Are the States Out of Date?
By: Dr. Robert R. Owens
The people of the founding generation did not think of Americans as Americans. They did not see them as one people but instead as citizens of the various states. Even as late as the Civil War, people such as Robert E. Lee, who disagreed with secession and wanted a united United States, left because his State seceded and not because he suddenly wanted Virginia to be another country. Another example of the feelings of many in the founding generation was the fact that the term “We the People of the United States” that opens the preamble to the Constitution caused great controversy during the ratification debates. It was pointed out as a blatant attempt to make the States irrelevant.
The Constitution was meant to improve the federation of the various States as created under the Articles of Confederation. It was not meant to create anything new. This was stressed over and over by the supporters of the Constitution in the ratification debates. The Framers voted by State, and, though some of the Framers wouldn’t sign the completed document, since it was adopted by all the States it was called unanimous. The ratification votes of the various conventions voted by state not as individuals. As provided in the original document the members of the Senate were not elected by the people at large. They were instead selected by the State legislatures. The house was designed to represent the people, and the Senate was designed to represent the States.
The Constitution never would have been ratified without this provision designed to protect the States from losing their integrity as sovereign republics which had voluntarily joined together. This was essential and this was generally understood.
So when was our social contract revised? How can a contract be unilaterally revised?
When did we agree to surrender our liberty in exchange for security? When did we agree to move from a voluntary federal republic to a centrally-planned democracy? When did our freedom from warrantless searches morph into 360° surveillance? When and how were the guarantees found in the Bill of Rights turned inside out and upside down?
The scariest thing I see about all this as I travel around the country is not that our totalitarian wanabes will use any excuse and any subterfuge to undermine limited government for the benefit of their power and their crony capitalist’s profit. No, that doesn’t scare me or surprise me at all. What catches my attention is that as I speak to more and more people about this creeping corporatism the majority of them say things like, “I’m glad the government is watching out for terrorists” or “If you’re not saying or doing anything wrong why should you care if the government listens in?”
Not only have Americans been dumbed down to the point where the majority of college freshmen need remedial studies, but these descendants of the pioneers have lost sight of the American Dream. Asked “What is the American dream?” most citizens today will recite the pabulum spooned out by the Federal Reserve Bubble Machine, the political hacks who gave them power, and the Wall Street Casino that profits by the game: “The American Dream is to own your own Home.”
That is not the American Dream! The American dream is limited government, personal liberty, and economic opportunity.
At what point do unilateral changes to a contract render it null and void?
I have long said, it will still be called the United States of America. The stars and stripes will still wave, there will still be elections, and we will still hear that this is the freest most prosperous nation on earth as our freedom slips away and our opportunities shrink.
During the ratification debates it became clear that the Constitution would not be ratified unless there was a promise that the first order of business for the new government was going to be to amend the document to state some things that a majority of people thought were missing. The promise was made and the first ten amendments were added. Today we call this our Bill of Rights. While some people can recite all of them and many more can recite a few almost every American knows they exist. The Bill of Rights has a treasured place in the American heart.
Few if any know what was said in the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, which is neither mentioned nor studied today. This sets out their purpose and is enlightening as a starting off point for understanding what they are and what we are losing.
“THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution” (emphasis added). The Bill of Rights was added in order to prevent misconstruction, or the words of the document, or abuse of its power by the government to be established under the Constitution. This could not be possible unless the words of these amendments were supposed to mean what they say, not what black-robed partisans can interpret them to say.
The Bill of Rights were not written nor adopted in their order of precedence. The number one amendment requested by the States was set as the 10th or capstone. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, above all the citizens of the various States were concerned most that the central government not run rough shod over the States which were the home republics closest to and controlled by the people. They feared that the central government would become a Leviathan, crushing dissent and smothering freedom.
And they never heard of the IRS, the NSA, or the EPA. They never imagined an unelected, appointed for life Supreme Court that would cancel amendments to State constitutions that were legally adopted according to the processes within those constitutions. Not since they had overthrown King George had they lived under the suffocating tyranny of a Patriot Act or rule by decree such as executive orders.
According to the amendment process in the Constitution, the States can offer amendments to the Constitution by calling for a convention to propose such amendments. Many people are afraid of a convention believing that those who advocate for a limited government, personal liberty, and economic freedom could not carry the day and the Constitution would be altered in a negative way.
It is time to admit to ourselves that the progressives have been and are changing their “Living Document” every day in countless ways: executive orders, regulations (from the EPA for example) and legislation (the 4th Amendment bending Patriot Act for example). We must face the fact the dam has broken and the foxes are guarding the hen house. The ship has sailed and the fix is in. We need a reset button before we slide completely into the abyss of totalitarianism. The flag will still fly, the national anthem still play, yet the land of the free and the home of the brave will be fundamentally transformed into a centrally-planned, regimented, surveillance state.
Once the scales have fallen from our eyes and we see that just because they call themselves liberals, people who want to control every aspect of every one’s lives are no more liberal than any of the other statists who have sought total control to impose their idea of utopia on anyone at any time in any place.
What we need is an American Spring. We need Americans to act like Americans and demand the freedom that is their birthright. Freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose. We the People who believe in limited government, personal liberty and economic freedom have got to unite or we might end up joining a worldwide chorus singing, “And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’ your prison is walking through this world all alone.”
The center no longer holds. We must all work to influence our States, our home republics, to reign in the runaway Washington-centered bureaucracy machine before we are strangled in the red tape and buried in regulations.
The States must prove their relevance or perhaps the States are out of date.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College. He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2011 Robert R. Owens email@example.com Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens