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The Federalist Papers: The Key to Restoring Our Constitutional Republic
Sutherland Institute ^ | Unknown | John Eidsmoe, Professor of Constitutional Law

Posted on 07/05/2008 2:43:18 PM PDT by Interposition

The Federalist Papers:
The Key to Restoring Our Constitutional Republic

By John Eidsmoe, Professor of Constitutional Law

Summary: In the long standing debate on how the Constitution should be interpreted, Dr. Eidsmoe makes a strong case for following the original intent of the founders as the only way to avoid bizarre and disastrous results. "It's the only anchor that prevents judges from roaming at large in the trackless fields of their own imaginations," he states. To those who argue against following "original intent" because it cannot be known, Dr. Eidsmoe suggests that a sufficient exposition of the ideas of the framers is found in The Federalist Papers. They contain a formula for freedom that Americans must rediscover. This speech was delivered at a Sutherland Institute event on November 1, J996.

The Federalist Papers

I'm impressed by the work the Sutherland Institute is doing and by its namesake, George Sutherland, a Justice of our United States Supreme Court from Utah. He was a Justice who stood consistently for states' rights, for liberty of contract, for property rights, and for the basic principles that made our country great. I suppose it's fitting that he comes from Utah because probably no state in the country has adhered to those principles as well as this state.

At the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, we teach that law is the foundation of society—and that biblical truth is the foundation of just law. This is the basic principle the founding fathers of this nation stood for.

George Sutherland understood that principle. When he made his decisions on the Supreme Court, he applied the principles of the founding fathers and he applied them accurately. He understood not just the letter of the Constitution, but the moral values of those who drafted and adopted the Constitution.

You see, all law ultimately has its source and values.

Christian Bias

I read an article by Steve Forbes in which he wrote that every time you take a tax dollar from one person and put it into the pocket of another person, you are making a moral decision as to who should pay for what and who should receive what.

Law ultimately has a moral base. The moral base that the founding fathers of this country applied was not the moral base of secular humanism or the moral base of atheism or even the moral base of deism. The vast majority of the framers of our Constitutional system were church-going, professing Christians. Dr. M E. Bradford of the University of Dallas researched their church membership and found that 28 of those 55 delegates were Episcopalian, 8 were Presbyterians, 7 were Congregationalists, 2 were Lutherans, 2 were Dutch-reformed, 2 were Methodist, and 2 were Roman-Catholic. There's one, McClurg of Virginia, that Bradford couldn't find anything about and I haven't either. There just isn't much written about him. And Bradford discovered that just 3 out 55 could be called deist or skeptics. They were only about six percent of the delegates.

Not only were those founding fathers actively affiliated with Christian churches, but they looked to the Bible as their primary source of authority. That should not be surprising Most of them learned to read using the Bible. Most of them attended church regularly and they heard the Bible preached for several hours every Sunday morning in those days.

In a study that appeared in the American Political Science Review back in 1984, two political science professors, Dr. Donald Lutz and Dr. Charles Heineman researched 15,000 writings, letters, diaries, sermons and other works that were written by various leading Americans from 176O-1805. Their purpose was to identify quotations to find out who the founding fathers were quoting' where they got their ideas, what authorities they were most impressed with. They found that by far the most widely quoted source in the founding fathers' writings was the Bible. Thirty-four percent of all quotations came out of the Bible. And the book of the Bible they quoted most often was the book of Deuteronomy. Now most of us don't go around quoting Deuteronomy a great deal today, but Deuteronomy is the book of the law. And they were writing about law and government.

The Federalist Papers

That was particularly true of the three men who put together the set of essays I will be referring to here: the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers were a series of essays written by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, published in local newspapers in New York for the purpose of explaining the Constitution and also for the purpose of trying to urge people to support its ratification.

We look to the Federalist Papers as the best exposition we have of what the framers of the Constitution meant and what went on at the Constitutional Convention.

