Are We True to the Constitution?
On December 19 th of last year, six days before Christmas, a business friend of mine walked into our school office carrying a large, flat object. He said he had been back East and saw a painting that "had our name written all over it." They decided to buy it and present it to us for a Christmas present. I was pleased he would think of us at this time, but as he took the cover off of what he was carrying, I was astounded by what I saw. Some experienced artist had painted every one of our presidents, from George Washington to George Bush, standing in front of the beautifully landscaped White House. The painter captured expressions, body language, and physical stature of each one in a most skillful manner.
This painting is temporarily in my office until I find a suitable place where all can see it in our school. I look at it often. I study it. I look at each one and try to remember something he did while president. One of the first things I noticed is that the artist did not arrange the presidents according to chronology or according to political philosophy. In fact, I have not been able to detect any particular order to the painting. Then I thought, it would be rather easy to put them in chronological order, but perhaps the artist did not know enough about them or about politics to even know how to arrange them by political philosophy.
I have since asked myself this question. How many of us could arrange the forty-three presidents of the United States in order as to how well they followed the Constitution? That would be an interesting activity. Of course, the first thing one would have to do is know the Constitution well enough himself to be able to make a judgment as to who was or who was not a follower of the Constitution. The next requirement would be to look behind the media sound bites or the numerous accounts written by commentators and historians to really know the underlying thinking of the person we have elected to lead our country.
How constitutional or unconstitutional is each person running for public office? This is a study we at NCCS would suggest that every serious citizen should pursue over the next few months during this election year. Can you think of a better activity or a greater honor to pay to those we honor during February on Presidents' Day? Of course, under our system, the president is not the only one we have to be concerned about. He can't really do much without the consent of Congress, so we should be able to also tell which of our Congressional candidates loves and follows the Constitution also.
President's Day-Electing a President
One of the greatest responsibilities of "We the People" is to elect leaders who will uphold and defend the Constitution, so that our Union might be strong, justice guaranteed, domestic tranquility insured, the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity secured, etc.
The great orator, Daniel Webster, warns us what will happen if we do not hold fast to the Constitution:
"Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome. If disastrous war should sweep our commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it; if it exhaust our treasury, future industry may replenish it; if it desolate and lay waste our fields, still, under anew cultivation, they will grow green again, and ripen to future harvests. It were but a trifle if the walls of yonder capitol were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all covered by the dust of the valley. All these might be rebuilt. But who shall reconstruct the fabric of demolished government? Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of constitutional liberty? Who shall frame together the skillful architecture which unites national sovereignty with the State rights, individual security, and public prosperity? No, if these columns fall, they will be raised not again. Like the Coliseum and the Parthenon, they will be destined to a mournful, a melancholy immortality. Bitterer tears, however, will flow over them, than were ever shed over the monuments of Roman or Grecian art; for they will be the remnants of a more glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw-the edifice of constitutional American liberty."
Daniel Webster again warns in pleading language:
"Hold on, my friends to the Constitution and to the republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."
George Washington gives some wise counsel that just might help us at this period in history to preserve our republic, he said,
"A primary object.should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing.than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?"
Becoming Familiar with the Constitution
It is becoming quite apparent to many American that most people know very little about the Constitution and the form of government our Founders gave us. This is evident by the fact that the Constitution is seldom referred to in any political debate. It is also evident by the increasing number of requests NCCS is getting to hold seminars on the Constitution in areas all over the country. Of course, this is very mission of The National Center for Constitutional Studies-to educate Americans about the exciting message of the Founders and why their formula for freedom and liberty would solve nearly every problem in America today.
Americans must become conversant with the Constitution. We should be able to teach from the Constitution. We should be able to ask candidates for public office questions from a constitutional perspective. So, as a start, and with a copy of the Constitution in hand, could you answer the questions below? References to where the answers are found are given in parenthesis, (article, section, clause). Each one of these questions can be directly related to an issue currently being discussed in campaign circles and debates. A good family activity might be to see if you can identify a current issue that directly relates to the references in the Constitution. Perhaps you should underline these answers so as to be as prepared in these matters as the Apostle Peter encouraged the saints to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." (1 Peter 3:15) These questions and answers are based, of course, on the original intent of the Founders and not on current judicial decrees. Here are some questions:
- Laws can only become effective on the people by what means? (I.1.1)
- How are states rights protected in the federal government? (I.3.1)
- How does the Constitution keep the legislative independent of the executive? (I.6.2)
- Where must all money bills originate? (I.7.1)
- Congress has the power to do about how many things? (I.8)
- What is the first use of tax money mandated by the Constitution? (I.8.1)
- How does the Constitution limit Congress to spend tax money on things that benefit the nation as a whole and not for individuals or special groups? (I.8.1)
- How does the Constitution forbid a system of graduated taxes? (I.8.1)
- How does the Constitution forbid giving power over U. S. commerce to foreign governments? (I.8.3)
- To whom did the people give authority to establish rules for immigration and naturalization? (I.8.4)
- How did the people give only Congress, and no others, the right to manage our money system? (I.8.5)
- How does the Constitution prohibit any treaty giving authority to other countries over the high seas? (I.8.10)
- How does the Constitution prohibit the United States being under the jurisdiction of the United Nations? (I.8.10)
- To whom did the people give the exclusive power to declare war? (I.8.11)
- How does the Constitution protect the people against a standing army? (I.8.12)
- How does the Constitution prohibit our armed forces to ever be under the jurisdiction or control of other nations? (I.8.14)
- What are the three constitutional reasons for which the militia of the states may be called into active duty? Who has authority to call them up to active duty? (I.8.15)
- Under what conditions does the Constitution allow the federal government to own land within a state? (I.8.17)
- How does the Constitution prohibit the "necessary and proper clause", sometimes called the "elastic clause", from being used to give additional power to Congress? (I.8.18)
- Does the original Constitution prohibit an income tax? (I.9.4)
- What does the Constitution say the states must use to pay their debts? (I.10.1)
- Does the Constitution say anything about governmental authority to suspend or modify mortgage payments? (I.10.1)
- What does the Constitution require of all executive agreement or treaties made by the president? (II.2.2)
- What are the only areas of constitutional authority of the president? (II.2-II-3)
- Is the power of "judicial review" given to the judiciary in the Constitution? (III.2)
- How many kinds of cases are assigned to the federal courts? (III.2.1)
- What is the only crime defined in the Constitution? (III.3.1)
- Does the Constitution give power to the federal government to protect certain rights of citizens within states? (IV.4)
- How does the Constitution prohibit qualifying a candidate for public office based on his religious beliefs? (VI.3)
- Where does it say that the Bill of Rights prohibitions only apply to the federal government? (1 st Amendment)
- How does the constitution prohibit gun control by the federal government? (2 nd Amendment)
- Does the constitution specifically say all power not enumerated as belonging to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people? (10th Amendment)
The National Center for Constitutional Studies is embarking on a bold program to encourage all Americans to read the United States Constitution between now and Election Day in November. You can help! For a limited time, NCCS is making available to individuals and organizations 100 copies of our beautiful pocket Constitution for only $30.00. This includes handling and shipping. All other quantity prices will remain the same. Click here to order your today.
As an example of what might be done, NCCS recently visited a university campus where we handed out over 7,000 copies of the pocket Constitution to students who signed a pledge to read it this year. It was a great and successful experience-one that should be repeated on every college campus in this land.
We invite you to use your creative mind in helping to "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10 and on the Liberty Bell)
Earl Taylor, Jr.