Following the first 15 of this series on the Constitution which addressed the powers of the Congress, this is the third in a series that will address other portions of the Constitution. The commentary will attempt to outline where our lawyer politicians have either not upheld the letter of the law as stipulated in the Constitution or misinterpreted its intent. It is most appropriate to address this issue as it is currently foremost in the life of the United States.
Article 1 Section 9 of the United States Constitution reads;
‘The migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases if rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed. No capitation or other direct, tax shall be laid unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State.
No preference shall be given by an regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another; nor shall vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement of account of the receipts and expenditures of public money shall be published from time to time. (italics added)
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States; and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
The first paragraph has been addressed in a previous essay but, it is well to note that the framers took the opportunity to use its application to exact a tax, one that could not be objected to by the States as the emigres were not yet citizens of any State and therefore not otherwise taxed.
The compromise that led to counting three fifths of the slaves for the purpose of representation may have equated the slave and non-slave holding States as far as population was concerned but, it still would not suffice in distributing the tax burden. This problem, like many others since, was kicked down the road and the catchall of the Congress’ ability to collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises was left in limbo for future debate. That debate continues to this date but the problem of financing the government has been given over borrowing to pay the ongoing costs of government, a mechanism never intended for that purpose.
The writ of habeas corpus is a right belonging to each citizen against illegal seizure. In the case of the Constitution as written it would only apply to those suspected of breaking federal law. That law, as far as individuals were concerned only applied to counterfeiters, pirates and those who committed treason against the United States.
A bill of attainder is a law directed at an individual or group of individuals. It originated with the Magna Carta. It was an agreement between the King and his Lords where the Lords exacted the ability to make laws for their lands. It is in essence the constitution of England. To protect themselves, the Magna Carta prevented the King from singling any of them out in response to any wrong the King may believe they committed, in particular the non-payment of levies on their estates taken as disloyalty.
As a consequence of the Magna Carta England evolved into a Parliamentary Democracy with shared power between the Lords and representatives of the people, the Lower House. The lower, House of Commons, has since wrested effective opposition to its actions by the House of Lords. It was a transition that has since been duplicated in the United States with the selection of Senators no longer determined by the States but by its citizens. The unfortunate difference is that the Senate still has the power, it continues to use, to block legislation, namely that involving taxes, if its majority is of a different political persuasion than that of the House of Representatives. As has been alluded to elsewhere, because of the decision in McCulloch vs. Maryland that effectively removed the limits on congressional action, when the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency are all in the hands of one party, there is no limit on the amount of mischief they can cause.
Capitation means a head tax. All of the States derived their revenue from a head tax, in particular those of the North or mercantile States. The only heads that counted were free white males and those were landowners, and business owners including those self-employed A capitation tax would put a burden on the slave states because the slaves had no income and therefore the burden would fall on their owners. Invoicing the States on the basis of population, the only criteria that could be easily established through the census would therefore place a heavier burden on the freemen of the slave states than on their northern brethren.
In an attempt to accommodate the effects of an economic system based on the ownership of nature’s assets, the Congress, put there by the owners of these assets, has for decades tried to balance the economy to insure the bulk of these assets remain with their owners. In doing so it has allowed banker’s and money holders to collect usury. In other words, steal from the unsuspecting. In the 1930s, the administration of Franklin Roosevelt attempted to rectify the imbalance then surfacing due to the plunging value of the dollar, added organized labor to the bevy of thieves already preying on the unsuspecting and the naïve. The latter practice was protected for a while by tariffs.
When the rest of the world, primarily China, were able to prey on the cake and eat it too society by offering the same products at lower prices, the lid was off and the employment of now millions was lost. If it weren’t for the buy American position of the government on the military industrial sector of our economy and the jobs that can only be pursued in the country, there would hardly be any production jobs at all. Only the government, stealing through the borrowing and distribution of currency through welfare keeps the entire country from erupting into chaos.
Several of the next paragraphs restrict the sources of income that the federal government can extract from the States. The final kicker comes in the paragraph italicized above. If my interpretation of first power given Congress was a requirement for an annual balanced budget this paragraph should remove all doubt. “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law”. The language speaks for itself and explanation is not necessary.
The ultimate paragraph appears to prevent the pedaling of influence by officials of government. You will note however that it does not exempt individuals wishing to obtain favors. The reason is that it is money that put those individuals in place to be able to profit from the practice and they must continue to employ their position in favor of those who put them there or be replaced. Term limits will not solve the problem only spread the wealth more liberally. It will only stop when not only the recipient gets punished but the giver as well. It was however a practice in the States and in the government of England from whence they all came. Bad habits are hard to break, particularly when they are beneficial.