“We the People…” seems to be a forgotten concept these days in Washington, D.C. We have moved far afield from the constitutional republic formed by replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution of the United States. A new and bold experiment in governance was born when this new nation began operating as a constitutional republic with vertical power sharing between, the states as a whole, and the federal government; and the horizontal power sharing among the branches of the federal government, as spelled out in the original Constitution.
There is a big difference between today’s United States of America and the eighteenth century start-up nation – a union of sovereign states coming together to create a federal framework with just enough power to allow the federal government to function in the combined interests of the states and not enough power to make the states weaker than the federal government. It is amazing just how different the new nation was from today’s version.
If you wish to know how we got where we are today, with some saying that we are circling the drain and others saying that we are becoming a progressive utopia, this is the story of how we arrived at today’s United States of America, starting with the Constitution of the United States signed by the delegates from the sovereign states of the colonies, except Rhode island. It was not until June 21, 1788 that the required nine states ratified the document. The federal government with afforded limited powers began operating on March 1, 1789. A very key point to know and remember is at that time the states appointed the senators to insure that the states retained control over the federal government preventing the federal government from dictating to the states. The federal government was far less powerful (subservient even) than the states taken as a whole.
With the use of the internet, state legislatures, and an Article V Convention for Proposing Amendments we can make things right once again. To contact your state’s legislators and push for a states’ petition for an Article V Convention go to the Library of Congress or view the National Conference Of State Legislators website to learn about state legislatures. We must ask ‘Will the new founders step forward?”
Our first national compact between states was the Articles of Confederation ratified by the original colonial sovereign states in 1777. This document retained so much power for the States that the new central government was left with so little authority that it simply would not be the binding authority that could serve the best interests of the States and the people of the States. The States called a Convention and most all delegates were instructed by their respective legislatures to fix or if necessary to replace the Articles with another, better document. Popular thought is that the delegates participated in a runaway convention. The popular thought is very wrong. The articles had no mechanism for change, such as an amendment process and it need so much rewriting that starting from scratch was almost universally recognized as the only alternative.
They did just this and the Constitution of the United States emerged. Upon ratification by nine states the nation began operating in March 1789 as the United States of America. What was the difference between the two documents? The goal of the states had always been to provide for common defense among other basic common matters confronting each of the states, and to retain as much of their state sovereignty as possible.
As the Articles of Confederation proved highly inadequate in meeting the needs for common defense nor other common matters since it retained for each state so much state sovereignty, that union was essentially powerless. The Constitution of the United States was intended to retain state sovereignty while granting limited powers to the new central government for common defense and matters of a common nature. It did just this with the states holding the upper house of the new congress, the Senate, and the citizens holding the lower house of the new congress, the House of Representatives.
This structure was key to the states’ preserving their respective “ownership” and guidance of the new federal government. The document gave limited authority to the federal government under the limited powers section, known as Article I, Section 8.
The fear that a limited central government would morph out of control caused a number of states to balk at ratification, New York and Rhode Island principally among them, until they achieved the promise that a Bill of Rights would be developed. This was offered to further protect the states and the citizens of the states, as well as prevent the central government from that morphing. Maybe it was not enough. The Bills Of Rights was finally fully ratified in December 1791- twelve had been offered, but only ten made it through ratification at that time. The structure of the new Constitution coupled with the Bill of Rights worked rather well until the late eighteenth century, and we will get to this, but first we need a review of just how important was this new Constitution.
This new and improved union of states gave birth to the free market with uninhibited true interstate commerce, and about as much individual freedom one could have without anarchy. Under the new compact, our nation grew steadily to greatness for over one hundred years. The nation had survived the War of Independence, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, miscellaneous other conflicts, and of course the Civil War. The Civil War was the one conflict that could have ended this bold governance experiment by burying it with abject failure. Yet the nation survived and continued to grow and prosper. The standard of living of the citizens – not subjects – continued to rise, despite setbacks from time to time.
The change with the most impact to this country’s grand and successful experiment was not a war, but a movement. The progressive movement started in this country circa 1896 and brought not immediate radical change like a civil war might, but rather steady dramatic change, culminating in four constitutional amendments, known as the Progressive Era Amendments, and probably a law that changed everything.
The sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth amendments were authored and passed by two-thirds of Congress and after state ratification (questionable for the seventeenth) became part of our constitution. This seriously handed the federal government power unchecked by the States. The two most egregious amendments were the sixteenth and seventeenth which removed the vertical power balance of the states.
In addition, the federal government passed the Federal Reserve Act which turned national monetary policy on its ear by establishing the Federal Reserve System; you know it as the Federal Reserve – printers of fiat money. The framers of the constitution never dreamed that a quasi-independent organization, not really answerable to Congress or the Executive Branch, and not authorized under the Constitution would be created to make the national standard of living and prosperity decisions for the people of this nation. All this came to fruition between 1913 and 1920.
As we get further into this book, we will see the further impact of these changes and numerous other popular, unpopular, constitutional, or unconstitutional, changes that would befall this republic, making it almost unrecognizable to the founders and the architects of the Constitution, primarily James Madison, and an early key driver for the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton.
In addition to these changes, there have been culture shifts brought about by progressive changes to education and the legal profession, including the judiciary. Our republic is still under attack from progressives today; actually they are in full assault and now control the main stream media (with the exception of maybe Fox News and talk radio), the courts, the education, and financial systems. The Affordable Care and Dodd Frank Acts of 2010 have substantially changed the Republic by giving the executive branch incredible authority to write thousands of regulations with the full weight of law an altering our economy.
At last count the 2,000 plus page Affordable Care Act has enough regulation added to it to stand over seven feet tall on letter size paper. These two bills have achieved a key objective of the progressives by making the executive branch more powerful than congress and the Supreme Court. Starting January 2015 the Environmental Protection Administration released 28,000 pages of new regulations heavily targeting coal and energy.
Today’s federal government with progressive bureaucrats wielding unconscionable unchecked executive branch power at the direction of the president has now moved this republic from a balance of power democratic republic to a four-year authoritarian, sovereign based power structure. Checks and balances are essentially gone.
In the following chapters we will see how this was accomplished and what we need to do to return this nation to the republic’s check and balances governance experiment. It is critical that the changes applied to this nation in the last one hundred years by the progressives or anti “We the People…” advocates be reversed or the experiment is over. Individual freedom, however, is over – somehow we have become subjects and are no longer the citizens in charge. A free market economy is over. A rising standard of living is over. The Bill of Rights is under assault. All this while power settles in the hands of a few, with the government having power over humanity.
The goal of these progressives is to achieve a statist society – Statism.
Merriam Webster defines statism as a “concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry”
This is just the opposite of what our constitution calls for and it was the absolute fear of the founders. They made every effort in the Constitution to prevent a highly centralized government. They knew that statism means the loss of individual freedom. Now for the specifics of why our country’s governance does not reflect what was originally practiced and intended. Ask yourself this question: “Will the sitting Congress correct this after 118 years or do the states need to step up?”