Just what are the Constitutional limits on federal ownership of land? Are they defined in the Constitution, federal law, or both?
Many Americans, including politicians in our government, are under the distinct impression that our Federal Government can use eminent domain to lay claim to whatever land and natural resources they see fit. After all, the federal government runs the country, right?
Wrong. That is not what the Constitution says. In fact, it says something
We the People run our country. In fact, our Constitution, “the supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI), says so in its opening words, the Preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a m
ore perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Each and every U.S. citizen is one of “We the People.” We the People run our country, hence the name of this website. This fact is thoroughly woven throughout our Constitution and its Amendments, particularly the first ten Amendments we know as the Bill of Rights, and for very good reason.
Before our Constitution was signed 1787, and even before our Declaration of Independence eleven years earlier in 1776, certain factions in our government wanted to create a strong, authoritarian government. The problem is that such a government was reminiscent of the Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed, knowing full well that such governments strongly tend to creep towards dictatorship. They also rejected democracy, a democratic form of government, knowing full well that when Rome allowed itself to be transformed from a republic into a democracy, its end soon followed, eventually collapsing under its own excesses.
A republic is defined as a government under the rule of law. Because it’s principles are well-defined and codified, it tends to be far more stable than a democracy, whose principles can be changed by a single vote. Thus, a republic works quite well. Democracies, however, are not stable, as they’re determined by the will of the people. When those people have either been deceived or have merely grown ignorant, the democracy is easily weakened, making it ripe for being overrun by another country, or worse, being rendering so dysfunctional that it collapses under the weight of its own excesses, inefficiencies, and corruption. Sadly, the United States under Democrat control reflects this tendency and has become a clear and present danger to our nation, as clearly evidenced not only by our current and exorbitant level of debt, but also by the abject failure of most cities run by strongly Democrat governments.
Because our Founding Fathers were such keen students of history, knowing full well what works and what doesn’t, when these factions attempted to create a strong central government whereby states ceded most, if not all of their rights, the calmer heads crafted, “by the Unanimous Consent of the States present,” a “Constitution for the United States of America” that specifically required ratification “by three-fourths of the several states,” the same as for all Amendments (Article V). Rhode Island, distrustful of a powerful federal government, was the only one of the thirteen original states to refuse to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Thus, with only twelve states present, three-quarters of which equal nine, they including the following Article VII’s opening clause: “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.”
Furthermore, our “country” isn’t like France, Japan, or Egypt. By law, specifically our U.S. Constitution, the United States of America is a collection of independent states (countries) organized into a union. The term “state” and “country” are synonymous, hence the universal terms “heads of state” and our “State Department,” both of which deal with other countries. In fact, the word “country” is not found anywhere in our Constitution, whereas the word “state” is found 133 times.”
Much like the European Union, each U.S. state remains its own sovereign entity, have ceded only certain specific and quite limited powers to the union as a whole, under the federal government, in order to normalize activities and relations between the states, which to this day retained the vast majority of powers under each state government.
Specifically, the federal government exists solely for the purposes as given in the Preamble.
If the federal government were allowed to change its powers merely by passing a single bill, especially in a way that modified the limits established by our Constitution, then such an action would not only be inconsistent with our Constitution, but would disenfranchise our voters. Fortunately, that’s not how our government works, or at least is supposed to work.
So… Where does that leave us with respect to the federal ownership of land?
Article I, Section 8 gives Congress many powers. However, when it comes to the purchasing and ownership of land, it limits the federal government’s powers quite specifically:
“To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings…”
- Congress may exercise exclusive legislation over the District.
- The District is not to exceed exceed ten miles square.
- The District is to be formed by land ceded by particular states, as accepted by Congress, to become the seat of the U.S. government
- If Congress needs additional land, it may purchase places by the consent of the legislature of the state from which they’re being purchased
- The only reasons Congress may purchase such lands are for the erection of forts (Army bases), magazines (place where ammunition is stored), arsenals (place where firearms are stored), dock-yards (places where ships are stored aka “ports”), “and other needful buildings.”
NOTE: The entire collection of Constitutionally-authorized Congressional purchases is limited to buildings and structures.
These limitations gave rise to the easy to remember moniker, “forts, ports, and ten miles square.”
While it is reasonable to extend this to Air Force bases and large ranges used for firing, bombing, and testing, Congress does not have any Constitutional authorization to buy land used for other purposes, particularly vast quantities of land as they own out west. Furthermore, they have absolutely zero lawful authority (power) to “appropriate” (take without buying) land, as the Constitution specifically requires Congress to obtain land only if “purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be.”
Some people will argue that the next clause gives the federal government to expand their powers as they see fit, that doing so is in the best interests of our nation. Again, WRONG. Nor does the federal government have any authority to erode our rights. The two Amendments which guarantee both of these precepts are found at the end of the Bill of Rights as stop-gap final limits on federal powers:
Amendment IX: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
In modern parlance, just because a right isn’t mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t mean it’s not a legitimate right. Furthermore, no one – not Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, nor any business, organization, entity, man, woman, or child can lawfully either deny us those rights nor even “disparage” our retention of those rights. Disparage means “to describe (someone or something) as unimportant, weak, bad; to degrade; to lower in rank or reputation; speak slightingly about.” These are the rights of We the People! They’d better not attempt to degrade them.
Amendment X: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Again, in today’s language, this simply means that all powers not specifically given to the federal government are not to be held by the federal government. Unless the Constitution specifically prohibits the states holding a specific power, such as negotiating international treaties, then that power belong to the states (NOT the feds), or the people.
Put simply, the Federal Government of the United States of America has vastly overreached the Constitutional limits of their authority. NO land is legitimately “their land” except the buildings and structures required for forts and ports, and the ten miles square required for the seat of the U.S. government. All other lands in these United States belong to the States or to the People. Sometime long ago federal politicians convinced themselves that it was OK to flagrantly ignore, if not extremely violate the U.S. Constitution, and for some unfathomable reason, the American People weren’t paying attention!
Well, people of America, you’d better start paying attention now, and remind each and every member of Congress — often, as in at least once weekly — that We the People are watching, and that those who fail or refuse to do their duty, irregardless of willfulness or ignorance, to FULLY “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” most certainly WILL be ejected from office with extreme prejudice, and replaced by one of us who actually knows and follows the United States Constitution.
Yesterday I stumbled across a rather insightful editorial by Bart Hinkle at the Richmond Times. He demonstrated such clear thinking that I wrote the author a letter, presented here with minor corrections for spelling, punctuation, and grammar:
I found your recent article to be very insightful. It is a fascinating look at what ails America today. It boils down to dereliction of duty to “support and defend the Constitution” at ALL levels of government.
I concur with you that Congress has failed to do its duty to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” almost certainly because the loyalty of many Congressman to their party or various idealistic excursions has increasingly eclipsed their loyalty to the proven reality of the Constitution. Sadly, we see the same thing in the Supreme Court, which should never be the case. With respect to the points you made in your article, I believe additional factors have come into play, including the increasing fear of being labeled politically incorrect, and the corresponding unwillingness to take necessary and more permanent actions against elected officials who refuse to abide by “the supreme Law of the Land.”
Shortly after retiring from my career as an Air Force officer, I began working to educate people on the dangers facing our nation, particularly from the erosion of the absolute moral base our Founding Fathers cautioned was essential to the long-term health of our nation. With such a moral base, even an imperfect Constitution and its resulting society would survive, as leaders would retain the same principles, precepts, and moral values held by the framers. The resolution of unanticipated issues would naturally incline towards the time-tested precepts which have served our nation so well for so long. Without such a moral base, even a perfect Constitution would eventually fail. A nation lacking proper morals would be increasingly opposed to Constitutional principles and values, until its leaders began ignoring increasingly larger portions of the Constitution, eventually leaving it behind altogether.
Our Founding Fathers did a miraculous job crafting our Constitution. It is extremely difficult, however, if not impossible, to create a legal foundation capable of fighting the erosion of society when that society’s elected and appointed leaders, either out of ignorance or willful malice, fail to follow the written legal foundation.
In light of this perspective, I submit to you three additional avenues of failure, along with some proposals for amendments that might be able to stem the flow of our nation’s life-blood, even restore proper function in the presence of decreasing loyalty to the Constitution:
Failure 1: Education of the people: Sadly, too many Americans are voting for government officials at all levels not because of what a candidate can do for their country, but because of what a candidate can do for them. This self-seeking behavior and failure to delay gratification ultimately results in poorer results. Candidates are rarely able to deliver on their campaign promises. When a person believes rhetoric promising him or her a better life, and votes for that candidate, they wind up doing little to work hard and secure that life for themselves. Instead, they wait around for the candidate to make their lives better. When that fails, they become embittered at the “other guy” their candidate blames as the problem, or they become embittered with the system itself.
The Department of Education and liberal school systems has been largely complicit in this area of demise by lowering and even eliminating the bar in vital areas like civics and history while cluttering the educational landscape with requirements that eclipse a child’s opportunity to obtain a full, well-rounded education suitable for understanding how human society really works. This is really the root problem of what’s going on in America. If the people stopped electing those who are undermining our Republic, the problem would largely disappear. Our Republic would be preserved. Sadly, many people are no longer capable of correctly assessing the worth of a candidate, or envisioning the long-term effects of electing a candidate.
