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No. 35 "Human Rights and the Constitution" Speech of R.E. Desvernine, May 16, 1935. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_35 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 35 "Human Rights and the Constitution" Speech of R.E. Desvernine, May 16, 1935. American Liberty League. American Liberty League. Washington, D.C. 1935. 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. Pamphlets Available â˜… Copies of the following pamphlets and other League literature may he obtained upon application to the League's national headquarters: Why, The American Liberty League? Statement of Principles and Purposes American Liberty League Its Platform An Analysis of the President's Budget Message Analysis of the $4,880,000,000 Emergency Relief Appropriation Act Economic Security A Study of Proposed Legislation The Bonus An Analysis of Legislative Proposals Inflation Possibilities Involved in Existing and Proposed Legislation The Thirty Hour Week Dangers Inherent in Proposed Legislation The Pending Banking Bill A Proposal to Subject the Nation's Monetary Structure to the Exigencies of Politics The Holding Company Bill An Analysis of Proposed Legislation "What is the Constitution Between Friends?" Speech by James M. Beck Where Are We Going? Speech by James W. Wadsworth Price Control An Analysis of Experiments and Recommendations for the Future Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow A Review of Factual Analyses and a discussion of the Legislative Situation The Labor Relations Bill An Analysis of an Undesirable Measure Government by Experiment Speech by Dr. Neil Carothers How Inflation Affects the Average Family Speech by Dr. Ray Bert Westerfield The AAA Amendments A Study of Proposals Illustrating a Trend Toward Fascist Control of Agriculture and other Industries Political Banking^Speecfc by Dr. Walter E. Spahr The Bituminous Coal Bill An Analysis of a Proposed Step Toward Socialization of Industry Regimenting the Farmers Speech by Dr. G. W. Dyer Extension of the NRA A Recommendation for Action to Rescue American Business from a Quicksand of Bureaucracy and Visionary Experimentation â˜… AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Human Rights and the Constitution â˜… â˜… â˜… Speech of R. E. DESVERNINE, Member National Advisory Council, American Liberty League, over the Blue Network of the National Broadcasting Company Thursday, May 16, 1935 AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Document No. 35 Human Rights and the Constitution â˜… Many alarms have recently been sounded against the dangers of the ever-increasing expansion of Federal power, and its encroachment on, if not its complete absorption of, States' Rights as though that was the only real danger to be avoided. Strangely, amazingly little mention has been made of the greater, yes, the greatest peril to our birth-right the tendency of the Federal Government to trespass upon, and in some major respects, to even deny, the free enjoyment of inalienable, human rights. If the Federal Government encroaches upon or usurps rights or functions exclusively belonging to the States, only an issue of jurisdiction is raised; that is to say, whether the specific act attempted belongs properly to the Federal or to the State Government. But, if the Federal Government, or as a matter of fact, if any State Government, attempts to interfere with inalienable, human rights, reserved specifically to the people and not delegated to the Government, then each citizen is threatened with the loss or spoliation of his constitutional liberty and traditional freedom, and the very form and substance of our political system is challenged. The Founding Fathers fought and bled for the protection of the Divine Rights of Man against the Divine Right of Kings, and against the possibility of tyranny by any government, whatever its form might be. They did not fight for some technical proposition as to what particular form of government should be the custodian and purveyor of their "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." Ours is not an Omnip-The People otent State from which The Source all human and political of Power rights are derived as though such rights were the grant or bounty of the State. Ours is not a totalitarian State possessed of unlimited and absolute power. On the contrary, the people, not the State, are the ultimate source and re-2 pository of sovereign power and the government must, therefore, justify its exercise of any power by the express consent of the people. The Federal Government was definitely established as a government of limited, not general, powers; limited to those specific functions and powers expressly enumerated and conferred and those indispensable thereto. In addition to these basic limitations on all government, the Constitution clearly recognizes and differentiates between the two separate and distinct jurisdictions of the Federal and the State Governments. It also subdivides and departmentalizes the functions of the Federal Government in the executive, the legislative and the judicial powers, so that each may check and balance and be a restraining influence on the other. Distribution of power amongst several governments, and even the power of each governmental unit further subdivided and distributed amongst departments, seems to have been carefully designed in fear of the concentration of power in a highly centralized government. But these are all matters of mechanics and procedure designed to safeguard the primal and basic objective the distinctive characteristic of our political creed the preservation of human rights free from governmental interference the protection of the rights of individuals and minorities against the power of numbers. That is why our system is so aptly described as a government of laws, not men. That is the Faith of our Fathers. It might well be that this system has been made obsolete and inadequate by requirements of the new social and economic order and that we need a new set of basic principles. If this be so, let us face that problem frankly and fearlessly, but let us not be deceived by sophistry and specious reasoning and gilded promises, into believing that the "new" methods and formulas proposed do not involve or imply a fundamental change in our primal constitutional concepts. Mesmerized by the magic of alphabetical "white rabbits," we must at least in a lucid interval remind ourselves of the A.B.C.'s of our constitutional liberty. 