Posted by: Rational Voice | December 7, 2010

The Courts and the Constitution

About two months ago I wrote my piece “Should Only the Courts Worry About the Constitution?” In this piece I discussed an article I read about how many people, especially liberals, wish to defer the decision on the Constitutionality of congressional and presidential actions to the Supreme Court who they believe should be the only body in the Federal government to do such a thing. Like I pointed out, this is directly at odds with out our Founders envisioned and the system they set up. Since then I’ve come across more historical fact that shows how, in fact, if anyone was meant to decide the Constitutionality of any act, it was the President of the United States. The information I came across was not online but rather in the book Henry Clay: The Essential American. While the book is about Henry Clay, it does give insight into the government and politics of early to mid-19th century America.

Starting on page 244 of the book, the authors, David and Jeanne T. Heidler, noted scholars of antebellum America, point out that:

“Traditionally, presidents had wielded the veto only when they believed a bill to be unconstitutional, meaning that the will of  Congress as the voice of the people trumped policy differences.”

In fact, they go further on page 245 stating that:

“…Chief Justice John Marshall’s decision in McCulloch v. Maryland…insist[ed] that the president was the equal and possibly the superior of the judiciary in weighing the constitutionality of the legislation.”

They continue discussing the point on the next page, pointing out that before President Andrew Jackson’s debatable, and highly controversial at the time, veto of the bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States, presidents had only vetoed legislation ten times in the forty plus years since the Constitution was ratified and placed as the supreme law of the land. These ten vetoes were almost entirely on Constitutional grounds rather than idealogical or political differences.

In just these few pages, I gained even more insight into Constitutionality and who should decide it, further solidifying my belief that those who want to damn the Constitution and just do whatever they want in hopes the Supreme Court is never called to decide on the Constitutionality of the laws Congress passes are dangerous to this country and how we were founded. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to do so, rather, as I argued in my other piece, the courts should be the last line of defense, instead of the only interpretors of Constitutionality. The president and the Congress have a duty to work within the confines of the Constitution. They’ve taken an oath to do so, not an oath to let someone else decide whether or not what they do is Constitutional.

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