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No. 100 "The Constitution: What It Means to the Man in the Street," by John W. Davis, February, 1936. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_100 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 100 "The Constitution: What It Means to the Man in the Street," by John W. Davis, February, 1936. American Liberty League. American Liberty League. Washington, D.C. 1936. This electronic text file was created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). No corrections have been made to the OCR-ed text and no editing has been done to the content of the original document. Encoding has been done through an automated process using the recommendations for Level 1 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Digital page images are linked to the text file. AN INVITATION TO JOIN THE AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE We extend to every American citizen who believes m the fundamental principles which gave birth to the Constitution of the United States an invitation to become a member of the American Liberty League. Yon may indicate your acceptance of this invitation by filling in the necessary information as to yonr name and address on the enrollment blank below and mailing it to American Liberty League, National Press Building, Washington, D. C. There are no fees or dues. If yon are willing and able to give monetary help for the League's support your contribution will be appreciated, as our activities are supported entirely by the voluntary gifts of our members. ENROLLMENT BLANK Date_ I favor the principles and purposes of the American Liberty League and request that I be enrolled as a /regular 1 member. 1 * contributing j Signature__________ County *As a contributing member I desire to give $_ to help support the activities of the League: Cash herewith_Installments as follows:_ â˜… â˜… The Constitution What It Means to the Man in the Street â˜… â˜… â˜… By JOHN W. DAVIS Member of the National Executive Committee of the American Liberty League AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. (100) Document No. 100 February, 1936 The Constitution When you have finished with this pamphlet please pass it on to some friend or acquaintance who might be interested, calling his attention to the membership blank on page 12. What It Means to the Man in the Street â˜… In THE present discussions of the Constitution and possible amendments to it, there is an unfortunate tendency to use the word "Constitution" as a battlecry with no attempt to consider its meaning from a reasoned and appreciative point of viewa tendency to overlook its place in the history of civilization and in the present everyday life of the citizens of the United States. Historically, the Constitution represents the culmination of centuries of struggle for a government which would allow each and every citizen the freedom and individual liberty which every thinking person has always desired for himself and which would protect him from unnecessary restrictions and regulations which might deprive him of those rights. Conditions in this country at that time were such that men could establish what seemed to the clearest and most altruistic thinkers a government approaching perfection in its design to protect those "inalienable rights" with which men are endowed at birth. THE COLONIAL Americans found that the old regulations and restrictions had followed them across the sea and that they were not truly free, even in the freedom guaranteed to English subjects by Magna Charta and the English Bill and Petition of Rights. When the burden became too great and the decision was made to submit no longer to "taxation without representation" and the other tyrannies of the English rule, they resolved to establish a government which would guarantee the rights for which they were willing to sacrifice everything else and which would free them, and keep them free, from the domination of any one individual or group who might be in power. So THEY framed the Constitution to safeguard their freedom and their rights; and into the Constitution went the fruit of the political thought and progress of the preceding centuries. In the famous phrases, they made it a government of laws and not of mena government of delegated powers, such that those in official position could not legally abridge the rights of citizens without their consent. Never before had the persons given political power been so definitely limited and prescribed in the extent to which they might control or regulate the actions of the individual citizens. And never before had there been such clear-cut division of governmental functions into the three categories of legislative, executive, and judicial; such careful setting up of the essential balance between these different aspects of government; or such well-considered and adequately devised methods of control. All this was done to protect the citizens from the disastrous consequences which inevitably result from the concentration of the various attributes of governmental powers in one person or group. The complex life of modern society requires such a scheme. Robinson Crusoe on his desert island needed no rules for the life of himself and his man Friday. But when men come together in any number they must have rules by which to live and governments to see that they are observed. The Constitution, therefore, undertakes to lay down rules for the life of the government on the one hand and the life of the individual citizen on the other. ITHOUT going into details, it may safely be said that the cardinal rules which the Constitution lays down for the American Government and which combine to establish the importance of the Constitution as a great achieve-4 ment in the political development of civilization are five in number. They are: First. All power comes from the people. The people are the masters, the government and its officers their servants. In the language of the Declaration of Independence: "All governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." This consent is expressed, both as to its nature and as to its limits, in the terms of the Constitution. This is the rule of popular sovereignty. Second. The Government of the United States can exercise no powers except those expressly given to it by the Constitution which the people have adopted. It is a rule intended to protect the rights of a minority however small against the power of a majority however large. One man standing on his constitutional right is, by virtue of this rule, stronger than a thousand who would deprive him of that right. This is the rule of constitutional limitation. Third. No man or set of men shall ever enjoy the despotic power of being able at one and the same time to make the law, to decide whether it has been violated, and then to execute judgment on the violator; that is, the same persons shall never exercise the legislative, judicial, and executive powers simultaneously. This is the rule of the separation of powers. Fourth. Every locality shall have the right to look after its own affairs, free from outside interference. Only the National Government shall deal with national affairs, and only the states