RESOLUTION TO RESPECT & PROTECT THE LIFE OF THE UNBORN

by Diane Rufino, Deputy Director of the NC Tenth Amendment Center and Resolutions Chair of the Pitt County GOP.  The following resolution will be presented at the 2014 Pitt County GOP Convention on March 8.

RESOLUTION TO RESPECT & PROTECT THE LIFE OF THE UNBORN

Whereas, the Declaration of Independence guarantees the Right to Life, without any pre-conditions; and

Whereas, the Bill of Rights evidences a position of greater rights as opposed to less rights; and

Whereas, the Supreme Court has found ways of enlarging rights for various groups, while extinguishing them for the unborn in Roe v. Wade; and

Whereas, the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, articulated the right of a woman to control her fertility and have an abortion on demand in order to make social change from the bench (in order to give woman unfettered ability to compete equally in the workforce); and 

Whereas, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court put a greater value on the right of a woman to control her fertility (including the ability to terminate a pregnancy that has produced a new life) than on the developing life she has created by virtue of the laws of nature; and

Whereas, the Court overlooked the obvious reality that a woman already has the right and the power to control her fertility; it’s called “consent to sexual intercourse” (She holds the power to have children, not to have them, or to decide when she will have them); and

Whereas, if a woman decides to engage in sexual activity with protection and that protection fails, she has the option of immediately addressing the situation.  After all, a fertilized egg doesn’t immediately begin its program to create life. Even after 12 hours after conception, the fertilized egg cell still remains a single cell.  Only after approximately 30 hours does it finally begin to divide from one cell into 2 cells.  And then another 15 or so hours after that, it divides again, to yield four cells.  At the end of three days, the conception event is still merely a ball of 16 cells; and

Whereas, the current legal climate shows very little concern for the struggling life inside a woman and the current moral compass of our society continues to subject the most innocent of human beings to the sad and horrific consequences of unwanted pregnancies; and

Whereas, in our current social climate where individuals can do what they want without having to suffer the consequences of their actions, the government seems to have an interest in the population control that abortion offers.

Therebywhile recognizing of the competing interests and allowing a woman choosing to terminate a pregnancy, the Pitt County GOP wonders how a society, and indeed our highest courts, can legislate compassion for hardened criminals yet allow the torture and murder of an unborn human being simply because it hasn’t had the opportunity to take its first breath. 

Be It Resolved therefore, that the Pitt County GOP takes a position of greater respect and protection for the unborn, whether it be legislative, judicial, or through social policy.

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RESOLUTION DENOUNCING THE NSA’s SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICAN CITIZENS

by Diane Rufino, Deputy Director of the NC Tenth Amendment Center and Resolutions Chair of the Pitt County GOP.  The following resolution will be presented at the 2014 Pitt County GOP Convention on March 8.

RESOLUTION DENOUNCING THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY’S (NSA) UNCONSTITUTIONAL SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM and CONFISCATION of PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE

Whereas, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides:  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.“; and

Whereas, Article I, Sect. 21 (“General Warrant”) of the constitution of the state of North Carolina provides: “General warrants, whereby any officer or other person may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of the act committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and shall not be granted.”

Whereas, these provisions, both federal and state, are grounded in the right of an individual to “retreat into his home” and thereby be free from government intrusion. A man’s home should be his castle.

Whereas, these provisions recognize that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their person, their home, their papers, their computers, etc so that the government cannot detain a person without probable cause nor seize his or her personal effects to examine them or to find any instance of wrongdoing after the fact. In other words, a person has the reasonable expectation to enjoy his or her privacy without the feeling that someone or government is watching over him. This is the very essence of freedom.

Whereas, each one of the first ten amendments (known as the Bill of Rights) holds a particularly significant LIMITATION on the function of the federal government, as proclaimed in its Preamble: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire to add further declaratory and restrictive clauses in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, to extend public confidence in the Government, and to best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”;

Whereas, the Fourth Amendment, as is every other amendment comprising the Bill of Rights, is meant to be a check on the government by the People and not a check on the people by the government; and

Whereas, the test for the Fourth Amendment is “reasonableness,” and it would seem that an amendment that protects the People should have that term defined by the People (and not the federal government). The people, therefore, must be heard.

Whereas, the secret surveillance program called PRISM targets, among other  things, the communications of U.S. citizens on a vast scale and monitors searching habits of virtually every American on the internet; and

Whereas, This dragnet program is, as far as we know, the largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,  consisting of the mass acquisition of Americans’ call details encompassing all wireless and landline subscribers of the country’s three largest phone companies; and

Whereas, every time an American citizen makes a phone call, the NSA gets a record of the location, the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation; all of which are an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the protections of the Fourth Amendment; and

Whereas, the NSA monitors the phone records of billions of Americans each month and has already confiscated millions of such records; and

Whereas, unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society; this program represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association, the exercise of free speech and expression, the right to privacy, and the pursuit of happiness; and

Whereas, this program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act since the Patriot Act was passed as a response to the horrific events of 9/11 and classified those persons or communications which can be targeted for surveillance by the government (NSA) as those “relating to terrorism”;  and

Whereas, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi), an author of the Patriot Act and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee at the time Section 215 was passed (“Access to Records and Other Items Under FISA”; aka, “the Surveillance Program) called Section 215 surveillance program “an abuse of that law,” writing that, “based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.”

The Pitt County GOP denounces government policies that takes God out of schools, God out of society, morality out of the legislative process, conscience out of the bedroom, and accountability out of personal conduct, and also turns its back on border control and the infiltration of individuals that mean us and our country harm while at the same time creating safe havens and sanctuaries by embracing political correctness, and then has the audacity to use the consequences of such policies as the basis for increased government control, regulation, and surveillance.  A free people should not have to live under the threat that at any time we are breaking one federal law or another or sending“red flags” (whatever they may be defined to be) to the government.

he Pitt County GOP denounces government policy that takes God out of schools, God out of society, morality out of the legislative process, conscience out of the bedroom, and accountability out of personal conduct, and also turns its back on border control and the infiltration of individuals that mean us and our country harm while at the same time creating safe havens and sanctuaries by embracing political correctness, and then has the audacity to infer that we’re not “good enough” so that the government can spy on us all, take away our gun rights, and keep us living under the threat that at any time we are breaking one law or another;

Therefore, let it be Resolved that –

The Pitt County GOP acknowledges that American citizens, whom the government has pledged to protect from terrorist activities, now find themselves the victims of the very weapon designed to uproot their enemies.

Be it Further Resolved, that the Pitt County GOP encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the State Secrets Privilege (SSP – which is a common law privilege originating in England that of course was embraced by the Supreme Court in 1953 that allows the head of an executive department to REFUSE to produce evidence in a court case on the grounds that the evidence is secret information that would harm national security or foreign relation interests if disclosed), and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence – electronic, physical, and otherwise – of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by an express constitutional prohibition (the Fourth Amendment) law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court.

Be it Further Resolved, that the Pitt County GOP encourages Republican law makers to call for a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of the NSA’s domestic spying and the committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Be it Further Resolved, that the Pitt County GOP calls upon Republican lawmakers to immediately take action to halt current unconstitutional surveillance programs and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s data collection programs.

Be it Further Resolved that the Pitt County GOP stands firm in its position that Americans should NOT have to tolerate Big Brother watching over them.  The hallmark of American society is individual freedom. This country fought for their independence from England because through its laws and scheme of control, it made the exercise of their freedom nearly impossible and made their lives intolerable.  We have to recognize that our current government is heading in the same direction.

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RESOLUTION TO PROTECT THE SECOND AMENDMENT

by Diane Rufino, Deputy Director of the NC Tenth Amendment Center and Resolutions Chair of the Pitt County GOP.  The following resolution will be presented at the 2014 Pitt County GOP Convention on March 8.

A RESOLUTION TO PROTECT the SECOND AMENDMENT

Whereas, upon taking office, state and local elected representatives, police and sheriff departments, and other local civil servants must solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States and promise to be “faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina..”

Whereas, the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides:  “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed“; and

Whereas, each one of the first ten amendments (known as the Bill of Rights) holds a particularly significant LIMITATION on the function of the federal government, as proclaimed in its Preamble: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire to add further declaratory and restrictive clauses in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, to extend public confidence in the Government, and to best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”;

Whereas, the Second Amendment is meant to be a check on the government by the People and not a check on the people by the government; and

Whereas, Article I, Section 30 of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina provides: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained, and the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice”; and

Whereas, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not establish the right to keep and bear arms but merely recognizes it and protects it from government regulation.  Indeed, none of the provisions of the Constitution establish any “natural” rights. They recognize such rights. These rights, as proclaimed “to a candid world” in the Declaration of Independence, are “self-evident.”   And therefore, any action by a government body that attempts to repeal or burden these provisions would not end such rights;  and

Whereas, the Second Amendment was proposed by the States, acting as agents for the People, in order to secure constitutional protection and assurance that the federal government would not interfere with their right to protect themselves. So strongly did the People feel about such assurances that the Constitution would not have otherwise been ratified by the States.  One such comment at the time of the state ratifying conventions was made by Tench Coxe, a noted federalist and friend of James Madison, who wrote: “Their swords, and every other terrible instrument of the soldier, are the birth right of an American… the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or the state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.”

