There’s been a lot of talk lately about the U.S. Constitution, but most of it has been one-sided monologue.
Those opposed to a number of federal policies insist the Constitution if being violated, while the other side stays largely silent. I don’t think the should, for it’s by no means a settled question that the Constitution isn’t on their side.
The Founding Fathers themselves did not agree on the exact meaning of the Constitution; like so much human endeavor it was the product of conflict and compromise. Still, the majority was able to assent to a set of principles long enough to ratify the longest-lasting, most successful charter for representative government mankind has ever produced.
But it’s beyond debate that the Constitution was intended to create a stronger central government than that created by the Articles of Confederation, though the extend of that the legitimate extent of that power is still certainly debatable.
The early Chief Justice John Marshall interpreted the powers of Congress to be broad, and thought that in questionable cases, controversies ought to be left to the political branches of government.
As Marshall wrote in Gibbons v. Ogden, “Powerful and ingenious minds, taking as postulates that the powers expressly granted to the government of the Union are to be contracted by construction into the narrowest possible compass and that the original powers of the States are retained if any possible construction will retain them may, by a course of well digested but refined and metaphysical reasoning founded on these premises, explain away the Constitution of our country and leave it a magnificent structure indeed to look at, but totally unfit for use.”
I think he might as well have been speaking to those who would use the Constitution to undo health care, of social security, or a wide range of economic legislation it’s currently fashionable to call “unconstitutional.”
Like I say, these are debatable points, and no one has a monopoly on what the Constitution means.
So let’s debate …
About The AuthorMarc Charisse is the editor of The Evening Sun. Dr. Charisse has a Ph.D. in First Amendment law and history, and has taught communication law and constitutional law at the University of Washington in Seattle and Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla. Charisse can be reached at email@example.com.
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