In Federalist No. 44 Madison completes his list of and defense of powers delegated to the federal government. In this essay he discusses restrictions on the authority of the States in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. Most of these restrictions make sense, even today, such as the restriction on States entering into treaties, coining money, producing paper money, granting any title of nobility etc.
In Article 1, Section 10, States are also prohibited from passing bills of attainder and ex post facto laws. I wanted to know more about this, and did a little research in the Heritage Guide to the Constitution . On page 170 essayist David Forte writes, “The framers regarded bills of attainder and ex post facto laws as so offensive to liberty that they prohibited their use by both Congress (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3) and the states.” Essayist Daniel Troy points out “these are the only two individual liberties that the original Constitution protects from both state and federal intrusion.”
It quickly came back to me that ex post facto laws are retroactive laws, punishing an act that was lawful when it took place.
I had to look up bill of attainder, though. Webster defines bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) as “an act of legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a trial.”
Madison states, “Bills of attainder, ex-post-facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.” David Forte, in the Heritage Guide, points out that some States had enacted these types of laws after the Revolution, and our founding fathers wanted to eliminate these tyrannical practices many had suffered under, under the crown.
It is interesting to note that the federal government’s powers are specifically enumerated in the Constitution, while the States’ powers are not enumerated. By listing only what the States are prohibited from doing, the groundwork is laid for what eventually became the 10th Amendment:
“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.”
Madison spends a good deal of the second half of his essay defending the “necessary and proper clause.” We last heard about the “necessary and proper,” clause in Federalist No. 33, The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation, by Alexander Hamilton.
In both Federalist 33, and Federalist 44, Publius addresses what is to be done if the federal government oversteps its bounds, as many opponents of the necessary and proper clause feared.
Hamilton stated in Federalist No. 33:
“If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”
And Madison in Federalist No. 44:
“If it be asked what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part of the Constitution, and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning……in the last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.”
A recurring theme of the Federalist Papers is that the responsibility to uphold the Constitution rests with the people.
To uphold the Constitution, we must first know it, and understand it.
I am grateful for all I am learning each day. Some days I learn from an enlightening quote that pops off the page. Other days, I delve deeper into a topic I don’t quite understand or want to learn more about. Every day, I learn from all of your blog comments and through our wise and talented Guest Constitutional Scholar Bloggers. Thank you to Pofessor Knipprath for being one of our most frequent contributors! We love your essays!
Thank you for joining us on this journey, as we strive to continue learning, so we can live up to the phrase our founders bestowed upon our collective intellect, “the genius of the people.”
Good night and God Bless!
Monday, June 28th, 2010