Why Did Our Ancestors Approve the Constitution?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Suppose our American ancestors in 1787 had been told that the proposed Constitution, which they were being asked to approve, was going to bring into existence a federal government that would have the following powers:
1.The power to tax people’s incomes in any amount government officials deemed appropriate.
2.The power to regulate people’s economic activities.
3.The power to incarcerate and fine people for ingesting harmful substances.
4.The power to round people up and incarcerate them indefinitely without trial by jury and due process of law.
5.The power to torture people.
6.The power to assassinate people.
7.The power to invade foreign countries and wage wars of aggression against them.
8.The power to establish military bases in foreign countries.
9.The power to take money from people and give it to others.
10.The power to secretly spy on people and monitor their activities.
11.The power to incarcerate and fine people for spending money in other countries.
12.The power to make paper money the official money of the United States.
13.The power to control and regulate gun ownership.
Imagine, also, that the American people were told that the Constitution was going to bring into existence a vast, permanent military establishment as well as a secretive governmental agency (i.e., the CIA) with the omnipotent powers to kidnap people, conduct medical experiments on them without their consent, torture people, and assassinate people.
Imagine, also, that they were told that a vast welfare state was going to be brought into existence, with the federal government charged with the task of taking care of people with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, foreign aid to dictators, and the like.
One thing is beyond dispute: If our American ancestors had believed that the Constitution was going to bring into existence that type of federal government — the type of federal government we have today — they never would have approved it. Presumably we would still be operating under the Articles of Confederation, a governmental system by which the federal government didn’t even have the power to tax.
Our American ancestors were deeply suspicious and skeptical when the Constitution was proposed to them. Keep in mind, after all, that they had been led to believe that the Constitutional Convention was held simply to modify the Articles of Confederation. Imagine their surprise to learn that the delegates to the convention were now asking them to approve a brand new governmental structure.
What concerned our ancestors was the possibility that they would end up having to live under the type of federal government under which we live today — one with the powers listed above.
That’s the last thing they wanted. They had had enough of that type of government when they were citizens of the British Empire.
To ease their concerns, the proponents of the Constitution told them that the powers of the federal government would be limited to the few that were enumerated in the Constitution. If a power wasn’t enumerated, the federal government would not be permitted to exercise it.
Since none of the powers listed above were enumerated in the Constitution, our American ancestors decided to go ahead and approve the Constitution … but only on one condition — that the Constitution be amended immediately after ratification with a Bill of Rights, whose purpose would be to specifically prohibit federal officials from interfering with fundamental rights of the people and to ensure compliance with well-established judicial guarantees, such as due process of law, trial by jury, speedy trials, prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishments, and others.
The result was that our American ancestors lived in the most unusual society in history — no income tax and no IRS, few economic regulations, no big standing army, no torture, no state-sponsored assassinations, no CIA, no NSA, no Federal Reserve, no paper money, no legal-tender laws, no wars of aggression (except against Mexico and native Americans), no drug laws, no gun control, no surveillance schemes, no foreign aid, and no immigration controls.
That’s what it once meant to be free. That’s what it once meant to be an American.
No, it wasn’t a pure libertarian society — there was the big violation of libertarian principles — slavery — and there was tariffs, land grants to the railroads, economic regulations at the local level, and other violations of libertarian principles. But when you compare the type of federal government under which our ancestors lived to the type of federal government we live under today, it is indisputable that we are talking two completely different types of governmental structures at teh federal level.
What a shame that 20th-century and 21st-century Americans rejected and abandoned the founding principles of our country. We wouldn’t be in the big messes we are in today, both domestically and in foreign affairs. That’s the root of America’s woes.
Fortunately, there are increasing numbers of libertarians fighting hard to restore our nation’s founding principles. Libertarians are the ones increasingly lighting the darkness and thereby providing hope for a new future for our country — one that will restore peace, prosperity, harmony, privacy, and freedom to our land.