Standing on the Shoulders of Giants


The phrase “If I see farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” was Isaac Newton’s way of stating that his great success in mathematics and physics was based on a foundation laid by those who came before him. We must take this same stance on questions of liberty today and view them through a lens of the original intent of the founders, while at the same time understanding that the world has changed dramatically since the founding documents were written. The founders could not possibly have envisioned instantaneous sharing of information and the huge technological revolution that would be coming centuries later. However, the basis of their work on human liberty has remained constant because human nature is at its core unchanged.

Unchecked power in the hands of the government leads to abusive and far reaching uses of the power. This is why, for example, the constitution has a list of specific powers delegated to the federal government and reserves to the States the powers that were not delegated at the Federal level. The 10th amendment establishes this beyond question, but there are still many disputes today that are decided in favor of Federal law over the law of an individual State. It is a common mantra in the mainstream media that Federal law trumps State law. This is true only in the case of powers expressly delegated to the Federal Government by the Constitution. The United States was founded on the principle of a union of states, each with their own powers and sovereignty. Over recent years and through various court decisions, we have turned our back on this principle. This has been responsible for a huge centralization of power in Washington D.C. and a loss of liberty that would leave many of the founders turning over in their graves.

I hold that a strict standard of interpretation of the Constitution is necessary for the preservation of liberty. The original intent of the document and amendments should always be the first consideration when trying to discern the true meaning. In this way, the spirit of the law and the letter of the law share a balanced position when determining the enforcement of the law. The Founders did have foresight enough to leave us a method for changing the Constitution through the amendment process. Three-fourths of the states have to agree in order to change the document. Modern politicians often view this process as too onerous or old fashioned. Well, sorry for the inconvenience. If you are going to change the basic foundation for law (which can directly impact our liberties) in this Country then the process should be difficult. It should not be possible, at the whim of the president or in pursuit of his agenda, to amend the Constitution in order to give the Federal Government additional powers without the States having the final word on it. The amendment concept was a brilliant idea of the founders that gave flexibility to the Constitution and allowed it to be molded within limits to suit changing times.

I end this article with a quote from Thomas Jefferson regarding States rights:

Resolved, that the several states composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that Government certain definite powers, reserving each state to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self Government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.

From the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798

Written By Ryan B. Kirk

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