Whereas, the Second Amendment articulates the natural right of self-defense, from persons with evil intent, and even from one’s own government, if that need should ever arise; and

Whereas, the Second Amendment also recognizes the right, power, and duty of able-bodied persons (originally males, but now females also) to organize into militias and defend the state; and

Whereas, the United States Supreme Court in recent months has twice upheld the Second Amendment as applying to individuals’ right to keep and bear arms [District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010)]; and

Whereas, Article V of the US Constitution outlines the ONLY avenue to alter the meaning and intent of the Constitution and that is through the rigorous requirements of the amendment process; and

Whereas, all elected officials and public servants in the state of North Carolina are required to take an oath before executing the duties of their office, and this solemn oath demands that each official and servant support and uphold/maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of North Carolina; and

Whereas, esteemed Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, who presided on the bench during the very early years of our nation’s birth, offered this opinion: Any state officer or civil servant, particularly those with enforcement authority, who violates his or her oath will “be utterly worthless for…the protection of rights; for the happiness, or good order, or safety of the people.”

Whereas, recently the federal government has shown its intent to use the current climate of school-centered violence to propose legislation, regulations, qualifications, and actions which would have the effect of infringing on the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms; and

Whereas, the reasons given in support of such infringements as gun registration, banning certain kinds of weapons and accessories, requiring extreme background checks, restricting the bearing of arms such as excessive restrictions on concealed carry and possibly other restrictions, have not been shown by the substantial weight of scientific evidence to have been effective in accomplishing the stated objectives of such restrictions as compelling necessities for government action to protect the public safety; and

The Pitt County GOP takes particular notice of the “social entrapment” that the progressive element of the federal government has been engaging in for many years in order to disarm Americans of their rights to govern themselves, to express their religious beliefs (especially when they are the same ones on which our nation was founded), and to defend themselves.  For years the federal government has taken God out of the public square, taken God and morality of our schools, proclaimed that it “has no business” legislating morality, allowed women to dispose of their unborn babies out of mere inconvenience, protested for the rights of serial killers, protected extreme violence as free expression (so our kids can overdose on graphic violent video games), and ushered in a new era of social reform that fights the family unit at every turn and turns a blind eye to the mal-adapted children of broken homes and irresponsible parents.  And then it has the audacity to use the products of its degenerate policies (the ones who bring guns to schools or movie theaters, for example) to argue that people can’t be trusted with the right to own and bear arms and thereby seek to curtain the rights protected by the second amendment.

THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Pitt County GOP fully supports a full and expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment. The right to protect oneself is a natural right and not one that is defined or limited by the federal government.  As John Adams wrote, “You have Rights antecedent to all earthly governments: Rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; Rights, derived from the Great Legislator of the universe.”  And as Benjamin Franklin once said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Let it Be Further Resolved that the Pitt County GOP calls upon our local and state legislators and elected officials to join with us in the affirmation of the rights of North Carolina citizens under the 2nd Amendment.

Be it Further Resolved that the Pitt County GOP takes the position that all federal acts, laws, executive orders, agency orders, and rules or regulations of all kinds with the purpose, intent, or effect of confiscating any firearm, banning any firearm, limiting the size of a magazine for any firearm, imposing any limit on the ammunition that may be purchased for any firearm, taxing any firearm or ammunition therefore, or requiring the registration of any firearm or ammunition therefore, infringes upon North Carolinans’ right to bear arms in direct violation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and therefore, any such law is not made in pursuance of the Constitution, is not authorized by the Constitution, and thus, is not the supreme law of the land, and consequently, is invalid in the State of North Carolina and shall be further considered null and void.

Be it Further Resolved that the Pitt County GOP takes the position that all officials, local and state, should refuse to support and endorse any policy of the federal government that serves to erode the spirit and intent of the Second Amendment. Any endorsement of such policy shall amount to a clear and palpable violation of his or her oath of office, as well as a negligent comprehension of the notion that we are a “nation of laws, based on the US Constitution.”

Be it Further Resolved that the Pitt County takes the position that all officials and agencies of Pitt County, and indeed, all officials and agencies of the state of North Carolina, should refuse requests and directives by federal agencies acting under unconstitutional powers (enumerated above) that would infringe upon our residents’ second, fourth, ninth, and tenth amendment rights, or other inalienable rights not here explicitly enumerated, and no local or state resource shall be used to assist in the implementation of any such unconstitutional federal policy, directive, law, or executive order.

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RESOLUTION OPPOSING COMMON CORE

by Diane Rufino, Deputy Director of the NC Tenth Amendment Center and Resolutions Chair of the Pitt County GOP.  The following resolution will be presented at the 2014 Pitt County GOP Convention on March 8.

RESOLUTION OPPOSING COMMON CORE EDUCATION STANDARDS

WHEREAS, Common Core (CC) is a set of (math and English language arts) academic standards, created by two private membership organizations, the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and promoted as a “State Standards initiative” and as a method for conforming American students to uniform “internationally-benchmarked” achievement goals to make them more competitive in a global marketplace (www.commoncore.org), and

WHEREAS, Common Core is being promoted as a “state initiative,” that description is merely offered to give the public the illusion that the agenda is “state-led.” Common Core standards were actually initiated by private interests in Washington DC and not by state lawmakers. Both the NGA and the CCSSO are both DC-based trade associations (organizations founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry) which used ACHIEVE, Inc. to do the creative work. ACHIEVE, Inc. is a progressive non-profit group based out of DC which has received much of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and

WHEREAS, Common Core uses copyrights and licenses to control its top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education. A “one-size-fits-all” approach frustrates the very thing that makes a teacher a real “teacher” – her ability to recognize and address the fact that every child learns differently, progresses at a different pace, and responds differently to teaching strategies. The CC standards were founded on a severely flawed idea – that every child can learn the same way and at the same pace. It assumes that every child across America will “be on the same page at the same time”; and=

Whereas, Common Core is designed to bridge gaps in education performance, just as “No Child Left Behind” was designed to do. A one-size-fits-all approach to education that aims to bridge gaps is a formula for failure. A system of education can’t concentrate on bringing certain groups of students up without bringing many others down at the same time; and

WHEREAS, Common Core changes the fundamental role of education – from teaching HOW to think and process information to WHAT to think. Common Core teaches for job placement. The emphasis that Common Core puts on “job placement” puts the focus of our education system primarily on the economy and not on the well-being of our children; and

WHEREAS, the promoters of the Common Core standards claim they are based in research, the truth is that the creators were not researchers or educators or otherwise qualified to write the standards; and

WHEREAS, Common Core is an “untested” curriculum, which has not been field-tested anywhere, and which comes with a potential human price tag (requiring experimenting on our precious children), and

WHEREAS, Common Core comes with an enormous price tag (independent estimates put the cost at $14-16 billion over 7 years) yet that cost is not built in anywhere; and

WHEREAS, Common Core will require “Data Mining,” which is an unconstitutional invasion of an individual’s right to privacy under the 4th amendment. For those states who have adopted Common Core to continue being eligible for Obama’s “Race to the Top” federal funding (which includes North Carolina), they will be obliged to implement a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) in order to track students. They will track students by obtaining personally identifiable information, including such intimate details as the SS# of parents, mother’s maiden name, political affiliation or beliefs of the student and parents, mental and psychological problems of the child and family, sex behavior or attitudes, a history of personal behavior (including illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior), special relationships (with lawyers, physicians, ministers, etc), religious beliefs and affiliations, and income. Furthermore, changes have been made to the federal FERPA law (Family Education Rights & Privacy Act), which took effect on January 3, 2012 expanding the definition of two key terms – (1) “personally identifiable information” and (2) “authorized representatives.” In short, the revised law permits a lot of the information collected by data mining to be shared with the Attorney General of the United States without student or parent permission.  [http://www2.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/proprule/1999-2/060199e.html  and       http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dangerous-federal-ferpa-changes/ ];  and

Whereas, education is not an enumerated power delegated to the federal government by the States in Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. Common Core, and the government’s participation in it runs afoul of the Tenth Amendment, as education is a right reserved to the States. The government knows it doesn’t have the power to invade the states and create a one-size-fits-all take-over of education, yet it uses its power of conditional spending to achieve the same purpose (an end-run around the Constitution). If the federal government has enough money to bribe the states to adopt its policies with taxpayer money, then the government is clearly overtaxing the American people. It should tax less and allow the states to tax more so at least the states can use its people’s money to serve their interests; and 

Whereas, the responsibility over education was designated to the state government by the people of North Carolina in their state constitution. It has no business being delegated to an un-elected, un-accountable group of persons who are administrative in function; and

Whereas, Common Core was adopted, like Obamacare was by the US House, by a group of public servants who did not read it or due any form of due diligence, which is rightfully inferred and expected in their position; and

Whereas, Common Core was adopted solely for the purposes of applying for and acquiring federal “Race to the Top” funding. It had nothing to do with ownership and responsibility of education to the citizens of the State. By placing funding before the legitimate responsibility of our State through an exercise of state sovereignty and before the legitimate interests of parents who want accountability and a voice in their children’s education, the state Board of Education has taken the carrot of coercion that puts our state under the power of an organization that thinks it knows better than the people and officials of North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, Common Core will force consistency and uniformity across the nation. As long as the States are bribed and coerced into adopting a national one-size-fits-all education scheme, then education in general (and in North Carolina specifically) will suffer severely because the states, as 50 independent laboratories of experimentation, will be precluded from trying to innovate and improve education and find solutions to the problems that plague our current education system (in other words, this imposed uniformity will stifle the innovation that federalism fosters); and

Therefore, let it be –

RESOLVED, that the Pitt County GOP demands that the state Board of Education and our state legislators acknowledge and meaningfully address these criticisms of the Common Core Standards; and

RESOLVED, that the Pitt County GOP rejects the collection of personal student data for any non-educational purpose without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent and that it rejects the sharing of such personal data, without the prior written consent of an adult student or a child student’s parent, with any person or entity other than schools or education agencies within the state; and

RESOLVED, that the Pitt County GOP emphatically urges our Legislators to get further involved in the current debate over Common Core, to halt implementation of the standards while a state initiative is pursued to do the due diligence that the state Board of Education failed to do and perhaps take an independent state-based approach to the improvement of our education system, and to eventually introduce legislation to remove this system permanently from our schools in North Carolina.

