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March 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-5


A Commentary on the American Constitution


Part 2



Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch of the central government.  Article I, Section 1 confines all legislative powers to a Congress, which shall consist of two houses, a Senate and a House of Representatives.  Article I, Section 2 prescribes the composition of the body and the qualifications for the office of Representative, as well as for the electorate.  We are all well acquainted with this part of the process.  It also contains an interesting clause that needs to be kept in mind when we later visit Section 8, Clause 1; Section 9; and the discussion of taxes.  It reads:  “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers” (Emphasis added).


Article I, Section 3 prescribes the composition of the body and the qualifications for the office of Senate.  It may be appropriate here to acquaint you with the original text of this document:  “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof” (Emphasis added).  No, this is not a printing error.  It is the original design for the election of United States Senators, proposed by our Founders.  Our Founders gave the state governments direct representation in the central government in the form of United States Senators.  This is what made the central government federal in nature. Without direct representation of the state, we do not have a federal government . . . merely a central government on a national scale.  The Seventeenth Amendment has since superseded the original design specified in the Constitution, and United States Senators are now elected by popular vote in the same manner as United States Representatives.  There will be more on this subject later.


According to Article I, Section 4:  “The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators” (Emphasis added).  Ask yourself, why would our Founders structure Senatorial elections differently than those of Representatives?  That it must have been fairly important to them is evidenced by the fact that they went out of their way to safeguard their design in Section 3, with the exception they that placed in Section 4.  A more complete discussion of this crucial alteration will take place later when we come to Article V.


Article I, Sections 5, 6, and 7 deal with the orders of operation of the House of Representatives.  On their account, I hold no objections, and they are mentioned here only for the sake of continuity.  Article I, Section 8 describes the specific duties assigned to Congress.  It is a very specific and much limited enumeration of duties contained in eighteen clauses.  These eighteen clauses are to be the strictly limited dominion within which our national, elected legislative officials are to confine themselves.  Our Founders took great pains to specifically enumerate and circumscribe the affairs with which the national government was to be concerned.  Their scope of operation was to lie wholly within these few delegated powers.  After all, many of them made no secret of their intent, which was to “bind government down.”  As we proceed through these matters, it is often necessary to hold several concepts in mind simultaneously.  Please make every effort to do so, as it is somewhat difficult to comprehend the sought-after picture if pieces to the puzzle are missing.




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