Meet the U.S. Constitution!

 

As a part of Constitution week, we’re going to do something different today – a group post!  Each member of the team (except for me) chose a certain part of the Constitution and expounded and explained that part.  We wanted to do this to help you get more familiar with the Constitution, our governing document.

Our Constitution can be described as the “how” of government, and we believe that it is essential to know the Constitution if we want to maintain good government and guard against bad government.

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The Preamble

Savannah

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

“We the people…”

These three words hold so much meaning.  I have the pleasure of discussing some of this meaning today.  My goal is to give you a few brief “points to ponder”.  Let’s dig in!

– The past few weeks, we’ve been posting on different aspects of our duty as citizens of the United States.  Our founders blessed us with an amazing freedom, but we mustn’t lazily sit back and enjoy it.  No, it’s our duty to make sure “we the people” preserve it and pass it on.  That takes action!

– Consider the 10th amendment.  It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Today, our federal government has grown much bigger than our founders ever intended or desired.  So many powers that the Federal Government holds should actually be held by the states.  Take time to read our Constitution in it’s entirety, and these powers are not hard to spot.

– A most interesting, and often forgotten, fact is that, although “we the people” did in fact create the Constitution, we didn’t do it as one large mass of people, but as individually represented states.  Originally, the Constitution was to begin with the listing of states from north to south: “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island…”  Obviously, it was changed to just the simple statement, “We the People,” that we are all familiar with today.

– The fact that so much of our history is being forgotten brings me to another important point: “we the people” must be educating ourselves and sharing what we learn with others.  I mentioned this briefly in my post, “Our Duty to Liberty,” at the beginning of the month.  We won’t know what to defend or correct if we don’t know what we had to begin with.  As Winston Churchill so aptly pointed out, “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”

– As I stated above, since “we the people” created the Constitution, it’s OUR duty to preserve it in order to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  We must hold our federal government accountable – something that we are failing miserably at doing today!  We must work to decrease the role of the Federal Government and increase the role of the individual states in governing “we the people.”  We must take action.  Three steps to start with are: first, knowing our governing documents well.  Next, we need to take time to develop relationships with our senators and representatives on both a state and national level.  Last but certainly not least, make your voice heard.  Vote biblically and responsibly (something we’ll be covering in our posts next month!), support bills that line up with our constitution, and hold your members of Congress accountable for those that don’t.  Regaining lost ground takes effort – it’s going to be up to us.

Ronald Reagan painted this picture well:

“Almost all the worlds’ constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are.  Our Constitution is a document in which We the People tell the government what it is allowed to do.  We the People are free.”

“We the people” need to stand up and act before it’s too late.  Let’s start making a difference!

Article II Section II — The Powers of the President

Daniel

Thomas Jefferson once warned that “The tyranny of the legislature is the most formidable dread at present and will be for many years.  That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period.”  Without a doubt, we live in that ‘remote period!’

Because the tyranny of the executive branch has arrived, Article II Section II of the Constitution is more important than ever.  This is the section of the Constitution that outlines a number of the powers possessed by the President.  The founders of the United States were wise enough to clearly delineate the authority of the federal government, while leaving the other powers to the States and the citizens (10th Amendment).  Most citizens today are ignorant of the proper authority of the federal government, and so they never recognize when it is over-extended.  So, what powers does the President have?

-1) He is “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”  Since the US military is currently the most powerful military in the world, this is a weighty responsibility.  Remember, however, that other sections of the Constitution talk about the military.  Article I Section VIII specifies that the Legislative branch must declare war, not the President.

-2) “He may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices.”  Most Presidents have found it helpful to organize the most knowledgeable people in the executive branch into a ‘cabinet’ to provide advice.  This is substantially the idea behind this text.

-3) “He shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”  If you are accused of a crime against the federal government, the President could give you a pardon.  But beware – accepting a presidential pardon is also an admission of guilt!

-4) “He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”  One of the most important roles of the President is to represent the United States to other countries.  As Tocqueville noted, “in foreign affairs the influence of the executive is bound to be great; a negotiation cannot be initiated and brought to a fruitful conclusion except by one man.”  Perhaps this is why it was delegated to the President.

-5) “He shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors.”  This is another powerful way that the President represents the United States.

-6) “He…shall appoint…other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.”  As you can see, this gives the President a large degree of power over who is appointed to different offices.

-7) “The Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”  This specifies that Congress may give the President unlimited authority to appoint officers – provided, of course, that they are ‘inferior officers.’  Examples of these include some court clerks, election supervisors, and other officials who are supervised by authorities.

-8) “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”  If the government is going to run effectively, it needs a process to fill vacancies quickly.  The President can appoint officials when the Senate is not meeting.  In order for the official to remain in office, the Senate must confirm that official at its next gathering.

This is only a brief summary of Article II Section II.  Hopefully you can see that the President holds a powerful role in the federal government, especially as the commander of the military, and as the official representative of the United States.  This (along with his duty to faithfully execute the laws passed by the legislature, Article II Section III) is the right and proper role of the executive branch.

