The US Constitution I - RR144D8

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 8. The U.S. Constitution, I
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 8
Length: 0:37:53
TapeCode: RR144D8
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(5).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

Well it’s hard to give much of a review because that was a review, a rather brief one, of his career during the war. Last night we dealt with the articles of confederation, and with George Washington. George Washington during the War of Independence had a very difficult time because so many Americans were not interested in fighting, and almost singe handed he was the rallying force and the moving power that led to independence. There were many men who were ready to talk a very heroic line, but when it came to action, they were not in the least ready to be there. Now one of the things that George Washington suffered from a great deal during the war was the problem of the impotence of Congress to do anything. And the fact that in Congress the men were more often motivated by petty personal interests, state jealousies, and failed to appreciate what the army was going through. This caused a great deal of bitterness on the part of many of the officers, in the case of one very fine officer with a very great record, who had been one of the heroes of the war up until that point, it led him in bitterness to feel that there was no future with such an inept group of people as congress represented. That was Benedict Arnold. Because his wife was already pro-British, she harped endlessly on how he was being mistreated by congress. How they were making political promotions, rather than recognizing his work, and she persuaded him because of this to defect. Now his fellow officers who remained faithful to the cause were naturally very bitter at Benedict Arnold’s defection, but they could understand how he was moved to it. Because Congress was indeed an impotent and futile thing.

Now one of the problems with Congress was that very often It lacked superior men. It was so weak under the articles of Confederation, that after all if you were an outstanding Virginian, you would prefer to remain in Virginia, and to be active in the state government rather than to go to Congress and to be active in the national or the federal government of the Articles of Confederation. The result was that too often the men that were in Congress were not the men of the kind of ability a crisis so great required. This in itself posed a problem. Where the best leadership was needed, it was often lacking. This does not mean that all the men in the Continental Congress were incompetent; there were some very, very able men, John Witherspoon for one. But theirs was a frustrating work precisely because there was no great respect for Congress, because of its weakness, and too many of the men that came were like congress, weak men. We saw that Congress had no power to tax under the articles of Confederation, but second it did have the power to borrow money and issue paper money. And this was a deadly power. The states were ready to say “well, we won’t give Congress any money, let them issue paper money, or borrow money. Third, Congress, or the government of the United States under the Articles of Confederation could make no amendments to the Articles without a 100% vote of every state. This meant that any one state that disagreed had an absolute veto. Well of course it was impossible to do anything to improve the articles after that. If any one state could veto the articles and say of the amendment “We will not have this amendment” that was the end of it. And so it was useless even to try and amend the articles. This was why when the Constitutional Convention was called they didn’t even think of amending the Articles. It was useless. You could not get unanimity. [00:05:20]

Then fourth, because the Continental Congress was so...[edit]

Then fourth, because the Continental Congress was so weak in its powers, very often the men who would be named by Massachusetts or Virginia or Pennsylvania or Georgia to attend as the delegate did not bother to attend. So that there were periods when Congress lacked a quorum. And so in effect no United States existed. Washington and the other men were apparently soldiers under Congress, and Congress did not actually exist. There was no quorum. Now this of course, especially in war time creates a real crisis. You have a government that cannot operate, first because its weak, and second because it doesn’t even have a quorum. A quorum incidentally, means enough members present to constitute a legal meeting.

Then fifth, there was no executive branch, and Sixth, no judiciary, so there was no way of penalizing anyone who violated the laws of the Union. In other words the Articles of Confederation gave a very weak government. This is why it was Washington who led the move for a new Constitution. Now some of the radical writers, especially the Marxist try to make out that the people fought for the freedom they had, but then a group of reactionaries shoved the Constitution down their throat. And you will get this in most colleges and Universities. This is rubbish. It was the men who fought, who also were responsible for the new government, of the Constitution of 1787. Our Constitution. It was Washington, the Commander and Chief, who took the lead, in seeing to it that there was a new Constitution. It was Washington who presided at the Constitutional Convention. Now it is true that the Constitutional Convention met in secret. [00:08:09]

It was not that the public did not know they were meeting...[edit]

