Every American Should Be a Constitutionalist

by Oletta Branstiter

Americans are routinely pigeonholed as Conservative, Moderate or Liberal. Terms like “Far Right” and “Progressive” are tossed about freely. In the past decade, our political labels have expanded to include Socialist, Populist, and Nationalist. The more options we have for competing ideological associations, the more divided and weakened our nation becomes.

Let’s keep it simple. One is either a Constitutionalist, or one is not. If you don’t agree with parts of the U.S. Constitution, you may work to amend it, as has been done 27 times since its ratification by the required nine out of thirteen states in 1787.  What you may not do is reinterpret it, especially based on ignorance or misunderstanding.

As the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated:

“The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring. It means today not what current society, much less the court, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted.”

In an interview with NPR, Scalia explained:

“If you somehow adopt a philosophy that the Constitution itself is not static, but rather, it morphs from age to age to say whatever it ought to say — which is probably whatever the people would want it to say — you’ve eliminated the whole purpose of a constitution. And that’s essentially what the ‘living constitution’ leaves you with.”

The Constitution of our Federal Republic was designed to protect individual liberty under the rule of just law. At the time of its consideration among the state delegates, Federalism vs Anti-Federalism was being vigorously and vehemently debated.

In U.S. history, anti-federalists were those who opposed the development of a strong federal government and the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, preferring instead for power to remain in the hands of state and local governments. Federalists wanted a stronger national government and the ratification of the Constitution to help properly manage the debt and tensions following the American Revolution. Formed by Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist Party, which existed from 1792 to 1824, was the culmination of American federalism and the first political party in the United States. – From diffen.com

According to freedictionary.com, Federalism defines the agreement made by states to invest governmental power in a central agency. Our Constitution was ratified on the premise of Federalism.

On My 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the 13th and final state to ratify what is now the oldest written Constitution in use. Since then, 37 more states have elected to align themselves with the U.S. Constitution under Article IV, Section 3, when Congress drafted “enabling acts” which were signed by the sitting Presidents. Evidence was presented to ensure that statehood was in the best interest of the petitioning territory and the U.S. as a whole. No state would be admitted without declaring fidelity to our Constitution.

This fidelity is not limited to states. Persons wishing to become U.S. citizens complete the process by taking the Oath of Allegiance:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

James Madison, the author of the document, included the process by which the rules for our government could be amended. A Convention of States described in Article V is the Constitutional process to accomplish changes to our founding document.

Politicians, judges and bureaucrats do not have the privilege of assuming new interpretations of the written rule of law. If they are uncertain about the original intent of the framers, they are welcome to read the founders’ writings and Federalist Papers, which will provide ample clarification.

In a Facebook debate group recently, a progressive challenged a constitutionalist to defend the government’s decision to reduce or eliminate the provision of food and other necessities to “the poor”. He cited, for his argument, that the General Welfare Clause: Article I, Section 8 of the U. S. Constitution grants Congress the power to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States.”

The constitutionalist responded by providing quotes from James Madison on this exact topic:

“With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creator.”

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.”

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.”

Excerpts from Federalist #41 were also provided for instruction:

It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction. Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it… For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars… But what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching themselves to these general expressions, and disregarding the specifications which ascertain and limit their import, they had exercised an unlimited power of providing for the common defense and general welfare?

Both of these quoted explanations emphasize the intent to limit the scope and power of government. General Welfare is defined as that which ensures the safety and security of our nation as a whole, especially in terms of military defense and readiness.

Instead of addressing the provided original intent of our written law, the progressive then resorted to condemning his opponent as a “Constitutionalist”, as if it was an epithet. Why is this person an American? If he cannot and will not accept our written rule of law, why doesn’t he move to a nation with laws that conform to his liking?

Sadly, many Americans are unaware that our Constitution was written to secure the liberties of U.S. citizens through the rule of just law.

Ignorance or willful misunderstanding of our founding documents do not grant the right or privilege to pervert our rule of law. Americans who cannot or will not define themselves as Constitutionalists or disparage those who do, endanger our national unity and are an existential threat to our Republic. An American citizen promises to “support and defend the Constitution” or should relinquish the benefits thereof.

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2 thoughts on “Every American Should Be a Constitutionalist

  1. Maggie Dine-Jergens

    LOVE this article. Appreciate it so very much.

  2. Rodney Zeigler

    Absolutely. Every citizen should be a “Constitutional Scholar” in the true sense of the word, not the perverted title it has become. It is a very simple document written in a style to be understood by those with even the most mean education. Instead we now have institutions of higher learning turning out “Constitutional Scholars” who are trained in the subversion and perversion of the document instead of ascertaining its actual precepts. What makes me truly think our experiment in republican government is truly on the precipice is when I hear people screaming for this right, or that right, and claiming that those rights come from government via the Constitution. They have obviously never been taught the true meaning of the Constitution, nor have an actual understanding of the document. These same people also fail to realize that this Constitution gives its citizens the only form of government on this planet that ensures each and every one of them has rights to pursue personal excellence and protects them from those that would keep them from that pursuit. Instead we have had a slow erosion, due to calculated mis-interpretation, of those rights so guaranteed. We have reached the point that many in this article feared and it is up to us to somehow reverse this. It will be an ugly and painful process, but we will not change overnight what has been over 100 years in the making. Thanks for this great article, Oletta!

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