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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Liberty: freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
 
If you are of a certain age, you probably read these words in school, but didn’t dwell on them much.  If you are younger, you likely didn’t read them in school, or only did so in a perfunctory fashion, because the popular and widespread view is that this document is “a dead letter” with no operative legal meaning or authority in this day and age.  While popular, this view is one that purposely marginalizes the ideals that this document embodies.  And that isn’t an accident.
 
Perhaps the greatest lie pinned to this document, and its modern interpretation, is that this document is not a Christian document.
 
I know.  It is shocking.  I just spoke in contradiction to one of the greatest dogmas of our day…the belief that the man credited with the inflated, magnified, and the much misapplied “wall of separation between church and state” was a deist at worst, but more likely an atheist, thus justifying its application to religious (and specifically Christian) observances by activist jurists who have chosen to insert it in to a Constitution that never knew it.
 
I would refer you to the collection on Jefferson which speaks with the most authority, as it is the collection of his own words.  Thomas Jefferson: Writings.  Pay particular attention to his letters to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and Peter Carr.  An accurate reading of these and his other writings outline a man who believed in God, and admired what Jesus said, but felt that those who came after, peddling religion, corrupted teaching meant to edify mankind and provide a morality superior to all others.  He despised sectarianism, but wasn’t hostile to the morality set forth in its pages.
 
The reason why it matters is that the liberty refered to in the Declaration of Independence takes on a meaning best understood through the context of Christianity. 
 
The Founders were all very familiar with the Bible.  It was a text book.  It was the only book in many homes.  Church attendance was the rule and not the exception in that era.  And the word “liberty” appears no less than 25 times in the King James Version of the Bible.
 
Christian liberty concerns the freedom from the bondage of sin.  It makes men free in the liberty that Christ provided.  But it was also about having enough restraint to keep from abusing that liberty and leading others astray.  The men in Philadelphia who sought to take possession of the liberty that their Creator gave them understood that Liberty was the freedom to live without restraint, yet they also knew that man needed some restraint and boundaries to keep one’s exercise of liberty from encroaching on the liberty of others (as set forth in 1 Corinthians 8:9—”But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to then that are weak.” or 1 Corinthians 10:29 “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?”) while understanding that an unfettered liberty was an invitation to ruin by the wickedness that dwells in every man (2 Peter 2:19 “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same he is brought in bondage.”
 
Liberty has always been the ideal of this nation.  Wise men seek the balance that applies just enough law to preserve the most freedom for people by regulating the outside boundaries of human behavior.  However, wisdom is in short supply, and morality is not studied or sought, as people have fallen under the spell of their own understanding.  In a climate of moral ambiguity, or laziness, more regulation becomes necessary, and as people are taught out of the traits which allow them to govern themselves, more regulation becomes necessary, and more desirous to the few in whom authority is vested…until liberty becomes a hollow word, the meaning and knowledge of which is foreign to the people who invoke it as an incantation with other words squeezed of meaning, like freedom, or justice, all of which become eclipsed in the growing corruption that enslaves all who must live in that place.
 
Just something for you to think about this July 4, as people celebrate “freedoms” that liberate wickedness and corruption, being rooted in the flesh, but do nothing to edify the spirit or the soul of man.
 
And as an aside, the Declaration of Independence is a charter, and an explanation of why we declared independence, but the real declaration of independence actually occurred on July 2, 1776.
 

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My friend Rutherford’s latest post crows on and on about the skewing of the Constitution and original intent by the evil/stupid Tea Party and the members of Congress they elected and their coming epiphany brought on by opening of the 112th Congress with a reading of the Constitution. 

 His criticisms/snark were rooted in an interview given by Yale Political Science and Constitutional professor Akhil Reed Amar by noted tool and distorter Keith Olbermann.  I’m going to link the interview, only because I want readers to understand what Professor Amar actually said, and not what Rutherford simplistically paraphrased. I’d also like to have it clearly understood what I am talking about when I call little Keefie out on some particularly bold hypocrisy…or at least it would be bold hypocrisy if I honestly thought he knew he messed it up.   I doubt very much that he has ever read the Federalist Papers or the Anti-Federalist Papers.  I can’t imagine anyone capable of doing so having the patience to help him grok some of the fairly nuanced points, and if left to his own devices, he would likely sprain,if not break his lips while struggling with the big words. 

 While it isn’t an accident that he used the word that he did, I think the choice of word enhances the misunderstanding that he advocates in favor of.  Anyway, here is the link to the video.  Don’t sweat it.  Its seven minutes, but for purposes of this post, it is actually seven minutes that matter.

Ready?  Good.

I’ll start with a little skewing that Keef does on his own.  For someone who delights in droning on about how it is important to understand words, and criticising others for inserting words that aren’t there, he starts out with a little use of a word that wasn’t used at the beginning of the clip when he talked about the Framers writing in legislative powers “both vague and specific”.  The problem is that the enumerated powers are not “vague and specific”, nor did the authors of the Federalist Papers that his expert cites, or their opponents the Anti-Federalists, consider them to be or refer to them as powers “both vague and specific”.  Instead, they referred to these powers as “general”, and it makes a difference. 

 A statute is general when it operates uniformly on all persons and things of a class and such classification is natural, reasonable, and appropriate to the purpose sought to be accomplished.  A law that is vague is indefinite, uncertain, and not susceptible to being understood.  Laws are overturned for being vague.  Still, I expect no better than that from a Cornell AG school grad.  That’s why he has a TV show watched faithfully by tens and not a real job.

