The words “education,” “schools,” and “curriculum” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution or any Amendments.  This is not to say the Founders were not supportive of public education. Many of them, most notably Thomas Jefferson, wrote in support of the concept because they believed that, “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

Read more

Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution describe the roles of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches of the federal government. It’s clear that the Founders intended for Congress to make the laws, the administration to enforce the laws, and the courts to interpret the laws.  Although this doctrine of Separation of Powers sounds simple, it’s not. The administrative branch holds great power to promulgate regulations and make executive decisions (orders and actions) that wield the force of law, and today, many fear that this power is being abused. Read more

Guest Essayist: Hadley Heath, Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women's Forum

Modern people argue about the importance of the Constitution asking: Should we strictly adhere to its words, or should we view it as a living document?  The Founders penned it more than 200 years ago.  Is it still relevant today?

In his short piece, “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union,” Abraham Lincoln asserts that it is not the founding document that bears the greatest importance, but the principle that undergirds it.  Namely, the principle upon which America was founded: liberty for all.  So long as we are true to this principle, we are honoring the essence of the American idea.

Lincoln explains that the United States of America could have been formed as a new nation without the principle of liberty for all.  Given the circumstances — mass immigration to the New World, Read more

Guest Essayist: Hadley Heath, Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women's Forum

Amendment XXV, Section 2:

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

The 25rd Amendment, Section 2, explains that in a vacancy in the office of Vice President, the President must act to select a new Vice President, and the Congress must confirm the President’s choice.  More broadly, this Amendment (ratified in 1967) clarifies the line of succession in the executive branch as established in Article II of the Constitution.

Without this Section or this Amendment, it was unclear what to do in the case of a Vice Presidential death or disqualification.  Would the Speaker of the House ascend to this office?  Would the people elect a new Vice President?  Actually, neither happened.  But before the 25th Amendment, the office of the Vice President was simply left vacant 16 times, and it stayed that way until the next election.

Eight times the President of the United States died, and the Vice President left office to become President.  Seven times the Vice President died.  Once, Vice President John Calhoun resigned in order to become a U.S. Senator.

But for the sake of continuity, and in order to keep the important office of Vice President filled, the U.S. ratified this Amendment.  It makes it clear that the President will nominate someone, and the Congress will confirm.  The Congressional confirmation also ensures that the people have a representative voice in approving the new Vice President.

After all, the office of the Vice President carries with it unique Constitutional duties and shouldn’t be left empty.  According to Article I of the Constitution, the Vice President also serves as President of the U.S. Senate, and must cast a vote if there is a tie.  The Vice President is also charged with overseeing, counting and presenting the votes of the Electoral College.

The Vice President also serves an important informal role as the assistant to, or spokesperson for the President.  This role varies from administration to administration, depending on the relationship between the two leaders.

In American history since 1967, only two back-to-back occasions have called for the selection of a Vice President in the manner prescribed by Amendment XXV.  In 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned.  President Richard Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to the Vice Presidency, and Congress confirmed him.

The following year, 1974, President Nixon resigned.  This meant that Gerald Ford would ascend to the Presidency, allowing him to select a nominee for Vice President to fill his now-vacant office.  He selected Norman Rockefeller, who was also confirmed by the Congress.  This situation resulted in both a President and a Vice President who were not elected in a general election by the Electoral College.

Elections are essential to the American system of governance: They allow the people to select their own leaders.  But, on the rare occasion that these elected leaders cannot perform their duties, Amendment XXV prescribes how new leadership will take charge.

Amendment XXV, Section 2, ensures that the people are at least represented in the selection of this new leadership; the requirement of the new Vice President’s confirmation by Congress means that Members of the House and Senate – the representatives of the people – can check the power of the executive in making this new appointment.

This Section of Amendment XXV serves the important purpose of maintaining the offices of President and Vice President in a manner consistent with government for, of, and by the people.

Hadley Heath is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum.

June 6, 2012

Essay #78

Guest Essayist: Hadley Heath, Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women's Forum

Amendment XXV, Section 1:

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 to clarify the Presidential line of succession established in Article II of the Constitution.  For the sake of national security, and to avoid the turmoil of contested authority – with which the Founders were familiar after a revolutionary war – the new nation established a clear, indisputable contingency plan in the case of a Presidential death, resignation, or removal from office.

This provision in the Constitution points to the underlying idea that America’s destiny does not live or die with one person or one leader, but that she is always ready to continue thriving, even in the face of a national tragedy or crisis.

