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No. 40 "Is the Constitution For Sale?" Speech by Captain William H. Stayton, May 30, 1935. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_40 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 40 "Is the Constitution For Sale?" Speech by Captain William H. Stayton, May 30, 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 be obtained upon application to the League's national headquarters: Why, The American Liberty League? The Tenth Commandment Statement of Principles and Purposes Progress vs. Change Speech by Jouett Shouse Recovery, Relief and the Constitution Speech by Jouett Shouse 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 The Bonus Inflation Democracy or Bureaucracy? Speech by Jouett Shouse The Thirty Hour Week The Constitution Still Stands Speech by Jouett Shouse The Pending Banking Bill The Holding Company Bill The Legislative Situation Speech by Jouett Shouse "What is the Constitution Between Friends?" Speech by James M. Beck Where Are We Going? Speech by James W. Wadsworth Price Control Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow The Labor Relations Bill Government by Experiment Speech by Dr. Neil Carothers How Inflation Affects the Average Family Speech by Dr. Ray Bert Westerfield The AAA Amendments Political Banking Speech by Dr. Walter E. Spahr The Bituminous Coal Bill Regimenting the Farmers Speech by Dr. G. W. Dyer Extension of the NRA Human Rights and the Constitution Speech by R. E. Desvernine The Farmers' Home Bill The TVA Amendments The New Deal, Its Unsound Theories and Irreconcilable Policies Speech by Ralph M. Shaw â˜… AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Is the Constitution For Sale? â˜… â˜… * Speech by CAPT. WILLIAM H. STAYTON Secretary of the American Liberty League, over the Network of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Thursday, May 30, 1935 AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Document No. 40 Is the Constitution For Sale? It IS fitting to think of the Constitution on this Memorial Day when we decorate the graves of those who died to preserve it who, in Lincoln's words, "gave their lives that the nation might live." Why did they consider the Constitution of such supreme importance? Because under it the United States had grown from insignificance into the greatest, happiest and most prosperous nation ever known. Some will say that our good fortune was due, not to the Constitution, but to our vast natural resources of farm, forest and mine. But those who know Russia, China, or even Mexico, realize that resources cannot make a happy people unless they have a protecting Constitution. But whatever caused our past prosperity, we know that there was a time when we obeyed our Constitution and were blessed above the rest of the world; and we know too that today our prosperity and happiness have given place to unemployment and distress which accompany our neglect of the Constitution. Perhaps not every part of the Constitution is neglected, but those parts which are most important are disregarded. We will better understand this if we ask, "By whom was the Constitution formed and for what purposes?" It was formed by the people of the original thirteen states, for the purpose of preserving their rights; and if it be viewed in the light of that purpose, we will never be in doubt as to its meaning. When thus formed, it had two great overshadowing provisions. These were: First, a guarantee to the people of the states of their rights and privileges in- eluding the right of self-government in local affairs. Under the second of these great provisions, some but not much power was conferred upon the Federal Government. That power was divided among the three departments, the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. And it was provided that no one department might trespass on another. Had I spoken on this subject last week, it might have been my duty to prove that both of these great principles have lately been neglected. But on Monday last the The Warning Supreme Court warned of the Supreme you that both principles Court are not only neglected, they are being violated. I refer specially to the N.R.A. decision. Let us consider the Supreme Court and its decision in that case. Our country differs from most others in having a Supreme Court empowered to set aside any law violating the provisions of the Constitution which the people have adopted a court which can say to all government officials, "You must not do this thing, for the people gave you no power to do it." Our Supreme Court is thus the guardian of the people against office holders and politicians. Now let us take up again the two great principles. First, as to the State's right to local self-government. Under the Constitution every state was to have control of manufacturing, mining, industry, commerce, etc., within its own borders. But wherever such operations concerned two or more states it was clear that there might be disputes and, consequently, that some unbiased and disinterested arbitrator was needed to handle what is called interstate commerce. The Federal Government was designated as that arbitrator. Now those who drew and passed the N.R.A. act tried to give to themselves (they being Federal officers) the power to control matters happening within one state and not related to another state. The familiar example is Federal interference with a man pressing a pair of trousers, which obviously is not interstate commerce except to the N.R.A. On Monday the Supreme Court declared that the N.R.A. law attempted to usurp power over such local activities and was therefore void. So the first of the great principles for which our Constitution was formed has been definitely established in favor of the people and against the politicians and office holders. The second great provision concerned the separation of powers of the three departments. The Supreme Court now Congress sav9 that Congress alone Must Enact may exercise legislative Nation's Laws powers and may not turn them over to the President. And thus the second great principle was decided against the politicians. Let us now ask whether it is essential that we should have this particular Constitution. The Constitution is not sacrosanct. It has been amended frequently and doubtless will be amended again. But the Federal Government cannot amend it. That can be done only by the people of the states or by their representatives. But we need some Constitution to protect the unorganized people against despotism and oppression by office holders and politicians. On this subject, that very wise man, George Washington, said, in his farewell address: "The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever be the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position.1' And this, he continues, has happened "in our own country and under our own eyes." Now who wanted the N.R.A. and why? The bill was offered by the President. He is a lawyer. The office of Attorney General is aspired to by great and leading lawyers. He has many other lawyer assistants. In Congress are 530 Senators and Representatives and more than half of them are lawyers. And all of these, from the President down, are bound by two oaths to preserve the Constitution; first, their oaths as lawyers, and second, the oaths they take as office holders. Yet and it is an appalling thought these very lawyers brought about the passage of the N.R.A. and voted it upon the people. Many warned them then that their action was unconstitutional. Since then they have been so warned repeatedly. The American Liberty League gave specific warning and issued two pamphlets calling attention to the illegality of the N.R.A. act and pointing out the grounds of its unconstitutionality. The League respectfully brought these matters to the attention of Congress and the public and urged a return to American principles. Its work was received with such terms as "tories" and "lies," and with the abuse sometimes resorted to by a lawyer to bolster up a shaky case. The N.R.A. act was ruth-" Dictatorship" lessly rushed through. It Openly was passed by the House Admitted under what is called a "gag rule" without the opportunity for adequate debate or proper amendment. The Chairman of the Rules Committee said: "Under this bill . . . the President of the United States is made a dictator over industry for the time being; but it is a benign dictatorship.