But, moving on, the professor first talks about the founders being the liberal nationalists of their day, and being true revolutionaries, implying a link to, and then declaring that they were the liberal democrats of their era because they were revolutionaries.  This is the mix of the truth and a lie that is more pernicious than an outright lie. 

It is true that they were revolutionaries.  Never before had a western nation been formed without the auspices of a King.  Never before had a nation existed that put so much stock in the rights of an individual and the citizen’s right to overthrow a government that reached so far as to usurp authority over those rights to the degree of rendering them moot.  However, to say that they were the liberal democrats of their day is falsely self congratulatory, and not borne out by the facts of what they held dear, and what they valued, which was demonstrated in how they lived.

A liberal democrat is characterized by a secular humanist worldview, even when they don’t know what that means. This outlook embraces the ideal that man is the only possible source for his own salvation (“We ARE  the ones we’re looking for.”) and generally regards the world through a philosophy that says that there is no problem that government shouldn’t be the solution to.  That is how we have gotten to the point of special welfare (assistance in the form of benefits and entitlements for some, paid for by others, and distributed and administered by government), and the idea that it is actually “general welfare”.  It is also how we have gotten to the point where the federal government has gained dominion over our light sockets and toilet tanks. They can also often be found so supportive of the right of free exercise of Christianity (which is, in fact a religion, and therefore subject to Constitutional protection) that they threaten and actually engage in litigation to prevent it in public fora in defense of the recently discovered Constitutional rights of non-believers to not be “offended” by such displays.

In contrast, a majority of the founders were not just religious people, but Christians, a fact demonstrated by the reasons for migration to the continent itself, especially in New England, and the fact that many states had officially recognized  and endorsed certain sects of Christianity, even after the passage and ratification of the First Amendment, and the calling on the God of Christianity in official government meetings and procedures, such as the Constitutional Convention itself, where the document was debated and took form, to the official proclamations of Thanksgiving and Presidential Inauguration Speeches.  They also would have been horrified at the idea of a Federal government having anything at all to do with basic education, or the idea of forfeiture of private property for a “common economic good”.  They valued individual freedom, and at the same time adhered to a religiously-informed moral codification of law based on the perceived benefits to society, rather than seeking the creation of new rights without serious thought being given to whether it conferred any benefit to society at all.

This back patting continued through a cursory review of all the amendments being the work of these liberal democrat-like figures throughout our history.  This presumably includes the noble 18th Amendment, which of course took liberties away from Americans, which is something that liberal democrats like to do, like when they decided to take away their right NOT to buy health care, or the right to buy their kids Happy Meals with toys in them.  But those are individual rights that really don’t matter, right?  After all, those “revolutionary liberal democrat-like” founders would be all in favor of an intrusive government and the policies of “nudge”, right?  Let’s ask Thomas Jefferson:

 “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but inform their discretion.”

Oh, snap.

The professor moves on to point out that (surprise!) the Framers had actually intended for the federal government to be able to levy taxes, because the Constitution mentions it FOUR TIMES!!!!! ZOMG!!!!!11!  He and Keith had a good chuckle about that, because those silly Tea Partiers don’t believe that the government has that right, which is all well and good, except I wasn’t aware of this being a “mainstream” Tea Party point.  I thought the point of Taxed Enough Already wasn’t that the Federal government didn’t have the power to tax, but instead that they believed that the taxes paid were exorbitant, especially in light of the fact that Federal taxation is only a piece of the taxation puzzle for Americans, who also frequently pay taxes to states and municipalities as well, in the form of income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, business taxes, personal and real property taxes, gasoline taxes, real estate transfer taxes, workman’s compensation taxes, 911 taxes, library taxes, ect.   This was something foreseen by those eeeeeeevvvviiilll Anti-Federalists, by the way, as presented by “Brutus” in paper VI:

The general government is to be vested with authority to levy and collect taxes, duties, and excises; the separate states have also power to impose taxes, duties, and excises, except that they cannot lay duties on exports and imports without the consent of Congress. Here then the two governments have concurrent jurisdiction; both may lay impositions of this kind. But then the general government have supperadded to this power, authority to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying the foregoing power into execution. Suppose then that both governments should lay taxes, duties, and excises, and it should fall so heavy on the people that they would be unable, or be so burdensome that they would refuse to pay them both — would it not be necessary that the general legislature should suspend the collection of the state tax? It certainly would. For, if the people could not, or would not pay both, they must be discharged from the tax to the state, or the tax to the general government could not be collected. — The conclusion therefore is inevitable, that the respective state governments will not have the power to raise one shilling in any way, but by the permission of the Congress. I presume no one will pretend, that the states can exercise legislative authority, or administer justice among their citizens for any length of time, without being able to raise a sufficiency to pay those who administer their governments.

Now I will admit that the Federal government does not exert direct control over the ability of individual states to tax…yet.  But it does have a say in the spending priorities of the states because of the way that it distributes money…often with strings that require the establishment and maintenance of various programs, which restricts the ability of individual states to independently choose their spending priorities at times when their budgets are hurt by falling tax revenues due to bad economies or high tax rates, or both.  This is actually far more insidious because it is one more usurpation of the authority of the individual states.  This problem also took an unforeseen turn because of the fact that bulk of federal taxes are raised by permanent taxes on income, which was not contemplated by the taxing language to which Amar refers, as it specifically names duties, imposts, and excises.  Income taxes were infrequent and temporary measures,  most often enacted to pay for wars, and legislated back out of existence when those wars were complete.  It was only with a government lead by a progressive man with a progressive agenda, and a government that grew at the cost of freedom from intrusion, that we were given the gift of a permanent income tax, enacted to afflict “just the wealthy”, but somehow needing to grow beyond that restriction in a very short period of time.

