A documented example of judicial tyranny
I appreciate your question and will do my best to address it.
Funny how we keep hearing how "simple" the Constitution is, and yet 9-0 decisions are rare. If the Constitution were that simple we wouldn't be having numerous 5-4, and 6-3 decisions, not to mention reversals.Originally Posted by Publius
If there's only one correct interpretation of the Constitution, why do we need nine people to come up with it? One smart guy should be sufficient, right?
It's also leaves one dumbfounded that they declare "original intent" of the founding fathers when the founding fathers frequently did not agree with one another.
Determining what our Constitution means requires a tedious and sincere effort to document the intentions and beliefs under which it was framed and ratified. Our first step is to read and enforce the Constitution's plan text. But when questions arise as to the meaning of its text, we are then required to document the meaning of the text as expressed during its framing and ratification process which gives context to the Constitution’s text. And this is where a particular Justice can ignore a preponderance of evidence and point to irrelevant material to advance his/her agenda rather than the meaning of our Constitution as understood by those who framed and helped to ratify it.
As an example of a Justice ignoring a preponderance of the evidence in order to impose an agenda using the general welfare clause, I point to the two cases upholding the Social Security Act: Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619 (1937), and Steward Machine Co.
In these cases, decided as one, Justice CARDOZO writes:
"Congress may spend money in aid of the 'general welfare.' Constitution, art. 1, 8; United States v. Butler, … There have been great statesmen in our history who have stood for other views. We will not resurrect the contest. It is now settled by decision. United States v. Butler, supra. The conception of the spending power advocated by Hamilton and strongly reinforced by Story has prevailed over that of Madison, which has not been lacking in adherents"
What is important to note is, the Court cites the Butler decision decided the previous year and goes on to assert Hamilton’s view concerning the phrase “general welfare” prevails over that of Madison, and, the Court will not “resurrect the contest”. In other words, the Court is not interested in reviewing the historical record of the making of our Constitution to document the meaning of “general welfare” as it was understood by our founders during its framing and ratification process. Instead, the Court is eager to use an irrelevant comment made by Hamilton concerning the phrase “general welfare” which was made after the Constitution had been adopted in order to uphold the progressive’s Social Security Act as being constitutional.
But, the historical fact is, the Hamilton “view” which the Court relied upon was not made during the framing and ratification debates of our Constitution. It was made after the Constitution had been ratified when Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury, and was made to gain support for appropriating revenue from the federal treasury to be used to encourage specific manufactures.
In fact, Hamilton’s comment, made after the Constitution is adopted is in direct conflict with what Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 83 to gain support for the adoption of the Constitution. In No. 83 Federalist and in explaining the meaning of the Constitution, Hamilton, in crystal clear language, refers to a “specification of particulars” which he goes on to say “evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority“.
"...the power of Congress...shall extend to certain enumerated cases. This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended..."
This view expressed by Hamilton in the Federalist Papers during the framing and ratification debates is also in harmony with what Madison states during the framing and ratification debates:
Madison, in No. 41 Federalist, explaining the meaning of the general welfare clause to gain the approval of the proposed constitution, states the following:
"It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes...to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and the general welfare of the United States amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor [the anti federalists] for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction...But what color can this objection have, when a specification of the object alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not ever separated by a longer pause than a semicolon?...For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power...But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning...is an absurdity."
Likewise, in the Virginia ratification Convention Madison explains the general welfare phrase in the following manner so as to gain ratification of the constitution: "the powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction."[3 Elliots 95]
Also see Nicholas, 3 Elliot 443 regarding the general welfare clause, which he pointed out "was united, not to the general power of legislation, but to the particular power of laying and collecting taxes...."
Similarly , George Mason, in the Virginia ratification Convention informs the convention
"The Congress should have power to provide for the general welfare of the Union, I grant. But I wish a clause in the Constitution, with respect to all powers which are not granted, that they are retained by the states. Otherwise the power of providing for the general welfare may be perverted to its destruction.". [3 Elliots 442]
For this very reason the Tenth Amendment was quickly ratified to intentionally put to rest any question whatsoever regarding the general welfare clause and thereby cut off the pretext to allow Congress to extended its powers via the wording provide for the “general welfare“.
And so, the above establishes how split decisions can be arrived at, and that is when one or more members on the Court ignore and intentionally circumvent the meaning of our Constitution as expressed during its framing and ratification process.
In regard to your comment that our ”founding fathers frequently did not agree with one another”, of course they didn’t always agree during the Constitution’s framing. But in the end a majority consensus was formed in the making of our Constitution, and to establish what it means requires a tedious research and a preponderance of the evidence, which, in the above case, overwhelmingly refutes Justice CARDOZO’s conclusion in the Social Security cases.
Hopefully I have addressed your question to your satisfaction.
The whole aim of construction, as applied to a provision of the Constitution, is to discover the meaning, to ascertain and give effect to the intent of its framers and the people who adopted it._____HOME BLDG. & LOAN ASS'N v. BLAISDELL, 290 U.S. 398 (1934)