April 21, 2010 – Article I of the U.S. Constitution – Guest Blogger: David Bobb, Director and Lecturer in Political Science | Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship | Hillsdale College

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

This complaint, however current it might sound, was lodged not against any occupant of the White House.  Rather, American revolutionaries made this claim against King George III in the Declaration of Independence.

Imbued with the “Spirit of ’76,” and given voice by a young Thomas Jefferson, early Americans also indicted the British King in the Declaration “for suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”

The Crown had assumed all legislative, executive, and judicial powers, the colonists claimed.  Thus they declared that the “prince” (King George III) had become a “tyrant.”  And a tyrant “is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

To understand Article I of the Constitution—and the entirety of the “supreme law of the land”—you have to understand the argument of the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration indicts the King for aggrandizing his power at the expense of the people.  It also acts as a blueprint for limited government by making the bold claim that our rights come not from any government but instead from the Creator.

The Constitution, then, gives structure to our liberties—and to limited government.  Article I of the Constitution is the foundation of this structure. Made up of ten sections, Article I is the longest of the Constitution’s seven articles.  Its length should not confuse us, however, for its meaning is clear if we read it carefully.

Article I, Section 1 says that the law-making authority in the national government resides in Congress.  Not in the Crown, and not directly with the people.  We the people should not vote directly on every issue, the Founding Fathers held.  That strictly democratic form of government can too easily lead to tyranny.  Instead, we the people will elect representatives.  This is republican rule, and conduces more to liberty than any other form of government.

The national legislature is bicameral, with a House of Representatives elected directly by the people, and a Senate originally composed of members elected by the state legislatures.  The Seventeenth Amendment, adopted as part of Progressive reforms in the early 20th century, required direct election of senators, a significant departure from the Founders’ Constitution.  Each state, the original Constitution specified, gets two senators (this is the only part of the Constitution today that cannot be amended).

Article I, Section 8 gives an enumeration, or list, of the powers of Congress.  When compared to the anemic Articles of Confederation, which even denied Congress the power to tax, the enumerated powers were quite expansive.  Compared to the scope and scale of congressional authority today, the enumerated powers seem quaint, kind of like a powdered wig or tri-cornered hat.

“That’s all we get to do?  That’s it?”  One can almost hear the response of many members of Congress today if they were to read Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.  Asked to cite the constitutional justification for the recent health care bill, for example, one member of Congress said he doesn’t “worry about the Constitution on this.”  Another member, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, claimed that the legislation was authorized by the “good and welfare clause” (he was probably thinking of the General Welfare Clause of Article I, Section 8, Clause 1)  Still others have cited the Interstate Commerce Clause (I.8.3), while a number have cited the Necessary and Proper Clause (I.8.18).

I hope that we can discuss and debate the constitutional status of the health care law as part of this blog.  Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, for or against the law, it seems that we should all agree that for a bill to legitimately become law it has to be grounded in the Constitution.  Otherwise Article I doesn’t mean what it says, and the foundation of our liberties is left shaky and unsure.

It’s lately been said that politicians should prepare for elections by abiding by one simple rule, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  The economy is important, to be sure, but I hope that in our national debate, today we can remember most of all that “It’s the Constitution.”  We’d be stupid not to.

Posted in Article I of the United States Constitution, Constitutional Scholar Essays | Edit | 138 Comments »

140 Responses to “April 21, 2010Article I of the U.S. ConstitutionGuest Blogger: David Bobb, Director and Lecturer in Political Science | Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship | Hillsdale College

  1. Richard says:

    This is certainly an enlightening dialogue and many of the comments are well supported. I would like to add that taxes “being applied uniformly throughout the States” is interesting because we certainly do not have a fair tax system as so many pay nothing and get most of the benefits. Our Founding Fathers never intended to have this extreme level of “vote buying” by taxpayers funds. The progressive tax we have today is applied uniformly within the states, however it is not applied uniformly among the people. Whereas a flat tax would do this. A constitutional amendment limiting the tax to less than 15% would take away the congressional power and ability to “buy votes” through entitlements. Another view might be to restrict a citizens vote in any year in which they receive an entitlement exceeding $1000.00 or some similar amount. Niether would be unconstitutional.

