XXV. The Election of the President

Catechism of the Constitution Book CoverThe Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.

Because of later changes made in election of the President, you may be interested in reading these essays from The Heritage Guide to The Constitution.

  • Presidential Electors by Einer R. Elhauge, Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.
  • Presidential Vote by Einer R. Elhauge, Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

XXV. The Election of the President

Q. How does any man become President of the United States?

A. He is elected [chosen] by the people of the United States.

Q. How is this done; do the people themselves at once choose the President?

A. No; this might lead to great confusion. But the people choose the Legislatures of the different States, these Legislatures appoint electors, and those electors choose the President.

Q. Explain this more particularly.

A. You know what is meant by the Legislatures of the States; they consist of persons chosen in each State to make the State laws. These persons, when met together, appoint, in any way they think proper, a number of persons who are called Electors, because they afterwards choose the President.

Q. How many of these Electors of President are appointed in each State?

A. As many as the state has members in both Houses of Congress. For instance; a state which is entitled to two Senators and eight members of the House of Representatives must appoint ten electors of President; a state which has two Senators and twenty members of the House of Representatives, must appoint twenty-two electors.

Q. May any person they please be appointed an elector?

A. Not every person may; Senators of the United States, members of the House of Representatives, and all persons who hold any office of trust or profit under the United States, are incapable of being electors of the President.

Q. Why?

A. For fear any President of the United States might use improper means to get himself chosen again when bis time of service should expire. The President has frequent opportunities to see the members of Congress and persuade them; and as he himself has the appointment of most persons who hold offices, he might threaten to remove, or promise to keep them in their places, and thus destroy their freedom of election.

Q. How do these electors proceed?

A. The electors appointed by each state meet in the states that appointed them, and vote by ballot for the President, and for another officer called the Vice President of the United States. The electors all meet on one and the same day in their several states; the day is fixed by Congress.

Q. What do you mean by voting by ballot?

A. When it is wished to conceal the manner in which each particular person voted, and yet to know what is the opinion of the greater number of voters, the voters instead of speaking their minds, put each a piece of folded paper into a box; these papers are called ballots, and when all have voted, these ballots are examined and counted.

Q. May both the persons whom the electors of any state vote for, as President and Vice President, be natives of that state in which they are voted for?

A. No; only one of them ; the other must be a native of some other state.

Q. How do they distinguish which of the persons is voted for as President and which as Vice President?

A. The ballots are taken separately, on different pieces of paper, and it is besides written on the ballot whether the person is voted for as the one or as the other. Separate lists are kept in which they put down the names of all the persons who are voted for, either as President or as Vice President, and the number of votes given for each; these lists are signed by the electors, and then sealed up and sent to the seat of government directed to the President of the Senate. For the greater security, two copies are made, one of them is sent by the mail, and another by a messenger, sent for the express purpose of carrying it.

Q. What does the President of the Senate do with these lists?

A. He opens them in the presence of the Senate and the House of Represen- tatives, who are all met in one hall to be present when the votes are counted. Each House appoints some of its own members who unite in a committee and count all the votes; when the person having the greatest number of votes for President is declared to be the President, and he who has the most votes for Vice President is declared Vice President of the United States.

Q. Suppose no one person has a majority (that is more than half) of all the votes for President, is the person who has the most votes considered as chosen?

A. No.

Q. What is done in that case?

A. The House of Representatives immediately proceed to choose, by ballot, from those persons, not more than three, who stand the highest on the list of votes for President, one to be President of the United States.

Q. Are they bound to choose the person who has most votes?

A. No; they may take either one of those three persons who have the most votes.

Q. Do they vote, on this occasion, in a different manner from what they do on all other occasions?

A. Yes; in choosing the President they vote, not by single members, but by States; that is, each State has one vote only, whether its Representatives are many or few ; and a majority of the whole number of States is necessary to a choice.

Q. Must all the States vote?

A. All may vote if they are present and desire it; but if only two thirds of the States vote, the election is good.

Q. Suppose the House of Representatives cannot, or do not, choose any one, must there be no President?

A. In that case, the Vice President must perform the duty of President.

Q. If neither of the persons voted for by the Electors as Vice President has a majority of all their votes, what is done?

A. The Senate then chooses one of the two persons who have the most votes. A majority of the whole number of Senators is necessary to the choice, but two thirds of their number is sufficient to vote.

