The Supremacy Clause

by | Jun 17, 2024

What happens when the U.S. Constitution dies? A nation of people united around a Constitutional promise share history, culture, and common ground, but if this promise was disregarded, the united states become nothing more than disjointed territories governed by unaccountable tyranny, and America as we know it dies.

One of the most significant provisions in the United States Constitution is the Supremacy Clause, which declares the Constitution as the “supreme Law of the Land.

Although the Supremacy Clause is widely accepted today and plays a vital role in the undertaking of governmental powers, it was controversial during the years of this nation’s founding.

From 1781-1789, this budding American nation was governed by the Articles of Confederation, wherein the union of states operated as independent entities without official obligation to uphold the Constitution, which caused political disputes.

The proposed precursor to the Supremacy Clause sought to negate “all state laws that Congress deemed ‘improper,”’ but was quickly defeated, because states were not fond of the idea to give Congress additional authority out of fear it would diminish states’ powers.

As a solution to these disputes, the Supremacy Clause was written to specify the power of the federal government under the Constitution and to unite the states with a common provision.

According to Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the Supremacy Clause reads:

“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.”

This statement, “made in Pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme Law of the Land,” is both monumental and limiting. The U.S. The Supreme Court can constitutionally ONLY opine on the 18 powers delegated in the US Constitution. The 18 powers pertain to the Federal Government’s ability to:

    1. Collect taxes
    2. Borrow money
    3. Regulate commerce
    4. Establish uniform laws
    5. Fix standard weights of measurement and coin money
    6. Punish counterfeiters
    7. Establish post offices and post roads
    8. Protect intellectual property
    9. Create tribunals
    10. Define and punish maritime crimes
    11. Declare war
    12. Support armies for up to 2 years
    13. Support a navy
    14. Regulate land and naval forces
    15. Calling militias
    16. Organizing militias
    17. Govern The Capitol
    18. Make laws necessary to execute these powers

Congress, the Supreme Court, and any other branch of the Federal Government must stay within these powers or else they are guilty of usurpation. The Supremacy Clause is a double-edged sword, placing limitations on the states and restricting the powers of the US Federal Government to these 18 powers delegated in the Constitution.

The Supremacy Clause was designed to maintain a unified promise between states, but the Federal Government today exercises its authority through the Supremacy Clause to discourage states from creating laws that implicate any disagreement with existing federal laws entirely, per the interpretation of the Federal Government, thus expanding their powers beyond the 18 delegated to them.

Alexander Hamilton specified in the Federalist Paper No. 78 “that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act therefore contrary to the constitution can be valid.” This was for the distinct purpose of delegating powers of representatives of the people as servants of the people so that they do not enact laws beyond their reasonable authority, stating, “the constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.”

The purpose of the Supremacy Clause is to enforce the Constitution above individual states laws to ensure unity between every state; however, when the Federal Government loses sight of its purpose, the clause is misconstrued to mean that every state must obey the Federal Government no matter which laws it seeks to enforce, and states lose their powers entirely. Instead of unifying the states and eliminating any inconsistent state law that violates the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause today is wielded as a judicial tool to
reduce all inconsistencies between state law and the federal law, regardless of its Constitutional relevance.

Hamilton explains that it is not the place for representatives of the people to “substitute their will to that of their constituents,” but rather that “it is far more rational to suppose that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority.”

He describes judges as “faithful guardians” of the Constitution to protect the private rights of citizens, as representatives of The People, not as domineering authorities over them. Any act performed by any governmental entity not delegated by the Constitution are unconstitutional and unauthorized, and therefore ought to be voided entirely.

Constitutional Attorney Krisanne Hall writes:

“The Supremacy Clause does not make every law of Congress, every act of Congress, every federal regulation, or every Supreme Court opinion superior to State laws and State Constitutions. It is the exact opposite. The States agreed amongst one another to be bound by their mutual compact – the Constitution – not to subject themselves to every whim of their creation.”

When the Federal Government, judges, and representatives of The People lose sight of their purpose, their proceedings become invalid, and their intentions become polluted in the pursuit of unauthorized and unjust powers. America united by the promise of its founders is dying before the eyes of The People. How long can America stand before its nation dies along with it?

About the Author

Maria Wilander

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