The supreme law of the United States of America

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. The Constitution, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first three articles embody the doctrine of the separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative, consisting of the bicameral Congress; the executive, consisting of the President; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Articles Four, Five and Six embody concepts of federalism, describing the rights and responsibilities of state governments and of the states in relationship to the federal government. Article Seven establishes the procedure subsequently used by the thirteen States to ratify it. It is regarded as the oldest written and codified national constitution in force.

  • Bill of Rights, United States - First 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution
  • Commerce Clause - Clause of article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution that gives Congress power "to regulate commerce"
  • Powers, Enumerated - Constitutional doctrine of limiting the Federal Government to explicitly granted powers


Constitution of the United States, 17 Sep 1787
U.S. National Archives, includes transcript and downloadable high-resolution image

Web Pages

Laissez Faire Books: Clint Bolick
Short biographical and bibliographical profile, followed by "Clint Bolick's Favorite Titles" (commentary on his five favorite books)
"For the reader who wants to understand the underpinnings of he American experiment, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville ... and The Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay are essential readings ... The Federalist Papers explains what the Constitution is all about: an effort to establish the minimalist government necessary to secure freedom, with ingenious structures designed to promote those objectives in perpetuity. I consult both far more than modern texts on law, whenever I need to point the right direction on the constitutional compass. "


A Collapsing Presidency, by Paul Craig Roberts, 20 Mar 2006
Discusses the state of the George W. Bush administration, believing they are all neocons, who don't believe in debate, diplomacy or the U.S. Constitution
"Neocons do not believe in the US Constitution, civil liberties, the separation of powers, or the Geneva Conventions. According to published reports, President Bush described the Constitution as 'a scrap of paper.' Bush’s attorney general, vice president, and secretary of defense have openly defended the Bush administration's practice of torture, violations of habeas corpus, and illegal spying. These high officials, in violation of their oath of office, have openly declared that Bush, as commander-in-chief, is above the law."
A Democratic Dictatorship, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, May 2006
Posits that "ever since 9/11 Americans have been living under dictatorial rule", examining the justifications given by Bush for exercising dictatorial powers
"When the Constitution was enacted, its goal was not only to call the federal government into existence but also to ensure that it would not be headed by a dictator. ... the Framers inserted language expressly limiting the president to a few well-defined powers. If a power wasn't enumerated, the president could not legally exercise it. ... What if the president intentionally violated those restrictions? The Constitution provided two remedies. First, the judicial branch could declare the president's acts to be in violation of the Constitution and order him to comply with its judgment."
A Libertarian Visits South America, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Mar 1999
Relates Hornberger's trip to visit the Instituto de Estudos Empresariais in Brazil and the Fundación Atlas para una Sociedad Libre in Argentina
"I explained that the U.S. Constitution called the federal government into existence but that its powers were limited to those enumerated in the document. ... The essence of these two lectures was that people implement government to protect them from the violent acts of others but that the big concern is: How do we protect ourselves from the protectors? The purpose of a constitution is to ensure that the protectors do not become worse than the people they are supposed to protect us from."
A Very Inconvenient Document, by Vin Suprynowicz, 18 Sep 2006
"Delineating and thereby limiting the powers of the central government is, in fact, the main function of the founding document. ... It would be wonderful to see the U.S. Constitution taught in the public schools. I will believe such a course of education is underway when someone can show me a list of study questions being presented to today's students, including ..."
Benjamin Franklin: The Man Who Invented the American Dream, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Apr 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, including a section on the posthumous publication and reaction to Franklin's Autobiography
"Congress named a 'Grand Committee' in hopes of proposing a solution. Franklin, a member of it, recommended there be two legislative bodies—an idea which others had suggested—because this made possible a compromise: states would have equal representation in one legislative body (the Senate) and representation according to population in the other legislative body (the House ...), with the House having the power to originate money bills. ... Finally, Franklin made a motion that the Constitution be adopted. '... Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that ... to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.'"
Beware Income-Tax Casuistry, Part 3, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Oct 2006
Reviews the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad
"Reading one's libertarian values into the Constitution in defiance of the text and court holdings is futile. Moreover, the Constitution's words are often vague, purposely so; it is a political document. For better or worse the Constitution means what the occupants of the relevant constitutional offices say it means."
Related Topic: Taxation
Bush Broke the Law, by Charley Reese, 31 Jan 2006
Comments on the response by the Bush administration to the revelation of warrantless surveillance, including the claim by Michael Hayden that the Fourth Amendment does not require "probable cause"
"Some act does not become legal just because some hired lawyers say it is. The act must be measured against both the law and the Constitution; Bush's act was illegal and unconstitutional. ... Sorry, but the Constitution cannot be amended by arrogant public officials who don't wish to bother with it. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and if the American people allow it to be violated at will, then they will deserve the loss of liberty that will surely follow. We do not need to become a dictatorship just to catch terrorists. Nor does a declaration of war (which Bush, by the way, doesn't have) suspend the Constitution."
Capitalism and Statism in Latin America, by Manuel Ayau, 4 Oct 1997
Speech given to The Philadelphia Society, San Antonio, Texas regional meeting
"The Constitution of the U.S., which was principally to be an instrument to govern relations between states, is perhaps not as good a model as is generally considered for a non-federal government. It is true that it has been copied all over the world, but only in Switzerland has it perdured. Maybe a better model would be, for instance, the Constitution of Virginia or Massachusetts. It seems that the international advisors are not even aware of the fact that the word democracy does not appear in the founding documents of the United States."
Related Topics: Latin America, Chile, Taxation
A Sacred Union of Citizens—George Washington's Farewell Address and the American Character, by George Leef, The Freeman, Nov 1997
Review of the 1996 book by Matthew Spalding and Patrick Garrity
"Washington also warned in the Farewell Address against allowing even the slightest weakening of the Constitution’s restraints upon governmental power ... Alas, many members of the Supreme Court have been willing to ignore Washington's counsel, if they know of it at all. The Constitution's limits on government power have been shredded, thanks to the arrogance of justices who thought that achieving what they regarded as socially good results was more important than preserving the Constitutional plan of limited government based on a few enumerated powers and many unyielding restrictions."
