Parting company

Posted: Aug 07, 2002 12:00 AM
Each July 4, we celebrate the founding of our nation, but how many Americans understand, much less respect, the founding principles? I fear that, for most Americans, July 4 is a celebration of a day off of work, an excuse for fireworks and feasting on barbecue but not a day to celebrate and enshrine the liberties the Founders sought for us. Some of this is the result of dumbed-down schooling, but a large part, I fear, is simple contempt for our founding principles. Let's look at a few founding documents to see what's your take on them. On June 26, 1788, Virginia's elected delegates met to ratify the Constitution. In their ratification document, they said, "The People of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will." When New York delegates met on July 26, 1788, their ratification document read, "That the Powers of Government may be resumed by the People, whensoever it shall become necessary to their Happiness; that every Power, Jurisdiction and right which is not by the said Constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States, or the departments of the government thereof, remains to the People of the several States, or to their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same." On May 29, 1790, the Rhode Island delegates made a similar claim in their ratification document: "That the powers of government may be resumed by the people, whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness: That the rights of the States respectively to nominate and appoint all State Officers, and every other power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by the said constitution clearly delegated to the Congress of the United States or to the departments of government thereof, remain to the people of the several states, or their respective State Governments to whom they may have granted the same." Here's a couple questions for you: Has the United States Congress usurped powers that were not delegated to it by the Constitution? From their ratification statements, isn't it clear that the nation's Founders assumed that States and the people have a right to take back powers they granted Congress in the Constitution? All but your highly trained legal scholars, politicians and bureaucrats, and others having contempt for the founding principles, will agree: Yes, Congress has exceeded its delegated powers, and yes, states have a right to take back (resume) powers delegated to the federal government -- in a word the right to secede from the Union. The Founders, who feared federal consolidation of power, saw secession as the ultimate brake on federal abuse and usurpation. However, President Abraham Lincoln, through nothing less than brutal military force, settled that issue. He acted unconstitutionally and with ruthless contempt for the founding principles. Have you ever wondered why Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders were never tried for treason? The easy answer is that plaintiffs would have been laughed out of court because the right of state secession had been taken for granted. What can be done now? Are there any signs that those Americans who want to unconstitutionally control the lives of others are going to let up soon? I say no, but there's a peaceful resolution proposed by Free State Project (, whose motto is, "Liberty in our lifetime." Twenty or thirty thousand Americans who love liberty would move to one state, possibly New Hampshire, peaceably take over the legislature, negotiate with Congress to obey their oath of office to uphold the Constitution and, if necessary, secede from the Union.

Walter E. Williams's Latest Book American Contempt for Liberty is available on Amazon