which the federal government does need to exercise power, it can only do it with the advise and the consent of the states; if the states approve, the senate will approve.
According to Article 1 Section 3, prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment, United States Senators were chosen by the Legislatures of the States; this provided the States with the appropriate means of defense. This method of establishing Senators by appointment would do a tremendous service for protecting the sovereignty of the individual States in more than one way. First of all, the office of United States Senator would be an appointed position made by elected state legislators, thus encouraging the Senator to follow the orders of the state if for nothing more than the sake of job security. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison said that select appointments were recommended for the purpose of:
“Giving to the state governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government, as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.”
By allowing the States to appoint their own Senators, the Individual State would then have the necessary means of defending itself against the encroachments of the national government. The Constitution provides other resources for the protection of State sovereignty, but as Madison pointed out, what better means can be provided to the protection of the States then by making them an actual mechanical part of the workings of the national government; establishing Senators whose duty is bound to their State and not the nation as a whole. An appointed Senator would be given the office by the elected State legislatures and sent to the Federal government in Washington DC to be a check on the Federal government; duty bound to represent and protect the sovereignty of his State from federal encroachments.
Another reason behind the appointment procedure is so that if the Senator was not representing the will and the sovereignty of the State, then the State legislature could convene and remove him from office and appoint another in his place to serve a term of six years. In other words, although US Senators served six year terms, they could be “hired and fired” if necessary in order for each State to maintain its individual sovereignty. I have heard Americans voice their disappointment time and again when their Senator ignores them; refusing to hear them or represent them in Washington DC. The only solution anyone ever has to this predicament is to wait until the six year term of the wayward Senator expires and then vote him out of office. Our Founding Fathers had a better idea however when they drafted the Constitution. Before the 17th Amendment, US Senators would routinely meet with State legislatures in order to discuss the goings on of the federal government and the states positions on the various issues. The Senator was in a position where he must act on behalf of his State alone and not the influence of lobbyists, friends, the President or even a political party; he almost had to be a statesman or else he may lose his job.
Here is something else to think about, prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment, US Senators never had to raise millions of dollars in order to campaign for an election. This eliminated all kinds of problems that pertain to temptation, corruption, making campaign promises that they never intend to keep as well as all the baggage that goes into becoming and staying popular. The role of the United States Senator is to protect the sovereignty of his individual State so that the State legislatures can operate freely based on the will of the people that elected them. This is the only way to maintain the principle of governing with the consent of the governed, and our Constitution is structured to ensure citizen consent from the federal level all the way down to the State and even local levels. Considering the original process by which US Senators were seated, I think is it fair to assume that state legislatures would be seen as more important than they are given credit for today and thereby encourage more government participation at the State level.
With the ratification of the 17th amendment, we have allowed the duty of United States Senators to blow with the political wind away from the States and into whatever means of security they think will keep them in office. The 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the States on April 8th, 1913. The first sentence reads as follows:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”
When the States ratified the 17th amendment to the US Constitution, a fundamental change took place that was for the most part completely unintended. To put it simply, the unfortunate change was the turning of Senators from statesman into politicians. Instead of being duty bound to the sill of the state government, US Senators are now duty bound to the party, the popular ideas or even emotional trends. The problems with the 17th amendment have even been recognized by US Senators including one from Georgia, former US Senator Zell Miller, who stated from the floor of the Senate:
“Direct elections of Senators…allowed Washington’s special interest to call the shots, whether it is filling judicial vacancies, passing laws, or issuing regulations.”
With the ratification of the 17th amendment, the American people have thrown the United States Senator from off the principled pedestal of statesmanship and into the arena of power politics. Although the process by which we place our Senators has changed, one thing has not changed- why we have them.
In my humble opinion, it does not matter so much how our senators are chosen near as much as the character of the senators we choose; the job description of a US Senator has not been amended or repealed, they are still there to protect the sovereignty of the states; we just need to make sure they understand that.
Copyright 2012 by Paul Curtman, Don't Tread On Me! The Constitution and State Sovereignty.
My stand for personal freedom is rooted in my belief that the proper role of government is written into the laws of nature. We are all created equal and at the moment we have life we have a natural right to continue living and enjoy the other natural liberties that we were given at the instant of life but we need security and protection for our rights. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, "and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men."
For example, my thoughts are inherent, they are a part of me- my tongue is a natural part of me that allows me to articulate my thoughts and therefore my freedom of speech is just as NATURAL as my NATURAL ability to speak. The laws of nature say that I have a natural right to speak freely and the 1st amendment to the Constitution protects that natural right. Many of the problems with our society today come from the idea that government can create "rights." The laws of nature carry more authority than the laws of government so when the government tries to extend "natural" rights beyond the parameter of natural law unintended yet predictable consequences might very well begin to happen. Think about this: No one has a "right" to your hard earned money but the welfare state says that SOME people do have a "right" to your money. Practices like this in-turn will only lead to bigger government as they attempt to "solve" all the problems that it often responsible for creating in the first place.