UpdCould Katrina vanden Heuvel Please Just Shut Up?, by Kevin Carson, 22 May 2013
Commentary on The Nation's publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel tweet on "government for common good"
"That America has ever had government for common good is one of those officially-sanctioned lies they tell you in the public schools' American history classes ... It's probably no coincidence that the nonsensical phrase "general Welfare" appears in the US Constitution's Preamble right after the equally nonsensical "common Defence." The idea that American military policy serves some common "national interest," as opposed to the corporate entities in whose interests wars are actually fought, is pure buncombe. And so is the idea that the American state's economic policies are aimed at some sort of general welfare."
Do Elections Guarantee Freedom?, by James Bovard, Future of Freedom, Nov 2007
Discusses whether democratic elections achieve the purported objective of "will of the people" controlling the government
"The average American voter had no recourse on November 2, 2004, to make the federal government obey the Constitution or keep the peace. But this was the same situation the voters faced on November 7, 2000, November 5, 1996, and November 3, 1992. Instead, each voter was merely asked to personally consecrate the continued violations of the highest law of the land by whoever won. ... This is the difference between voting for a master and voting for a chief law-enforcement officer. America is far closer today to what the Framers dreaded — 'slavery by constitutional forms.'"
Does John Ashcroft Understand the Constitution?, by Jacob Hornberger, 22 Oct 2004
"By according suspected terrorists the rights of habeas corpus, right to counsel, and due process of law, the [Supreme] Court ... was ... enforcing centuries-old procedural guarantees in the administration of justice that our ancestors had the wisdom and foresight to enumerate in the Constitution."
Douglass, Frederick (1818-1895), by Timothy Sandefur, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Moreover, Douglass was persuaded by such writers as Lysander Spooner and Gerrit Smith that the Constitution was actually an antislavery document. In one of his best-known speeches, 'What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?' Douglass declared that 'interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT,' and he insisted that slavery was already unconstitutional even before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Douglass's constitutional philosophy would today be described as 'liberal originalism.'"
Do You Consider Yourself a Libertarian?, by Lew Rockwell, Kenny Johnsson, 25 May 2007
Interview by Kenny Johnsson for "The Liberal Post" blog; topic include libertarianism, statism, war, elections, taxes, anarchism and the U.S. Constitution
"The Constitution would be a major improvement over what we have today. But we need to realize that the Constitution itself represented a major increase in government power over the Articles of Confederation, which would have served us quite well had it not been overthrown. I'm not impressed by the bunch that foisted the Constitution on us. They were really up to no good. We've all but forgotten that most everyone opposed it at the time. It only squeaked through once the Bill of Rights was tacked on. The Bill of Rights isn't perfect, but it at least had the advantage of spelling out what the government could not do."
Federalist No. 64: The Powers of the Senate, by John Jay
Discusses the appropriateness of the Constitutional clause (Article II, Section 2) conferring power on the President to make treaties "with the advice and consent" of two thirds of the Senators
"The Constitution manifests very particular attention to this object. By excluding men under thirty-five from the first office, and those under thirty from the second, it confines the electors to men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle. ... the Constitution has taken the utmost care ... we have reason to be persuaded that the treaties they make will be as advantageous as, all circumstances considered, could be made ..."
Felix Morley: An Old-fashioned Republican, by Joseph R. Stromberg,, 7 Dec 1999
Biographical and bibliographical essay
"For the American constitution to function properly, we must shrink back from an activist foreign policy, which necessarily strengthened executive power. Charles Pinckney of South Carolina had told the constitutional convention that '[c]onquest or superiority among Powers is not, or ought not to be, the object of republican systems.' Morley doubted we could disprove Pinckney's assertion by somehow running 'an Empire under Republican forms.' If we made the attempt, our institutions – the constitution, federalism, the 10th amendment – would yield to the logic of centralized power. "
Finding the Flaws, by Joseph Sobran, 25 Mar 1997
Discusses how governments naturally attempt to influence each other, the democratic flaw of voting for benefits at others' expense, in particular children, and how the U.S. Constitution has failed to avoid this outcome
"Wasn't the Constitution supposed to forbid such overweening power of one part of the community over another? ... The federal government has used a few clauses in the Constitution — notably the Commerce Clause and a few phrases in the Fourteenth Amendment — to virtually nullify the rest ... the Constitution has 'evolved' to mean just about the opposite of what everyone used to understand it to mean. In fact, modern jurisprudence has rendered most of the Constitution's text superfluous, nugatory, or hopelessly confusing. Why should it list two dozen powers of Congress, when Congress exercises thousands of unlisted powers?"
Related Topics: Children, Democracy, Government
Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn, by Paul Gottfried, The Freeman, Nov 1995
Review of Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn, edited by Gregory P. Pavlik and published by FEE
"The young John Flynn and the young Greg Pavlik both speak for the foundational beliefs of the American constitutional order: dual federalism, accountable administration, and the sanctity of property. Those are principles which would not have divided even the two polar figures in the American founding, Hamilton and Jefferson. It tells volumes about our own age that the editor of Flynn's essays has such deep and justified doubts about the prospects for liberty in contemporary America. Perhaps, as Flynn feared, we have moved too far into that totalitarian future produced by public administrators to entertain any reasonable hope that the present mockery of the old order can or will reverse itself."
Founder of the Month - John Jay by Martin Devine and Monty Rainey, by Monty Rainey, Dec 2002
Includes picture, biographical essay, bibliography, two Jay quotes and links to the Federalist Papers authored by Jay
"While serving as Chief Justice, Jay discussed at length, the nature of sovereignty and maintained that under the Constitution sovereignty was vested in the people of the United States for the 'purpose of Union' and in the people of the several states 'for more domestic concerns.' In ordaining and establishing the Constitution the people acted 'as sovereigns of the whole country.' Jay wrote, 'They established a Constitution by which it was their will, that the state governments should be bound, and to which the state constitutions should be made to conform.'"
Related Topics: John Jay, New York
Garet Garrett Revived, by Bruce Ramsey, 26 Mar 2002
Discusses Garrett's political writings and announces a new collection of his articles about the New Deal, edited by Ramsey
"In 'Fear,' Garrett, who calls himself the Old Reporter, is recalling a dinner ...: 'Well,' said the Old Reporter, 'has the Constitution changed? Has the Bill of Rights been rewritten?' 'Only violated,' said the lawyer. '... You should say reinterpreted. You are fooling yourselves who talk of defending the Constitution as if it were an immutable thing ... This change we are looking at has taken place within the grammar of the Constitution. There is no power in phrases written on a piece of skin to stop government. Forget what is written in the document. Defend, instead, the spirit and philosophy that wrote it.'"