  2. Richard says:

    This is certainly an enlightening dialogue and many of the comments are well supported. I would like to add that taxes “being applied uniformly throughout the States” is interesting because we certainly do not have a fair tax system as so many pay nothing and get most of the benefits while a few pay the majority and are constantly asked for more. It is a path to economic destruction. I have visited several socialist and communist nations in my travels and Americans have no idea of the human suffering, death, and poverty of a controlling communist or socialist goverment that always limits the individual freedoms we take for granted. Our Founding Fathers never intended for our “tax system” to have this extreme level of “vote buying” by taxpayers funds or social engineering. Envy is one of the biblical seven sins for a good reason. We have lost our national moral compass as we pit hatred (class envy) against hard work and success. Some citizens with a lacking moral compass want to covet what thier neighbor has. The Founding Fathers wanted to remove the chains of government on the individual and let them strive for thier own happiness and dreams. Progressives were certainly instumental in removing the biblical moral teaching from our schools. The progressive tax we have today is applied uniformly within the states, however it is not applied uniformly among the people. Whereas a flat tax would do this. A constitutional amendment limiting the tax to less than 15% would take away the congressional power and ability to “buy votes” through entitlements. Another view might be to restrict a citizens vote in any year in which they receive an entitlement exceeding $1,000.00 or some similar low amount. Niether would be unconstitutional.
    The constitution also grants power to the federal government to provide for the common defense. If we have to disband the armed forces every two years we would soon be overtaken by our enimies and if Officers we appointed by the states there would be no uniformity within the military. We would have lost WWII if we had to disband after two years, ditto for the Civil War, Revolutionary War, WWI, Korean War. We gain peace through military strength by constantly training, testing, and improving weapons systems so our enimies understand the high price they would pay for trying to dominate or rule our citizens.
    On heathcare, I beleive it violates all aspects of “the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as unelected goverment workers will decide who and what type of care an idividual may have. (Surgery or pain pills). A citizen can no longer pursue thier individual health choices. Government can directly limit thier life and happiness. I hope this can be repealed as it will cause severe pain to citizens to watch loved ones be denied the proper healthcare because the govenment has to ration care as in all other nations that have moved to socialized government healthcare.
    I look forward to tomorrows comments….

  3. Lillian Harvey says:

    Article 1, Section 7: the process for passing legislation states “..the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.”

    When House Minority Leader Boehner called for the vote of each individual to be recorded at least one week before the Healthcare vote was taken in the House, and also that night on the floor of the House again, why did the “Speaker” ignore the request or call it “out of order”? It seems to me that it is out of order for the people being represented not to know exactly who voted Yes to this bill. We know all the Republicans voted no, but not which Democrats voted yes or no. It seems to me that this tactic makes things very slippery and murky for those being represented.

    Raymond mentioned needing an amendment to force government to be open. It appears the mechanism for transparency in the votes already in place for 220 years isn’t honored and We the People are left guessing. Someone above mentioned that the devil is in the details. I think God is in the details and this is another one of them for us to look at carefully.

  4. Tammy Beard says:

    Maggie,
    Question: If “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”
    how can there constitutionally be different income tax brackets? Doesn’t seem very uniform.

    This deals with indirect taxes, not income taxes. The indirect taxes must be the same from state to state. In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was passed allowing income taxes.

  5. Richard says:

    I wanted to add one thought to my earlier comment on taxes. Actually the Constitution specifically said there will be no tax on individuals (Income Tax), but the progressives worked around this by adding the XVI amendment which will come later in our readings. This Amendment was originally passed to fund WWII and who was going to vote against funds to fight Germany and Japan’s agressive war of world dominance. It was to be repealed after the War but amazingly was not and has been modified to mirror class envy and morphed into a progressive tax on those who work hard and are successful. It will be interesting to hear the history from those who know on this matter as the current administration has openly confirmed the goal of redistribution of individual wealth by the government to whim they choose. It is similar to the british crown taxing colonist hard work to support the royal elitists power and position.