Article III, Section II — Judicial Jurisdiction

Benjamin

The first Section of the third Article of the United States Constitution states that the Judicial system is made up of a the Supreme Court, and other “inferior courts,” which the Congress may decide to set up.  With that as the foundation, the second Section outlines the areas over which the courts have jurisdiction (area over which they have authority).  While the following summary is certainly not an exhaustive analysis, I do hope to communicate the primary jurisdictions of the judicial branch.  This is one of the most abused aspects of government, and it is one we must understand in order to correct the profligate, rash actions of a tyrannical government.

It is important to note that, when the Constitution speaks of the Judicial branch, it is referring to the whole number of Courts, not only the Supreme Court.  There are specific directives regarding how the various Courts, including the Supreme Court, relate to each other.  The rules regarding this can be understood only in light of two phrases: original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction.  These two phrases are used in the Constitution only in reference to the Supreme Court.  Original jurisdiction, as it pertains to the Supreme Court, means that the Supreme Court is the only Court consulted in a case.  It could be rephrased, “sole jurisdiction.”  Appellate jurisdiction, as it pertains to the Supreme Court, means that the Supreme Court only becomes involved upon appeal from an “inferior court.”  Congress, however, can make exceptions to this rule, so long as those exceptions are in accordance with other U.S laws and Constitutional precept.  The determination of original jurisdiction of the inferior courts is dependent upon the type of crime or dispute being tried, and is outlined in the various States’ respective Constitutions.  Under the aforementioned section, the Courts hold jurisdiction in:

-1) all cases involving laws made “under this Constitution.”  This would include such cases as Roe v. Wade, in which there is a discrepancy between a State or Federally made law and the rule of the Constitution.  (Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction. See the history of Roe v. Wade for a famous example of this.  Albeit ill-decided, the case is an excellent example of appellate jurisdiction.)

-2) all cases involving “Laws of the United States.”  The phrase, “Laws of the United States,” refers to those laws made by congress, which are nationally binding, as well as those made by State Legislatures, which are binding only within their respective states.  (Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction.)

-3) all cases involving “treaties made, or which shall be made,” between the U.S and another country made under the authority of the Constitution or other U.S laws.  This could include such things as peace treaties following a war.  (Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction.  Note: the Supreme Court would likely become involved upon Congressional exception, mentioned above, rather than upon appeal from an inferior court.)

-4) all cases involving “Ambassadors and other public Ministers and Consuls.”  (Because this is a case of federal significance, the Supreme Court holds original jurisdiction.)

-5) all cases involving “admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction,” or cases involving ships and seas, and related matters.  This could include such things as maritime infrastructure (ports, wharves, etc.) and piracy.  (Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction.)

-6) all “controversies to which the United States shall be party.”  This could include such things as a lawsuit filed by a private entity against a U.S agency.  (Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction.)

-7) all “controversies between two or more States.”  This could include such things as disputes over state land boundaries.  (Because the opinions of Justices at an “inferior” state court would likely be subject to the local interests of the state, an unbiased decision would be difficult to come to.  Therefore, the Supreme Court holds original jurisdiction.)

-8) all cases “between Citizens of different States,” involving land disputes.  For example, in the days of the pioneers, various states had issued land grants.  If groups of citizens from two or more different states disputed the proper area of land assigned to their states’ respective grants, the matter would have to be decided in court.  (Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction.)

It is also important to note that, in cases in which the Supreme Court holds appellate jurisdiction, the initial trial is to be held in the state where the crime or dispute has occurred.  Under the provisions of the third paragraph of the Section heretofore discussed, if the crime or dispute did not occur in any state (i.g, when it has occurred outside of the United States), then Congress has the authority to pass laws concerning the time and place of trial.

The above summary is merely a birds-eye view of the primary functions of judicial jurisdiction.  It is my hope that you will further explore the intricacies of the judiciary branch, as well as the abuses that have been recently perpetrated within that branch.

Article IV, Section IV — Republican Government

Sarah

This section of the Constitution is very short, yet important, and relates to the relationship between the states and the federal government.

In the section, there are 3 duties of the federal government to the states:

-1) Guarantee a Republican form of government

-2) Protection against invasion

-3) Protection against domestic violence when requested by the state

“A Republican form of government” is one in which the powers are vested in the people, and exercised by the people, through elected legislators.  This is the way our government was set up and it is a guarantee to the states by the federal government.

There is a story that is told of Benjamin Franklin as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  A lady came up to him and said, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?”  He replied, “A Republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.”  Even though a Republican form of government is supposed to be guaranteed, it is difficult to truly keep it.  It is something we must fight for and never take for granted.  This becomes a problem when the people choose to be ill informed or allow officials to work beyond the scope they have been elected to.

The phrase, “protection against invasion” refers to protection from the outside.  The government has a duty to protect our borders.  This is essential to both security and economy and the president cannot decide to only protect certain states or borders.  All states are to be protected.

The phrase, “protection against domestic violence” refers to protection from the inside.  Most State Constitutions acknowledge this in their own constitutions, with statements reserving the right of the people to establish a new government whenever the government becomes oppressive or tyrannical.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to stay well informed and be involved!  These things are so crucial to us keeping the freedoms we have!  I know it can be difficult, but if we want to keep the Republic the Founding Fathers set up for us, we must keep fighting the good fight!

We hope you have enjoyed our group post and learned more about how our government works!  We encourage you all to read the constitution for yourself and share with us what you’re learning!

Thanks for reading — comment and tell us what you think!

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