Virginia’s Father’s Wisdom

by | Jan 1, 1997

Soon I’ll write to Virginia’s Governor George Allen demanding that he keeps the faith with his predecessors who, in 1788, ratified the Constitution and brought Virginia into the Union. Let’s do some thinking out loud about this letter just to make sure my reasoning is correct. In 1788, when Virginia’s delegates narrowly (88 to 78) […]

Soon I’ll write to Virginia’s Governor George Allen demanding that he keeps the faith with his predecessors who, in 1788, ratified the Constitution and brought Virginia into the Union. Let’s do some thinking out loud about this letter just to make sure my reasoning is correct.

In 1788, when Virginia’s delegates narrowly (88 to 78) ratified the Constitution, their ratification message closed with, “We the said delegates, in the name and behalf of the people of Virginia, do by these presents assent to and ratify the Constitution, . . . the said Constitution is binding upon the said people. . . .” The Virginia delegates and their Assembly had great fear of what they called consolidation of power by the federal government, but on balance they saw the good outweighing the bad.

Their ratification message made clear their unwillingness to give the federal government a blank check, “We the delegates of the people of Virginia, . . . do in the name and on the behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known, that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them, and at their will. That therefore no right, of any denomination, can be canceled, abridged, restrained or modified by the Congress, by the Senate, or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances where power is given by the Constitution for those purposes.”

That’s a fairly clear ratification message. The key phrase is: the powers granted the federal government, by the people of Virginia, “may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression” and every power not granted to the federal government by the Constitution resides with the people of Virginia. The people of Virginia, through their delegates, set up a contractual agreement, along with the several other sovereign states, creating the federal government as their agent. They enumerated the powers their agent shall have. When the federal government violates their grant of power, then the people of Virginia have the right to take back the power they granted the federal government, in other words, fire their agent.

The Governor should read the Washington, D.C.- based Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “Ten Thousand Commandments”, a paper that discusses the nearly 70,000 federal regulations and mandates. With the U.S. Constitution in hand, the Governor should ask which among these regulations and mandates are within the letter and spirit of Virginia’s ratification agreement. I hope the Governor doesn’t try to trick me with that nonsensical “commerce clause” justification.

I know what some of you will say, “Williams, that was 1788 when Virginia ratified the Constitution; a lot has changed since then.” The Framers built flexibility into the Constitution with Article V procedures for amendment. I haven’t seen the amendments permitting those 70,000 federal regulations and mandates.

You say, “Williams, what do you expect from your letter to Governor Allen?” Governor Allen is a principled man with an appreciation for our Constitution. I suspect he’ll agree that the federal government has perverted the 1788 agreement and will call a special session of the Assembly to debate whether Virginians should take back (resume) the powers granted and resume its status, as per the Treaty of Paris, as a sovereign state.

Walter Williams (March 31, 1936 – December 1, 2020) was an American economist, commentator, academic, and columnist at Capitalism Magazine. He was the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and a syndicated editorialist for Creator's Syndicate. He is author of Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?, and numerous other works.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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