  6. Gitel says:

    @Richard – I’m not sure where you got your information. The income tax was proposed in 1909 and ratified in 1913. That was before WWI, and years before WWII.

  7. Gitel says:

    Actually, I meant to say the 16th Amendment, not “income tax.” There were income taxes before the 16th Amendment.

  8. Kristine says:

    Well-framed question, Debbie Beardsley, to which I say amen! What your blog entry asks is precisely what I would like to know. And in a related sense, Party aparatus in the Houses seem to be causing we the people who are supposed to be represented to feel as though we are being completely ignored! How can this be. How can Representatives be made to represent when they do not even listen? Being only 1/300 millionth of the population and with powerful moneyed interests, how do we know OUR STAND is represented for sure? We suspect, it is NOT. That begs the questions, WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THAT?

  9. Will says:

    Anna Marie says:
    April 22, 2010 at 12:56 am
    “… in the end we will become a stronger nation, a nation UNDER GOD!!!”
    ——–

    Taking a strict constructionist viewpoint, neither God or Jesus is mentioned anywhere in the Constitution’s text and therefore has no place in federal governance.

  10. Thomas Soyars says:

    I have to disagree with some of what R. B. McGinnis said in relation to the economy. The power to tax, though no direct, capitated or income tax, tariffs, regulation of interstate commerce were not designed to regulate the economy but to pay for the functions of government enumerated in the Constitution. How else were they to pay the debt, their own salaries and the salaries of the militia? Was the intent to fund the limited operations of government laid out in the constitution or was the goal to regulate the economy?

    Another item relates to the quote relating to the KATZENBACH v. McCLUNG, 379 U.S. 294 (1964) case. The court ruling said “Confronted as we are with the facts laid before Congress, we must conclude that it had a rational basis for finding that racial discrimination in restaurants had a direct and adverse effect on the free flow of interstate commerce….” Note the term rational basis. It was not decided on a constitutional basis but on what they could rationally support. The court has continued to swing on the issue of what is allowed under the commerce clause. Cases have been decided that operating a steamship on a river within one state is interstate commerce and subject to regulation. Minimum wage, child labor, and agricultural relief laws were all found to be items that the U.S. government had no right to regulate under the commerce clause. Mining, liquor, oil and electrical production were all deemed to be outside the commerce clause while meat production and wheat were found to be within (production of wheat for one’s own consumption could be subject to national quotas because that could impact national wheat prices). After, Gibson v. United States, 166 U.S. 269 (1897) the court rarely ruled on the commerce clause. During the New Deal the court changed the focus of how the court viewed commerce and what was to be regulated. A central issue was whether the courts or the legislature should decide what commerce is and the courts began deferring to congress saying that determining whether legislation impacted commerce was a legislative function. At question was whether it was more appropriate to address the issue through the courts or the ballot box and they basically fell on the side of the ballot box, thereby abdicating their responsibility to be a check and balance over congress. Finally, the Supreme Court in United States v. Darby Lumber Co., 312 U.S. 100 (1941) said that the 10th Amendment is but a truism and was not considered to be an independent limitation on Congressional power, thereby essentially ruling that congress is not limited by the Constitution.

    I agree with the decisions of the court in the cases of Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964) and Daniel v. Paul. 395 U.S. 298 (1969) but not based on the commerce clause. For that, I go back to the preamble and rely on establish Justice. Slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and Asians Americans during World War II and

  11. Thomas Soyars says:

    Debbie, there is no prohibition on the President proposing legislation to Congress or lobbying for specific items. the Constitution prohibits the President from passing legislation or acting as a judge over it other than by veto. The problem arises when one party holds the presidency and both houses of congress by a super-majority. In that case the president can propose legislation and have limited resistance.

  12. Ann says:

    How are the classes for Senators determined? Is it by State? My State has 1 class I Senator and 1 Class 2 Senator. Does that ever change? Am I correct in assuming the class only has to do with making sure only 1/3 is up for re-election at a time? They all serve 6 years regardless of class right?

