Nathan: Dusty Pence is the publisher and editor of the Fall River Reader and Fall River Forum in Hot Springs, Fall River County, South Dakota. A lengthy topic discussion has been going on regarding the federal government and steroids in sports (we KNOW government is on ’em) and this is her response to a liberal essentially saying “if there is a problem, government needs to fix it.” Her response is able to stand on its own for those who believe that the US Constitution is important and at least a bit of an attempt to keep our liberties.
The tenth amendment IS the limitation on Congress: “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.”
If Madison said “as far as executing its duties…” then I would suppose he meant the duties/powers delegated in the Constitution, not anything and everything they wish to do. (But no, I am not a constitutional scholar.) Congress is limited by the personal rights of the individual and limited to those powers delegated to the federal government in the constitution. As for the military, that is, of course, one of the powers delegated to the federal government.
Here is a Madison quote: “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.”
Of course, I can also find some Madison quotes that suggest some comfort with expansion of those powers. Nonetheless, I believe the limitations have long been understood:
“The Constitution was, from its very origin, contemplated to be the frame of a national government, of special and enumerated powers, and not of general and unlimited powers.”
—Justice Joseph Story (1833)
Then we have:
The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the states or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified…
—Justice Owen Roberts (1931)
Not that the courts stuck to this, nor, for that matter, the founders. I believe George Washington was the first president to overreach his powers (at least, arguably). And I believe Jefferson himself violated his own strong convictions when he bypassed Congress to make the Louisiana purchase. (But I confess that I have not studied that, only read one interpretation—I assume the issue was spending the money, not negotiating the treaty, but I am not sure!)
Nathan: Thanks, Dusty. The failure to abide by the US Constitution is a very strong argument that there is little if anything that can be done to control government, and that we are best without such a dangerous tool. The fact that people (like the man to whom you were responding) seem to be intelligent but cannot understand or accept basic concepts in the Constitution is yet another argument against government: we can’t trust people at all to use it wisely. Unlike guns and automobiles, government may be too dangerous to even have in our toolbox.
Credit: Dusty Pence, editor and publisher of fallriverforum.com