Mount Everest is the Earth's highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres above sea level and the 5th tallest mountain measured from the centre of the Earth. It is located in the Nepal.
4 years ago, I posted a series of blog entries I titled Freedom Matters. In that series, I examined the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, 3 critical documents in the development of the United States. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We ended out with one candidate, that I contend unnecessarily cheated to get a nomination that the GOP was going to make sure got the nomination, Mitt Romney, and not even a 1 term senator from Illinois that promised “hope and change”, Barack Obama. To this day, I am firmly convinced that neither man communicated that they understood, or were willing to make the radical limits of the Constitution on the federal government even a peripheral part of their platform. Obama certainly has not supported policies that demonstrate an understanding of the severe limits that the Constitution places on the federal government, and Romney has nothing in his history that demonstrates that understanding either.
Here we are, 4 years later, with both major parties nominating the least liked candidates in recent memory. Amazingly, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have the nominations of the Democrat and Republican parties, respectively. Neither party has nominated a candidate that has demonstrated any fidelity to the Constitution, or in Trumps case, there is nothing in what he has said or done that would rationally lead one to believe he would use what limited power of the office the Constitution allows to force the Executive Branch, to say nothing of the Judicial or Legislative Branches.
So, 4 years later, I am doing it again. It’s a compulsion really. I can’t not do this. If I don’t, I am likely to loose my mind. And no one in my house wants live through that. Over the next couple of months, I will work through the Constitution. I don’t really have time to do more than the Constitution, but I think the Constitution is enough.
It’s election season in America, again. It’s going to by YUUUUGE!!!!!!
The Bill of Rights are the legal codification of very specific rights that the framers intended to protect with special placement in the Constitution. While the 7 Articles place impositions on the federal government, the first 10 Amendments give greater freedom to the people. I will make some comments about some of these Amendments, and some Amendments I will let stand as they are written.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Congress can not establish a religion. That only means that legislation can not be brought to the floor of the House or Senate that creates a federal religion. That’s it. Nothing more. Just because a city has a Manger scene on city property, does not mean that it is an establishment of religion. To establish an official religion, there must be actual legislation. To my knowledge, no such legislation has ever existed in the US. I could be wrong, and am willing to see evidence to the contrary.
The press has the right to report what it want’s, but not the right to libel or slander, both of which happen frequently, and the press gets away with it. The slightest accusation of the press abusing their privilege, and they scream the 1st Amendment. The press is more engaged in infotainment than in being the press.
The right to petition allows a people to make their disagreements known in an orderly fashion, and limits insurrections. It also a means to keep politicians from going too far.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The right to bear arms does not have a limit on it. So, automatic, semi automatic, double barrel, sawed off, whatever. To limit the type, amount, or the ability to have arms is unconstitutional. This is not for hunters, or simply gun enthusiasts. This amendment is designed to hold a tyrannical government at bay. A well armed people will defend themselves if and when the government rises up against them, say like invading a state that has left the Union.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This is a key amendment. It is a reminder that the Constitution severely limits the powers of the federal government, and the great freedom it is designed to protect for the people. It assumes that the people have rights that are not necessarily spelled out in the Constitution, but that does not presume that the federal government is granted the right to limit those unenumerated rights of the people. Rather this amendment places another constraint on the federal government, and it reminds the federal government that only the powers delegated to each branch of the government are those powers that each branch may retain. Any additional powers are forbidden.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Probably the most ignored amendment by politicians. It puts a specific cap on federal power, and nearly unlimited political freedom on the people. There is little wonder that Washington ignores this amendment. It marginalizes political power. There is so much of the federal code that has ignored this amendment. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats will let any of the power they have both unconstitutionally grabbed, go back to the people. Why should we continue to vote for them.
Article 5 – Amendment
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Cos inventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
This is how the Constitution is to be changed, through the amendment process in Article 5, not through simple legislation in Congress and the Senate. Certainly there is legislation that Congress can and should pass from time to time. However, there has been a great deal of legislation that is more appropriate for a Constitutional Convention. Defense of Marriage Act, Federal Reserve Act, War Powers Act, Troubled Asset Relief Program, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are just several examples that either should be left to the states, or at the most, should have been handled by a Constitutional Convention. Neither the Republicans or the Democrats are any more guilty than the other when it comes to supporting an unconstitutional process to pass legislation that the Constitution leaves to the individuals or the states. Two of these acts, the War Powers Act, and the Federal Reserve Act, change the roles of the President and Congress by removing areas that they have authority over and passing that authority off to entities that should not have that authority. Does either party offer any plans to change any of these unconstitutional acts? Romney says he will repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but will he replace it with something that is also unconstitutional?
Article 6 – Debts, Supremacy, Oaths
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all 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 orLaws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Article 7 – Ratification
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
Section 1 – Judicial Powers
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
Section 2 – Trial by Jury, Original Jurisdiction, Jury Trials
(The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.) (This section in parentheses is modified by the 11th Amendment.)
