Merchant Seaman In 1798, Health Care On Federal Enclaves, And Really Silly Journalists

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; and no one illustrates this Principle better than Forbes’ writer Rick Unger in his article, “Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance - In 1798”,  Washington Post writer Greg Sargent and Georgetown University history professor Adam Rothman.

In 1798, Congress passed An Act for the relief of sick and disabled Seamen which required the master of every American ship arriving from foreign ports to any port of the United States, and American ships engaged in the coastal trade using those ports, to pay a small fee to the federal government for every seaman employed on his ship. The funds so raised were used to care for sick and disabled seamen in the marine hospitals established in the ports of the United States.

So!  Unger cited this 1798 Act and chortled with glee that our Framers supported “socialized medicine”; and so the “political right-wing” should stop “pretending” that our Founding Fathers would oppose ObamaCare.

Greg Sargent chimed in to the same effect, and quoted history professor Adam Rothman for the idiotic propositions that


“…the post-revolutionary generation clearly thought that the national government had a role in subsidizing health care … that in itself is pretty remarkable and a strong refutation of the basic principles that some Tea Party types offer … This defies a lot of stereotypes about limited government in the early republic.”

But Unger’s, Sargent’s and Rothman’s statements are so transparently ignorant they can be disposed of in a few paragraphs:

Congress’ Three Categories of Legislative Powers

One:  Congress has only limited legislative powers over the Country at large. These legislative powers are restricted to war, international commerce & relations; and domestically, the creation of an uniform commercial system:  weights & measures, patents & copyrights, a monetary system based on gold & silver, bankruptcy laws, and mail delivery. Various Amendments granted to Congress certain powers over civil rights. These enumerated powers are the only areas wherein the national government has lawful (constitutional) authority over The States and The People in The States.  In all other matters [except those listed at Art. I, Sec. 10] the States and The People retained supremacy, independence, and sovereignty.

TwoArticle I, Sec. 8, clause 17, U.S. Constitution, says:

“The Congress shall have Power To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislatures of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;” [boldface mine]

“Exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over “dock-Yards”. Do you see?  It is this clause which grants to Congress authority to establish marine hospitals on dock-Yards belonging to the United States.  Congress has a general legislative authority over the federal enclaves, such as dock-Yards. That legislative authority is limited only by the Bill of Rights.

In Federalist Paper No. 43 at 2., James Madison explains in three short paragraphs [read them!] why the federal government must have “complete authority” over the federal enclaves listed at Art. I, Sec. 8, cl.17.

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 32 (2nd para), comments also on the grant of “EXCLUSIVE LEGISLATION” over the federal enclaves [capitals are Hamilton’s] in “The last clause but one in the eighth section of the first article…”

Do you see?  That grant of “exclusive legislation” is restricted to the federal enclaves.

Three:  Article IV, Sec. 3, cl. 2,  grants to Congress the “Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…”  Madison shows in Federalist No. 43 at 5. that “the Territory” referred primarily to the Western Territory before it was formed into States.

That’s it, Folks!

So!  While Rick Unger crowed in his article,

“While I’m sure a number of readers are scratching their heads in the effort to find the distinction between the circumstances of 1798 and today, I think you’ll find it difficult.”

It’s not difficult at all!  All one has to do is read Art. I, Sec. 8, cl. 17, which permits Congress to make such a law for American ships using the dock-Yards belonging to the United States. That’s what “exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” means.  Do you see?

Congress has no such legislative authority for the Country at large. There, it is limited and   enumerated.

This article is printed with the permission of the author(s). Opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the article’s author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of American Clarion or Dakota Voice LLC.

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Publius Huldah is a retired litigation attorney who now lives in Tennessee. Before getting a law degree, she got a degree in philosophy where she specialized in political philosophy and epistemology (theories of knowledge). She now writes extensively on the U.S. Constitution, using the Federalist Papers to prove its original meaning and intent. She shows how federal judges and politicians have ignored Our Constitution and replaced it with their personal opinions and beliefs. She also shows how The People can, by learning our Founding Principles themselves, restore our Constitutional Republic.
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  • adirondack_1

    That is true but only if the constitution is really the law we are led to believe is supreme. That violations of it are standing unresolved by courts and congress, many violations I might add, leaves thoughtful people to question just how far the supreme law can be stretched before it becomes a strumpet for usurpers to hold out as being their true love while whoring about with ideological mistresses of every port of call on the globe hoping one will be favorable to the needs of the day or hour. In other words, how are we to believe in supremacy if fidelity is optional? 

