The US Constitution and the Bundys

I have been half following the progress of the Malheur refuge occupation. Those guys seem to like waving around their printed copies of The Constitution, and set great store by Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17:

Could somebody please explain what exactly the Bundyist interpretation is of this, how the believe it justified their actions, and in what way this interpretation diverges from the prevailing one.

My very limited understanding is that they think that means the federal government can ONLY own land “for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings”. So wildlife refuges or any other usage is prohibited.

I’m sure that someone else will be along later to explain why it doesn’t work that way.

They are claiming that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 gives the only reasons the fed’s can hold land and have it as federal land , an enclave, is for military purposes, such as for a fully fenced base… a fort…
There is no such only.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 obviously exists just to say that the state could not stop the feds building the military base or other building for federal purposes.
So this protects the feds from a claim that buildings are a state issue.
Article 4, Section 3 , Clause 2 gives the Fed’s the power to own, use (or allow use of … dispose was a bit clunky, but obviously it is not time limitted…) , and sell or give away, its land as it sees fit, and to apply Fed law to it in the fashion of a territory …

The other point that they Bundyists miss is the word “exclusive” - this grant of federal power gives Congress exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the lands listed in this provision.

That doesn’t foreclose the feds having concurrent legislative jurisdiction over other lands which the federal government owns, with state laws also applying. That concurrent legislative jurisdiction can come from other sources in section 8, such as the necessary and proper clause, and Article 4, section 2, as noted by Isilder.

The point of this particular provision is that takes the types of land listed out of state control entirely, and therefore needs the consent of the state in question to apply. It doesn’t limit the federal government to only this type of land-holding.

Citizens can own land; foreigners can own land. Partnerships, corporations and other juristic persons can own land. State and local governments can own land.
But deh eevul Kenyanistic gungrabbin’ guvmint cain’t own land.

It don’t need to make sense Jake, this is RedneckTown.

They’re cherry-picking the document to suit their own agenda. End of story.


When I saw this thread I wondered what constitutional questions came up in Married with Children and why this thread wasn’t in Cafe Society.

Remember the good old days when these nuts were content to seize on a random string of words in

The Holy Bible*
(KJV, the only one that counts)

    • with the proper English words Jesus actually spoke hisself printed in RED so’s you know which words are important.

There’s nothing in the US Constitution that forbids a State’s right to let the Federales own vast tracts of land … 10th Amendment or some such … perhaps a study of the history of Redwood National Park could illustrate this principle. My understanding is that California refused to surrender the three State Parks to the Federales, not sure how things were settled. Kinda of a joke back in the '70’s that Redwood National Park didn’t actually have Redwoods in it.

Oregon appreciates the Federales managing the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, we not about to sue the Federales to get it back.

ETA: The Bundy’s are getting a heaping dose of 5th Amendment right about now ROLFMAO.

That’s completely incorrect. I was there in the 1970s and it had redwoods in it. It still does.

Where are you getting this ridiculous misinformation from?

must be the same guidebook that consistently mis-spells “federal”. :stuck_out_tongue:

I was there in the 70s also and there were no redwoods.

The were all brown.



Maybe they’re saying that the “only” comes (implicitly) from the 10th Amendment?

But it’s not just Article I, Section 8, para. 17.

There’s also Article IV, Section 2, as cited earlier by Isildur:

That provision follows on the pre-Constitution Northwest Ordinance passed by the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, by which the states ceded their land claims to the US government.

So there are two provisions in the Constitution which recognise federal power to regulate federal property: the exclusive power in Article I, which only operates if the state has ceded jurisdiction, and the property power in Article IV, which gives the Congress power to regulate federal property not covered by Article I, and without prejudice to the states’ jurisdiction: a concurrent power, not an exclusive power.

The Tenth Amendment only operates with respect to “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution…” That doesn’t leave much room here, where you have two separate provisions which both give Congress the power to regulate federal property.