Ex parte McCardle was forged in the superheated atmosphere of Southern reconstruction after the Civil War. The struggle to shape that reconstruction pitted the “Radical” Republicans (representing the pre-war abolitionist wing) against moderates within the party. Democrats, reduced to a rump faction, could do little more than get out of the way and, if palatable, delicately offer support to the Republican moderates. The political and constitutional fault line cut between the restrained Lincoln-Johnson presidential reconstruction based on maintaining the existing federalism, but with abolition of slavery, and the program of congressional radicals to treat the South as a conquered province reduced to territorial status, prostrate before Northern arms and to be cleansed of the twin stains of slavery and secession by stripping the erstwhile states of their old constitutional privileges.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, Read more
On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln won the Republican nomination for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. His opponent in the election would be Stephen Douglas. Upon his nomination, Lincoln delivered the “House Divided” speech in the war of words of what would culminate in the Lincoln-Douglas debates later that year. Read more
Amendment XIV, Section 1:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once dismissively declared the equal protection clause to be the “usual last resort of constitutional arguments.” At the time, 1927 in the notorious case of Buck v. Bell, Holmes could not have foreseen the explosion in the use of the equal protection clause that would occur a generation later.
The Declaration of Independence had famously asserted the proposition, self-evident to the Founders, that “all Men are created equal.” But this was a metaphysical proposition in that there was to be no aristocracy by birthright, a moral one in that we are all (with allowance for the truly insane) equally imbued with free will, and a religious one in that we are all children of God. The Founders were hardly so naïve to believe that all people are physically, intellectually, and emotionally equal, never mind that they are alike. Aristotle had written in the Politics, “Democracy arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.” Aristotle viewed this as a fatal flaw of democracy, a theme echoed in Madison’s Federalist 10. In a trenchant dissection of the instability of democracies, Madison sarcastically observed, “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that, by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”
Moreover, the very real presence of slavery in the great majority of the states demonstrated the limitations of the concrete application of the Declaration’s sentiments. While Thomas Jefferson, agonizing over the institution of slavery from which he personally benefitted, might write, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” it was also the case, as the historian Forrest McDonald observed, “Few of his countrymen trembled with him.”
In practice, then, both simple human differences as well as more profound human inequalities have to be taken into account in a successful social order. Regarding the former, the law routinely discriminates by drawing lines that target some in the community for unfavorable treatment. The tax code, for example, is a mass of discriminations. As to the latter, attempts to equalize conditions that arise from the human inequalities about which Madison wrote is a prescription for totalitarian government. That is the dark side of egalitarianism and exposes the tension between equality and liberty.
Moving from a manifesto for independence to a plan for governing the Union, the Framers did not imbed either a general principle of non-discrimination or one of equality of condition in the Constitution. There are only specific limited instantiations of non-discrimination, such as the protection offered under the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV to persons coming into a state from another and under the commerce clause to out-of-staters competing with local businesses.
There is, however, no equal protection clause. That had to await the adoption of the 14th Amendment. However, as was the case with the 13th and 15th Amendments, that provision had to do solely with race discrimination and, more directly, the conditions that resulted from institutionalized slavery based on the black man’s race. The 14th Amendment was the immediate product of concern over the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a law passed under the 13th Amendment. That statute was an anti-discrimination law. Since it prohibited race discrimination in various matters and did not limit itself to slavery as such or apply only in former slave states, there were doubts about the ability of the 13th Amendment to support this law. To cure that defect, a movement for another constitutional amendment, the eventual 14th, arose in Congress under the auspices of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction and the leadership of Congressman John Bingham of Ohio and Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan.
The equal protection clause was only intended to insure formal equality before the law and only regarding race discrimination. That its reach did not extend further was made clear by the Supreme Court in 1872 in the Slaughterhouse Cases, in which a claim by butchers that a Louisiana law violated, among others, their right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment was rejected almost summarily. As Justice Samuel Miller declared, “We doubt very much whether any action of a State not directed by way of discrimination against the negroes as a class, or on account of their race, will ever be held to come within the purview of this provision.” In a companion case decided on the same day, Bradwell v. Illinois, a claim by a woman that the state’s refusal to allow women to practice law violated the 14th Amendment did not even produce an argument by her attorneys or a discussion by the Court of a violation of the equal protection clause. The singularly race-focused nature of the equal protection clause was reiterated by the Court of that era in the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson.
Leaving aside a few odd cases involving unenumerated fundamental rights, it was not until the 1950s that the Supreme Court began to consider non-race-related equal protection claims, and it was not until Reed v. Reed in 1971 that a claim of unconstitutional sex discrimination was successful. In the last several decades, the Court has used the equal protection clause to strike down state laws that discriminate against various classes of aliens, illegitimate children, and homosexuals. Race, ethnicity, religion, national origin and (many) alienage classifications are considered constitutionally “suspect,” meaning that they are presumptively unconstitutional and subject to “strict judicial scrutiny.” Sex and illegitimacy are “quasi-suspect” classifications subject to “intermediate” scrutiny. In either case, the government must show greater need for such discrimination than would be required for ordinary discriminations by government, such as age, wealth, disability, or other classifications. This means effectively that racial and other such differences must not be formally recognized in laws.
The expansion of non-discrimination protection has made obsolete Justice Holmes’ comment about the futility of equal protection clause claims. The Constitution now protects more broadly against discrimination by government than was the case in the 1920s, and certainly than in the 1790s. Still, there is generally no obligation by government to eliminate inequalities that result from human nature and capabilities or from what might be called expansively the human condition. President Obama, speaking years ago at an academic gathering, bemoaned the Supreme Court’s failure to use the equal protection clause to equalize economic and social conditions of inequality, but the Court has generally avoided such judicial legislation. The only exceptions have been in matters related to access to courts, such as the right of an indigent defendant to a paid attorney.
Beyond those few cases, the justices have declined numerous invitations to turn the Constitution from one of rights against the community (a “negative” constitution) to one of rights from the community (a “positive” constitution). Human experience shows that the latter always becomes one of obligations to the community, as government grows and individual liberty shrinks. Certain justices would be happy to move in the direction of the European model to enact their ideal egalitarian world. Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s admonition to the Egyptians that they follow the South African constitution rather than the American in establishing their new system comes to mind. But the increasingly precarious economic status of the welfare state shows the wisdom of the Court in not amending the Constitution to remake the equal protection clause into a constitutional forge of egalitarianism.
An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums. Read more from Professor Knipprath at: http://www.tokenconservative.com/.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Article IV, Section 4
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
Here the Framers speak the heart of their intentions for America.
In the Declaration of Independence, they had objected to George III’s actions because he had violated the laws of nature and of nature’s God. One might suppose that the Americans’ complaints amounted to no more than an accusation that this king had turned tyrant—that some other, more just, monarch (a Queen Anne, a Henry IV) might have appeased them. Indeed she, or he, might have done—for a time.
But a more careful reading of the Declaration shows that not only the king but also Parliament had angered the colonists. Americans judged that the whole British regime, and the structure of the British empire, deserved to be overthrown—replaced with a new regime and a new imperial structure. The new regime was republican—republicanism as they, not the Europeans, understood it—and federal—a federalism informed but not simply as defined by the great French political philosopher, Montesquieu.
What danger did this clause address? The highly respected Massachusetts delegate, Nathaniel Gorham, joined John Randolph and George Mason of Virginia and James Wilson of Pennsylvania in issuing the warning: “an enterprising Citizen might erect the standard of Monarchy in a particular State, might gather together partisans from all quarters, might extend his views from State to State, and threaten to establish a tyranny over the whole and the General Government be compelled to remain an inactive witness of its own destruction.” That is, these Framers anticipated the kind of career undertaken by Napoleon in France a decade before the fact, and they moved decisively to prevent it from happening here.