Today we also have another document from the Constitutional Convention as well and that is James Madison's Notes. Madison's Notes give us a great deal of detail as to what happened at the convention: who said what and who thought what. But Madison's notes were not published until the 1830's because the delegates to the convention kept their proceedings secret. They had an agreement that none of their notes would be published until the last delegate to the convention had died Madison was one of the youngest and he lived into his eighties. He died around 1836 and his notes were published thereafter. By that time many of the leading constitutional decisions had already been made. So we look to the Federalist Papers as a primary source of what the founding fathers believed and what they meant when they wrote the Constitution.

John Jay

These three men [John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison] are fascinating men. John Jay is the author of the least of these essays, but some say he was the guiding inspiration behind the others. John Jay was the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was an ambassador to England, the negotiator of Jay's Treaty with England and served also as chief justice of the New York Supreme Court as well as Governor of New York. But I think John Jay will go down in the annals of eternity primarily as founder and national president of the American Bible Society.

John Jay repeatedly speaks of his Christian faith but I'm not going to take a lot of time on that. However, I want to tell you that he once described an experience in France. That country had been run over by atheism and by the philosophies of Voltaire, Rousseau, and others. Jay wrote: "On one occasion I was at a party with several atheists. They spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. During the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ. I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did. Nothing further passed between me and them or any of them on that subject."

Alexander Hamilton

Before he died, Alexander Hamilton laid plans to establish an organization that would preserve the basic values that Hamilton thought were necessary for this nation—the values of the Christian religion and of the Constitution of the United States. He wanted to call his organization the Christian Constitutional Society. It doesn't sound a lot like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, does it?

But of course Hamilton's plans were cut short by a duel with Aaron Burr. Ironically, Hamilton had been a firm opponent of dueling. He had authored a bill in the New York Legislature to make dueling illegal. That's why he and Aaron Burr had to take a boat across the Hudson River and have their duel in New Jersey instead of New York. Hamilton had said some things about Burr that had cost Burr the presidency and later the governorship of New York. Burr challenged him to a duel. Now by the code of their day, if Hamilton had refused, it would have been taken as an admission that what he had said was wrong. So Hamilton determined that he had only one course of action: that was to face Burr in the duel and refuse to shoot back. As incredible as that sounds, we know Hamilton wrote to several people the night before the duel saying that's what he was going to do.

I'll just read you a section of the last letter he wrote to his wife: "The scruples of a Christian have determined me to expose my own life to any extent rather than subject myself to the guilt of taking another. This much increases my hazards and redoubles my pangs for you. But you would rather I should die innocent than live guilty. Heaven can preserve me, and I humbly hope will. But on the contrary event, I charge you to remember that you are a Christian. God's will be done. The will of a merciful God must be good. Once more, adieu, my darling, darling wife. Alexander Hamilton"

He faced Burr the next morning. What happened took place in a split second and it's a little hard to reconstruct, but it's clear that Burr fired first. Hamilton was struck. His pistol then fired It looks like his fist just reflectively clenched on the trigger, the shot went wild. Hamilton lingered on for some thirty one hours. Shortly before he died, he declared, "I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ."

James Madison

James Madison, the third author of the Federalist Papers, was a seminary student. He attended Princeton, which was called the College of New Jersey in those days, and studied under the Reverend John Witherspoon who had come from Scotland to become president of Princeton. Reverend Witherspoon had about twenty-five students in each of his graduating classes. He lived on campus with them, and got up with them at five every morning to drill them in law and politics and rhetoric as well as Bible and theology. Madison stayed at Princeton a semester after graduation so he could study Hebrew and learn the Old Testament better.

Undoubtedly, he read the Hebrew laws and institutions in the original language. Undoubtedly this affected his view on law and government God lead Madison, not into the ministry but rather into politics and law. We're not told exactly why, but one reason may be that he had a soft voice and bad health.

You had to speak to large crowds to be a minister. Ben Franklin describes an interesting incident back during the Great Awakeningthat religious revival in the 1740s—where George Whitfield, one of the great preachers of that time, preached to a crowd at Boston Commons. Franklin calculated how many people could fit in Boston Commons—which he said was packed to the hilthow many people could stand abreast in each block of the four streets leading into the Boston common, and how many blocks the crowds stretched in each direction He calculated that in 1741 George Whitfield preached to a crowd of 37,000 people.