Keef then guided Professor Amar into a discussion of the Necessary and Proper Clause as a rebuttal to those wacky Tea Party members who see the enumerated powers as being a strict concept.  Keef’s derision focused on the lack of word “expressly” in the 10th Amendment and Madison’s fight to keep it out of the 10th Amendment.  This is where the concept of nuance, which liberal democrats use to support facetious assertions, actually makes a difference.  Because Keef referred to the enumerated powers being “both vague and specific”, rather than “general and specific”, he is more likely to interpret the Necessary and Proper clause as giving government the authority to do what ever it deems necessary to give effect to powers it divines from the general powers set forth in Article I, Section 8, because, as he states, they are “vague”.  Professor Amar made specific reference to Hamilton’s exposition on the Necessary and Proper clause in the Federalist 33 and Madison’s explanation in the Federalist 44.  But let’s look at all of what they said in these papers, because while certain members of Congress have subscribed to the view that government can do whatever it wants, as some of the Anti-Federalists feared, Hamilton and Madison didn’t see it that way, or at least presented a very different interpretation into their work.  First, Hamilton and the Federalist 33:

What is a power, but the ability or faculty of doing a thing? What is the ability to do a thing, but the power of employing the MEANS necessary to its execution? What is a LEGISLATIVE power, but a power of making LAWS? What are the MEANS to execute a LEGISLATIVE power but LAWS? What is the power of laying and collecting taxes, but a LEGISLATIVE POWER, or a power of MAKING LAWS, to lay and collect taxes? What are the proper means of executing such a power, but NECESSARY and PROPER laws?

This simple train of inquiry furnishes us at once with a test by which to judge of the true nature of the clause complained of. It conducts us to this palpable truth, that a power to lay and collect taxes must be a power to pass all laws NECESSARY and PROPER for the execution of that power; and what does the unfortunate and culminated provision in question do more than declare the same truth, to wit, that the national legislature, to whom the power of laying and collecting taxes had been previously given, might, in the execution of that power, pass all laws NECESSARY and PROPER to carry it into effect? I have applied these observations thus particularly to the power of taxation, because it is the immediate subject under consideration, and because it is the most important of the authorities proposed to be conferred upon the Union. But the same process will lead to the same result, in relation to all other powers declared in the Constitution. And it is EXPRESSLY to execute these powers that the sweeping clause, as it has been affectedly called, authorizes the national legislature to pass all NECESSARY and PROPER laws. If there is any thing exceptionable, it must be sought for in the specific powers upon which this general declaration is predicated. The declaration itself, though it may be chargeable with tautology or redundancy, is at least perfectly harmless.

So far, so good.  You’d have to be able to devise a tax and a means to levy it to establish post offices, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy…yes these are general powers, as they do not dictate the means by which the government is to do so.   Hamilton went on to characterize the concern that raised the question over the clause in the first place, and to assert his belief that those wily states would somehow choke the life from the Federal Government, rather than the other way around:

But SUSPICION may ask, Why then was it introduced? The answer is, that it could only have been done for greater caution, and to guard against all cavilling refinements in those who might hereafter feel a disposition to curtail and evade the legitimate authorities of the Union. The Convention probably foresaw, what it has been a principal aim of these papers to inculcate, that the danger which most threatens our political welfare is that the State governments will finally sap the foundations of the Union; and might therefore think it necessary, in so cardinal a point, to leave nothing to construction. Whatever may have been the inducement to it, the wisdom of the precaution is evident from the cry which has been raised against it; as that very cry betrays a disposition to question the great and essential truth which it is manifestly the object of that provision to declare.

Hamilton then recognized the final authority in any matter undertaken by the government as the ultimate limitation on the exercise of this power:

But it may be again asked, Who is to judge of the NECESSITY and PROPRIETY of the laws to be passed for executing the powers of the Union? I answer, first, that this question arises as well and as fully upon the simple grant of those powers as upon the declaratory clause; and I answer, in the second place, that the national government, like every other, must judge, in the first instance, of the proper exercise of its powers, and its constituents in the last. If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.[Emphasis Added]

Which is a far cry from elected officials who go to town meetings and tell righteously pissed constituents that they do not know what they are talking about, that they don’t understand, that government can do almost anything in this county, or they don’t care about the Constitution.

So what did Madison have to say in the Federalist 44?

The SIXTH and last class consists of the several powers and provisions by which efficacy is given to all the rest. 1. Of these the first is, the “power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. “Few parts of the Constitution have been assailed with more intemperance than this; yet on a fair investigation of it, no part can appear more completely invulnerable. Without the SUBSTANCE of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead letter. Those who object to the article, therefore, as a part of the Constitution, can only mean that the FORM of the provision is improper. But have they considered whether a better form could have been substituted? There are four other possible methods which the Constitution might have taken on this subject. They might have copied the second article of the existing Confederation, which would have prohibited the exercise of any power not EXPRESSLY delegated; they might have attempted a positive enumeration of the powers comprehended under the general terms “necessary and proper”; they might have attempted a negative enumeration of them, by specifying the powers excepted from the general definition; they might have been altogether silent on the subject, leaving these necessary and proper powers to construction and inference. Had the convention taken the first method of adopting the second article of Confederation, it is evident that the new Congress would be continually exposed, as their predecessors have been, to the alternative of construing the term “EXPRESSLY” with so much rigor, as to disarm the government of all real authority whatever, or with so much latitude as to destroy altogether the force of the restriction.

