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SOTU: What About the Constitution?

January 26, 2011
Michael Maharrey, Tenth Amendment Center

On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered his much anticipated State of the Union Speech.

But for all of its poetic oratory, political rhetoric and ambitious plans, the speech begs a question. How can any American really evaluate the state of the Union without understanding the foundation upon which that Union rests – the Constitution?

Some people-including the former law instructor who now serves as President of the United States-believe that it is impossible to reconstruct the Constitution’s original meaning. Constitutional scholar Robert G. Natelson demonstrates that this view is little more than a crock.

In his latest book, The Original Constitution – What it Actually Said and Meant, Natelson contends that the meaning and intent of the founding document does not hide in a foggy shroud of mystery. Anyone – even a law professor – can understand the clear meaning of the Constitution with a little effort and study.

“Competent founding era scholars largely agree on what most of the original Constitution’s provisions mean,” Natelson writes. “Much of the disagreement among constitutional writers results from unfamiliarity with the historical record or with 18th century law. We will never be absolutely certain of the complete meaning of every constitutional clause. But we can reconstruct much of the original Constitution’s meaning with clarity and confidence.”

Natelson does just that.

Drawing on 25 years of experience as a Professor of Law at the University of Montana, and a career spent meticulously studying the framers writings, documents from the ratifying conventions, and 18th century legal sources, Natelson weaves scholarly subject matter into an easy-to-read book for the average American.

Does the “commerce clause” really authorize Congress to require American’s to buy health insurance? Does “general welfare” mean the federal government can do ANYTHING defined as generally beneficial? What does “necessary and proper” really mean?

Get the New Book Today!

Examined within the context of original Constitutional meaning, the answers to these questions become clear.

“It will change the way you look at your government,” Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said. “Too many people, including so-called Constitutional experts, explain the meaning of the Constitution through a legal lens, relying on court precedents and interpretations to construct meaning. Talk about building on shifting sands. It’s completely divorced from the framers’ intent. Natelson digs down to the bedrock and sets Constitutional understanding back on a firm foundation.”

The current political climate has rekindled interest in the founding documents. Just a few weeks ago, the 112th Congress opened up with a reading of the Constitution on the House floor.

“It’s nothing but a dog and pony show in a fancy room if they are just going to read it and then ignore what it really means,” Maharrey said. “Hopefully, this fervor will open the door for solid scholars like Robert to get the message out.”

Contact the Tenth Amendment Center to set up an interview with Professor Natelson or to get a copy of the book for review.

Michael Maharrey
Communications Director
O: 213.935.0553


One Comment leave one →
  1. Rwolf permalink
    January 31, 2011 9:55 am

    Is It Only Spy Powers The Justice Dept. Wants or the Lock Down Of A Nation?

    The U.S. Justice Department’s—recently proposed forcing without warrants, all Electronic Communication Companies to retain permanently, user phone call records and Internet activity data. That would effectively trash the Fourth Amendment.

    Government wants the power without a warrant, to introduce as evidence in criminal prosecutions and government civil trials, any phone call record or email. Alarmingly, that would open the door for Police to take out of context, any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest, fines and or civil asset forfeiture of their property. There are more than 200 laws and violations that can subject property to government asset forfeiture: Government civil asset forfeiture requires only a civil preponderance of evidence for police to forfeit property, little more than hearsay.

    If the Justice Department has its way, any information the FBI derives from e.g. no warrant electronic spying; (retention of Internet Activity e.g. emails and phone call communications), may also be used for fishing expeditions, issuing subpoenas to collect evidence against Americans to prosecute any alleged crime or violation, circumventing the Fourth Amendment. Consider: neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance, perhaps illegal under Bush II, currently or in the future could be used by police, or introduced into court by a government agency to prosecute U.S. Citizens. If the Justice Department is permitted warranted surveillance of all electronic communications, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to telecom-NSA and other government (retained electronic records) of Internet activity; emails and phone call information to secure evidence to arrest Americans and or civilly forfeit their homes and businesses under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and budget operating costs?

    The “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs five years from the date police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable should (no warrant electronic surveillance) be approved; police will relentlessly sift through businesses and Citizens’ (permanently retained Internet data), e.g., emails to allege a crime or violation. A corrupt U.S. Government, could use no warrant (retained Internet data and phone call information) to extort America’s biggest corporations and others in the same manner Hitler used his 1933 passed Discriminatory Decrees to force corporations and the wealthy to support totalitarian legislation—voiding the Constitutional Freedoms of Citizens.

    Under federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Most U.S. Citizens, property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a (Catch 22) criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. Any fresh denial of guilt made to government when questioned about committing a crime “even when you did not do the crime” may “involuntarily waive” your right to assert in your defense—the “Criminal Statute of Limitations” past for prosecution; any fresh denial of guilt even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government prosecutors to use old and new evidence, including information discovered during a Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many innocent property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture.

    Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579. U.S.

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