Related Topics: Garet Garrett, Liberty
George Mason and the Bills of Rights, by Gary Williams, The Freeman, May 1992
Relates the life of George Mason, his primary role in writing the Virginia Declaration of Rights and his opposition to ratifying the U.S. Constitution
"Instead, Mason was one of the leaders in the fight against ratification of the new Constitution. He composed a three-page list of objections, and, after dutifully forwarding a copy to George Washington, published them in the Pennsylvania Packet on October 4. This publication served as a counter to the Federalist Papers that were written during the ratification fight. ... it was the lack of a bill of rights that was seized as a rallying point for the Anti-Federalists. Nine of the 13 states were needed for ratification, and the fight was a heated one in many states."
Getting Inside the Cult, by Ryan McMaken, 11 Dec 2000
Argues that the decisions by the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts in attempting to resolve the 2000 presidential election "cracked" the "cult of judicial supremacy" as judges began "to show their true colors" instead of "their supposed judicial restraint"
"Ever since the ink was barely dry on the Constitution, the American courts have been trying to establish and solidify their independence while attempting to convince all that they are a breed apart from ordinary people who let themselves be swayed by vulgar politics. ... Few dare criticize the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court ... This is due largely to Chief Justice John Marshall's assertion in 1803 that the Supreme Court has the right of judicial review in federal law. No such thing was written into the Constitution, but Marshall managed to turn it into a massive power grab for the judicial system."
Related Topic: John Marshall
Gold Policy in the 1930s, by Richard Timberlake, The Freeman, May 1999
Discusses U.S. government monetary policies during the 1930s, in particular, the Gold Reserve Act (1934) which allowed FDR to devalue the dollar, the Banking Act (1935) which reformed the FRS and the misguided policies of Treasury Secretary Morgenthau
"... the ... Gold Reserve Act of 1934 ... gave the president the unconstitutional power to call in all privately owned gold for deposit in the U.S. Treasury. It also gave him the unconstitutional power by his fiat to revalue the price of gold (devalue the dollar) by as much as 60 percent. Congress's constitutional power to 'regulate the value of money' was a power that could not be delegated to the executive. ... Properly used, it allowed Congress to make incremental changes in the legal tender value of either gold or silver so that both metals would stay in circulation. It was put into the Constitution to counteract Gresham's Law."
Gore Channels Taft, by Justin Raimondo, 18 Jan 2006
Commentary on a speech given by Al Gore on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2006, criticizing the administration of George W. Bush; Raimondo suggesting Gore sounded like he was "channeling Robert A. Taft" (Republican Senator 1939-1953)
"Focusing on the lawlessness ... [Gore] opined: "It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties." ... Yet [Truman] single-handedly abrogated congressional oversight over U.S. foreign policy and surrendered, seemingly forever, the constitutionally mandated power of Congress to declare war."
Historian Paul Johnson on American Liberty, by Paul Johnson, The Freeman, Jun 1996
Topics discussed include religious freedom, abolishing slavery, the impact of immigration, the Founding Fathers, the U.S. Constitution, individualism, reining in government and the prospects for liberty in America
"As a literary document, the U.S. Constitution is infinitely superior to any of the 12 constitutions France has had since then. Because most people could appreciate the Constitution, it became theirs. They supported it, worked with it, and it has endured, contributing to remarkable political stability. In other countries, there was a lack of support for constitutions which were a tangle of bureaucratic jargon. ... Moreover, the Founding Fathers were loyal to their respective states ... That's why the resulting Constitution divided power between states and federal government as well as among branches of the federal government."
History Lesson Lost, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Oct 2006
Comments on Merrill Jensen's 1940 book about the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitutional Convention
"The Articles of Confederation, Jensen writes, were the radicals' triumph over the conservatives in the Continental Congress ... But the conservatives did not give up their nationalist aspirations. After years of denigrating the confederation and attempting to amend the Articles, they finally got their way in 1787 and used the Constitutional Convention to scrap them in favor of a strong central government."
How Gold Was Money—How Gold Could Be Money Again, by Richard Timberlake, The Freeman, Apr 1995
Examines U.S. monetary history, as it relates to gold, from the Constitution to the late 20th century, suggesting that rather than lobbying for a return to a gold standard, sound money advocates should insist on Treasury gold being returned to taxpayers
"The Constitution stipulates that, 'No state shall ... coin money, ... or make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts ...' (Article I, section 10). Yet on every unit of paper money the U.S. government asserts without apology: 'This note is legal tender for all debts public and private.' By what political alchemy has gold and silver become paper? This seeming contradiction between ... the constitution and real life conditions might suggest to a thinking person that gold and silver had somehow disappeared from the face of the earth in the 200-plus years since the Framers included that simple clause."
Interview with James Buchanan, by James M. Buchanan, The Region, Sep 1995
Topics include The Calculus of Consent, public choice theory, monetary policy and the Federal Reserve
"Tullock and I ... [looked at] the structure of American politics in the way James Madison had envisioned it. That is, it was clearly not a majoritarian democracy, ... rather it was a sort of a constitutional structure. We were the first to start analyzing the Constitution from an economic point of view. There were other people who analyzed particular voting rules ... but we put that in a constitutional structure and provided an argument for choices among voting rules. ... I considered us to be simply writing out in modern economic terms more or less Madison's framework of what he wanted to do ..."
James Madison: Father of the Implied-Powers Doctrine, by Sheldon Richman, 26 Jul 2013
Examines whether James Madison intended the U.S. federal government to have "expressly delegated" powers vs. "powers by implication"
"Nothing like [Article II of the Articles of Confederation] appeared in the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia. On the other hand, the document did extend to Congress the power to 'make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.' This is the 'necessary and proper' clause so feared by the Antifederalist critics of the proposed Constitution."
John Marshall
Library of Virginia, from John Marshal exhibit 8 Jan-31 Mar 2001; includes biographical highlights and pictures of Marshall and other related individuals
"The Marshall court established the principle of judicial review, in which the court ruled that the Supreme Court had the power to declare invalid any act of Congress that was in conflict with the U.S. Constitution. The Marshall court also ruled that state judiciaries could set aside state legislative acts if they conflicted with the federal Constitution and that the U.S. Supreme Court could reverse a decision of a state court. By his opinions, Marshall increased the power of the Supreme Court ..., emphasized the role of the judiciary in the states, and reinforced the national supremacy of the federal government."