Is this microphone working?

Whitfield didn't have one. That's why they had a disease in those days they called Preacher's Throat.

Anyway, for some reason, God led Madison into politics and law instead of the ministry.

James Madison often is referred to as the Father of the Constitution The ideas of the Constitution may have come as much from James Madison as any one single delegate to that Convention.

That will give you a little background on the authors of the Federalist Papers.

For an Elite Audience

I've always required my students to read the Federalist Papers and they tell me it makes stimulating reading. But they say it's the most difficult thing they've ever had to read in their entire academic careers. I can't resist the Opportunity to comment on that a little bit. I usually tell them that there's a reason they find it difficult.

The Federalist Papers were written for a very elite audience—the farmers of 18th century New York—to encourage them to support the Constitution I tell my students: "You can't expect to equal the farmers of 18th century New York because you've had twelve years of schooling here and some of you have been stunted still further by four years in a university. But if you really pull yourselves up by the boot straps, you might be able to remotely approach the level of academic sophistication of the farmers of 18th century New York." Some of my students come close.

Influenced by History

One of the things I find fascinating about the Federalist Papers is how steeped Jay and Madison and Hamilton were in history. They looked to history for examples of things that work and examples of things that don't work.

Repeatedly, we see references that they decided not to follow this course or adopt that system because the Theban Union and Greece had tried it and it was disaster; or because this was done during the Peloponnesian War; or this was done by the Persians. They make reference to the things that were done in Spain or done in Prussia. And the interesting thing is, these historical references are just passing references. They use these references as though they assume their audience is familiar with these facts of history. We could not make those kinds of assumptions today.

The Federalist Papers, then, are a fascinating work, but let's look at the basic principles. I've talked about the Judeo-Christian world view that the framers of the Constitution held. How does that affect their view of law and government? I would suggest many ways, but I'm going to boil these down to two.

Belief in a Higher Law

The first, is a belief in a higher law to which all human law must conform. In addition to reading the scriptures, they read men like Baron Montesquieu, of France, and Sir William Blackstone of England In his Commentaries, Blackstone stressed the higher law of GOD. Many a legal argument in American court was settled by a quote from Blackstone. But Blackstone said in his commentaries that there are various types of law, there is the divine law, which he said is the revealed law found only in the holy scriptures. Then he spoke about the law of nature, which he said is also the will of God dictated by God himself Then he said there is the municipal law, or human law that is what our legislators and our city councils and our parliaments and our congresses adopt when they seek to discover that higher law of God—those higher standards of right and wrong—and apply them in civil society.

Revealed Law

Blackstone said that all human law depends upon the revealed law of scripture and upon the law of nature revealed by God through human reason And no human law is of any validity if contrary to these. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson bases our right to be an independent nation squarely upon words taken almost verbatim from Blackstone—the laws of nature and of nature's God.

This concept of a higher law to which human law must conform limited human government in another way because part of this concept of the higher law was the concept of God given rights. Jefferson went on to say—and of all the framers Jefferson is probably the least orthodox—that we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. He did not say that men are evolved equally. Furthermore, his concept of equality was based squarely on his view that men are special creations of God—that men are endowed by their creator, with certain unalienable rights. Nowhere did he write that men are endowed by their government with certain negotiable privileges.

God-Given Rights

We can only call them unalienable rights—rights that cannot be taken away—if we recognize that they come from a higher source—from God himself.

If they come from government then that's all they are, negotiable privileges: the state giveth, the state taketh away, blessed be the name of the state. If they come from God' the purpose of government, as Jefferson went on to say, is to secure these rights, not to grant them. God has already granted them.

So, that's the first principle, the belief in a higher law to which all human law must conform and which limits human law.

The Nature of Man

The second principle is a belief in the sinful nature of Man. They didn't buy the notions of the French revolutionaries that Man is basically good, or the Marxist revolutionaries a century later that human nature is perfectible. They knew that Man was as the Bible describes him—a sinner, self-centered, corruptible, and not to be trusted.