In the heading under Charters of Freedom, you will find a copy of the Constitution as well as links to other pertinent primary documents and commentary on the Constitution, including essays at The Heritage Guide to The Constitution:

Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Continue reading

Conservative Leaders Testify On IRS Targeting Because Of Beliefs

US Capitol West FrontToday the House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony from leaders of groups targeted by the IRS for their personal beliefs.

Here is the list of witnesses with links to their written testimony.


Witness List:

  • Mr. John Eastman, Chairman, National Organization for Marriage, Testimony
  • Ms. Dianne Belsom, Laurens County Tea Party, Testimony
  • Ms. Becky Gerritson, Wetumpka Tea Party, Testimony
  • Ms. Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley Patriots, Testimony
  • Mr. Kevin Kookogey, Founder and President, Linchpins of Liberty, Testimony
  • Ms. Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa, Testimony

Everything I’ve read today about the testimony of leaders of these targeted conservatives groups proves how right the Obama administration was to fear them. They’ve shown their integrity, their intelligence and their courage. They’re listed below in the same order as above, but this is not the order in which they testified. You can view the entire hearing at C-Span: IRS Scrutiny of Non-Profit Organizations, Jun 4, 2013, House Committee Ways and Means.

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John Eastman on the “scurrilous” comments of two Democrats:

Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon…had just finished arguing that the groups before the committee were political and should not be considered social-welfare organizations.

“It’s your kind of statements that have empowered IRS agents to make determinations about which organizations qualify for the public good and which don’t,” Eastman said to a round of applause. “The notion that defending traditional marriage doesn’t qualify as a defense of the public good is preposterous.”

Later, Eastman spoke to Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas. “How sad it is that efforts to educate about our Constitution have become a partisan, political issue that you think people ought not to get tax-exempt status for that,” Eastman said.

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Dianne Belsom, I am outraged by the accusation we are subsidized by the taxpayer:

…donations her C4 group receives are not tax deductible and have already been taxed when they were earned. The point, she says, of C4 is to ensure those donations don’t get taxed again at the end of the year.

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Becky Gerritson:

“I’m not here as a serf or a vassal….I’m not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born-free American woman, wife, mother, and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place.”

“It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well being and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. The post that you occupy exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty and you have faltered.”

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Karen Kenny:

This dialogue is about the jackboot of tyranny on the field of our founding documents.

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Kevin Kookogey:

Kevin Kookogey, founder of group Linchpins of Liberty, which teaches students about conservative political philosophy, said when the IRS asked for the names of those his group mentored, it was effectively asking for the names of minors — something that he said could have opened him up to a lawsuit from his students’ parents.

“That the IRS would ask to know the identity of those students is unbelievably, unconscionably chilling,” he said.

Mr. Kookogey said he submitted his application to gain status as a tax-exempt educational organization has been pending for 29 months, and the wait has cost him a $30,000 grant from another non-profit who would only contribute to a group that had earned the special classification.

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Sue Martinek:

“In June of 2009, [IRS Agent] Richards told me verbally that we needed to send in a letter with the entire board’s signatures stating that under penalty of perjury we would not picket/protest or organize groups to picket/protest outside of Planned Parenthood,” Martinek said. “Upon receiving such a letter, she indicated that the IRS would allow our application to go through.”

…“We had worked so hard to get the application correct. We had a local attorney skilled with this process helping us. We understood that we could hold up signs with educational information about abortion and the sanctity of life, without the IRS questioning their validity. We never thought we would have to defend our prayer activities. As Christians we knew we needed to pray for a better solution to unplanned pregnancy than abortion, why not at the source?”

John Eastman wrote an excellent analysis of the two cases SCOTUS heard on marriage  this past March. I’ve linked to this numerous times, but now you know the face behind this legal memorandum: The Constitutionality of Traditional Marriage.

A People Of The Book

Jubilee New TestamentSunday was the 60th Anniversary of the Coronation of Elizabeth II. A commemorative service will be held today in Westminster Abbey. In his book, In the Beginning; The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Cultures, Alister McGrath wrote that the Queen commanded a Bible be given to every child born in Britain during her coronation year of 1953.

As part of her Jubilee Celebration last year, the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne in 1952 upon the death of her father, George VI, the Queen asked that copies of the New Testament be distributed through churches and schools in Great Britain. The latest statistics I’ve seen from late May 2012 stated more than 655,000 Diamond Jubilee New Testaments had been ordered by churches. Those numbers may seem small in U.S. terms, but it is encouraging considering the present spiritual state of Britain and the fact that the demand greatly exceeded original expectations.

The prayer of the famous Fleet Street journalist, Hugh Redwood, who was wonderfully converted and subsequently served in The Salvation Army for a number of years, was quoted in one of the advertisements for the replica Coronation Bible: “Lord, please make us the people we once thought we were – a people of the Book”.

The Founders were Englishmen before they were Americans, and the Christian faith is written in the story of our nation from its earliest beginnings. Our own Continental Congress “sponsored the publication of a Bible.” Today we can do no less than echo Redwood’s prayer, “Lord, please make us the people we once thought we were—a people of the Book.”
Image from Diamond Jubilee New Testament on Facebook.

XXIV. The Duty and Limit of Power of the Executive Office

Catechism of the Constitution Book CoverThe Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.

The Framers of the Constitution, knowing the wont of all men to usurp power, intended there to be checks on the execution of duties of the presidency—indeed, of all three branches of our Constitutional Republic—when its bounds were overstepped. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held on October 5, 2011, Supreme Court Justice Scalia gave some excellent commentary when he said American “should learn to love the gridlock”! The below excerpt is from the linked post at Hot Air. You’ll also find the C-Span video there. Here’s the Senate transcript. Justice Scalia’s remarks begin on page six of the transcript, which is page ten of the PDF document. He says some other things that are well worth reading.

I ask them, “Why do you think America is such a free country? What is it in our Constitution that makes us what we are?” And I guarantee you that the response I will get — and you will get this from almost any American *** the answer would be: freedom of speech; freedom of the press; no unreasonable searches and seizures; no quartering of troops in homes… those marvelous provisions of the Bill of Rights.

But then I tell them, “If you think a bill of rights is what sets us apart, you’re crazy.” Every banana republic in the world has a bill of rights. Every president for life has a bill of rights. The bill of rights of the former evil empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was much better than ours. I mean it. Literally, it was much better. We guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. Big deal. They guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff!

Of course, it’s just words on paper, what our Framers would have called a “parchment guarantee.” And the reason is that the real constitution of the Soviet Union — you think of the word “constitution” — it doesn’t mean “bill” it means “structure”: [when] you say a person has a good constitution you mean a sound structure. The real constitution of the Soviet Union *** that constitution did not prevent the centralization of power in one person or in one party. And when that happens, the game is over, the Bill of Rights is just what our Framers would call a “parchment guarantee.”

So, the real key to the distinctiveness of America is the structure of our government. One part of it, of course, is the independence of the judiciary, but there’s a lot more. There are very few countries in the world, for example, that have a bicameral legislature. England has a House of Lords, for the time being, but the House of Lords has no substantial power; they can just make the [House of] Commons pass a bill a second time. France has a senate; it’s honorific. Italy has a senate; it’s honorific. Very few countries have two separate bodies in the legislature equally powerful. That’s a lot of trouble, as you gentlemen doubtless know, to get the same language through two different bodies elected in a different fashion.

Very few countries in the world have a separately elected chief executive. Sometimes, I go to Europe to talk about separation of powers, and when I get there I find that all I’m talking about is independence of the judiciary because the Europeans don’t even try to divide the two political powers, the two political branches, the legislature and the chief executive. In all of the parliamentary countries the chief executive is the creature of the legislature. There’s never any disagreement between them and the prime minister, as there is sometimes between you and the president. When there’s a disagreement, they just kick him out! They have a no confidence vote, a new election, and they get a prime minister who agrees with the legislature.

The Europeans look at this system and say “It passes one house, it doesn’t pass the other house, sometimes the other house is in the control of a different party. it passes both, and this president, who has a veto power, vetoes it,” and they look at this, and they say (adopting an accent) “Ach, it is gridlock.” I hear Americans saying this nowadays, and there’s a lot of it going around. They talk about a dysfunctional government because there’s disagreement… and the Framers would have said, “Yes! That’s exactly the way we set it up. We wanted this to be power contradicting power because the main ill besetting us — as Hamilton said in The Federalist when he talked about a separate Senate: “Yes, it seems inconvenient, inasmuch as the main ill that besets us is an excess of legislation, it won’t be so bad.” This is 1787; he didn’t know what an excess of legislation was.