Related Topic: John Marshall
Liberty or Empire?, by Patrick Henry, 5 Jun 1788
Excerpt of speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention; criticizes several clauses of the proposed Constitution and warns about the possibility of a U.S. President becoming even worse than a king
"THIS, sir, is the language of democracy--that a majority of the community have a right to alter government when found to be oppressive. But how different is the genius of your new Constitution from this! How different from the sentiments of freemen that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority! ... This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful."
Lysander & Limited Government, by Fred Miller, Reason, May 1976
Argues that Spooner, although critical of the government instituted by the U.S. Constitution, was in favor of a legitimate, limited government, i.e., one that is voluntarily financed
"Spooner presents a devastating refutation of the Social Contract Defense. The Constitution can represent a morally binding agreement only if it meets the conditions that must be met by any morally binding agreement: (1) there must be another identifiable individual or individuals with whom the moral agent enters into the agreement; (2) the agent must enter into the agreement voluntarily; and (3) the agent must sign the agreement in written form. And, says Spooner, none of these conditions are satisfied by the Constitution."
Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) and Foreign Policy: Spooner's Real Views About Everything, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 8 May 2000
Begins wih biographical summary and then delves into Spooner's views on slavery, the U.S. Constitution and the War Between the States
"Having done his damnedest to reconcile English law and the US Constitution with natural law, Spooner threw over the whole undertaking in No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1870). ... Applying with unwavering consistency the principle of 'methodological individualism' to the realm of the law, Spooner held that only real individuals or their properly appointed agents could act, make contracts, and take on binding legal obligations and duties. None of these conditions held with the US Constitution. At best, it was a signed agreement between the men who wrote it (and perhaps those who ratified it). "
Lysander Spooner, Part 1, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Oct 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from Spooner's birth to 1850-1860, examining his writings on economics, money, banking, mail delivery and slavery
"The pamphlet Constitutional Law, Relative to Credit, Currency, and Banking (1843) opens, "The Constitution of the United States, (Art. 1, Sec. 10,) declares that 'No State shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.'" It continues by examining the restrictions placed on currency and banking and demonstrating those acts to be unconstitutional. ... The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress, Prohibiting Private Mails (1844) opened, "The Constitution of the United States (Art. 1. Sec. 8.) declares that 'the Congress shall have power to establish post-offices and post roads.'""
Lysander Spooner, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Nov 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from 1852 to Spooner's death, examining An Essay on the Trial by Jury, the No Treason essays and his subsequent influence
"He claimed that, because of the war, the principle on which the government and the Constitution rested was "the principle on which the war was carried on by the North," namely, that "men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want": "If that principle be not the principle of the Constitution, the fact should be known. If it be the principle of the Constitution, the Constitution itself should be at once overthrown." Thus, the series aimed at nothing less than overthrowing the moral and legal authority of the Constitution."
Marry and Let Marry, by Sheldon Richman, 3 Mar 2004
Comments on President George W. Bush's proposed amendment to forbid same-sex marriage licenses
"President George W. Bush has ... meddled in education, about which the Constitution has not one word. He aspires to give taxpayers' money to religious groups doing social work, despite the First Amendment's barrier to state entanglement with religion. He invaded Iraq to oust its president, without asking Congress for a formal declaration of war, as the Constitution requires. And his respect for civil liberties protected by the Constitution is less than exemplary."
Related Topic: Marriage
Michael Badnarik Thinks You're a Libertarian: Texas' Other Presidential Candidate Talks to the Dig, by Joe Keohane, Weekly Dig, 30 Jun 2004
Quotes from and commentary on Badnarik based on an interview with a reporter of a Boston weekly newspaper
""[Libertarians] believe," Badnarik says, "that Democrats and Republicans both support the Constitution, but only in certain areas. The Democrats strongly support the First Amendment and want restrictions on the Second, whereas the Republicans in general support the Second ... and think that certain obscenity laws should be viable restrictions on the First ..." The ... solution to this patchwork approach to constitutional interpretation is simple: Honor the whole hog. So long as leaders value one part of the Constitution over another, the intention of the Founding Fathers is subverted, and the people get gypped."
More Bush Insults, by Sheldon Richman, 12 Oct 2005
Comments on George W. Bush's nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court and on his speech asking for support on the "war on terror"
"A constitutional debate has been raging in this country for many years, with at least three sides going at it. In general the Left sees the Constitution as a fluid license for judges to interfere with people's peaceful activities in the name of 'social justice.'... The Right sees it as a virtual blank check for Congress and the state legislatures to do anything, constrained only by the narrowest reading of the Bill of Rights. ... Finally, libertarians see the Constitution as Jefferson saw it, as a way to cage all branches of government and let individual freedom — including property rights — flourish."
NATO's Balkans Disaster and Wilsonian Warmongering, Part 1, by Doug Bandow, Future of Freedom, Jul 1999
Analyzes NATO's actions in the Kosovo War in light of the U.S. constitution, the NATO accord and the UN Charter
"Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, to which the president swears allegiance, states that "Congress shall have the power ... to declare war." ... Wrote James Madison in 1793, it is necessary to adhere to the "fundamental doctrine of the Constitution that the power to declare war is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature." When Pierce Butler of South Carolina formally proposed giving the president the power to start war, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts said that he "never expected to hear in a republic a motion to empower the executive to declare war." Butler's motion was quickly rejected."
Related Topics: Europe, War
No More Great Presidents, by Robert Higgs, The Free Market, Mar 1997
Discusses the results of a 1996 poll of historians asking them to rank U.S. presidents, focusing on those ranked Great, Near Great and Failure, and offers his own ranking
"My idea of a great president is one who acts in accordance with his oath of office to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.' ... Grover Cleveland ... respected the Constitution, acknowledging that the national government has only a limited mission to perform ... The people who ratified the original Constitution never intended the presidency to be a powerful office spawning 'great men.' Article II, Sections 2-4, which enumerate the powers of the president, comprise but four paragraphs, most of which deal with appointments and minor duties."