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have originalJurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Section 3 – Treason
These are the qualifications and duties of the President of the United States. This is the job description, the framework that a president is suppose to operate under. Read this section very carefully before you vote in November.
Section 1 – The President
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice-President chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
(The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not lie an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; a quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two-thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice-President.) (This clause in parentheses was superseded by the12th Amendment.)
The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
(In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.) (This clause in parentheses has been modified by the 20th and 25th Amendments.)
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Section 2 – Civilian Power Over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
Section 3 – State of the Union, Convening Congress
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
Section 4 – Disqualification
Continuing with Article 1 of the Constitution, I will finish Article 1 in this post.
Article 1 – The Legislative Branch
Section 8 – Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power:
To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties,Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Congress has the Constitutional responsibility to coin money and regulate the value of it, not some private organization that does not get audited. There is no provision in the Constitution that allows Congress to abdicate its authority here. Congress is not prohibited from commissioning an organization to do the actual printing of money, but Congress alone has the authority to dictate the value of the money. With no Constitutional mandate for the Federal Reserve, it must be abolished, and a return to a more sound monetary policy is in order. While I am a “gold standard” guy when it comes to what we base our money on, at the very least, the basis for our money must be on something that has recognizable and accepted universal value. (Deut 25:15 and Prov 16:11)
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
This one will forever be debated. The bottom line is that the Constitution charges Congress with creating the framework for copyright law. Intellectual Property is recognized by the Constitution, and it is to be protected by acts of Congress. The Constitution states that the length of copyright is limited, but not how limited. That is left up to Congress to figure out. You may not like the concept of Intellectual Property, but it is codified and protected in the Constitution.
To declare war. Read that again. To declare war. Only Congress has the Constitutional authority to declare war. Not the President. Only Congress. The sitting President may ask Congress to declare war. I do not think it inappropriate for the sitting President to do that. But at the end of the day, only Congress can declare war. The reasoning is simple. The authority to send men to their death should not rest on the shoulders of only one man. That fits more in line with the role of king than it does the role of elected president. How many legitimately declared wars has the US engaged in since World War 2? None. Don’t believe me? Go back and look. If you can find one military action that the US has engaged in where the Congress, not the President, has declared war. I mean actually declaring war not simply allocating funds for a military action the President ordered.
Since the time of Augustine, western civilization has operated under the “Just War Theory”. Just war theory gives guidelines for determining if a particular war is Just, and how to justly conduct a just war. Requiring a majority of elected representatives to agree to a particular war is a check and balance against the United States becoming an aggressor nation. It is a preventative against imposing our interest where it is wrong to do so. If you can get a majority of 500+ elected representatives to agree to a particular war, it is likely that the majority of the citizens are also in support of that war. It is not a guarantee, but it is a much safer, far more rational position to approach war from than a single elected individual having this power.
Here, I think no one will agree with me, and that is ok. The Civil War was not an insurrection. The south simply voted, state by state, to leave the Union. Much like each state voted to leave the Crown nearly 100 years prior. In my opinion, the southern states should not have left, but should have continued to fight in Congress over the issue of the rights of individual states, but in my estimation, each state had the right to leave the union. The north had no Constitutional authority to force the south to stay. Lincoln should have let the south go. But the serious error of the 3/5ths compromise led to the serious error of the Civil War. The north had no justification for going to war, if they were to have followed Augustine’s Just War Theory. The south did have justification, as they were defending themselves from an aggressor nation. The Civil War should never have happened, and we live with the consequences of the sin of the 3/5ths compromise even today. Further, had we as a nation in the early formation if the nation considered chattel slavery the sin that it actually is, we would never have even had the discussion of the 3/5ths compromise. This is what happens when we look at other human beings as “less than” us. If God created man in His image, who are we to say that another image bearer is “less than” us?
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
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.
Section 9 – Limits on Congress
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
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.
Section 10 – Powers Prohibited of States
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
Today, I examine Article 1 of the Constitution. Here, the Constitution establishes a bi-cameral legislature, and sets the limits it operates under. As you read through each section, notice what the House and Senate are actually charged with doing, and more importantly, not doing.
Section 1 – The Legislature
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of theUnited States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Section 2 – The House
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
(Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.) (The previous sentence in parentheses was modified by the 14th Amendment, section 2.)The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
The Constitution matters. It is a vital document in terms of the workings of the federal government. It is generally a good document. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3, is probably the most morally reprehensible portion of the Constitution. The three-fifths compromise has absolutely no moral justification. Fortunately, it was altered by the 14th Amendment, but this should have never been a necessity. Had this compromise not been made, either the ratification of the Constitution would have been delayed, or the southern states would not have ratified it, leaving the north and south somewhat split. The Civil War, which I believe to be an unjust war, may still have been fought, but slavery would not have been an issue. The war may have been delayed, or even better prevented. Unfortunately, many of the colony’s went along with chattel slavery, a practice that is antithetical to intent of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The compromise should have never been made. Sadly, we still live with the effects of the compromise.
