A trio of iconic characters heading down a dangerous path. Should we care? Yes! Because those characters represent our federal government, law and justice, and the very rights of the American people, and that dangerous path leads farther and farther away from our constitutional roots. Today we will address three changes that have driven our nation down this path. First, we will discuss the gradual transfer of power from the states to the federal government. Second, we will look into the decline of our legal system, and finally we will address the people’s loss of knowledge and understanding of the role of government. These three changes have caused our nation to turn its back on the constitution, and wander down this dangerous path.
First, let’s catch up with Uncle Sam, the proud personification of our own federal government. Uncle Sam has been power grabbing. And it’s been at the expense of you guessed it, the states. As evidenced by the Anti-federalist papers, many Anti-federalists thought the constitution gave the national government too much power. (http://www.firearmsandliberty .com/antifederalist/theantifederalistpapers.pdf, accessed December 18, 2018) This was supposed to be solved by the 10th amendment of the bill of rights, which states that powers not delegated to the federal government by the constitution are “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Amendment 10, Bill of Rights) A cursory examination of today’s government, however, reveals that the problem of ever-increasing federal power is all but solved. Uncle Sam is not the thin, trim guy those old recruiting posters would have you believe!
The passage of the 16th and 17th amendments, income tax and direct election of senators respectively, played a significant role in the fattening of Uncle Sam. Prior to the 16th amendment, Article II section 9 of the constitution limited the Federal government’s power to tax: “No capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportion to the census…” (Article 2, Section 9, U.S. Constitution.) This clause prevents the federal government from taxing individual citizens based on income. And though a strong body of argument exists that the Sixteenth Amendment did not authorize the current federal tax scheme, it’s clear that before the 16th amendment, the federal government could only levy taxes on the states, based on their population. How the tax was to be collected was up to the states. Because the federal government could only get money through the states, it was unable to manipulate them with threats of funding cutoff. The states, not the federal government, held the power of the purse.
The 17th amendment removed another huge check on federal power. As enumerated in Article I Section 3, of the constitution, the Senate: “shall be composed of two senators from each state, elected by the legislature thereof.” (Article 1 Section 3, U.S. Constitution) State legislatures were responsible for choosing senators. This was to maintain two unique houses in the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives was the voice of the people as individuals, and the senate was the voice of the people by state. With the passage of the 17th amendment, state legislatures lost their voice in the U.S. Congress. Together, the 16th and 17th amendments starved the states while fattening Uncle Sam.
On the second leg of our journey, we meet Lady Justice, the personification of Law and, of course, well, justice. Lady Justice is deeply concerned about the decline of the United States legal system. Christopher Columbus Langdell is the father of this decline.
As stated in Michael Anthony Peroutka’s DVD “The Case Against Case Law”, Langdell, the first official dean of Harvard Law School, sought to remove God from the legal system. During his 25 years as dean from 1870 to 1895, he slowly packed Harvard’s law school
with professors who embraced his atheistic view of law. In addition, in order to replace God’s ultimate law as the standard for making decisions, Langdell created a new standard, the case law method. Under this method, decisions were based not on the law, but on previous rulings. This ensured that Langdell’s atheistic ideology would permeate the legal system for years to come, as lawyers educated by him and his professors went on to create the rulings upon which future decisions would be based. (“The Case Against Case Law” Michael Anthony Peroutka, 2017)
Langdell was so successful that years later, Harold Berman of Harvard law school and John Noonan of UC Berkely described his success in this way: “…with Langdellian legal education the older idea that law is ultimately dependent on Divine Providence gradually receded and has ultimately almost vanished.” (Peter H. Johnston, July 2017, https://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF17G31.pdf, accessed December 18, 2018) That “older idea” that our law is ultimately dependent on God’s is critical. Without God’s law there is no standard by which judges must make their decisions. Under this atheistic legal system, the unchangeable law of God is removed, and man’s law becomes the highest authority.
Secondly, under the case law method, the court’s opinion, not the law itself is the authority that must be enforced. For example, the fifth amendment of our constitution clearly states: “No person…shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” (Amendment 5, Bill of Rights.) Yet we consider the supreme court’s opinion that unborn children do not have the right to life, more important than the clearly written words of the supreme law of our land. Because this opinion, not the law, has been enforced, more than 60 million of our most vulnerable citizens have lost the right to life. As prescribed in Article III of our constitution, the Supreme Court’s power is limited to the case brought before them, and their opinion extends solely to that case. (Article 3, U.S. Constitution.) In our modern legal system, however, supreme court opinions are considered law not only for the case before them, but for the entire country!
Thomas Jefferson was truly a prophet in 1820 when he stated in a letter to the US representative to Portugal: “You seem . . . to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed…Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so . . . The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.” ( June 13, 2018, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/ 98-01-02-1540, accessed December 18, 2018)
In our current government, it is quite obvious that the supreme court is considered not only the ultimate arbiter of the constitution, but the ultimate arbiter of law in general. Instead of being an unpolitical body of expert judges who would make decisions based solely on the law, the Supreme court has become a politically charged group with more power and less accountability to the nation than any of the other branches of government. It has happened exactly as Jefferson warned. So much power centered in one place, has caused the deaths of over 60 million of our nation’s most helpless citizens. Lady Justice is outraged.
On the final leg of our journey, we meet Lady Liberty. Lady Liberty personifies the freedoms of the American people. Our freedoms are walking down a dangerous path, and we the people have let it happen. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville said the following: “…if you question the average American respecting his own country… He will inform you what his rights are and… You will find that he is well acquainted with the rules of the administration…” (The American View, pg 277.)
Can we say the same about our country’s citizens of today? I think not. A 2017 CNN poll found: “More than one in three people could not name a single right protected by the First
Amendment. Only one in four (26%) can name all three branches of the government. One in three can’t name any branch of government. None. Not even one.” (Chris Cillizza, September 13, 2017 https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/13/politics/poll-constitution/index.html, accessed December 18, 2018)
Thomas Jefferson said it best in an a letter written January 6, 1816 “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free… it expects what never was and never will be.” (July 21, 2014, https://www. goodreads.com/quotes/11289-if-a-nation-expects-to-be-ignorant-and-free-in, accessed December 18, 2018) When we the people don’t know the constitution, our ignorance renders us incapable of holding our leaders accountable when they disregard the checks and balances that were put in place to protect our rights. When we the people couldn’t care less what our government is doing, our apathetic ignorance drives Lady Liberty farther down that dangerous path, placing our rights and our freedoms in jeopardy.
So why does all of this matter? Why should you care that Uncle Sam is fat, Lady Justice is outraged, and Lady Liberty could become a mere speck in the distance? Why should any of us care that we’ve wandered so far from our constitutional roots? Surely a 230-year old document can’t have any wisdom for the America of today, right? Wrong, the Founding Fathers crafted our constitution to safeguard against tyranny. The changes which I have presented today have eroded the safeguards they put in place. The slow transfer of state power to the federal government has caused massive federal overreach. The decline of our legal system into dangerous atheistic philosophy has left us without God’s law as the standard for making decisions. And the loss of the people’s understanding of government has made all of this possible. We the people must work to revive our interest in government, and to increase our understanding of the constitution and the principles on which our nation is founded. This knowledge is vital to maintain our rights and freedoms, not only for ourselves but also for the generations to come.
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