by KrisAnne Hall, JD
Patrick Henry, a designer of our Constitutional Republic said, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.” What history lessons about the design of our republic can we learn from natural disasters?
As Americans we believe in helping each other in time of need, so the question is not SHOULD we help, but instead where should disaster help come from? Looking at the design of our Republic, here are some hard observations.
Disaster Relief is Not Within Federal Authority
Constitutionally there is no delegation of authority for the federal government to act as emergency funding services for the States. James Madison, father of the Constitution and 4th president declared before congress in 1792:
“I, sir, have always conceived — I believe those who proposed the Constitution conceived — it is still more fully known, and more material to observe, that those who ratified the Constitution conceived — that this is not an indefinite government, deriving its powers from the general terms prefixed to the specified powers — but a limited government, tied down to the specified powers, which explain and define the general terms.”
If the power is not expressly delegated through a specific Article, section, or clause, then the federal authority does not lawfully exist. We know that to be a factual statement by the terms of those who wrote and ratified the Constitution:
“…an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless, if a general authority was intended. ~Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #83
The only way to change or expand federal power is through the amendment process described in the Constitution which in either process includes the creators of the Constitution, the States. No single branch of the creation can expand its own power by any other means. Remember:
Congress cannot expand its own or another branch’s delegated power by legislative act. Alexander Hamilton, a designer of our Constitution wrote in Federalist #78: “There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that 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.”
The President has no authority to change the Constitution; he doesn’t have the authority to make laws of any sort. “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Article 1 section 1. Since any legislative act contrary to the Constitution is invalid, the president making legislative acts, is a clear violation of the Constitution and per se in valid.
The Judiciary cannot expand federal power beyond the Constitution. James Madison, addresses such a violation in 1800: “…dangerous powers, not delegated, may not only be usurped and executed by the other departments, but that the judicial department, also, may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution…”
If elected representatives in Washington DC cannot identify the Article, section, and clause that authorizes the federal government to engage in emergency funding services to the States, then that authority, very plainly does not legally exist. Any reference to a congressional act, does not create that authority. If legislative act is the only authority, then as Hamilton so accurately announced, that legislative act is void and no law at all. A supreme Court opinion, nor series of opinions cannot be the basis for undelegated authority since the judiciary cannot exercise or sanction any authority that is not tied down to a specific power delegated through the Constitution. The existence of executive agencies designated to perform a function beyond the grant of the Constitution cannot provide legal justification for pretended authority.
Sadly, what we hear is that “We must have the federal government’s help; without it we cannot function.” According to William Pitt, the Younger, in 1783 “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” The purpose of the Constitution is to “preserve the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” The plea of necessity over the limited nature of the Constitution is yet another unconstitutional argument. This cry of necessity is annulled because the terms of the Constitution binds the federal government to expressed powers. If the people through their states want the Federal government to have a new authority then they must amend the document that enumerates its abilities. To put forth any or all of these extra-constitutional assertions as legal justification for powers that are not enumerated is to suggest that the Constitution is NOT the foundation for the rule of law in our Republic. In that case, then Congress, the President and the courts would have ZERO authority, because without the Constitution they have no basis to even exist.
How Should Disaster Relief Be Handled
If the federal government wasn’t stealing and extorting money and power from the people and their States to fund and operate all their unconstitutional federal agencies and programs throughout year, the States would have plenty of money to manage their own disasters. Under a properly operating Constitutional Republic, our States would have a surplus beyond our modern comprehension and the States (in addition to the millions in private donations we see after major disasters) could individually provide relief as they see fit. In fact, the designers of our Constitutional Republic speculated about unexpected burdens that one State may not be able to handle.
Throughout the eighty-five published Federalist Papers, the authors of these papers repeatedly assert that the establishment of the union of the States would create a fiduciary relationship between the States. This “brotherhood” would create a feeling of friendship and duty amongst the States for economic and defensive support. They postulated that if there were such an unforeseen and unreasonable burden placed upon one State, the remaining States would voluntarily and individually administer aid as their citizens felt appropriate. The designers of our Constitutional Republic never once asserted that the federal government would have the authority to engage in charity in any form. As a matter of fact, they spoke against the federal exercise of charity on multiple occasion.
James Madison proclaimed before Congress in 1792, that for the federal Congress to engage in public charity with tax dollars, “would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America.”
He repeated this truth in 1794, when he said most definitively: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
The Bottom Line
There is no Constitutional reason and no Constitutional authority for the feds to become involved with these kinds of domestic affairs. There is and never has been any constitutional reason to look to any President to be the savior after a storm, during a pandemic , or other natural disaster.* The only reason to look to any President in a time is crisis is political – to encourage love or hate of a personality – so parties can build power. However, because America has been errantly trained for over 150 years that this is the purpose of the federal government, most do not even have an inclination that their cries for federal aid are transmuting the mutual brotherhood of the States into a “nanny-hood” of the federal government. Charity is a voluntary gift of the individual. Government cannot give charity as they don’t take money voluntarily and they cant “give” what they don’t actually own. So the solution is very simple: (1) Give to your neighbor who is actually in need. (2) Don’t be a pawn in the political game for power by blaming someone in government or crying out to government to fix the hurt.
*If you have a questions about “Emergency Powers” then you must read THIS ARTICLE.