Core Humanities

Perhaps no case in the history of the United States Supreme Court has so dramatically expanded the scope and power of the Federal Government as Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942). In this historic decision the Court adopted an expansive view of the Commerce Clause, allowing federal regulation of almost all consumer goods. The 8-0 decision by the Court should be examined in the context of the times. In 1942 the United States was at war, and the federal government was beginning to ramp up control of all industrial, agricultural and commercial concerns related to supporting the war effort. Additionally, of the nine justices on the Supreme Court at the time, seven of them had been appointed by President Roosevelt and presumably shared his views of increased Federal control over the economy.

One of the guiding legal principles of American jurisprudence is that of stare decisis, or settled law. Due largely to the Supreme Court’s decision in Wickard v. Filburn the courts have been relatively loath to check federal expansion into almost all economic activities. However this situation is changing of late. Currently several states are challenging the Court’s interpretation of the Commerce Clause by invoking the Tenth Amendment and granting commercial exceptions from federal regulation on firearms and ammunition manufactured, sold and maintained within a single state.

Review the case brief and then begin your research. I suggest you familiarize yourselves with the Tenth Amendment and specifically the arguments posed by the Founding Fathers about the nature of powers reserved to the States. For additional reading I suggest you review the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. There are several e-versions of The Federalist Papers available online. I have included a link to one of them. I point you to Federalist #17 by Alexander Hamilton concerning state powers, Federalist #35 also by Hamilton concerning interests of the House of Representatives, Federalist #45 by James Madison about concerns of Federal encroachments upon the states. If you have it, The Words We Live By, Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution by Linda Monk is an excellent resource. Lastly I have included a link to the Anti-Federalist Papers online. I direct your attention to concerns of the Founding Fathers about granting all powers of commerce to the national government. See Anti-Federalist #11 and Anti-Federalist #45 detailing concerns of many Founding Fathers about the potential growth of the Federal government.

Once you believe you have a reasonable understanding of the issues, put together a minimum 1500 word, (about 5-7 page paper). In that paper I want you to discuss the following: Did the Supreme Court’s decision in Wickard follow in the spirit of federalism envisioned by the Founders or did their interpretation of the Commerce Clause overstep the limits on the federal government envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Can the Tenth Amendment serve as a means to stem Federal expansion of powers? Did the Founding Fathers intend that it should? Do you believe it should?

Please remember to cite your sources. MLA or Turabian are acceptable for endnotes or footnotes. The paper should be grammatically correct and scholarly. There is no excuse for misspellings. Please be sure to proof-read your paper. Shorter sentences are usually better.

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