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February 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-2

   

A Commentary on the American Founding

   

Part 11

   

 

Previously, it was asserted that the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” is the bedrock upon which our nation was established; that upon that bedrock is placed the cornerstone of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (right to property included); and thatthe Declaration of Independence, taken as a whole, is the foundation of our new government.  To go even further here, I believe a case can be made that it was the Declaration of Independence itself that, in fact, established national sovereign government on this continent.  Our current Constitution couldn’t have served that function, as we already had the Articles of Confederation.  It seems to me that our sovereign government came into existence at the exact moment of our separation from Great Britain.  That was made entirely clear by the expression of commitment our Founders exhibited when they signed the Declaration of Independence, in which they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to establish a new sovereign government.

 

If all this be true, and there will undoubtedly be those who are wont to argue in the negative, then what is the purpose of the Constitution?  It is many things.  It is the legal embodiment and physical manifestation of that government.  It is the rule under which this new government will function and by which it will abide.  It is the instrument that establishes relationships between itself and foreign nations; between itself and the sovereign states; and among the states.  Most importantly, it is the bulwark instituted by our Founders to preserve the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence, and in doing so, protect and defend the freedom and sovereignty of the individual.  Its importance in the attainment of these matters cannot be over-estimated.  Neither what has been written before nor what is to follow is to denigrate the importance of he Constitution in any manner.  It is, instead, to hone a better sense of the role our Founders envisioned for The Constitution.  It will undoubtedly raise some questions of difference between my layman’s understanding of the instrument and its current implementation.  So be it.  There will be little attempt to provide a defining answer to any perceived disparity, as the author is in no way qualified to do so.  Instead, it will be left to the reader to make a judgment for himself as to the propriety of the current application.

 

Our safety, our liberty, depend upon preserving the Constitution of the United States as our fathers made it inviolate.  The people of the United States are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts – not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.  (Emphasis added).  (Abraham Lincoln)

 

“The United States of America is a democracy.  The state of Iowa is a democracy.  Everyone knows this.”  “The founders of our country and of this state believed in majority rule.”  These  quotations were made by a member of the House of Representatives of the State of Iowa and printed in a local newspaper.  In this instance I choose not to identify the elected official or the newspaper in which it was printed for obvious reasons.  But you should have no reason to doubt the veracity of my statement that it happened.  This particular representative is hardly alone in his appalling ignorance of our form of government.  Almost any day of the week you can listen to the national or local news and hear some elected official, someone who should know better, ranting about the benefits of majority rule and the glories of our “democratic” form of government.  This lack of knowledge manifests itself at the very highest echelons of our government.  It would appear there is a very grave misunderstanding between those spoken of above and myself about the form of government bequeathed to us by our Founders.  Logic dictates that one understanding or the other, or possibly both understandings, is incorrect; but only one understanding can possibly be correct.

 

We shall draw on the words of our Founders, our founding documents, and other well-known sources to help define what kind of government our Founders meant to give us.  You don’t have to believe me.  As the story goes, when Benjamin Franklin was leaving Constitution Hall after writing the Constitution, someone asked him, “What kind of a government have you given us?”  He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”  In Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, you will find:

 

The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.  (Emphasis added).

 

Each and every one of the original thirteen states that ratified the Constitution established a republic as the form of their state government.  The newly established central government was also established as a republic.  This clause of Article IV informs us that the central government was fully obligated to “guarantee” the interests of the individual sovereign states and the people thereof in the matter of the form of government that was to be maintained.  And that form of government was to be a republic.  In Article the Fifth of the Northwest Ordinance, you will find:

 

…and whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted by its delegates into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever, and shall be at liberty to form a permanent constitution and state government:  Provided the constitution and government so to be formed, shall be republican, and in conformity to the principles contained in these articles.  (Emphasis added).

 

The Northwest Ordinance was the document that addressed the relationship between the central government, the states of which it was comprised, and the territories that lay to the west of the already established states.  There is no doubt that the Northwest Ordinance had a very profound impact on what transpired in these territories, but it did not establish government there.  It was the people “thereof” who were fully entitled to establish their own government.  The Declaration of Independence referred to this as “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them.”  Surely our Founders were not so duplicitous as to claim this right for themselves and not grant it as a right to others.  Further, they could have established any form of government that they so chose.  The Declaration of Independence states that it is the right of the people thereof “to institute new Government, laying its foundation of such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

 

And once again, would our Founders be such hypocrites as to claim this right for themselves and not also grant it as a right to others?  The people of the new territories did not have to automatically join the Union.  It was an entirely voluntary act on their part, just as it was for the original thirteen states.  But if they were to join, a republican form of government was mandatory.  Article VII of the Constitution states, “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same”  (Emphasis added).

 

Nine states were sufficient to establish the new central government, but it was to apply only to those states that acceded (voluntarily joined) to the new government through ratification of the proposed constitution.  At the risk of being repetitious, this question must be asked:  would our Founders presume to encumber a people with a government not of their own choosing when they were not willing to abide by such a government themselves?  This principle of voluntary association should not be overlooked.  It was an extremely important principle in our Founders’ concept of government that would be a government, which would “seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

 

Although this immediate paragraph is off topic, it seems an appropriate time to interject another question.  If our original central government was formed by a voluntary association with the Union, and it was — and if our current Union is held together by dint of force, and it is . . . you’re familiar with the Civil War — without arguing the pros and cons of our current government, the question is:  can our current form of government be the same form of government that was bequeathed to us by our Founders?  Or is it a somewhat different form of government and a case of perfidy?”

 

   

 

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