** All peoples who have ever lost their liberty have been lulled into a false sense of security by just such assurances. So the N.R.A. went into effect by a combined vote in Senate and House of 382 to 100, and for two years there were oppression, confiscation of property, jail sentences, arbitrary and burdensome taxes, cracking down and congenital bad manners of the Administrator and some of his associates. Lawyer officials must have known that their law was unconstitutional, for they deliberately avoided a test. They carried a case to the very Supreme Court and then trickily withdrew the appeal and evaded a decision. But ultimately that Act did reach the Supreme Court on a case especially selected as most favorable to the Government, and that tribunal declares it unconstitutional and void, as relates to the first great provision that which concerns home-rule. The second provision, concerns, you will recall, the separation of the three Federal departments. Now the N.R.A. law, the Court says, violates also this second provision for it empowered the President to issue orders having all the force of law. Thousands of orders were issued. The President, of course, could not consider all of them. So numberless clerks, not chosen by the people, wrote thousands of laws about which Congress knew nothing. And now the Supreme Court says, in effect: "No. Congress must make the laws, not politicians, bureaucrats and clerks." I do not mean that the N.R.A. did not have good points. But its passage was by usurpation and imposition. If the job-holders wanted the N.R.A. they should have submitted a constitutional amendment. That could have been done in the early part of 1933. But no such effort was made. The power to impose the N.R.A. tyranny was simply stolen from the people. Now, it is good to give money to charity, but it is evil to steal the money, even if you give it for a good purpose. So it was evil to steal the power to impose the N.R.A. on the people, no matter what the motive. And all of this was done in violation of the double solemn oaths of which I have spoken a while ago. It seems as though Dangers George Washington must Foreseen by have foreseen this very Washington day when he said: "If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way in which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed." "Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, . . . that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect in the forms of the Constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown." If these were the only unconstitutional things done to us lately, one might be more charitable to the wrongdoers. But the fact is that in 140 years of our national existence preceding 1932 there were less than 60 instances in which the Supreme Court held laws unconstitutional. And this year (not yet 5 months old) the Supreme Court has declared four laws void. An equal number have shared the same fate in the inferior Federal courts; and, this week, the pace has been accelerated to two cases in a single day, in the Supreme Court alone and dozens of other cases are pending. Three excuses are given by those who have thus tramped on the Constitution. First. Emergency. Second. Good intentions. Third. Superior wisdom. As to the first (emergency), the Supreme Court long ago said: "The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men at all times and under all circumstances." As to the second and third excuses it may fairly be said that some of the fundamental errors of present-day office holders are based on their conviction that among them will be found supermen capable of controlling, managing and directing the homes, businesses, families and children of 130,000,000 people more satisfactorily than the people themselves. "The error is noble, the vanity fine." But while we may prop-The People eT\y blame some politi- Must Share cians and office holders Responsibility for unconstitutional acts, let us not forget that we, as a people, must take a still greater share of that blame. This country belongs, not to office holders, but to us the people. We inherited it in trust to be passed on to our children. Had the trust been one concerning money, how preciously we would have guarded it. But this trust is of something far beyond money. And we have not been diligent trustees. We have seen the precious rights trusteed to us filched under our very eyes. And what effort have you made, what effort have I made to be worthy trustees? What should be our future course as a nation ? Surely if the powers of the Federal Government ought to be enlarged (as office holders believe) , a constitutional amendment for that purpose should be submitted in an honest, open and honorable fashion. Every citizen should visit hot displeasure on those who seek to alter the Constitution and enhance their own powers by subterfuge and indirection. I know of no such amendment proposed by office holders. When next I go to the polls I must ask myself whether my party candidate has helped to pass a law violating the Constitution he swore to preserve. If so, I must ask whether he acted through sheer ignorance of our fundamental law, or whether he was moved even less worthily. On the facts, I must guide my ballot. I wish that all of us might on this day consecrated to the patriotic dead, take to heart Lincoln's words and, applying them to the preservation of our Constitution, "take from these honored dead increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, and that we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain." But, in truth, we Americans as a people have not, of late, had that spirit. We have been much more like Esau of old, for he had a heritage, a birthright, just as we have in our Constitution. And, because he came from his field faint and hungry, he "despised his birthright" and for "one morsel of meat sold his heritage." So with us. We have been frightened by a mere threat of hunger. We have felt faint, and for a little food, paid for out of our own tax money, we have been offering our birthright, our Constitution, for sale. Let me hope that like Esau we will repent. And I cannot forget that though "at first he found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears," yet, finally, his descendants became a mighty people and blessed the earth. 10