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July 2017 Brief: Volume 24, Number 21

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A Commentary on the American Constitution


by Imitatus Publius



Our Founding Fathers were straightforward in stating the purpose of the new government under the Constitution after the one under the Articles of Confederation was found wanting. Its primary and over-riding objective was to provide security for the individual, both from internal and external threat. An examination of further documents, the Bill of Rights and Federalist Papers among others, will show it was also designed to protect the individual from the threat of government itself. The power of the Constitution was intended to bind the federal government down – to fundamentally restrict its ability to usurp our liberties. It was not to be an implement used to centralize power at the national level, and thus be used to subdue the sovereign States and the sovereign individuals, who dwell therein, to its will.


As for the clause, “promote the general welfare,” the first thing to consider is that the word “promote” bears an entirely different definition than the word “provide,” which tends to be the generally accepted connotation of this clause today. One should probably suspect their true objective was to provide an atmosphere of equal opportunity for prosperity (general welfare), rather than a governmentally enforced condition of equal result. To this end they wrote a constitution that established a republican form of government for themselves and guaranteed the same for the sovereign States, enumerated the obligations and limitations of the federal government, and instituted the doctrine of the separation of powers. Why did they take such pains? As Thomas Jefferson stated, “In questions of power, let us hear no more of trust in men, but rather bind them down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.”


Patrimony is the estate or condition of life inherited from your father or ancestors. Thus it is an asset that even the poorest of the poor possess. It is the asset with which each and every one of us is endowed, and with which each and every one of us is rightly entitled to exploit to the ends of our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. If anyone other than yourself, and that would include any governmental body, has an undisputed claim to the fruit of your labor or your property, and you have no plausible recourse but to accede to their demand, then you have been reduced to the condition of serfdom. You have become a slave to whomever benefits from the fruit of your labor without your freely given consent.


James Madison, considered by most to be the Father of the Constitution, would be more than a little unhappy with the scope of the powers our current central government has expropriated from the States and individuals, and appropriated unto itself. Furthermore, I have no doubt he would strongly proclaim this current state of affairs a thoroughly dangerous impediment to continued liberty. We the people of the several sovereign States are not entirely incapable of managing our own affairs. The States are supposed to be “experiments” in liberty and democracy. If we do something wrong, only one state, or a few at most, bears the consequences at any given time. The rest are unfazed. When we do things from the National level and make a mistake all states bear the consequences concurrently. Depending on the error, this can be quite serious. In any case, our Founders had no design of intentionally setting the Federal government at so complete an advantage over the states.


If a national government was to have the ability to enforce its pronouncements, it needed a power to do this. As yet, they did not have the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or any other of the internal police powers that serve the purpose today. The citizens of this country were being asked to allow the presence of a standing army to serve the purpose. They were apprehensive at this prospect, so Alexander Hamilton said this:


The laws are not accustomed to relaxation in favor of military exigencies; the civil state remains in full vigor, neither corrupted, nor confounded with the principles or propensities of the other state. The smallness of the army renders the natural strength of the community an overmatch for it; and the citizens, not habituated to look up to the military power for protection, or to submit to its oppressions, neither love nor fear the soldiery; they view them with a spirit of jealous acquiescence in a necessary evil and stand ready to resist a power which they suppose may be exerted to the prejudice of their rights. (Emphasis added). (Federalist Papers, No. 8)


As you can see from their statements, they also had no fear of a well-armed populace. Understanding the foibles of mortal man, they considered this a necessary prerogative to the maintenance of good government, because its mere presence would tend to temper the over-reaching of unscrupulous public servants. How different the circumstance today. They try every device to disarm us. They want to protect us from violence...from ourselves. If they really cared about our personal security, knowing that it is very unlikely any government sponsored security will be on the spot when we truly need their help, they would not even consider taking from us the means of self-defense.


I have severe reservation that my personal security is utmost in their intentions. It is more apt that our government doesn’t trust you and me to behave in the manner they may dictate. A government that doesn’t or can’t trust its citizens bears watching. As for me, the more intent the government is on disarming me; the greater is my insecurity and the more necessary to be armed. My concern is with those officials who are entrusted with its stewardship and seemingly have no compunction in the perversion of the instrument. The fault lies not with the instrument, but with those who abuse its provisions.


We will close this commentary on the Constitution proper with a reiteration of the admonition of Thomas Jefferson in a letter written to William Johnson in 1823 “On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”


Public Interest Institute’s POLICY STUDY, A Commentary on the American Constitution, can be viewed at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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