Just Which American Constitution Are You Referring To?

The American Constitution is, to my mind, an extraordinary document. I personally agree with British Prime Minister William Gladstone when he stated in the late 19th century, “the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.” It is a timeless document and it is entirely fitting that Americans should refer to it frequently and adhere to it closely.

Certainly, in recent years, American politicians have been referring to the Constitution with increasing regularity, each one claiming to be championing its every clause. Unfortunately, they then often claim that it supports their own views, some of which are diametrically opposed to what the Constitution states. It seems to me that it is not a very lengthy document and, in most ways, it is quite clear. Further, the founding fathers of the US were a small group who knew each other well and even a modest amount of research reveals what their personal beliefs were. It should not be difficult to clarify whether a present-day politician is correct in his claim that he is upholding the word and spirit of the Constitution.

Amendment 10 — Powers of the States and People. Ratified 12/15/1791.

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.

Arguably, the greatest bone of contention between the Democratic and Republican Parties is the question of liberty. Republicans are strongly in favour of liberty with regard to commerce. However, they are strongly opposed to liberty with regard to social issues, such as abortion and gay rights. Conversely, Democrats strongly support liberty with regard to abortion and gay rights whilst opposing liberty with regard to commerce. Each is firmly committed to the concept that its views should be enforced by federal law. Tea Partiers tend to fall in with Republicans on these issues, while Libertarians support Liberty, regardless of the issue.

The wording of the Constitution is very simple and very clear. The central government does not have the right to pass legislation to control commerce or social issues in any way. Neither the democrats nor the republicans, therefore, are truly representing the spirit or the word of the Constitution.

Amendment 2 — Right to Bear Arms. Ratified 12/15/1791.

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Another historic bone of contention is the right to bear arms. Thomas Jefferson originally proposed this inclusion in the Constitution as a result of Governor Dunmore’s confiscation of the powder at the Magazine (public armoury) at Williamsburg in 1775, as he feared insurrection. Jefferson postulated that it was the right of any citizenry to bear arms, in order to assure that the government could be overthrown by the people if it should become too powerful. Today, the right to bear arms should not even be an issue, as the words, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” are crystal clear.

Amendment 1 — Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Conservatives regularly have attempted to dictate specific moral positions (we’re back to gay rights and abortion again, in addition to internet porn and countless other issues) through the passage of federal laws. While we’re knocking conservatives, both Republicans and Tea Partiers regularly state that the Constitution was based upon Christian belief. This is decidedly incorrect. Their claim is based on two premises: first, that most of the founding fathers were members of the Protestant Church and second, that the word “God” appears frequently in the Constitution (which in fact, it does not). However, the majority of the founding fathers were Deists, a religious conviction that has largely passed into obscurity in the 21st century.

Deists believe in a God who was the creator and who has bestowed basic rights upon mankind, but does not interfere with life on earth. They praise the words of the prophets but believe them to have been mere mortals. Further, they reject any reference in the Bible to miracles or interventions by God, believing these passages to have been added by the Catholic Church. The founding fathers held deep religious beliefs, but many were not truly Christians. However, most were members of the church, as those who did not take up membership in the Protestant Church were generally denied basic rights by King George. It was this fact that chafed founders to such a degree that they formed strong views on the separation of church and state.

Article IV, Section 4 — Republican government

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

This clause, while seldom quoted, is essential as it guarantees that every state is entitled to Republican government; that is, that individual rights cannot be removed by majority vote. As Jefferson said, “A democracy is nothing more than a mob rule, where fifty one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty nine.”

Sadly, today, the concept of the American Republic is long gone, having been trampled by each party over many generations.

So how have the major groups done? The Democrats are correct that the Constitution, as it is written, forbids the central government from passing laws with regard to social issues such as gay rights, abortion and religion. However, they are incorrect when they claim that they have the right to pass laws controlling Commerce. They are also incorrect on the right to bear arms.

Republicans are correct in their support of freedom of commerce. They are also correct regarding the right to bear arms but incorrect on their belief that the Constitution allows the passage of federal laws against gay rights and abortion

Tea Partiers fare about the same as Republicans. The Republicans and Tea Partiers therefore edge out the Democrats a bit, but cannot truthfully claim to be followers of the Constitution.

All of the above are woefully in violation of Republican rights – the right of the individual over the right of the majority.

Interestingly, Libertarians alone appear to be consistently faithful to the Constitution. And yet, they are regularly described as “crackpots” by Democrats, Republicans and Tea Partiers alike. Whether or not they have the right ideas for the future of the US, they are the only major group that seems to support both the word and spirit of the Constitution.

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