As usual, James Madison (writing in the forty-third Federalist) provides the clearest overview. “In a confederacy founded on republican principles and composed of republican members, the superintending government ought clearly to possess authority to defend the system against aristocratic or monarchical innovations.” Why so? Because the United States is not only a republic but a federal union: “The more intimate the nature of such a Union may be, the greater interest have the members in the political institutions of each other; and the greater right to insist that the forms of government under which the compact was entered into, should be substantially maintained” (emphasis in original). What is more, “Governments of dissimilar principles and forms have been found less adapted to a federal coalition of any sort, than those of a kindred nature,” he writes, citing Montesquieu’s research as proof. Not only the federal government but the constituent states of the federal union must be republican. Only this can stand as what Jefferson called “an empire of liberty.”
“But a right implies a remedy,” Madison continues. What power within the United States can safely prevent an anti-republican faction from seizing control of a state? “What better umpires could be desired by two violent factions, flying to arms and tearing a State to pieces, than the representatives of confederate States not heated by the local flame? To the impartiality of Judges they would unite the affection of friends.” And even more ambitiously: “Happy would it be if such a remedy for its infirmities could be enjoyed by all free governments; if a project equally effectual could be established for the universal peace of all mankind.” This would require that republican regimes achieve a sort of `critical mass’ throughout the world; in 1787, they had achieved such a critical mass only in the United States. If republicanism failed here, when and where would it revive? When and where would a general civil peace obtain—the condition for securing unalienable human rights?
Protection against invasion includes not only invasion by foreigners—the United States was bordered by the non-republican empires of Spain and Great Britain, as well as by the non-republican (and still formidable) Amerindian nations to the west—but also by other states of the Union. Although (as Montesquieu had remarked) commercial-republican regimes had not fought one another in the past, the Framers were taking no chances.
The Constitution guarantees federal intervention in times of anti-republican rebellion and of invasion foreign or domestic. Intra-state violence that is not anti-republican raised another problem. Massachusetts had suppressed Shays’ Rebellion only a few months before the Convention convened. Daniel Shays and his men had rebelled out of desperate indebtedness; far from being anti-republican, many had served in the war on the Patriot side. Convention delegates Elbridge Gerry and Luther Martin objected that intervention in such cases could be dangerous and unnecessary unless the afflicted state consented to it. At the same time, whatever Jefferson may have thought about a little rebellion now and then, armed rebellion does tend to throw cold water on the rule of law, and republics normally operate according to the rule of law. The delegates therefore agreed to require the federal government to obtain consent from the state government before intervening in such disputes. On balance, the local authorities will judge best when a republican rebellion requires the heavy hand of federal intervention.
In his Federalist essay, Madison did not hesitate to notice a force that might intervene in any disorder, whether anti-republican or republican, foreign or interstate or domestic. An “unhappy species of population abound[s] in some of the States, who during the calm of regular government are sunk below the level of men; but who in the tempestuous scenes of civil violence may emerge into the human character, and give a superiority of strength to any party with which they may associate themselves.” The presence of slaves in the United States raised the harshest questions about both the American regime and the American federal union. By nature, the slaves were men; by law, they were a self-contradictory mixture of personhood and property. Civil disorder of any kind might induce them to rise up and claim their natural rights, perhaps at the expense of the natural rights of their masters; slave revolts had occurred in New York during the colonial period, and of course the freeman Toussaint Louverture would lead a (temporarily) successful insurrection in Haiti beginning in 1791. “We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man,” Madison declared. Would a slave revolt be an attack on republicanism or a vindication of it? Madison and the other founders sought some way to avoid such a revolt, which might overturn republicanism in the name of republicanism or perhaps install some other regime as a remedy for evils of slaveholding republicanism.
Put in a somewhat different way, the dilemma was as simple as it was stark. As Madison wrote in Federalist 43, the republican guarantee clause “supposes a pre-existing government of the form which is to be guaranteed.” That is, the basis of the federal union—the new empire of liberty replacing the old empire of tyranny—is the republican regime of each constituent state. Each state entered the union acknowledged as a republic by all of the others. But how `republican’ were those states in which slaves “abounded”? Madison knew the answer, which he would write down in an unpublished note a few years later: “In proportion as slavery prevails in a State, the Government, however democratic in name, must be aristocratic in fact. The power lies in the part instead of the whole, in property instead of numbers. All the ancient popular governments were, for this reason, aristocracies. The majority were slaves…. The Southern States of America, are on the same principle aristocracies.” In his own Virginia, he observed, the population of non-freeholding whites and black slaves amounted to three-quarters of the population (Papers of James Madison, vol. xiii, p. 163).
Such regimes were republics in Montesquieu’s sense—“aristocratic” rather than “democratic” republics. For Montesquieu, “republic” meant simply that the regime did not amount to the `private’ possession of one person—a despotism. This definition derived from the Latin root of the word: res publica or “public thing.” But to Madison and rest of the founders “republic” meant the “democratic” republic, only; in the words of Federalist 39, “it is essential” to republican government “that it be derived from the great body of society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or favored class of it.” And “it is sufficient for such a government that the persons administering it be appointed, either directly or indirectly, by the people—i. e., the representative principle. Representatives represent the people at large, not some “favored class.” In his 1787 critique of the Articles of Confederation, “Vices of the Political System of the United States,” Madison went so far as to publish the sentence: “Where slavery exists the republican theory [namely, that right and power are co-extensive because the majority rules] becomes still more fallacious” than it does under conditions whereby there is a large number of disenfranchised paupers.
All of this being so, the republican regime and the federal union—the unity of the United States—began its life on a knife edge. The Framers hoped that their new Constitution would provide a framework for the peaceful resolution of the problem of popular self-government under conditions in some ways favorable—remoteness from Europe, commercial interdependence of the states, and all the other features described in the first Federalist—and in some ways ominous—the existence of anti-republican regimes on the borders and of anti-republican “domestic institutions” within the states themselves. They inserted the republican guarantee clause as one way of strengthening that framework. In a way, it did—but its enforcement came at horrible cost, decades later.
Will Morrisey holds the William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College; his books include Self-Government, The American Theme: Presidents of the Founding and Civil War and The Dilemma of Progressivism: How Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson Reshaped the American Regime of Self-Government.
Articles IV through VII of the Constitution are, even for many educated Americans, terra incognita. People may know about the first three articles, important as they are in defining the separation of powers at the national level among the three branches and in drawing basic divisions between the national government and the states. Despite their brevity, these often-overlooked articles play significant roles.
When the Constitution was adopted, the framers hoped, as the Preamble declares, to form a “more perfect Union.” They recognized (in part out of political calculation) that a union already existed under the Articles of Confederation. They wanted to tweak the system enough to place it on a sounder political and economic footing. Part of their plan was to give more independence to a revamped United States government, as the first three Articles demonstrate. But, given the size of the republic and the dispersion of its population, the national government was expected to remain a comparatively restrained political player. While the suspicion over “consolidation” was often in the open, the enumeration of formally limited powers and the practice of a part-time Congress were evidence of the expected state of affairs.
Quite naturally, then, much was left to the constitutional domain and the political discretion of the states. Inter-state collaboration and cooperation were practical necessities. Half of Article IV deals with that fact of political life. The “full faith and credit” clause of Section 1 and the “privileges and immunities,” “extradition,” and (now superseded) “fugitive slave” clauses of Section 2 are testaments to the Framers’ concerns about potential interstate frictions that might undermine union. All but the last were also in the Articles of Confederation, and the same continue to be significant today.
