At the 1787 Convention: State Sovereignty and Standing Armies

It has been 227 years since August 23, 1787, but the debates that occupied the 50 or so delegates present that day at the so-called Federal Convention in Philadelphia can still be heard in Congress today.

On that hot summer day, representatives confronted the delicate and divisive issue of state sovereignty.

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Who Decides Constitutionality?

Who decides when the federal government has acted outside of those delegated powers? Most Americans will quickly answer, “The Supreme Court, of course!” Thomas Jefferson emphatically disagreed, arguing that the states make the determination in the last resort. Jefferson pointed out the absurdity of a branch of the federal government determining the extent of the…

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Under the Constitution: Limited Strikes Qualify as War

In the Constitution, the Founders intentionally prohibited the Executive branch from having the power to unilaterally determine whether or not the country would engage in war. Few were more adamant about this than James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” who wrote: “The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive…

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Constitutional Confrontation: Spying, Lying and Torture

In some respects, the recent admission by CIA Director John Brennan that his agents and his lawyers have been spying on the senators whose job it is to monitor the agency should come as no surprise. The agency’s job is to steal and keep secrets, and implicit in those tasks, Brennan would no doubt argue,…

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