3 The Declaration of In-RightS dependence, which states of Divine the fundamental prin- Endowmen t ciples on which our gov- ernment was founded, proclaims it as a self-evident truth that man was endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable rights. The Constitution affirms that certain rights are reserved to the people, that is to say, are recognized to have been in the possession of the people before the establishment of the Government. If that is so, and if these rights are of divine endowment part of the very nature of man and an incident of his creation it is impossible to contend that they were granted by, or can be enjoyed only at the will of, any human institution or government. The government, therefore, cannot restrict or impair the free enjoyment of these rights except to the extent that it can clearly point to some specific power delegated to it by the people so to do. I am not theorizing. I am attempting to expound the fundamental principles of our government in accordance with the writings of its framers and the decisions of our Courts. These basic human and individual rights existing before and above the power of our government are not abstract and imaginary ideals. Many of them are concretely enumerated in the first ten amendments to the Constitution in words which are so clear as to require no further explanation. Religious liberty; freedom of speech and the press; the right of assembly and petition; the right to bear arms; the sanctity of the home free from search and seizure; the right of trial by jury and freedom from excessive fines and cruel punishments; and finally that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law." Possessed of these rights, every man is indeed a King in his own right; despoiled of them, he is a political slave and the State becomes his absolute master. It is obvious, therefore, that our political tradition and philosophy is a challenge to, and the denial of, the totalitarian or authoritarian state of unlimited power, in every form, par-4 ticularly its modern adaptation in Communism, Socialism, Fascism and Nazism. Those forms of government assume the absolute dependence of the individual on the state and that all individual rights are derived from and are held at the mercy of the state. Our government has always been recognized by all (at least until the present) as the exact opposite, and the Tenth Amendment categorically so states it is a government of limited enumerated powers granted by the people who are themselves supreme. The mere recital of these constitutional principles destroys the contentions of some of the presently popular "constitutionalists" that our Federal Government has all the unlimited powers and attributes of general sovereignty. Their attempt to expand the Constitution to include their many proposals by citing the "general welfare" clause in the Preamble and in Section 8 of Article I, although a homage to the Constitution, is sheer nonsense. The Supreme Court has Supreme dogmatically declared Court's that the Preamble con- Declarations fers absolutely no grant of power and that the phrase "general welfare" in Section 8 of Articlel is nothing more than a limitation on the taxing power by defining the purpose for which taxes can be levied. The attempt to revive these rejected theories shows a disrespect for and a disregard of established principle and judicial precedent to the extent of being a challenge to our constitutional system. Unquestionably, the Constitution must be adapted to the various crises in human affairs; but there is a sharp distinction between adaptation and nullification. The Constitution is indeed a living organism, but every living organism has certain definite physical characteristics and natural attributes, and these attributes cannot be altered. The only escape from them is to substitute another organism. Is that what is meant by the "new order?" Great sacrifice and even rash efforts are justified to alleviate existing distress and restore normal well-being. To deny that reform is 5 necessary is to suggest the absurdity that perfection has been attained. Malpractices and abuses must be corrected and the possibility of their easy recurrence prohibited. Profiting by experience and promoting progress in the social and economic order must be encouraged. To accomplish these worthy objectives by means and methods within the Constitution and consonant with our traditions is Reform; to advance them by means and methods without the Constitution is Revolution. We must not be carried Emotion away by emotionalism Versus and a false sense of Reality charity, and legislate mere hopes or desires, without making absolutely certain that in the methods pursued there is not implicit a subtle and concealed departure from fundamental principle and a camouflaged surrender of individual rights. It is so easy to glibly talk only of idealistic and humanitarian purposes and aims and thereby conceal the certain consequences of our methods. Many advocates of new measures, I am sorry to say, charm us by poeticaUy depicting the alluring and often worthy purposes they hope to accomplish, but impatiently resent as anti-social obstructions any attempt to analyze whether their program can be developed consistently with our existing form of government. If the people do not demand that each new proposal be examined from this point of view to see what, if any, rights each individual must surrender in order to carry out these proposals, then the years of struggle to set up and develop our particular form of government will have been wasted; and we wiR find that as a practical matter we have surrendered human rights as individuals which our government has always recognized as existing free from and beyond any governmental interference. In the zeal of our devotion to the "Forgotten Man," it is unfortunately imperative to recaU the "Forgotten Rights of Man." In concluding, let me say, that only time prevents me from enumerating many instances in 6 our recent legislation which are absolutely in violation of aR of our previous concepts of individual liberty and constitutional rights. Furthermore, in addition to these direct legislative invasions of our inalienable rights, innumerable commissions have been created with the most far-reaching delegated legislative powers and with absolute discretion to interpret, administer and enforce them by imposing fines and boycotts. These multitudinous alphabetical agencies are practically laws unto themselves! Let us be certain that all these gilded promises and noble experiments do not prove too costly! Each day, thank God, our courts are rescuing us from these assaults on our human rights. When the American Lib-How to erty League was first an- "Love thy nounced the newspapers Neighbor" reported the admonition from high administration quarters that the League in its zealous defense of individual and property rights, should not forget the commandment to "Love thy neighbor." Conclusive reply to this advice can be given, by recalling to those who are presently directing our governmental policy and action, that the best, if not the only way to love our neighbor, is to respect the dignity of his person, the security of his property, and the sanctity of his personal liberty and freedom, aU of which are human and inalienable rights, which are his by nature and guaranteed to him by the Constitution. The American Liberty League emphatically denies that it is necessary to surrender our birth-right to meet recognized emergency demands or to promote progress and security. The American Liberty League emphatically affirms that our constitutional system and traditions must be and will be defended against the infiltration of alien doctrines and that the sanctity of human rights must be protected against invasion by bureaucratic government. AU who subscribe to these principles are invited to join the American Liberty League, which they can do by simply writing to the American Liberty League, National Press Building, Washington, D. C. 7