One area of potential constitutional conflict in the future is whether or not a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage is constitutionally obligated to give full faith and credit to a same-sex marriage granted in another state. Currently, the federal Defense of Marriage Act protects non-recognition of a same-sex marriage granted in another state. But that law itself may be unconstitutional under Article IV. It’s a close case, though there is some judicial precedent for the position that a state need not recognize an act of a sister state that is repugnant to its own public policy.
The other half of Article IV deals with obligations of the federal government to the states. In little more than 100 words, Section 3 sets forth Congress’s powers to create new states and to dispose of territory and property of the United States. That section was the source of critical federal policies during the great westward push under Manifest Destiny through which unorganized territory became organized and, eventually, advanced to statehood.
Section 4 obligates the United States to guarantee to each state a republican form of government, to protect each state against invasion, and to render assistance against domestic violence if asked. The state of Arizona may well ask whether the federal government has breached that second obligation in failing to protect the border against armed marauders, thereby necessitating the state to take stronger actions against illegal aliens. The last part of Section 4 is one explanation for why the federal military response to Hurricane Katrina was so “late.” The federal government was constitutionally obligated to wait for a request from the governor for assistance, a request slow in coming.
Article V may be the most important part of the Constitution, as it provides the formal means of amendment. This was an area of laborious compromise and reflects a combination of experience with the Articles of Confederation and the various state constitutions, and the development of American constitutional theories of popular sovereignty that broke with English constitutionalism.
There are two methods of proposing amendments and two methods for ratification. The method used for all amendments to the Constitution, though not for the drafting of the Constitution itself, is to have a vote by 2/3 of each house of Congress. Though the matter is constitutionally not free from doubt, by long-accepted practice, the president’s signature is not needed. Many framers feared, however, that the Congress would not advance amendments that might curtail federal power. Hence an alternative permits 2/3 of the states to petition Congress for a convention to propose amendments. Though this method has not been used, some proposals have come close. There are almost the needed number of states for a balanced-budget amendment, a matter that is taking on added urgency in view of trillion dollar deficits.
If an amendment is proposed, 3/4 of the states must approve, either by legislatures (a “republican” principle) or state conventions (a “quasi-democratic” principle), as Congress directs. All but the amendment to repeal prohibition have gone the legislative route. These supermajority requirements were a compromise between the English constitutional theory (also used in early state constitutions) that allowed constitutional change by simple majority vote of the legislature and the unanimity requirement for constitutional change under the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution, the Framers concluded, must be amendable, but not so freely as to promote instability. Note, though, that the Constitution does not have the “democratic” option of amendment by petition or vote of the people directly, as many states have.
Article VI contains a pillar of our federal structure, the “supremacy clause.” That clause makes the federal Constitution, treaties, and statutes superior to conflicting state laws. The clause is an enhanced version of a blander clause in the Articles of Confederation. It enshrines a principle central to the revised structure of the Constitution, that of a sovereign United States independent of, and—within its delegated functions—superior to, the states. From a political perspective, it is not an overstatement to say that, for better or worse, this is the most significant provision in the development of the current (im)balance that exists between the national government and the states.
Equally important, Article VI expressly binds the state courts to abide by the federal supreme law when there exists a conflict with state law. That provision recognizes that, since the Supreme Court is the only constitutionally required federal tribunal, state courts might operate as inferior federal courts. It also creates a judicial “branch” that straddles the divide between federal sovereignty and state sovereignty more than the political branches do.
Article VII provides for the process of ratification. There are many fascinating historical undercurrents at work in the Article. First, it encapsulates the revolutionary nature of the process that led to the Constitution. It must be recalled that the Articles of Confederation required that the Congress approve any amendment, which then also had to be approved by the legislature of each state. Also, the charge from the Confederation Congress to the Convention was “for the sole and express purpose” of reporting to Congress and the states proposed revisions that still had to be approved by Congress and the states, all in conformance with the existing structure.
The Framers, however, created a completely new structure to replace the Articles. In Article VII, they made it sufficient for initial ratification that only nine states approve. In the resolution to send a courtesy copy to the Confederation Congress, the Philadelphia Convention very pointedly required approval by the states but not the Congress. Moreover, the approval was to be by conventions in the states, not by the legislatures.
The non-unanimity requirement is significant because the Framers faced a practical problem. Rhode Island was so opposed to the project that they had not even sent delegates. They were, therefore, hardly likely to approve. Rhode Island’s non-attendance, by the way, is one reason why the Committee of Style changed the Preamble of the Constitution from “We, the people of [then listed the states]” to “We, the people of the United States.” Moreover, the Articles had taken four years to approve. The concern was that unanimous approval would encourage a similar delay. Delay works against constitutional change, as the supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment found out in the 1970s. The Framers gambled that adoption by nine states would create its own momentum for adoption by the other four. The gamble worked, but it turned out to be a close-run thing.
The requirement for conventions was both practical, in that the anti-Constitution forces were more likely entrenched among the political interests in the state legislatures than among more broadly selected conventions. Conventions also reflected better the emerging American political theory that, while legislatures made ordinary laws, constitutions were expressions of shared fundamental political values that went to the very purpose of government. Constitutions, then, were social contracts resting on more direct exercise of popular sovereignty. They were, in the words of George Washington, “explicit and authentic acts” of the people. Since the entire population of a state could not be brought together to deliberate and vote on the Constitution, a convention selected for that purpose from the people of the state was the next best alternative.
A final oddity in Article VII is that the signatories made a rather sterile declaration of witness. In the Articles of Confederation, the signatories declared that they fully ratify and confirm everything said therein and pledged their constituents’ support. In the Constitution, the signatories merely attest that the “States present” (i.e., no Rhode Island) unanimously approved the Convention’s actions. A number of delegates had left the convention because they personally disapproved of the result, as did some of those who remained to sign. In this manner of attesting, there was no personal commitment of support that could prove politically problematic back home. It is like being a witness to a will signing. The witnesses merely attest that the process, such as having the testator sign the document after declaring it to be his will, was completed properly. The witnesses are not declaring their support for the substance of the will. Therefore, if the testator disinherits his family and gives everything to his golf buddies, the witnesses are not morally implicated.
In the end, it was somewhat of a political miracle that the Constitution was adopted at all. It is not a perfect document, and, had the people then been able to see the political reality in which it operates today, they might well have preferred something else. But it endures for many as a symbol of what should be, not only what is—the idea of the Constitution as much as its function.
Monday, April 26th, 2010
Professor Joerg W. Knipprath
Southwestern Law School
Los Angeles, California
An expert on constitutional law, Prof. Joerg W. Knipprath has been interviewed by print and broadcast media on a number of related topics ranging from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to presidential succession. He has written opinion pieces and articles on business and securities law as well as constitutional issues, and has focused his more recent research on the effect of judicial review on the evolution of constitutional law. He has also spoken on business law and contemporary constitutional issues before professional and community forums.
47 Responses to “April 26, 2010 – Articles IV – VII of the U.S. Constitution – Guest Blogger: Joerg Knipprath, Professor ofLaw at Southwestern Law School”
Daniel Smith says:
Could states like California and Texas, with the approval of Congress, be divided thereby avoiding the presidential problem of 2000.
Shannon C. says:
The supremacy clause allows Federal Law to supersede State’s law. But doesn’t that mean the state’s don’t have to adhere to federal law if that federal law is unconstitutional-such as mandated healthcare?
Shannon C. says:
Do states have the right to secede from the Union?