It was not that the public did not know they were meeting, but they had been called together to try to improve the government of the United States, according to the Articles of Confederation. But Washington and others who were in on that call realized very quickly it was useless. You cannot improve a government where one state can veto what you do. It is impossible. We cannot amend or alter the articles. We have to start and propose an entirely new constitution to replace the old articles, and only then do we have a chance of establishing a strong government. As a result, they kept their deliberations secret. They did not want the states saying to the delegates “Come back home, we don’t want you involved in something like this” Which could’ve been quite likely had the news leaked out. They wanted first to be able to complete their work and then to say to the states “Here is the new Constitution. Consider it; give it a fair trial, a fair hearing.” So this is what they did. The preamble of the Constitution declares:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” [00:10:18]

They deliberately you see, bypassed the Articles, in...[edit]

They deliberately you see, bypassed the Articles, in which it was “We the States” coming together to do this. They went to the people. “We the people of the United States. They did this because they felt that the only way they could create a government sufficiently strong to take care of the problems that existed was by grounding it’s not simply in the states but in more than the states. The states indeed were going to have representation by state, rather than by population, and the senate. But they also needed to ground it in the people themselves. And so they said: “We the People.” Then, it’s very common in the public schools for teachers, and in colleges which are non-Christian, to ridicule the second clause “in order to form a more perfect union.” How can you be more perfect than perfect? And they think of course, they’re saying in effect, “You see these people didn’t even have good grammar here.” Well of course if you use perfect in the modern sense you cannot say “more perfect”. Because perfect is as good as you can get. But words change their meaning. The word for example silly, has changed its meaning in English over the generations. If for example in Chaucer’s day or thereafter for a couple of centuries, you had spoken of your girlfriend or your boyfriend, or a man spoke of his wife as silly, it would not be an insult. It would mean ‘dear, beloved’. Now try calling someone silly, and they aren’t going to take it as a compliment. You see the word has gradually changed its meaning. Moreover, another example of a word changing its meaning is ‘farmer’. It once meant tax collector. And the word stink. Now today when you use the word stink it means a bad smell. But once stink did not mean a bad smell, you could say to someone you stink beautifully, and it would be legitimate you see. Words usually go downhill in their meaning unfortunately, which says something about human nature doesn’t it. Now perfect once meant mature. And in the King James version of the Bible, this is what perfect usually means, mature.

So, what the preamble is saying is, in order to form a more mature Union, something better able to cope with problems. The articles were in effect an immature document. Now we want a more mature document. Then a little later the preamble says,: “To provide for the common defense.” Do you know of the thirteen colonies, only two paid their full proportion of the cost of the war? They were New York and Pennsylvania. How can you provide for the common defense, if Congress has not tax power? You can see from this what a problem Washington had. Congress was not getting any money from the States. Or very little. And Only New York and Pennsylvania finally paid up. Then: “to promote the general welfare.” This meant only the individuals freedom from public restraint, because they go on, and say “And secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our prosperity. To ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Now as we come to the Constitution itself, the main body of it, of course you all know that the Constitution provides for three equal branches of government. The Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. No supremacy, according to the Constitution was given to any one branch. Thus, whereas the Articles of Confederation had only one branch, Congress, Now three branches were created. Their reason for this was they knew they were creating a strong government. They knew moreover that this would be the most serious criticism of the Constitution. There would be many who would be seriously afraid of it, and against it, because they would feel that it was creating too strong of a government. This was the objection of Patrick Henry, and this was the objection of George Mason. [00:16:19]

So, two of the greatest Americans, apart from George...[edit]

So, two of the greatest Americans, apart from George Washington opposed the Constitution because they felt it created too strong of a federal government. Mason opposed the Constitution, although he was in the Constitutional convention, and had a great deal to do with the writing of it. Because it gave too great a power, too general a power to congress over interstate commerce, and because it did not deal with the issue of slavery. You see what happened was the southerners told the New Englanders, ‘Keep your hands off of slavery, and we’ll keep our hands off the issue of commerce.” And so they made a deal. And Mason was very bitter about this deal, and he left and went home. And of course he was right. That deal led to the Civil War, and it led to the ability of the Federal Government to this day to interfere in the various states in the name of controlling interstate commerce.

