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March 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-5


A Commentary on the American Constitution


Part 4



Section 8, Clause 2 states that it is Congress’s duty “to borrow money on the credit of the United States. . .”  That this is a useful and even necessary function is beyond dispute; but then again, so is its abuse.  In the debates that formed the Constitution, there were calls to limit its use to times of war, or at least times of national crisis.  Apparently we’ve been suffering a national crisis since the passage of the War Powers Act and the first Franklin Roosevelt administration of the early thirties.  Through the issue of government bonds and deficit spending, we are saddling our children and grandchildren with an appalling debt that borders on the criminal.  The responsibility for this grotesque behavior falls on both “we the people” and our elected officials.  “We the people” cajole and even bully our officials to provide us with things we are unwilling to pay for ourselves, and we vote them out of office if they don’t comply.  Even so, it is shameful that we cannot find a bare majority with the courage and fortitude to do the right thing.


Section 8, Clause 3, states that it is Congress’s duty “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states. . .”  The assault on our state sovereignty engendered through this clause is terrible to behold.  Again, the necessity for the clause is understood; it is the abuse of the power that is intolerable.  Our national Legislature passes laws that, without doubt, encroach upon our state sovereignty, giving Washington ever more direct control over “we the people.”  The sleight of hand goes something like this.  We have the power to regulate commerce among the states.  If the laws we pass have absolutely anything to do with absolutely anything that crosses a state border, then we have the power to interfere in any matter that remotely touches on whatever object it was that crossed the state line.  Hence, almost anything, crime or otherwise, can fall under federal jurisdiction.  The argument isn’t that crimes aren’t bad, but that it is extremely destructive to our liberties to allow the federal government to intervene so intimately in state affairs, especially if they have not been invited.


“We the people” of the 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.


It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.  Projects of usurpation cannot be masked under pretenses so likely to escape the penetration of select bodies of men, as of the people at large.  (Federalist Papers, No. 28).


As you can see from Hamilton’s words, he was depending on the state legislatures to place a check on the central government.  (And their primary method to do this was through the use of the direct representation of their United States Senator.  This would be a real benefit of federalism.)  With the misuse and abuse of the Commerce Clause by the national government, they have been able to evade the restraining hand of the states and place national control over we the people at their pleasure.  We tolerate this dangerous state of affairs at the eventual expense of our liberty. 


Section 8, Clause 4 deals with uniform laws for naturalization and bankruptcy.  It is not pertinent to our current line of discussion and will therefore be skipped over.  Section 8, Clause 5 states that it is Congress’s duty “to coin money, regulate the value thereof. . .and fix the standard of weights and measures. . .”


Let us turn our attention to the last phrase of this clause, as it is imperative to a proper understanding of the first.  You will notice the word “standard,” not “standards.”  “Standard” is written as singular, not plural.  It would seem to indicate there was to be but one standard.  An agreed-upon standard in these matters is an absolute necessity.  If everyone had a yardstick of a different length, or the length of the yardstick is allowed to change in length from day to day, how in the world would we ever agree on the length of anything?  This holds true not only for the length or the weight of something, but also for the value of money.


Our Founders implicitly understood the matter of the need for consistency in the value of coinage, and they took their responsibility seriously.  To this end, they wrote the Coinage Act of 1792, which established the value of the dollar at a very specific amount of gold of a very specific purity.  The dollar itself was not a coin, but it was a very specific unit of (value) measure.  It was the standard store of value for the coin of the realm.  They did indeed “regulate the value thereof” of the coin they were about to mint.  In due time, they also came to issue paper currency.  That they were aware of the perils of paper currency is illustrated in the following quote:  “That experience has demonstrated the impracticability, long to maintain a paper credit without funds for its redemption” (George Washington, in a letter to Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens on January 15, 1781).


Washington, as well as many others, was well aware that for a paper currency to hold its store of value, it had to be redeemable by something that did hold its store of value, that being precious metal.  He further understood that it was necessary for government to maintain adequate “funds” for that purpose — that purpose being the actual redemption of the paper currency for gold.  Therefore, the paper currency they issued was in the form of gold certificates.  Eventually, it came to pass that they established a firm relationship between gold and silver, and they issued silver certificates.  Though the metal was now sometimes different, the principle was maintained.  It is my recollection that the gold certificates were recalled sometime in the thirties, and the silver certificates were recalled in the sixties.  Today we are left with FRNs (Federal Reserve Notes), which are redeemable in . . . I know not what.  Take note of the change from the certificate of something of value to a note of indebtedness.  That’s right; the word “note” doesn’t mean “to be aware of, or a memo.”  It is a “note,” as in when you go to the bank and sign a note of indebtedness to borrow funds.  Originally, we put paper money into circulation based upon an already held real asset (precious metal).  Now we put paper money into circulation by “we the people” borrowing it.  That is, the money is created first, on our word that we will create an asset to repay it.  Why was this method of introducing paper currency into circulation chosen?  From whom are we borrowing the money?  This question isn’t as simple as it might first appear.  What does it all mean?  For these questions, I have no ready answers.  I just know I have a real uneasy feeling that we’re in trouble.


Are you aware that this nation’s money supply is currently issued and controlled by a private corporation?  (In reality it is a trust rather than a corporation.  This fact is included only for accuracy and makes no difference in the point to be made.)  We are speaking of the Federal Reserve Bank.  Do not let the name fool you.  The Federal Reserve Bank is no more a public institution than the Federal Express Corporation or the Federal Cartridge Company.  Having the word “Federal” in your name does not automatically make you an institution of government.  If your reaction to this bit of information is “So what?”, please pay particular attention to what Thomas Jefferson argued:


If you ever allow banks to print money, those banks, and the corporations that will grow up around them will, first through inflation and then deflation, come to own all property, and your children will wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers fought to conquer. (Emphasis added).


This situation is no different than the football game we spoke of earlier. When the rules are changeable at the whim of only one team, you can bet the team that sets the rules is going to win the contest.  It is no wonder that “we the people” are coming out on the short end of the stick.  The other team is changing the rules to suit their needs daily.  We simply no longer have an immutable standard. 


Section 8, Clauses 6 through 14 will be omitted, with the exception of Clause 9, which states that it is Congress’s duty “to constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme (sic) Court.”  This clause will be dealt with when we come to Article III, which deals with the judicial branch of government.  At this point, please allow me to point out something that is consistently overlooked today.  In fact, there seems to be an intention to deceive on the part of some.  You may have to find a photocopy of the original Constitution to verify this for yourself, as many of the current reproductions of this instrument are incorrect.  I refer to the words “supreme (sic) Court.”  The word “supreme” is written in the lower case.  Our Founders had not the audacity to intimate they could create “the Supreme Court.”  These men were men of faith and they believed that, “that Court” had already been established by our Creator long antecedent to any feeble attempt that they might make.  They are consistent with this construction throughout the instrument.




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