The Framing generation was realistic about human nature. American constitutional law wasn’t to command the common good, but rather to promote it, which is to lead men gradually toward private and public virtue and subsequent happiness.[i] To this end, the Framers crafted a constitution whose structure and enumerated powers encouraged subsequent congressional statutes that serve the general welfare, the common good.
- The structural division of power, horizontally among the three branches, vertically between the states and the new government, prevented any faction from getting all that it desired. The virtue of moderation was built into the Constitution.
- Unlike the rotten boroughs of England, the Constitution provides for equal representation in its House of Reps. One man, one vote here encourages a knowledgeable electorate.
- Also unlike England, no senator or rep can concurrently serve in a civil, appointive office. Our congress was to serve the interests of those who sent them . . . not the president.
- Each house of congress keeps a journal and publishes it from time to time. The American people have the right to know what its government is doing. This fosters public virtue on the part of congressmen.
- Each house of congress may punish members for disorderly behavior, and upon two-thirds vote, expel a member.
- Unlike the parliament of the unwritten English constitution, the congress of the written American Constitution could not unilaterally expand its powers; its authority was enumerated. This limited the congressional reach of ambition, which is inherent in all men.
- Direct taxes were not progressive. Congress could not play, through individual taxes, one citizen faction against another.
- Forget about establishing a separate estate of noblemen. Citizens are equal before the law. Rather than trace from a particular parentage, republican aristocrats will be those with recognized talents and wisdom.
- States could not impair contracts. A man’s word was his honor.
- The chief executive of the American republic didn’t represent a political party or family lineage. By his oath, he swore to preserve, protect, and defend the sovereignty represented by, and made manifest by, the Constitution.
- Should the president or his officers assault the sovereign, i.e. commit a high crime in violation of the Constitution, he/they may be removed from office.
- The chief executive of the United States must obtain the consent of the senate to the appointment of high officials, including federal judges. This precluded any resemblance of George III’s practice of appointing crony, hack judges who served his will.
And I only examined the first two Articles of the Constitution!
Our Constitution implemented the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. It set up a governing system both consistent with Natural Law, and one whose actions require the consent of the component members of the republic. Yet our Constitution went further, it’s freedom enhancing checks and stipulations serve the greater good, the good of the community by encouraging private and public virtue.
Unfortunately, our de jure Constitution has been superseded by a rogue de facto, “living and breathing” monstrosity that works toward ends precisely the opposite of its intent.
Do Americans possess the requisite virtue to restore free government, or are we doomed to despotic misery?
We have the means to restore free government. An Article V state amendments convention or its equivalent will occur someday, for I refuse to believe a people born in liberty will march silently into tyranny.
[i] Rice, C. (1999). 50 Questions on the Natural Law – What it is & Why We Need it. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. Page 93.