Big Government Nationalists swept into power and began their assault on the Constitution and what ensued was an outright disregard for Amendments and a myriad of unconstitutional laws. The Supreme Court remained mute, as the President and Legislative Branch swelled their authority and went after anyone they deemed to be the opposition. They controlled all branches of Government, yet were not happy until they gave themselves the power to imprison anyone who spoke against them or their actions.
A story ripped from today’s headlines? Actually, the year was 1798, and John Adams was the culprit as he wheeled the most heinous ‘Alien and Seditions Acts’ as a sword. Hardly a decade had passed since we had had the Constitutional Convention, ratification Conventions in every State, and had finally passed The Bill of Rights through Congress. Yet, with all this knowledge and all these guarantees, government had quickly and blatantly disregarded all the promises it made to stay within its Enumerated Powers. Our Country was under attack by the same form of tyranny that had plagued us before the Revolution; the idea that by simple decree the ‘ruling class’ could pass any law did not set well with We The People.
A common misunderstanding of our republican form of government is that with representative rule, a democratic shell, and a majority of votes, we are somehow given a mandate to do what ever we want. The Founding Spirit that created our Republic despised these and any types of monarchical innovations. Presently, they whisper fallacies in our ears that a fixed and written Constitution can simply become a living-breathing-document whenever the need arises. Definitions of words can change, Amendments can be ignored, or a good lawyer can persuade five justices to interpret powers never intended and soundly rejected by its authors. There was a remedy to make changes and it was built right into the contract. It required 3/4ths approval of the States, nothing more and most assuredly nothing less.
So, what is the remedy to an authoritarian rogue government? What can be done when all three branches work to a common sinister end? Again we look to the States for the answer. As Madison penned in Federalist #51 that, in fact, our Union was a “compound republic” and its nature is such that “the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments”This means that the States, who created the Federal, are on equal footing and not subservient. The States (first) designated and delegated powers to the Federal Government, who then (secondly) divides its power among three separate branches. In Enumerating Power (9th Amendment) did not mean that the Federal Government had any power more than listed and that the powers not given resided in the States (10th Amendment), thus it is the States who determine what powers the Federal Government has and not a branch within itself.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explained the remedy in their Kentucky and Virginia responses to the ‘Alien and Seditions Acts’. In their Resolutions, they stated ”That the several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government”. These Resolutions, sometimes referred to as the Principles of ’98, also stated that it was the State’s who ”delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government”
In effect, the Resolutions went on to say that the States did NOT have to obey any law(s) passed down by the federal government that the federal government did not have jurisdiction. Any federal act outside its listed (enumerated) powers would and shall be considered null and void “and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties, appertaining to them “VA Resolution of 1798″
Adam’s Seditions Act attacked freedom of speech, as it would imprison anyone who criticized certain protected government officials, namely himself and those of his Party. Jefferson rightly saw this as a danger to all of our Liberty, “thereby guarding in the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the others”.
Simply put, we could not violate any part of the Constitution without destroying the fabric on which the whole was written. Public sentiment affirmed their straight forward response and with the election of 1800, John Adams and the Federalist Party were soundly defeated. Jefferson and Madison had recaptured the true Founding Spirit that understood and knew the proper roles within our compound republican form government.
We now find ourselves at much the same crossroad as Jefferson and Madison found themselves. Today, however, in response to egregious federal overreach, States have resorted to the courts for their only salvation even though the Constitution created it no such jurisdiction. Whether it is the States’ dependency on federal dollars or its lack of knowledge that it can do so, the States continue to be unwilling to enact their proper role in our compound republic. National schemes have taken root and the federal compact of yore seems to be on serious life support as outlandish and unconstitutional laws are the norm of today.
As with the Alien and Sedition Acts, current federal overreach can be seen in a myriad of laws, bills, and federal decrees. We’ve see the destructive side effects of Welfare, Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, and the like. Instead of stopping these errors, we see more and more insidious measures attacking our Liberty – the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, Obamacare, NDAA, etc. etc. There seems to be no end in these innovations of tyranny. The federal government continues to breathe life into tyrannical and alternative forms of government that were soundly rejected at the Constitutional Convention.
Much like the Sedition Acts, under the NDAA, We The People are once again faced with indefinite detentions at the whim of a President. The final bill passage did not include the Feinstein/Lee Amendment which (in title only) tried to “Prohibit” this practice, but even a half-hearted attempt in congress failed us miserably. They can now officially be on record as being against what they themselves passed. (?)
What can we do as a State to stop these overreaches? Wyoming has become the latest State to try to pass legislation that would officially prohibit the detention of its citizens as NDAA mandates. The Michigan house unanimously passed a bill to at least show its disapproval of NDAA , but most seriously doubt this new House will pass it again along with the State Senate. The signature of this Governor on that bill would also be anybody’s guess. It is time that we hold our State accountable to maintain their proper role in this Constitutional compact, which is a compound republic, and start demanding that they thwart tyranny and every turn and start protecting our citizen’s Liberty!