Unless Americans can appreciate that and learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to love the gridlock which the Framers believed would be the main protector of minorities, [we lose] the main protection. If a bill is about to pass that really comes down hard on some minority [and] they think it’s terribly unfair, it doesn’t take much to throw a monkey wrench into this complex system. Americans should appreciate that; they should learn to love the gridlock. It’s there so the legislation that does get out is good legislation.

Serious problems arise when executive orders, rules, and regulations are wrongly written and executed to the point that they become de facto laws, and Congress refuses to act as a check on this abuse of power.

XXIV. The Duty and Limit of Power of the Executive Office

Q. Who executes the laws which Congress have made, that is, who takes care that every body shall obey the laws?

A. The President of the United States.

Q. Can he make the law?

A. Not at all. These two powers, of making law, and executing law, are kept by the Constitution, entirely separate ; the power that makes the law cannot execute it, and the power that “executes the law cannot make it. (The one of these powers is called the Legislative, and the other is called the Executive power.

Q. Is there any advantage in this?

A. Certainly; it is the great safeguard of freedom; because, if the one makes oppressive laws, the other may refuse to execute them; or, if the one wishes to do tyrannical acts, the other may refuse to make a law for them.

In the heading under Charters of Freedom, you will find a copy of the Constitution as well as links to other pertinent primary documents and commentary on the Constitution, including essays at The Heritage Guide to The Constitution:

Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Continue reading

An Overview of Common Core

Apple CoreThere is an enormous amount of information sharing going on about Common Core. If a site is working against Common Core in a state other than your own, don’t hesitate to take the time to look at what it has to offer. Because Common Core is the Department of Education’s attempt to nationalize schooling, you will probably learn some things that are applicable to current events and policies in whatever state you live.

I found the pamphlet below at Stop Common Core in Washington State. Many of these facts are in my posts on Common Core, but if you’ve only recently heard about Common Core or would like information to hand out to others, Jenn Jones, Jaime Munns, and Darlene Eulie of As A Mom have written an excellent overview, Common Core: Something Rotten in Education. You can download it as an eight-page PDF pamphlet or one-page flyer of the eighth page. Click the images below to enlarge.

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UPDATE: Welcome New Readers! You’ll find a complete list of all my posts on Common Core here, as well as links to Common Core White Papers.  If you’re not familiar with Truth in American Education, make sure you bookmark it, because Shane Vander Hart keeps up with the latest news on Common Core and provides a central hub of communication and links, including a list of groups fighting Common Core.


Common Core SRIE 1

The other pages are found below the fold.

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Liberty’s Asylum

Adams, Samuel, Liberty Asylum
Samuel Adams, Speech at State House of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, August 1, 1776.
Click the image to enlarge. Quote & idea from The Founders, Religion and Government.

Stopping Common Core: May Updates

Apple Core Map
On Saturday in Stop Common Core Progress Report, at Truth in American Education (TAE), Shane Vanderhart posted a list of accomplishments that have been made in stopping Common Core. He reminded us that state legislative sessions are drawing to a close. Here are items 17 and 18,  the last two in his list. Click on the link above and the link on state-based groups for further information on what is happening in your state.

  • States that have had legislation introduced this year that would either pause or repeal the Common Core State Standards: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota.  States that are still active are mentioned above.  States that had bills die in committee (or in Missouri’s case was halted due to political games prior to a floor vote) we expect will see efforts again next session.

Earlier in May TAE posted an updated map of states fighting Common Core.


Click on the image to enlarge. More information on the map here.

Apple Core modified from Apple Stark by Roberta F. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

XXIII. Powers Prohibited To The States

Catechism of the Constitution Book CoverThe Federalist Papers has posted a PDF copy of an Elementary Catechism on the Constitution from 1828 written by Arthur J. Stansbury. I’m publishing it on Mondays in a series of posts. Because the date of publication was 1828, some content has been changed by later Constitutional amendments. There are no sections in the book, so I’m dividing it into any natural breaks of topics and the posts will vary in length. Any emphases within the text are Stansbury’s.

