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WHO ARE THE CURRENT DEFENDERS OF THE CONSTITUTION?
(Nov. 10, 2010 — Daniel Webster, known as the “Defender of the Constitution,” was a famous orator and statesman. He argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, served as a U.S. Congressman, a U.S. Senator, and U.S. Secretary of State. In 1820, what later became known as the State of Main separated from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This development caused the Commonwealth to seek to amend its constitution of 1780. The Commonwealth chose delegates to meet in convention for the purpose of amending its constitution. The town of Boston chose Mr. Webster as one of its delegates.
Mr. Webster served as chairman of the committee which was responsible for determining qualifications for those persons wanting to occupy public office. This committee recommended that “a simple oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth, together with the oath of office, should be taken by all persons chosen or appointed to office. . . . and that a profession of belief in the Christian religion no longer be required as a qualification for office.”
While his position related to retaining a profession of the belief in the Christian religion as a qualification for public office in Massachusetts, Mr. Webster’s statements go beyond just religion and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for they also apply to any qualification that the People may demand that a person meet in order to be eligible for any public office. Here are Mr. Webster’s words in convention as he comments on the committee’s report:
Two questions naturally present themselves. In the first place, Have the people a right, if in their judgment the security of their government and its due administration demand it, to require a declaration of belief in the Christian religion as a qualification or condition of office? On this question, a majority of the committee held a decided opinion. They thought the people had such a right. By the fundamental principle of popular and elective governments, all office is in the free gift of the people. They may grant or they may withhold it at pleasure; and if it be for them, and them only, to decide whether they will grant office, it is for them to decide, also, on what terms and what conditions they will grant it. Nothing is more unfounded than the notion that any man has a right to an office. This must depend on the choice of others, and consequently upon the opinions of others, in relation to his fitness and qualification for office. No man can be said to have a right to that which others may withhold from him at pleasure.
There are certain rights, no doubt, which the whole people, or the government as representing the whole people, owe to each individual in return for that obedience and personal service, and those proportionate contributions to the public burdens which each individual owes to the government. These rights are stated with sufficient accuracy, in the tenth article of the Bill of Rights, in this constitution.” Each individual in society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to the standing laws.” Here is no right of office enumerated; no right of governing others, or of bearing rule in the State. All bestowment of office remaining in the discretion of the people, they have of course a right to regulate it by any rules which they may deem expedient. Hence the people, by their constitution, prescribe certain qualifications for office respecting age, property, residence, and taxation. But if office, merely as such, were a right which each individual under the social compact was entitled to claim, all these qualifications would be excluded. Acknowledged rights are not subject, and ought not to be subject to any such limitation. The right of being protected in life, liberty, and estate is due to all and cannot be justly denied to any, whatever be their age, property, or residence in the State.
These qualifications, then, can only be made requisite as conditions for office on the ground that office is not what any man can demand as matter of right but rests in the confidence and good-will of those who are to bestow it. In short, it seems to me too plain to be questioned that the right of office is a matter of discretion and option, and can never be claimed by any man on the ground of obligation. It would seem to follow, then, that those who confer office may annex any such conditions to it as they think proper. If they prefer one man to another, they may act on that preference. If they regard certain personal qualifications, they may act accordingly, and ground of complaint is given to nobody. . . .
Now, if the people may, without injustice, act upon this preference, and from a sole regard to this qualification, and refuse in any instance to depart from it, they have an equally clear right to prescribe this qualification beforehand as a rule for their future government. If they may do it, they may agree to do it. If they deem it necessary, they may so say beforehand. If the public will may require this qualification at every election as it occurs, the public will may declare itself beforehand and make such qualification a standing requisite. That cannot be an unjust rule, the compliance with which, in every case, would be right. This qualification has nothing to do with any man’s conscience. If he dislike the condition, he may decline the office in like manner as if he dislike the salary, the rank, or any thing else which the law attaches to it.
(Source: Daniel Webster, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), Vol. III, pp. 3-7.), accessed at http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=68
Indeed, Webster expresses an opinion that, under a government characterized by popular and elective office, the People have a right to establish qualifications for their elected officials before they may occupy any such office, for such office is “the free gift of the people.” He explains that no man has a right to an office, for the office is granted at the pleasure of the People to those in whom they feel “confidence” and with whom they share a feeling of “good-will” because they believe that person to be both fit and qualified for that office. He adds that the same People can decide at their “discretion and option” to change those qualifications as they deem necessary for their own safety and security.
Mr. Webster than explains how each individual has a personal right to receive protection from his or her government. Mr. Webster explains that each individual in society has in accordance with a legal process a personal right to be protected by the whole People represented by his or her government in his or her life, liberty, and property in exchange for which the individual grants to the whole People and its representative government his or her obedience and personal service. He states that this right to protection “is due to all and cannot be justly denied to any” whatever their condition. He also explains that qualifications for office are for the safety and security of the individual and the nation as a whole. He believes that such qualifications should be retained in the constitution agreed upon by the People so as to provide to them the maximum protection.
This is the same argument that I have made before the U.S. Supreme Court to show that the Kerchner petitioners have standing to pursue their constitutional claims against Obama, Congress, Pelosi, and Cheney, claims in which they demand that Obama conclusively show that he is an Article II “natural born Citizen.” Petitioners have a right to demand that only a person who is a “natural born Citizen” occupy the Office of President and Commander in Chief of the Military. As Mr. Webster explains, it is the Kerchner petitioners’ personal right to demand it, for the Constitution has decreed it for the benefit of protecting the life, liberty, safety, security, tranquility, and property of every individual making up the People. Indeed, Obama has no right to the Office of President and Commander in Chief. He can only occupy that office at the pleasure, discretion, and option of the People which includes the Kerchner petitioners. And the Kerchner petitioners, showing that both Congress and the Executive have failed to protect them and their individual rights guaranteed to them under the U.S. Constitution and in their effort to therefore protect themselves, have every right to take their claims to a court of law for the purpose of enforcing their right to that protection.