  13. I must confess that I’m going to have to reread after I finish this 90/180. I’ve read the Amendments, but this is the first time I’ve read the Articles of the Constitution. Apparently I’m not the only one having a little trouble with the double negatives. I’ve been telling everyone I know about this, hopefully they will be able to go back on this Web site to the days they haven’t read to catch up. I love the dialogue and the experts input on the Constitution. I have just recently purchased “Original Intent” by David Barton I haven’t read it yet I’m trying to keep up with all the reading recommendations. I do know that “America’s God and Country” by William Federer is a must have, I love this book. It is an Encyclopedia of Quotations from our Founding Fathers and others. There is no question what the intent of the Constitution was and that it we were designed to be a Christian Nation.

  14. Thomas Soyars says:

    One last comment on commerce, in Gonzales v. Raich (previously Ashcroft v. Raich), 545 U.S. 1 (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court held that marijuana gone at home for personal use was subject to the Commerce Clause. Justice Thomas dissented saying “Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything – and the federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

  15. Robert Shanbaum says:

    The question was raised as to whether the health care reform bill, as a bill requiring appropriations (whether that makes it a “bill for raising revenue” notwithstanding), did not have to originate in the House.

    The question may be mooted by the fact that it did originate in the House, having been introduced as H.R.3590 on 9/17/2009 by Rep. Rangel – even though it eventually became known as “the Senate Bill.”

    But there is an interesting Constitutional question here: the original contents of H.R.3590 were completely replaced by amendment in the Senate. So, did the bill “originate in the House?”

  16. Debbie Beardsley says:

    Thomas,
    It just seems to me that by the President strong arming members of Congress or bribing them to vote the way he wants he is in effect legislating. Isn’t Congress supposed to represent the people and not the President?? Once it is submitted to him he can then decide to sign it or veto it but until it gets to him he should keep his hands off.

  17. Spider says:

    I have seen a few comments on the 17th Amendment, and thought I might expand on it here, as well as give a couple of reasons why I believe it should be repealed. We will get into the Amendments when we read them on Monday, April 26, but I wanted to include this here, as it pertains directly to Article 1, Section 3, Clause 1.

    James Madison explained States representation in the Federal Government as such:

    “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?”

    At the time the Constitution was written, U.S. Representatives were to represent the people and were to be elected by the general population of a state by popular vote.

    U.S. Senators were to represent the States and were to be elected by the State Legislatures. From Wiki: “It was believed that while an unqualified candidate might win a popular-vote majority through demagoguery or superficial qualities, the legislature, which could deliberate on its choice, and whose members had been selected by their constituents and had experience in politics, would be safe from such folly.”

    The 17th Amendment took away the States representation by requiring that U.S. Senators be elected by the general population of a state, effectively reducing them from an equal partner with the Federal Government to, at best, another Representative, and at worst just another lobbyist, vulnerable to special interests influence, which has resulted with the loss of State Sovereignty and States’ Rights.

    There were two main reasons the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913; One was the deadlock of State Legislatures when electing U.S. Senators. The other was the corruption of the State Legislators.

    One possible protection from dead-locked State Legislatures is the provision that if a State Legislature does not fill a vacancy or elect a U.S. Senator within say, 30 days for example, the Governor shall appoint the U.S. Senator.

    Our protection from corrupt State Legislatures are open caucuses, campaign disclosure statements, term limits, and the fact that we now have highly visible public information, freely accessible with the World Wide Web.

    Thanks for letting me expand on this subject. Tell me what you think, and keep up the great discussion!

  18. Robert Shanbaum says:

    @Gitel, a minor correction: there were indeed income taxes prior to the XVIth Amendment, from 1862-72, and again in 1894-95, when taxes based on income derived from property (interest, dividends, rents) were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan & Trust (by a 5-4 vote!).