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As We Recognize the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Fetus (face, sucking thumb)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Diane Rufino, January 22, 2014

On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we take stock of how the high court has repeatedly twisted the Constitution to undermine family values and to negate the benefits of federalism.

More and more we hear people complain of being forced to live their lives according to dictates and mandates by the government that are morally reprehensible to them. More and more we hear entire states suggest that it would be better for their self-interest if they separated from the United States. The values of North Carolina are not the values (thank God!) of New York.  The values of South Carolina are not the values of California. And the values of Texas are not the values of New Jersey. And if the vision of our Founding Fathers, as memorialized in the federal design of government and in the Tenth Amendment, were respected today by the federal government and particularly the Supreme Court, each state would be free to embrace the values that their people chose. We would have 50 different “communities,” each offering their citizens the opportunity to live as they see fit and as would most effectively promote their “pursuit of happiness.”  So, if a family in New York decided that the values in that state were counter-productive to the raising and education of their children, for example, they might have the opportunity to move to another state where conditions and values more closely suit the philosophy that best defines their life.

How did we get this “one-size-fits-all” approach to the several states?  There is only one authority that has the power to do so – the federal government.  The government, through its commandeering of the Court system and its exclusive power to define the provisions and powers listed in the Constitution, has broken down the boundaries that allow each state to remain unique.  The same government that embraces diversity in human beings denies diversity in the individual states. Without a doubt, the Court has used this power to its fullest advantage, not only to centralize more power in its three branches and to weaken the States, but also to engineer a new social order. The new social order has signaled a decline in America. The “one-size-fits-all” approach has caused Americans great frustration because it offers them no alternatives.  In nearly every aspect of their lives, aside from physical address and scenery, people are being told they have only ONE WAY to live their lives. They have to conform to ONE WAY of thinking. Under the guise of tolerance, they are FORCED to embrace policies that offend rights of conscience and offend traditional notions of decency and conduct.

On this 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I thought we might take a look at this case and see how the Court furthered its goal to re-engineer American society and to re-prioritize our national values.

On January 22, 1973, seven non-elected members of the US Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision – a decision that rivals, in utter disgust, the holding of Dred Scott.  Both cases determine (or should I say, undermine) the worth of a class of human beings. But aside from that, the question is this:  Was the issue at stake one for the federal government to decide or one for the States?

The question before the Court was whether the US Constitution embraces the right of a woman to have an abortion. Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane ROE, was a single woman who became pregnant and then sought to have an abortion. Texas law at the time (which dated back to 1854) did not allow a woman to have an abortion and terminate a pregnancy, unless that pregnancy threatened the life of the mother. She sued in order to prevent Dallas Attorney General Henry Wade from enforcing that law and hopefully to invalidate the law. Well, that should be clarified.  She didn’t want to sue.  It was only when two lawyers representing a Womans’ Rights activist group approached her and convinced her to sue and challenge the abortion statute that she agreed to be “their girl.”  The ambitious lawyers argued that McCorvey’s ability to control her fertility should be recognized and protected by the Bill of Rights (thereby safe from government action to violate it, and through the 14th amendment, safe from any state action as well).  In other words, they asked the Court to recognize a woman’s right to control her fertility, even after a child has been created.

Why didn’t anyone argue that she already has the power and the right to control her fertility. It’s called “consent or non-consent to sexual intercourse.”  The power lies with her.  She holds the power to have children – thanks to the Laws of Nature.  And she also holds the power as to when she will have those children.  If she decides to engage in sexual activity with protection and that protection fails, she has the option of immediately addressing the situation.  After all, a fertilized egg doesn’t immediately begin its program to create life. Even after 12 hours after conception, the fertilized egg cell still remains a single cell.  Only after approximately 30 hours does it finally begin to divide from one cell into 2 cells.  And then another 15 or so hours after that, it divides again, to yield four cells.  At the end of three days, the conception event is merely a ball of 16 cells. Does that group of 16 cells establish “life”?   (That, fortunately or unfortunately, is not the question of this piece).

Issues of marriage and family are ones rightfully reserved to the States. It has always been so.  The federal government knows this and the justices of the Supreme Court know this too.  But by finding a new provision in the Bill of Rights – one not expressly articulated – the Court was able to make universal policy on abortion. That “invisible” provision is the right to Privacy.  Has anyone read the Bill of Rights lately?  Has anyone found that one listed?  I think if our Founders wanted the bundle of rights embraced by privacy in general, that amendment would have been one of those included.  The Supreme Court rejected the argument that the right to an abortion is one embraced by the Ninth Amendment.  As mentioned above, a woman has always had the right to control her fertility. It’s called consent and non-consent.  That’s why abortion laws have always contained exceptions for cases when the woman has been raped. The right to an abortion is a distinct right.

The bigger issue in Roe v. Wade, as is clear from the decision and later comments by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was the ability of women to compete equally in the workforce.  Women cannot compete equally if they are continually “held back” by an unwanted pregnancy. That was the issue at the heart of Roe v. Wade – not the definition of life or the right to life. The particulars of how they got that issue to the Court is what makes this case so very disturbing.  Womens’ Rights activists used the issue at stake in the case to sacrifice the lives of unborn children to advance their agenda….  The same agenda that the government also felt compelled to promote.

Here are some of the arguments that the supporters of Roe advocated as being vital to a Woman’s Right to Terminate a Pregnancy:  They said the right to an abortion helps to preserve women’s rights, her personal freedom, and her privacy. A denial of the right, they argued, would be condemn women to compulsory motherhood and ‘involuntary servitude’ in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.

McCorvey was single at the time of her pregnancy. She was a drug abuser and had left her husband (and two children). After her third pregnancy (at issue in the lawsuit), which ended in the child’s birth (because of the length of the case), she gave up the child for adoption and went on to become a lesbian for awhile.  It’s nice that such people who have such a problem conforming their conduct are the ones that dominate our courts and are responsible for the social engineering that has defined the new America.  Where is the notion that laws are supposed to promote good and productive behavior and discourage bad and unproductive behavior?

How sad that our nation’s highest court was able to “stretch” and re-define the US Constitution to find rights for women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy but continues to refuse to find the same latitude in the Constitution to find that an unborn child has any rights at all.  (Sure the decision holds that the right to an abortion is not absolute and it has to be balanced against the State’s countervailing interests in preserving the health of the woman and in protecting the “potential” life of the unborn child, but for all practical purposes and in light of subsequent cases that emphatically state that obstacles to a woman’s right to an abortion on demand are unconstitutional, the right to an abortion is absolute).  How sad that we have to read accounts of fully-formed babies being aborted and terminated. (that is, KILLED). Termination is what you do to an employee or a contract.  Murder and killing is what you do to a living human being that intentionally deprives it of its life.  How sad that we have to be a country divided among people who value life all life and those who value life except that which grows inside a woman that happens to burden her ambitions or complicate her life.

As it stands today, every woman in the United States has the legal right to obtain an abortion in all 50 states, through all nine months of pregnancy, for virtually any reason at all.  After all, the autonomous decision to have such is built into the Constitution.  And the 14th Amendment incorporates the rights as against the States as well (even though the 14th Amendment requires each incorporated right to be one that is historically rooted in our American notion of ordered liberty).  All of this is the legacy of Roe v. Wade.  As John T. Noonan, senior circuit judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote: “Roe v. Wade may stand as the most radical decision ever issued by the Supreme Court.”

If the Court had only the backbone and conviction to respect the Tenth Amendment and the issues that traditionally belong to the individual states, the issue of abortion could have been decided by the individual states.  Chances are that New York and other liberal states would embrace such a right (at the expense of the helpless unborn) while the states populated by people who respect all life would likely take a different approach….  They might likely reserve abortion in instances when the life of the mother is certainly at serious risk, or they might have programs of adoption for those who are unwilling to keep the child they give birth to, or they might have a robust Church communities that develop programs to care for the children of unwanted pregnancies, or maybe, just maybe, hey might have aggressive public school programs and social programs that EMPHASIZE and promote abstinence.

