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IPFS News Link • Constitution

No Emergency Powers in the Constitution

•, by Jacob G. Hornberger

However, it just ain't so. There is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government to declare an emergency or to exercise emergency powers.

Keep in mind that when the Constitution called the federal government into existence, it did not vest the government with the inherent "police powers" that had characterized governments throughout history. Those "police powers" had empowered governments to exercise powers relating to the "health, safety, morals, and welfare" of the people.

Our American ancestors were not interested in that type of government. They knew that governments with inherent police powers inevitably turned into tyrannical regimes. So, it should surprise no one that under the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the government established by the Constitution, the delegated powers of the federal government were so weak that — get this — federal officials didn't even have the power to tax.

The delegates at the Constitution Convention at Philadelphia, who were ostensibly meeting to simply develop reforms of the Articles of Confederation, came up with a proposal for an entirely new governmental system. However, they knew that if this new system vested the federal government with inherent police powers, our ancestors would never accept it.

So, the Constitution called into existence a government whose powers were limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. There were no inherent police powers. If a power wasn't enumerated, it simply could not be legally exercised.

How was that concept to be enforced? That was the purpose of the federal judiciary — to enforce the Constitution against the other two branches of government.