Possible solutions: Eliminate the Department of Education and use those funds at the state level to provide for a more graduated pay scale for teachers instead of the current rise and cap pay curves; raise standards required of teachers; ensure those standards reflect the requirements addressed as outlined above.
Failure 2: Personification of the corporate: No serious student of the Constitution would ever conclude that our Founding Fathers meant to give business the same access to our government as We the People, much less a 1000% greater influence over Congressional decision-making. The fallout from this decision has lead to increasingly darker decisions being made by Congress, ones that treat citizens as cattle to be mined for their ability to be skimmed for a fat, corporate/federal profit, instead of the rightful rulers of our once-great nation.
Possible solution: Check Citizens United with an amendment that declares corporate anthropomorphization to be verboten. Ensure it reaffirms the Constitution’s focus on We the People under sovereign States as the rightful owners of our own country.
Failure 3: Senators and Representatives are too similar. This arose as a result of the 17th Amendment. Article I, Section 3, which used to read: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof…” The Amendment now reads: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof…” While I understand this was an attempt to solve problems involving legislative corruption and deadlocks, I do not agree it was the best solution. For all intents and purposes, what we now have are a House and a Senate that look very similar. Even dividing Congress into two houses makes little sense when the people elect one Representative from their district and two more to represent the State as a whole. Why not instead simply elect “general Congressmen,” and scrap the two-house system?
Possible solution: Repeal the 17th Amendment. The original issue is that “There was a sense that senatorial elections were ‘bought and sold’, changing hands for favors and sums of money rather than because of the competence of the candidate.” That sounds the same as it is today, so what problem was actually solved? If none, then that’s strike one against the 17th Amendment. As far as electoral deadlocks, the solution is simple: Require states to provide for a tiebreaker, much as we have for the Supreme Court and the Senate. An example might be, “In case of tie, the Assistant Governor will cast the tie-breaking vote.” They could also flip a coin, roll die, or spin a wheel. States could choose whatever method they want, so long as it’s expedient. To help deter delays in breaking such ties, simply stipulate that if the states fail to provide two Senators, those positions will simply remain unfilled and the State will be underrepresented in Congress, something no State wants to face. Our Constitution set the precedence for that by requiring percentage votes of “members present” for many things, including very important things, such as treaties and impeachment.
Bart, I thoroughly enjoyed your article and have bookmarked you in the hopes of reading many more to come!
Here is Bart’s response:
Thank you for the note. You raise some very interesting points.
All the best,
It was my pleasure.
When our Founding Fathers wrote our Second Amendment, they had absolutely zero intention of establishing any sort of government oversight of the people’s arms. Instead, the intent behind their use of the phrase in the Second Amendment was — precisely — to render the government powerless to have any such authority whatsoever.
Bottom line: According to the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment itself is the only gun “permit” required of “the people” (U.S. Citizens), and all other permits, restrictions, fees, and denials of ownership (“keep”) and any type of carry (“bear”) are an infringement against our right to keep and bear arms.
Tell your Congressmen, your President, and the U.S. Supreme Court to…
And YES, Armed Citizens really DO stop mass shooters! In fact, for each one of these ten events, there’s probably another ten that flew under the radar.
The best, most thorough, in-depth, and accurate treatise on both letter and intent of the Second Amendment was the February 1982 Congressional Report on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (97th Congress, 2d Session, U.S. Gov Printing Office document 88-618 O). This document is a clear and unadulterated reflection of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers.
Anyone who has been around the block a time or two recognizes the “it’s up to each generation to figure out how to make it work” phrase as the idealistic horse hockey it truly is, for one simple reason: our Founding Fathers got it right.
Utterly lacking from most arguments against the Second Amendment is a copy of the text itself:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The phrase “shall not” is pretty darn clear. It’s not the softer “will not,” much less the permissive “may not.” It’s a crystal clear imperative that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” is off-limits, untouchable, regardless of any circumstances whatsoever.
It’s an absolute mandate. Zero wiggle room. Are you getting the picture, yet, or are you furiously thumbing through your Rolodex of liberal undermining comments instead of paying attention to the big enchilada, the Constitution itself?
Most anti-2A articles conveniently fail to mention the fact that more than 760,000 crimes are stopped each and every year by armed law-abiding citizens, crimes to which a citizen at the scene can respond immediately, but where a 911 call would take at least several minutes for law enforcement to respond. Not good when most of these incidents are over in seconds.
No about of idealistic tripe will ever counter three facts: 1) The mental health approach will make a dent in these shootings, but it won’t counter the majority of them; 2) An armed citizen at the scene of these incidents provides the best opportunity to stop these events before they continue beyond the first couple of people; 3) Knowledge of the second point is the best deterrent. Let’s face it, these people may be criminally insane, but they’re not stupid. They’re actively targeting so-called “gun free zones” for a reason: No armed law-abiding citizens.
