Article VI of the US Constitution: "Supreme Law of the Land" and more
Article VI of the Constitution has three clauses (no sections; just clauses - see full text at the bottom of this essay). The first of these clauses promises that all debts contracted before the Constitution was adopted would be valid and honored. The fledgling country had borrowed heavily from France and Spain (and to a lesser extent from wealthy Americans, such as John Hancock) to finance the war against England. The lack of central power under the Articles of Confederation led to widespread money-printing by the states and central governments, which led to high inflation and economic depression. With the new Constitution superseding the Articles, we could have declared bankruptcy and reneged on all that debt. The Founders chose NOT to do so, however. There were reasons of principle – we incurred the debt and were thus obligated to find a way to pay it off. There were reasons of practicality – if we reneged then, our international reputation would have been “not worth a Continental” (as worthless as the Continental Dollar under the Articles of Confederation), and our chances of financial survival as a nation would have been, at best, rather slim. So we promised to re-pay our loans. All of our loans. And we did pay them all, in full.
The next clause of Article VI is crucial today, and so many of the items that offend us as US citizens would be known and considered null and void if we understood this clause! “This Constitution, and the Laws of the united States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
The common misconception with this clause is that any law made by Congress, or any treaty negotiated by the President and ratified by the Senate, is the “supreme law of the land.” NO!! Time to go back and re-read this clause. This time, let’s pay attention to the phrases “which shall be made in pursuance thereof” and “under the authority of the United States,” instead of that “supreme law” phrase.
“Which shall be made in pursuance thereof” clearly limits the “supreme law” to items which are in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and which coincide with the principle of upholding individual rights. The phrase “to secure these Rights, governments are instituted...” from the Declaration of Independence, tells us that the ONLY legitimate purpose of government is to protect our individual rights. Any laws passed by Congress which ignore this principle and/or the letter or spirit of the Constitution are NOT the supreme law of the land – but instead, by the words of Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #33, are “merely acts of usurpation.” Hamilton also states in Federalist #78, “...every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid.” NOWHERE in the Constitution do we, the people (or the states) delegate to the Supreme Court sole authority to nullify unConstitutional laws. We don’t even delegate that authority to the federal government! Instead, nullification of unConstitutional laws is required by all who take Oaths of Office (next clause), and by the states! Our rights pre-date and supersede the Constitution; nullification of usurped powers is therefore a “natural right” (albeit one not specifically listed in the Bill of Rights – which itself states it does not list them all). Allowing branches of the federal government to be sole arbiter of whether or not it is acting within its purview is really letting the fox guard the chickens. The states were jealous of their prerogatives; the people were chary of government abridging their rights – why would they agree to let the federal government have the only say in whether or not their actions were acceptable under the Constitution?
As for treaties – the key phrase is “...treaties made under the authority of the United States.” Where do the President and Senate get their authority? From the powers delegated to them, as enumerated in the Constitution! If the Constitution does not grant authority in an area, NO treaty negotiated, signed, and ratified in that area is valid, and surely is NOT the “supreme law of the land.” Jefferson states in his Parliamentary Manual of 1800, “...the President and Senate cannot do by treaty what the whole government is interdicted from doing in any way.” The Constitution limits the power of Congress in Article I, Section 8 – so let’s see what areas of that section could be the subject of treaties. “Regulate Commerce with foreign Nations...and with the Indian Tribes” would be applicable, as would “declare War...and make rules concerning Captures on Land and Water,” and “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” (patents and copyrights). In addition, Article II, Section 2 grants the executive branch powers to “...appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls.” The Federal government may NOT do by Treaty what it is not permitted to do by the U.S. Constitution. Any such treaty (UN Small Arms, Agenda 21, Climate Change, etc.) would not and COULD not be the “supreme law of the land” because the federal government has been granted NO jurisdiction over those areas! (One of those listed, the UN Small Arms Treaty, is in direct opposition to our 2nd Amendment and clearly cannot possibly become law – what part of “shall NOT be abridged” is unclear?) Remember that it is the federal government which MUST get permission, from the Constitution, to address any particular area – they do NOT have “carte blanche” to meddle wherever they wish.
The third clause of Article VI requires the Representatives, Senators, state legis-critters, all executive and judicial officers (federal and state) to be bound by “oath or affirmation to support this Constitution” (emphasis added). (The President’s stricter and more detailed oath is stated separately in Article II). Every official (federal or state) who takes the oath to support the Constitution has a DUTY to stop the federal government from over-reaching its assigned powers. Any “treaty” unConstitutionally signed by a President, and unConstitutionally ratified by a Senate, is null and void, must be nullified by the states and the people, and must have enforcement of its provisions refused by all officials. Any official who will not comply, has violated his sworn Oath, and must be removed from office.
*Constitution of the United States of America
*Badnarik, Michael “Good To Be King” 2004 The Writer’s Collective
*Skousen, W. Cleon “The 5,000 Year Leap” 2006 National Center for Constitutional Studies
*Hamilton, Madison, Jay “The Federalist Papers” 2001 Dover
*Heritage Guide to the Constitution www.heritage.org
*Justia US Law law.justia.com
*Publius Huldah’s blog at http://publiushuldah.wordpress.com
*“The Oath of Office” byPublius Huldah at http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/34946
©2012 by the author
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.