Susan Craig says:
The provision for states to propose amendments makes a Constitutional Convention a lot more likely in the present situation as I (and I think most) thought it would entail a redo of the entire document. As I read it, at the next Governors meeting they could convene a convention specificly to draft a balance budget amendment or a strengthening of the 10th amendment change to put before congress. This makes the objections to a ConCon less daunting.
I, also, appreciated the reminder of the drafters humanity with the inclusion of the errata sheet in the last article.
Carolyn Attaway says:
@Shannon – according to sources, Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) was argued before the United States Supreme Court in 1869. The Court held in a 5–3 decision that the Constitution did not permit states to secede from the United States, and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were “absolutely null”. However, the decision did allow some possibility of the divisibility “through revolution, or through consent of the States”.
I find the last line fascinating, given all the current legistlation that is being formed in many states since this current administration came to office. It seems the 2 major issues, healthacre and immigration have caused the most uproar given the current number of states suing the federal gov’t over the healthcare mandate and commerce laws, and the new immigration law that was just signed in Arizona.
However, all states appear to be working on their State Legistlation to prepare for any possible future conflicts with Federal Law. For example on April 1, 2009, (as I understand it) the Georgia State Senate passed a resolution 43-1 affirming states’ rights based on Jeffersonian principles; and for other purposes. Acts which would cause a nullification of federal law include, but are not limited to:
Further infringements on the right to keep and bear arms including prohibitions of type or quantity of arms or ammunition; Any act regarding religion; further limitations on freedom of political speech; or further limitations on freedom of the press, and Requiring involuntary servitude, or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war, or pursuant to, or as an alternative to, incarceration after due process of law.
It will be interesting to follow the Supreme Court procedure regarding States Rights in the HealthCare Case. And as I understand it, the healthcare law cannot be challenged until it goes into effect and some one or entity is harmed by the law. Such as a shareholder of a company that goes out of business due to the costs/taxes imposed by the law, they can sue the gov’t for theft. Also, the commerce laws makes no provision to force someone to engage in interstate commerce.
Also, I appreciated the point made about the Federal gov’t being constitutionally obligated to wait for a State Governor’s request for assistance before intervention can be enacted. The contrast between Katrina and Arizona is striking regarding the assistance from the Federal Gov’t.
This is so interesting. Yesterday, my husband and I were having a discussion about the new immigration law in Arizona. I see it as unconstitutional and he see’s it as the state having to do something since the Federal Government has not fulfilled its obligation. We had to agree to disagree on this one.
Robert Shanbaum says:
Shannon C. wrote, “Do states have the right to secede from the Union?”
Apparently not. See, U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865; an example of a Constitutional dispute not settled by the judiciary.
Robert Shanbaum says:
Susan Craig, I don’t see where a “Governors meeting” could enter into any call for a Constitutional convention – a petition by “the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several states” is the requirement. The executives of the states are left out of the process.
Note that there’s no language that suggests that there would be any limit to the amendments that could be proposed at such a convention.
There’s a requirement in the Connecticut Constitution that requires, every 20 years, a referendum on whether to hold a constitutional convention to amend (or conceivably replace) the state constitution. This was most recently held in 2008, when 59% of voters answered “no.”
The reason the question failed, I think, is that it was seen as likely to attract activists – persons having one axe or another to grind – to a disproportionate degree. In the pursuit of one’s objective by that means, one runs a substantial risk of getting something one doesn’t want .
Robert Shanbaum says:
By the way, Shannon C., you may be interested in Andrew Jackson’s response to your question, given 33 years before the issue was settled with finality:
Jackson could run on; here’s the most apposite passage:
But each State having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, cannot from that period possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union.
Susan Craig says:
State Suffrage? Hasn’t that been abrogated by the XVII amendment? Article V: 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 Conventions 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.
The only thing that has been changed is that the State has been deprived of its Suffrage by the XVIIth amendment which removed from the state the right to select its Senators.
Mike Lowry says:
Article V is my favorite part of the entire Constitution, for it puts into the hands of the states a way to bring our runaway Congress back under our control. We need additional amendments to:
1. Impose lifetime term limits of 12 years on Congress
2. Impose a requirement for a Balanced Budget
3. Repeal the 16th Amendment and force implementation of a consumption tax(i.e., the Fair Tax.
4. Impose Congressional integrity that: (a) forces a statement of Constitutional authority to be attached to every bill, (b) forces an affidavit that they have read and understand every bill, (c) prevents them from exemting themselves from any law, and (d) prevents them from enacting any program for themselves that is not available to the general public.
Ron Meier says:
Thanks, your comments provide some interesting additional color and current relevance that I had not picked up on my initial reading and note taking.
Susan Craig says:
There is an annual meeting of Governors. If at this years convocation of governors, they got 34 of them to agree that an amendment was needed (say on clarification of the commerce clause, immigration or a balanced budget) would that be a call to convene a Convention for that limited purpose?
Lillian Harvey says:
I was thinking the same thing, Susan, after reading the Articles and Prof. Knipprath’s blog. Given the political climate today, we certainly can not count on Congress to act on behalf of the People as their will appears to serve the interest of their political party and ideology instead. That’s my opinion anyway. I also don’t feel we could count on all the state legislatures for the same reason. But, some guidance on setting up conventions within the States would be a start.
A question for the participants: if you were part of a constitutional convention in your state, what issues would you want addressed? Where do you think our biggest problem is? The one condition I would suggest is that the 50 United States remain intact, as I believe our strength has always been in our unity.
Could the State Legislatures limit the agenda of a Constitutional Convention? For example, could 2/3 of the states approve a resolution calling for a convention, but only to consider specific amendments? Any other topics would be off-limits, and the state delegation would be given strict instrutions to withdraw if any other topic was discussed. The only amendments that could be discussed and acted upon would be those approved by at least 2/3 of the states.
This would be a means to “control” a convention, and prevent it from spiraling out of control and overthrowing theConstitution itself.
This method thus imposes three “filters” (or checks, if you will), on a Constitutional Convention.
First, the agenda items would have to be approved by 2/3 of the states. No other topics would be permitted.
Second, the Convention, made up of delegations from each state that chooses to participate (even if they did not approve a resolution calling for the convention in the first place), would debate each proposed amendment. The Convention would decide (by majority vote) whether to propose an amendment, and would also approve the final language of the amendment. The debate at the convention would thus be a second “filter” (or check).
Third, any proposed amendments would be sent to the States for consideration (either by state legislatures, or by state conventions). This would provide the third “filter.”
Finally, the Convention would be public, and would probably generate a great deal of media coverage and discussion. This openness would serve as a sort of “brake” on the convention, because the public would not accept a radical departure from the Constitution.
Shannon C. says:
Lillian Harvey , I live in Georgia. My desires would be the following Amendments:
1. Balanced Budget
2. Term Limits-one term each, as I am so anti Congress:)
3. Repeal the 16th Amendment and say a human’s labor cannot be taxed (income tax). A consumption tax would be my choice.
4. Reword the 10th Amendment to make it understandable to the Big Government Lovers: If it isn’t in theConstitution, stay out of it!
Susan Craig says:
I feel the relevant portion is as follows; 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 Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; If called for by their governors the individual states legislatures concurring would constitute a call for such a convention and it also says nothing about needing to start from scratch the scope could be as confined as necessary.
Thomas Soyars says:
@Susan — can you point out a section of the Constitution that makes the Arizona law unconstitutional? What about Article IV Section 4. “and shall protect each of them against Invasion” Look sto me like the federal government has failed in their duty and the state is taking it upon itself to remedy the problem. Congress has also failed to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization” (Article I, Section 8).
