Written by Michael Boldin
Ok, here we go again. It’s September 17th and that means it’s “Constitution Day” in the United States. On this in history the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had drafted.
Sadly, though, this so-called national day of observance is a sham.
Politicians who never follow the Constitution will tell us about its greatness. Pundits who could care less about Constitutional limits will wax eloquent about how we should all praise the wisdom of the founders. And educators – under an unconstitutional federal mandate – will pretend to teach our children about the Constitution, even though they’re mostly clueless about it.
This “Constitution Day” thing wasn’t always a date of importance in this country. Back in 2004, federal politicians passed a law mandating the teaching of the Constitution in all schools that receive federal funds, as well as federal agencies. It stated, in part:
“Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.”
Public law 108-447 (currently codified in 36 USC 106) didn’t start out as a “civic education” bill – it was actually an appropriations bill. It included massive funding and subsidies for the FDA, agricultural programs, state and local “law enforcement assistance,” the department of energy, the export-import bank – including guaranteed loan programs, military funding for Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Sudan, Guatemala, Haiti, and Uganda, the world bank, federal unemployment programs, the department of education, the department of housing and urban development, and much more.
Think about that for just a moment.
Federal politicians, who are taking billions upon billions of dollars from the people to carry out programs not authorized by the Constitution, are unconstitutionally mandating that schools unconstitutionally funded by the unconstitutional federal department of education must teach your kids about constitutional limits on federal power.
If that’s not some kind of sick joke, I don’t know what is.
Don’t get me wrong. I happen to like the idea of a “Constitution Day.” It’s just absurd to think that a federal mandate from an out-of-control federal government that’s more than $21 trillion in debt is ever going to teach anyone about the limits of the Constitution.
Making things worse, most of these programs don’t even teach any essentials about the Constitution. Instead, they primarily focus on “Constitution Trivia.” Schools teach your kids about how many years a Senator serves, or how Supreme Court justices are appointed. The official “constitution quiz” from George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate asks basics like “who is thought of as the father of the Constitution?” and, “How many men signed the Constitution?”
At best, people learn grade-school-level answers to internet trivia games. At worst, they’re being taught that federal power has almost no limits and we should be happy whenever any remaining limits are removed by the courts.
Even worse than reducing the Constitution to a trivia game, the official “Interactive Constitution” from the Constitution Center publishes articles that say things like this:
“Gun control is as much a part of the Second Amendment as the right to keep and bear arms.”
This, of course, flies in the face of statements from just-about every founder, including Theophilus Parsons, who said, “No power was given to Congress to infringe on any one of the natural rights of the people.”
“The New Deal and Great Society, and the mark they placed on the shape of American government, would not have been possible without the Spending Clause.”
James Madison certainly disagreed when he wrote, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
“Good reasons existed for the disappearance of the Tenth Amendment.”
At least they’re honest about wanting to get rid of the 10th Amendment even though Thomas Jefferson considered it the “foundation of the Constitution.”
Any discussion of the actual purpose of the constitution – and its underlying principles – is seriously lacking in Constitution Day public discourse.
The founding generation spent their lives toiling under a tyranny – a government virtually without limits. But, when the Constitution was written, it was done to codify in law that the new government would be limited to those powers which had been delegated to it – and nothing more
As Madison put it in Federalist #45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”
The entire system was created under the principle of popular sovereignty – that ‘We the People of the Several States’ created the government, and not the other way around. Thomas Paine put it this way, “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government.”
When Jefferson referred to the 10th as the “foundation,” it was because he saw its text delegating and reserving powers as the underlying principle of the entire document. That is, all powers not delegated to the federal government are retained by the people of the states.
This position was repeated so often by people in the founding generation, it was pretty-much a mantra. Here are just a few of the many statements backing Jefferson up:
George Nicholas “All powers not given are retained.”
James Iredell “Any law not warranted by the Constitution is a bare-faced usurpation.”
Samuel Adams “The State retains all the Rights of Sovereignty which it has not expressly parted with to the Congress of the United States.”
St. George Tucker “Every extension of the administrative authority beyond its just constitutional limits, is absolutely an act of usurpation.”
Edmund Randolph “In the general Constitution, its powers are enumerated”
And those delegated or “enumerated” powers? There aren’t that many. Depending upon how you count them, there are approximately 30. You can read them all at this link.
But this isn’t something you’re likely to hear from politicians in Washington DC, political pundits, public school educators, or just about anywhere else.
It’s generally not in their interest, either. If politicians and their backers were promoting such “crazy” ideas, they’d never be able to convince you that they have the power to run up more than $21 trillion in debt, spy on just about everyone and everything, restrict your right to defend yourself and your property, tell you what kind of health care plan you have to get, how big your toilet can be, what kind of plants you’re allowed to grow in your backyard, where you’re allowed to exercise your “right” to free speech, whom you can buy and sell from, and even when you must fight and die for them.
THE TOOLS YOU NEED
That’s why we believe it’s so important for people to get as much education as possible about the Constitution – all year long. We work hard to provide you the tools you need.
We’ve made a number of books available online for free because we want to educate as many people as possible. Learn about James Madison’s views in “The Constitution and the Report of 1800.” Get some insight into the Virginia Ratifying Convention and the Birth of the 10th Amendment. Those essential debates featured heavyweights like James Madison, Patrick Henry, Edmund Randolph and George Mason. Understand the 14th Amendment and the Incorporation Doctrine – and get some insight into how the federal courts have expanded federal supremacy to extreme levels.
Additionally, we work to provide solutions, teaching people about how to stop federal power without relying on the federal government to limit itself.
We’ve produced two seasons of short videos (here and here) along with a full-length documentary. In the coming months, we’ll update our “State of the Nullification Movement” annual report. It’s an 84-page prospectus on our work – chronicling the modern revolution that is the 10th Amendment and Nullification movement, and providing you with tools to join the cause.
NOT JUST ONCE A YEAR
For us here at the Tenth Amendment Center, Constitution Day isn’t a once-a-year celebration mandated by an unconstitutional federal spending bill.
It’s not just a day to review historical trivia. It’s not a day to grandstand and pretend to support what the founding generation left us. Constitution Day is our way of life – every single day of the year.
Our efforts have seen triumphs and setbacks – and at times they may have seemed trivial. But, each step of the way has been yet another step forward in our mission. That’s the Constitution. Every issue. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses.