A direct violation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution
April 11, 2014
The establishment media is now paying attention to Cliven Bundy and his struggle with the Bureau of Land Management. Most of this coverage assumes Bundy is engaged in illegal cattle grazing on federal land.
“The U.S. government is rounding up Bundy’s cattle that it says have been grazing illegally on public lands in Clark County for more than 20 years, according to the land-management bureau and the National Park Service,” CNN reports today.
The BLM insists “Mr. Bundy has… failed to comply with multiple court orders to remove his cattle from the federal lands and to end the illegal trespass.”
It is the BLM, not Cliven Bundy, who is in violation of the law and the Constitution, specifically Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution.
The clause, known as the Enclave Clause, authorizes Congress to purchase, own and control land in a state under specific and limited conditions, namely “for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings,” and not, as the feds now insist, to protect an endangered tortoise.
The Founders were opposed to providing a centralized federal government with unlimited authority to purchase and, as is routinely the case today, seize state and private land.
During the federal convention debates in September, 1787, Elbridge Gerry, who later went on to serve as vice president under James Madison, contended federal purchase of land “might be made use of to enslave any particular State by buying up its territory, and that the strongholds proposed would be a means of awing the State into an undue obedience.”
In order to make certain the federal government did not abuse the Enclave Clause, the words “Consent of the Legislature of the State” were added.
Madison, Jefferson and the Founders were primarily interested in limited government and the diffusion of federal authority over the states for the protection of individual liberty. In 1992, the Supreme Court issued an opinion on the framers’ reasoning behind the state consent requirement (New York v. U.S):
“The Constitution does not protect the sovereignty of States for the benefit of the States or state governments as abstract political entities, or even for the benefit of the public officials governing the States. To the contrary, the Constitution divides authority between federal and state governments for the protection of individuals. State sovereignty is not just an end in itself: rather, federalism secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power.” (Emphasis added.)
Madison knew unlimited federal power inevitably results in unbridled tyranny. “I venture to declare it as my opinion that, were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America,” he wrote.
Despite the desire of the founders and the originating principles of the nation, conceived as a constitutional republic, the federal government has repeatedly and habitually exacted dictatorial authority in Nevada and throughout much of the West.
“The United States government owns and has broad authority to regulate federal lands in Nevada,” the BLM arrogantly insists. “In response to challenges of federal ownership of the lands in Nevada, the 9th circuit held that the federal government owned all federal lands in Nevada, and that those lands did not pass to the state upon statehood.”
This is in direct conflict with Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution.
Cliven Bundy’s struggle with the BLM in Nevada is exactly the situation Madison and the founders tried to prevent. The federal government does not have the constitutional authority to own land, beyond what is stipulated in the Enclave Clause, and its seizure of land, under the obviously fallacious pretense of protecting a tortoise, is a serious violation of the Constitution.
Madison made if perfectly clear in Federalist Paper 45:
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined… The [federal powers] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce… the powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
“It’s really about our constitutional rights and statehood,” Bundy has said. “And whether this area known as the state of Nevada is owned by the United States government or is owned by the sovereign state of Nevada.”
Mr. Bundy, despite a propaganda campaign to the contrary launched by the federal government and its subservient media, is absolutely correct – the war shaping up between the Nevada rancher and the federal government is about states’ rights and, ultimately, the rights of sovereign individuals.