@Mike Lowry I agree with most of your recommendations but I have a problem with a balanced budget amendment that is too strict. There may be times (war, severe natural disaster, economic upheaval) that would require the government to run a temporarily unbalance budget. I would propose a measure that teh government be required to have a balanced budget over a rolling five year period. That way you could run a deficit in one or more years and be able to make it up in other years. It would give more flexibility but still provide for a balanced budget overall. I would also add an amendment that the federal government cannot pass unfunded mandates onto the states.
@Joerg Knipprath — the best blog yet (in my humble opinion).
Joe Rech says:
-Term limits – three for House, two for senate, two for Pres. Retirement gained in thirds for House, halfs for Senate and Pres.
-Balanced budget – except in times of national emergency (disaster or war)
-Repeal taxes – any current taxes enacted for a specific purpose and that purpose no longer exists, immediate repeal.
-VAT replace income tax, started at some level like 11% and NEVER to exceed 17%, not always levied on all levels of production and not always the same on all products (can be 11% on food, 17% on yachts?)
-limits on other taxes – 25% inheritance tax on $1mil or more, cap gains tax limits 15%
-reiterate oath – support and defend the constitution – not interpret the constitution.
Donna Hardeman says:
Lillian – I agree with Shannon’s List (which is almost identical to Mike’s list). The one thing I would point out, however, is my belief that Congress – either house – be allowed 2 terms. I believe you need some members in Congress who are not “lame ducks” i.e. who know they will have to vote with the will of the electorate if they expect to get elected again. However, by denying the long term benefits of continued “service” we would be denying the chance to get so firmly embedded that political favors, etc. become more important than the people.
Susan – could you clarify your point about Suffrage being denied? I’m responding to what I think you said but am not totally sure I understood you. Suffrage (voting) rights in the U.S. Senate have not been denied to the States. All States still have 2 Senators representing them. What changed was the manner of selecting the Senators. Originally it was the state legislature and now it’s by popular vote.
Shannon C. says:
Suasn Craig, You tell ‘em! Good points. Man, I am so glad this site exists. The only thing I wish was a little different is if the guest bloggers could opine in on a few of these a few times a day to answer a few questions.
Donna Hardeman says:
Susan – you and your husband seem to be on 2 different issues in discussing the immigration law. He is certainly correct in saying Arizona took action because the federal government wouldn’t. You may also be correct in saying it’s unconstitutional. Problem is, I couldn’t find the actual text online so I can only comment on what news is out there. It has been suggested that immigration laws are federal rights and not states’ rights. However, if the Arizonalaw simply mirrors the federal law in making it a state crime to be in Arizona illegally, I don’t think this would pose an issue. Also, it’s been suggested that you can’t racially profile by stopping someone solely for the purpose of checking identification. Jan Brewer claims the law simply requires identification to be carried so proof of legality can be shown if someone is stopped for a crime. This also would pose no constitutional problem. If you figure out where the text is, let me know and I can blog a little more intelligently on the subject. Do you have a specific challenge to the constitutionality?
Carolyn Attaway says:
Hello Shannon C. from a fellow Georgian!
Our State has to have a Balanced Budget, so I agree that those same rules should apply to the Federal Gov’t. The Pay As You Go is a complete disaster and Congress cannot even stick to their own rules.
I think it should be a 2-term limit, just because I personally feel that 1 term is not enough time some really good congressmen need to get issues addressed and completed. However, I feel every congressman should pledge to uphold the Constitution, and that impeachment should be allowed if they abuse their time in Congress.
Along with the 16th, I think the 17th Amendment should be repealed. Senators should represent their State’s interest, and quite going rogue.
The 10th Amendment can be reworded to be more specific, but I think the problem lies with the States giving to much of their power away in exchange for funds. Over time, all those little crumbs they have been throwing away to the Fed. Gov’t, have now been gathered together, and the States are realizing half their bakery is gone, and managed by someone else.
Another amendment that should receive serious consideration is a “Single Topic Legislation” requirement. Several states have a provision that each bill considered by the legislature must have a single topic only. So-called “omnibus” bills are prohibited, as are “earmarks” and “riders” that are unpopular expenditures attached to an important bill. (The Stimulus Package passed last year was a hodgepodge of pet projects. It is unlikely that those projects would pass if they stood alone).
In other words, every proposal considered by Congress would have to stand or fall on its own. This would help reduce deficit spending by forcing Congress to look at each proposal separately, and not as small earmarks on a gargantuan bill.
Debbie Beardsley says:
“Equally important, Article VI expressly binds the state courts to abide by the federal supreme law when there exists a conflict with state law. ” I am taking this to mean that the states must follow Federal law at a minimum. If so, how and why are the states allowed to “decide” to not follow federal law. Ie, California and the medical marijuana or the wonderful mayor of San Francisco declaring a sanctuary city????? Doesn’t this behavior and the lack of action on the part of the government a big slap in the face to the Constitution?
I am loving reading and learning but at the same time it is very disheartening to see how far away from theConstitution we have strayed.
Chuck Plano, Tx says:
In regard to Texas being able to devide itself as was suggested by someone, reference California and Texas dividing in order to prevent a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election, Texas has that right as stated in the Joint Resolution for the annexiation of March 1, 1845 . This right was mantained and specifically quoted in other settlements of border disputes with Mexico in the Treaty of Gadulape Hidalgo and the Treaty of The Gadsden Purchase. This is only one question regarding Texas as Texas entered the United States as a free and Soviourn Nation and yet it’s annexiation was by joint resolution and not a treaty. The Senate rejected a treaty to annex Texas four times in 1844 so did Congress have the right under the Constution to Annex a Nation?? The Constution is silent on this as it refers to territories, article IV Section 3, and not nations.
Andy Sparks says:
@Robert: Does might make right? Historically there have been many occasions where states have threatened secession: some of the western states when it seemed the U.S. would support a Spanish decision to close off the Mississippi during the early days of the Republic, some radicals in the New England states during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson even initially had secessionist language in the Kentucky Resolutions he drafted in 1798 (he was convinced to remove the offending passage before it was submitted). Why would parties threaten to secede if they didn’t think it was a viable option. While the Texas vs. White case put a law on the books regarding the legality of secession in 1869 after the Civil War, it would be interesting to see if it could be held up if challenged. The fact is that the Constitution is fairly quiet regarding the constitutionality of the issue.
Donna Hardeman says:
Guest bloggers coming in at the end of the day to review some of the comments and questions is a supremely good idea. Shannon – I must admit, it had occurred to me also but I’m glad you put it in writing. Maybe this idea could be incorporated into our learning process. We all have great comments and questions but the experts here could help.
Susan Craig says:
States Suffrage has been taken away and another Representative has been put in the Senators place. As I read the original articles the House of Representatives was to have been the representative body of the ‘vox populi’ whereas the Senators were to be the corporate representation of the State as a corporate whole. Now there is no longer a corporate representation of the the State but another directly selected Representative of the people.
Making it so that 2/3 was needed for ratification seems very strategic to me. It seems that the government enjoys that they don’t need everyone’s approval. (As in the 3/5 Compromise in 1787– WHY would being black ever make you less of a person?) I also appreciate that in Article 6 it is stated that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” If religious discrimination isn’t acceptable in government, why is it still so prevalent?
