By Judge Andrew Napolitano


Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America

by Andrew P. Napolitano

1.)  The Scope of the Problem.

The Constitution gives the Congress only 17 discrete powers. One of them is the power to regulate interstate commerce and another is the power to tax incomes. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, almost from the time the first Congress sat, it used its Commerce Clause power to tax goods, to control private behavior, and even to prohibit items in interstate commerce. Subsequent Congresses used that power to control the conditions for production and sale of goods that eventually made their way into interstate commerce. And modern Congresses have used that power to regulate any human behavior they wish, so long as the behavior, when combined with other similar behavior, might conceivably affect the movement of goods or persons in interstate commerce. Thus, today, the water you drink, the air you breathe, the size of the toilet bowl in your bathroom, the number of legs on your desk chair, the strength of the water pressure in your shower in your home, the amount of wheat you can grow in your yard, the amount of sugar manufacturers can put into ketchup, the words you can utter in public or private, are all regulated by the Congress, claiming power under the Commerce Clause. And the feds, as well, use their enormous horde of cash from our income taxes to bribe the states by paying them to regulate in areas that the Constitution prohibits Congress from regulating.

2.)  How to address this?

We need an amendment to the Constitution that expressly limits Congress to exercising only the 17 specific powers that are delegated to it in the Constitution and defines and limits the regulation of interstate commerce to its original meaning of keeping commerce regular by preventing all governments, state and federal, from interfering with it. We also need to rescind the 16th Amendment and affirmatively prohibit any federal tax on persons, as individuals or as groups. These two measures will starve the federal government back down to the footprint established for it by the Constitution. The Constitution can only be amended by enactment of an amendment by three-quarters of the legislatures of the states. In order to get to the state legislatures, an amendment can only come from an affirmative vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress, or from a constitutional convention which Congress must call if asked to do so by two-thirds of the state legislatures.

3.)  What should freedom lovers do?

Here are a few simple steps. First, agree on the wording of two amendments addressing commerce and income taxes. Next persuade the state legislatures of 34 states to enact a resolution by a simple majority vote of each house of the states’ legislatures instructing Congress to convene a constitutional convention for the express and sole purpose of considering these two amendments. I don’t know if 34 states will agree to this; but I firmly believe that as the number of agreeing states approaches 34, Congress will become terrified, and will begin to curtail its regulation of our behavior and lower our taxes. If the convention does come to pass and sends the two proposed amendments to the states, the goal is then to get 38 states to adopt the amendments. Note, the state legislative process of demanding a convention and the state legislative process of approving an amendment only requires a simple majority in each house of a state legislature, and neither is subject to a governor’s veto.

4.)  What else can freedom lovers do?

They can elect state legislators who are intelligent and courageous enough to challenge and defy the federal government. Montana, Texas, and Oklahoma have many legislators who are prepared to direct their law enforcement to refrain from enforcing any federal laws; to authorize that products that originate and remain within their borders not be subject to any federal regulation; and even to begin the process of seceding from the Union. Even states with more liberal attitudes can be recruited into this effort by persuading them to save money and enhance freedom by prohibiting state and local law enforcement from prosecuting persons for possessing small amounts of controlled substances. The federal government simply cannot enforce all its criminal laws (there are over 4,000 of them) without the active assistance of state and local law enforcement. Secession, even under the biggest of Big Government theories, is perfectly lawful and can lawfully be accomplished by the consent of three-quarters of the remaining state legislatures.

5.)  Congress is not a general legislature.

The federal government did not come into existence in order to right every wrong. The feds are obliged to recognize our natural rights. When the government behaves with no self-recognized limitations, when its only restraint is whatever it can get away with, when it actively attacks rather than forcefully protects our natural rights, then, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, and as federal law still states, “it is the duty of the people to alter or abolish it.”


Judge Andrew P. Napolitano joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 1998 and currently serves as the senior judicial analyst. He provides legal analysis on both FNC and Fox Business Network daily. He co-hosts Fox News Radio’s "Brian and The Judge" show daily, and hosts “FreedomWatch” on Foxnews.com weekly. Judge Napolitano is the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in the history of the State of New Jersey. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Notre Dame Law School. He lectures nationally and publishes op-ed pieces in national publications. Judge Napolitano has written four books on the Constitution and human freedom, including his most recent, “Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America.” To learn more: http://www.judgenap.com


Note from Glenn

Let’s be clear that no one is calling for a Constitutional Convention. The Judge has outlined what would need to be done, legally, in order for the 10th Amendment to have some real teeth put back into it. No one really wants a Constitutional Convention. Nobody on the left or the right really pushes for one for two reasons. First, no matter how limited the scope of the proposed constitutional convention if one actually takes place it’ll be almost impossible to restrict the changes that could be made to the Constitution. Remember that when the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia for their constitutional convention their orders were to do nothing more than “amend the Articles of Confederation.” By day three they had unofficially agreed to abolish the Articles and create a new form of government. If a constitutional convention were held today there would be no limits on what they could do and it’s very possible we end up with the Constitution shredded and in tatters. I don’t want to take that risk.

Second, I don’t trust our current crop of politicians to do the right thing. I don’t see a modern-day George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or James Madison. All I see are selfish politicians willing to do anything to get re-elected. I don’t want to put the future of my children and grandchildren in their fat money-stained fingers.

So let’s hold off on the constitutional convention but move forward with the gun legislation in Montana, Utah, Texas and other states in an effort to have the Supreme Court re-consider the 10th Amendment. Good people doing great things is all it takes to return America to what our Founding Fathers intended Her to be—a bastion of freedom and liberty!

-glenn