For that reason, they knew Man needs government—government strong enough to preserve law and order. But also that Man needs to limit the power of government, because those who run the government have the same sinful nature as everybody else.

Some of us might have begun to suspect that this is true.

Here's the way that seminary student James Madison put it in Federalist Number 51, possibly the most often quoted phrase out of the Federalist Papers. He says, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the places. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government "That's why communism and socialism don't work. They're based upon a false view of the goodness or perfectibility of human nature. itself—but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?"

Probably more political theories and political and economic systems go astray for a failure to recognize the true nature of Man, than for any other reason That's why communism and socialism don't work. They're based upon a false view of the goodness or perfectibility of human nature. Speeches by the commissar to the workers about the need to work hard to build the socialist workers' paradise can fire people up for half of an afternoon, maybe. But to get people to produce over the long run, you need the profit motive that free enterprise supplies. And our framers recognized that. They recognized human nature for what it is. Madison went on the say, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." If everybody was good, we wouldn't need a government. But his implication is that men aren't angels. "If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." But his implication is that our political leaders aren't angels either. "In framing a government that is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself"

How did they do that?

Formula for Freedom

Their answer to that question, is what I am going to describe for you with a little alliteration The Founding Fathers' famous, fantastic, fabulous five-fold formula for freedom. You can shorten that if you wish.

Limited, Delegated Powers

The first principle is a government of limited, delegated powers. The idea is not that government has all power. It isn't even that government has all power except that which the Constitution prohibits. It is exactly the opposite. Government has no power, except that which we the people have delegated to government through the Constitution of the United States.

If the question of constitutionality of a certain governmental action is at stake, it is not incumbent upon the citizen to say to the government, "Where in the Constitution does it say this can't be done? The responsibility is on the federal official to show where in the Constitution it says it can be done.

Unless that power has been delegated to the federal government somewhere in the Constitution, the federal government does not have that power.

Now the framers thought that was perfectly clear, but just to make sure that somewhere down the line, in 1996, it wouldn't get turned around, they put it in concrete in the form of the 10th amendment where they said: "The powers not delegated to the United States by this constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people."

By "United States" they meant the federal government. That concept is a cornerstone of free government, and a concept we must never loose sight of.

Let me just add one thing quickly about the 10th amendment. Some of you have probably heard the argument that the second amendment does not protect the right of the individual to bear arms, it just protects the right of the state to have a state police force or a national guard. Well if so, what's it doing in the Bill of Rights?

The Bill of Rights is about individual rights, not state rights. Can you imagine if I made the same kind of argument about the first amendment's freedom of the press? If I were to say, "Well, freedom of the press just means the right of the state to have a state newspaper." I'd get laughed out of every constitutional law circle in the country, and rightly so. Why make that argument about the second? But notice that the second amendment, passed at the same time as the tenth, doesn't say the right of the state to keep and bear arms. It says the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, never used the term "people" interchangeably or synonymously with the term "state." The two have clearly different meanings.

The tenth amendment reserved powers to the states respectively or to the people—that wasn't just a redundancy, they meant different things.

In the second amendment, passed at the same time, when they said the right of the people, they did not mean the right of the state. There's the first principle then. Limited delegated powers.

Division of Powers

The second part of the formula is a vertical division of powers.

The power that the framers did delegate to government, they delegated at various levels. Certain powers were delegated to the federal government; others were reserved to the states and still others exercised at the local level. The idea here was that states would exercise a check upon federal power in a concept of states' rights. This was to be a union of independent states, not just a nation with 50 administrative sub-divisions. This was central to their concept of what freedom was all about. They knew that in a nation this size, it was necessary to have state governments that could restrict the power of the federal government.

Separation of Powers

A third part of the formula is a horizontal separation of powers.

Some power that we give to the federal government we delegate to the Congress. Some power we vest in a President. Some power we vest in a Court. Three separate branches of government.

Checks and Balances

A fourth part of the formula is the checks and balances among these branches and levels of government.