Now the reason for creating three equal branches was, to use each as a check on the other. The idea of checks and balances. Now checks and balances was very definitely a religious idea. It implied a mistrust of man, a belief that man is a sinner and cannot be entrusted with too much power. As a matter of fact there is a very interesting statement which I neglected to mark out, the fact that ?___? But in essence, what one of the men in the Constitutional convention said when they were trying to sell the people on the idea of a Constitution, he said “If all men were angels, we would need no Constitution. And if all our officials were angels, we would need no Constitution. But since it is not likely that either the people or the officials are going to be angels, we need therefore checks and balances, and very real restraints upon power.” In other words they were emphatically affirming their belief that man is a sinner. [00:19:16]

Now, as we begin our analysis of Article ...[edit]

Now, as we begin our analysis of Article 1, of the Constitution, the first thing that is apparent is that we have here two doctrines of American Constitutional Law. First: Our government is one of delegated power. Delegated Power. In other words, the Constitution says that the government has no power in and of itself, its powers are delegated. And Second, Congress cannot delegate its legislative powers to anyone else. “All legislative power herein granted, shall be invested in the Congress of the United States.” Now if we followed this, we today would not have all the commissions that govern, because many of our commissions do in effect today have legislative powers, in terms of what the founding fathers believed, the present day commissions and various groups that have legislative powers in effect are un-constitutional. The various rules and regulations that the Internal Revenue issues would be un-constitutional because legislative powers are reserved to congress, and they cannot be delegated. If congress could delegate these powers, than the principle of the separation of powers is of course destroyed. Moreover, in section 2 of article 1, in dealing with the count of representatives, The founding fathers decided to keep as much power close to those who represented the people, rather than the states. So that the power of impeachment was vested in the house. The trial of impeachment is by the Senate. In other words, if Congress wants to impeach a president, or any official, only the house of representatives can issue the bill of impeachment or of indictment. Then the Senate, which represents the state. The House the people, the Senate the State, the Senate can try him. Moreover, the house of representatives, which represents the people, is the only source of tax bills. So that while tax bills have to be approved by both the House, the Senate, and the President, only the House can institute a tax bill.

Now the Senate can make amendments to it, and suggestion, but anything they make has to go back to the House to be approved. On the other hand, the Senate represents the State. Two Senators from each state, irrespective of the size of the state. At that time, we saw last night, the states varied in size with Virginia with the most population, 400,000, to Georgia, with about 25,000. Now, Georgia was only about a 16th the size of Virginia in population, but it still had two senators, just as Virginia did. In other word’s there was an equal representation by the states. This is the most difficult thing in the entire Constitution to change. As we shall see later on, the Constitution specifies, “This Constitution of the Senate cannot be changed except by a unanimous vote of every State in the Union.” I don’t think that is very likely. Can you imagine, say, Nevada, ever voting itself out of two Senators, so California can have say, 10 or 15 Senators by comparison? It’s not likely. It’s highly unlikely. And as a result, the most unchangeable aspect of the entire Constitution is precisely that. [00:24:56]

Now, in Article ...[edit]

Now, in Article 1, Section 5, it says of Congress, “Each house may determine the rules for its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with a concurrence of two thirds may expel a member. Now this is a very important fact. In the Articles of Confederation as you recall we mentioned earlier, a lack of quorum constituted a major problem. Meeting after meeting called in Congress and not enough people to make it a legal meeting. Well when you have this kind of situation, how can you transact business? And another factor, very often when meetings are called by various groups, there is something very, very, controversial. And some people want to duck the meeting. Now just as sometimes school children try to get sick when they know there is hard test and they aren’t ready for it. It’s convenient to somehow get sick on that day if they can get away with it. Well, there are times in the history of organization, in the history of presbyteries and various church bodies, and in the history of a congress where it is difficult for a congressman or a senator to go without knowing “I am on the spot. Everyone back home is going to be watching to see how I vote, and I’m going to be clobbered if I vote this way and I’m going to be clobbered if I vote that way.” Now because each house has the right to discipline its members for non-attendance, and for any kind of contempt, Congress can compel that they be present. This power has rarely been invoked, but it has been invoked on a few occasions. It is an important power because it does mean that people cannot duck out on their responsibilities. [00:27:28]

Then as we go on to section seven, of article ...[edit]

Then as we go on to section seven, of article 1, we find that the house was not only the source of all revenue and tax bills, but also the source of any impeachment. The Senate on the other hand, may propose amendments to the Constitution, the state had the right to come and say “we feel that the Constitution requires amendment. And of course, the proposed constitutional amendment normally goes to all the states, for ratification.

