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  • Writer's pictureMary Webster

U.S. Constitution Limits Federal Government


United States Capital

Why do we need a constitution? The Constitution limits the federal government’s power and authority.


“The federal government will not have the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to specific objectives.” Federalist Paper #14 [paragraph 8]*


“…the national powers are limited. And the States have sovereign, independent jurisdiction over all powers not specifically stated in the Constitution.” #40[11]


“The Constitution gives the federal government a few defined powers. The remaining State powers are numerous and indefinite.” #45[9]


“…The small group of federal powers is limited to powers that the federal government can do a better job administrating.” #46[4]


Federalist Paper #78 [paragraphs 11-13]:*

“The Constitution defines the legislature’s authorities. No legislative act contrary to the Constitution is valid. Denying this would mean that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves. Or that a man may do both what he has the authority to do and what he is forbidden from doing.


“It may be argued that the legislature decides what its constitutional powers are. And the other branches have to accept the legislature’s interpretation. But this is not a logical conclusion from any part of the Constitution.


“The Constitution does not say that the people’s representatives can substitute their will for the people’s will. The courts stand between the people and the legislature. Among other things, the courts keep the legislature within their constitutional limits.


“Courts interpret law. A constitution is a fundamental law. Therefore, the courts determine its meaning, as well as the meaning of legislative acts. If the two conflict, the superior one should be preferred.


“Therefore, the Constitution is preferred over the statute; the intention of the people is preferred to the intention of their agents.


“This doesn’t mean that judicial power is superior to the legislative power. It only means that the power of the people is superior to both.


“When the will of the legislature, as seen in the laws it passes, opposes the will of the people, as declared in the Constitution, judges should be governed by the Constitution. Their decision should be based on fundamental laws.”



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