Use that gray matter upstairs for once and think it through.
2016 Addendum: An acquaintance wrote, “Well-regulated meant supplied…”
Not according to George Washington, it didn’t. He equated it with “disciplined” when he wrote, “A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government”
In the vernacular of the day, it meant several things, and “disciplined” and “properly trained” were chief among them. Other associated meanings include “organized” and “routinely practiced/exercised.”
Screw Title 10. It wasn’t written with a valid understanding of the vernacular of the day.
The term “well-regulated” has NEVER meant “legislated” or “controlled,” and no finer evidence exists than the Second Amendment itself, which prohibits any sort of infringement on our right to keep and bear arms i.e. “shall not be infringed.”
For that matter, screw any “precedent” which supports any conclusion other than the above, which is based on the many writings of our Founding Fathers themselves. Most such precedents are so stacked on top of one another it’s like trying to balance the Washington Monument on top of a piece of baklava.
As for the term “militia,” relying on anything other that period observations is similarly misleading, almost certainly because later observations were often intentionally misleading.
According to the 1982 Congressional Report on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the term “militia” as it appears in our Second Amendment means, quite simply, “armed people,” and mention was made in several period documents to include able-bodied men, women, and children capable of bearing arms against an enemy. Referring again to period documents, the term “militia” was distinctly contrasted against “soldier” and “sailor,” both of whom were considered regular forces, whereas the militia was considered to be a reserve comprised of all U.S. citizens.
At this point, the historical record gets a little confusing, only because different factions of our nation’s early leadership had two different thoughts on the matter. One faction wanted everyone to remain fully armed whereas the other faction thought it best to secure arms in an armory unless/until needed. Many others occupied the continuum between these two philosophies. When the conflict, which involved several other areas of interest, came to a head, those who favored a citizen militia prevailed and established not only our Second Amendment, but the the first twelve amendments, which were whittled down to ten amendments before consensus and subsequent ratification.
Well, this has been a short (very) summary of a 34-year on-and-off and back on again exploration into our nation’s early history. 🙂
For more outstanding finds, documents, and references on this topic, click here.
World Domination 101: Obama’s no fool, but he’s no Bobby Fischer or Gary Kasparov, either. He’s admitted in public and on video multiple times that he he wasn’t born in America and that he’s a Muslim. He’s openly given $1.5 billion American Dollars to the Muslim Brotherhood, and given the meteoric rise in our deficit, from $9 Trillion to $16 Trillion, I suspect he managed to siphon off at least $1 Trillion of that to Islam.
I’m a Christian, but I don’t view other world religions with distaste, as they’ve never given me any reason to do so. Except Islam. It’s the only religion which mandates its followers either convert or kill infidels (unbelievers), as well as lie to do so. Only socialism has resulted in more deaths, worldwide, than Islam. Obama is both Muslim and a socialist, but not the latter in any sort of pure form. He’s got his own brand of world-wrecking idealism, and if humanity ever manages to dethrone him, the history books will likely record it as Obamanism, right up there with Naziism, Fascism, Communism, Marxism, etc.
I haven’t a clue as to what’s been happening on Congress, why they haven’t impeached him for at least one of the several felonies (high crimes) he’s committed while in office, or any of his dozens of misdemeanors. The only answer I’ve received was from John Boehner’s office, and they said they won’t start impeachment proceedings because they can’t possible get the 2/3 vote required. Personally, I think they need to impeach him anyway, if for no other reason than to bypass the uber-liberal mainstream media who refuses to report Obama-wrongs.
I haven’t seen 2016, yet, but I’ve watched Agenda, and that alone ID’d all the players from the late 1800s on, and connected all the dots, all of which lead to Obama. This problem isn’t just within our own borders. It’s worldwide, and has existed for more than a century. It has resulted in two world wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes. More than a billion humans are dead as a direct or indirect result of this sickness, and three times that many have been harmed, most often physically (maimed).
I say “sickness,” because that’s what it is, and all the major players, including Obama, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Khrushchev, Emperor Sh?wa (Hirohito), Ahmadinejad (Iran), Putin, Chavez, and al-Assad (Syria), have one thing in common: They’re all megalomaniacs (narcissistic personality disorder).
But they’re not the real problem. They’re only the symptom of a far greater problem. The real problem lies with the 47% who are either too lazy, stupid, ignorant, or idealistic to understand what’s going on. These idiots mis-educate our youth, rewrite history, fail to properly report the news, and otherwise keep at least 47% of us secluded from reality.
It’s very frustrating to see otherwise intelligent people, friends for many years, get that deer in the headlights look before pressing the Obama lever at the polls.