Do You Really Know The Constitution?
September 17, 2010 by Chip Wood
Today is Constitution Day — a day specifically designated by an Act of Congress when Americans are supposed to honor the remarkable document that created our system of government. The date was chosen because the Constitution was approved at the original Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787.
The act that created Constitution Day mandates that all publicly-funded educational institutions provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day. Let’s see how well the schools have done their job.
Ask a recent high school or college graduate to take the following brief quiz. I’ll be interested to hear how many of the 20 questions he or she answers correctly.
And be sure to take the quiz yourself. Even if you score 100 percent, it’s good to be reminded of some of the fundamental principles upon which our country was founded. The quiz was compiled by an old friend, John McManus, who is president of the John Birch Society. Thanks, John, for permission to share this with my readers today.
- Has the Constitution always guided our country?
- What are the three branches of government named in the Constitution?
- Does the Constitution allow the Supreme Court to make law?
- Does the Constitution empower the President to make law?
- Does the Constitution give the Federal government any power in the field of education?
- Where in the Constitution is there authorization to dispense foreign aid?
- Did the Constitution give the Federal government power to create a bank?
- Can the provisions of a treaty supersede the Constitution?
- Does the Constitution allow a President to take the nation into war?
- Can you name any of the four crimes mentioned in the Constitution?
- Should the Bill of Rights be considered part of the original Constitution?
- According to the Constitution, how can a President and other national officers be removed from office?
- How many amendments have been added to the Constitution?
- How is an amendment added to the Constitution?
- Does the Constitution say anything about illegal immigration?
- Is the term of a President limited by the Constitution?
- Which part of the Federal government holds “the power of the purse”?
- Does the Constitution provide a method for expelling a member of Congress?
- How many times is the word “democracy” mentioned in the Constitution?
- Does the Bill of Rights grant the people free speech, freedom of the press, the right to possess a weapon, etc?
It wasn’t as easy as you thought it would be, was it? Here are the answers, also as provided by McManus.
- No. Originally the nation functioned under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation. Eleven years after the Declaration of Independence the Constitution was written, agreed to and sent to the states for ratification. When ratified by nine states (as the document itself prescribed), the Constitution was declared to be the new governmental system. That occurred on Sept. 13, 1788. The new government was ordered to be convened on March 4, 1789.
- Legislative, Executive and Judicial.
- No. The very first sentence in the Constitution states: "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States….” Any Supreme Court decision is the law of the case that binds only the plaintiff and the defendant. The meaning of the word “all” has not been changed.
- No. Executive Orders issued by the President that bind the entire nation are illicit because, as noted above, “All legislative powers” are possessed by Congress. An Executive Order that binds only the employees of the Federal government (such as granting a holiday) is proper because the President should be considered to be the holder of power much like that possessed by the CEO of a company. But the entire nation is not in the employ of the President.
The President does have a role in lawmaking with his possession of a veto. He can veto a measure approved by Congress (which can be overturned by a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress), or simply allow it to become law by doing nothing within 10 days, “Sundays excepted.”
- No. The Constitution contains no mention of any power “herein granted” in the field of education.
- No such authorization appears in the Constitution.
- No. Congress was granted power to “coin money,” meaning it was to have the right to create a mint where precious metal could be stamped into coinage of fixed size, weight and purity. There is no Constitutional authority for the Federal government to have created the Federal Reserve.
- Absolutely not. Thomas Jefferson responded to those who consider treaty-making power to be “boundless” by stating, “If it is, then we have no Constitution.”
- It does not. The sole power to declare the nation at war is possessed by Congress. Congress last used this power at the beginning of World War II, when war was declared on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Germany declared war on the U.S. the next day.) A congressional vote to authorize the President to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions should never be considered a substitute for a formal declaration of war.
- The four crimes mentioned are: Treason, bribery, piracy and counterfeiting.
- Many do hold that view because if the promise to add a Bill of Rights had not been made during the ratification process, some states would not have ratified the Constitution.
- The President and other high officers of the Federal government can be impeached by a majority in the House and tried by the Senate. Impeachment does not constitute removal; it should be considered the equivalent of an indictment that must be followed by a trial. Two-thirds of the Senators “present” must approve removal at the subsequent trial to effect removal.
- There are 27. The first 10 (the Bill of Rights) can be considered part of the original Constitution. Amendment 18 was repealed by Amendment 21. This means that, in 223 years, only 15 other amendments have been added. The process was deliberately made difficult to keep anything dangerous or silly from being added to the Constitution in the heat of passion.
- Congress can propose an amendment when two-thirds of both Houses of Congress vote to do so. Any proposed amendment must then by ratified by the legislature or a convention in three-quarters of the States. Amendments can also be proposed by a Federal Constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the States. Any amendment arising from a Constitutional convention must also be ratified by the legislature or a convention in three-quarters of the states.
- Not directly. But Article IV, Section 4 assigns to the Federal government the duty “to protect each of them [the States] from invasion.” It does not specify that the invasion must be military. When 12 million people enter our nation illegally, it is an invasion that should be repelled by the Federal government.
- Yes. In 1951, Amendment 22 was added to the Constitution to limit any President to two terms. The only President who served longer than two terms was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who held office during a fourth four-year term. He died in April 1945 shortly after beginning his 13th year in office.
- The House of Representatives. Article I, Section 7 states: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives….” If a majority in the House (218 of its 435 members) refuses to originate a bill to raise revenue for something, then no funds can be spent on that activity.
- Two-thirds of each House has the authority to expel any of its members for cause even though the member has been elected by voters.
- The word “democracy” does not appear in the Constitution. Our nation is a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy. The Founders feared Democracy (unrestricted rule by majority) and favored a Republic (rule of law where the law limits the government). James Madison wrote: “…. Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
- No. The Declaration of Independence, which provides the philosophical base of our nation, states very clearly that our rights are granted to us by our Creator. The various rights noted in the Bill of Rights were not granted by government. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to prevent the Federal government from suspending any of those God-given rights, including the right to possess a weapon. Those who claim “Second Amendment rights,” for instance, make a big mistake with such a statement. If the right is granted by the Second Amendment, meaning by government, it can be taken away by government. If the right is granted by God, only He can take it away.
While every politician pays lip service to the Constitution (the President, Vice President, and every member of Congress take an oath to “preserve and protect” it), the sad truth is that vast majority of actions taken by the Federal government are not authorized by the Constitution.
I have heard it said that, if the Constitution were fully and honestly enforced today, the Federal government would be 20 percent of its present size and would cost 20 percent of its present budget. I think those numbers are an exaggeration; I suspect the truth would be closer to 10 percent.
Just imagine: No foreign aid, no Departments of Education, Housing, Health, Agriculture or Homeland Security. No commissions, bureaucratic monstrosities or other meddlesome agencies that “harass our people and eat out their substance.” (That’s an actual indictment of King George from the Declaration of Independence.)
What would this country be like if the Constitution were fully and honestly enforced? I hope some day we’ll find out.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
— Chip Wood