Skip to comments.Undermining the Constitution, A History of Lawless Government
Posted on 11/07/2001 5:34:52 AM PST by fod
Thomas James Norton: Undermining the Constitution: Preface
The writing of this book was impelled (or compelled) by the very manifest indifference of the people of the United States to the constitutional doctrines of their country. This had been developing so rapidly that all ideas of constitutionalism seemed to have passed out of the American mind. That is, indefensible proposals and practices against the plainest limitations on power set in the Constitution provoked no objections even from the Bar. For two decades no great debate on a constitutional subject had been heard in either House of Congress.
The National Education Association, theoretically representing the teachers of the country, had for years been passing resolutions favoring whatever was before the public of un-American import, especially for getting the imperial Government at Washington, through "Federal aid," to take over the shaping in school of American ideas. Under the cloak of "academic freedom" men in the universities belittled those who wrote the Constitution and pronounced their work faulty and outmoded.
The schools, while neglecting to give thorough courses in our history, and especially in constitutional history or the history of Liberty, admitted objectionable textbooks and periodicals.
Laws enacted by States after the Civil War requiring the teaching of the Constitution in the schools became dead letters. Similar laws of more than forty States enacted after World War I became dead letters too. So the governmental chaos, as it appears to be, came not by chance. The Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government reported in 1948 that in the President's Department there are 1,800 different administrative units, and that the proposals of the Commission would save the taxpayers "billions not millions, but billions." Plain lawlessness in taxation and a brutal attitude toward the taxpayer were among the conditions that compelled the writing of this book.
The principles of our Government are not outmoded, as some say. They are as immutable as those of mathematics. The first of them, so well put by Jefferson, is that the man to whom power is given must be chained. The profound historians at Philadelphia who wrote the Constitution looked back over the centuries and drew that principle from the recurring tyrannies and unfailing breakdowns of governments. So, to prevent "the very definition of despotism," as they termed the union of powers in one hand or body, from coming to the New World, they separated the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial powers, and then, by the most careful specifications, limited the application of each class.
The States retained sovereignty in local affairs.
During the last three decades nearly every restraint upon the man in power has been broken. Worse than that, lawlessness provokes no reasoning objection.
In the Roman Republic there was an elaborate distribution of powers, but in time all were gathered into one hand. First the Republic and then the Empire fell. A historian tells us that "statesmen came to disregard all checks in the [Roman] Constitution in order to carry a point."
What John Adams praised as the "checks and balances" in our Government also will fail unless respect for them returns.
My book explaining 196 clauses of the Constitution, showing their origins, their uses, and their practical values in the development of American "life, liberty, and property," had been received by the people to over half a million copies, and it seemed my duty to prepare another volume to explain the causes and the consequences of departures from constitutional principle which had been in progress for many years.
As that is done by dealing with concrete cases, the presentation of governmental philosophy is made the easier to understand.
The reader is admonished to approach this subject not with hesitance or with the idea that it is difficult or abstruse, but with earnest expectation. For no novel ever had a theme as engrossing as the story of "life, liberty, and property," which is the Constitution of the United States.
Moreover, the reader is the ruler of this land, and it is therefore his duty to himself and his descendants to learn and ably and righteously to execute the law of our national being.
As the constitutional system of the United States was the first that man through all the centuries was able to formulate for the one purpose of controlling those in power, the American should know it as he knows the alphabet. Its study has been recommended to him by its adoption in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and in other countries more or less fully. It is "the last hope of the world," Daniel Webster warned us.
Communism and other alienisms can be met and overcome, not by dollars or arms, but only by superior doctrines, as the teaching of the kindnesses of Christianity overcame the ideas, the brutalities, and the power of the Roman Empire.
By neglecting to indoctrinate each new generation with a knowledge of the superior philosophy of the American system of Government, we thereby left the people weakened to attack. Hence so many of them are taken with the false promises of Communism. And so many others want the Government at Washington to do things beyond its power and outside its jurisdiction.
As the provisions of the Constitution dealt with in this volume are quoted or stated, and as they are a very small portion of the Instrument, it has seemed best, in order to keep down the size and price of the book, to omit the Fundamental Law as an Appendix.
Also for brevity, titles of cases cited are omitted and only the volume and page of the report are given, enough for one desiring to look further.
A thorough Index at the end of the volume and a complete Table of Cases are commended to the careful study of the reader and the student.
THOMAS JAMES NORTON
New York City
September 27, 1950
1. The Constitution of the United States: Its Sources and Its Application, 1922; revised in 1941.
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