The point is that the people of each state have a right – a reserved right – to determine issues of social policy within their borders. Each state has the right to guide and determine the kind of citizen it would like to live within its borders (that’s why education is so important as an state initiative) and the kinds of communities (absent any glaring true constitutional violations) to support them.

So, on this 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we have to ponder the consequences of the decision.  We have legally declared that a class of human beings has no legal rights (as Dred Scott did to African-Americans) and we have condemned millions to torture and death, simply for the opportunity for women to compete equally with men in the workforce.  As George Bush once said: “The fingers and toes and beating hearts that we can see on an unborn child’s ultrasound come with something that we cannot see… a soul.”  We have to be disgusted at both the decision itself and the legal wrangling that our highest court used to usurp state authority and further create the “one-size-fits-all” degenerate social state that we have now.

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Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Where is the Honest and Open Discussion?

Mark Levin (with smirk)

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Diane Rufino, January 5, 2014

When the original 13 states came together to discuss the possibility of establishing a confederacy, at the urging of Benjamin Franklin (“Join or Die”), they did so with a great deal of hope, but also a great deal of trepidation. The hope was that a federal government might be formed that could provide greater security and stability to the colonies.  The hope was that it might handle the few issues that were common to all the states but which could not be dealt with by the states individually. The fears, on the other hand, were that this government might come to gain an enormous amount of power; that this power might come to be concentrated in the hands of very few; and that the federal government as a whole might end up overreaching its authority and end up meddling in affairs that ought rightly to be left to the states and the various local governments (if not individuals themselves).

The Constitution created a limited government, which is evidenced in four obvious ways: (1) The Constitution was framed in such a way that the power of the federal government would be split between three separate branches – each acting as a check-and-balance on the power of the others; (2) The power of the federal government as a whole was limited to certain specific areas;(3) Government power structure was split between two co-equal sovereigns – the individual states and the federal government (emphasized or restated by the Tenth Amendment); and (4) A Bill of Rights (“further declaratory statements and restrictive clauses to prevent the government from misconstruing or abusing its powers..”) to put further limitations on government power.

For 200 years, this structure has been eroded, always at the hand of the federal government. After numerous overt acts of usurpation, constitutional amendments, and loose interpretations of the Constitution itself, each of the branches of government has managed to seize more power than it was ever meant to have. Now, as we see and feel most acutely, the federal government involves itself in matters that are neither federal in nature nor are subject to its jurisdiction.  It insinuates itself into virtually every aspect of public and private life, including political, economic, and social.  When we listen to a young mother in Alabama cry because the new healthcare mandate has increased her insurance premiums each month by over $100 and has presented her with a dilemma that is causing her great heartache and distress (she wants to work and do the right thing, but if she does, she can’t afford the increase in healthcare premiums, and so she is faced with the choice that puts and her family on welfare), then we understand how destructive the government has become and how far it has strayed from its intended purpose.

Those who support Nullification have put the alert out years ago. They assert that the federal government can rightfully be divested of such unconstitutional power by having the States call the government out on its conduct and refusing to enforce unconstitutional laws. But Nullification is not a term or a concept that the average American has heard before and so it has not been roundly embraced.  But it is catching on finally. In fact, support is growing exponentially. As more and more people (Thomas Woods and Mike Church, for example) and groups (The Tenth Amendment Center) educate those who are willing to listen, audiences are finding that it makes sense and is indeed a constitutional and viable remedy.

And then there are others, such as famed radio personality, Mark Levin, who advocate for a different approach.  Mr. Levin recently wrote a book entitled “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic,” in which he proposes what he believes is the ONLY viable solution to restoring constitutional governance, which is an Article V State Convention.

In his book, Mr. Levin writes:

I undertook this project not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured, is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite – that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan.  The Statists have been successful in their century-long march to disfigure mangle the constitutional order and undo the social compact. To disclaim the Statists’ campaign and aims is to imprudently ignore the inventions and schemes hatched and promoted openly by their philosophers, experts, and academics, and the coercive application of their designs on the citizenry by a delusional governing elite. Their handiwork is omnipresent, for all to see – a centralized and consolidated government with a ubiquitous network of laws and rules actively suppressing individual initiative, self-interest, and success in the name of the greater good and on behalf of the larger community. The nation has entered an age of post-constitutional soft tyranny

Unlike the modern Statist, who defies, ignores, or rewrites the Constitution for the purpose of evasion, I propose that we, the people, take a closer look at the Constitution for our preservation.  The Constitution itself provides the means for restoring self-government and averting societal catastrophe in Article V.  Article V sets for the two processes for amending the Constitution, the second of which I have emphasized in italics:

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress….”

Importantly, in neither case does the Article V amendment process provide for a constitutional convention. The second method, involving the direct application of two-thirds of the state legislatures for a Convention for proposing Amendments, which would thereafter also require a three-fourths ratification vote by the states, has been tried in the past but without success.  Today it sits dormant.

The fact is that Article V expressly grants state legislatures significant authority to rebalance the constitutional structure for the purpose of restoring our founding principles should the federal government shed its limitations, abandon its original purpose, and grow too powerful, as many delegates in Philadelphia and the state conventions had worried it might.   [Levin, pp. 1-13]

Levin then goes on to propose a set of eleven (11) Amendments – which he terms “Liberty Amendments” – that an Article V Convention might want to propose in order to rebalance the government (the creature created by the Constitution):  These proposed Amendments include:  (1) term limits for members of Congress; (2) the election of Senators to be returned to state legislatures; (3) term limits for Supreme Court Justices (and the opportunity for federal and state legislatures to override Supreme Court decisions with a supermajority); (4) limits on federal spending (with an eye to curbing federal debt); (5) limits on taxation; (6) limits on how much power Congress can delegate to the federal bureaucracy; (7) limiting the federal government from interfering with economic activity that does not pertain to interstate or international trade; (8) requiring the government to compensate property owners for the devaluation of property caused by regulations; (9) allowing the states to amend the constitution directly (without having to go through Congress); (10) granting states the right to overturn the laws and regulations of Congress with a supermajority;  and (11) requiring voters to produce photo identification at election booths.

Notice that Mr. Levin writes that “in neither case does the Article V amendment process provide for a constitutional convention.”  Why would he include that statement?  Both conservatives and liberals have routinely referred to an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments” as a “Constitutional Convention” or Con-Con for well over 30 years, and likely much longer.  Is it possible that they ALL have mistakenly assumed that the words “constitutional convention” are found in Article V?  Is it possible the government itself is also mistaken?  When the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on November 29, 1979, regarding the role of Congress in calling an Article V convention, the official name of the hearing as published by the Government Printing Office in a 1,372-page document was “Constitutional Convention Procedures.” This hearing was held because the number of states petitioning Congress to hold an Article V convention to propose a balanced budget amendment was rapidly approaching the necessary 34 states.

And what about the “populist lovefest,” better known as the Harvard Conference on the Constitutional Convention, held at Harvard on September 24-25, 2011, which was cosponsored by the Harvard Law School and (surprisingly) by the Tea Party Patriots as well?  Of course, Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments” hadn’t been published yet, so the people at Harvard and the Tea Party Patriots didn’t realize that they were using a forbidden phrase, “constitutional convention,” to refer to an Article V convention.

Perhaps it’s worthwhile to take a look at that Conference and watch videos of the various panel discussions to understand why holding a constitutional convention could open Pandora’s Box.  The host of the Conference, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, and the moderator of the Closing Panel, Richard Parker, both committed populists, advocated for greater democracy in our country. They believe more and more issues should be decided by popular vote.  (Parker can trace his political history back to the 1960s organization, Students for a Democratic Society).  They believe that holding an Article V constitutional convention will help get them where they want to go.

Perhaps the reason Levin wants to deny the validity of the phrase “constitutional convention” is that one of the most persuasive arguments against holding such a convention is based on the contention, the criticism, and indeed the fear that such a convention could become a “runaway” convention based either on the inherent nature of “constitutional conventions” or on what transpired at our original “Constitutional Convention” in 1787.

How is it that Mr. Levin is convinced that an Article V convention could never become a “runaway” convention?  On page 15 of his book he writes: “I was originally skeptical of amending the Constitution by the state convention process. I fretted it could turn into a runaway convention process…. However, today I am a confident and enthusiastic advocate for the process. The text of Article V makes clear that there is a serious check in place. Whether the product of Congress or a convention, a proposed amendment has no effect at all unless ‘ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…’  This should extinguish anxiety that the state convention process could hijack the Constitution.”

