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Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Common Place

*Editor’s Note:  This marks the final front page installment here of the joint KingstonBarn/CahillonKingston series I’ve been calling “Coming to Terms”.  I’ve been having a great time with this, and I certainly hope it’sMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA been as enjoyable for you as it has been for Mr. Cahill and me.  In the future, I will keep up on the conversation, and post any further replies in the comment section attached to this post.  Again, we thank you for reading, and encourage you to join the conversation in these pages or on CahillOnKingston.  As always, all content from his blog is published with the expressed permission of Richard T Cahill, Jr. 

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Mr. Champ-Doran,

cahill3You attack Jefferson and Madison based on mistakes they made in their lifetime, but rely upon the wisdom of the Supreme Court to bolster your opinion.

The Supreme Court has offered many “interpretations” over the years that run contrary to the actual constitution.

For example, they issued an opinion in the Dred Scott case that African-Americans were property and not human beings.

They have also created rights out of whole cloth that have no basis in the Constitution and should have been issues for the States under the 10th Amendment.

The Supreme Court was designed to define the limitations of the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Court has allowed itself to become a second legislature and a policy decider. It is supposed to enforce the Constitution but instead bends it and twists it to the point of breaking.

I always find it interesting when someone argues that the Constitution is great because it can be bent to serve the current intent of the day.

In actuality, the government is supposed to serve the people under the restrictions of the Constitution.

However, just as government now seemingly demands that the people serve it, government now demands that the Constitution serve the government as well.

A big part of the so-called justification for creeping (or perhaps now full gallloping) Socialism is the claim that the Constitution is a “living document” that molds itself to our will. Such talk is nonsense. The Constitution was designed to keep the federal government limited and under control.

Sadly, as with any document or rule of law, when people (such as Jefferson in the example you note) disregard same for personal or alleged societal gain, we abandon the founding principles. I doubt whether the founding fathers would even recognize the United States of 2012.

December 5, 2012 8:16 AM

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Mr. Cahill,

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

Success!  The point of this blog, and this conversation, is to find points of agreement, and we have.  I concur with much of what you’ve written above.  I will get to our common views presently, but first…

I take some slight umbrage with the characterization of pointing out the differences between what Madison and Jefferson said and did as an “attack”.  As you raise their words in support of your points, I point to their actions regarding the Constitution in support of mine.

Madison and Jefferson were great and complicated men, shaping their country and their world in difficult times.  They did more than most to create the United States of America.  They wrought the documents that are the foundation of this country.  Of course they made mistakes along the way, as will all men in any office, but my point remains.  What they wrote in letters or articles about the Constitution does not change what they did in the Constitution, or what they did for or against it as it stood.

I will agree with you that the Supreme Court has been making decisions that run contrary to the Constitution, as you remark, “over the years”.  Your example of the Dred Scott Decision (1857) was considered one of the worst in American history.  It ran over States Rights and held an Act of Congress unconstitutional.  Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) upheld Jim Crow laws, nearly 30 years after the 14th Amendment passed.  Schenck v. United States (1919) trampled over the defendant’s 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

In 1886, The Supreme Court declared corporations are people and have all of the constitutional rights of people, even though the Constitution explicitly guarantees rights for people and grants none to corporations.  That was Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, and the Citizens United decision of 2010 upheld that and affirmed that money equals speech.  I will give a tax-free dollar to the first who can show me those two provisions anywhere in the Constitution.

Your contention that these bad decisions have been going on for years, though, only supports mine as it relates to your original post.  You say we killed the Constitutional Republic on Election Day this year.   The President, Congress, and the Supreme Court have been taking actions “that run contrary to the actual constitution” for well over 200 years.  Here are the choices:  Either, the constitutional republic known as the United States of America was killed within ten years of its birth and has been buried a thousand times over, or it is alive and well and will survive this President, this Court, and this Congress,  as it has in times of Reagan, Nixon, Roosevelt, Hoover, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Adams.

The Constitution’s Amending Clause (Article V, Section I) does not make it easy to change, nor does it make change impossible.  I would not say that makes it flexible enough to bend to the intent of the day.  What I did say was, “They allowed for change and interpretation according to the will of the governed.”

