The U.S. Constitution – Lesson #18: Federal Supremacy


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The second to last lesson on this series on the U.S. Constitution focuses on Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.  So lets get started.

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

Even though the country was essentially being reformed out of the Article of Confederation the founding fathers agreed that the debts still need to be paid.  The government would not default on its loans to the nations that helped them out.  The national government eventually even took on the debts of the state governments.  This debt was eventually retired in the days of President Andrew Jackson.  I wonder how long it will take to retire our $14 trillion debt?  Probably really long considering we are just paying the interest on the loans and not any principle.

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, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

More commonly known as the Supremacy Clause, this outlines the practice that the laws and treaties made under the Constitution shall have any overriding power over any of the state laws on various topics.  Above that the U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land which all judges must follow above any national or state law.

An interesting omission from this clause is that the decisions of the Supreme Court are excluded from consideration in this clause.  I wonder if that was intentional or not.  Did the Founder’s forsee that judges would make bad decisions and allow the people, the states and the federal government the power to ignore those decisions as not being on the same level as the laws of the nation or the Constitution.  Maybe a protection against activists judges?  Maybe not.  Comments?

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.

First this clause, ensures that the members of all levels of must hold allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.  Interestingly, members of the state and local governments, national and state armed forces, and naturalized citizens must take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, but natural born citizens have no such obligation.

This clause also provides for the first protection of religious freedom in our Constitution.  When people make the insane claim that President Obama is a Muslim, I say, “So what?”  The same is true for Representative Keith Ellison who is a practicing Muslim.  Their is no religious test for office.  You may not like it, but it doesn’t matter.  This ban on religious tests was extended to state governments in 1961 by the case of Torcaso v. Watkins.

Next week, I will give my last lesson on the U.S. Constitution.  Until then, class dismissed!

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