by Josh Eboch

Most articles that seek to demonize the Tenth Amendment movement are so rife with logical and intellectual fallacies that even responding to them is a waste of time. However, in the case of Dan Casey, blogger for the Roanoke Times, an exception must be made.

For starters, Casey is writing in my (and Thomas Jefferson’s) home state of Virginia, and his piece, “The Whole Tenth Amendment Business is Dumb and Crazy” actually links to the Virginia Tenth Amendment Center, which I helped to found.

But, more importantly, in his article, Casey attempts to smear the brilliant men who wrote the U.S. Constitution by claiming the document doesn’t mean what they explicitly said it meant.

As James Madison might have said, there is a host of proofs that Dan Casey is dead wrong.

Like so many others before him, Casey leads his attack with a flaccid attempt to discredit the “Tenthers” (as he pejoratively calls them) by linking constitutionalism with support for slavery.

Of course, this completely obscures actions by Tenthers of an earlier era, who used the 10th Amendment as the prime justification for the “States Rights” argument that itself was a smokescreen for the real cause of the Civil War — the South’s insistence on preserving slavery.

Behold straw man number one: The Tenth Amendment is code for racism. Casey is either ignorant of the fact that many Northern states used the Tenth Amendment as a justification for undermining slavery long before 1861, through their refusal to enforce the Fugitive Slave Acts, or he has chosen to ignore that inconvenient part of history. 

Either way, it doesn’t matter. Historical accuracy is not Casey’s goal. He merely intends to color his readers’ perception of Tenthers by linking them, however spuriously, with Southern slaveholders. To acknowledge the truth about the history of states’ rights in the North might disrupt his narrative of unquestioning obsequiousness to centralized power.

Casey continues:

But apart from aligning themselves with slaveholders, there’s another more fundamental flaw in the whole modern Tenther argument. In a nutshell, it’s this: Their interpretation is based on a single sentence in the Constitution, rather than on the document as a whole.

In fact, the larger document directly contradicts the Tenthers’ argument.  That’s right — words the founding fathers quite deliberately wrote into the Constitution clearly and effectively rebut the Tenthers’ faulty reasoning.

It’s hard to imagine where Casey got this impression, considering that James Madison himself described the document he helped to write by saying

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.

Thomas Jefferson also knew the Tenth Amendment was more than just “a single sentence.” He called it the Constitution’s foundation: 

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: All powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.

It really cannot be any clearer than that. The self-serving opinions of Dan Casey and myriad federal judges notwithstanding, if the people and the states didn’t explicitly surrender a power in the Constitution, then they still retain it. Whether or not they choose to exercise it is another story.

But if federal power is limited to what is enumerated in the Constitution, Casey asks, why do we need a Bill of Rights at all?

The problem for the Tenthers here is that the First Amendment has nothing to do with what Congress can do. It’s all about what Congress can’t do.

And this is where the Tenthers’ entire argument falls apart. Because under Tenther-logic, unless the Constitution permitted the feds to establish religion, or abridge freedom of speech and so on, then the feds would automatically be prohibited from doing it.

Obviously, the founding fathers themselves did not believe that, or they never would have felt the need to write the First Amendment in the first place.

Here Casey has a point, although not the one he thinks. He is right, the feds are automatically prohibited from doing any of the things he lists, just as they are prohibited from requiring every American to buy health insurance, based on the fact that those powers are not delegated under Article 1 Section 8.  

But, more importantly, many of the founders themselves argued against the Bill of Rights for the same reason as Casey: It should not be necessary. 

Alexander Hamilton said

…bills of rights… are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. …For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? 

If there is any argument to be made against the Tenth Amendment, it is Hamilton, not Casey, who has made it.

The Bill of Rights should never have been needed. Every one of the first 10 Amendments is essentially legally redundant based on the text of the Constitution itself.

But, over time, activist judges and complicit politicians have turned the entire document on its head, until the only rights left to the people are those explicitly granted, while the only powers not yet claimed by government are those explicitly prohibited.

Yet Casey calls Tenthers, who only want the Constitution’s clear language enforced, “intellectual boobs who can’t be bothered to think for themselves.” Apparently, thinking for oneself means ignoring the purpose of our founding documents, and gratefully acquiescing to federal tyranny.

Those of us who demand liberty are feared and ridiculed by weak minded men like Dan Casey who consider themselves intelligent, but are really nothing more than errand boys for the State.

As Samuel Adams once said

If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

Concordia res parvae crescunt

Small things grow great by concord...

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