None Dare Call It Hypothetical, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 20 Dec 2005
Discusses a talk-radio question about whether a plot for a "Super 9/11" (or an even more incredible possibility imagined by Sobran) would justify President Bush ordering wiretaps and surveillance to uncover and prevent the plot
"As Abraham Lincoln said, it may be necessary to sacrifice one provision of the Constitution in order to preserve the whole of it. ... When the U.S. Constitution was written, ... Benjamin Franklin was puttering with electricity, which nobody foresaw would transform home life, communication, and everything else ... How could this quaint document have relevance to our world today? A fair question. ... In a word, the Constitution is anti-monarchical. ... it provides for things like elections ... and impeachments, which, though essential protections, are all too rare."
No U-Turns, by Jack Dennon, 29 May 2006
Critiques the U.S. Constitution and the government it allowed to be set up, with quotes from Albert Jay Nock and Lysander Spooner
"The fundamental nature of America's government has indeed remained unaltered in its ability to offer sagacious actors access to the 'political means' for harnessing government coercion in the service of private economic advantage. Today the Constitution is worse than a dead letter, for it provides the facade of legitimacy behind which government actors are enabled to do as they please."
Obama Follows Bush's Iraq Playbook, by Sheldon Richman, 10 Sep 2014
Examines the validity of Obama's arguments for going to war against ISIS/ISIL based on the beheadings of two American journalists
"Article II of the Constitution vests the "executive power" in the president, but that just means he has the power to execute laws passed by the legislative branch. There is no blank-check language about protecting Americans, particularly outside the country. Section 2 of that article of course says the president is "commander in chief" of the armed forces, but no matter how many times the war party repeats that phrase, it cannot be reasonably interpreted as unilateral power to take the country to war. Article I reserves the power to declare and finance wars to Congress alone."
Related Topics: Imperialism, Barack Obama
On Conscription [PDF], by Daniel Webster, 9 Dec 1814
Condensed from speech before the U.S. House of Representatives, given in opposition to bill proposing conscription during the War of 1812, reprinted in Left and Right in 1965, during the Vietnam War
"Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No, Sir, indeed it is not. The Constitution is libelled, foully libelled. The people of this country have not established for themselves such a fabric of despotism. They have not purchased at a vast expense of their own treasure and their own blood a Magna Carta to be slaves. Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of Government may engage it?"
Related Topics: Government, Militarism, War
Paper Money and the Constitution, by Rick Lynch, Future of Freedom, Jan 2009
Examines the historical period of the Articles of Confederation and how it led to controls on the issuance of paper money in the U.S. Constitution
"Where is the constitutional salvation from the evil of paper money? Relief lies in Article I, Section X. ... the most significant checks on state authority ... were those that would no longer allow the states to 'emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts....'"
Related Topic: Money
Patrick Henry: Enemy of the State, by Ryan McMaken, 2 Dec 2003
After brief mention of Henry's more historical speech, discusses his role and oratory in the Constitutional ratification debates
"... perhaps his most valiant effort to preserve American liberties came with the ratification debates over the Constitution of 1787. Henry was a defender of the Articles of Confederation, the government formed during the waning days of the Revolutions ... Henry contended, to adopt the new Constitution would be akin to a Revolution greater than the one just finished, except this revolution was of an older variety ...The real reason behind scrapping the old constitution, Henry suspected, was really that of garnering more power for those who had already tasted the perks of consolidated government."
Penumbras, Emanations, and Stuff, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 6 Feb 2006
Examines how Federal employees avoid mentioning the Tenth Amendendment to the U.S. Constitution, and how politicians instead search for implied powers in order to expand their authority
"Among the most creative interpreters of the Constitution was Abraham Lincoln, who found he needed all the implied powers he could get his hands on in order to prevent peaceful secession by the exercise of violence. ... the richest cache of penumbras and emanations was later found in Congress's power 'to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes' ... is now interpreted to mean that the Federal Government can 'regulate' just about everything we do, from sea to shining sea. This makes the rest of the Constitution pretty much superfluous."
Related Topic: Reserved Powers
President Paul?, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 25 Jan 2006
Commentary and anecdotes on hearing that Ron Paul had formed an exploratory committee for his 2008 U.S. Presidential bid
"In essence, Paul appeals to that subversive document, the U.S. Constitution, long since abandoned by both major parties, not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court. He tests every proposed law by asking whether it exercises a power authorized by the Constitution. The answer is seldom yes. ... The Constitution must never be mistaken for Holy Writ, but at least it is based on the idea that there should be what William F. Buckley has called 'rational limits to government.' At this point, even that may well be a utopian hope. ... If nothing else, the Constitution stands as a reminder of what normality used to be."
Related Topics: Ron Paul, Republican Party
Protesting the Tax Protesters, by James Ostrowski, 1 Jan 2007
Presents several arguments against tax protesting, concluding with a suggested approach to fighting against confiscatory taxation
"Constitutions don't limit government power because the government has claimed the exclusive right to say what they mean. More importantly, the Constitution is a legal document. Law is a reflection of pre-legal values. The values that gave rise to the Constitution are in large part dead. The vast majority of the public no longer holds them. You might as well be speaking Chinese to them."
Related Topics: Taxation, Henry David Thoreau
Religion and the Constitution, by Thomas Sowell, 28 Jun 2002
Discusses the implications of the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Newdow v. United States Congress challenging the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance (added in 1954)
"... courts at all levels get away with imposing judges' personal views [because] so much of the public and the media view each decision in terms of whether they agree with the particular policy it represents. But the destruction of the separation of powers, which is central to the Constitution, is infinitely more important than whether policy A is better or worse than policy B. ... If the people can be conned into giving up their rights by pious rhetoric from judges who claim to be 'interpreting' the 'values' of the Constitution, then 'con law' no longer means Constitutional law but laws imposed by con artists."
Related Topic: Freedom of Religion
Sic Semper Tyrannis, by Lew Rockwell, The American Conservative, 23 Apr 2007
Analyzes how the U.S. Presidency has been transmogrified from the role proposed by the Federalists
"Maybe the authors of the Federalist Papers were liars. Maybe they were just engaged in political propaganda in order to shove through the Constitution. In secret, perhaps, they were plotting a Leviathan state with a president who can do all that the Bush administration claims he can, which pretty much amounts to whatever Bush wants to do. If that was the case, they knew better than to advertise it. The Constitution would never have passed. Fear of a powerful president was one of the main reasons that people were fearful of abandoning the Articles of Confederation, which had no executive to speak of. "
Spooner, Lysander (1808-1881), by Randy Barnett, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"In this fascinating work [The Unconstitutionality of Slavery], Spooner argued that, because the Constitution did not receive the express consent of those on whom it was imposed, it can only be based on presumed or 'theoretical' consent. ... Whereas his earlier works on the unconstitutionality of the postal monopoly and of slavery implicitly assumed the legitimacy of the Constitution, or appeared to, after the [Civil] war Spooner explicitly rejected the Constitution in what is today probably regarded as his best and most libertarian essay, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1870)."