Checks mean that while Congress may pass a law, the president can veto that law. But the veto is subject to being overridden by two-thirds of both houses of congress. Then the Supreme Court has a check which is not expressly stated in the Constitution, but John Marshall thought it was implied The Court's check is the power to strike laws down as unconstitutional.

Then consider that the court is appointed by the President, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress as a whole can control the Court's appellate jurisdiction and Congress also controls the Court's budget.

So there are checks and balances.

Unfortunately some of them are not being used today. One check, by the way, that the framers placed upon the federal government by the states, was the composition of the United States Senate. Until the 17th amendment in 1915, we did not elect our United States Senators. Before then we elected our congressmen and we elected a state legislature. The state legislatures would choose people from the state to serve as United States Senators.

With a Senate that was composed entirely of people appointed by state legislatures, obviously the state legislatures would have some check upon what the federal government did. Now, in the name of unbridled democracy, we have gone to popular election of senators. The Senate isn't much different than the house anymore, except that they serve six-year terms, the body as a whole is a little smaller, and that important check on federal power has been eliminated.

Individual Rights

The final part of this five-fold formula is reserved individual rights— the idea that in a republic, unlike a pure democracy, we don't have unfettered majority rule.

Madison, Hamilton and the others—particularly Madison—speak extensively about not only the tyranny of the minority over the majority, but the tyranny of the majority over the minority. When they use the term "democracy" in the Federalist Papers, sometimes they use it in a very broad sense to refer to representative government generally. But usually when we see that word "democracy" used in the Federalist Papers, it is used in a negative sense—the idea of unfettered mob rule, by which minority rights can be trampled.

No, the idea of a Constitutional Republic is that the majority generally runs things, but the minority has rights that even the majority cannot take away.

Civic Virtue

There's one more thing that's essential to make this formula work, and that's what I'm going to describe as civic virtue: self discipline, self sacrifice, the willingness to look to the good of the community rather that simply to one's own personal gain: It's the willingness to rely upon one's own self rather than upon the state or upon the community.

The framers recognized that that kind of virtue was essential for any kind of free government. They recognized that people need control, and either that will be self-control from within' or else it will be imposed by government from without.

This may sound like a contradiction because I've just said that you can't have free government without moral virtue. And I've said that the framers believed—and I believe—that people are sinful. They don't have moral virtue. So the logical conclusion would seem to be, then, that free government is impossible.

The answer the framers gave to this dilemma was religion. When they used that word "religion" they usually used it interchangeably with Christianity. Christianity, they thought, gave people the moral virtue and built into people the self discipline and self sacrifice that made them good citizens and could make a free society possible.

Our second President, John Adams, put it very succinctly when he said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."

That's the formula that our founding fathers have given us. Unfortunately it's a formula that as a nation we have not kept. We've departed from these basic principles and I could show time and time again and place after place where we've departed. I'll concentrate on just a couple here.

The Chains of the Constitution

Let's remember here what George Washington once said about the fear of government power. He said, "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Thomas Jefferson, who at first probably believed more in the goodness of man than most of the other framers, wrote this in the Kentucky Resolution of 179g, after he saw the horrors of the French revolution: "In questions of power, let no more be said of confidence in Man, but bind him down with the chains of the Constitution" That's how he saw the Constitution: chains to bind that dangerous servant government, and keep it from becoming a fearful master.

Our Court has stretched, and in some cases, snapped those chains and government is becoming a fearful master.

Taxes and General Welfare

One example is the general welfare clause in Article One, Section Eight, Clause One. This is where we are told that Congress has the authority to tax and spend for three purposes: one is for the common defense, two is to pay debts and three is to promote the general welfare. Now that is a grant of power, but it's also a limitation of power. Why did they say general welfare instead of just welfare? Because they meant it was not to tax and spend for the specific welfare of regions, individuals, or soci-economic groups.

We held that position up until about 1936, thanks to Justices like George Sutherland who believed in the framers' intent. But in 1937 we saw a shift in this view.