So, in this excerpt, Levin admits that he shares the concerns of others that an Article V convention could turn into a “runaway convention.”  Yet he is confident that he has overcome those concerns with his belief that “Article V makes clear that there is a serious check in place,” namely the requirement of ratification of amendments by three-fourths of the states. There are several reasons why Levin should not be so assured that this is a “serious check” in place to stop a runaway convention.  Larry Greenley points these reasons out in his article, “Levin’s Risky Proposal: A Constitutional Convention”:

First, the “ratification by three-fourths of the States” requirement of Article V already has failed to prevent undesirable amendments from being ratified. Consider the 16th Amendment (the federal income tax), the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators), and the 18th Amendment (prohibition). All three were ratified by at least three-fourths of the states, but most constitutionalists would likely agree that all three were bad amendments and should not have been ratified. In particular, many constitutionalists think that changing the method of choosing U.S. senators from appointment by state legislatures to direct election by the voters in each state as provided by the 17th Amendment has been extremely damaging to our constitutional republic. James Madison spoke ever so strongly for this important design feature at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, in his rebuttal of Patrick Henry who accused the Constitution of potentially granting too much power to the federal government.  “The deliberations of the members of the Federal House of Representatives, will be directed to the interests of the people of America. As to the other branch, the Senators will be appointed by the State Legislatures, and secures AN ABSOLUTE DEPENDENCE OF THE FORMER ON THE LATTER.”  The Senate was a direct “federal” element within the very design of the federal government. Its power to refuse to approve a legislative act of the House that is against the reserved powers and interests of States is precisely what the doctrine of Nullification provides.

Second, it is hard to predict just how much pressure the American public can put on state legislators or state convention delegates to get some future undesirable amendment or amendments ratified by the three-fourths rule. We all know what happens when big money and special interests groups send out their tentacles. When big money, special interest groups, and political power pour in to try to influence the delegate-selection process and the convention business itself, the people lose their voice.  Experience has shown that we can’t trust public servants once they go behind closed doors. We saw what happened with the healthcare bill.

Third, it is quite possible that an Article V constitutional convention would specify some new method of ratification for its proposed amendments. After all, our original Constitutional Convention in 1787, an important precedent for any future constitutional convention, changed the ratification procedure for the new Constitution from the unanimous approval of all 13 state legislatures required by the Articles of Confederation to the approval by 9 state conventions in Article VII of the new Constitution.

But for those who are not quite comforted by Levin’s argument that Article V provides the very means to control its convention, he offers still another method to ease our concerns about a runaway convention. On page 16, he quotes from Robert G. Natelson, a former professor of law at the University of Montana: “[An Article V] convention for proposing amendments is a federal convention; it is a creature of the states or, more specifically, of the state legislatures. And it is a limited-purpose convention. It is not designed to set up an entirely new constitution or a new form of government.”  Too many others, including notable intellectuals, constitutional scholars, and even former US Supreme Court justices beg to disagree on this point.

Many constitutionalists will also agree that Levin is encouraging Americans to play with fire by promoting a constitutional convention. Just because the Constitution authorizes Article V conventions to amend the Constitution doesn’t mean that it would be wise at this time in our nation’s history to call one.

While pro-Article V convention enthusiasts tell us that this is a great time for an Article V convention because the Republican Party controls 26 of the 50 state legislatures (the Democrats control 18, five are split, and one is non-partisan), and therefore could surely block the ratification of any harmful amendments proposed by an Article V convention, they are omitting from this analysis that very many of the Republican state legislators are not constitutionalists, and could end up in alliance with Democrats to ratify some harmful amendments. Not to mention the likelihood that constitutionalists would be in the minority at the convention for proposing amendments itself.

There is no doubt that Mr. Levin has done his homework with respect to the Article V Convention.  But it is clear from the strong and sometimes rabid response to his book that he has not made the case strong enough to quell the legitimate fears of many who believe such a Convention is akin to opening a can of worms. I use the expression because it means: “something that (often unexpectedly) sets in motion that which has unanticipated and wide-reaching consequences.”  Or as TN Tenth Amendment Center leader Michael Lotfi puts it: “An Article V constitutional convention of the states is not the right answer; it is the bullet to a loaded revolver pointed at the Constitution.”  Knowing that the Nullification movement is gaining momentum, Levin made it a point, in promoting his book, to try to discredit the “rightful remedy” of Jefferson and the “duty of the states” approach of Madison.  He did not do it in a civil, educated manner but rather resorted to referring to Nullification as “idiocy” and Nullifers as “kooks.”  I imagine that if Thomas Jefferson were listening to Mark Levin’s assertion of how to address a government that willingly and defiantly passes unconstitutional laws, he would think he was a “kook.”

I would also think that Jefferson would conclude that people who think narrowly, as Levin does in his book and in his commentary to promote his book (including the rejection of nullification) are incapable of saving a republic that is on the brink of imploding.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

The only object upon which the Constitution acts is the federal government. It is its playbook; it defines its jurisdiction. It is also its restraining order. Yet each time the government did not wish to be confined by it, it used one of the three branches (most notably the Supreme Court) to reinterpret it and enlarge government powers, regardless that the ONLY way the government can rightfully be altered is by amendments (Article V). The point is that the government has refused to adhere to the limitations set forth in the Constitution…. the limitations that the States demanded and relied upon when debating and deciding whether to relinquish some of their sovereign power and ratify the compact that formed the government.  So here is Levin’s solution:  Even though the Constitution clearly defines the government’s powers and sets forth limitations, and even though the government has repeatedly and systematically refused to adhere to those limitations, he believes the only way to limit the government going forward is to make the States go through a series of hurdles (Article V’s requirements) in order to try to add a new set of restrictive amendments.  Levin himself has pointed out that such a State Convention may not successfully happen and even if it does, it may take up to 20 years or more add such amendments.  We can predict what will happen.  The government will ignore them or quickly find a way to erode them or get around them.  There is no guarantee that the amendments will restore the proper balance of power in government.  According to Levin, the parties who have been the victims of the government’s usurpations, the States and the People themselves (the rightful depositories or reservations of sovereign power) – have no other recourse or remedy except to take their slim chances with an Article V State Convention, a remedy that has NEVER been used before and hence has no proven record of success.  In other words, the States and the People MUST abide strictly by the provisions of the Constitution when the federal government has never done so.  Levin stands by his proposition even though the people of the states already have the extra-constitutional right to convene a constitutional convention by virtue of the Declaration of Independence. That’s exactly what the Philadelphia Convention was…  an exercise of this right (which is referred to as the Theory of Popular Sovereignty), because the Articles of Confederation created a so-called “perpetual Union.”

Article XIII of the Articles read: “Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State…..  And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.”

The Theory of Popular Sovereignty wasn’t just the design of men like Thomas Jefferson (VA), John Adams (MA), Benjamin Franklin (PA), Roger Sherman (CT) and Robert R. Livingston (NY), the committee appointed on June 11, 1776 by the Continental Congress to draft the Declaration of Independence, it was indeed a consensus notion among the whole of our Founding Fathers. Consider for example what Edmund Pendleton, president of the Virginia Ratifying Convention, said to the delegates on June 5, 1788:

We, the people, possessing all power, form a government, such as we think will secure happiness: and suppose, in adopting this plan, we should be mistaken in the end; where is the cause of alarm on that quarter? In the same plan we point out an easy and quiet method of reforming what may be found amiss. No, but, say gentlemen, we have put the introduction of that method in the hands of our servants, who will interrupt it from motives of self-interest. What then?… Who shall dare to resist the people? No, we will assemble in Convention; wholly recall our delegated powers, or reform them so as to prevent such abuse; and punish those servants who have perverted powers, designed for our happiness, to their own emolument.

Although there are some ambiguities in this passage, Pendleton appears to be assuring the delegates that if the Constitution turned out not to secure happiness for Americans, then it could be reformed by the “easy and quiet” methods of Article V.  However, if the Article V process were to be subverted by “our servants,” the state and federal legislators, then We the People (the sovereign people) would assemble in convention, wholly recall and reform the delegated powers of the Constitution, and punish the offending servants.

Former US Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg addressed the topic of a Constitutional Convention with skeptism back in 1986.  He wrote:

As we look forward to celebrating the bicentennial of the Constitution, a few people have asked, “Why not another constitutional convention?”

I would respond by saying that one of the most serious problems Article V poses is a runaway convention.  There is no enforceable mechanism to prevent a convention from reporting out wholesale changes to our Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Moreover, the absence of any mechanism to ensure representative selection of delegates could put a runaway convention at the hands of single-issue groups whose self-interest may be contrary to our national well-being.
A constitutional convention could lead to sharp confrontations between Congress and the states. For example, Congress may frustrate the states by treating some state convention applications as invalid, or by insisting on particular parliamentary rules for a convention, or by mandating a restricted convention agenda. If a convention did run away, Congress might decline to forward to the states for ratification those proposed amendments not within the convention’s original mandate.

History has established that the Philadelphia Convention was a success, but it cannot be denied that it broke every restraint intended to limit its power and agenda.  Logic therefore compels one conclusion: Any claim that the Congress could, by statute, limit a convention’s agenda is pure speculation, and any attempt at limiting the agenda would almost certainly be unenforceable.  It would create a sense of security where none exists, and it would project a false image of unity.

Opposition to a constitutional convention at this point in our history does not indicate a distrust of the American public, but in fact recognizes the potential for mischief. We have all read about the various plans being considered for Constitutional change. Could this nation tolerate the simultaneous consideration of a parliamentary system, returning to the gold standard, gun control, ERA, school prayer, abortion vs. right to life and anti-public interest laws?