Stop Them!, by Sheldon Richman, 26 Feb 2007
Commentary supporting a New York Times editorial advocating repeal of habeas corpus provisions in the Military Commissions Act and outlawing use of evidence obtained through torture
"Nothing indicts Bush-Cheney as profoundly as their displayed contempt for habeas corpus. I have no doubt that if they thought they could get away with it, they'd suspend it for citizens too. Note well: the Constitution does not distinguish citizens from noncitizens. If the gang-run-amok in the White House can suspend habeas corpus for aliens, it can do so for the rest of us."
Related Topic: Writ of Habeas Corpus
Take the Constitution Seriously in the Second Term, by Sheldon Richman, 8 Nov 2004
Suggests a plan of action for George W. Bush upon election for a second term as U.S. President
"According to the Constitution the presidency is a modest office. The powers are rather few. ... he executes the laws passed by Congress, which is also bound by a small number of powers. The president can spend money only as appropriated by Congress. ... He is not our commander in chief, as people seem to believe , and second, being commander does not include the power to declare war. That power was reserved, exclusively, to the Congress."
The Antifederalists Were Right, by Gary M. Galles, Mises Daily, 27 Sep 2006
"The Antifederalists warned us that the cost Americans would bear in both liberty and resources for the government that would evolve under the Constitution would rise sharply. That is why their objections led to the Bill of Rights, to limit that tendency (though with far too little success that has survived to the present)."
The Authority of a Foreign Talisman: A Study of U.S. Constitutional Practice as Authority in Nineteenth Century Argentina and the Argentine Elite's Leap of Faith, by Jonathan M. Miller, American University Law Review, Jun 1997
Examines the history of Argentine law prior to adoption of the 1853 Constitution, the arguments in Alberdi's Bases and the influence of the U.S. Constitution during the remainder of the 19th century and up to 1930
"The U.S. Constitution was an important model from the beginning of the process that established the Constitution of 1853 ... The tendency toward greater invocation of the U.S. Constitution as authority would suggest that the U.S. Constitution worked as a unifying force. Invocation of the U.S. Constitution and practice began to lessen only toward the turn of the century, by which time Argentina's political institutions were sufficiently well-entrenched so that the U.S. Constitution no longer was necessary as a talisman."
The Bill of Rights: Searches and Seizures, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Oct 2004
Discusses general warrants (and the British case of Entick v Carrington) and writs of assistance in colonial America as precedents for the framing of the Fourth Amendment and the latter's imporance in the present
"Today, there are Americans who argue that the Constitution is an outmoded and antiquated document that is ill-suited for modern times. They argue that modern-day federal officials would never engage in the types of abuses engaged in by British officials and, therefore, that they should be trusted with omnipotent power. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thank goodness for the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors in protecting us from modern-day federal officials, especially through the express restrictions on search and seizure provided in the Fourth Amendment."
The Constitutional Crisis No One Seems To Understand, by Harvey Silverglate, The Boston Phoenix, 2 Jun 2006
"What the White House didn't count on was that a red-hot Congress would invoke an obscure constitutional provision called the 'speech or debate clause,' found in Article 1, Section 6, that protects the legislature from intrusion by other branches of government under certain circumstances. ... The provision is nothing less than a bulwark of the separation-of-powers doctrine ..."
The Constitutionalist, by Gary M. Galles, 28 Mar 2007
Comments on the 2008 presidential candidacy of Paul, aiming to demonstrate his principled and consistent views by a litany of quotes from Paul's writings and speeches in the preceding year
"A fan of the Constitution, Paul upholds its strict limitation of the federal government to those roles enumerated in the Constitution. ... 'It's hypocritical and childish to dismiss certain founding principles simply because a convenient rationale is needed ... The principles enshrined in the Constitution do not change.' '[Courts] routinely rubber stamp egregious violations of the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments, and allow Congress to legislate wildly outside the bounds of its enumerated powers.' ... 'We forget that those powers not explicitly granted to Congress by the Constitution are inherently denied to Congress.'"
Related Topics: Ron Paul, Taxation
The Constitution and the Rule of Law, by Jacob Hornberger, Aug 1992
Related Topic: Rule of Law
The Constitution or Liberty, by Sheldon Richman, 21 Sep 2012
Contrasts Article II of the Articles of Confederation with the Tenth Amendment and Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and discusses the implied powers of the latter document (revised version of article published 7 Dec 2007)
"For example, the first clause of Article I, Section 8, states, 'The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States. ...' That's a hefty grant of power that does not appear to be further restricted by any subsequent language. ... The 16 specific powers that follow don't appear to be limits on the taxation clause but rather coequal provisions. ... in the eyes of the framers, the government would be limited, but not nearly as limited as today's constitutionalists believe."
The Courts and the New Deal, Part 1, by William L. Anderson, Future of Freedom, Jun 2005
First part of a four-part series examining how Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal affected federal courts and other legal practices; contrasts the thoughts of Blackstone and Bentham
"The law as it stands today ... is not even a distant cousin of what was written on parchment in that hot summer of 1787. First, the Constitution clearly separated the powers not only of the three branches of the national (or what we today call the federal) government, but also distinguished between the legitimate powers of states and the central government. ... At the time the Constitution was written, the rights of private-property ownership and the sanctity of contracts were front and center, not only in the minds of the document's Framers, but also with the public at large."
The Delusion of Limited Government, by Butler Shaffer, 14 May 2002
Comments on watching the Cato Institute's 25th anniversary dinner in which speakers held up booklets with the U.S. Constitution while complaining that the document had "not restrained the power of the state"
"As I listened, I asked myself: what objection do these people really have? They celebrate the Constitution, carrying it around with them like a book of catechisms and, at the same time, complain that this document has not restrained the power of the state! ... This instrument of allegedly 'limited powers' contains a preamble that defines its purposes as the creation of "a more perfect Union,' which will 'establish Justice ... and secure the Blessings of Liberty.' The specific grants of power to Congress are then spelled out in Article I ... How do such words limit governmental power?"
