Guest Commentary by David Smith

I have been pleasantly surprised by the Walt Disney Corporation’s recent foray into making decent movies, namely with the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘National Treasure’ franchises.  I would like to draw attention to a particular line of significance in the most recent release in these lines, ‘National Treasure:  Book of Secrets.’

Nicholas Cage’s character, Dr. Gates, goes about clearing his ancestor, Thomas Gates’, name in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln while simultaneously discovering Cibola, the lost Aztec city of gold.  While the movie is mostly fiction, it weaves in and out of history magnificently, beginning with the assassination of President Lincoln in Washington, D.C.’s Ford Theatre.

Cage (Dr. Gates) is later pictured speaking with his partners in a scene which sparked my interest, and of which I now write.  Gates says, “Before the Civil War the States were all individual.  Before the Civil War, you said, ‘The United States are.’  After, it became, ‘The United States is.’  Lincoln made us one nation.”

I was stunned, but I maintained my composure.  I did not jab my friends in their sides, saying, “See, see – I told you so!”  They have had to listen to my constant babblings about early American history and the Constitution so much that when I asked them about this scene after the movie, they both said, “Yes, I heard that!  I almost jabbed you in the side!”

See?  Slowly I am winning my argument.  One by one by one I am turning the minds of the uninformed.  It is only a matter of time!

Now, Gates purpose in stating this line was followed up by his stated purpose of clearing his Great-Grandfather’s name in the assassination plot.  He later tells the current President, portrayed in the movie by Bruce Greenwood, that Lincoln is his favorite President, no offense intended.  Greenwood’s President (humor is employed at his birthday party when a country singer with a heavy accent sings, a la George W. Bush!) replies, “He is mine, too.”

My purpose in bringing up this point is not to discuss the “What is” of today, but the “What should be” of the Framers of the Constitution and the States who sent those Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia all those years ago in 1787.

I had heard the duality statements, ‘The United States are’ and ‘The United States is’ in junior high history class, as well as the historical context that this phrase changed after the Civil War, though I prefer to call it by its more etymologically correct term, the War Between the States, much for the same reason.

You see, the Constitution as it was written in 1787 was framed by men loyal to their States.  They did not intend on signing over great power to the new government.  In fact, they enumerated (familiar term?) the exact Powers that were being delegated to the three branches of the national, or Federal, government exactly.  The Power to determine its own Powers, or say what it can or cannot do, is, in fact, not a Power of the Federal Government.

And herein is my point.  Hollywood can make use of this very important statement, and the Fortune 500 (Disney in both cases) can make millions of dollars on its use.  And we will all go through the movies and view this movie and this line will go right through our collective ears and pass back into obscurity.

But I don’t want that!  I want for each of us to ponder these two phrases very carefully, for their meanings are a stark contrast which we must consider and choose which our nation is to follow going forward.  Are we truly ‘one,’ as the national government would have us believe?  One nation ruled by one government, supreme in its dictates, statutes and opinions?  Or as our national slogan states, are we many, united together?  E Pluribus Unum – from many, one.  If you don’t believe me, pull out your dollar bill, or if you are of slightly more modest means, any bit of change will do – it is printed or engraved on it all.

Allow me to give some examples of the problem with ‘The United States is.’  The United States of America, in fact, is grammatically and etymologically correct when referring to the whole!  However, the Powers granted to the national, Federal government have been vastly exceeded.

The Constitution is very clear as to the Powers of Congress in Article I.  My passion is not in the area of reforming the Federal Reserve Bank, but Ron Paul is absolutely accurate when he discusses the matter and mentions that it is not a Power of Congress to have set up this entity.  Banking is a State matter, as well, which is why we still have both National Banks as well as State Banks.  And while State and National Banks alike are required to adhere to Federal law including the Federal Reserve Acts, putting them under direct regulation of the Federal Reserve Bank, this is not a matter delegated to Congress to have Power over.

Neither is it a Power of Congress to enact the Social Security Act.

Neither is it a Power of Congress to delegate the authority to wage war as it did in the War Powers Act.

In another Branch in Washington, it is not a Power of the “supreme Court” (capitalization according to the Constitution) to hear matters that fall under the realm of 10th Amendment States’ Rights.  Article 3 of the Constitution delegates limited jurisdiction to the Federal Judiciary.  These areas of jurisdiction are spelled out explicitly, with no implied Powers delegated.  So when it is not delegated to the Judiciary to hear a matter between two residents of the same State (as in Jane Roe and Henry Wade), or between a citizen and the State of their residence, for the Judiciary to even allow a case such as Roe v. Wade to be filed in Federal Court is an abomination of the American Jurisprudence system.

You see, when you look at the term ‘The United States,’ you must recognize that the key noun in the term is States – plural, as in several.  And when one reads the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, it mentions, “in order to form a more perfect Union.”

But nowhere in the Constitution which establishes that Union does it grant the Power to the Union, the Federal Government, or the United States to force the collective will upon an individual State in matters which are reserved, according to the 10th Amendment, to those States.

The United States is.  But the United States also are.  And it is high time that we remember the difference between Powers delegated and Powers reserved.

David Smith is a Denton, TX resident, a self-taught expert in the Constitution, Law and the Courts, and a future Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. His hot-button issue is States’ Rights. See more of his writings at his blog,

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