Sheriff Mack, the 17th Amendment, and Liberty

by James Wagoner

On December 30, 2010 the Maui Tea Party and Maui Calabash group joined together and hosted an event featuring Sheriff Richard Mack of Graham County, Arizona. His presentation was about the eroding powers of individual states and local governments. It was the individual states that formed the federal government initially, with very limited and discreet powers. The Founders wrote a constitution for this new government to insure that we were to be governed by a limited entity, with strict parameters for its authority and power.

Sheriff Mack found himself in a serious “Constitutional bind” in 1994 when he was directed to carry out certain sections of the Brady Bill for the federal government which was in direct violation to his oath of office. This law literally forced each sheriff, or the equivalent, to become a pawn for the federal government and to do its bidding to promote gun control within their jurisdiction. There were no funds allocated for this activity, though there was a provision to arrest those that refused to comply. Sheriff Mack initiated a lawsuit against the Clinton Administration that went all the way to the Supreme Court.  On June 27, 1997 the Supreme Court ruled this provision of the Brady Bill unconstitutional as the federal government could not commandeer state or county officers for federal purposes.

Sheriff Mack is now a constitutional scholar by any standard. And like so many others, he is discouraged and alarmed by the actions and conduct coming out of Washington, D.C.  The Founding Fathers warned us repeatedly, in their writings and their intent, to avoid gun control, a welfare state, a police state, a grandiose central government, and paper money not backed by gold or silver.  A limited central government was the goal, because they understood that freedom couldn’t exist with an all powerful government.

In his presentation, Sheriff Mack’s general thesis is that individual states and counties are losing their Constitutional rights, not because the Constitution has been altered, but because we are refusing to exercise our founding rights so clearly stated. We should never forget that the powers given to the federal government were clearly enumerated. The powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution, are reserved to the states, or to the people.

We now have a government based on “we will do whatever it takes to take care of you, to feed you, to educate you, and basically to protect you from your own stupidity – instead of a government based on principles of personal choice, individual accountability, and self-determination.”  The slow erosion of true federalism has come about through the practice of neglect of enforcement by local governing bodies.

I personally think that the 17th Amendment to our Constitution was a great step backwards for our freedom.  Article 1, Section 3 states:  “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, (chosen by the Legislature thereof) for six years.” Such an appointment by a state legislature insured the philosophical allegiance to the particular state in question. The 17th Amendment passed in 1913 says:  “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”

I have spent some time looking at the membership history of the United States Senate, and audited the 1,098 appointed Senators from the 1st Congress in 1789 through the sitting Congress of March 1913. Of this number, there were 109 of these Senators who served additional periods of service. For instance Henry Clay of Kentucky, served  in three different periods of time in the Senate,  in addition to serving twice in the House of Representatives, once as it’s Speaker. If one divides the total appointments to the Senate into the total years of Senatorial service (6,932) one finds out that the average period of service was 5.4 years.  One can surmise there were fewer career politicians in the Senate prior to the 17th Amendment.

Subsequent to the 17th Amendment in April 1913 through March of 2010, we find that the composite senatorial years served was 10,088.  The average time of service by present day Senators is 12.3 years. They are proudly known as United States Senators, and act accordingly. The power of the individual state has thus been diminished.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist, “We can safely rely on the disposition of State Legislators to erect barriers against the encroachment of the national authority.” That is far from the case today.

Grassroot member James Wagoner writes from Maui, where he is involved with both the Tea Party movement and the Maui Calabash.

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