If one state has a controversial law, like legalizing same sex marriage, would holding a convention be the first step towards creating an amendment? After that it would run through both the houses and then to the people…
Lynne Newcomer says:
Hi all, great stuff again.AZ,Govner is a brave soul, she has pushed the hand as no one has managed to.After reading J, Knippraths comments it seems to me that in Art.4 section 4,(protection fom invasion) might be the key in fighting for the Constitutionality of the States new law.However I have this nagging feeling that there is probably grounds to overturn it… in that perhaps it could be construded that the long, long history of NOT inforcing the laws that are on the book already my be percieved as consent.On top of that when an act that is against the law is ignored, people begin to think of it as “their right” to continue an set aside the law they know exists,but have rendered it without any reach.
Is this the reason that the laws have been ignored so long, was this the grounds that were maturing as the years wore on( I know that sounds like conspiracy stuff)but I find no sense is the past lack of willingness to act by DC.
hey! It’s Janine Turner. I agree! I would LOVE to get the Constitutional Scholars of the day to chime in at least once more during the day to answer questions. This was my original intent. I am working on it! I am so glad y’all have joined our blog. Isn’t it wonderful to have this opportunity to study our Constitution. I am learning so much – such as why the Preamble states, “We the People of the United States..” That’s a cook piece of trivia. Yes?
Shannon C. says:
Janine, GREAT thing you are doing. As a dad of two little girls, this is so important for their futures.
Can someone tell me if I have this right? The Supremacy Clause, as I understand it, means that federal lawsupercedes state law. However, I take the last sentence to mean in today’s language , “UNLESS the federal law is unconstitutional or goes against an existing state law.”
My point is, just because the federal government mandates somthing like healthcare purchasing, that does not mean it is constitutional.
J.D. Wiggins says:
Please comment on Article VI “Supremacy Clause.” Couldn’t this be used as a back door for making the Second Amendment null and void?
Joerg Knipprath says:
There are a lot of terrific questions here. I wish we could have a seminar to discuss them all. Let me just address a couple. ERL asked whether the states could limit a constitutional convention to a particular topic. If 34 states call for a balanced budget amendment, technically Congress would call a convention to discuss only that topic. But what if the delegates decided to push further? This is unknown territory, and why most constitutional law professors and most politicians oppose this method. It is less the states than the Congress that is likely to fear a run-away convention. Congress could refuse to forward to the states anything that went beyond the charge to the convention. However, there is a precedent for a run-away convention going beyond their charge and then submitting their product directly to the states. That would be the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Their action is based on the 18th/19th century theory of popular sovereignty that the people, as soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice James Wilson said at the time, “The people may change the constitutions whenever and however they please.” Kept within the context of Article V, this is not even that radical. Could the people change the Constitution outside Article V, simply by gathering in convention (say, a huge town hall meeting over the internet)? That issue was argued before the Supreme Court in 1849, arising out of just such an attempt to adopt a new constitution in Rhode Island (which controversy produced a small “insurrection”—the Dorr War). The attorneys, including Daniel Webster and other high-powered talent, argued the issue of popular constitutionalism exhaustively; the Supreme Court then ducked the issue, deeming it a non-justiciable political question not suited for the courts. There is insight in that. Ultimately, these basic constitutional issues are political. Could today’s Congress refuse to pass along other constitutional changes demanded by a convention, without appearing to disregard popular will? The Confederation Congress couldn’t oppose the political appeal of the Convention’s action. On the other hand, today’s Congress may not be as sensitive to the popular will.
Joerg Knipprath says:
Let me answer a couple more. The single topic issue. There is a historical argument exactly like that. It arose out of the “line-item veto” controversy, when Congress in the 1990s tried to give the President a limited line-item veto over certain budgetary and tax issues. The Supreme Court found that to be unconstitutional. One argument in support of the law is that the Constitution requires each “bill” or joint resolution to pass both houses and be presented to the President. Some historians analyzed the term and argued that, at the time of the founding, the meaning of “bill” was understood to focus on a single subject. Plausibly, that would have required each budget item to be approved separately, rather than as one “Omnibus Budget Bill.” However, the practice since nearly the beginning has been to allow bills to address more than one subject.
Merely having governors call for a convention is not enough. Legislatures have to act. Do legislatures have to phrase their petitions identically? Or just enough for Congress to get the message? Again, that is ultimately a matter of political pressure. Could states rescind their petition before a convention is called? Probably yes.
As to the Supremacy Clause, for the states to be bound by a federal law, it would have to be constitutional. But sometimes states are prohibited from acting, even if there is no specific federal law against them. Sometimes the mere existence of a federal power in the Constitution prevents a state from acting is the state’s action conflicts with the purpose of the provision in the Constitution. That’s called “dormant federal power” theory. If the Constitutionis said to make a certain power “exclusive” in the federal government, the states cannot act in that area at all. One possible example is the federal power over immigration and naturalization. That is one potential problem for parts of the AZ law. If the Constitution intends for federal power to be exclusive, then states cannot act even in trhe absence of federal regulation or even in support of similar federal law. I have posted about this further on my blog.
ERL, I agree with a Single Topic/Issue Legislation. Not only would the ‘we, the people’ see the text (hopefully), we would also know who supports the legislation (or is beholden to special interests/lobbyists. And need I say, it would be a short bill! KIS – Keep It Simple!
Lillian Harvey says:
Hi Georgians and others… Virginian here ). These are my thoughts on the Constitutional Convention.
First fix some problematic fixes: Repeal the 16th and 17th Amendments.
-Repealing the 16th returns to Congress the authority to impose import and excise taxes only. How they work within that framework would be an interesting national discussion, whether it be through VAT or Fair Taxation. One thing I like in the Fair Tax proposal is that the percentage of your purchase that is the tax is on your sales receipt. If it is increased, the consumers, We the People, can demand to know why. I am against the Flat Income Tax because we all know that flat tax percentage will increase. Repealing the amendment that allows income to be taxed is critical to me.
-Repealing the 17th would put Senators back to work for the States they represent. If they are going to be there forever, they better be working for the State legislatures that sent them instead of a political party machine.
-I would love to see the language clarified on the recess appointments clause. If the Executive can’t get an appointment through the Senate during regular sessions, there is something wrong with the appointment. It sets up too much game playing and distracts from the work that needs to be done. Although worrying to me, it is not as important as the repeals of the aforementioned amendments. I am in a “less is more” mood.
From what the Professor has written, the Omnibus-type bills Congress seems to love appear to be the source of our budgetary problems. When I think about it, the greatest objection to the Healthcare bill was its size and scope. The call to kill that bill and deal with each component separately so the issues of access, cost and the overall impact on the economy/businesses could be better anticipated was the loudest from We the People. But the Executive and Congressional leadership absolutely refused to do this. Why?
Now we are in a real mess. You can’t just repeal the bad parts; the whole thing has to go. And it is my belief that it should. If the Congress can not do something correctly, that power to manage these issues should remain with the States. Then Congress can clean up their act or we clean up the Congress in the next election cycle.
Is there a way to write constitutional language insisting upon one bill, or issue, being dealt with at a time? It seems that the Supreme Court ruling against the line item veto was based on the notion of Congress legislating one issue at a time. Since that is not the case, is the Supreme Court decision relevant?
Shannon C. says:
Mr. Knipprath, thanks for your willingness to come back and answer some questions!!! You did a good job.
@WeThePeople – nobody ever said being black made someone “less of a person.” Remember, the more people in the state, the more representatives the state receives. The problem was if black slaves were counted as part of the population, the southern slave states would be entitled to more representatives. The northern states were against that. Of course, the southern states wanted to count the slaves so they could have the extra representatives.
The compromise was made so the south wouldn’t be “over-represented” in the northerners’ view. It never says anywhere in the Constitution that a black is “less of a person.”
Practically speaking, a state would get 1 representative for 30,000 white citizens, but it would take 50,000 black slaves to get another representative.
