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Sovereignty 101

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

Sovereignty. Americans are generally unaccustomed to giving much thought to this subject. 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 the light of some recent occurrences, there may be good reason to give this topic our attention. Why is American sovereignty so important? Why do we hear people like Patrick Buchanan, Michael Reagan and others, extolling the virtues of preserving our nation's sovereignty?

The origin of the grand experiment we call America was based upon a divinely inspired and unique political perspective, that being, that individual rights do not come from government but are endowed to mankind by the Creator. Power is, therefore, vested in government solely through a legal conveyance from the people. The document our founders used for 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, as treaties and international agreements were increasingly being employed to control domestic concerns, citizens within and outside of government began to discern a threat to the integrity of the Constitution. One of these adherents 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 speech to the American Bar Association in 1952, Mr. Dulles admitted that treaties become the supreme law of the land and, therefore, override the Constitution. He acknowledged 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. Nonetheless, in the words of Frank Holman, a supporter of the amendment and president of the American Bar Association, "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."

The threats to the Constitution, sovereignty and limited government with which Senator Bricker dealt have increased in geometric proportions as the following examples illustrate.

The recently ratified Chemical Weapons Treaty will allow a foreign state to legally violate fourth amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Domestic legislation enacted for our national parks are being superseded by the UN World Heritage Treaty. The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child encroaches on the most personal relationship between a parent and a child. Private property rights are endangered by the UN Biospheres Project.

In a modern day reprise of the Bricker Amendment, Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) has introduced House Joint Resolution 83, The Amendment for American Sovereignty. It elevates the Constitution's primacy as legal authority over any treaty. Additionally, it preserves the power of state legislatures and prevents international courts from interfering with domestic affairs.

In essence, Helen Chenoweth is attempting to insure that we will be governed by laws made by our duly elected representatives, not by directives of treaties, international agreements or foreign judiciaries.

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. Rep. Chenoweth's efforts must be supported to put a halt to the incremental erosion of our precious freedoms and, once again, place authority and dominion where they properly belong.

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

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