Today, we take our first look at the actual Constitution itself. We will examine the first section of Article I.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
SECTION 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
This section specifies that only Congress can originate legislation. That power is prohibited to either of the other branches. The founding fathers intentionally separated the three branches as checks and balances against one another.
Since federal judges are all appointed and not elected, the founders felt they were much more removed from the will of the people. They wanted the judges to be independent of the whims of politics, but they also wanted to limit their power.
Because there is only one President and he is elected nationally, they felt he would be less responsive to the will of the people than the Congress would. They did not want him to have the authority to enact laws of his own volition.
There are two primary reasons that Congress is designated as the branch to enact all legislation. First, the constituent base of Congressmen, and even Senators, is much more localized than that of the President. They have to pay closer attention to what their own constituents think.
Secondly, because there is a relatively large number of people in the Congress, compared with the President and the Supreme Court, the founders felt Congress would be less likely to come up with any devious schemes that weren’t in the best interests of the people. Unfortunately, history has shown that the system didn’t work as it was designed to.
Almost any political scientist will tell you the history of this nation has been an unceasing expansion of the Executive branch—the Presidency. This goes at least as far back as Andrew Jackson’s tenure. When Chief Justice John Marshall’s court issued an opinion he disagreed with, he famously said, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” He then proceeded to ignore the court’s decision.
Abraham Lincoln greatly expanded the executive powers when he order the army to attack sovereign states of the United States. The Constitution required him to protect the states and their citizens, but he attacked them anyhow.
Our current President ignores Congress in issuing edicts to carry out his agenda. One example of his edicts is that rather than protect the citizens of our nation as the Constitution requires him to do, he orders states to admit people who may well be terrorists and allow these people to live within their borders.
Our founding fathers did the best they could to design a government that would be good for our citizenry, but they couldn’t foresee some of the things that have come along to alter what they designed.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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