In the Steward Machine case the Court suggests, when you give a subsidy to one group, that group will promote other groups. You know they'll buy things and that will stimulate the economy. They'll buy groceries and that will help the grocers. They'll buy houses and that will help the housing industry.

What the Court effectively did back then was to scratch out the word "general" from Article One, Section Eight, clause one. And now Congress can tax and spend for the welfare of almost anything it pleases.

The example I use is the John Eidsmoe Benevolent Fund. I've been trying to get an appropriation of about $10 million for that. I'll use it to buy a nice ski condo up at Snowbird and maybe another at Vale and maybe another over at Cloudmount in Alabama. I'll buy a fleet of cars and a Lear jet so I can travel back and forth. I'll stimulate the real estate industry, the ski industry, the lumber industry, the construction industry, the automobile industry, and the like.

Obviously that's not what the framers had in mind when they said general welfare.

On Regulating Commerce

The commerce clause is a similar example, where the framers said that Congress could regulate commerce among the states, but not within a state. Article One, Section Eight, clause three identifies three types of commerce that could be regulated: Indian Commerce, International Commerce and Interstate Commerce—not Intrastate Commerce.

But in 1937 that again was changed. In the Jones and Laughlin Steel case, the court said that the National Labor Relations Board could regulate local steel labor's dispute within the state itself. The Court held that those unresolved disputes could lead to steel strikes and steel strikes could lead to the shut-down of the production of steel. A shut down of the production of steel could lead to a shut-down of the free flow of steel between states and so, to preserve the free flow of steel in interstate commerce, Congress could regulate local labor disputes.

In the Darby case, a couple of years later, the courts said that Congress could regulate the production of anything that is going to be sold in interstate commerce.

Then in 1942 the Wickner vs. Filbum case went one step further. The Department of Agriculture fined a filmier for growing an excess number of acres of wheat. "You can't do that," he said "Oh, yes we can," said the Department. "Where do you find any authority for that in the Constitution?" he asked The Department answered, "The Interstate Commerce clause." Then the farmer said, "Wait a minute here. How can you say that the wheat I grew on my own farm and used as feed for my own pigs is Interstate Commerce?" And the Court, in effect, replied, "that is very simple. You see, if you hadn't raised that excess wheat, you would have had to have taken some of the wheat from your allotted acres to feed your pigs. Then you would have sold less. So that would have affected commerce. Or, if you had sold all of your wheat, then you would have had to buy wheat on the market for your hogs; and that would have affected interstate commerce. So you have potentially affected interstate commerce and therefore you should be regulated."

So the Court has just taken a magic wand to the Interstate Commerce clause and stretched it to mean that Congress can regulate practically anything it wants to regulate.

The result of this is a phenomenal growth in the size of government today. If you look at the budget back in 1832 it was only $11 million. We have to take it in steps to see how its grown since then.

There's been about a ten-fold population increase and some inflation, though not much during that first century. But let's say that the budget has to grow a thousand fold. If we took that $11 million budget in 1832 and multiplied it by a thousand we'd get $11 billion. But our budget is a lot bigger than that. If you multiplied it by a hundred thousand times, then you'd get somewhere close $1.1 trillion. In fact, our budget today is about 1.6 trillion dollars, that's about a hundred fifty thousand times what the budget was in 1832. And that's just the federal budget. State and local budgets have grown as well. Why? Because the court has broken the chains of the Constitution and the dangerous servant is becoming a fearful master.

"So the Court has just taken a magic wand to the Interstate Commerce Clause and stretched it to mean that Congress can regulate practically anything it wants to regulate.

Legacy of Horatio Buntz

I want to speak for a just a moment here before I close about a man whom I regard as an American constitutional hero. He was Horatio Buntz. How many of you've heard of him? For those who haven't, Horatio Buntz lived in the 1830's. He was a farmer in Tennessee who never held public office but was respected by his neighbors and was a man who was well read. He had a Congressman everyone here has heard of; Davey Crockett. In a book published in 1884, entitled, The Life of Colonel David Crockett, we read the following account.

