In the Founder’s Corner
Scott N. Bradley
Part Two of a Seven Part Series
The first part of this seven part series touched upon the fact that the Founding Fathers of this nation recognized that our rights come from God, and that it is the purpose of government to preserve those rights.
The third broad-brush point in this discussion of essential base-line principles of liberty and proper government has to do with the value of a Written Constitution, which the founders considered a written binding contract, and which they required ALL office holders to take a sacred oath to uphold.
The United States Constitution is The Charter of the Nation. It defines the framework of the government it establishes. It delegates authority to act in specific areas. It establishes the boundaries within which our national government may act. It is not a grant of unlimited power to act with unrestricted discretion. The primary purpose of our Constitution is to protect the people in their God-given unalienable rights.
The value of a written constitution is beyond measure. Words have meaning, and those meanings may be known. They are not open to arbitrary and unilateral interpretation or redefinition by those who would modify the constitution to meet their whims. The words and the intended scope of the government was clearly established by those who framed the Constitution. The Constitution delegated a specific jurisdiction to the National government. That jurisdiction is limited in its scope, magnitude, and power. Operations by the National government outside that jurisdiction are prohibited, regardless of who, or how many, think it may be a “good idea.”
There is an established and constitutional method for modifying the Constitution if it becomes necessary to do so. That process is defined in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. There is no other way to legally modify it. And in his monumental Farewell Address, George Washington reminded us that until it is modified legally (by the method defined within Article V of the Constitution), the United States Constitution is obligatory upon all; indeed, he said it is “SACREDLY obligatory upon ALL.”
The Founding Fathers considered the United States Constitution to be a written, binding contract. In his magnificent book, View of the Constitution of the United States, which was published in 1803, St. George Tucker (probably the preeminent constitutional scholar of the founding era) expressed his view that the Constitution is a written contract, which was specific and exact, and from which variance was not legal, saying:
“It is a written contract; ...government was reduced to its elements; its object was defined, its principles ascertained; its powers limited, and fixed.” (Tucker, View Pg. 104)
And the founders were so serious that the Constitution be upheld that in it they twice mentioned the requirement of office holders to take an oath to abide by the Constitution. In Article II, the President is required to take a specific oath to “...preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and Article VI requires ALL other officers to “...be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.” Thus ALL who hold office must take an oath before God and the entire nation to live by the words of the Constitution, and ALL are responsible to keep their actions within the bounds set by the Constitution.
By carefully studying the United States Constitution, we may come to understand when an action taken by an office-holder is within the scope of their oath to uphold this written contract, and when it is not. Office-holders are servants who have a sacred duty to perform which they must not be allowed to violate with impunity!