and their subdivisions with matters peculiar to themselves. This is the great rule of local self-government summed up in the phrase: "Ours is an indestructible union of indestructible States." Fifth. The Courts shall have the right to protect and enforce the rules set forth in the Constitution, to declare any Act of Congress or legislature or President or governor or other person whomsoever which contravenes the Con-5 stitution null and void. This is the rule of the supremacy of the Constitution. It IS AN interesting fact that, with the possible exception of the Eighteenth Amendment (which has been repealed), such restraints as the Constitution contains are imposed upon the Government and that such rights as it describes are those of the citizen. Accordingly, the Constitution lays down for every citizen of the United States two great fundamental rules. The first is the rule of equality; the second is the rule of freedom. It is the rule of equality that every person born or naturalized in the United States shall have, as of right, all the rights and privileges which any other citizen enjoys. No titles of nobility shall ever be granted to raise one man or set of men above the rest. No state shall by its laws discriminate against the citizens of any other state. No one shall be a slave or serf or subject to any man, but an equal citizen to whom the equal protection of the law shall never be denied. And by the equal protection of the law is meant not merely fair and impartial trials, but the protection of laws that are themselves just and equal. Wherever the citizen comes into contact with the law, and wherever the law touches the citizen, there shall be no distinction of race or creed or condition in life. And under the rule of freedom, every citizen who is willing to obey the laws shall be free to live his own life in his own way in pursuit of his own interest and desires. So long as he respects the rights of his fellows, he may think as he will, speak in public or in private as he will, and worship God in such manner as he prefers, no matter how many or how few may share in his opinions. All that he earns by honest means shall be his and no man shall take it from him. Neither life, nor liberty, nor property shall be taken from him except by due 6 process of law and if, by disobedience to law he has lost any of these rights, no punishment can be imposed upon him until he has had a fair and open trial before a jury of his equals. Equality and freedom these are the constitutional birthright of every American. the QUESTION which this generation and every generation of Americans must settle for itself, as its fathers have done before it, is whether it is satisfied with these rules and still desires to lead the sort of life for which they provide. If it is, it will resist every effort to change the form of government which guarantees these things. If it is not, it will welcome such changes as will bring it what it seeks. But may this generation be sure of what it seeks and of the adequacy of the proposed changes to secure it. Those who offer advice may fairly be asked what government and what manner of life in all the world they would prefer. If they tell us that we are unhappy, let them name those who are happier; if oppressed, those who are more free; if poor and downtrodden, those who are more prosperous. If we are to change our moorings, let them show us a safer harbor. Aimless discontent will lead us nowhere. The cracked-brain theories of a communistic society may reduce everybody to a ghastly common level, but it can raise none and visions of a happy land far, far away, free from toil and weariness and pain, belong to the next world and not to this. We MUST never forget that the Government does not, cannot exist apart from its officers; that the idea of an "essential" state, of some mystical force or power which is greater than and above these officers and the people, is only a modem superstition, a metaphysical fancy such as may have its place in religious thought, 7 but which ie false and extremely dangerous in political thought. The framers of the Constitution recognized this and builded accordingly. We would do well to remember the fate of those who worship false gods. (Reprinted from "Nation's Business") PAMPHLETS AVAILABLE Â£JOPIES of the following pamphlets and other League literature may he obtained upon application to the League's national headquarters. Statement of Principles and Purposes American Liberty League Its Platform The $4,880,000,000 Emergency Relief Appropriation Act The Bonus Inflation The Thirty Hour Week Bill The Holding Company Bill Price Control The Labor Relations Bill The Farmers* Home Bill The TVA Amendments The Supreme Court and the New Deal The Revised AAA Amendments The President's Tax Program Expanding Bureaucracy Lawmaking by Executive Order New Deal Laws in Federal Courts Potato Control Consumers and the AAA Budget Prospects Dangerous Experimentation Economic Planning Mistaken But Not New Work Relief The AAA and Our Form of Government Alternatives to the American Form of Government A Program for Congress The 1937 Budget Professors and the New Deal Wealth and Income The President Wants More Power (leaflet) The Townsend Nightmare (leaflet) The iNational Labor Relations Act Summary of Conclusions from Report of the National Lawyers Committee Straws Which Tell An Open Letter to the President By Dr. Neil Carothers How to Meet the Issue Speech by W. E. Borah The Duty of the Church to the Social Order Speech by S. Wells Utley The American Bar The Trustee of American Institutions Speech by Albert C. Ritchie PAMPHLETS AVAILABLE (continued) Two A mazing Years Speech by Nicholas Roosevelt Legislation By Coercion or Constitution Speech by Jouett Shouse The Imperilment of Democracy Speech by Fitzgerald Hall The Spirit of Americanism Speech by William H. Ellis The Test of Citizenship Speech by Dean Carl W. Ackerman Today's Lessons for Tomorrow Speech by Captain William H. Stayton "Breathing Spells" Speech by Jouett Shouse The Duty of the Lawyer in the Present Crisis Speech by James M. Beck The Constitution and the Supreme Court Speech by Borden Burr The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution Speech by Forney Johnston The National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League Speech by Ethan A. H. Shepley Our Growing National Debt and Inflation Speech by Dr. E. W. Kemmerer Inflation is Bad Business Speech by Dr. Neil Carothers The Real Significance of the Constitutional Issue Speech by R. E. Desvernine Arousing Class Prejudices Speech by Jouett Shouse The Fallacies and Dangers of the Townsend Plan-^SpeecA by Dr. Walter E. Spahr What of 1936? Speech by James P. Warburg Americanism at the Crossroads Speech by R. E. Desvernine The Constitution and the New Deal Speech by James M. Carson The American Constitution Whose Heritage? Speech by Frederick H. Stinchfield The American Form of Government Let Us Preserve It Speech by Albert C. Ritchie The Redistribution of Power Speech by John W. Davis Time to Stop Speech by Dr. Neil Carothers The President Has Made the Issue Speech by Charles 1. Dawson The Facts In the Case Speech by Alfred E. Smith The Townsend Utopia Speech by Dr. Ray Westerfleld