Civil Disobedience and the Census


I recently heard someone say the time has come for some civil disobedience and the intrusive nature of the Census makes it the perfect place to start. I could not agree more. The American people need to draw a line in the sand and tell the reprobates in the federal government we will no longer tolerate their usurpations of power.

If the American people are going make a stand and go toe to toe with the federal government, then they need a basic understanding of some constitutional principles because these principles are universal and pertain to every power exercised by the federal government.

Constitutional Principles

Principle No. 1. The Constitution established a separation of power between the States and their federal government. James Madison explained this principle in Federalist Essay No. 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments in times of peace and security.

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In the New York State Convention debating ratification of the proposed constitution in 1788, John Jay, who was one of the authors of the Federalist Essays and would later become a justice of the United States Supreme Court, expressed this principle as follows:

What are the objects of our state legislatures? Innumerable things of small moment occupy their attention; matters of a private nature, which require much minute and local information. The objects of the general government are not of this nature. They comprehend the interests of the states in relation to each other, and in relation to foreign nations.

Thomas Jefferson discussed this principle in various writings throughout his political career. In 1816 he wrote:

The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it… Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the state governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the state generally…

The best key for the solution of questions of power between our governments is the fact that ‘every foreign and federal power is given to the federal government, and to the states every power purely domestic. * * * The federal is, in truth, our foreign government…

The federal government was empowered to deal with foreign affairs and relations between the States while the States would concern themselves with domestic affairs.

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The powers of the federal government are commonly known as delegated powers because when that government was established, the States delegated, not surrendered, a portion of their sovereign powers to the federal government. The powers not delegated to the federal government are known as reserved powers.

Principle No. 2. The Constitution established a federal government of limited enumerated powers. Under this system of government, every power not granted to the federal government and enumerated in the Constitution is denied. This principle is the foundation of the Constitution and exists independent of the Tenth Amendment. That Amendment is merely a secondary level of restraint on the powers of the federal government.

In Federalist Essay No. 14, James Madison wrote that adoption of the proposed constitution would not grant the federal government general legislative authority throughout the United States:

[I]t is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects…

Alexander Hamilton addressed the principle of limited government in Federalist Essay No. 83:

The plan of the convention declares that the power of Congress…shall extend to certain enumerated cases. This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd, as well as useless, if a general authority was intended.

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The federal government only exists within the sphere of its delegated powers and is constitutionally powerless to act absent a specific grant of power. It should be noted that there are no implied powers beyond the delegated powers. For example. Congress has been granted “the power to establish post offices.” Therefore, Congress can pass any law necessary to the establishment and maintenance of post offices. This would include such incidental powers such as printing stamps, affixing their value, appropriating money for postal trucks, etc.

Members of Congress constantly attempt to reverse this principle. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched one of these clowns hold up a copy of the Constitution and claim their powers are unlimited except in those instances were the Constitution places a restriction on their power. These individuals are either corrupt, incompetent, or both.

Principle No. 3. Constitutionally, the federal government cannot use its delegated powers to encroach on the powers reserved to the States. In other words, the federal government cannot convert its federal and foreign powers into domestic powers to do things not entrusted to that government, i.e., use principle No. 2 to circumvent principle No. 1.

Constitutional Provisions for the Census

The provision for the Census is found in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. It is confined to determining the number of Representatives [in the House] and imposing direct Taxes among the several States.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Number… The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

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The reader will note the power to make laws concerning the Census is restricted to the “actual enumeration.”

In the case of direct taxes (a direct tax is a tax on property based on ownership), this provision requires Congress to apportion the tax among the individual States based on population. For example. Let’s say in 1790, two years after the ratification of the Constitution, Congress prepared a budget and decided to impose a direct tax to raise the needed revenue. And, based on the Census, Virginia had 30% of the population of the United States. Under the rule of apportionment, Virginia would have been responsible for 30% of the tax. The States collect the tax and turn the money over to the federal government.

Direct taxes are inherently unfair because one State, with ten percent of the population, might be one of the richest States while another State, with the same percentage of the population, might be one of the poorest. Yet, under the direct tax formula imposed by the Constitution, both States would be required to pay the same amount. The Founders feared the use of direct taxes so they created a system to discourage their use.

Since direct taxes must be apportioned based on population, an enumeration is needed to determine the percentage of tax for each State.

The Federal Government Distorts the Purpose of the Census

On their web-page, the Census Bureau explains the purpose of the Census as follows:

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates a headcount of everyone residing in the United States. The population totals determine each state’s Congressional representation. The numbers also affect funding in your community and help inform decision makers about how your community is changing.

The reader will note that the federal government’s statement of purpose does not comport with the Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. Since decisions about our communities are not within the class of powers granted to the federal government (see constitutional principle No. 1), the reader will not find a reference to it in the limited powers granted to the federal government (see constitutional principle No. 2).

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February 16, 2010