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March 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-5


A Commentary on the American Constitution


Part 17



Section 1 is known for the “Full faith and credit” clause.  It states, in part, “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts [lawful statutes], records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”  A current example concerning this clause is the same-sex marriage provisions debated in Hawaii or any other state.  If these provisions become statute law and are upheld, it would grant homosexual unions the same status as that of a traditional heterosexual marriage.  If the State of Hawaii declares these marriages valid, and if the court decides that the enforcement of this clause is appropriate, all other states would be obliged to honor the single-sex union that took place in Hawaii, regardless of the laws of those respective states or how the citizens thereof may feel about such a union.


If this clause is appropriate in this circumstance, does it then follow that a citizen of any given state with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon would be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in every other state?  Under this circumstance, would this clause and the permit-to-carry laws of any one of the several states be honored in the District of Columbia?  After all, court decisions should possess some degree of continuity in their reasoning.  Is there any condition that would validate the court’s approval of one circumstance and not the other?  Do either, neither, or both conform to the “Law of Nature?”


Section 2 states, in part, “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states.”  This sentence, taken in isolation, seems to be a little difficult to fathom.  Even when viewed in the light of the preceding section, it still presents me with problems.  My first inclination is to read this as a requirement of the national government to treat the citizens of all the several states uniformly; but on the whole, the theme of Article IV seems to be concerning states.  Addressing a direct relationship between the national government and the citizens of the several states seems out of place, although this would not preclude it.  If this is not the meaning, then what is?  Does it refer the privileges and immunities on which all of the several states, in toto, agree upon and have in common?  Does it mean the privileges and immunities to which a citizen is entitled in their home state, and do these privileges and immunities transfer with the individual to a different state when the individual visits or takes up residence there?  Does it mean the privileges and immunities granted to the citizens of a different state that one encounters while physically being present in that state?  Or does it have a meaning not contained in any of the prior conjectures?


It would appear this section is an effort to treat all citizens uniformly under the law and require any given state to treat the citizens of all other states on the same basis as their own citizens.  This would certainly be a worthy goal.  But depending on how one interprets this section, it could present the strong possibility for a potential clash with Section 1.  How can a state treat an alien citizen as it treats its own citizens and at the same time honor the public acts of another state if their laws are in conflict?  If the laws differ between the affected states, whose law prevails?  And prevail under what circumstances?  By this time, it is no secret that these two sections have left me perplexed; but we shall find out the meaning in the not too distant future when the court renders its judgment.  We can only hope they render a wise decision.


Section 3 of this Article is composed of two paragraphs.  The first concerns the admission of new states into the Union.  This topic is not an object of immediate concern to this essay and therefore will be passed over.  The second paragraph delegates to Congress the authority to govern “…the territory or other property belonging to the United States.”  This paragraph raises some interesting questions.  What territories and other property belong to the United States?  (See Article I, Section 8, Clause 17.)  If you remember from a previous discussion, the term “United States” can refer to the government corporation with that name, and it can be the proper noun designating the name of our nation.  In this case, it seems to be the former.  If not all territories and property belong to the corporation, of what would those territories and property consist, and to whom would they belong?  It would seem reasonable that the territories and other property belonging to the United States would be limited to such territories of this nation as have not yet achieved the status of statehood and those limited few items specified in the aforementioned Article.  All other territories within the boundaries of the several states were to have been ceded to the several sovereign states upon their ratification to statehood.


If this were not the case, what need would there be for the corporation to reserve a right to purchase property from a state only with the consent of its legislature, as they did in the aforementioned Article?  If this were not the case, what need would there be for the corporation to reserve the authority to govern those areas, as they did in this Article?  Conversely, the reservation of the authority to govern the specified areas is also an acknowledgment that they did not claim for themselves the authority to govern the areas of the several sovereign states.  At least a bare majority of our nation’s Founders must have believed this or the Constitution would have never been written and ratified.  Is there anyone left in the three branches of national government who still believes this?  If so, why are they so intent on governing the several sovereign states from Washington, D.C.?  How can the President dislodge the jurisdiction for thousands and thousands of acres from a sovereign state?  Bill Clinton did this in 1996 to one of our western states.  From where does Washington garner its authority to usurp the jurisdiction of a sovereign state?  Is this just an exercise of raw power or is there some devious manipulation (Buck Act) of our laws?  If there is a legitimate explanation, we need to be informed.  If there is not, this is an extremely serious breach of the principles of federalism.


Section 4 of this Article is one of the most overlooked and ill-appreciated sections of the Constitution.  It states, in part, “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.”  As a point of interest and to show that this concept is no fluke, you can also see where our Founders provided for a “republican form of government” as a condition of entry into the Union in Article the Fifth of the Northwest Ordinance.  We are told almost daily that we live in a democracy, that we have a democratic form of government.  Sadly enough, this becomes more valid every day.  At the conclusion of the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What kind of a government did you give us?”  He replied, “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.”  In a republican form of government, as opposed to a democracy, the citizen has no direct voice in the workings of government.  An intermediary who is selected by the majority represents the individual.  Your vote is by proxy.  One of the reasons for this is expedience.  If every citizen had a direct vote in government, can you imagine what it would be like trying to accomplish anything at a state capitol, much less in Congress?  And any minority or minority position would just be out of luck.  There are those who would think this proper, as the majority should rule.  But what if the majority thought it proper to grant every family a government subsidy of a million dollars annually.  If the majority thought they had much to gain and little to lose, something of this nature could happen.  Reasonable individuals would quickly discern that this step would destroy our economy and government and that we would all be the losers; but if they are in the minority, they could not prevent the consequences.


From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs (sic) of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.  Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.  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.  (Emphasis added).  (Federalist Papers, No. 10).


Remember, democracy never lasts long.  It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.  There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.  (President John Adams).


This brings us to a better reason for the republican form of government.  The elected officials should have the expertise and take the time to better inform themselves on any given matter.  They should also have the courage to vote contrary to the majority view when doing so is in keeping with the “Law of Nature” and when they discern that the foremost long-term-interest of the people is best served by that act.  Needless to say, this does not always happen.  We keep sliding closer to democracy every day because too many elected officials, in their effort to gain or retain office, find their quest easier if they acquiesce to the demands of whomever they perceive to be the majority, whether or not it is lawful or even in the foremost long-term-interest of the people.  This method of operation garners votes by endeavoring to satisfy the immediate desires of an avaricious populace who believe government can painlessly accomplish this.  Yes, we too are at fault.


The real truth is that it does and will continue to cause pain.  We illegitimately imbibe of the fruit of the labor of our fellow man.  What he cannot presently supply is borrowed.  In due time, this burden will be borne on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.  This is the evil of pure democracy.  Remember, democracy fails when the citizens learn they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.  Every act that moves us farther away from a federal republic and nearer to democracy sullies the Constitution and is perfidy.




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