As individuals, we may well disagree on the merits of particular issues that would likely be proposed as amendments to the Constitution; however, it is my firm belief that no single issue or combination of issues is so important as to warrant jeopardizing our constitutional system of governance at this point of our history, particularly since Congress and the Supreme Court are empowered to deal with these matters.

James Madison, the father of our Constitution, recognized the perils inherent in a second constitutional convention when he said an Article V national convention would “give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partisans on both sides; it would probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already heated too many men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric. Under all of these circumstances, it seems scarcely to be presumable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good.  Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first convention which assembled under every propitious (promising) circumstance, I would tremble for the result of a second.”
Let’s turn away from this risky business of a convention, and focus on the enduring inspiration of our Constitution.

The bicentennial should be an occasion of celebrating that magnificent document. It is our basic law; our inspiration and hope, the opinion of our minds and spirit; it is our defense and protection, our teacher and our continuous example in the quest for equality, dignity and opportunity for all people in this nation. It is an instrument of practical and viable government and a declaration of faith — faith in the spirit of liberty and freedom.

Arthur Goldberg

Constitutional attorney, Publius Huldah, also rejects the Article V Convention as the effective means to restore our country to its intended constitutional republic.  She takes the position that as the rightful depositories of government power are the Individuals and resistance to tyranny is not only a natural right but a duty. She therefore supports the rightful remedy of Nullification to enforce obedience to the Constitution.  She writes, in her article Mark Levin Refuted: Keep the Feds in Check with Nullification, Not Amendments!, that the Oath of Office, addressed in Article VI, last clause, requires both federal  and state officials to support and defend the Constitution.  This requires them to refuse to submit to – ie, to nullify! – acts of the federal government which violate the Constitution.  “This is how they “support” the Constitution!”  As to Mr. Levin’s assertion that an Article V Convention is the proper, safe, and legal mechanism to restore constitutional limitations to a government historically unwilling to abide by them, she argues that while he admitted (on pg. 15 of the book) that the process has the potential to turn into a “runaway” convention, he never successfully explained why Article V can effectively prevent that from happening.

Publius writes: “The claims of the nullification deniers have been proven to be false.  To persist in those claims – or to do as Levin seems to do and ignore the remedy of nullification – is intellectually and morally indefensible.  Instead, they continue to tell us that what we need is a “convention of the States” to propose amendments to the Constitution, and that this is the only way out. They tell us, the only way to deal with a federal government which consistently ignores and tramples over the Constitution is to amend the Constitution!   Do you see how silly that is?”

Publius Huldah

Michael Lotfi, the Associate Director of the Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center, wrote an excellent article comparing the Article V State Convention remedy of Mark Levin to Nullification, the remedy of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (collectively, the authors of all our foundational documents, except the Articles of Confederation).  The article is entitled: Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Why Levin is Wrong.  (See prior post on this NC TAC site).  He wrote: “Calling for a convention to amend the Constitution with amendments shows absence in sound judgment.”  Further, he wrote: “Levin proposes an Article V constitutional convention of the states as salvation. Not only is an Article V constitutional convention not the right answer, it is the bullet to a loaded revolver pointed at the Constitution.”

Lotfi talks about some of the unconstitutional laws, agencies, and actions that the government has imposed over the years – “the NSA, NDAA, ObamaCare, the Patriot Act, EPA, DOE, every war since the 1940s, federal gun laws, etc.  These laws and agencies all fly in the face of the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments.”  He asks how a process that potentially may take as long as 20 years but more likely won’t work at all will address these gross usurpations.  We must not forget that these amendments were adopted as EXPRESS limitations on the federal government.  The Preamble to the Bill of Rights explains it best: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

How is it that the government can find a way to limit the effect of the first ten amendments when those amendments were intended to limit the government and keep those particular objects OFF LIMITS with respect to the federal government?

Mr. Lotfi gives a wonderful explanation of the legitimacy of Nullification.  He writes:

The powers delegated to Congress are few and defined. The Tenth Amendment provides explicit validation for nullification, “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” (emphasis added).

In regards to nullification, does the Constitution delegate this power to the federal government? It obviously does not. Does the Constitution explicitly prohibit nullification? It does not. It can now easily be concluded that nullification is a power reserved for the people of their respective states.

The Ninth Amendment expounds even further the right to nullification. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Jefferson explained that nullification was a natural right belonging to the people and their respective states. Because the Constitution does not expressly prohibit nullification, the federal government cannot deny or disparage this natural right of the people.

Just as so many intellectuals have requested that Mark Levin stop the name-calling and have an intellectual, honest, and dignified debate on the topic of Nullification, Mr. Lotfi has done the same.  He ends his article with this message: “Levin is perhaps the most appreciated and admired political talk show host in America. Rightfully so, he has earned his accolades. However, with such clout comes an incredible responsibility to not only seek truth, but to display the humility and courage to admit when you are wrong.”

Michael Lotfi

Mr. Lotfi hit the nail on the head in his article with respect to Nullification. He addressed what I believe is the most powerful of the opponent’s arguments – Madison’s remarks following the Nullification crisis of 1832. Most are too uneducated or too shallow in their willingness to read more than a page of history and so they just don’t get that Madison was trying to explain that the particular situation wasn’t one that can be rightfully addressed by nullification. Nullification, at its core, requires an act by the federal government that exceeds the powers delegated to it under the Constitution. Congress rightfully has the power to legislate regarding tariffs. The Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 (tariffs of abomination) were within Congress’s rightful exercise of power. And so nullification was not the proper or rightful remedy to challenge it or to assert as the basis for non-compliance. The real argument was the one that Calhoun originally made, which rested on the Compact Nature of the States. He claimed that when the States came together and drafted the Constitution and then ratified it, they were guided by the concept of social compact. They agreed to give up some of their sovereign power (a “burden,” in contract terms) in return for the understanding that the federal government so created (the creature) would be their “common agent” and would serve them equally (the “benefit,” in contract terms). Even James Madison, and many of our other founders, acknowledged the compact nature of the Constitution. At the VA Ratifying Convention, Madison prefaced his speech with these words:  “A Federal Government is formed for the PROTECTION of its individual members.” Calhoun argued that under the compact nature of the Constitution, the common or federal government was supposed to serve all the states equally. The tariff, as you know, benefitted the North exclusively, at great detriment to the South. This unequal treatment of the Southern states is what really led to the secession of the Southern states – not the issue of slavery. Lincoln’s election simply meant “more of the same.”

Again, as Publius pointed out in her article Mark Levin Refuted: “The claims of the nullification deniers have been proven to be false.”  The truth, as she brilliantly explains, is that resistance to tyranny is a natural right (the natural right to protect one’s sovereign rights) and Nullification is the rightful tool of resistance.  Just as resistance is a natural right, nullification is the natural remedy.

Publius is a scholar and is brilliant.  Mark Levin is a scholar and is brilliant, as well.  The most brilliant men of all are Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and if you have any doubt of that, then you are all hypocrites for living under the very free society they secured for you. The difference between scholars like Publius and Mr. Levin is which view point they choose to endorse, given their extensive knowledge and understanding. Publius is a scholar of history and of original intent. She understands that the Constitution is not a stand-alone document but is grounded in the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence and in the doctrine of Social Compact.  She is an attorney.  Mark Levin is also an attorney and understands history. Unfortunately, he has chosen to ignore some of the background that rounds out the understanding of our founding documents.  As we are all aware, there are those who support Mark Levin and those who support those who endorse Nullification.  I am troubled that someone as brilliant as Mark Levin can so cavalierly disregard Nullification and resort to the unsophisticated approach of calling those not in his camp a bunch of kooks. This truly troubles me because I believe scholars should be above that and try to promote their points of view through robust discussion and debate. That’s how our Founding Fathers did it. And that was the climate at the Philadelphia Convention which produced the final design of our federal government. The one area that debate and discussion could not produce the just result was with respect to slavery.  Georgia and South Carolina simply refused to go along if the concession wasn’t made.  Personally, I don’t think one remedy is exclusive over the other; I think the sound approach is finding a way to REPEAL any amendment that increases the power of the federal government and destroys its original design (such as the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and parts of the Fourteenth amendments) while using NULLIFICATION to frustrate the enforcement of any unconstitutional federal law, policy, or court decision. I think the sound approach is recognizing the POWER that both approaches offer in limiting the power and reach of the federal government (outside its constitutional limits) and using them BOTH for the effective transfer of power back to the People. That’s what it’s all about, right??

And so, with this article, I want to ask all of you to please put the good of the country first and please find the untainted authorities to educate yourselves on Nullification. Jefferson and Madison are good starts – Read the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 and the Virginia Resolution of 1798, as well as Madison’s Virginia’s Report of 1800, but most importantly, read the circumstances under which Jefferson and Madison sought to re-assert the compact/founding principles of nullification…. the government was starting to trample on our Bill of Rights!!)  Nullification is a good way to hold the federal government at bay while we figure out the best ways to divest the federal government of its liberty-killing powers. There are valid criticisms of an Article V Convention, and I advance that position with the others.  If Mark Levin can PROMISE ABSOLUTELY that a group of state delegates can produce amendments that are clearly limited to transparent goals and which will LIMIT the government (and not in fact enlarge its powers, as some states seem inclined to do), then perhaps we should continue our discussion and debate on the Convention. But I don’t think he can do so.