Fully nine U.S. Vice Presidents have come to the office of President in this way – eight because of the death of a President.  One occasion, the resignation of President Richard Nixon, resulted in Vice President Gerald Ford taking the office of President in 1974.  This has also been the only such occasion (of a Vice President ascending to the office of President) that occurred after the ratification of Amendment XXV.

Previous to this Amendment, the nation looked to Article II, Clause 6 for guidance.  This clause states that in case of a Presidential disqualification or death, the “powers and duties” of the President will devolve to the Vice President.  However, the language of this clause left unclear whether the Vice President would indeed become the next President, or if he would simply execute the duties of the office until a new President could be elected.

Precedent resolved this controversy, when the first Presidential death occurred in 1841.  President William Henry Harrison died in office, and Vice President John Tyler took the oath of office to succeed him as President.

Amendment XXV finally clarified in supreme Constitutional law that the successor to the office of President would indeed become President, not simply become “acting President.”

Because they are established as first in line for succession, the Vice Presidents of the United States are subject to the same eligibility requirements as Presidents.  According to Article II of the Constitution, these requirements are that the person be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old, and have spent at least 14 years residing in the U.S.

The Constitution gives Congress the authority to further define the line of succession.  The Presidential Line of Succession Act of 1947 established that the next successors would be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, followed by the members of the Presidential Cabinet in order of their department’s establishment.

The 25th Amendment – along with Article II of the Constitution and the Presidential Line of Succession Act – make provision for the United States to have continuous leadership, even in the event of the disqualification or death of the national leader.  This important establishment, in law, is meant to guarantee a peaceful and seamless transition.

So far in our history, although the occasions have been rare, this part of our government’s structure has provided new leadership in the face of national tragedy and hardship.  This clearly serves to underscore the American idea that the future of our nation is not in the hands of one man or one executive, but that as a people we’ve consented to the leadership of duly elected and vetted leaders, as designed by the Constitution.

Hadley Heath is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum.

June 5, 2012

Essay #77

Guest Essayist: Hadley Heath, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum

Amendment XIII

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Declaration of Independence, penned in 1776, proclaimed that “All men are created equal,” and “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

God gives rights; government serves God and the people by protecting rights.  America’s Founding Fathers recognized this principle, but our young country failed to protect the God-given rights of some Americans.  In the U.S., the practice of slavery continued throughout the Revolutionary War and the birth of our new country, and for nearly 100 years afterward.

It was not until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in 1865, that our government established a protection of liberty for all Americans, specifically liberty from slavery or forced labor.

For centuries, slavery was a worldwide phenomenon, legal and socially acceptable in many empires, countries, and colonies.  From their early development, the southern American colonies relied on slavery as integral to their agricultural economy.  But opposition to slavery – in the colonies and abroad – was growing stronger throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

In America, religious groups including the Quakers strongly opposed slavery and advocated for its abolition. Pressure from Quakers in Pennsylvania led to the passage of the state’s “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” in 1780, only four years after the establishment of the United States as a country.

The British government put an end to slavery in its empire in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act.  The French colonies abolished it 15 years later in 1848.  These worldwide events added fuel to the anti-slavery movement in the U.S.

Some American Abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves.  Other Americans who opposed slavery did not call for immediate emancipation, but instead hoped that the containment of slavery to the southern states would lead to its eventual end.

The American Civil War broke out in 1861 when several of the southern slave states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.  This dark chapter of America’s history ultimately decided the fate of slavery when the nation came back together after the defeat of the Confederate States.

President Lincoln dreamt of an America where all people were free.  In fact, he declared all slaves to be free in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.  An amendment to our Constitution followed as the next step to make the end of slavery a permanent part of our nation’s governing document.

Together, at the end of the Civil War, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments greatly expanded the civil rights of many Americans.

While the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, it did not grant voting rights or equal rights to all Americans.  Nearly a century after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed racial discrimination and segregation.

Sadly, the Thirteenth Amendment did not bring about an immediate or total end to slavery in the U.S.  Today, it is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked into our borders for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor each year.  This is in clear violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, and Americans should work toward a swift end to human trafficking in the U.S. and all over the world.

Before our Declaration of Independence was written, English philosopher thinker John Locke developed the idea that individuals have the natural right to defend their life, health, liberty, and possessions (or property).  While the United States has always and should always protect the property rights of individuals, the Thirteenth Amendment makes it clear that owning “property” in the United States cannot mean owning another person.

Individual liberty for all and the God-given right to pursue happiness are not compatible with slavery.  The end of slavery with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment is one of the most “American” of all of our historical events, because this event brought our country closer in line with the principles upon which it was founded.

Hadley Heath is a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum. (