If Frank Luntz wants to call taxing and spending, which has been legal and allowed by the Constitution since its ratification, “redistribution of wealth”, he may.  If Roger Ailes wants to define government spending as ”Socialism”, I suppose he can do that, too.  Rick Warren can call Supreme Court Judges “activist” because he does not like their decisions.  He can even convene an arena revival to get others to chant and cheer his words.  But them saying it, and getting others to repeat it, does not make it so.

Your first-response complaint, that “millions of people sat on their butts while a man with a clear socialist agenda has been reelected,” does not change the definition of a republican form of government.   The lazy abdication of civic duty does not buy any citizen a pass on responsibility.

By any definition you choose, we have a republican form of government.  We directly elect our representatives, as described in the Constitution.  We send our Electors to elect the President, as described in the Constitution.  The President nominates and the Congress confirms our Supreme Court Justices, as described in the Constitution.  Laws are passed in Congress, signed by the President, and interpreted by the Courts, all as described in the Constitution.  The Constitution also provides for removal of all of these officers, should circumstances warrant.  According to the Constitution, our first stop in controlling our government is at our polling place.

In the beginning or in the end, our most important agreement is, and must be, that our duty does not end with the ballot box.  Without our action, our civil rights are only so much fading ink on yellowing pieces of paper.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Narrowing the Gap

Editor’s note:  “Narrowing the Gap” is the next installment of of the joint KingstonBarn/CahillonKingston project I am calling “Coming to Terms”.  You can read it here and on cahillonkingston.blogspot.com  We encourage you to join in by commenting on both blogs.  You can follow us both, too, and be immediately notified when a new post or comment appears in answer to yours.

We seem to be finding points of agreement in our discussion, which I feel is the goal.  Without necessarily changing our core beliefs, we can find that common ground.  If our elected officials could do that, be they Mayor Gallo and the Common Council or President Obama and Congress, maybe they could act where they agree, and leave the rest to debate.  -KingstonBarnMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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UPDATE
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cahillonkingston photo

cahillonkingston photo

Mr. Champ-Doran,

While I disagree with your constitutional points, I am enjoying our debate.  I am going to extend an invitation to some people I know through Facebook who are knowledgeable on the Constitution and ask them to join by posting comments.  To be clear, the people I speak have varying interpretations.  Some are conservative, some liberal, and some are libertarian.  Libertarians’ interpretation of the Constitution are often the subject of fascinating debate.  (I mean that in a positive way).  I am not seeking to stack the deck, but rather extend this thoughtful and respectful debate.

To your comments …

I admit that my initial article is hyperbole to a point.  The country is not dead, though I believe we are heading full speed toward being a socialist democracy.   One of the methods being used to further this unworthy goal is redistribution of wealth.

The basic definition of “redistribution of wealth” is the transfer of money, wealth, or property from one of means to one of limited or no means in order to right a perceived social wrong.  In theory, there can be the reverse which is sometimes referred to as “regressive redistribution”.  I suppose one might actually refer to my definition above as “progressive redistribution”.

You argue that redistribution is constitutional because it can be accomplished via taxes or social welfare programs that the Supreme Court has upheld.  I respectfully submit that the means may be constitutional, but the ultimate goal is contrary to the United States Constitution.

We can both agree that the term “redistribution of wealth” does not appear in the Constitution; however, I think it apparent that the intent of the framers of the Constitution makes clear that redistribution was never intended or desired.  Allow me to provide some examples.  I know Thomas Jefferson was not part of the constitutional convention, but he is largely regarded as a “founding father”.  I have therefore included some of his quotes and writings.

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that is the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” –Thomas Jefferson

With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”  — James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, in a letter to James Robertson

If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” — James Madison, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792

On another point, you stated that you selected Donald Trump because he has suggested a revolution.  I can understand your concern over his use of the word revolution.  However, I close by quoting James Madison from his speech to the ratifying convention of Virginia on June 16, 1788.  He said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

I believe the last four years and the re-election of Barack Obama, as well as the push for redistribution of wealth, constitutes “gradual and silent encroachments” of the freedom of the people of the United States of America.

I await your reply, sir.

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Mr Cahill,

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

KingstonBarn photo by Quentin Champ-Doran

I, too, find this discussion fascinating and fun.  What began as a shared experiment has opened into a more sustained exposition of thinking than this format usually allows.  I welcome opinions from anybody willing to join in.  This affirms the basic premise of KingstonBarn; that we can have a thoughtful exchange that finds points of agreement.  It’s only from there that we can find solutions.