Now in section 8, where the Powers of Congress are given, we have some very difficult and controversial passages. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excise, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;” In other words, Virginia cannot say: “We don’t want Pennsylvania goods coming into the state, so we will discriminate against any goods coming into the state from Pennsylvania.” This is forbidden. However, it is in the next paragraph that the difficulty comes in. “To borrow money on the credit of the United States.” Now, this is a dangerous clause. Because when a government has the power to borrow money, it can in effect even when it has a gold currency (as we were supposed to have in the beginning) inflate the currency by borrowing. And so the borrowing power is a very dangerous one. And this has created problem over the years. [00:30:08]

Then in the next clause it begins ...[edit]

Then in the next clause it begins “5: To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures; 6: To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;”

Now yesterday I called attention to the fact that all kinds of moneys were legal tender in the United States as long as they were Gold and Silver. You could go in those days and pay your taxes, or go to a shop, and pull out some silver and gold coins that were French, or English or Spanish or Dutch, or of whatever country you wanted. And you could buy whatever you wanted. Why? Because Gold and Silver were alone legal tender, alone legal money. And every store keeper as well as the tax collector had a table establishing the weight of the coin. When we issued a trade dollar, we actually put on that trade dollar the number of grains of silver in it. Now that trade dollar was for our merchants when they sailed to China, and to the Indies and to India, to us in trading with those countries. Now one of your problems if you do any travelling is figuring out how to change money in different countries. Well the Americans since they had so many currencies knew the value of a Sovereign, and of a Shilling, and of the Guilder, and Franks, in American money, in terms of the Dollar. But they recognized when going to another country, to China for example, The Chinese don’t necessarily know what a dollar means. So we will write on the coin the actual number of grains of silver in this coin. Now this was how they conceived of money. By weight. Actual weight of God and Silver. So that the power given to Congress was to coin money. Now they deliberately used this word, because they were afraid of paper money. They had seen what had happened to the Continental Dollar, the Continental paper money, just a few years before. The last thing they wanted was any more trouble with paper money. And so they emphatically wrote in that the power to coin money alone was legitimate. [00:33:22]

Now Congress was not given the exclusive power to coin...[edit]

Now Congress was not given the exclusive power to coin money. That came only in the last hundred years. So that for the first hundred years of the republic, anyone could coin money, provided you coined money in terms of God and silver, and made it an actual weight. Now what was the advantage in this? Well, to give you an idea of what coined money was worth, the double eagle, the United States 20 dollar gold piece had about 19 dollars and 20 cents of gold in it. Now the other 80 cents was what it cost the United States to mint the money, and its seigniorage, its profit. For doing it. Which was legitimate. When we had silver quarters, I don’t know--- well that was before any of you could remember probably--- how many of you have seen or have a silver quarter? Good. They are good to have. Now the Silver quarter had 23 cents of silver in it when silver was a $1.19 an ounce. Of course, silver now is worth something like $3.50 an ounce, and it’s probably more today, so that quarter is now worth about 75 cents just in its silver content. But, when you had this small a difference, a man who was mining gold and silver, if he were a very capable man, could take and make coins, good coins, and circulate them, he made a small profit on them, and people would accept them, the government would accept them as taxes, and there was no problem. A great deal of such coinage was made from the Colonial period to almost a hundred years ago. I’m not sure of the date, I did know it but I’ve forgotten it, I think it was something like 1876, or 1881, thereabout, when they finally abolished the right of private minting. A great deal of privately mined gold in particular was issued after the California god rush. SO the Constitution did not say tht the United States was the only one that could mint money, but the only kind of money that could be issued according to the constitution was coined money. [00:36:36]

Regulate the value thereof, to specify how many grains...[edit]

Regulate the value thereof, to specify how many grains of gold had to go into a gold dollar, and how many into a silver dollar. And of foreign coin, to set up the tables whereby the tax collector could say that there was so much in the way of grains of gold and silver in a guilder or a frank, or a sovereign. And fix the standard of weights and measures. Now this means primarily the weights and measures of gold, but also the weights and measures such as bushels, pounds, and so on, to provide for the punishment of counterweighting, the security and current coin of the United States.

Then the next clause is one which also has been rather controversial, and has also been rather dangerous. Oh, I didn’t see that some time has passed, excuse me. WE will take a 5 minute break while some of you go to your classes. [00:37:52]