THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND
[EXTRACTS FROM] THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
in Congress, July 4, 1776 [Emphasis added]
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government.
Specific Charges against the King
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history
of repeated usurpations, all having in direct object the
establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove
this, let facts be submitted to a candid world:
... He has dissolved representative Houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
... He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
... He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders they should commit on the inhabitants of these States;
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
For imposing taxes on us without our consent;
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;
... For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province...
... He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
... In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people...
Conclusion and Declaration
... And for the support of this declaration, with a firm
reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually
pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred
"When all government, domestic and
foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to
Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless
the checks provided [in the Constitution] of one government on
another and will become as venal [capable of being bought] and
oppressive as the [British] government from which we
Thomas Jefferson, 1821
THE CONSTITUTION OF
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
THE LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT
SECTION 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consists of a Senate and House of Representatives...
SECTION 2. ... Representatives and direct taxes [taxes laid directly on individuals, to be paid directly to the federal government] shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons...
SECTION 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills...
POWERS GRANTED TO CONGRESS
SECTION 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and
collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises [indirect taxes on
things], to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and
general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts
and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war... and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States; and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings; - and
To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
POWERS DENIED TO
SECTION 9. ... The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.
No bill of attainder [extinction of civil rights] or ex post facto [retroactive] law shall be passed.
No capitation [uniform tax on each person; poll tax] or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration hereinbefore directed to be taken.
No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State.
No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another; nor shall vessels, bound to or from one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by laws; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States; and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, price, or foreign state.
POWERS DENIED TO STATE GOVERNMENTS
SECTION 10. No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility...
THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT
THE PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT
SECTION 1. The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected as follows:
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
Each State shall appoint... a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress... The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot for two persons... The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President... after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President...
... OATH OF THE PRESIDENT
... Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: "I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
THE JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
THE FEDERAL COURTS...
SECTION 1. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time ordain and establish...
JURISDICTION OF FEDERAL COURTS IN GENERAL
SECTION 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States...
JURISDICTION OF SUPREME COURT
In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.
TRIAL BY JURY
The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury...
THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND
... THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND
AND THE OBLIGATION OF STATE JUDGES
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
FEDERAL AND STATE OFFICERS BOUND BY OATH TO SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States...
[EXTRACTS FROM] THE AMENDMENTS
TO THE CONSTITUTION
The first ten Amendments to the Constitution, known as The Bill of Rights, were adopted by the first Congress, called to meet in New York City, March 4, 1789. They were later ratified by the various States, and on December 15, 1791, were made a part of the Constitution.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION, SPEECH, AND THE PRESS; RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY AND PETITION
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
QUARTERING OF SOLDIERS
No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
REGULATION OF RIGHT OF SEARCH AND SEIZURE
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
PROTECTION FOR PERSONS AND THEIR PROPERTY
No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
RIGHTS OF PERSONS ACCUSED OF CRIME
In all criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
RIGHT OF TRIAL BY JURY IN SUITS AT COMMON LAW
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.
PROTECTION AGAINST EXCESSIVE BAIL AND PUNISHMENTS
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
CONSTITUTION DOES NOT LIST ALL INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
POWERS RESERVED TO THE STATES AND THE PEOPLE
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
ABOLITION OF SLAVERY (1865)
SECTION 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
SECTION 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
GUARANTEE OF PROTECTION TO ALL CITIZENS (1868)
... No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws...
POWER TO LEVY INCOME TAXES (1913)
The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without any regard to any census or enumeration.
COMMON LAW IS THE LAW OF THE LAND
Webster's defines Common Law as "the body of law developed in England primarily from judicial decisions based on custom and precedent, unwritten in statute or code, and constituting the basis of the English legal system and of the system in all of the U.S. except Louisiana." Common law developed out of customs that were found to work in practice. It is based on common sense and reason. Much of English Common Law is rooted in the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215. The Magna Carta limited the powers of the King (government), and guaranteed the liberties of the people.
"It [The U.S. Constitution] must be interpreted in the light of Common Law, the principles and history of which were familiarly known to the framers of the Constitution. The language of the Constitution could not be understood without reference to the Common Law." U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 18 S. Ct. 456.
"Law of the Land" means "The Common Law." Taylor v. Porter, 4 Hill. 140, 146 (1843) - Justice Bronson; and State v. Simon, 2 Spears 761, 767 (1884) - Justice O'Neal.
The U.S. adopted the Common Laws of England with the Constitution. Coldwell v. Hill, 176 S.E. 383 (1934).
In contrast, legislated or statutory law - like the laws of Congress - are written mostly by attorneys to further their own self-interest or to favor special-interest groups with big bucks - exactly as Thomas Jefferson predicted in 1821.