Paul Bonnifield: Greatness of the US
November 13, 2012
Having read Rob Douglas' political rant "Mary Jane and the GOP" (Nov. 9 Steamboat Today), I think it is time to take a variable look at the constitution of the United States.
Douglas wrote, "the bedrock American principle of federalism, as set forth in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, must be defended even when the underlying cause may not be in keeping with their personal morality."
The 10th Amendment states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
What powers are delegated to and not prohibited by the Constitution for Congress?
Article 1, Section 8: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and the general welfare of the United States." The Constitution reserves to Congress and requires Congress to provide for the common defense and the general welfare on the nation. After common defense and general welfare are covered, there is not much left for the states.
Why did voters approve a constitution that gave so much power to the federal government? Under the Articles of Confederation, the nation was falling apart. States were close to war with one another. There was the Bacon Rebellion. Congress could not assemble a quorum and the last president did not bother to go to the capital city. It was clear the nation needed a strong central government.
Following meetings at Mount Vernon and Annapolis, delegates met in Philadelphia. On May 30, 1778, Edmund Randolph, of Virginia, proposed, "That a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary." He also realized that the Articles of Confederation could not provide for the "common defense, security of liberty, and general welfare." The Virginia Plan that he introduced a day earlier also called for a strong federal government.
Following the same theme, the preamble to the Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America."
The hard fact is that the framers of the Constitution knew from experience that states' rights did not work and they wanted a powerful federal government.
How well has the Constitution worked? Against the arguments of states' rights and property rights, the federal government fought the Civil War to preserve the union and free the slaves. Against the cries of states' rights, property rights and big government, the federal government in the 1960s passed the Civil Rights Act that ended segregation and opened the doors of opportunity for millions of Americans — both male and female. Women should take a little time and list the things they might take for granted today that were impossible for them to do 50 years ago. States did not give them that freedom, nor did private business. Today there is more individual freedom and more individual opportunity than at any previous time in our national history.
The United States is the freest nation on Earth. It offers more opportunities for its citizens than any other nation. The greatness is the result of a federal government that provides for the common defense and the general welfare. I'm proud of what my country has accomplished. I see an even greater future.