Section 3 – The Senate
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State,(chosen by the Legislature thereof,) (The preceding words in parentheses superseded by the 17th Amendment, section 1.)for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Interesting that, originally, US senators were chosen by their individual state legislators. Members of the House are chosen by popular vote of the districts they represent, thus giving the people the right to directly elect their own Representatives in the federal government, the state legislatures selected 2 people to represent the interest of the individual states in Congress, thereby giving the states direct representation in the federal government, and the President and Vice President are chosen by the Electoral College, not the popular vote. In this way, the people had direct representation, along with each state’s interest being represented by appointing Senators. It allowed for the maximization of varied interests to be represented in the federal government. A repeal of the 17th Amendment may be necessary to restore the good balance
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year;(and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.) (The preceding words in parentheses were superseded by the 17th Amendment, section 2.)
No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Section 4 – Elections, Meetings
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall (be on the first Monday in December,) (The preceding words in parentheses were superseded by the 20th Amendment, section 2.)unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
Section 5 – Membership, Rules, Journals, Adjournment
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
Section 6 – Compensation
(The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.) (The preceding words in parentheses were modified by the 27th Amendment.)They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
I would favor a change in this section. Instead of Senators and Representatives receive compensation from the federal treasury, they should be compensated from the treasury of the states they represent. The amount of compensation should be determined by the individual states, and the process for setting the compensation should be determined by the individual states as well. For example, if the state of TN believes that the legislature should set the compensation for the representatives it sends to Washington, then the legislature should set the compensation. My preference that the compensation should be set by referendum voted on by the people of the state, not the state legislature.
Section 7 – Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases 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. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
I will finish the last three sections of Article 1 in the next post.
Given that this is a critical election cycle, I think it important to remind ourselves of what the Constitution actually says. It seems that both parties have forgotten, or worse, ignored, what the Constitution actually allows the federal government to do, which isn’t a whole lot.
It is helpful to remember that the Constitution severely limits the power of the federal government, and with good reason. It is the nature of government to grow and expand beyond its intended mandate. The framers of the Constitution were ever mindful of two things:
1) The tyranny of a monarch, specifically their own monarch, King George III, and
2) The tyranny of a mob, as seen by the buildup to the French Revolution.
Both of these demonstrated a great potential for evil to run amuck. Which is why the US is not a pure democracy, nor is it an authoritarian dictatorship, both of which are forms of tyranny. Rather, the US is a constitutional, representative republic. We have a central document that is the final, legal authority, and the citizens of the individual states elect people who are suppose to represent the interest of the individuals in the states they represent, while submitting to the limits the Constitution puts on the various offices.
There will be words or phrases hyperlinked in each section of the Constitution. They link to a site that provides definitions and/or explanations of concepts to better understand the context that is in play. For example, in the Preamble, the phrase “…promote the general Welfare…” with the word “welfare” hyperlinked. The site linked states the following about the use of the word welfare:
welfare n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being. [<MEwel faren, to fare well] Source: AHD
Welfare in today’s context also means organized efforts on the part of public or private organizations to benefit the poor, or simply public assistance. This is not the meaning of the word as used in the Constitution.
I encourage you to also make use of the links. It allows for a much greater understanding of the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. While it is popular to “internalize” the intent of a document, or book, and to figure out “what it means to me”, without taking into account the authors’ intent, the Constitution was written in a cultural context that values author intent and had no concept of “personal meaning” as we have today.
With that in mind, we start with the Preamble.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
What I find striking in this introduction is that it starts with “We the People of the United States…”. Immediately, the document recognizes that that the state has no authority, or power of its own. Whatever power it has, is given, and then only in a supremely limited sense.
As a Reformed Christian, I have one difficulty. The Constitution states that the power of the federal government is granted by the people it is charged with governing, and the consent of the governed is an important thing. However, ultimately all governing authorities derive their power by the ordination of God. (Romans 13:1-4).
Moving to the next phrase, “in order to form a more perfect Union…”, not a perfect one, just one more perfect than the one they left. Given the tyranny of the British Crown, it is not hard to imagine that the colonialist would be increasingly frustrated that the government would ignore them, and even double down on the tyranny.
The “general welfare” clause is one that has come under much debate in recent decades. What we think of as welfare is not what the framers had in mind. Thomas Jefferson, in one of his letters stated that,
[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. (Boyd, Julian P., ed. (1950). The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 19. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 285. http://www.princeton.edu/~tjpapers/index.html.)
And in 1824, Chief Justice John Marshall, in Gibbons vs. Ogdon, stated that:
Congress is authorized to lay and collect taxes, &c. to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States. … Congress is not empowered to tax for those purposes which are within the exclusive province of the States. (Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1, 199 (1824).)
This requires that the General Welfare Clause be understood in the context of the whole of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, specifically, the 10th Amendment. Welfare as we know it today, is not the business of the federal government, but the individual states, for reasons that I will discuss in a later post. By welfare, I mean welfare for individuals, as well as businesses that some seem to think are “too big to fail”.
In the next post, I will begin to examine Article 1 – The Legislative Branch.