Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host
Mr. Nadler's remarks were designed to take a truth, and turn it into a lie. In short, the answer to Nadler's observation is "Yes, and no."
He said it “really bothers” him when Americans argue the founders wrote the Constitution to give citizens the power to limit the size of federal government. The Democrat said the actual purpose of the Constitution was to increase government power, with the Bill of Rights being the only portion of the document intended to hamstring the government in any way.
“The Constitution was enacted to strengthen government power to enable central government to lay taxes and to function effectively. We put limits on that through the Bill of Rights, but the Constitution was enacted for the opposite purpose,” Nadler said.
He was responding to former assistant U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy who said during testimony that the “principal purpose of the Constitution is to limit the power of government to intrude on the liberties and suppress the rights of the American people.”
Nadler said he wanted to “correct the historical record” because “it really bothers me” when people claim the Constitution is about limiting government power.
I wish I could sit in a room with Mr. Nadler and have a little discussion with him. He has one part right, and the rest of it all wrong.
Prior to 1787 and the miracle in Philadelphia that led to the creation of the United States Constitution, the governing document in America was the Articles of Confederation. You could say that the Articles was the constitution before the Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government had virtually no power whatsoever. All of the authorities over every issue belonged to the individual States. The confederate government holding together the union could not lay taxes, or call up a standing army. Even those functions belonged to the States.
After Shays' Rebellion, during which the merchants in Boston called up a mercenary force to quell the revolt because the United States Government had no authority to do so, it was determined during the Annapolis Convention in August of 1786 that the Articles of Confederation needed to be fixed. The "national government" needed to be given more power.
The Founding Fathers were well aware that there was no fixing the Articles, but the people feared a bigger government, so they labored during the Summer of 1787 on creating a new Constitution in secret. The creation of a federal government was indeed for the purpose of increasing government power at the national level, but they were careful not to create a "national" government that may be able to pursue unlimited power. Instead, the federal government was given limited authorities in the first seven articles for the purpose of enabling the new government to handle external issues, and issues regarding the union, but to be limited so that it would not intrude upon State issues, nor the rights of the people.
James Madison argued that the Bill of Rights was not necessary because the Constitution's first seven articles do not authorize the federal government to address the issues enumerated in what would become the first ten amendments. However, a demand for a Bill of Rights was called for, so after over a hundred proposals were sent by the States, James Madison (who disagreed with the creation of a Bill of Rights), and George Mason (who was among the largest proponents of a Bill of Rights) worked together to create 12 amendments (ten of which would become the Bill of Rights, one of which would someday become the 27th Amendment, and one of which would never be ratified).
So, to answer Congressman Nadler, in comparison to the Articles of Confederation the Constitution was indeed written to increase government power. . . but it was not written to increase government power over the States of the individual citizens. It was written to enable it to handle the issues the States on their own could not; like common defense, treaties, border security, protecting the trade routes, establishing a uniform postal system, mediating whenever there was a conflict between the States, and yes. . . lay taxes (but not direct taxes... but that's a different discussion). Otherwise, the limitations are very severe. The federal government has no authority to encroach upon local issues.
James Madison noted in Federalist 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary