Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made
in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made,
under that Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme
Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby,
any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary
notwithstanding.” ~ Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S.
attended a gun show, where I handed out information material and
answered questions on the Tenth
Amendment Center. Several people were concerned about the U.S.
making a treaty that would gut the U.S. Constitution and potentially
take away firearms from law-abiding citizens here in the U.S. They
argued that the paragraph above from the Constitution places treaty
law above the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.
very clearly stated the conditions under which the U.S. Constitution
could be amended, or changed, in Article 5. It is quite illogical
to conceive that our Founders would write such a brilliant document
to be the foundation of our union, only to create a giant backdoor
for foreign governments to come in and destroy the liberty we had
worked so hard to achieve. In fact, our Founders themselves said
only constitutional exception to the power of making treaties
is that it shall not change the Constitution…” ~
do not conceive that power is given to the President or the Senate
to dismember the empire, or alienate any great, essential right.
I do not think the whole legislative authority to have this power.”
~ James Madison
say the same as to the opinion of those who consider the grant
of treaty-making power to be boundless. If it is, then we have
no Constitution.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
So, when I
began re-reading this section of the Constitution I realized that
they didn’t leave a backdoor, but in fact were expressly forbidding
this type of maneuver in Article VI. The answer to the riddle that
confuses many people isn’t to be found in an indecipherable
tome on constitutional law, but instead in simple English grammar
and a little attention to detail.
through the entire Constitution, you will notice that whenever the
Constitution refers to itself the verbiage “this Constitution”
is used. The only exceptions to this are the President’s Oath
of Office, where the phrase “the Constitution of the United
States” is used, and here in the latter part of Article VI.
In every other place where you find the word Constitution written
in the Constitution itself, it is preceded by the word “this”
making it clear that the Constitution is referring to itself. In
the President’s Oath of Office the phrase “Constitution
of the United States” makes it perfectly clear that the phrase
is referring to this Constitution as well.
were very clear and precise with their use of language in the Constitution,
so why do we have “the Constitution” in this case (“any
Thing in THE Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary
notwithstanding”), and “this Constitution” in
all other cases where the word is written. The simple answer is
that in this case, they were not referring to the United States
Constitution at all.
preposition is the key to solving the intent of the Founders in
this statement. A prepositional phrase – such as of, to, or
in – is a word that can modify and indicate relationships.
Prepositional phrases can also modify more than one object. In this
case, the prepositional phrase “of any State” refers to
both the words “Constitution” and “Laws”
that precede the phrase. This means that the final phrase of this
clause could rightly be read to mean “any Thing in the Constitution
of any State or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
The Founders weren’t saying that treaties were to be supreme
over the U.S. Constitution, but that they could and would take precedence
over the state constitutions and laws.
It is clear
with a little analysis of the details of the language and grammar
used to construct this clause that our Founders were placing treaty
law in its rightful place – beneath the supreme law of the
land in the form of our U.S. Constitution, but above the laws and
constitutions of the states. There is no loophole that can allow
international interests to trump the U.S. Constitution, but the
treaty must be made in pursuance of our Constitution, just as all
laws that Congress makes must be in pursuance of the Constitution.
well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) politicians may claim that
they can legislate via treaty, this clearly was not the intent of
our Founders. Will this knowledge stop those who would seek to take
our freedoms from shredding the Constitution by attempting to pass
such treaties? Probably not. But we can rest firm in the knowledge
that our Founders did not give the Federal government the power
to usurp the Constitution by treaty, and that the Constitution is
the supreme law of the land, not treaty law. More importantly, we
can use this knowledge as intellectual firepower to stop the enemies
of liberty and the Second Amendment from doing so.
reprinted from the Tenth
Swann is the state coordinator for the Tennessee
Tenth Amendment Center and founder of the East Tennessee 10th
Amendment Group. She is a native of Anderson County, Tennessee.