  19. Sharon Pharr says:

    It seems to me so far, that the Congress was to hold a few specific roles and jurisdictions, and the people, then the states everything else. Things are turning upside down. I think we should repeal the 17th amendment, return the selection of Senators to the states, and expand the 22nd Amendment, to include restricting terms of the members of Congress. The wisdom of that provision is shown in the career politicians that now dominate Congress, with power empires, and inflated influence. This would also attract talented people who have successful careers in other areas to serve. I also believe that in returning power to the states and local jurisdictions, it would be easier to weed out the potentially corrupt.

    I have a question, if the Healthcare Bill coerces a citizen to buy insurance under penalty of fines, and enforced by the IRS, doesn’t that make the insurance payment a form of taxation, even though the money goes to a 3rd party, the insurance company?

  20. Philip Thorrez says:

    I’m new at blogging and if my protocols and forms are incorrect, please excuse me:
    I realize I’m a bit late to this reading but have to ask:
    @Thomas Soyars said: “Finally, the Supreme Court in United States v. Darby Lumber Co., 312 U.S. 100 (1941) said that the 10th Amendment is but a truism and was not considered to be an independent limitation on Congressional power, thereby essentially ruling that congress is not limited by the Constitution.”

    This is the scariest comment I’ve ever heard and I wonder: has there been much further testing of this ruling and how entrenched in precedent is it? I mean “a truism”?! How much clearer does it need to be that this amendment was MEANT to be a restriction of federal power.

  21. Spider says:

    @Philip Thorrez: Welcome to the discussion – better late than never. Your “protocols and forms” are just fine. Leaving comments in a public forum such as this is just like any other public interaction; be polite and civil, and you’re way ahead of the game.

    As to your question, might I suggest taking a look at West’s Encyclopedia of American Law for a comprehensive overview of the Supreme Court’s various interpretations of the 10th Amendment through history.

    It’s really pretty stunning to realize just how often the 10th Amendment, something Thomas Jefferson once described as “the foundation of the Constitution,” has been virtually ignored or trivialized.

    I truly hope the upcoming challenges to the President’s health care reform law will once again put some more authority back into the 10th Amendment. I’ll probably be disappointed, but one can ‘hope,’ right?

  22. Anthony Viola says:

    Will says “Taking a strict constructionist viewpoint, neither God or Jesus is mentioned anywhere in the Constitution’s text and therefore has no place in federal governance.”

    You missed ths: “In the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven..”

  23. AllisonW says:

    Interesting fact I thought to share:

    According to Article I Section III, the Vice President, President of the Senate, can vote on any piece of legislation whenever the members of the Senate are “equally divided.” So whenever the vote is split 50-50, the Vice President can essentially decide the fate of the bill.

  24. […] April 21, 2010Article I of the U.S. ConstitutionGuest Blogger: David Bobb, Director and Le… […]

  25. Taylor Michael says:

    A very intriguing paragraph I discovered in the first article is the last paragraph in Section 9.
    It says ;

    “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State”

    What I find so interesting about the subject is the fact that America already declared itself independent from Monarchal England, however the founding fathers make sure that we as a country do not associate ourselves at all with any Monarchy, and if someone does, than the United States shall not recognize it at all, and they will not accept any “present … of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State”, thus putting the icing on the cake, so to speak, of total detachment from any kind of English Monarchal society.

  26. Kristine says:

    I would like to understand the electoral college better from Article 1, section 2.

    I realize we are now beyond that, but it is not clear to me if we directly elect our representatives as I thought we did, or if electors are doing the electing .

    If anybody has insights and links, please reply.

    Thanks.

    Kristine

  27. Kristine says:

    I figured it out. Article 1, Section. 2 first paragraph meaning of Electors refers to a state’s voters and not electors in the electoral college for the presidential elections. That is what I thought; however, for a while there I thought I might have been wrong all my voting life. I’m relieved to have this cleared up and it was good to re-read Articles 1 and 2.

  28. Bob Greenslade says:

    Kristine-hope this helps.

    What are the constitutional provisions for the electoral system?

    The electoral process is set forth in Article II, Section I, Clauses 2-4 of the Constitution for the United States. Clause 3 has been superseded by the 12th Amendment as ratified by the several States in 1804. Provisions of the 12th Amendment have been superseded by the 20th Amendment as ratified by the States in 1933.

