There were founders who recognized this eventuality. Chief among them was Patrick Henry, who boycotted the Constitutional Convention because he saw the creation of a strong national government as a threat to state sovereignty and individual liberty. For 23 days he argued passionately against ratification in Virginia, but was eventually outvoted. Fellow Virginian George Mason did attend the convention, but refused to sign the document, for reasons he outlined and distributed among other delegates before leaving the convention. Among the reasons he gave for his refusal to sign were failure to include a bill of rights and a failure to ban the slave trade. The general consensus among those who opposed the Constitution was that a strong national government would grow out of control, and that it would eventually come to resemble the monarchy that they had fought a revolution to rid themselves of.
As I outline in my book, From Liberty to Tyranny: How Expansion, Warfare, Economic Crisis, and Entitlements Threaten Personal Liberty in the United States, those who opposed the Constitution have been proven correct. Beginning almost immediately, the national government began to assert power that was not given it in the Constitution, and in many cases is explicitly forbidden. Among these breaches of contract are:
- The creation of federal labor and wage laws. This is not a power delegated to the national government, and therefore belongs to the states, per the 10th Amendment.
- The Sedition Act of 1918, which made politically-inconvenient speech illegal, in violation of the First Amendment.
- The internment of United States citizens during WWII without charge or trial, in violation of both Article I, Section 9 and the Fifth Amendment.
- The creation of federal welfare programs, which is a power not delegated to the national government. Even the authors of the Social Security Act believed it to be unconstitutional.
- Government-mandated security screenings at airports conducted by government agents, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which requires probable cause before a search.
In addition, our national government no longer functions within itself as constitutionally required. Many of the powers given to Congress have been overtaken by the Executive branch. Executive agencies routinely create legislation (under the euphemism of "regulation"), and presidents have, on at least two occasions (Truman and Obama) gone to war without Congressional approval. Both of these are violations of Article I, Section 8, which gives these authorities to Congress alone. This is just a small sampling of the ways that our government has abandoned the Constitution; if you want to see more, I suggest that you buy my book, which chronicles the deterioration of our republic.
The Constitution, if it were followed, is not a bad document. However, as Patrick Henry predicted, it contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction. By creating a strong national government, it virtually ensured that power would be centralized, and people's liberties would shrink. On Constitution Day, let's remember the principles upon which this nation was founded and reflect upon how we can return to a society that values liberty.