Saturday, July 7, 2007

The First Amendment – Part II

Intent and Basis of the Constitution

The first thing we have to realize is that the original intent of the Constitution was to limit the powers of the federal government. During and after the Revolutionary War, the 13 states were semi-independent entities bound together in a loose confederation for their mutual benefit. They joined together in this union mainly for purposes of common defense, free trade, and open borders.

The Constitution was established to formalize the terms of this confederation, with the intent of severely limiting the power of the federal government. They were all too familiar with oppressive central governments with high taxes, and they didn’t want another King George. The states wanted to remain as independent as possible, and each had its own constitution, laws, assemblies, militia, and state agencies.

The second thing we need to realize is that the Constitution is based on a source document – it does not stand alone. It must be understood within the context of the principles stated in that earlier document. What is this underlying document? The Declaration of Independence.

To understand the Constitution, we must understand the principles within the Declaration as well as the intent of the framers of the Constitution. How can we know the intent of the framers? We know their intent based on their various writings (such as the Federalist Papers) and early court cases decided by Supreme Court members who also had written the Constitution.

Think about this: If early Supreme Court decisions made by the framers of the Constitution are now being ignored, then isn’t the court inventing law rather than faithfully interpreting the Constitution? The separation of powers in our Constitution specifically limits the making of laws to the Congress, yet the Supreme Court now makes law.

No comments: