I recently got a vivid reminder of the importance of the basic constitutional education we do here at the TAC.
Last week, I wrote an article asserting the federal government has no constitutional authority to do the vast majority of the things that it does today. The piece was based on essays written by Tench Coxe, a Pennsylvanian who was an influential supporter of the Constitution during the ratification process.
But at least one reader thinks I got it all wrong. In fact, he sent me a long email to correct me. According to my critic, I don’t understand the constitutional system at all.
Basically, he embraces the theory that “one people” ratified the Constitution – not the states. (I debunk that HERE.) So, out of morbid curiosity, I wrote my critic, and said I would be interested in seeing the evidence he has for this idea. I didn’t really expect him to respond, but lo-and-behold, he did. He sent me a very long email full of federal court citations to make his case.
I run into this a lot. People have these ideas about the Constitution, but lack any founding era evidence to back them up. In fact, most of the time they don’t have any evidence at all. They’re just parroting what some teacher told them. I have to at least give my emailer credit for having some kind of basis for his constitutional views. But I’m sorry, the opinion some judge wrote in 1901 and the musings of a history professor do not count as founding era evidence.
And therein lies the key to understanding the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson put it this way.
“On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
If we’re going to move the country back to its constitutional roots, Americans have to understand what those are. Sadly, most don’t. So education is a key part of our strategy for liberty.
I am currently reading a collection of pamphlets, speeches and other pro-ratification writings by prominent supporters of the Constitution, and I plan on writing more articles highlighting exactly what they said the powers of the federal government would be.