I firmly believe that it is not the role of government to tell you who you can and cannot have a relationship with, I think everyone can agree about that, but I personally believe that marriage, as a religious institution, is between a man and a woman. I also think that it might not be a good idea for government to start defining religious institutions like marriage, especially when the MIAC Report and the DHS identify Christians as possible "militia influence extremist" etc. With this kind of rhetoric coming from an increasingly authoritarian central government I wonder how long it will be until they define what a "real" church is or what a "real" Christian is, all for the sake of national security of course.
Marriage, as an institution, is the jurisdiction of God. If homosexual couples are wanting to enjoy the same rights currently reserved for married heterosexual couples, hospital visitation and tax benefits etc., there are ways to do that without the government defining the religious institution of marriage. Also, just for full disclosure, I'm not a fan of the idea that the government requires you to have a license before getting married. Is getting married so dangerous that we have to have a license and government approval and oversight first? George Washington and Abraham Lincoln never had a marriage but now everyone else does. It is just another mandate from big government that probably should have never been part of our nations history.
The state should not be meddling with religious institutions of faith nor defining them one way or the other. This is what Thomas Jefferson was referring to when he was trying to convey to the Baptist of Danbury, CT that there was a "wall of separation between church and state" that would keep them free from government intrusiveness. This is something our founders warned us to be careful of. If the people decide something on this issue by way of Constitutional amendment, that would be different in the sense that we the people directly embrace the law instead of having it implemented by politicians, or worse, unelected members of the court.
The writings of the founders indicate that separation of church and state was never intended to prevent religion from having an influence on the government, but rather it was intended to prevent the state from mandating religious practice or otherwise interfering with the doctrine or administration of churches etc. We would do well to remember that.
Prior to America’s independence from Britain, the citizens of the British colonies in America were oppressed by a central government, a monarchy, in which the people’s rights were not recognized or protected because these rights were attributed to the king only. Inherent rights, such as freedom of speech and the ownership of private property, were not believed to be owned by the individual, but rather, they were believed to be held by the central government; the king of England. The theory that kings were endowed by God with the authority to rule, regardless of the consent of their subjects, was known as “the divine right of kings.” It was through the application of this theory that the king was allowed to claim ownership over all the land in his kingdom. If you were fortunate enough, the king might grant you some land, but if he did, it was understood that the king still owned it and could recall it from your possession at any time and for any reason. The king held all sovereignty; therefore, the king had ALL the rights to the land in his kingdom.
Not only did the land belong to the king but the people were essentially owned by the king as well. It was the king that established what social class you would be a part of; if you were lucky enough, the king might grant you a title of nobility and a certain amount of permissions with his land and people as well. It was the king that told you what you were allowed to say, what you were not allowed to say, what religion you had to practice, what taxes you must pay and how often you would pay them. The king was not a public servant sworn to protect the rights of the people, as our elected leadership is supposed to be.
The most remarkable document to establish the principles of liberty and personal freedom came from the American colonies when the Second Continental Congress unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence to sever the political bonds which connected the colonies to British rule. The Founding Fathers of American government believed that the sole purpose of government was for the benefit of protecting the rights of the citizens, not the right of the rulers. They also believed that the doctrine of the divine right of kings was an oppressive, moral transgression against humanity and that no government, man, or woman for that matter, had the right to rule over his fellow man without their consent. Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and this date has been celebrated as the birthday of the United States of America ever since.
The Declaration of Independence is the cornerstone of our American government. Although the United States Constitution provides us with the walls of American government, those walls only stand because of the self- evident truths and principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence. For example, look at the principles that Thomas Jefferson wrote into its text where it says “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal...” Stated here is the principle of equality. The Declaration of Independence goes on to say, “That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” This is where Jefferson mentions inherent rights. Although we are not created with equal physical attributes, abilities, or wealth, we are created equal under God and the Law.
The Declaration of Independence is most remarkable for its revolutionary statement, “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” This statement boldly declares that the only valid purpose behind the existence of any government is to do one thing: protect individual rights. Have you ever wondered how your tax money being sent to someone who hasn’t even applied for a job in the last six months does anything to protect your right to keep your own income? Have you ever wondered how congress could introduce over 5,000 bills a year and all of them are for the protection of your rights? My guess is that most of those bills, in some way or another, do nothing more than infringe on your rights, even if it’s just by wasting your tax money or regulating what kind of light bulbs you are allowed to use.
