The Court and Our Freedom
The New Deal laws were challenged in our courts and, in the course of time, they reached the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court, during our years as a nation, had commanded great respect among most Americans. Americans were aware, consciously or subconsciously, that it stood as the final bulwark against any attempts to tamper with the charter of our liberties—the Constitution. That is not to say, of course, that the Supreme Court always acted wisely or even constitutionally throughout our history. But in the last twenty years it has arrogated to itself new powers and taken us on a headlong plunge into authoritarian government. The descent has been swiftest in most recent years particularly, as we shall see.
The Supreme Court was set up by the founders of our Republic to settle disputes as to the meaning of the Constitution, and laws made under it which affected the rights of individual citizens and of the sovereign American states. In other words, the Supreme Court’s job was to interpret our Constitution and laws according to the very special type of government which that Constitution blueprints.
Ours is a unique form of government. There never has been anything like it. The Constitution not only guaranteed to each American the greatest individual freedom ever known to man, but it gave to us a system of government that could make good on the guarantee.
Put simply, ours is a federal system. In the beginning there was no central government. There were thirteen sovereign states—thirteen independent republics. They banded together and created a federal government for their own protection against foreign enemies, for the protection of each state as against other states, and for the protection of each citizen within each state as against the citizens of other states. The federal government was the creature of the states. To make sure that it would never become powerful enough to oppress either the states or their citizens, it was given very limited powers. And those powers were broken up among three independent agencies—the Executive (the President), the Congress (the Senate representing the states and the House representing the individual citizens of the states), and the Judiciary (the federal courts).
This was the first and only system of government in history which made impossible the growth of an all-powerful central government. Only under an all-powerful central government—be it republic, monarchy, democracy, or dictatorship—can the forces of communist or socialist or fascist tyranny operate. They must have complete central authority; otherwise their tyranny cannot withstand the revolt of men who wish to be free.
The Supreme Court of the United States was created to see to it that if the Congress or the President or both should ever attempt to impose laws on the people or the sovereign states which did not conform to the Constitution, the Court would declare them invalid—unconstitutional—and therefore null and void.
And so, during President Roosevelt’s first term, as one by one the laws which he had induced Congress to pass came before the Supreme Court, it applied to them that constitutional test—and declared nearly all of them unconstitutional.
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