    Do the American people vote directly for a President and Vice President when they cast their ballot?

    No. When the American people cast their vote in a presidential election they are actually voting for individual within their State called an “elector.”

    Who are the electors?

    The electors are representatives just like the members of Congress. Unlike members of Congress who are elected for a specific term of years and cast numerous votes while in office, electors perform a single function once every four years. They are entrusted with the responsibility of voting for the President and Vice President of the United States.

    How are the electors chosen?

    The legislature of each State is authorized by Article II, Section I, Clause 2 of the Constitution to prescribe the mode for appointing its electors. State election laws generally entrust that duty to the various political parties because each party has a slate of electors pledged to their candidates. Thus, if a State has five political parties qualified for the ballot, it will have five separate blocks of electors―one block for each political party.

    How are the electors in each State chosen to vote?

    The electors chosen to vote for each State are those of the political party that wins a plurality of the popular vote within the State. For example. If an Independent Party candidate wins the popular vote in California by one vote, then that party’s slate of electors are elected to vote for the State of California. In Maine and Nebraska, two electors are chosen at-large by the statewide popular vote and the rest are selected by the popular vote in each congressional district. This allows for a split slate of electors to be chosen in those two States.

    In the event of a tie in a State’s popular vote, the laws of that State would determine the procedure for breaking the tie. If there was still a tie after a re-count, there would probably be a run-off election to determine the winner.

  29. Lillian Harvey says:

    Thomas, Philip & Spider, well said! I appreciate the real push back to what you’ve all implied is the trivializaion of the 10th Amendment. Almost half of the States are involved at this time, 42%. In an earlier post, I was reacting to these readings by thinking a Constitutional Convention was needed to solve some of the problems. Now, I feel that some amendments may need to be repealed and others have their language clarified to reflect life today, like the recess appointments clause. But even allowing a small opportunity for any group to do away with this incredible document is inconceivable to me. No convention for sure. But calls for Constititutional language that fortifies Amendments like the 10th, oh yes! I love that our clarifications and corrections are recorded into the document as amendments. As humans, we make mistakes, learn and grow. This amazing document records our growth as a free society, correction & forgiveness of mistakes included. The Federal gov’t has taken powers from the States never intended for it. No matter how long it takes, we can’t give up the fight to re-fortify the 10th Amendment. Enough is enough.

    I love the phrase, think globally and act locally. It is a modern day sound bite for James Madison’s eloquent explanation of where power really resides in a free society. A state or community problem may become part of the national narrative, but the way to resolve it works best as locally as possible. Let each community see the problem through its own special lens, apply meaningful solutions and the people are served well. If a national element is needed, add an amendment to the Constitution. It takes time to do that and, if the locality can’t resolve the problem themselves, the final amendment will help the process along.

    Taylor, I feel your post underscores the “kick in the gut” reaction most people have when they see any of our Presidents bowing to kings or foreign rulers. They represent the United States of America – We the People. We the People do not bow to kings. We do not serve their will. Americans shake hands in greeting. If these kings do not want to shake hands, fine. But no bowing in our name, thank you very much.

    Allison, great question! If a bill must be passed by 2/3 of the Senate, how is a tie ever significant? The bill passes or it doesn’t. Too simple?

  30. Bob Greenslade says:

    Philip Thorrez-the reason the 10th Amendment is a truism can be found in the words of James Wilson.

    In October of 1787, in a speech at Independence Hall, Wilson, a Federalist from Pennsylvania, explained the proposed constitution and answered some of the criticisms being leveled against it. In his speech, Wilson succinctly stated why a bill of rights had been omitted from the proposed constitution. He also explained the system of limited government that would be established if the document was ratified:

    “It will be proper…to mark the leading discrimination between the State constitutions and the Constitution of the United States. When the people established the powers of legislation under their separate governments, they invested their representatives with every right and authority which they did not in explicit terms reserve…if the frame of government is silent, the jurisdiction is efficient and complete. But in delegating federal powers, another criterion was necessarily introduced, and the congressional power is to be collected, not from tacit implication, but from the positive grant expressed in the instrument of the union. Hence, it is evident, that in the former case everything that is not reserved is given; but in the latter the reverse of the proposition prevails, and everything that is not given is reserved.

