Separation of Powers; Liberty and Security

The U.S. Constitution is the oldest active constitution in the world.  It is a legal document, not a living document.  The genius of the architects ensured it would remain a perpetual guide for future generations.  The ideals and principles, that set the precedent for the nation’s laws, did not originate with the founding fathers.  They evolved from moral observation, the ideas of Montesquieu, Thomas Pain, and Aristotle, and were refined in the fire of despotic rule, draconian democracy, and European monarchy.  Following the Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union came into force, after years of debate, and ratification by all 13 colonies.  It served as a temporal bridge between a league of independent states and a U.S. Constitution, between a confederation and a more “perfect union.”  The principle focus of these Articles was to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states.  This pact temporarily unified American patriots as they bore the brunt of the revolutionary war, but it would never interminably guide the American nation.  In 1787, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, with the support of prominent leaders like George Washington, called upon the states to revise The Articles of Confederation.  They realized the necessity of a centralized government to provide order and security.  Of the 74 delegates appointed to the Constitutional Convention, only 55 were willing to attend.  Many, like Patrick Henry, feared the creation of a strong centralized government, would subvert the powers of the states, and therefore the people.  They rightly judged the states were the best advocate for individual liberty.  The collaborative solution, for the proper balance between liberty and security, was the creation of a centralized government with a clear separation of power.

The indisputable priority to protect the states from a despotic central government was unequivocally proclaimed in the Constitution.  Originally comprised of 7 articles, the first 3 focused on the separation of power among the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government.  When it came to separation of powers, the Constitution’s intent was clear.  In Article I, the legislative branch was charged with making laws and appropriating money.  In Article II, the executive branch was tasked with implementing and enforcing federal law.  In Article III, the Judicial branch was responsible for interpreting the law to ensure its’ constitutionality.  In order to encourage the ratification of the constitution, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) published 85 articles, known as the Federalist Papers.  In Paper 47, James Madison, one of the strongest advocates for a national government, encapsulated the importance of ensuring individual liberty through the separation of power.

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.”

The unanimous ratification of the U.S. Constitution was only possible with a clear separation of power, for the three branches of government.  Unfortunately, this constitutional principle is routinely ignored by elected officials or un-elected bureaucrats.  When the legislative branch, relinquishes its constitutional authority to the executive branch, when they pass laws that are blatantly unconstitutional, or when they threaten to pack the court with like-minded political allies, they violate Article I of the Constitution.  When the executive branch implements executive orders, as federal law, or weaponize the Department of Justice to attack political opponents, they violate Article II of the Constitution.  When the Judicial branch engages in judicial activism, and legislates from the bench, rather than strictly interpreting the constitutionality of law, they undermine the separation of powers as intended in Article III of the Constitution.  American’s must never forget the warning of the founding fathers, to ensure the proper balance between liberty and security.  A government that does not adhere to the separation of powers is the very definition of tyranny.

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