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The Federalist Papers Discuss Constitution's Critics











By Mary E. Webster
August 2, 2014

Department of Education

Twelve years ago, I met man who became a close friend. When I met him, he was already questioning what was wrong with the federal government. Like so many people, he lived and worked like a "conservative" but had always voted like a "liberal." When we first talked, he knew that many federal laws overreached the Constitutional authority of the federal government. However, despite having read many history books, he didn't know what had gone wrong and what could be done to fix the problem. I gave him a copy of my translation of The Federalist Papers.

He already knew that the Papers were written to persuade New York to ratify the new U.S. Constitution. I explained my view that I think of The Federalist Papers as a "meeting of the minds" between the two parties to the contract, the people and the federal government. Therefore, any interpretation of the Constitution that deviates from the meaning, as explained in the Papers, is highly suspect.

As he read the Papers, he shared his "discoveries" with me. I was delighted that I could witness someone having the same reaction to the information in the Papers that I had had. At the time, I had been working alone on my translations of the Papers for nearly 8 years, and had very little feedback about them. His reaction to my work, just one person, spurred me on to continue devoting my time to educating Americans about our Constitution.

Therefore, I continue to write about the Papers because I believe that when today's citizens understand what the Constitution actually is and actually says, we will demand that the unconstitutional parts of the federal government be removed, even if we only take away one unconstitutional power at a time. And, for this discussion, I am going to suggest a dismantling of the Department of Education.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how the "necessary and proper" clause has been taken out of context by the federal government. Federal powers have expanded into areas that were never intended by the Constitution.

"To determine if a law is Constitutional, we must look at whether the law is based on Constitutional powers." [Federalist Paper # 33] All of the federal government's powers are listed in the Constitution. Therefore, if a power is not listed in the Constitution, it is probably an unconstitutional power.

"Education" is not mentioned in the Constitution. But the federal government has a Department of Education, which sucks massive amounts of resources away from the country's educational systems. Just imagine what could be done by States and local communities with all the money that is flowing into the federal Department of Education. Additionally, the federal Department of Education has driven up the cost of education to students, burdening them with untenable debts.

Common sense shows us why the federal Department of Education is an awful idea. (1) Locally, schools must employ people to do the paperwork required by the federal government. (2) The federal Department must pay its employees. (The Department began its operations in 1980 with 6400 employees. I don't know the current number of employees, but the Department spent $66 billion in 2008. I found a great timeline of the growth of the Department of Education.

(3) The cost of education has risen as the availability of federal grants and loans have risen.

"...paper barriers do not stop the encroaching spirit of power...[# 48]*

" What will happen if Congress misconstrues the “necessary and proper” clause and exercises powers not warranted by its true meaning?... First, the power usurpation will only succeed if the executive and judiciary departments, which execute and interpret legislative acts, support it.

"And in the last resort, the people will remedy the problem; they can elect more faithful representatives, who can annul the acts of the usurpers… every federal usurpation will invade the rights of a State. The States will notice deviations, sound the alarm, and use their influence to change federal representatives…" [# 44]*

The last defenders of the Constitution are the people. However, if the people are unaware of what the Constitution means, how it is to be interpreted, and why unconstitutional federal powers are dangerous to our freedom, liberty, and economics, there is no block to the federal government abusing its powers.

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Like so many unconstitutional federal powers, the idea of having a federal Department of Education seems, at best, a good idea and, at worst, harmless. But it is not harmless! It is expensive for taxpayers and puts students into the shackles of severe debt. But only a constitutionally-educated public can stop the abuse of power.

Occasionally, I need reassurance that Constitutional literacy is increasing. Then I look back to May, 1998. I had finally gotten a computer and logged onto the internet. I went to Amazon and searched for "Federalist Papers." One book was available. One. Now, the same search leads to at least a couple dozen books. This is great progress, but we all must continue to educate our children, friends, and neighbors. The wonderful experiment that is the United States of America deserves our best efforts to recover and save.

[*] all quotes are taken from The Federalist Papers: Modern English Edition Two, 2008.

© 2014 Mary E. Webster - All Rights Reserved

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Mary E Webster, a graduate of St. Paul College and the University of Iowa, started studying The Federalist Papers in 1994. Her books, including a 10th-grade reading level translation of the Papers, The Federalist Papers: Modern English Edition Two, and The U.S. Constitution: Annotated with The Federalist Papers in Modern English make the timeless arguments within the Papers available to everyone. Webster is related to Noah and Daniel Webster and a direct descendent of several signers of the Mayflower Compact.


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The last defenders of the Constitution are the people. However, if the people are unaware of what the Constitution means, how it is to be interpreted, and why unconstitutional federal powers are dangerous to our freedom, liberty, and economics, there is no block to the federal government abusing its powers.