Deja Vu, An Early Assault On The Constitution

One of the first assaults on the constitution, seemingly enough came during the presidency of John Adams, the Second President of the United States. John Adams was a Federalist and was also considered a monarchist. He along with Alexander Hamilton, who served on his cabinet believed that Great Britain had a much better form of government than the newly formed American Republic. Thomas Jefferson, his Vice President was, on the other hand, a Republican and a staunch constitutionalist. Two opposing ideologies probably wouldn’t occur in today’s politics, the president and the vice president are from the same party but in Jefferson’s era of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, when two men ran for the presidency, the one with the most votes became president and the one that came in second became Vice President. The race between Adams and Jefferson was a close one and Jefferson became Vice President. Because of much contention between the diametrically opposed parties, during the Adam’s Presidency, Adams’ proposed four pieces of legislation known as the “Alien and Sedition Acts.” These Bills armed the president with extraordinary powers that negated The First Amendments Rights that had been guaranteed in the newly drafted Constitution. Jefferson said they were experiencing the end of America’s liberty and many Republicans detected a monarchical autocracy at work. Once the sedition legislation was passed and signed by Adams, violation of these new laws could bring a penalty of a $2000.00 fine and up to two years in prison. The Alien laws collectively gave the president authority to deport resident aliens he considered dangerous. The Sedition Bill criminalized free speech, forbidding anyone to write, print, utter or publish any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress. “For my own part, I consider these laws as merely an experiment on the American mind to see how far it will bear an avowed violation of the Constitution,” said Jefferson, “If this goes down, we shall immediately see attempted, another act of Congress declaring that the president shall continue in office during life, reserving to another occasion, the transfer of the succession to his heirs and the establishment of the Senate for life.” Fearing public disclosure and possibly being charged under the new sedition laws, Jefferson secretly drafted resolutions for the state legislature in Kentucky protesting the Alien and Sedition Acts and fellow Republican, James Madison did the same for Virginia. In February of 1799, two years before Jefferson became president, he worried that Adams was going to raise a presidential army or militia, which would leave no doubt that an assault on the constitution was imminent and that Alexander Hamilton would be the real power behind these new regiments. “Can such an army under Hamilton be disbanded,” Wrote Jefferson in April of 1799.
I should be unfaithful to my own feelings were I not to say that it has been the greatest of all human consolations to me to be considered by the Republican portion of my fellow citizens, as the safe depository of their rights. Thomas Jefferson
This excerpt from history is an example of how unbridled power can get out of hand. This event happened in the office of the second president and it was a direct assault on our First Amendment rights. Today, it is happening with another president with unbridled power and it is a direct assault on our Second Amendment rights.

58 thoughts on “Deja Vu, An Early Assault On The Constitution”

  1. “Please explain how these proposals infringe on, rather than regulate, your rights.”

    By regulating you are modifing the statement. Could the government then modify our right to lawfully assemble and protest and ask for redress. If and when we start allowing the government to interpret the law instead of the SCOTUS to do just that we are not following the Constitution. Congress shall make no laws, etc. Either we follow the Constitution completely and leave the interpretation to the SCOTUS. If Congress or any State creates a law that is unconstituional it must be challenged before it becomes an enforceable law.

  2. “If and when we start allowing the government to interpret the law instead of the SCOTUS to do just that we are not following the Constitution.”

    It was SCOTUS that interpreted the 2nd Amendment to allow regulation — you know, that “well-regulated militia” clause. I’m sorry, I thought most 2nd Amendment supporters knew that.

  3. “It was SCOTUS that interpreted the 2nd Amendment to allow regulation — you know, that “well-regulated militia” clause. I’m sorry, I thought most 2nd Amendment supporters knew that.”

    Your quoting the 2nd amendment not the SCOTUS. If Congress wants to make laws that would regulate and modify the 2nd amendment then if challenged legally the SCOTUS would hear and give their ruling on whether it is Constitutional or not. The SCOTUS does not make law they interprit the law, so they did not write the 2nd amendment but can only rule on its consitutionality. I am sorry you didn’t know that!

  4. @Colonial (“By regulating you are modifing the statement.”)

    So I presume that prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing firearms would constitute infringement?

  5. Dave writes in #55: “So I presume that prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing firearms would constitute infringement?”

    Technically, yes. But that boat has sailed.

    If you look at it from the point of view of the mentally ill person, his or her rights are being infringed.

    But the law has long recognized that a person who lacks mental competence does not have full rights.

    Much more troubling is how do you DEFINE it? Mentall illness is subjectie as to its type, extent, and effects.

  6. ““So I presume that prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing firearms would constitute infringement?” Technically, yes. But that boat has sailed.”

    So this is a new line in the sand (or a new boat rather); no more infringement other than the infringement we already have.

    Now for our new boat, let’s shift over to felons who have served their time and are now members of society. Would you say their 2nd Amendment rights are being infringed?

    And a follow up question; do you support infringing the 2nd Amendment rights of the both the mentally ill and felons?

  7. “So I presume that prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing firearms would constitute infringement?”

    There you go again presuming! There are laws that send felons to jail and the mentally ill to mental institutions. Convicted felons are prohbited by law to own a firearm and mentally ill are governed by the law as well. Back ground checks are supposed to take care of that. Lets leave the interpretaion of the Constitution to the SCOTUS and stop trying to interpret it they you or others want. The 2nd amenment has been deemed by the SCOTUS to be Constitutional so accept it as you do the rest of the Constitution.

  8. Colonial Republican, you are correct. Both convicts and mentally ill — if found incompetent — go through the due process of a hearing and adjudication. That is different from simply regulating people in general.

    Dave writes in #57 “So this is a new line in the sand (or a new boat rather); no more infringement other than the infringement we already have.:

    No, infringement is infringement, new or old. But the courts are going to allow it, whether anyone agrees or not. That has nothing to do with whether it is correct.

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