The US Government Has Limits. REALLY! It Does!!

Contrary to what many in Washington that say they represent us believe (on BOTH sides of the aisle) the US Government does, indeed, have limits on what it can and cannot do.  They’re not even really that hard to find, all one has to do is look in a copy of the United States Constitution.  It’s all in there.  So let’s take a few minutes and actually LOOK at it, READ it, and try to UNDERSTAND it, at least where it applies to how the founding fathers wanted to limit the power of the federal government.

The limits are really laid down in the amendments, particularly the first through eleventh.  The real killer to federal power are the ninth and tenth amendments and they were not placed there by chance or at random.  So we actually start with the text I’ll copy them here:

Amendment 9:  The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10:  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.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?  The Constitution is a document that was adopted to specifically limit the power of the federal government.  To understand where the founding fathers are coming from, they had just thrown aside the yoke of a repressive, dictatorial monarchy and had no desire to ever see their new nation fall under the same taskmasters.  The ninth amendment makes it quite clear that the purpose of the Constitution is NOT to limit the people or the states, except in some very specific circumstances, but rather to limit the power and scope of a federal government.  The wording of the ninth amendment is quite clear on that point.

The tenth amendment is also quite clear.  It says, very plainly, that if it doesn’t say in the Constitution that the federal government can do it, then it can’t do it.  If it doesn’t say that the States or the People can’t do it, then they can do it.  Simple.  Elegant.  To the point.

Prior to passage of the Bill of Rights James Madison wrote in the Federalist Paper No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”  It’s important to note that Madison saw no need for the Tenth Amendment feeling the Constitution would take care of this on its own, however other founding fathers disagreed especially as they were considering the other amendments included in those first ten and insisted that the ninth and tenth be included to prevent the growth and excess of federal power.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No.84, “[A Bill of Rights] would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?”  Clearly, Hamilton was concerned that some of the powers delegated in the Constitution and even the Bill of Rights could at a future date be perverted and twisted in a “catch-all” type of mentality empowering the federal government with rights it was never intended to have.

In 1883 Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote, “The Constitution was, from its very origin, contemplated to be the frame of a national government, of special and enumerated powers, and not of general and unlimited powers”, echoing Hamilton’s sentiments.  In 1931 the Supreme Court found in “United States vs. Sprague” that “The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the states or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified…” in the majority opinion written by Justice Owen Roberts.  This opinion reiterated that the tenth amendment was in place confirming that the Constitution was there to limit the power of the federal government and free the States and the citizens.

Somehow, later in the 20th century, the Supreme Court and the federal government lost sight of this primary, over-riding principle of our governing document.  Following the Great Depression and New Deal era, the federal government gained more power virtually year by year and our society, economy, and overall standard of living has been in decline because of that.

We have the road map of what works, it’s the US Constitution.  We simply have to abide by it and if the federal government won’t do it, then drastic change is certain to result.

-john stricker

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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