    This distinction being recognized, will furnish an answer to those who think the omission of a bill of rights a defect in the proposed constitution; for it would have been superfluous and absurd to have stipulated with a federal body of our own creation, that we should enjoy those privileges of which we are not divested, either by the intention or the act that has brought the body into existence. For instance, the liberty of the press…what control can proceed from the Federal government to shackle or destroy that sacred palladium of national freedom? * * [T]he proposed system possesses no influence whatever upon the press, and it would have been merely nugatory to have introduced a formal declaration upon the subject—nay, that very declaration might have been construed to imply that some degree of power was given, since we undertook to define its extent.”

    Wilson, who had unsuccessfully advocated a strong national form of government in the Federal Convention, clearly understood the system of limited government that would be established by the proposed constitution. Since the federal government would be granted limited enumerated powers, every power not granted would be denied irrespective of whether the document contained a bill of rights.

    Thus, even if the 10th Amendment, which was part of the Bill of Rights, had not been adopted, the principle, as stated by Wilson, that “everything…not given is reserved” would still be in operation-just not enumerated.

    The Amendment is a re-statement and affirmation of the principles of limited government and enumerated powers. They exist independent of the 10th Amendment.

  31. Robert Shanbaum says:

    @Lillian – Here’s an historical note that you may find interesting, since you mentioned shaking hands. After having been inaugurated as president, Washington refused to shake hands, thinking it beneath the dignity of the office.

    Also, for a bill to finally pass the Senate does not require a 2/3 vote – the procedural step that requires a 2/3 vote is to end debate on a motion (called “cloture”, a feature of the rules of the Senate, which you now know are left up to the Senate by the Constitution), which is a necessary step that precedes an actual vote on whether the motion shall be adopted or rejected.

    Yesterday, for example, in a vote to end debate on a motion to allow a financial reform bill to proceed to the floor (which is itself a required procedural step) the yeas came up short of the 60 votes required by the rules… so technically, I guess you could say that the debate on that motion will go on until the end of the current session, at which point, the motion vanishes, having never been directly voted upon.

    As mentioned, the only relation of Congressional rules to the Constitution is that it explicitly leaves them up to the each House. But I rather doubt that any of the participants at the Philadelphia Convention would have aniticpated a rule effectively requiring a supermajority in the Senate.

  32. Robert Shanbaum says:

    @Lillian – I neglected to mention Washington’s preferred mode of greeting, given that he did not shake hands.

    He bowed.

  33. Debbie Beardsley says:

    Re: Anthoney Viola – I do not think there was any reference to God intended by placing Year of our Lord before a date. It was a common term used at the time and is included in the Julian and Gregorain Calendars to reference the epoch after Jesus was born. Anno Domini is the Latin way to say the same thing.

    Stop looking for religious reference where none was intended. Thats how we get in trouble and move very far away from the Constitution.

    I fully believe the founders intent was not to support a specific belief or church but to allow everyone the freedom to choose what they belive in.

  34. yguy says:

    ‘…the 10th Amendment is a truism…’

    ‘Thus, even if the 10th Amendment, which was part of the Bill of Rights, had not been adopted, the principle, as stated by Wilson, that “everything…not given is reserved” would still be in operation-just not enumerated.’

    Similarly it could be argued that Congress would have no authority to legislate against freedom of speech and so on had the first amendment not been ratified, but I don’t think I’d call it a truism; and if Justice Marshall’s observation that “[i]t cannot be presumed that any clause in the Constitution is intended to be without effect” is accurate, I think we may rest assured that the framers of the tenth amendment considered it as necessary as the other “declaratory and restrictive clauses” in the Bill of Rights.

  35. JoeSwiss says:

    Art 1, S 10: No state shall, without the consent of Congress, … or engage in War, unless actually invaded …

    This was a point I had missed.