Robert Shanbaum says:
@Andy: I do not think that “might makes right”, but I think that might sometimes makes fact.
As you suggest, the Constitution itself is silent on the issue, although one can trace the commitment to a “perpetual” union stated in the Articles of Confederation through the “more perfect union” objective stated in the Constitutionas one approach to arguing in favor of the voluntary act of union being legally undoable.
Given that there is no power of secession clearly reserved to the states in the Constitution, it’s hard to see how the question matters much from a practical standpoint. Whether a state would be “allowed” to secede would be determined by the actions of the remainder of the Union, which could either force the issue or not – just like the last time the question arose. There’s no court in which the controversy might be meaningfully resolved; the seceding state would hardly be likely to recognize the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
Given our avowed (or maybe I should say “presumed”) commitment to the right of self-determination, at least when it comes to other peoples, I don’t think that the actions of the U.S. in the Civil War were necessarily “right”, but I think I’m glad the Union was preserved – “right” or not.
Chuck Plano, Tx says:
So Robert if preserving the Union is something that is best for the whole why did the United States at the time Texas declared it’s independence from Mexico the United States was one of the first to recognize that or when the State of Georga declared her independence from the USSR and the other Baltic and Eastern Block countries did the same we seemed as a Nation to think that was the “right” thing to do. It was because we believed that “People” retain the right to self determination and that right is granted to us by “God” not the state.
Mary Lou Leddy says:
I am so excited about this project. Studying the Constitution has been a real eye opener for me. I must admit it is frightening to see how far this great country has veered from the Constitution . I am however uplifted by reading the blogs from all of you. I firmly believe that by becomimg more aware of the founders thoughts and words we can make much better choices of candidates who run for office. Candidates who are believers and supporters of theConstitution.
Special thanks to Janine & Cathy
Brenda Wilson says:
In readiing about a state honoring a homosexual marriage as law when they were not entered into this law was quite surprizing to me. This is what we call a slippery slope where it comes to recognizing something a violitile as this subject is. I would have a difficult time condoning this as constitutional but evidently it is. This is one thing I think the Framers of this constitution would never condone nor would give credence. So the amendment to this law had to be made so that a state would not have to be forced into an immoral state simply because they disagree and have a moral duty to uphold. These fianl articles have an impartail upholding in passing that they needed only witnesses and not a quorum of 2/3 of the staqtes representatives. This was so because one state never was there to cast its vote nd thereby be apart of this constitution.
Andy Sparks says:
Well put. I would point to the 10th amendment which specifies that those powers not specifically delegated to theConstitution are reserved to the States or the People as an argument for (at least) the possibility of secession. While I may disagree (somewhat) to your argument, I do not disagree with your sentiment. I, for one, am glad the Union won despite being born and raised in Texas.
“Currently, the federal Defense of Marriage Act protects non-recognition of a same-sex marriage granted in another state. But that law itself may be unconstitutional under Article IV. It’s a close case…”
It shouldn’t be. The push for same sex marriage is clearly an attempt by some for whom liberty means license to impose their immorality on society at large, and clearly the full faith and credit clause was never intended to facilitate such perfidy.
Howdy from Texas. What another great day of national conversation about our United States Constitution. I thank you for joining us and I hope you read Articles IV-VII with your children and/or friend or loved one!!
Don’t forget to tell your children or children you know about our We the People 9.17 Contest! Entries due July 4th. Scholarships, travel, prizes!!
I thank Joerg Knipprath for his most detailed description of Articles IV-VII. What a blessing it is to have so many wonderful Constitutional Scholars grace us with their dedication and knowledge.
What I found fascinating about today’s reading has not actually been mentioned. It is in Articles VI and VII. In Article VI it states:
“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.”
First of all it states that EVERY government officer is bound by oath or affirmation to “support” the Constitution. Another intriguing aspect is the part about how “no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States.” This seems logical due to the fact that not only was the religious persecution from overseas still fresh in their minds, but also because free enterprise does not grow when stifled by laws of religion.
However, Article VII states:
‘..done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the states present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eight seven…’
It is very obvious with the usage of the words, “Year of our Lord,” that our forefathers were not afraid to mention
God in their thesis, documents and/or governmental realm. They were brilliant men and they knew that every word of the Constitution would be analyzed in the future, down to the last comma. They also wrote the Constitution to be an everlasting document that was to be eternally preserved, protected and defended.
Thus, no love, or lack, of God could prohibit one from serving in government but that did not mean one was prohibited from referencing his or her God in governmental affairs. There appears to be no mention of separation of church and state.
This is reiterated in a slightly different way in the first amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
But we will discuss this one tomorrow.
I am also intrigued about how much our forefathers were concerned about treason.
Did anyone watch the History Channel’s, “America: The Story of Us” last night?” It was wonderful. The recounting of the revolutionary era reminds one that our forefathers were most sensitive to the tyrannical aspects of government intruding into citizens’ lives and as they recounted our “revolutionary” war tactics it reminds one that if we had, “played by the rules,” then we would have never won the war.
Thoughts to ponder…
More tomorrow. Blessings,
April 26, 2010
8 Responses to “April 26, 2010 – Articles IV-VII – Janine Turner”
Celeste Munoz says:
I have often wondered why the ‘separation of church and state’ has been such a huge issue in these modern times. It wasn’t until the 60′s I think that it became an issue. I remember when Kennedy was running half the country thought he would just be a papal puppet and were highly suspicious of his Catholicism though they had nothing against a good old christian. A sign of the times perhaps.
Louis Palermo says:
The First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment are two very important Amendments and two of my favorite. The First Amendment provides the most fundamental freedom to speak! It allows the people to assemble, practice their own religion and for freedom of the press to conduct their business. Recognition of this freedom curtails the power of the government. The founding fathers’ insight by this amendment was to limit the power of the government over the people.
The Fourteenth Amendment affords the people and the states valuable protections. It is the vehicle by which many statutes and laws are filed against the Federal government. If you will, it is the engine that maintains the system of checks and balances.
Looking forward to the Federalists papers.
I didn’t know where to leave you a note, so I’ll just do it here. Love your new website, and I appreciate what you and your partners are doing here!! Keep it up, and I’ll help spread the word.
Cliff Unruh says:
A key point to consider that may help explain our present situation:
Prior to 1912 the members of the U. S. Senate were not elected by popular vote but were appointed by their respective state legislatures (Article 1, Section 3). Under the original draft of our constitution the U.S. Senate represented the interests of the divers states and their respective state governments. The U. S. House of Representatives represents the people. Can you imagine any U.S. Senator who was appointed to his/her seat by the legislature back home ever voting for anything harmful to the local state government? In the absence of the 17th amendment would the health care bill have ever seen the light of day in the Senate? Obviously not. However, thanks to the 17th Amendment, the U.S. Senate was transformed into a “Super House of Representatives,” with the same concerns about winning reelection by popular vote. The interests of the individual states are no longer of importance to members of the U.S. Senate and we have all suffered as a result.
Debbie Beardsley says:
Whoa, hold on here. I do not think there was any reference to God intended by placing Year of our Lord after 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.
Dirk Newnam says:
Back to Debbie B. Letting the founders speak for themselves on the issue of their intent, from your last sentence.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”…John Adams
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians: not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”….Patrick Henry (He does not exclude other beliefs but does emphasize our foundation is Christian)
“Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers”…John Jay (First Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court )
There are literally hundreds of other quotes to choose from that strongly confirm our founders intent to be motivated and directed by God’s Word through the Bible.
