…How our Founding Fathers Intended It To Be and How We Live It Out Today
The question of states rights can be a confusing one in our day and age with the federal government, in many instances, crossing its boundaries into the affairs of the states. What was the intention of our Founding Fathers for the government, and what rights do states really have? I would like to explore this with you in today’s post.
The intention of our Founding Fathers was to design a government that would preserve, protect, and promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They knew that this would not be achieved by forming an all powerful sovereign federal government, but instead by forming a voluntary union of sovereign states. As James Madison said in Federalist 51, “The power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each is subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people.” This creates a balance between government and state power. The government has broad authority in specific areas, but its power is limited. James Madison also stated in Federalist 46, that, “The national and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes.”
There are certain powers and duties given to the federal government that are not given to the states and vice versa. The 10th Amendment states that, “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.” Even though all 50 states have their own state constitution, each state constitution has to adhere to the rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. For example, the state cannot deny a criminal trial by jury assured them in the U.S. Constitution’s 6th Amendment, this would be outside their jurisdiction of power.
The breakdown of the duties and powers in the Constitution are as follows:
- print money
- declare war
- establish an army and navy
- regulate interstate commerce
- establish post offices
- issue licenses
- conduct local elections
- regulate intrastate commerce
- provide for public health and safety
- abolish unconstitutional federal rulings
- setting up courts
- creating and collecting taxes
- borrowing money
- building highways
States are to handle most of their internal affairs, not the government. Intrastate commerce refers to the commerce which takes place inside state borders, and it’s the job of states to regulate this. It’s the job of states to provide for the health and safety of their people. The states also have the right to do away with any unconstitutional federal rulings such as the healthcare mandate, and the Obergefell Ruling. Any government interference in any of these areas is governmental overreach. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 9, “The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State Governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power – This fully corresponds, in every import of the terms, with the idea of a Federal Government.”
According to the Constitution, states do have rights and they have the power to exercise those rights. Unfortunately, many in political leadership today ignore the restraints placed upon them by the Constitution. Oklahoma Rep. Charles Key, said, “We, the people of the states, created the federal government, they act like they created us and we’re under their authority, and that’s really not the case.” He’s absolutely right.
In his opening address at the ratifying convention on November 14, 1787, James Wilson said, “Government, indeed, taken as a science, may yet be considered in its infancy; and with all its various modifications, it has hitherto been the result of force, fraud, or accident. For, after the lapse of six thousand years since the creation of the world, America now presents the first instance of a people assembled to weigh deliberately and calmly, and to decide leisurely and peaceably, upon the form of government by which they will bind themselves and their posterity.” The United States of America is a unique and special Nation. Let’s not take for granted the freedom and liberty that our Founding Fathers envisioned and put in place, “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…” (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution). May God bless America!