By: Toddy Littman
The headline is a premature hope of a desired outcome of awakened Americans discovering how much their lives change when government is making their decisions for them.
Recently, Nancy Pelosi mentioned the 4th Section of the 14th Amendment (per a recent article at the Huffington Post):
“Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pelosi offered her strongest endorsement to-date of the 14th Amendment option, which holds that Congress doesn’t have the power to use the debt ceiling as a hostage-taking device because the validity of the debt “shall not be questioned.”
“Nancy Pelosi: Well, you ask the Republicans, because we always passed the debt ceiling. When President Bush was president, as he was incurring these massive debts, and the Republicans weren’t saying ‘boo’ at the time. There should be, this is a conversation where there should be no doubt. In fact, if I were president, I’d use the 14th Amendment, which says that the debt of the United States will always be paid.
“Bob Schieffer: You would just go ahead and do it, you wouldn’t wait for the Congress?
“Nancy Pelosi: I would just go do it. But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. And so what are you saying, we incurred it but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say, ‘We are not going to do it so much in the future,’ well that’s another thing. But you can’t say, ‘I’m not paying my past debts.’” — Emphasis mine, link below.
The report further explains this is gaining support by democrats on Capital Hill (should be “Capitol” but with the way they spend our money I am figuring that is how the wrong use of the term has become the accepted norm). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/06/14th-amendment-option_n_2420461.html
Now, to cite the actual portion of the 14th Amendment mentioned, the first sentence of section 4, to show that this use by Nancy Pelosi is a calculated misuse of a clause passed by Congress June 13, 1866, and ratified July 9, 1868 and is specific to the Civil War, you will see that Pelosi is attempting a spin of the meaning that is an abuse of language and bets on the American People’s lack of knowledge of their own Constitution:
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, [condition, Act of Congress, 1st prong] authorized by law, [condition, exclusive inclusion, 2nd prong] including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, [conclusive command upon both conditions being true] shall not be questioned.” — Emphasis mine, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html
To illustrate the intention of the drafters of the 14th Amendment, who wanted to put an end to things they saw to be perpetuating the continuance of Slavery as an institution even after the abolition of Slavery by the 13th Amendment, they knew this meant that the national government would need to be able to act without the assertions of constraint and demands for national government abstention that would be made by States in their rightful independent capacities, the States lawful right to assert their powers not granted by the Constitution. So the Congress created a condition of “authorized by law” as a condition to the validity of the public debt knowing full well the Southern States would capitulate after losing the war, that the Northern states would “authorize by law” the debt incurred to rebuild the South and reinstate the commercial stability of the nation as a whole, particularly after all the debt created by the North to afford the war via the use of paper money (see “National Bank Act” and “Legal Tender Cases” at a Law Library or via Lexus-Nexus).
Then, additionally, the drafters of the 14th Amendment caused an “earmark” of these funds for a specific purpose by using the term “including” prior to describing the types of debts to which “the validity of the public debt” in borrowing to pay immediately “shall not be questioned.” However this is the “slippery slope” of the use of the term “includes,” as we all have seen “including, but not limited to” in legal instruments as a means of assuring an expansive interpretation of the criteria stated, usually thereafter.
Now to show how I arrived at this understanding of the 14th Amendment, we’ll use the closest possible source of word definitions relative to the time the 14th Amendment was written, Webster’s 1828 dictionary:
“1. To confine within; to hold; to contain; as, the shell of a nut includes the kernel; a pearl is included in a shell. [But in these senses we more commonly use inclose.]
“2. To comprise; to comprehend; to contain. The history of England necessarily includes a portion of that of France. The word duty, includes what we owe to God, to our fellow men, and to ourselves; it includes also a tax payable to the government.”– http://www.1828-dictionary.com/d/search/word,include.
As you can see, these above definitions are past tense uses in reference to already defined objects and ideas and are not the use of “including” to reference a statement in criteria and defining classes as parameters as it is in the 4th Section of the 14th Amendment.
You’ll find the 1913 definition located at this site as well, however that would not pertain to a meaning in 1865, unless it was the result of the 1865 use.
And to further demonstrate this gray area, a lawyer has blogged about the Black’s Law dictionary meaning as opposed to the rulings of some court cases to the contrary, http://www.adamsdrafting.com/2007/04/02/including-without-limitation/.
TO CLARIFY: I do not suppose myself smarter than these other sources, nor more capable of understanding than the people who were living at the time of the 14th Amendment. However, I must submit that the character and purpose of the Constitution is best described by the Preamble to the original Bill of Rights instrument containing the first 12 proposed articles of Amendment to the Constitution, the Preamble describing its purpose as “amendment:”
“THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.” — Emphasis mine, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html
As this Preamble states the very Custom of over 95% of the Constitution, even as Amended at the time of passing the 14th Amendment (1865), there is little doubt that the interpretation of “ including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion,” requires use of the context of the rest of the Constitution, and is therefore a “declaratory and restrictive clause” as to what specific objects are included when discerning whether the public debt can be questioned AFTER determining if the debt is authorized by law – essentially a two-pronged approach to determine the purpose for the debt incurred being a satisfactory constitutional purpose and therefore the debt incurred to pay for this purpose is subject to the conclusive command, “shall not be questioned.”
Though modern day legislation, The Budget Control Act, is the 1st prong of the test to determine if the conclusive command is applicable, if we were to extend the 14th Amendment passed in its already fulfilled and completed purpose, which, if not for the passionate dissension over slavery (which was used as a ploy to rally for war) it would not have resulted in an Amendment to the Constitution, and instead would have been done as a mere act of Congress after the war. I contend the Constitution was mistakenly used to bring about a perception of finality to the issue by using the 14th Amendment’s recital as a record of passing through and arriving at the winners and losers of the Civil War, a result that may not have been calculated but helped to liquidate the original purpose and authority of the Constitution as it pertains to an instrument limiting government. This may very well be why Pelosi & Company, including Bill Clinton, have gone to citing what Republican Abraham Lincoln did in getting the 14th Amendment done (essentially amending the Constitution to enforce the 13th Amendment, even if it was the beginning of the final blow ending any semblance of State, as well as individual, Sovereignty and rights, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/19/bill-clinton-debt-ceiling_n_902266.html, http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/07/19/bill_clinton_14th_amendment_constitution_clinton_says_he_d_use_c.html).
To be Continued….[Continued here]
Thank you for reading Part I,