So far, so good.

It would be easy to show, if it were necessary, that no important power, delegated by the articles of Confederation, has been or can be executed by Congress, without recurring more or less to the doctrine of CONSTRUCTION or IMPLICATION. As the powers delegated under the new system are more extensive, the government which is to administer it would find itself still more distressed with the alternative of betraying the public interests by doing nothing, or of violating the Constitution by exercising powers indispensably necessary and proper, but, at the same time, not EXPRESSLY granted. Had the convention attempted a positive enumeration of the powers necessary and proper for carrying their other powers into effect, the attempt would have involved a complete digest of laws on every subject to which the Constitution relates; accommodated too, not only to the existing state of things, but to all the possible changes which futurity may produce; for in every new application of a general power, the PARTICULAR POWERS, which are the means of attaining the OBJECT of the general power, must always necessarily vary with that object, and be often properly varied whilst the object remains the same.

This is a weak argument to anyone who has ever seen a complete set of the United States Code in print, or the Code of Federal Regulations in print.

Had they attempted to enumerate the particular powers or means not necessary or proper for carrying the general powers into execution, the task would have been no less chimerical; and would have been liable to this further objection, that every defect in the enumeration would have been equivalent to a positive grant of authority. If, to avoid this consequence, they had attempted a partial enumeration of the exceptions, and described the residue by the general terms, NOT NECESSARY OR PROPER, it must have happened that the enumeration would comprehend a few of the excepted powers only; that these would be such as would be least likely to be assumed or tolerated, because the enumeration would of course select such as would be least necessary or proper; and that the unnecessary and improper powers included in the residuum, would be less forcibly excepted, than if no partial enumeration had been made. Had the Constitution been silent on this head, there can be no doubt that all the particular powers requisite as means of executing the general powers would have resulted to the government, by unavoidable implication. No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included. Had this last method, therefore, been pursued by the convention, every objection now urged against their plan would remain in all its plausibility; and the real inconveniency would be incurred of not removing a pretext which may be seized on critical occasions for drawing into question the essential powers of the Union.

So if they had left it out, that power would still be implied, or the general powers would mean nothing at all. Put another way, the ends expressed in the general powers make the means necessary anyway.  Which leaves me to wonder aloud if those “means” and ends wouldn’t be subject to a greater scrutiny whenever employed if the Constitution had been silent on them.  But more interestingly, Madison posits about what if Congress abuses this power:

If it be asked what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part of the Constitution, and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer, the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them; as if the general power had been reduced to particulars, and any one of these were to be violated; the same, in short, as if the State legislatures should violate the irrespective constitutional authorities. In the first instance, the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in the last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers. [Emphasis Added.]

Now isn’t that an interesting concept?   Voting out the usurpers and annulling their acts…like a record ouster in a midterm election and the nearly immediate introduction of a bill to repeal an act that was the product of chicanery, backroom deals, and forced into a vote without adequate time to review all 2000+ pages, in violation of promises of transparency and plenty of advanced time to read and study it?  Naaaaaaaaaaa.  That’s just “relitigating the past.”

And then there is this little tidbit from him regarding the other safeguard against such overreach:

The truth is, that this ultimate redress may be more confided in against unconstitutional acts of the federal than of the State legislatures, for this plain reason, that as every such act of the former will be an invasion of the rights of the latter, these will be ever ready to mark the innovation, to sound the alarm to the people, and to exert their local influence in effecting a change of federal representatives. There being no such intermediate body between the State legislatures and the people interested in watching the conduct of the former, violations of the State constitutions are more likely to remain unnoticed and unredressed.

Except that states can no longer recall their representatives in Congress, because they no longer represent the states. (Thanks Progressives and the 17th Amendment!)  This argument is also more than a little bit facetious in that in representing much smaller constituencies, state governments are a heck of a lot more accountable to their citizens than a Congress where Representatives can position themselves for “safe seats”, thus insulating themselves from the consequences of certain votes, and Senators who represent so many people that they can afford to completely ignore close to half of them without any negative repercussions at election time.  However, it does indicate that he, as one of the authors and architects of the text, fully contemplated state governments that had much more power than what they have today. 

I would not be completely honest if I only examined the Federalist view of the subject, and for that reason, I will quote some of what our friend “Brutus” (thought to be New York Judge, and Constitutional Convention Delegate Robert Yates) had to say on the matter of the Necessary and Proper clause.   From paper I :

This government is to possess absolute and uncontroulable power, legislative, executive and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section 8th, article 1st, it is declared “that the Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution, in the government of the United States; or in any department or office thereof.” And by the 6th article, it is declared “that this constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and the treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution, or law of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” It appears from these articles that there is no need of any intervention of the state governments, between the Congress and the people, to execute any one power vested in the general government, and that the constitution and laws of every state are nullified and declared void, so far as they are or shall be inconsistent with this constitution, or the laws made in pursuance of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States. — The government then, so far as it extends, is a complete one, and not a confederation. It is as much one complete government as that of New-York or Massachusetts, has as absolute and perfect powers to make and execute all laws, to appoint officers, institute courts, declare offences, and annex penalties, with respect to every object to which it extends, as any other in the world. So far therefore as its powers reach, all ideas of confederation are given up and lost. It is true this government is limited to certain objects, or to speak more properly, some small degree of power is still left to the states, but a little attention to the powers vested in the general government, will convince every candid man, that if it is capable of being executed, all that is reserved for the individual states must very soon be annihilated, except so far as they are barely necessary to the organization of the general government.

