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American Sovereignty:
Indispensable or Disposable?
Sept. 4, 2001

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

Americans are generally unaccustomed to giving much thought to the subject of sovereignty. Perhaps it is because we take our sovereignty somewhat for granted, or perhaps because we have not felt the urgency to take heed. However, in light of some current political trends, there may be good reason to give this topic our attention.

Why is American sovereignty so important? Why do we hear people such as Senator Jesse Helms, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, Representative Ron Paul, and others extolling the virtue of preserving our nation's sovereignty?

The origin of the grand experiment we call America was based upon a unique political perspective; that being, that individual rights do not come from government but are endowed to us by a Creator. Power is, therefore, vested in government solely through a legal conveyance from the people. The document our founders used to implement this conveyance was the Constitution.

In order to enable the federal government to effectively engage in foreign affairs with other nations, Article VI of the Constitution provides that treaties "...shall be the supreme Law of the Land... any thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding".

The founders did not intend to provide the means for any branch of government to utilize treaties to bypass other constitutional prohibitions. Yet all too frequently an effort to restructure the hierarchy has been attempted. Genuine sovereignty, in accordance with the American model, is based upon the principle of consent. Power is transferred to government in a limited and enumerated manner for specifically described functions. Power is granted via the consent of the governed through our written social contract.

A glimpse at the lack of process exhibited at the global level reveals a fierce contrast that exists with our constitutional constructs. Unelected, unaccountable international decision-makers operate in a type of "consent vacuum". With no check on their power, historical facts and philosophical truths painfully forecast the outcome of their activities. The faceless oligarchy that inevitably results is inconsistent with American ideals of individual liberty.

International agreements used to regulate domestic issues are almost always inherently flawed. When they are utilized to reach inside a country's borders and legally bind the citizens of a sovereign nation, they are simply legislation without representation.

In the mid-twentieth century, treaties and international agreements were increasingly being employed to control domestic concerns. Citizens within and outside of government began to perceive a threat to the integrity of the Constitution. One adherent to this belief was Senator John Bricker, who proposed a constitutional amendment that would place clear limitations on the legal applicability of treaties in order to preserve individual and states, rights, as well as American sovereignty.

Leading the opposition to the Bricker Amendment for the Eisenhower administration was Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. In a 1952 speech to the American Bar Association, Dulles asserted that treaties become the supreme law of the land and therefore override the Constitution. He maintained that treaties could encroach upon individuals in that "they can cut across the rights given the people by their constitutional Bill of Rights".

The Bricker Amendment was ultimately defeated in the Senate. But Frank Holman, a supporter of the amendment and president of the American Bar Association noted, "In the destiny of human affairs, a great issue like a righteous cause does not die. It lives on and arises again and again until rightly won."

Threats to the Constitution, sovereignty and limited government, to which Senator Bricker referred, have increased in geometric proportions due to the misuse of international treaties, declarations, agreements and the like, as surrogates for the legislative process.

Modern global intervention uses the possibility of a breach of universal humanitarian principles to justify supranational interventionism. For example, the International Criminal Court, which expects to reach a ratification amount of sixty nations and is set to begin operations shortly, would subject Americans to a process whereby most of the protections of the Bill of Rights would be unavailable. Its proponents point to the Holocaust, Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler to rationalize an unprecedented intervention with national autonomy.

Then there is the continued call for the United Nations to have its own military, which is sometimes referred to as a Rapid Reaction Force. The proposal is now being taken quite seriously, even by members of the United States Congress.

Thankfully, once again there is a sort of movement afoot to reaffirm the Constitution,s primacy as legal authority over any treaty. Public officials and private citizens are becoming aware of the necessity to secure the power of legislatures and prevent international bodies from interfering with domestic affairs. A growing consensus favors governance by laws that are made by duly elected representatives, not by directives of treaties, international agreements or foreign judiciaries.

American sovereignty is a term that refers to the particular, blessed nature expressed by our founders in the documents that constitute the fundamental basis of our republic. Our nation must always resist the attempt to erode our liberty. Authority and dominion must be confined to their proper realms. We must speak to the world community with one voice, loudly and clearly proclaiming that supranational urgencies will never supercede our representative governance.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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