Last I encourage anyone who reads this to read the stinging rebuke delivered by Ben Franklin on June 28th 1787 during the Constitutional Convention’s first days after little progress had been made writing the Constitution. It is on page 108 of the book “The Myth of Separation” by David Barton 1992. Read the follow two pages to find out the incredible turn of events that followed. If only it could be reprinted on the front pages of our nations newspapers. What a change we might see in how we go about governing.
The quotes above are from the same book. He’s written several other since on this subject.
As a side on “Year of our Lord” can you imagine the phrase being used today by our watered down courts, government, or our media! It might remind of of where we came from, as a nation.
Today, our guest Constitutional Scholar of the day, Mr. Troy Kickler’s, insightful essay states, “Hamilton and other Federalists believed, write constitutional scholars Colleen A. Sheehan and Gary L. McDowell, that interest, reputation, and duty would bind the representatives to the Constitution and public opinion.”
I find this quote intriguing, especially the section ”..duty would bind the representatives to the Constitution and public opinion.” This singular line encapsulates wisdom and inspires reflection.
The first reflection is upon the word, “duty.” Duty seems to be a word that is lost in our American culture today. As the decades descend from World War II, the sense of duty to ones country appears to be diminishing. I looked up the word, “duty,” and found the following definition: ”a social force that binds you to a course of action demanded by that force. ” The definition was followed by a quote by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., ”every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation, every position, a duty.” Today the focus of America’s representatives as well as many Americans and the American culture seem to be one of self-interest. With the blessing of the Providential rights that are secured for us in our Constitution lay a responsibility. One of those responsibilities is to know, respect and understand the United States Constitution, as well as to encourage others to do so. The same should apply to the American Culture. How far we have drifted from the days when patriotism and love of country were, as President Ronald Reagan said, “in the air.” Is our country perfect? No. But as the Former Senator Patrick Moynihan said, “show me a better one.” We, as patriots who love our country and appreciate the founding principles upon which she was founded, need to rise to counter the palpable negativity that permeates our air today. One has to question whether our Congressional representatives are bound to their duty of their country and constituents, or to themselves.
The second reflection is upon the statement that duty would bind representatives to the “Constitution.” “..bind one to the Constitution.” The more I read the United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers, the more I realize how much we have strayed from the Constitution in cultural thought, personal awareness, legislative acts and supreme court rulings. This slow usurpation is due to a lack of knowledge and by a lack of pressure applied on our representatives to uphold the Constitution’s principles. As a Republic we rule through our representatives, thus, our vote is our voice. The checks and balances of our government begin with us. Thus, I suppose, there is a responsibility that we, as patriots, must own – if our representatives have grown callous and irreverent regarding the Constitution, it is because we have allowed it by our lack of diligence and duty to hold them accountable. How well do they know the United States Constitution? How do they intend to abide by its stipulations? These should be the questions of paramount importance.
The third reflection is upon the two words, “public opinion.” “Duty would bind the representatives to the Constitution and public opinion.” Public opinion seems to be virtually ignored by our representatives today. As mentioned in Federalist Paper No. 22 and in previous papers, Publius had a respect for the “genius of the people.” The American people have a genetic disposition and inherent ability to seek the truth and know the truth and American patriots rise to the challenge of duty. ”The experience of history” has proven this to be a tried and true trait of Americans. All of the attempts by the current branches of government to “reason” their way around the Constitution and govern a Republic without respecting the Constitution, and the history of the American spirit, will do so in vain. Duty to preserve our great country, founding principles, bill of rights and free enterprise will be the Paul Revere ”call to action” of our day.
May 28, 2010
Thank you for reading and blogging with us today in our 90 in 90 = History Holds the Key to the Future Program! Tomorrow is Day 5, and will be our last day on the United States Constitution before we embark upon the Federalist Papers. Please join us in blogging on the Amendments tomorrow. If you have been quietly reading along, we want to hear from you! And please continue to forward our website www.constitutingamerica.org to your friends, and post on Facebook, Tweet, mention on LinkedIn – help us spread the word!
A big thank you also to Professor Knipprath for your insightful comments on Articles IV – VII. I hate to admit that I am one of those people you speak of in your first sentence, for whom Articles IV – VII were terra incognita! Yet, these are some of the most important Articles in the Constitution: the amendment process arguably one of the most important of all.
With a 2/3 vote required in both houses of Congress, or 2/3 of state legislatures required to call for a constitional convention to propose an amendment, and then 3/4 of the State Legislatures required to ratify, or 3/4 of the states ratify in conventions, I marvel that the Constitution has been successfully amended as many times as it has. Our founders brilliantly put mechanisms in place to ensure that the Constitution be difficult, but not impossible to amend.
I noticed in the blog comments today many ideas as to what our next Constitutional amendments should be. These efforts may take many years. Various members of Congress have been working for decades to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment , for example. But thanks to the founders’ wisdom and vision, when the next Constitutional Amendment is passed, we will be assured it has been thoroughly vetted, rigorously debated, and that a super majority of the Congress and States (and therefore a majority of Americans), will agree it is necessary.
Thank you again for your participation, and contributions to our understanding of the United States Constitution. Keep spreading the word!!
See you in the morning!
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
2 Responses to “April 26, 2010 – Articles IV – VII – Cathy Gillespie”
Richard Heck says:
First thank you for mentioning God and how important He was and is to our country and how important He was to our founding fathers. I had a question on the election of Senators. Why was this changed and what implications did or does it have on how our government runs today? I saw where either you or Janine mentioned this last week and how health care might have been different if we were still electing them the original way.
Hi Richard – I recommend two excellent books that provide background on the U.S. Constitution and and the Amendments:
Seth Lipsky’s THE CITIZENS CONSTITUTION: AN ANNOTATED GUIDE, 2009 and the HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION edited by Ed Meese, Mathew Spalding and David Forte.
In brief, Amendment XVII was approved by Congress on May 12, 1912 and ratified by the required 3/4′s of the State Legislatures in less than 11 months. Most of the votes in the State Legislatures were overwhelmingly in favor of ratification, 52 of the 72 state legislative chambers voted unanimously in favor and in all of the 36 ratiflying States’ legislatures, votes against ratification totalled only 191 – 152 of these votes came from the lower chambers of Vermont and Connecticut. It is interesting it took the U.S. Congress so long to approve this Constitutional amendment, which had been considered in one form another since 1826. In 1912, Senators were already being picked by direct election in 29 of the 48 States. States moved to direct election of Senators through a process of non-binding primary elections by the people, whereby state legislators promised to vote for the candidate the people selected by direct election. State laws were even enacted that required State legislative candidates to sign pledges to vote for the Senate candidate the people selected in their “non binding” eection. (Heritage Guide the Constitution, page 413 – 414).
Electing U.S. Senators by the State Legislatures had become problematic over the years because many State Legislatures were deadlocked and couldn’t agree on a candidate, thus leaving some states without representation in U.S. Senate, often for more than a year. Corruption and Reconstruction politics contributed to these deadlocks. The Indiana Senate seat, for example, stayed empty for two years due to tension between the northern and southern regions of the state.
The argument for direct election of U.S. Senators was to make Congress more “democratic,” but this change also stripped away an important protection built into the Constitution by the framers to protect States’ rights. Because the health care bill puts new burdens on states, the argument could be made that had U.S. Senators still been elected by State Legislatures, they would have been more oriented towards protecting the interests of their State’s government.
Interestingly, Georgia Democrat Zell Miller called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment in 2004 before his retirement, saying “federalism has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. Reformers of the early 1900′s killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of the U.S. Senators.” (The Citizen’s Constitution, an Annotated Guide, Page 66).