If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it. Federalist 57 James Madison
WWTFT is devoted to the study of the Constitution and to those remarkable individuals in that most remarkable generation who created this nation. As the Founders’ creation is now threatened by those who think that the Constitution has outlived its usefulness, interest in revolutionary history has become something of a mini growth industry.
The Founders emphasized that the system they constructed requires a virtuous people. Constitution Day, September 17,th, seems a good time to take stock of whether, in the third century of our founding, “the vigilant and manly spirit” which nourishes freedom still prevails.
The nation’s problems did not originate with the present administration, although it exacerbated them mightily. For a very long time, under both Republican and Democrat administrations, Congress has been “making legal discriminations in favor of themselves” and those they think deserving. The Obama administration has only accelerated the process.
As Ronald J. Pestritto , Associate Professor of Politics, Hillsdale College, explained in a recent speech, Congress is adept at passing vague laws with fine sounding titles that give the various bureaucracies wide discretionary authority. He cited the Affordable Health Care act as a particularly ugly example of the delegation of legislative authority.
For those anxious to expand the reach of government, it’s a handy system. When radical bills are introduced that not even most Democrats would pass, the EPA or the NLRB or some other agency can use their rule making authority to circumvent the legislature and do what the failed law would have done. Groups in good standing with the administration can always be granted waivers from the most oppressive rules.
In a way, all of this is the Founders’ fault. They created a system in which citizens are free to pursue their own interests. Unfortunately, in that pursuit, the vigilance part of citizenship was neglected. The universities became the province of leftist radicals and given free reign to “educate” the nation’s youth. There is a reason that the majority of that youth voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
Too many people busy living the American dream neglected to pay attention to whom they elected to represent them or to what they did when they got to Washington.
The separation of powers, created to shield citizens from tyranny, is weakened almost beyond recognition. The prohibition against making and administrating laws in one agency is no longer in force.
The very foundation of the Constitution, the rule of law, is now ignored by a Justice Department that determines what laws will be enforced and on whom. The very idea that the law is equally binding on all citizens has been lost in a fog of preferential policies based on group identity and political orientation. Thus, the EPA raids one guitar company while another company, using the same materials, is unmolested. The difference being that the former company is owned by a contributor to the Republican Party and the later by a Democrat donor.
So, is “the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it” still predominant?
As we prepare for 2012, we might reflect on what Madison wrote in the next paragraph of Federalist “57: If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.”
In other words, the Constitution cannot save us. We have to save ourselves.