———————

How far the clause in the 8th section of the 1st article may operate to do away all idea of confederated states, and to effect an entire consolidation of the whole into one general government, it is impossible to say. The powers given by this article are very general and comprehensive, and it may receive a construction to justify the passing almost any law. A power to make all laws, which shall be necessary and proper, for carrying into execution, all powers vested by the constitution in the government of the United States, or any department or officer thereof, is a power very comprehensive and definite [indefinite?], and may, for ought I know, be exercised in a such manner as entirely to abolish the state legislatures. Suppose the legislature of a state should pass a law to raise money to support their government and pay the state debt, may the Congress repeal this law, because it may prevent the collection of a tax which they may think proper and necessary to lay, to provide for the general welfare of the United States? For all laws made, in pursuance of this constitution, are the supreme lay of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of the different states to the contrary notwithstanding. — By such a law, the government of a particular state might be overturned at one stroke, and thereby be deprived of every means of its support.

And from XI:

Most of the articles in this system, which convey powers of any considerable importance, are conceived in general and indefinite terms, which are either equivocal, ambiguous, or which require long definitions to unfold the extent of their meaning. The two most important powers committed to any government, those of raising money, and of raising and keeping up troops, have already been considered, and shewn to be unlimited by any thing but the discretion of the legislature. The clause which vests the power to pass all laws which are proper and necessary, to carry the powers given into execution, it has been shewn, leaves the legislature at liberty, to do every thing, which in their judgment is best. It is said, I know, that this clause confers no power on the legislature, which they would not have had without it — though I believe this is not the fact, yet, admitting it to be, it implies that the constitution is not to receive an explanation strictly, according to its letter; but more power is implied than is expressed. And this clause, if it is to be considered, as explanatory of the extent of the powers given, rather than giving a new power, is to be understood as declaring, that in construing any of the articles conveying power, the spirit, intent and design of the clause, should be attended to, as well as the words in their common acceptation.

After reading the arguments of both sides, and spending much time pondering them against the backdrop of the history that has transpired since, I have a few closing thoughts.

1.  I do find it ironic that Rutherford, who has always poo-pooed any arguments in the past regarding original intent that are rooted in the Federalist Papers, sees fit to line up behind the Professor’s reference to the Federalist Papers, and Keef’s invoking Madison’s reflection on not expressly defining the enumerated powers and preventing the implication of them by fighting to keep the word “expressly” out of the 10th Amendment.  You’re either in or you’re out, and if you’re in, then you need to examine all of it.

2.  I think that the Federalist Papers are an invaluable tool in determining “what the Framers really meant”, because you have the architects and authors telling you in their own words what they meant.  Of course, this means that it is a lot harder to allege that the general enumeration of powers was “vague”, and therefore can mean what ever you want them to.  Madison and Hamilton both clearly envisioned limitations on those powers, and the right of the people to check and remove politicians who disregard such notions.

3.  Knowing what they intended doesn’t mean that there is no potential for usurpation and excess by the Federal Government.  While Hamilton and Madison appeared to have difficulty countenancing such a state of affairs, they also had designed a system in which the states had their own representation in Congress, and could therefore respond to and block attempted encroachment on their power.  The movement to ratify the 17th Amendment, relying on somewhat specious arguments and a population that did not adequately understand all the checks and balances built-in to the Republic, set forth a case for greater “democracy” and “accountability” as a means to fight corruption and removed this particular check without contemplating or proposing an adequate replacement.  At the same time, Anti-Federalists, such as “Brutus” clearly foresaw the temptation that would inspire politicians to dissemble and read sufficient ambiguity into their powers that didn’t exist for those who conferred it,  until, as predicted, nothing rests outside of their considerable power.

4.  Yes, Virginia, the Constitution really did anticipate that the states, and not the federal government would have the bulk of the power over our daily lives.  That was why they had all the emphasis on limited government, and only listed a certain number of enumerated powers…powers that ironically coincided with the perceived weaknesses in the previous Articles of Confederation.  This is not an accident.  Nor is it an accident that these powers very much embody what is necessary to take a collection of sovereign governments and allow for an effective defense and economy. If the states were meant to be merely subservient subdivisions of a central government, then there would have been no limits on the federal government’s power as drafted, and the principle architects would not have expressed the belief that the states could end the federal government.

5.  The Anti-Federalist Papers give a good understanding of what the intent underlying the Bill of Rights was, because the various parties and delegations had the courtesy to pinpoint what they perceived as weaknesses in the Constitution with regard to the individual liberties that they had so jealously guarded from a king.

6.   Rutherford’s remarks about Boehner “being his own man” sound very silly indeed, coming as they do from a Harvard Grad who refuses to do some of the hard work of citizenship for himself and READ these documents, so that he doesn’t have to rely on the interpretation of really really smart people like Keith “Spittle-Flecked” Olbermann.

7. Anyone who gets excited about such a shallow examination of such a deep topic, and gushes about a “living, breathing Constitution” needs to read this over and over and over again until they understand it.