The Failed Attempt to Leash the Dogs of War, by Bart Frazier, Future of Freedom, Dec 2006
Discusses provisions of the Constitution that were meant to prevent the United States from having a large, permanent military and becoming involved in warfare at the will of a single person
"The separation-of-powers doctrine is a running theme of the Constitution. The power to enact laws is given to Congress, the power to enforce them is given to the president, and the power to interpret them is given to the judiciary. ... And so it was that the Constitution had provisions against a standing army. It did not prevent a standing army outright, for in times of peril one would be necessary. But the funds for a standing army had to be renewed every two years."
The Great Writ Then and Now, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, Nov 2009
Chronicles the history of the writ of habeas corpus from the Magna Carta through the American Civil War to Guantanamo Bay and "enemy combatants"
"The only specific reference in the Constitution occurs in the Suspension Clause (Article I, Section 9—"Limits on Congress," Clause 2): "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." Although the reference is brief, it is highly significant that this particular protection ... is in the body of the Constitution while similar protections ... occur only in the appended Bill of Rights. ... Thus the explicit inclusion of The Great Writ in the body of the Constitution suggests its importance for the Founding Fathers."
The Ignorant Can't Be Free, by C. T. Rossi, 28 Mar 2007
"A handful of modern thinkers, such as Murray Rothbard, have sought to address how the study of freedom is essential to understanding what our Constitution is and is not. ... Certainly the essential purpose of any constitution is to create a government. But the American constitution endeavors to create a specific government, a form which was believed to help maximize the liberty of those who live under it – a federal government."
The Lawless State, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 11 Jul 2006
Explains how the United States changed from being a decentralized republic to a centralized democracy and how most of the power has moved from the legislative branch to the "imperial presidency"
"The big decisions, under the U.S. Constitution, were supposed to be made by the Congress, and 'faithfully executed' by the president. ... Liberals [have] done their best to make the Constitution so malleable as to be meaningless ... On even the strictest reading, [it] may, and does, permit — or at least doesn't forbid — all sorts of things that are wrong or ill-advised on other grounds, such as the carpet-bombing of cities in wartime. And now that the Constitution has ceased to inhibit the government, its decisions have to be based on those other grounds, such as 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.'"
The Most Dreaded Enemy of Liberty, by James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 20 Apr 1795
From a longer essay titled "Political Observations", the selected passage reflects on the nature of war and the provisions in the U. S. Constitution about declaring war, conducting war and raising armies
"The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war ... the power of raising armies ... A delegation of such powers [to the President] would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments. The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted."
Related Topic: War
The Nightmare of the New Deal, Part 2, by George Leef, Future of Freedom, Jan 2008
Review of The Forgotten Man (2007) by Amity Shlaes; discusses the Schechter Supreme Court case which caused the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to be declared unconstitutional, the 1940 election and offers some concluding remarks
"When the Supreme Court heard the case ... the government's lawyer argued that upholding the law was essential to fighting the Depression and that the justices shouldn't bother about individual freedom, which was merely "the liberty to starve." ... Frederick Wood, a lawyer with one of the prominent Wall Street firms ... "... argued that it might be all right to go the way of Mussolini or Hitler, but a constitutional amendment was necessary for that, not merely an act of Congress." The Court's decision was quickly reached, ... The NRA was unanimously declared to be unconstitutional."
The People Say No to War, by Sheldon Richman, 13 Sep 2013
Commentary on how the American people stopped, at least momentarily, the Obama administration from attacking the Syrian people
"No paper constitution ever restrained a government. What ultimately restrains governments is a sufficiently large number of people with certain ideas — an ideology — about the limits to state power. If those ideas change, the power of government will expand or contract, depending on the case, even if no single word of the paper constitution changes. Constitutions don't interpret or enforce themselves."
Related Topic: War
The Post Office as a Violation of Constitutional Rights, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, May 2001
Prompted by the announcement of the U.S. Postal Service eBillPay service (now discontinued), surveys the history of mail service vis-à-vis civil rights, from colonial days to the present
"In his pamphlet, 'The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress Prohibiting Private Mails,' Spooner highlighted the inefficiency guaranteed by the act of banning competition in postal service. ... But Spooner objected to a postal monopoly not merely or primarily because it cheated the public ... His main objection lay in the argument that the monopoly violated individual and constitutional rights in at least three ways. First, Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution authorized Congress 'to establish post offices and post roads,' but it didn't bar others from doing so as well. The power to create was not a power to prohibit. "
The Progressive Era, Part 1: The Myth and the Reality, by William L. Anderson, Future of Freedom, Feb 2006
Examines various aspects of Progressivism's "much darker tale", tracing its roots to 19th century Unitarians and pointing out Progressive support of prohibition and segregation
"From the creation of the Federal Reserve System to the Sixteenth Amendment that brought about the national income tax, Progressives were able to do away with the impediments created by the U.S. Constitution, which according to them stood in the way of progress. ... (At least the Progressives realized that the U.S. Constitution did not permit Congress to outlaw the manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages without the authority of a constitutional amendment. Today's 'war on drugs,' however, is carried on without such constitutional niceties.)"
The Real DiLorenzo: A 'Southern Partisan' Interview, by Thomas DiLorenzo, 17 Jun 2004
Interview by Southern Partisan magazine, about DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (2002)
"Lincoln ... in his first inaugural ... said, "I understand a constitutional amendment has been proposed," and he describes it. He said, "I think it is already constitutional to do this," to have slavery exist forever. Then he said, "but I have no objection to it being made express and irrevocable." ... That's a remarkable thing. You don't see that in any of the history books. Where have you ever seen this proposed 13th amendment in any history book? I’ve found that that really turn people around, if they know that – if they know that he, and not only he but the Congress, both houses, were willing to see slavery exist indefinitely."
The Revolution's Forgotten Hero, by David A. Merrick, Future of Freedom, Dec 2003
Highlights the work of George Mason as the person "most responsible for penning freedoms into written law" for his contributions to or influence on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Bill of Rights
"What follows are some of Mason's objections:
  • The Constitution was too loosely worded and he feared that it would be used to deny individual and states' rights, so he opposed the formation of a strong central government.
  • He insisted that a bill of rights be included ...
  • He stated that the Constitution contained a central contradiction, the sanctioning of slavery. ...
  • He objected to the taxation powers of the government ...
  • Mason also feared that an all-powerful federal judiciary would destroy state courts ...