Now let me quote the previous part of the Declaration of Independence and continue on just a little with the principle that defines the existence of the US Constitution and tells you what this little book is all about. This is the principle:
“That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Let me touch on the last part of that quote where it says, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It is from this that the principle of self-government is taken. From the Declaration of Independence, we can come to the conclusion that government is only legitimate if it does the following two things:
1. Secures and protects the inherent rights of the citizens
2. Operates with the consent of the citizens
One excellent way to establish your political view would be to read the Declaration of Independence and use the principles it contains as a filter of sorts. In other words, if the government, at any level, is operating without having met the criteria listed above, then it may very well be in- fringing on your inherent, God given, rights to one extent or another. As you read through this book, you will understand that American citizens should make a big deal out of small infringements.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “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...” In other words, what our Founding Fathers were asserting was the fact that the King of England, or any king for that matter, did not hold all inherent rights and sovereignty unto himself. Simply because all men are created equal, all men are sovereign; each one unto himself is bestowed with sovereignty at the moment of creation and therefore, each man is his own king.
What exactly does it mean to be sovereign? I am glad you asked! If you were to pick up a Black’s Law Dictionary, you would most likely find a couple of definitions similar to these:
Sovereignty – Sovereign –
-Holding supreme dominion, authority, or rule.
-A person, body, or state bestowed with independent and supreme authority.
The easiest way to illustrate sovereignty is to give you the example of a man who owns one acre of land that borders your property. If you want to walk across his land you will have to ask his permission. You must ask permission only because the land you want to use does not belong to you; you have no right to it. You, however, can walk across, build fences on, dig holes in, and burn your land if you choose to because you own it; you have the right to it.You do not need to ask permission to exercise your right; you are sovereign. You only need to ask permission if you don’t have a right.
What you need to understand is that you are a sovereign individual. You are bestowed with the sole owner- ship of your person; therefore, you have the supreme authority over the inherent rights that God gave you at the exact moment of your creation. For example, your thoughts are inherent because your thoughts cannot be separated from your mind and you are sovereign over your thoughts because you own them; you have the supreme authority over them, and no one can take them from you or control them for you. Alexander Hamilton may not have always been the best champion of limited government, but he was right on when he explained,
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
Just for further understanding, you, and only you, own the rights to your body, your thoughts, as well as the right to do what is necessary to preserve your life. You have a conscience that is inherent and therefore cannot be separated from you either. You have the inherent right of self-preservation just by the virtue of the laws of nature; your body’s sole function is to keep you alive. Your individual and inherent rights will always be with you until the day you die simply because they cannot be extracted from your person; you are a sovereign individual.
Although inherent rights cannot by any means be extracted from you, it is possible for you to allow someone else to suppress them; at the most, you can let them claim ownership of you. For example, if you tell me that someone has taken away your freedom of speech, I will tell you that it is only because you surrendered your freedom to speak when you decided that you were unwilling to speak; you have allowed yourself to be enslaved. Thomas Jefferson often refers to inherent rights as “Natural Law” because your freedom of speech is just asnatural as your ability to speak; you are using the faculties that your Creator gave you in order to manifest your inherent rights and abilities. These natural rights are yours until you die, at the most, you may choose not to exercise them; however, no one can by any means take them from you; once again, you are a sovereign person.
One of our Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry, is remembered for a speech he gave in which he declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” What Mr. Henry is enlightening us to is the fact that there is no middle ground between liberty and slavery. You are never only half free or only one-third a slave; you are either free or you are not. Either you claim absolute ownership over yourself, or you do not. Those men and women around the world who died fighting for their freedom did, in fact, die free. The point is this: you will always be free as long as you exercise your freedom; even if you exercise freedom in the face of opposition, you are still free. The day you surrender you freedom is the day you enslave yourself. The only other alternative to slavery is death, hence Mr. Henry’s famous quote, “Give me Liberty or give me death.” You are a sovereign individual no matter what. The question is this: will you fold and give yourself over to slavery or will you exercise your sovereignty even if it means death?
After several years of bloodshed, the British finally recognized America’s Declaration of Independence. Soon afterward, a new government was created with the ratification of the United States Constitution. Written over the course of several months of debate, the US Constitution was composed for the purpose of establishing a government designed solely to protect the individual rights of its citizens. Our Founding Fathers established new and innovative measures to ensure that the new American government would always be in the hands of the people so that the government could only operate with the consent and particular involvement of the citizens themselves.
The United States Constitution could not be complete without establishing within it the principles of individual sovereignty and self-government as written in the Declaration of Independence; and as you will see, it has. Americans, unlike the people of any other country, have a governing document designed for the protection of the individual.
Copyright 2009 Paul Curtman, Don't Tread On Me, All rights Reserved.