On your points regarding redistribution of wealth, I agree to some of them.  True, the phrase is not found in the constitution, but then, neither is your definition.  I will concede to the first part, “transfer of money, wealth, or property from one of means to one of limited or no means…”  At root, that is the true definition of redistribution of wealth, and the rest, about righting social wrong, is slanted modifier.  I am not too sure of “limited or no means”, either, as you will see.  Under this definition, all taxation is redistribution of wealth.

We tax, and we redistribute to make roads, buildings, bridges, monuments, ships, planes, and ammunition.  We tax, and we redistribute to industries, corporations, universities, parks, small businesses, hospitals, prisons, states, counties, and municipalities.  We tax, and we redistribute to contractors, soldiers, police, teachers, employees, vendors, farmers, consultants, politicians, artists, scientists, lawyers, and managers.  And yes, we tax, and we redistribute to the unemployed, the underemployed, the survivors, the retired, the disabled, the veterans, the homeless, and the elderly.

Last Summer, my beautiful bride and I took the kids down to Gallo Park, just to sit and watch Sunday afternoon go by.  We were sitting on the bench, marking the boats as they returned to their docks for the day.  Not too much time passed before we had seen boats of every description motor in, from big yachts to small 14’ Sunfish two-handers.  Here is how I know we are not anywhere near Socialism.  There were many boats, all of them unique, tied up next to each other.  Not once in all of that day, did a government official walk up and give me my boat.

The warnings of sliding down the slippery slope to Socialism have been coming for a lot longer than I can remember.  I expect they will keep coming.  That may be a good thing, because it’s possible that a small part of what keeps us from Socialism is that there are those that keep warning us about Socialism.  Whether the cries come from Chicken Little or a coal mine canary is left for all of us to examine.  I would bet, though, that the real reason is much closer to most people just plain would not tolerate it.  Sure, the Socialist Party shows up on the presidential ballot every four years, but so does the Libertarian Party.  If you are worried about how popular either philosophy really is, just count their votes.

The quotes you cite are certainly pertinent to this conversation, but I will say that they carry less import than the actions of the men who spoke them.  Thomas Jefferson was categorically against big government until he was in charge of one.  While he agreed the US Constitution made no provision for acquiring new territories (not unlimited powers… but only those specifically enumerated), Jefferson went ahead with the Louisiana Purchase and doubled the size of our country.  He claimed that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional, but he prosecuted several of his enemies under those very same laws.

On a family trip to Monticello this past June, we were shown writings of Thomas Jefferson, and told he called slavery a “crime against humanity,” and “an abomination”.  That was not long before we were invited to the slave shops and quarters, and we found out that he freed a grand total of two of his six hundred fifty slaves in his lifetime.  The man who wrote, “…all men are created equal,” took action quite different from his writings and explanations.

Madison may have written explanations of “general welfare” in letters after the fact, but the phrase was, in the US Constitution, intentionally left for Congress and the Supreme Court to interpret and apply.

Your final quote is quite easy to agree with, and I will repeat it here.  “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”  But, none of what you claim is dragging us down the road to Socialism  has been done in silence, and all of it has been vetted by the protections afforded in the US Constitution.

I know it’s been said before, but, I will say it again.  The genius of the framers of the Constitution is not that they wrote the document and managed ratification.  Their real brilliance was that they were aware they did not know everything, including the future.  They allowed for change and interpretation according to the will of the governed.

I will repeat that I do not think government should give us everything, or control all aspects of our lives.  In this discussion, I am not advocating for those programs ( though, of course I would, if asked).  I am simply saying, here, that they are legal.

I again affirm your argument.  The Constitution guarantees a Constitutional Republic form of government.  I will also reaffirm that our social programs do not meet the bar of the definition of Socialism.  Our Supreme Court has interpreted what Congress and the President have done, over the past 220 years, as constitutional or not.  President Obama has done no more or less to change that than Presidents Reagan, Roosevelt, Lincoln, or Jefferson.

Greater minds than ours have disagreed on the powers and limits afforded by the Constitution.  The fact that there are few, if any, unanimous decisions handed down by the Supreme Court is the simple, elegant proof to that statement.

-Andrew Champ-Doran

*cahillonkingston content published with the author’s expressed permission.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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