Sir William Blackstone wrote a list of commentaries based on British law. Those commentaries, written immediately before our revolution, were highly significant to American Founders and subsequent lawmakers in determining how our Republic should proceed. They were entitled Commentaries on the Laws of England.
In 1803, St. George Tucker wrote the American version of Blackstone’s Commentaries, adding the accumulated wisdom accumulated in the Constitutional Convention and first Congresses of the United States. Tucker observed that to choose a representative is to give up nothing in our rights or opinions . . . “Otherwise, by whatever denomination the government may be called, it is a confirmed aristocracy, in which the people have nothing more to do than to choose their ruler, over whose proceedings, however despotic, and repugnant to the nature and principles of the fundamental laws of the state, they have no control.“
Our elections appear to be representative. We do seem to freely choose between candidates. (Though to our shame we almost always pick from just two Partisans whose main message is a statement of why not to vote for the “other one.”) But what then? Do representatives then go on to represent us? No. They clearly represent the Party, their personal interests, petty rivalries, and a host of Constitutionally restrained or denied powers.
Some powers, Tucker says, “on the one hand, are extended to certain objects, as to lay and collect taxes, duties, etc., so on the other they are clearly limited and restrained; as that no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state nor any preference given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another, etc. These, and several others, are objects to which the power of the legislature does not extend; and should congress be so unwise as to pass an act contrary to these restrictions, the other powers of the state are not bound to obey the legislative power in the execution of their several functions, as our author expresses it: but the very reverse is their duty, being sworn to support the constitution, which unless they do in opposition to such encroachments, the constitution would indeed be at an end.”
Most Americans appear to be either baffled or in denial that we already experienced that end, and completely unwilling to reclaim the nation for ourselves. At this point, there is already hell to pay. The question is, who will pay it?