Because this section delineates powers relinquished by the states when they ratified the Constitution, I thought it was important to reiterate the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

XXIII. Powers Prohibited To The States

Q. You said that when the states entered into that agreement by which they set up a General Government over them all, they had each a perfect right to govern themselves as free, sovereign and independent States: and that they gave up a part of their power to the General Government, and kept the rest of it in their own lands. What are the powers which they gave up?

A. The power of making treaties, (that is bargains or agreements with other nations) alliances, (that is agreements with some other country, that the two shall help each other, in something they wish to accomplish, or in avoiding some common danger;) and confederations. (that is agreements among several different countries, that they shall all join together in some object for their common benefit.) None of these acts can now be performed by any one of the states, separately, but must be done only for the whole by the General Government.

Q. What other powers did they give up?

A. The right to grant letters of marque and reprisal; the right to coin money;—(both these have been explained;) — the right to emit bills of credit; (that is, to
issue printed promises to pay certain sums of money on the credit of the state, the same as a Bank issues Bank notes,)—to make any thing but gold and silver a lawful tender in the payment of debts.

Q. What does that mean?

A. When one man owes another, and goes to him and offers him money to the full amount of his debt, that is called a tender; (or offer) ; and if the money is such as the law says shall pass, it is a lawful tender; and if the man refuses it, he can never sue the other for that debt, nor is the debtor obliged to pay it. Now, though money is commonly made of gold and silver, yet sometimes a Government may make a law by which certain printed notes are to pass the same as gold and silve ; and after such a law, that kind of printed notes are a lawful tender to pay debts with. (This kind of paper was issued by Congress in our revolution.) The states, by the Constitution, gave up the power to do this, and now it can be done by the General Government only.

Q. Did the states give up any other power?

A. They are forbidden by the Constitution, in the same manner that Congress is, to pass any bill of attainder, or ex-post-facto law, or grant any title of nobility, nor can they make any law which shall “impair the obligation of contracts.”

Q. What does that mean?

A. It means that when a bargain has been made between any two parties, by which one agrees and binds himself to do some particular thing not then forbidden by law, the state in which this agreement, or contract, was made shall not afterwards make any law by which the person who thus bound himself shall be set free from any part of that bargain without the consent of the other party, with whom he made the contract.

Q. What else are the states forbidden to do?

A. They cannot lay any duty on exports or imports.

Q. May they not lay enough duty to pay for the expenses of collecting the duties laid by Congress?

A. Yes, but no more; and if more is received than is wanted for this use, it must be paid into the Treasury of the United States.

Q. May any of the States lay a tonnage duty ; that is, require a sum of money to be paid by every vessel entering any of the harbors in that State?

A. No.

Q. May they keep soldiers whom they pay, in time of peace?

A. No.

Q. May they keep ships of war, in time of peace?

A. No.

Q. May one State enter into an agreement with another State?

A. No.

Q. May they make a treaty or agreement with any other nation?

A. No.

Q. May they make war?

A. No; not unless an enemy has entered their bounds, or is in such danger of entering, that there is no time to wait for the aid of the General Government.

Q. Why did the States give up all these powers?

A. Because they could be better protected by one powerful Government ruling over them all united than they could have been, if they had remained separate; and, if they would have such a Government, they must consent each to give up a part of their own power, in order to make it; if the General Government had no power, it would be of no use.

In the heading under Charters of Freedom, you will find a copy of the Constitution as well as links to other pertinent primary documents and commentary on the Constitution, including essays at The Heritage Guide to The Constitution:

Elementary Catechism on the Constitution posts:
Continue reading

Two Chairs

How I became a Christian, part eight. Previous posts: My Witness, the introduction; Mourning Dove; Locked Out; Glimpses; Jesus, the Light Of The World; Abba! Father! and Believe.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know my story about how I came to believe in Jesus Christ. What about you?

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Do you understand that having knowledge about the person and work of Jesus Christ is necessary to believe in Him, but those who have only knowledge, even if they believe those facts to be true, believe only in knowledge. They do not believe in Jesus Christ.

Do you understand the difference?

One of my pastors used the example of a chair. You may
see the chair and believe it exists, but until you sit on the
chair and rest there, you are not believing in it.


