Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

The Agencies, Officers, And Methods For Exercising Powers Of The National Government

Now my friends, we have reached the end of discussion of the personal
guaranties of the Constitution—the American Bill of Rights.

As I have heretofore stated, this is the real, important part of the
Constitution, because it is in a study of these guaranties that we fully
realize the blessings of our free American government. Any one who has
earnestly considered this great American Bill of Rights can readily answer
the question, “What has America done for me and for my children”?

But I would not have you feel that the other parts of the Constitution are
of small concern. Each provision of this great charter of human rights is
very important, and worthy of careful study.

Article I of the Constitution provides that all legislative powers granted
“shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist
of a Senate and House of Representatives”. Now you will understand of
course that up to the time the Constitution was adopted, the United States
had no power; in fact there was no United States. The colonists through
the Articles of Confederation had attempted to establish a Nation which
was designated “The United States of America”, but the result of their
efforts was really a confederation, and not a real union.(101) _The Nation
was formed by the adoption of the Constitution._ The Nation formed was in
the nature of a partnership. I suppose you know but little about
partnerships organized by individuals. A partnership is generally formed
by a written agreement signed by the partners. This agreement usually
contains provisions as to the share or interest of each partner, the power
of the partners and of the partnership, and the objects and purposes of
the partnership.

The United States is a partnership between the people and the Nation. The
Constitution is a partnership agreement binding upon all the parties to
the agreement. Before the adoption of the Constitution the people
possessed all the power of government and governmental action. The people
gave some of their power to the Nation, but only a small part of the power
of the people was given. Always bear in mind that the United States—the
Nation—has no power, and never had any except what the people granted in
the Constitution and in the amendments thereto.

You will see in Section 8 of Article I the specific powers granted to
Congress by the people. They include the following: lay and collect taxes;
pay debts; provide for defense and for the general welfare; borrow money;
regulate commerce among the States and with foreign nations; provide for
naturalization and uniform rules of bankruptcy; coin money, regulate the
value thereof, and fix the standard of weights and measures; punish
counterfeiting; establish post offices and post roads; protect authors and
inventors by copyrights and patents; establish courts; punish piracies and
felonies on the high seas; declare war, raise, and support armies; provide
and maintain a navy; provide for organizing armies, for disciplining the
militia, and for calling them to serge in certain emergencies; exercise
exclusive power of legislation “over such District (not exceeding ten
miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance
of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States”; make
all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing
powers “and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government
of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

So you see large powers were granted by the people to the new Nation.

However, the people were very careful. Nearly every government in the
world, before the organization of the United States, had at times proven
false to the people. Many governments were false to the people all the
time. Indignities and abuses were often heaped upon helpless men, women,
and children. Governments were more often maintained to serve royalty or
aristocracy than to protect the rights and liberties of the common people.
Therefore when it came to organizing this new Nation, the people were
careful to guard against the abuses of the past. Thus they not only
specified definitely the powers conferred upon the United States, but
(Sections 9 and 10 of Article I) positively stated certain things which
the United States could not do.

_The people also were suspicious._ The experience of the human race with
governments justified this suspicion. When the Constitution was submitted
to the people, many protested that the individual liberties of the people
were not sufficiently guarded; and before the people consented to ratify
the Constitution, it was necessary that they should be given assurance
that upon the ratification of the Constitution, amendments would be
proposed and submitted to the people, expressing clearly the guaranties
given to the people against improper exercise of power by the National
government and especially protecting the liberty of all the people. These
amendments, which constitute the Great American Bill of Rights, were
proposed by Congress in 1789 and were ratified by the States in 1791.

Now let us get the foregoing brief summary fixed in our minds.

The Constitution is a partnership between the people and the Nation in
which the people (1) grant to the Nation certain specific powers; (2)
restrain the Nation from exercising powers not granted; and (3) in many
particulars direct the manner in which the powers granted shall be
exercised. The Constitution also provides for what may be termed the
“machinery of government”. It separates the powers of government into
three divisions: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. It then
provides for the officers (the agents or servants of the people), who
shall exercise the powers of each department, and prescribes certain
qualifications for such officers, the methods of their selection, and the
terms of such officers.

In Article I we find certain qualifications for Senators and
Representatives—the length of their term of service. Senators are elected
for six years, Representatives for two years. There are also certain
provisions as to their election, the organization of the Senate and House,
to some extent the method of procedure, and direction as to the exercise
of certain powers.

Article II of the Constitution fixes certain qualifications for President
of the United States, the executive head of the Nation; provides the
manner of the election of the President and the Vice President, confers
certain powers and duties, provides that the term of office of President
and Vice President shall be four years, and designates the causes for
which they may be removed by impeachment.

Article III of the Constitution provides for courts and judges, and fixes
their jurisdiction—their power—and gives direction as to trial and penalty
in certain cases.

Thus we find that the Constitution guarantees a National government (a
republican form of government), confers certain powers formerly held by
the people, provides an executive to enforce the powers granted, a
legislative body to make laws under which the powers may be exercised, and
establishes courts to construe and apply the laws enacted, to the end that
human rights and liberties shall be protected.

Let us carry in our minds this picture of the people of the colonies, who
through generations had struggled with royalty to secure the blessings and
liberties for which they had come to the New World. In the local
government of the colonies much had been done to apply the principles of
liberty, but in their relation to the mother country they had endured
abuses and sufferings, which finally in 1776 found expression in the
Declaration of Independence.

In an effort to unite their strength they had formed a federation of the
thirteen States, but their dreams of a free country were not realized
until in the Constitution they had formed the “more perfect Union” which
was created to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide
for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.

Now let us bear in mind that the people reserved much of their power,
which under the plan of government adopted was to be used in their
respective States under Constitutions and laws expressing the will of the
people with relation to their domestic affairs. At our next meeting, we
shall consider briefly something of the Constitutions of the States, where
they come from, and the wonderful purpose they serve in carrying out the
scheme of the people in actual self government.

ELEMENTARY QUESTIONS

1. Why are the individual guaranties of the Constitution so important?

2. What is meant by legislative power?

3. In whom is the legislative power of the United States vested?

4. When and how was the Nation formed?

5. What is a partnership? How is it usually formed?

6. From whom did the United States obtain its power?

7. State the terms of service of: (a) the President, (b) Senators, (c)
Representatives, (d) the Vice President?

ADVANCED QUESTIONS

A. Tell some of the powers conferred by the people upon the United States.

B. Into what departments does the Constitution separate the powers of
government?

C. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, why were the people
suspicious?

D. Name some officers now in service of the National government: (a) in
the executive department, (b) in the legislative department, (c) in the
judicial department.

E. Write a statement of the attitude of the people of the States when the
Constitution was submitted to them for ratification, what was the subject
of public discussion, what parties were formed, and what was done to
secure the consent of the people to ratify the Constitution?

F. Write in 100 words or less a summary of what the United States
Constitution is.