Crockett was campaigning for re-election and he came to Horatio Buntz and asked for his vote. He introduced himself and Buntz said, "I know who you are, sir, you are Colonel David Crockett, our Congressman I voted for you in the last election I shall not do so again"

Crockett asked why, and he said, "Because you violated your oath to uphold the Constitution"

"Well, how'd I do that?"

"Remember that bill you passed for the relief of those fire victims in New York?"

"You can't begrudge that, that was a just a small amount, and they were certainly in need."

Buntz said, "It's not the amount, it's not the charity, sir, it's the principle. You are authorized by the Constitution to tax and spend for three purposes: to pay debts, and you know that this wasn't a debt; to provide for the common defense, and you know this had nothing to do with defense; and to promote the general welfare, and this was not for the general welfare, it was for the specific welfare of those people. You violated your oath. I shall not vote for you again"

"Well," Crockett said, "You know, you're right. I can't ask you to vote for me but if you'll call a meeting of the farmers here, I will publicly apologize for that vote and promise never to vote that way again"

Buntz called the meeting, and with or without Buntz's vote, Crockett was re-elected.

In another session of Congress there was a bill to allocate fluids for the relief of a widow. It looked like it was going to pass. When Crockett took the floor, he recounted his promise to Horatio Buntz, and said, "This is not a debt, this is not for defense, and this is not for the general welfare." He said, "I am the poorest man in this house, I cannot vote for this bill, but I'll donate one week's pay to this widow. If everyone else on the floor will do the same, it will be more than the bill calls for."

The bill was defeated, but when Crockett passed his coonskin cap, he found he was the only one who contributed. He noted that congressmen are much more willing to spend the taxpayers money than they are their own.

The point is, what if we had a hundred million Horatio Buntses across America, who knew the Constitution, who knew what limits it places upon government power and who would refuse to vote for anyone who violates those limits?

What if we had several hundred congressman like Davey Crockett who either know the Constitution or are willing to learn from people like Horatio Buntz? I believe this nation could be turned around.

We are facing a test of character here. The question is do we expect the government to take care of us, or do we have the moral discipline to say no to the government and be willing to take care of ourselves? What kind of judges are we going to be having in the next four years? Judges like Blackman, who expand federal power, or judges like George Sutherland, who'd adhere to the Constitution?

Are we going to have a welfare state, or will we have a free republic, as the framers of the Constitution clearly intended, and as they described in the Federalist Papers?

The choice of ours.

"What if we had a hundred million Horatio Buntzes across America, who knew the Constitution, who knew what limits it places upon government power and who would refuse to vote for anyone who violates those limits?"


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: christianheritage; constitution; federalistpapers
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1 posted on 07/05/2008 2:43:19 PM PDT by Interposition
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To: Interposition
I've reached the point where I won't argue politics with someone who can't name at least one of the three authors of The Federalist. It serves no purpose.

Of course, I never argue with someone who HAS read it....we always see eye to eye.

2 posted on 07/05/2008 2:50:00 PM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (Islam: Imagine a clown car.........with guns.)
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To: Interposition
The Federalist papers must be read and considered along with the Anti-Federalist papers to get the full original content and meaning of the Constitution. The struggle between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists was hotly debated and culminated in the American Civil War in which the Federalsits won out, accomplishing through force of might what they had not been able to accomplish by force of ideas.

It must be noted that during the Civil War and Reconstruction period nearly all copies of the Anti-Federalist Papers were removed from schools and public libraries and even today, are only rarely available or referenced.

3 posted on 07/05/2008 2:51:01 PM PDT by Natural Law
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To: Interposition
Thank you for posting this. It is the same set of entirely valid arguments I have been promoting with all I do and write, for three decades now. But it needs to be repeated, and hammered home, since so many Americans are so poorly educated on our shared heritage, the Constitution.

Congressman Billybob

Latest article, "A Walk in the Park -- for a Century or More"

4 posted on 07/05/2008 2:52:57 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob (
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To: Interposition; Psycho_Bunny; Natural Law

Has anyone sent Obama a copy?