  • He was fearful that the Senate had too much power.
The Roots of Individualist Feminism in 19th-Century America, by Wendy McElroy
Introduction to Freedom, Feminism, and the State, a collection of 22 essays edited by McElroy
"The Fourteenth Amendment provided that if the right to vote were denied to any law-abiding male inhabitants of a state over the age of 21 (excluding untaxed Indians), that state's basis for representation in Congress would be proportionately reduced. Its purpose was to secure votes for black men and, in attempting to do so, it introduced the word "male" into the U.S. Constitution. The Fifteenth Amendment assured that the right to vote could not be abridged because of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." It was objectionable to feminists because it made no reference to sex."
The Supreme Court Repeals the Constitution, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Sep 2005
Discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, with emphasis on the dissenting opinions of O'Connor and Thomas
"As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writes in the main dissent, the Court has 'effectively ... delete[d] the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.' ... If the Court can liberate itself from any 'literal requirement' when reading the Takings Clause, it can liberate itself from any literal requirement when reading any other part of the Constitution. But that means we can never know how the Court will claim to understand the Framers' limits on government power. Which means: there are no limits on government power."
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 2, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Mar 2015
Discusses how James Madison's conduct of the War of 1812 led to changes in American attitudes, including mercantilism, militarism, imperialism and centralization
"The Old Republicans' narrow interpretation of the Constitution, the new Republicans said, should not be treated as engraved in stone. 'A new world has come into being since the Constitution was adopted,' said Henry Clay ... 'Are the narrow, limited necessities of the old thirteen states ... as they existed at the formation of the present Constitution, forever to remain a rule of its interpretation? Are we to forget the wants of our country? ... I trust not, sir. I hope for better and nobler things.' Apparently the idea of a living constitution was born much earlier than the 1950s or 1930s."
Was the Constitution Really Meant to Constrain the Government?, by Sheldon Richman, 8 Aug 2008
Explains how attempting to revert to the "original meaning" of the Constitution or appealing to the writings of the framers will not lead to a free society
"Many advocates of liberty have thought they just had to appeal to the 'original meaning' of the Constitution and things would more or less take care of themselves. But if that were so, why are we in the mess we're in now? I presume that earlier generations interpreted the Constitution in a way more to the liking of today's constitutionalists. What happened? Since that time, the Constitution has never been suspended; the government wasn’t replaced by a non-constitutional regime. The formal Constitution has been in force continuously since 1789. Everything that happened was justified constitutionally."
Related Topic: Government
What Is the Constitution?, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Jun 2002
Discusses constitutional interpretation, in particular the ninth and tenth amendments, in light of comments from Antonin Scalia about a national ID card
"Two major points of view have emerged. One side urges a strict construction. The only rights people have are those expressly stated. ... The other major side urges a looser interpretation ... this side finds a general right to privacy emanating from several amendments, particularly the Fourth and Fifth. ... The list of powers is a secondary consideration ... But that is not how the Constitution was supposed to work."
What This Country Needs Is A Good, Old-Fashioned Constitutional Crisis, by Gary North, 7 Dec 2000
Discusses the attempts by Al Gore to annul Florida's Electoral College votes in the 2000 U.S. presidential election and the benefits of the resulting crisis if the Florida legislature were to act to name the electors (as provided for in the Constitution)
"It would be nice to see the honoring of this Constitutional provision make the deciding difference in the outcome of a Presidential election. ... the Left has been at war with the Constitution throughout this century. In the name of social Darwinism and central planning, the Left has called for a living, organic Constitution. This means amendment by legislation and judicial activism. ... the Right has been at war with the Constitution since 1803: the Marbury v. Madison decision, in which the Supreme Court successfully interposed a new doctrine, unforeseen by most of the Constitution's Framers: judicial review."
Where Is the Constitution?, by Sheldon Richman, 28 Jul 2006
Discusses the varying legal interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and what is meant by "obeying rules"
"I mean the real constitution — the set of attitudes that reflect what Americans people will accept as legitimate actions by the people in government. ... words faithfully recited, or inscribed on parchment and hung in the National Archives, will never be enough to assure liberty. ... If liberty and free markets are to be established, government power must be rolled back. And if government power is to be rolled back, the real constitution — people's hearts and minds — must be pro-liberty."
WILLIAM MARBURY v. JAMES MADISON, Secretary of State of the United States, by John Marshall, Feb 1803
The decision, delivered by then Chief Justice Marshal, where he argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had the privilege of reviewing legislation and declaring it void, if deemed to be contrary to the Constitution
"The Constitution is either a superior paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and, like other acts, is alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it. ... If the former part of the alternative be true, then a legislative act contrary to the constitution is not law: if the latter part be true, then written constitutions are absurd attempts, on the part of the people, to limit a power in its own nature illimitable. ... the theory of every such government must be, that an act of the legislature, repugnant to the constitution, is void."


Starting a Brush Fire for Freedom: An interview with US Rep. Ron Paul, by Ron Paul, John W. Whitehead, oldSpeak, 9 Feb 2004
Topics include: being a lone wolf in Congress, the Patriot Act and related legislation, George W. Bush, the Iraq War, conservatives and neo-cons, the federal debt, education and the Constitution
"But we are doing something much worse than raising the question of either rewriting or doing away with the Constitution, which has worked for over two centuries. What we are doing today is undermining, ignoring and even ridiculing our Constitution. ... I tried to make the International Relations Committee vote on a Declaration of War concerning the Iraqi situation just to make the point that we ought to be declaring war and not just giving this power to the President. ... I was told that this provision in the Constitution was no longer followed because it was anachronistic and I was being frivolous to have raised it."

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Trusting Bush, by Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 18 May 2006
Related Topic: George W. Bush


Good To Be King: The Foundation of Our Constitutional Freedom
    by Michael Badnarik, 2004
Partial contents: Ignorance is Bliss—But It's Still Ignorance - Rights vs. Privileges - Individual Rights - Sovereignty - Forms of Government - Our Founding Documents and Early History - Preamble to the Bill of Rights? - Corruption in the United States
Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty
    by Randy Barnett, 2003
Partial contents: The Fiction of "We the People" - Constitutional Legitimacy without Consent - Natural Rights as Liberty Rights - Constitutional Interpretation - Constitutional Construction - Judicial Review - The Presumption of Liberty

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "United States Constitution" as of 10 Nov 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.