Notice there’s no chair in the middle. There is no middle ground regarding belief in Jesus. You either believe in Him or you do not.
I quoted John 3:16. Here is John 3:17-18:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Grace to You, the ministry of John MacArthur, has an online tract with further Bible verses and explanation. It is titled, “Who Do You Think I Am?” That’s the question each of us must answer about Jesus Christ. What is your answer?

Jesus said,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Will you believe in Him?
Van Gogh’s Chair, Joseph Roulin: Vincent Van Gogh, Public Domain, via Wikipedia.

Government & Marriage: Answering the Left

Wedding Cake Ornament1959


…marriage—we will show—has enough objective structure apart from spouses’ preferences, to be legally regulated.1

…As we deprive marriage policy of definite shape, we deprive it of public purpose.2

…some on the libertarian Right say that marriage has no public value, and call for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether. Voices on the Left say that marriage has no distinctive public value; they say that the state may work it like clay, remaking marriage to fit our preferences.3

In the last part of chapter three, “The State and Marriage,” from What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense  Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert George answer the Left on civil regulation of marriage and coin the term constructivist for those who think the definition of marriage is “endlessly malleable.”4

Marriage is for them whatever we decide to make it. There are no criteria that your relationship must meet to be a marriage—to realize the value specific to marriage as a human good….Hence there is no “right answer” for the state’s marriage policy, any more than for that national bird: different proposals are just more or less preferable.5

The constructivist position has several fallacies:

First it is often motivated by the fallacy, easy to dispel, that because social practices are partly constructed, they must be entirely constructed.6

While social customs of marriage may vary from culture to culture, “marriage has an objective core, fixed by our nature as embodied, sexually reproductive (hence complementary) beings; and to deviate from it is to miss a crucial part of this basic human good.”7 I described this core in No Longer Two, But One: The Structure Of Marriage and No Longer Two, But One: Inherent Characteristics of Marriage and wrote that from it flow the inherent characteristics of marriage that are permanent and inseparable elements of marriage—”a special link to children and domestic life, and permanent and exclusive commitment.”8

The next problem with constructivist thinking is:

Second, it can make no sense of major philosophical and legal traditions.9

In their development of this argument the authors write:

The view that we propose has been developing for as long as there has been sustained reflection on marriage. Important philosophical and legal traditions have long distinguished friendships of all kinds from those special relationships that extend two people’s union along the bodily dimension of their being and that are uniquely apt for, and enriched by, reproduction and childrearing….

For hundreds of years at common law, moreover, while infertility was no ground for declaring a marriage void, only coitus was recognized as consummating (completing) a marriages….

The law reflected the rational judgment that unions consummated by coitus were valuable in themselves, and different in kind from other bonds. In short, the conjugal view.10

What Is Marriage bookmarked borderIn an earlier post, Redefining Civil Marriage Guts The Rationale For Civil Regulation, I discussed logical inconsistencies of revisionist thinking mentioned in the first chapter of What Is Marriage? They revisit its incongruity again with this third problem of constructivism:

Third, it also contradicts the spirit of common revisionist arguments, and would imply that many revisionists’ views are, by their own lights, as radically unjust as they consider ours to be.11

and point out:

...if marriage were a fiction designed to promote social utility, there would be no natural right to marriage that marriage laws might violate by being defective…

…it is hard to see how revisionists could by their own principles resist the conclusion that justice requires recognizing polyamorous unions. (In fact, revisionist opinion-leaders, as we will show below, are increasingly endorsing such recognition.)12

Finally, even if constructivism were true, it would provide no good basis for the revisionist view.13

The authors conclude this chapter by reiterating that marriage has an objective structure and a distinctive public purpose.

The firm links between stable marriage and children’s welfare, and between children’s welfare and every dimension of the common good, give the state strong reasons to recognize marriage, libertarian qualms not withstanding. But more liberal critics are also mistaken to think of marriage as merely an artifact of our law and culture. It is a human good with a fixed core that we are equally wise to recognize and unable to reshape.14

My posts on the book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, are more than a book review or report. Because I think the authors brings so much help and clarity to the ongoing debate on marriage, I’m working through their arguments to support or augment your own thinking on marriage. I recommend buying the book and working through it on your own, and I hope these posts spark your interests. If anything is unclear, please let me know. Any misinterpretations of the authors’ intents are obviously my own, and I will correct any that I discover. Previous posts on What Is Marriage? and references for this post are listed below the fold.
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