An America’s Right Discussion: What is your favorite portion of our founding document and why?
Two hundred and twenty-one years ago today, just steps from my office, our framers signed the United States Constitution, the written manifestation of the great experiment which is America. These imperfect men took their firsthand knowledge of tyranny and oppression and, to the best of their ability, set forth a recipe for a system of government without equal in the world, diametrically opposed to that from which they fled to freedom.
I cannot imagine that they could have foreseen today’s America, but I’d like to think they would be equally thrilled and appalled at how far we’ve come from the days of our fledgling nation and how far we’ve strayed from the ideas and ideals on which She was founded. These men fought and died to guarantee rights which have, two centuries later, been in many cases plundered, taken for granted, or completely forgotten.
For that reason, if I must select just one section, my favorite part of the U.S. Constitution must be Article I, Section 8. It goes something like this:
Section 8.The Congress shall have 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; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And
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.
Article I, Section 8 may be my favorite for a number of reasons. First, it may be the section most forgotten by the leaders of today. Second, the way I look at it, Article I, Section 8 is a microcosm of what our founding fathers wanted America to be.
Think about it. The framers reserved only 17–seventeen!–powers for the federal government, a move which made complete sense given the state which many left to come here. They wanted a limited federal government, as much power in the hands of the States and as close to the people as possible. They wanted little government involvement in daily life, they knew the value of making use of only the most narrowly-tailored regulation, they understood the need for national security.
The same idea of limited federal government runs to the heart of nearly every other section and clause of our Constitution. Everything from the Establishment Clause to the Due Process Clause to the Second Amendment to the Fourth Amendment and everything within and without has, at its core, the intention that power and freedom remain as close to the people and as unfettered as can be maintained.
Our founding fathers would likely be appalled, in many ways, at how far we’ve fallen from the tree of liberty. They would likely be appalled at the Patriot Act, at the regulation of soft money and issue advocacy, at the Congressional perversion of the Necessary and Proper Clause and perceived need to interfere in every aspect of daily American life from vehicular gas mileage to drinking age to performance-enhancing drugs and beyond. They would likely be disgusted that religion, the freedom for which they worked and fought so hard to protect, is now looked upon not as the heart of virtue but instead as a political liability. They would likely be disappointed that nearly all decisions bearing upon the long-term safety, security and prosperity of our nation were being made in a bloated Capitol Hill and not in the homes, schools, streets and churches of America. Perhaps worst of all, they would inevitably be dismayed that the majority of Americans just don’t care.
For me, Article I, Section 8 does more than establish what the federal government can and cannot do. For me, it runs to the heart of the great American experiment, to the ebb and flow that is American politics and power. It appears, faintly, in the America’s Right banner, and it would do everyone some good if members of Congress were forced to read it before beginning work each day.
What is your favorite passage from the United States Constitution, from the Bill of Rights? I’ll bet many of you love that Second Amendment (I do), that individual right which serves as a “reset button” for all of the others. Likewise, I’ll bet that a good portion feel strongly about the Tenth Amendment as well. So pick your favorite, or the part that seems to be most effective, be it due process, confrontation or–gasp!–full faith and credit, and tell everyone else why you like it.
If you need a refresher or just something to cut-and-paste from, you can find the document online by clicking HERE. Please leave a comment below showing your favorite section, and a brief description of why you like it or why you think it is so important. You can post anonymously or click the button for “Name/URL” and type in whatever you’d like to be called. Keep it civil, and I’ll do my best to approve comments quickly after they come in.
Happy Constitution Day, America. Here’s to 221 years, and at least that many more!