As Joe Wolveton II, JD writes: “Enforcing the Constitution and demanding that states stand up to their would-be federal overlords accomplishes the same goal as Levin’s proposed con-con without putting the Constitution so close to the shredder that an Article V convention could become.”

Mark Levin may have personal popularity, powerful friends in the media, the ability to shut down much of the criticism of his book, and a powerful bully pulpit in his radio show and his guest appearances on the top news outlet, but he doesn’t have the same understanding of liberty and its preservation as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and our other Founding Fathers had.

Nullification must continue not only to be the remedy of choice, but of right.

“No matter the soothing words and the slate of scholars standing with Levin,” Wolverton emphasizes: “the convention they’re calling for would be beyond the control of the people or their representatives and could result in the proposal by the assembled delegates of potentially fatal and irreversible alterations to our Constitution that could very well end up being ratified.”

References:

Mark Levin, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, New York, N.Y.: Threshold Editions, 2013, 272 pages, hardcover.

Arthur Goldberg (former US Supreme Court Justice), “Steer Clear of Constitutional Convention,” Miami Herald, September 14, 1986.  http://www.governamerica.com/issues/domestic-issues/21-constitutional-convention?start=10

Joe Wolverton II, JD, “Levin, Limbaugh, Hannity Calling for Con-Con, “ The New American, August 22, 2013.  http://www.governamerica.com/issues/domestic-issues/21-constitutional-convention?start=10

Larry Greenley, “Levin’s Risky Proposal: A Constitutional Convention,” The New American,  October 27, 2013.  http://www.governamerica.com/issues/domestic-issues/21-constitutional-convention?start=10

Michael Lotfi, “Nullification vs. Article V Constitutional Convention: Why Levin is Wrong,” The Washington Times, December 27, 2013.  http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/american-millennial/2013/dec/27/nullification-vs-article-v-constitutional-conventi/

Publius Huldah, “Mark Levin Refuted: Keep the Feds in Check with Nullification, Not Amendments!”.  https://publiushuldah.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/mark-levin-refuted-keep-the-feds-in-check-with-nullification-not-amendments/

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How a Republic Dies

ROME (Vorenus)

 

 

 

 

by Diane Rufino, December 30, 2013

One of my all-time favorite HBO series is ROME, starring Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson.  Borrowing on a theme similar to Forrest Gump, the series follows the journey of two men in Julius Caesar’s Roman legion who seem to find themselves making history wherever they go. The soldiers are Lucius Vorenus (McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Stevenson).  Although Vorenus and Pullo are real centurions who displayed outstanding bravery and valor in battle and were included in Caesar’s war journals, their journeys and experiences in the series are the creation of the writers. ROME chronicles the period in Roman history when the people lost their republic. Aside from the entertainment provided by Vorenus and Pullo, who are often violent and crude, the story showed how the Senate tried to stand up to the ambitions of men like Julius Caesar and Octavian (who renamed himself Augustus Caesar) to protect the people’s hand and voice in government.

Perhaps I am drawn to the series because of my Italian heritage or perhaps it is because of Rome’s history as a republic and its impact on our Founding Fathers when they sat down to fashion a government to serve the people and protect their inalienable sovereign rights.

Rome was established as a republic in 509 B.C. when it was a mere city-state.  It was easy to manage and government was responsive to the people. Originally established as an advisory board composed of the heads of patrician families (wealthy landowners), the Senate soon became the most powerful organ of republican government and the only body of state that could develop consistent long-term policy. It was involved in virtually all public matters, but its most important responsibilities were in foreign policy and financial administration.  Roman citizens had a voice in government by electing Senators who represented them and were accountable to them.

After the second Punic War (218 – 201 B.C.), when Rome defeated Carthage, Rome’s economy soared and trade grew.  Rich landowners and merchants were able to buy up most of the land in the county.  Eventually, they would begin to have more and more political power.  Under Roman law, only landowners could serve in the military, but as it happened, the rich wouldn’t serve in the army. The number of soldiers dwindled and this caused instability in the Roman military.

In 133 B.C., Tiberius Gracchus, who was elected to the position of tribune, proposed several laws to reshape Rome into the republic that it had been intended and that it had once been. The proposed laws included giving an equal share of land to all citizens, limiting the amount of land one person could have, and allowing every free Roman citizen to vote (at the time, only residents of Rome could vote).  Gracchus’ ideas were very controversial for the time and when Romans began to riot, he was killed. His brother Gaius took the position of tribune in 123 B.C. and he attempted to pass the same laws.  He too was murdered.

General Marius ushered in more reforms in 104 B.C.  He established a new law which stated that people did not have to own land to be a soldier. This served to benefit the military.  However, in return for their service, soldiers began to demand that they be given land.  This required Marius to use his influence on the Senate, for at the time, there was no provision to grant soldiers land.  It was General Marius versus the Senate.  The result was that soldiers became very loyal to Marius; they trusted him.  In fact, they were more loyal to him than to the Senate. It was from this point on that generals began to gain significant political power in Rome. Generals who commanded the legions and who were popular with them could become quite powerful.

By about 79-78 B.C., Rome was temporarily back to being ruled by the Senate. Meanwhile, Pompey, the most distinguished general of the time, was gaining public favor from his many military victories. At the same time, Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome, also gained much popularity from the common people, for defeating a large slave uprising. Both Pompey and Crassus were ambitious and had designs on ruling Rome.  But still another prominent general was also gaining much popularity.  That was Julius Caesar.  Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar would make a secret alliance to work together to gain control over the Senate. This alliance would become known as the First Triumvirate.

But soon ambition, politics, and battle would destroy that union. Caesar was elected consul in 60 B.C.  He proposed laws that would gain the triumvirate even more power.  When the Senate tried to oppose these laws, Crassus and Caesar resorted to intimidation and violence in order to get them passed.  When Crassus was killed in battle in 53 B.C., the triumvirate was destroyed and only two were left – Caesar and Pompey, who were good friends. (Caesar even betrothed his beautiful daughter Julia to Pompey in order to strengthen the political alliance between them).  Julius Caesar left Rome after his term as consul ended to take up a governorship he demanded in southern France.  Ignoring the orders of the Senate, he raised his own army, and led a path of conquest throughout all of Gaul. Marc Antony, another brilliant general, was with Caesar at this time in Gaul and was making a name for himself.

After eight years, word grew that Julius Caesar was returning home. The Senate was afraid that he would bring his army and march on Rome and pleaded with Pompey to organize resistance. But Pompey was torn.  Caesar was his friend.  His wife was Caesar’s daughter and he loved her deeply.  But Pompey did as asked and began to build an army. Unfortunately he could not do so in time and when Caesar marched into Rome, Pompey was forced to flee.  Caesar eventually bought off, threatened, or intimidated members of the Senate, and at his command, they crowned him Emperor and gave him concentrated powers for a period of ten years.  The people began to call him a tyrant.  Senators called him a tyrant.  Caesar countered by assuring them that he needed the power “to save the republic” and that after the ten years was up he would turn control back to the Senate.  He didn’t trust the Senate to rule; instead, he thought he knew what was best for the people… and for Rome.

Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15 – the “Ides of March” – by senators Brutus and Cassius, among many others, who plotted among each other to rid Rome of the tyrant.  They descended upon him in the Senate, stabbing him twenty-three times.  Second-in-command, Marc Antony, was also supposed to be assassinated, from what I read.  As the ROME series was able to convey, the conspirators believed that the assassination was a noble act because they were rescuing the empire from the designs of a dictator and delivering power back to the people. The Senate would once again regain control of Rome. The People would once again have their government back.

Well, what followed was not much better.

Immediately, civil war broke out between two factions – the assassins (republicans), including Brutus and Cassius, and the Caesarians, led by Marc Antony and Octavian. Antony and another strong general, Marcus Lepidus, unofficially established their power by intimidation through their armies. Octavian, the son of a noble Roman family, and nephew to Julius Caesar, was named as Caesar’s sole heir in his will. The ROME series spent considerable time portraying the mindset and ambitions of Octavian after Caesar’s demise.  Young Octavian (a mere teen) approached the Senate leader Marcus Tullius Cicero, the foremost lawyer of the day and the greatest defender of the republic (and the man whose writings taught our Founders about “Natural Law”) and struck up a deal.  Unknown to Cicero, the deal would have disastrous consequences.  An astute Octavian told Cicero that the people loved Caesar and harbored great anger over his death. As Caesar’s appointed heir, he could easily manipulate the people against the treacherous murderous Senate.  Furthermore, Caesar who was a good friend of Cicero’s, had appointed him and others in their leadership roles in the Senate. If the Senate was to officially declare Caesar a tyrant, as they planned to do, in order to justify the assassination and to undo his commands, then that would mean their appointments would be undone as well.  So, Cicero made a deal and appointed Octavian consul of the Senate in return for Cicero and the others keeping their positions.  Octavian then began to hatch plans for revenge against those who assassinated his uncle (now adoptive ‘father’).  Brutus and Cassius and a few of the other conspirators had already fled Rome; they left when they found out that Marc Antony survived.

