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In-Box: The Constitution, court vacancies

February 24, 2016

To the editor:

Justice Antonin Scalia rightfully believed that when interpreting the Constitution the Supreme Court had a duty to uphold the original intent of the document established during its ratification. Though today, strictly adhering to the Constitution is looked upon by large divisions of society as primitive. So out of respect to Justice Scalia, I wanted to resolve the common misinterpretations of our Constitution which have helped lead to the ill-fated state of our republic.

First, it’s Congress’ constitutional responsibility to declare war before initiating military action. James Madison explained, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the Legislature.”

Secondly, the 10th Amendment assured that the powers states delegated to the federal government could not be expanded upon. The states delegated specific enumerated powers to the federal government under Article 1 Section 8, but the lion’s share of powers was reserved to the states. But one can easily see just how far the government has abused its powers when reading Federalist #41 by James Madison and comparing Madison’s views about the role the federal government would play in society to present realities.

Thirdly, the Supremacy Clause is not an unlimited grant of power. At the New York ratifying convention, Alexander Hamilton explained, “acts of the United States will be absolutely obligatory as to all the proper objects and powers of the general government … but the laws of Congress are restricted to a certain sphere, and when they depart from this sphere they are no longer supreme or binding.”

Fourth, the founders understood that times change and as a result they created the amendment process so the Constitution could be altered when needed. The Constitution was not to live and breathe through judicial activists but was to live and breathe only through the amendment process.

Fifth, the First Amendment limited Congress’ lawmaking authorities but not the states’. For example, many state constitutions endorsed Christianity and the state governments provided financial assistance to their respective religious institutions.

And sixth, the general welfare clause did not expand the government’s ability to spend money but constrained it. In the book, “33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask,” historian Tom Woods described how “the word ‘general’ restricted federal spending only to those purposes whose benefits were national in scope rather than purely local or confined to a single interest group.”

Thomas Jefferson understood that our liberties and wealth are more likely to be preserved by imposing strict limitations on the government. Jefferson duly stated, “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 invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

Clarence Leatherbury
Salem, IN

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Dear editor,

It is important to note that Supreme Court vacancies exist both on a national level and here in Indiana. If elected Republican officials want to oppose President Obama’s attempt to fulfill his Constitutional obligation, shouldn’t they take the same position concerning Indiana Governor Pence? Just thinking.

Robert W. Hammerle
Attorney and Movie Critic
Indianapolis, IN
rhammerle@pencehensel.com

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