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With the Federalist Papers, I marveled at the intellect of the Framers.

And now, as I read the Anti-Federalist Papers, I marvel at their prescience. From “Brutus”, Paper VI:

Besides, in the very clause which gives the power of levying duties and taxes, the purposes to which the money shall be appropriated, are specified, viz. to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare.”[1] I would ask those, who reason thus, to define what ideas are included under the terms, to provide for the common defence and general welfare? Are these terms definite, and will they be understood in the same manner, and to apply to the same cases by every one?

No one will pretend they will. It will then be matter of opinion, what tends to the general welfare; and the Congress will be the only judges in the matter. To provide for the general welfare, is an abstract proposition, which mankind differ in the explanation of, as much as they do on any political or moral proposition that can be proposed; the most opposite measures may be pursued by different parties, and both may profess, that they have in view the general welfare; and both sides may be honest in their professions, or both may have sinister views. Those who advocate this new Constitution declare, they are influenced by a regard to the general welfare; those who oppose it, declare they are moved by the same principle; and I have no doubt but a number on both sides are honest in their professions; and yet nothing is more certain than this, that to adopt this constitution, and not to adopt it, cannot both of them be promotive of the general welfare.

It is as absurd to say, that the power of Congress is limited by these general expressions, “to provide for the common safety, and general welfare,” as it would be to say, that it would be limited, had the constitution said they should have power to lay taxes, &c. at will and pleasure. Were this authority given, it might be said, that under it the legislature could not do injustice, or pursue any measures, but such as were calculated to promote the public good, and happiness. For every man, rulers as well as others, are bound by the immutable laws of God and reason, always to will what is right. It is certainly right and fit, that the governors of every people should provide for the common defence and general welfare; every government, therefore, in the world, even the greatest despot, is limited in the exercise of his power. But however just this reasoning may be, it would be found, in practice, a most pitiful restriction. The government would always say, their measures were designed and calculated to promote the public good; and there being no judge between them and the people, the rulers themselves must, and would always, judge for themselves.

Remember this, as the administration argues that the individual mandate is a tax, and that the smarter Democrats (that’s like saying “King of the Retards”) have claimed that the authority for Obamacare lay in the general welfare clause.

And here’s to you, Robert Yates, a/k/a “Brutus”, for sounding an alarm that was not adequately responded to.

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Few people get to be so damned by their own words and deeds and still remain in their positions of power until the assume room temperature. 

I’m sorry for his family, but not for the “unindicted co-conspirator“.

Abscam:

Maligning American Marines:

Statements Later Determined to be Untrue By The Proper Authorities:

Then Reduced to What Remains For a Person With No Remaining Honor… Just Making Shit Up:

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He ain't heavy, he's my brother.

Once again, we’re at that time of year when everyone examines the year that was with their clever lists, and wry observations.  being neither clever or wry, I’ll simply point out where we weren’t a year ago, before the Dawn of the Age of the HopeyChangeyness (now with Skittles-crapping unicorns.)

A year ago, the government wasn’t the owner of two previously privately held auto companies, the largest insurer in the nation, or a large mortgage bank.

A year ago, our President wasn’t buddy-buddy with Chavez or Castro.

A year ago, we didn’t have a tax-cheat as Treasury Secretary.

A year ago, we didn’t have an Executive Order authorizing the immigration and placement of thousands of Palestinians in the U.S.

A year ago, U.S. taxpayers weren’t funding and facilitating abortions in other countries.

A year ago, five percent fewer federal employees made over $100,000.00 a year.  It must be nice to get a raise in the worst recession in my memory…especially when you already have the job security of a federal employee.

A year ago, we had a President who wasn’t on record as thinking that the Constitution is “fundamentally flawed”.

A year ago, we had a President who did not bow deeply to the Saudi King and the Japanese Emperor.

A year ago, we had a President who did not avoid the Senate’s advise and consent role by appointing czars in places where they had never been before.

A year ago, we had a President who did not go out of his way to insult average Americans by casting aspersions on their values and the values of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

A year ago, we did not have a Supreme Court Justice who completely and utterly disqualified themselves before appointment with repeated statements calling their integrity and impartiality into question.

A year ago, we did not have government officials threatening private investors who were trying to protect their legal rights in bankruptcy.

A year ago, we did not have a presidentially appointed self-admitted Communist in government.

A year ago, a government official would not have dreamt of quoting Mao in public as a favorite philosopher.

A year ago, our elected representatives would not have dared to ask constituents for ID before answering their questions, or used union goons and police to silence and remove constituents from public meetings.

A year ago, the conventional wisdom would have laughed at the notion that we need hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending that stimulates nothing in order to turn the rising tide of unemployment.

A year ago, the government did not deign to set compensation levels for employees of privately held companies.

A year ago, the idea of government health care for all was the punchline of a Hillary Clinton joke.

A year ago, we didn’t have a President who has informed a whole sector of the energy industry that he wants to put them out of business.

A year ago, the EPA was not threatening to regulate carbon dioxide emissions if Congress doesn’t.

A year ago, INTERPOL could not operate on American soil without regard to the American Constitution and American due process.

A year ago, we didn’t have an attorney general who believed it was appropriate or necessary to try foreign terrorists in Article III courts.

A year ago, we had a President and administration that recognized that we were already in a war on terrorism, because the terrorists had already declared war on us.

A year ago, a statement to the nation about a terrorist act committed against Americans by the President was a duty, and not an annoyance.