5 posted on 07/05/2008 3:03:16 PM PDT by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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To: Interposition
We can only call them unalienable rights—rights that cannot be taken away—if we recognize that they come from a higher source—from God himself.

If they come from government then that's all they are, negotiable privileges....

Antonin Scalia:

“Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

As much as I love Scalia, it would do him well to read this.

6 posted on 07/05/2008 3:03:17 PM PDT by Las Vegas Ron (Election '08, the year McCain defined the word "dilemma")
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To: Interposition
I have been saying for several years that the simplest and easiest way to fix the government would be to pass a constitutional amendment that says simply that all precedent is nullified, that the original intent of the constitution shall govern its interpretation and that judges who interpret the constitution as meaning something other than what its words provide shall be guilty of the crime of usurpation of power, and both impeached and imprisoned.

Unfortunately, the sad fact is that only a minority of Americans now believes in the Constitution as written. They are willing to go along with a court that intentionally rewrites the Constitution so long as they more or less agree with the decision, or so long as the media can get them to go along after several years of propaganda (like with abortion, which was unpopular at first, but with is more or less accepted now.)

Our Constitution, the finest document the mind of man has ever produced, would not be adopted by the American electorate today. We would get something closer to the European constitution, maybe not as blatantly socialist, but it would be godless, gunless and short on individual rights.

If America becomes a free land once again, the minority will have to lead it there.

7 posted on 07/05/2008 3:03:50 PM PDT by Defiant (Leave it to the Dems to nominate someone so bad I may be forced to vote for McCain.)
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To: Natural Law
The Federalist papers must be read and considered along with the Anti-Federalist papers to get the full original content and meaning of the Constitution.

Yes, the Anti-Federalist Papers are worth bolding for emphasis since they are just as important as the Hamilton/Jay centralized government perspective. BTW, Madison changed from Federalist to more Anti-Federalist by the time he became President.

8 posted on 07/05/2008 3:08:21 PM PDT by Dagny&Hank
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To: Defiant

As a first pass - extend the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution to all elected posts - local, state, and Federal; to also include all appointed and staff positions. Two terms - period.

9 posted on 07/05/2008 3:09:22 PM PDT by jamaksin
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To: Interposition
Holy crow! Excellent piece.

I sent this to everyone in my address book, and printed out a few copies for those without e-mail.

10 posted on 07/05/2008 3:10:58 PM PDT by Cobra64 (
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To: Interposition

Didn’t Hillary Clinton say that the FP was her favorite book?

11 posted on 07/05/2008 3:11:44 PM PDT by 668 - Neighbor of the Beast (Only a Kennedy between us and tyranny.)
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To: Interposition

But wait. Wait!
Mr. Obama has said we are not a Christian nation anymore.
We’re a Muslim nation.
A Buddhist nation.
Etc. etc. ad nauseaum.

12 posted on 07/05/2008 3:14:53 PM PDT by XR7
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To: Interposition


13 posted on 07/05/2008 3:29:26 PM PDT by berdie
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To: Dagny&Hank
Let's not forget that the Bill of Rights were a concession granted to the Anti-Federalists as a condition of their ratification of the Constitution.
14 posted on 07/05/2008 3:42:28 PM PDT by Natural Law
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To: Interposition

Another version of the Horatio Bunce piece.

15 posted on 07/05/2008 3:46:17 PM PDT by WorkerbeeCitizen (Seinfeld was a show about nothing - so is Obama.)
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16 posted on 07/05/2008 3:55:42 PM PDT by JDoutrider (Obama= Not Hope & Change! He brings Hype & Chains!)
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To: Interposition

Thank you, excellent post for this weekend!

17 posted on 07/05/2008 3:56:08 PM PDT by bvw
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To: Psycho_Bunny
Interesting comment!


18 posted on 07/05/2008 4:03:13 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: 668 - Neighbor of the Beast
Why would you focus on that one lie?


19 posted on 07/05/2008 4:05:24 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: Interposition

*Bump for later*

20 posted on 07/05/2008 4:06:39 PM PDT by Yardstick
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