    First, it seems a state may engage in war with the consent of Congress.

    Second, it seems a state may engage in war without the consent of Congress once it has actually been invaded.

    Seem to be relevant points in the current contest of opinions over Arizona’s late legislative actions. Arizona is currently under invasion by illegal aliens.

  36. al williams says:

    Can anyone explain article 1 sec 9 para 4
    “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid,unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

  37. Susan Craig says:

    Yes they did not want to tax incomes (head tax).

  38. al williams says:

    So,was this section repealed by the 16th amendment?

  39. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

    Will says:
    April 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Taking a strict constructionist viewpoint, neither God or Jesus is mentioned anywhere in the Constitution’s text and therefore has no place in federal governance.
    ————
    True; but a strict constructionist must be thorough and construct from all the organic documents declared by the First Congress in the midst of passing the Bill of Rights.

    They are:

    1) The Unanimous Declaration (of Independence)
    2) US Articles of Confederation
    3) The Northwest Ordinance
    4) US Constitution

    Such can be found reproduced here and is at the very beginning of the US Code 1.
    http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/organiclaws.txt

    The very first congress instituted the Organic Laws declaration as a reference of the founding documents of the US as a collection foundational proofs of where rights, laws, and governance comes from. The US Constitution alone does not stand alone and provide enough information to describe what the legal basis of the document stands on. Legal basis did not just appear out of thin air but is predicated on legal terms and underpinnings found in the Constitution that correlate to the English Common Law and the history of constitution writing.

    Inspection of the Organic Laws finds the following words concerning religion and morality:

    Year of our Lord (Constitution, Articles, Ordinance)
    Divine Providence (Declaration)
    Creator (Declaration)
    Nature’s God (Declaration)
    Appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world (Declaration)
    the Great Governor of the world (Articles)
    Religion (Bill of Rights, Articles, Ordinance)
    Establishment of Religion (Bill of Rights) [aka: state run church]
    Morality (Ordinance)
    Mode of worship (Ordinance)
    Religious sentiments (Ordinance)
    Blessings of Liberty (Constitution) [blessings: lit. “anoint with blood”]
    Good Behavior (Constitution, Ordinance) [syn. “morality”]
    Common law (Bill of Rights, Ordinance) [that law contains many Biblical references]

    Remember also, that some states would not ratify the Constitution without assurances of a bill or rights, which includes free exercise of religion. If you strictly construct just from the text of the Constitution alone without the amendments, you can rest assure that the Constitution would not have been ratified and be moot. The Bill of Rights had to be pushed for ratification quickly to head of a call for another constitutional convention that would have rewritten the constitution. Had that movement been successful, then it may have happened that the original would have been another anal to the Organic Laws and we have a different constitution today.

    So for a strict constructionist to stop right at the Constitution and observe Jesus and God is not mentioned, and to possibly excuse Lord as being a cultural custom, and not consult supporting text, is akin to taking out an insurance policy and saying that any riders, insurance laws, and governing policies have no place in insurance governance and insurance claims.

  40. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

    @yguy — James Madison, and other Federalists, contended that the Constitution did not need a bill of rights because it was strictly a positive law document: what the federal government can do. He contended that introducing a negative law document such as a bill or rights: what the federal government cannot do, would wiggle leave room for creative inventions of new powers of government by implication and completely bypass the amendment process.

    @al williams says: so,was this section repealed by the 16th amendment?
    –Capitation tax is a head tax…not exactly an income tax. Such was more akin to a poll tax or census tax. A direct tax essentially was any tax on property like real estate or durable goods; hence the federal government does not do property taxes; but such was not entirely prohibited. If the federal made a capitation or direct tax scheme that was proportional to actual populations in a state, then the federal could lay such a tax and it would be regardless of a person’s level of income. When the income tax amendment came along, it removed the census proportion requirement on that form of tax as it would be construed as a direct tax on property being income considered as a form of your property or estate. For perspective: an indirect tax would be akin to a sales tax as a tax on commerce.

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