A year ago, carbon dioxide was good because it helps plants grow, and not a pollutant requiring taxes by Congress that will be paid by energy consumers.

A year ago, in was understood that the government cannot force me to buy a government-approved health care plan with the threat of exorbitant fines and/or jail time.

A year ago, it wasn’t the priority of one political party to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a group of community activists that have engaged in voter fraud and other criminal enterprises…time and again.

A year ago, the government didn’t fire watchdogs who caught influential friends of the government with their sticky fingers in the government till.

A year ago, we had a President and Leader of the Free World who didn’t sit on his hands and “bear witness” to the brutal repression and murder of people resisting a totalitarian regime that is determined to destabilize the region it is in.

A year ago, we had a President who did not support a leader attempting a coup by vilifying the people who lawfully prevented it.

A year ago, we did not face a government that grows fat and belligerent on our tax dollar, while constantly threatening to take more of our money and freedom from us.

A year ago, we didn’t have a President that accused our soldiers of perpetrating war crimes for political gain, or declared police guilty of acting stupidly while admitting in the same breath that he didn’t have all the facts.

A year ago, dissent was the highest form of patriotism; now it’s racist!

Crossposted at The Hostages.

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The older I get, the more I appreciate Thanksgiving.  Maybe it’s because it is uniquely American.  Yes, I know Canada has a Thanksgiving Day, too, but what comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving?  That’s right.  Pilgrims.  And not Pilgrims with that signature lilt in the voice, ending sentences in “Eh?” But what I also enjoy is this holiday’s Christian roots, and the irony of lefties enjoying the holiday without serious consideration to what this holiday is really about.  A time of reflection and giving thanks to God for the extraordinary providence he has bestowed upon us.What’s that you say?  Only a rube would express thanks to God?  Only a superstitious idiot would do such a thing?  Yeah.  Those Founding Fathers were real idiots, weren’t they?  Case in point?  Noted foolish Christianist and tyrant, George Washington:

<

A Proclamation  

 WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”  

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.  

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wife, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.  

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.  
(signed) G. Washington  
 

Why, the unmitigated gall!  A sitting U.S. President having the nerve to invoke God in his official capacity as President!  Didn’t he know that The Constitution contains a “wall of separation between church and state”?   Actually, no.  He didn’t, because the Constitution contains no such thing.  And the private letter of Thomas Jefferson’s from which this  false doctrine was later transplanted into the Constitution by the Court in the twentieth century wasn’t yet written.  Jefferson, that noted author of this fabled Constitutional premise , was not even in the country at the time the Constitution was written, as he was serving as the nation’s Minister to France.

This is a time of year for reflection and giving thanks.  I’m thankful for my family, both the one I was born with, and the one I chose.

I’m thankful for the Providence God has bestowed in my life, and the Providence that he has bestowed on our nation.

I’m thankful for second chances, and the fact that we can still abandon the insanity that a reckless minority and our elected officials are inexplicably wedded to, and determined to force us into.

And yes, I will be taking some time over this Holiday on my knees and in audience with the very same Creator that the Father of our country sought in times of adversity and times of plenty.  Why don’t you join me?

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I got a germ of an idea for a post, that suddenly became much more daunting as I started to work on the necessary outline, and I realized that it will take me a while to put it together.  That, and the fact that I did not want to have that be my post over the Fourth this year, I went digging in the archives at the Blog Cradle and stumbled upon this gem, from when I was still new to this game.  Given the subject matter, I thought it much more appropriate for this holiday weekend.  I may throw up a few more ‘reprints’ during the weekend.  I first published this on December 13, 2006, and aside from cleaning up the spelling and formatting, it is how it was originally published, without any updating with additional sources, which I have subsequently come across in my reading.

I Broke My Own Rule

I broke my own rule. I underestimated the stupidity of a would-be revisionist.

I was over at the playground (Bareknuckle Politics-Home of the Stupidest Trolls on the Planet!) when I was greeted with the following statement:

“treaty of tripoli was a founding document however, and it CLEARLY states that we are in no way a christian nation. “
 
A moment of breathtaking stupidity, from a clue-challenged knuckledragger who refers to himself by the misappellation “the Truth” or as I lovingly refer to him, “Truthless”.

The Treaty of Tripoli:

Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli November 4, 1796 (3 Ramada I, A. H. 1211), and at Algiers January 3, 1797 (4 Rajab, A. H. 1211). Original in Arabic. Submitted to the Senate May 29, 1797. (Message of May 26, 1797.) Resolution of advice and consent June 7, 1797. Ratified by the United States June 10, 1797. As to the ratification generally, see the notes. Proclaimed Jane 10, 1797.
The following fourteen pages of Arabic are a reproduction of the text in the original treaty book, first the pages of the treaty in left-to-right order of pagination, and then the ” receipt ” and the ” note ” mentioned, according to the Barlow translation, in Article 10. Following the Arabic and in the same order, is the translation of Joel Barlow as written in the treaty book-the twelve articles of the treaty, the “receipt,” and the “note”; and after these is the approval of David Humphreys from the same document, which is fully described in the notes. Following those texts is the annotated translation of 1930.
[Translation]
Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.
ARTICLE 1.
There is a firm and perpetual Peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, made by the free consent of both parties, and guaranteed by the most potent Dey & regency of Algiers.
ARTICLE 2.
If any goods belonging to any nation with which either of the parties is at war shall be loaded on board of vessels belonging to the other party they shall pass free, and no attempt shall be made to take or detain them.
ARTICLE 3.
If any citizens, subjects or effects belonging to either party shall be found on board a prize vessel taken from an enemy by the other party, such citizens or subjects shall be set at liberty, and the effects restored to the owners.
ARTICLE 4.
Proper passports are to be given to all vessels of both parties, by which they are to be known. And, considering the distance between the two countries, eighteen months from the date of this treaty shall be allowed for procuring such passports. During this interval the other papers belonging to such vessels shall be sufficient for their protection.
ARTICLE 5
A citizen or subject of either party having bought a prize vessel condemned by the other party or by any other nation, the certificate of condemnation and bill of sale shall be a sufficient passport for such vessel for one year; this being a reasonable time for her to procure a proper passport.
ARTICLE 6
Vessels of either party putting into the ports of the other and having need of provissions or other supplies, they shall be furnished at the market price. And if any such vessel shall so put in from a disaster at sea and have occasion to repair, she shall be at liberty to land and reembark her cargo without paying any duties. But in no case shall she be compelled to land her cargo.
ARTICLE 7.
Should a vessel of either party be cast on the shore of the other, all proper assistance shall be given to her and her people; no pillage shall be allowed; the property shall remain at the disposition of the owners, and the crew protected and succoured till they can be sent to their country.
ARTICLE 8.
If a vessel of either party should be attacked by an enemy within gun-shot of the forts of the other she shall be defended as much as possible. If she be in port she shall not be seized or attacked when it is in the power of the other party to protect her. And when she proceeds to sea no enemy shall be allowed to pursue her from the same port within twenty four hours after her departure.
ARTICLE 9.
The commerce between the United States and Tripoli,-the protection to be given to merchants, masters of vessels and seamen,- the reciprocal right of establishing consuls in each country, and the privileges, immunities and jurisdictions to be enjoyed by such consuls, are declared to be on the same footing with those of the most favoured nations respectively.
ARTICLE 10.
The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part and on the part of his subjects for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship are acknowledged to have been recieved by him previous to his signing the same, according to a reciept which is hereto annexed, except such part as is promised on the part of the United States to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoly, of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no presence of any periodical tribute or farther payment is ever to be made by either party.
ARTICLE 11.
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
ARTICLE 12.
In case of any dispute arising from a notation of any of the articles of this treaty no appeal shall be made to arms, nor shall war be declared on any pretext whatever. But if the (consul residing at the place where the dispute shall happen shall not be able to settle the same, an amicable referrence shall be made to the mutual friend of the parties, the Dey of Algiers, the parties hereby engaging to abide by his decision. And he by virtue of his signature to this treaty engages for himself and successors to declare the justice of the case according to the true interpretation of the treaty, and to use all the means in his power to enforce the observance of the same.
Signed and sealed at Tripoli of Barbary the 3d day of Jumad in the year of the Higera 1211-corresponding with the 4th day of Novr 1796

Now understand, Truthless was using this to say we aren’t a Christian nation. Considering that there is no official state religion in this country, unlike others,( say…the Barbary Coast states???) he is correct. However, unfortunately for Truthless, it cannot be truthfully stated that this is in any way a ‘founding’ document. He/she/it did not explain the basis for such a silly assertion, but there are some interesting events surrounding this treaty.

At that time in history, we were a fledgling nation, still unable to discourage hostile parties from preying upon our shipping, and along the northern coast of Africa, the ‘Barbary Coast’, the islamic nations there supported pirates who went out onto the shipping lanes to do what pirates do best: murder and steal, all in the name of Allah. For a time, our ships could count on the aid and protection of the English and French ships who plied the waters. However, with the rise of Napoleon, the English became obsessed with blockading the French, and the nations who allied with them.  As time passed, the needs of manpower to keep the blockade in force lead the English to board American ships and kidnap American sailors. This practice, known as impressment, was one of the causes of our second conflict with the British Empire in less than a half a century. Without this protection, our shipping was an easy target for the muslim pirates. We soon sought a treaty, (think negotiated extortion) to relieve the threat against our ships. Hence the treaty.

Now the clause Truthless got him/her/itself all stirred up about, Article 11, was in the copy of the text translated from the Arabic by the diplomat in the region. Let that sink in for a moment.

It was translated from the arabic text.

That means that it could not have been a statement authored by elected representatives of our government, meant to be a accurately be a statement by us, about what we are about.

All communication at that time was subject to the limitations of travel, which meant it was nearly two years before this copy got to the Senate. The records of the time indicate that it was read aloud on the floor before the vote to ratify it was held. Personally, I find the record dubious, if only because today’s Congressional Record frequently publishes entire texts of speeches never said aloud in Congress.

What is more noteworthy is the fact that the treaty renewed eight years later did not contain the Article. It would be unusual to delete something so ‘formative’, something that nimwits like Truthless’ so fervently cling to as conclusive proof that Christianity wasn’t the elephant in the room during our nation’s formative years, and our law wasn’t an extension of the judeo-christian values and mores that were embodied in the jurisprudence of western civilization.

‘Founding document’, my great-aunt Hattie.

Memo to all would-be revisionists: If you are going to rewrite history to fit your spiritually-stunted agenda, don’t rely on a document ‘negotiated’ at gunpoint, that was changed to remove your weak-kneed justification at the earliest opportunity.

And Truthless, use your head for something more than a place to hang your dunce cap. It is getting tiresome correcting your stupidity.

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