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‘Constitution scholar’ urges ‘do right thing’

Engel addresses Bedford GOP meeting

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 2/18/23

With President’s Day Monday, many groups are taking a look at America’s history, acknowledging the good, bad, and ugly of where the country was then and where it is today. 

That …

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‘Constitution scholar’ urges ‘do right thing’

Engel addresses Bedford GOP meeting


With President’s Day Monday, many groups are taking a look at America’s history, acknowledging the good, bad, and ugly of where the country was then and where it is today. 

That was the discussion at Monday night’s Bedford County Republican Party meeting, which hosted Paul Engel as their guest speaker. 

A self-proclaimed “Constitution scholar,” Engel is the founder of the Constitution Study. It’s a program that essentially studies the U.S. Constitution as one would study the Bible—in short segments with guided questions.

Engel quoted John Jay— first chief justice of the United States and a contributor to the Federalist Papers—who said, “Every member of the State ought diligently to read and to study the constitution of his country and teach the rising generation to be free.”

‘Duty is ours’

During the meeting, Engel retold a story about John Quincy Adams, who was sixth president of the U.S. from 1817 to 1825 and was the only president to serve in the House of Representatives after his presidency. He was the eldest son of the 2nd president John Adams.

“In the House of Representatives, his main goal was abolishing the slave trade. And for 20 years he worked to abolition the slave trade,” Engel said. 

However, most of the House was made of supporters for slavery, so his movement failed in the early days. When asked about it, Adams responded, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” 

“We do it because we know it’s our duty to do the right thing,” said Engel. 

Little did Adams know at the end of his term that one of his prodigies sitting in that room would lead the country to abolish slavery after a bloody civil war. That prodigy was Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the U.S. He is one of the presidents we celebrate on President’s Day as his birthday was on Feb. 12. 

This theme of “duty” was one of the inspirations for Engel’s talk, which emphasized that power lies in the people. 

“If you think about the Preamble of the Constitution, it’s the ‘why,’” Engel explained. For instance, he talked about the “blessings of liberty,” inherent rights, and delegated powers. 

Engel references the meanings of those words by looking at Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Noah Webster was a contemporary of the Founding Fathers and was even asked to edit the Federalist Papers.

From that dictionary, liberty is defined in three paragraphs. Engel specifically talked about civil liberty which can be summed as living your life the way you see fit without any unnecessary external influence.

‘Things are a mess’

“Now, the problem we have today is things are a mess,” said Engel. That is, many people believe that power solely lies and comes from Congress. However, Engel believes this is a room-upside-down approach. 

“In Article I, Clause 1 of the Constitution of Tennessee says that all power is inherent in the people,” he said. This is not unique, according to Engel, because this phrase can be found in many state constitutions. 

Of course, some of that power is delegated to the government. “We created the government, we created the State of Tennessee, and we delegated to it certain powers,” said Engel. 

Then, the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that powers not delegated to the U.S. in the Constitution, nor prohibited by to the States or retained by the states, is respectively to the people. 

“We don’t start in D.C....It starts right here in Bedford County,” said Engel. That is, Engel encouraged people to “back up” and hold the county’s elected officials accountable.

“We need to choose better elected officials,” he said, ones that will support the Constitution of Tennessee. In this way, it will be worth living in a county that will protect individuals’ rights against possible oppression from the federal government. 

For example, in 2003, former governor of Kansas Sam Brownback signed a 2nd Amendment Protection Act, which said that any firearm or fire accessory manufactured, sold, or remained in the state of Kansas is not subject to federal rules and regulations. 

When one man made a suppressor and sold it to another man in Kansas, they were both arrested by the officers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (or ATF). Engel said the governor and state officials “folded like a cheap suit.”

“Where were the people?” Engel said. “It’s amazing what happens when people understand their rights.”

In this way, according to Engel, D.C. resumes its duty of foreign affairs, while domestic affairs are left up to the people and their local governments.

Next meetings

New GOP chairman Bo Gill discussed ways at Monday’s executive meeting to get more people involved in the local party even in the “off season.” The next meeting will be March 16 at 6:30 at the International House of Prayer.

The next Bedford County Democratic Party meeting will be 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, at El Mexico.