In the two years that followed, Antony and Octavian each amassed great armies and consolidated power in various parts of the empire – Antony in the east and Octavian in the west.  Each would have plans to consolidate power and take over Rome.  Antony understood that the conspirators, many from powerful and noble Roman families, would have to be killed so they could not return to Rome, reclaim their power, and try to turn the people again him and Octavian just wanted them killed out of revenge. And so both Antony and Octavian joined together to go after them. Some of the conspirators committed suicide but the last ones to remain were defeated at Philippi in 42 B.C.  Brutus and Cassius, the last to survive, watched this defeat and then killed themselves as well.

The victors returned to Rome and the Second Triumvirate was formed, consisting of Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian. This triumvirate was formally constituted. In effect, it sidelined the consuls and the Senate and effectively signaled the death of the Republic. The three men, Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian used the force of the army and swept the Senate with terror, killing Cicero and others.  They chopped off the great Cicero’s hands and nailed them to the Senate door.  In fact, they used a Roman law known as “proscription” as an incentive to kill Cicero and the others.  “Proscription” was a Roman policy that was revived by the Second Triumvirate to label political enemies as “enemies of the state” which would then allow them to confiscate their money and property to pay the soldiers.

[NOTE:  Proscription was developed by Sulla (a general who ruled from about 82-79 B.C.)  as a way to dispose of the property of those who were ‘condemned.’  By "condemned," they meant marked for assassination (as “enemies of the state”). The proscribed individuals were called proscripti. The law the Romans passed to grant Sulla this extraordinary power was called lex Cornelia de proscriptione et proscriptis and was known as the lex Cornelia. In 82 B.C. Sulla created proscription as a means of disposing of his enemies -- the supporters of Marius. He posted a list of those he wanted killed (like the "Wanted Dead or Alive" posters of the Old West) and upon their death, their property was confiscated and sold. Proscription was adopted again under the second triumvirate in 43 B.C. Again, Cicero was a victim of this second proscription.  Supposedly, Octavian said: "We should concentrate on the rich, especially some of the fabulously rich. If enough men are proscribed, the amount of cash will add up quickly."]

Initially, Marc Antony took Caesar’s place, but Octavian, who somehow held the upper hand (perhaps because he was hand-picked by Julius Caesar as his heir), was suspicious of him and wanted him out of Rome.  There is one account that Octavian forced Antony to marry his sister, Octavia, and Antony did not honor her properly.  There is also another account that Octavian was resentful that Antony was so completely adored and beloved by the people of Rome and fearful of the intense loyalty that Antony’s men had for him. They thought of him as a god.  And so, Octavian forced him to accept an appointment to govern eastern Rome, which included Egypt (conquered by Julius Caesar).  This is where the famous story of Antony and Cleopatra comes from.  Antony quickly became the lover of Cleopatra, the exotic Ptolemeic queen of Egypt (meaning that she is a descendent of General Ptolemy, who served under Alexander the Great of Macedonia, and then became the ruler of Egypt – 323-283 B.C.), even though he was still married to Octavia.  Antony and Cleopatra had children together. He also supposedly promised her roman land (an act of treason at the time).  Octavian used all that information to make the case to the Roman people and to the Senate that Antony had switched his allegiance and dishonored Rome.  Octavian would declare battle against him to assume sole power over Rome, which he did.  He defeated Antony at the naval Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. and when he and Cleopatra were trapped and besieged at Alexandria, they both committed suicide.  (Who can forget Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Cleopatra and Antony in the epic MGM production).

Also around this time, Octavian accused of Lepidus of attempted rebellion, stripped him of his title, and forced him into exile. With Antony and Lepidus aside and removed from power, Octavian assumed sole power and became Emperor. Rome’s republic was officially dead.  Octavian insisted on being called Caesar – Augustus Caesar – and would go on to rule for 40 years. ["Augustus" was a new title to be given to him, meaning "supreme ruler; holy, dignified or majestic]. The reign of the “Caesars” and those leaders that followed would continue to keep power concentrated in a single ruler.  The power was never returned to the people.  While the intentions of the leaders in the beginning for usurping power may have been to serve the “general welfare” of Rome, for example, by giving needy families sums of money from the national treasury or giving farm land to “deserving” people or giving grain to the people who could not find jobs or providing Gladiator games and other spectacular games for entertainment, the fact is that it was never returned properly to the people.  The people seeing that they had no say in what their leaders were doing – that the Emperors were going to do what they wanted anyway – lost interest in keeping their government honest and decent and effective.  And so the republic died.  It died from within.  Because of apathy.

As the power of the emperors grew stronger and stronger, the Roman republic became but a distant memory. The once proud Senate that had witnessed the splendid orations of Cato and Cicero became dominated and weakened year after year by the succession of dictators. It atrophied into a mere figurehead of an institution. And the people themselves became disengaged. They took the duties of citizenship far more seriously during the days of the Republic than in the dictatorships of the Caesars.  In the waning years of the republic and then into the reign of the Caesars, the populace no longer respected civic virtues and virtue in public life. Civic duty was treated as a triviality.

In these final days of the Roman republic, the empire was faced with a changing social structure and culture. There once was a time when Rome enjoyed a very ordered society. But in those final days, at the height of its conquests, its social order began to break down.

It was at this time that the mighty Roman Empire began to reach its geographical limits. It was a massive empire. As a result of its vast conquests, Rome acquired many slaves, who were then used to build most of its bridges, roads, and aqueducts.  Then they went on to take jobs in farming, mining and construction. As this cheaper labor replaced Roman citizens, unemployment grew.  Idle, unemployed, hungry people filled the capital. They were called “plebs” (or plebeians), a term originally referring to free land-owning Roman citizens, who historically had representative power in government (called Tribunes, which had the power to veto the laws of the Senate).  Later the term was used to refer to the lower, poor, common class of Roman citizens. They were apathetic and cared nothing for the governing of the empire.  As the number of plebs grew, they became a more problematic class and the dynamics in the empire changed dramatically. In the eyes of the elite, this lower class lacked morality and were typified by “their stupidity, laziness, and time-wasting.”  They were characterized as being motivated by pleasure, excess, loss of control, and a closing of the gap between genders.  The Roman satirist and poet, Juvenal, referred to them as the mob.  He said they consisted of “idlers, the dregs of every nation.”

To appease and distract the plebs, Roman emperors handed out free distributions of corn and amused them with violent gladiatorial and other contests that were held in the Coliseum and chariot races at the Circus Maximus (stadium).  The more Romans became addicted to the corn distributions and the mindless self-gratification, the more they lost the capacity to govern themselves.

Juvanal wrote: “What of the plebs?  They follow fortune, as always. Nowadays, with no vote to sell, their motto is ‘Couldn’t care less.’  There was a time when they elected generals, heads of state, commanders of legions. But now there’s only two things that concern them: bread and circuses.”  E.G. Hardy put it more bluntly: “The distribution of corn and the attractions of the games had long been drawing to Rome a host of idlers and loungers, ready for any distribution and willing to do anything but work for their own support.”  (Sound familiar?)  The Emperor, in an attempt to please and pamper the plebs, was forced to extend corn distribution and to increase the number of “festivals, holidays, and shows, which were already too numerous.”

The Roman theatre was another popular activity associated with the lower classes (unlike in Greece, where it was the center of intellectual thinking and politics).  In Rome, the theatre was counter-productive of social order, self-control, values, and morality.  It taught “the wrong things, including idleness, inactivity, corruption, and all sorts of indecency.”  Its main objective was to mock personal responsibility and productive family and social values.  (Sounds like American TV !!)

The threat posed by the plebs – that is, the decayed values and resulting social tensions – led to societal structural decline.  This is how the late Roman republic came to be characterized. Social order began to quickly erode. Roman culture was forced to accommodate a new social order.  “The decayed values of the plebs acted as the lowest common denominator in that they began to attract people of all statuses.”  In fact, that’s when the threat to social order and morality became its greatest. The people became so distracted with entertainment and personal pleasures that they no longer valued civic virtues and bowed to civil authority with unquestioned obedience.

It is this moral decay – this civic decay – that Juvenal was referring to when he sarcastically wrote that “the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddle no more and longs eagerly for just two things — bread and circuses.”

Those scornful words “bread and circuses,” panem et circenses in Latin, were used to describe what would become the Roman formula for the happiness and well-being of its population. In fact, it would become a political strategy unto itself.  As we can see here in the United States, it is a policy that seeks to create public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but rather, through diversion, distraction, hand-outs, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace.

In the end, Rome collapsed because the people were morally corrupted and civically unfit and irresponsible. They were simply no longer fit to guard over their government, their liberties, and their own destinies.

I wanted to tell this tale of Rome’s republic because our Founding Fathers were great students of history.  Maybe this is what our Founder’s understood all along – that republics can wither and die from apathy, willful neglect, and most importantly from human decay.  Maybe they understood that while power must always remain in the people’s hands and government must be limited, the people themselves, as the rightful guardians of that sovereign power, must be worthy of that challenge. And so, we see their frequent warnings to remain “moral and religious.”  It was not to require that government be entangled with religion, but rather to help the American people to remain fit and of proper character to be faithful stewards of the republic they’ve been entrusted with.

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