Week of September 14, 2015
PennDOT Repairing and Repaving Route 897 in Lebanon County
PennDOT and Amtrak Schedule Changes for Keystone Service
Column: Constitution Day
As Benjamin Franklin, one of the signers, was leaving Independence Hall in 1787, he was asked: “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin’s reply: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Three other signers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, drafted a series of essays supporting ratification of the Constitution. These “Federalist Papers” explained how the new government would operate and addressed questions and concerns. The Federalist Papers remain an excellent constitutional reference.
Madison would later join with Thomas Jefferson to question federal overreach. They drafted (and the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures passed) Resolutions arguing the federal government had no authority to exercise powers not specifically enumerated.
Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions asserted states had power to nullify federal laws they deemed unconstitutional: “[T]he several states who formed that instrument [the Constitution], being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those [states], of all unauthorized acts….is the rightful remedy.”
Later, John C. Calhoun, who served in Congress, the US Senate, various Cabinets, and as Vice President, used the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions to advance the theory of nullification. However, neither Calhoun, nor Jefferson, nor Madison (who later rejected the legitimacy of nullification) was ever able to successfully nullify any federal act.
Our Constitutional Republic looks little like the one envisioned by the Founding Fathers, who established a decentralized federal system with only a few specific, limited powers. Most authority was to remain with the people (9th Amendment) and to the states (10th Amendment).
The President has issued a host of Executive Orders, including: appointing “czars” and other officials with extensive powers not confirmed by Congress; stopping the deportation of illegal aliens while restricting states from discouraging illegal immigration; expanding welfare, healthcare, and other entitlement programs; undermining 2nd Amendment rights; transferring detainees without legal process; using the IRS to target citizens; making certain students guilty until proven innocent; and restricting freedom of religion.
Congress too has enacted laws or authorized actions like: allowing illegal immigrants to live in “Sanctuary Cities” while benefitting from government programs; permitting domestic spying, surveillance, and data collection of personal records; authorizing civil asset forfeitures prior to convictions, and passing laws that could allow savings be used for bank bail outs.
I believe the time has come to revisit the doctrines of Madison, Jefferson, and Calhoun by introducing a Resolution to reiterate important principles on federalism, decentralization, civil liberties, checks and balances, and the relationship between the federal and state governments.
My Resolution claims sovereignty for the citizens of Pennsylvania under the 9th Amendment and state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment and serves as “Notice and Demand to the Federal Government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.”
The Resolution also calls for “all compulsory Federal legislation which directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose Federal funding be prohibited or repealed.”
Pennsylvania was the second state of the original 13 to ratify the Constitution. Hopefully, we’re one of the first to reaffirm the true character of our federal system.
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