(EDITOR’S NOTE: This column from 2013 is being republished as a companion piece to my new column at Real Clear Politics called for a Convention of the States, which will be published on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022.)
By FRANK MIELE
Originally published in The Daily Inter Lake
March 24, 2013
A recent letter to the editor got me thinking about the origins of our great country, and how far astray we have gone from the principles enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.
Like many other patriots before him, this letter writer had invoked the 10th Amendment to the Constitution as a charm or incantation to ward off the dangerous power of the federal government and to restore the rights of the people and the states. But the fact of the matter is that the Ninth and 10th amendments, which explicitly preserve the sovereignty of the people and the states as the originators of the Constitution and the government which it formed, have no practical value. Historically, they have been ignored, and they offer no specific remedy or mechanism by which the states and the people’s rights can be preserved and protected.
For a long time, I have thought that the only hope for our country to continue as a bastion of freedom is to return to the original principles of the Constitution. But how exactly could you do so? An amendment demanding that the Constitution be interpreted according to the plain language in which it was written seemed too vague, just another lost cause like the 10th Amendment. An amendment throwing out case law as it applied to the Constitution and declaring a clean slate seemed hopelessly academic.
What was needed was an amendment which both stated plainly its intended goal — to strip the federal government of the power it has grabbed without authority over more than 200 years — and at the same time provided a clear mechanism for restoring America to the principles envisioned by the founders.
Passing such an amendment might be impossible, or it might not. There would certainly be resistance, but how long could that resistance stand in the face of an American people who demanded their Constitution back?
Besides, the alternative is helplessly watching the United States of America continue its suicidal lunge into tyranny.
So, for the sake of liberty, and in honor of the many patriots who have died over the past 226 years to preserve and protect the principles of that sacred Constitution, I am today proposing the Restoration Amendment, an honest effort to put the genie of big government back in the bottle.
While the wording is no doubt in need of refinement, I am fully happy to send it out in the world to make its own way and see what becomes of it. It’s purpose is to do to the federal government what Henry David Thoreau proposed we should do with all our lives: “Simplify, simplify.”
The Restoration Amendment
Preamble: “Whereas this nation was founded as a union of sovereign states, we the people of the United States of America do hereby affirm and declare that this Constitution created a combined federal government to serve the states and not to rule them. Therefore, from this time forward, let it be understood by all officials, officers, judges and justices within these United States that the individual sovereign states do retain and preserve all those legislative rights and responsibilities which they possessed when they entered the union, with this exception only — that the federal government is authorized to create and administer laws and regulations as expressly directed by this Constitution to fulfill the mandates established by the several states when they joined together under this Constitution or as established by later amendment.”
Article 1: “If a power is not expressly granted to the combined federal government of these United States by this Constitution, then that power cannot be exercised, acquired, or enumerated without specific amendment to this document. Therefore, all laws and interpretations of laws which have resulted in the federal government imposing its will on the states or the people without specific authorization from this Constitution or its amendments shall be declared null and void on a date exactly two years following ratification of this amendment by the states in order to allow for an orderly restoration of power back to the states.”
Article 2: “In accordance with Article 1 of this Amendment, all federal laws and regulations currently in place shall be subject to judicial appeal and review to ensure that a specific authorization exists in the Constitution that provides a legal framework for that law to be imposed upon the several states and their citizens. If a court finds that no language in the Constitution specifically authorizes the law or regulation, it shall be declared null and void.”
Article 3: “All new federal laws and regulations created after the date of ratification of this Amendment shall include a note setting forth the constitutional provision under which they are authorized as an appropriate use of federal power. Such legislative notes shall be subject to judicial review to confirm that such constitutional authorization is valid. Authority shall never be gained from subsequent judicial ruling but only from the expressly worded provisions of the Constitution and its amendments.”
Article 4: “The several states shall each retain full sovereignty according to the will of the people as expressed in their individual constitutions. Except in those few instances where the Constitution of the United States expressly grants the federal government power over the states, each state shall make its own determination on how to regulate people, commerce and morals.”
Article 5: “Interstate commerce shall be freely ventured without control by the federal government except that the federal government shall be empowered to ensure that each state must treat commerce with all other states on an equal basis. The federal power to regulate interstate commerce as expressed in this Constitution in Article 1, Section 8, shall not be interpreted to allow the federal government any power to tax, regulate or mandate any transaction beyond those powers which are elsewhere explicitly granted by this Constitution and its amendments.”
Article 6: “The right of the people to move freely from state to state shall not be infringed.”
Article 7: “The power of the federal government or any of its component parts to promote or provide for the general welfare of the United States shall not be construed to mean that the federal government has any powers of regulation, taxation or conscription beyond those explicitly granted in this Constitution or its amendments. The federal government’s interest in the general welfare of the United States does not obligate the nation to provide for the specific welfare of each or any individual citizen of the several states.”
There you have it. It’s longer than I would like, and shorter than it probably needs to be. Perhaps someone can condense it down to a few sentences, but when attempting to secure liberty, it appears to me that there is no excuse for leaving open to interpretation that which can be expressly stated in the first place.
It is, after all, liberal interpretations of our Founding Fathers’ conservative ideas which have gotten us into this mess in the first place.
If you have suggestions or comments on how this amendment can be refined, please send them to me. You don’t have to tell me that it is a pipe dream; I already know that. But as Thoreau said in “Walden,” “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”