OPINION – The Utah Sheriffs Association’s letter opposing proposed federal gun control laws is a timely reminder that federal power is not unlimited. Read the letter here: Utah Sheriff’s Association Letter to Barack Obama Jan. 17, 2013.
The Sheriffs reminded the president, “We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”
The constitutionality of a policy has significance that goes well beyond simple agreement or disagreement. To understand why, we must first comprehend what the Constitution is and is not.
It’s essential that we understand the proper origin of political power. On this subject, many Americans have been systematically misinformed by government schooling and media disinformation. We’ve been taught for generations that the federal government is the supreme power in our land, but that’s not what the Founders intended.
The Declaration of Independence established the “self-evident” truth that unalienable rights are not granted by government, but are something with which men “are endowed by their Creator.” The Declaration further states, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Simply put, this means that the people are the ultimate source of political power. It also means that government is intended to be our servant, not our master.
As Joseph Sobran explained, “The rights of the people come from God. The powers of government come from the people. The American people delegated the specific powers they wanted the federal government to have through the Constitution. And any additional powers they wanted to grant were supposed to be added by amendment. Unless you grasp this basic order of things, you’ll have a hard time understanding the Constitution.”
The Constitution was the legal contract by which the people of the first states delegated, not granted, certain specifically enumerated powers to the government.
In his “Know Your Liberty” seminars, Stephen Pratt gave a brilliant and succinct definition of our Constitution: “A contract between states is called a compact. Because the compact constitutes our plan of government, it is called the Constitution.”
As Pratt explained the origin of our federal government, he noted, “It was created by compact and it was to act as an agent for the ratifying states. The sovereign states ‘vested’ the federal government with a few specific enumerated powers to execute in their behalf but the states retained ownership.”
Notice that the states and their people did not give the newly created federal government a blank check regarding its powers. Instead, they carefully enumerated and divided the specific powers that the federal government would be allowed to exercise on their behalf. This was done to prevent the consolidation of too much power in any single branch of the government.
The logic is inescapable: Why would the Founders enumerate federal powers if its powers were unlimited and undefined?
When the federal government seeks to assume powers beyond those expressly delegated to it, those powers should be considered usurped and tyrannical.
Sovereignty, or ultimate power, was still to reside in the people. The states retained powers that were, in James Madison’s words, “numerous and indefinite.” And the federal government, also according to Madison, was to exercise powers that were “few and defined” in the Constitution.
This hardly describes the way government conducts itself in our day. So where did it go wrong?
The consolidation of power at the federal level can be traced back to the earliest days of the American republic. The first leaders to test the Constitutional limits of their power included George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
The struggle between those who supported a true federal system of government, with specific and limited powers, and the consolidationists who sought unlimited power climaxed in Lincoln’s War of Involuntary Union. The states and the people were the ultimate losers of that conflict.
This was when our federal government transformed into a centralized national government that has presumed to define the limits on its powers ever since. Not surprisingly, those limits always seem to expand just far enough to encompass whatever power the feds wish to assume.
This is where those who prefer to define their terms will take special interest in understanding what the words “delegated”, “enumerated”, and “usurped” now mean in the context of government powers. Federal power is either limited or it is not.
The fact that our government has slipped its chains and is running amok is apparent to all but the most intentionally obtuse. By refusing to keep the federal government confined to its delegated powers, we are less free, less safe and more regulated than ever.
Critics of the Utah Sheriffs Association are supporting ongoing federal lawlessness when they condemn the Sheriffs for upholding the Constitution’s limits on federal power.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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