    • Publius Huldah

      It is OUR Constitution, and it is up to US to enforce it.  First, we must learn it. Then, we can select & elect Representatives to our State and National governments who will obey it. 

  • Jim Aulenti ChFC

    She’s done it again! I was hoping to see an article from Publius Huldah on this matter and was duly rewarded. She takes the complex and makes it simple by illustrating the power of the PRINCIPLES 
    in our Constitution. I read her articles before anything else in my in-box and find them ILLUMINATING. 

    • Publius Huldah

      Thank you, Jim!  But I take orders - people send me stuff and ask me questions.  Which I always answer in one place or the other.  

  • WXRGina

    I wish I could send this column to Rick Ungar.  His column is from early last year, and I don’t see any contact information for him except a link to email “tips” to him that does not work, but he really needs to read Ms. Publius Huldah’s column, whether he would accept the truth or not.

  • MikeF

    There is only one change I would suggest and that is in the title.  “Silly Journalists” is being too nice and giving them the benefit of the doubt, which they do not deserve.  I can think of a lot of adjectives that fit these enablers and distorters (liars) who have the goal of the destruction of our Republic, at least what is left of it.

  • Palin Smith

    We all live in a dockyard.

  • RalphPierre

    Of course laws such as this 1798 law, and similar ones, have really helped our Merchant Marine fleet.  NOT!  Almost ALL of worldwide shipping has virtually eliminated American Marine shipping from the face of the planet.  The same thing will happen if we allow Obamacare to stand.  American Medicine will virtually dissapear.  I cannot say that this is not what this administration is attempting to do ON PURPOSE!  Obama and his communist supporters are hell bent on destroying our country.  So far, they are succeeding with the help of support from the Marxist supporters of the press, and bloggers such as Rick Ungar, who have become brainwashed into believing the Utopian Communist lies of a communist Nervanna.
    Obamacare is not about ‘Health’, and it is not about ‘Care’.  It is about “CONTROL”.

  • Rian

      What about our liberal’s dear Fourth Amendment being applied to promote a woman’s right to abort her fetus?  Isn’t a woman’s body (I must assume man’s too) so protected from the government?   So how can they support the government telling them how many mammograms to have or whether she is too old have a surgery or have a child?  Please explain this to me, Ginsburg or Kagan, or N.O.W.? 

  • retiredday

    I did pull out my dog-eared copy of the Federalist Papers and read the paragraphs you cited.  Though detractors will say the Federalist Papers aren’t “legal documents”, it is crystal clear that the writers of the Constitution knew the consequences and implications of every word they crafted.  They carefully thought through what could happen in the future if they were not circumspect in how they outlined the principles of government in the Constitution.  Kudos to them and shame on us if we allow ignoramuses to continue to pervert the Constitution.

    And to Palin Smith, you’ll never see the sky above, as long as you’re looking at the mud below.  We all don’t live where you live. 

    • Publius Huldah

      When people (lefties) tell me The Federalist Papers were written by some dead white men and are just their opinion, I respond:

      The Federalist Papers were written during 1787-88 to explain the
      proposed Constitution to The People and to induce them (through their
      States) to ratify it. For this reason, The Federalist Papers are authoritative on the genuine meaning of the Constitution. And at a meeting attended by Thomas Jefferson & James Madison of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia on March 4, 1825, the following resolution selecting texts for the Law school was passed:

      “…on the distinctive principles of the government of our
      own state, and of that of the US. the best guides are to be found in 1.
      the Declaration of Independance, as the fundamental act of union of
      these states. 2. the book known by the title of `The
      Federalist’, being an authority to which appeal is habitually made by
      all, and rarely declined or denied by any as evidence of the general
      opinion of those who framed, and of those who accepted the Constitution
      of the US. on questions as to it’s genuine meaning….” (page 83)  Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.  Madison was Father of the U.S. Constitution!  So, what those what those two say about The Federalist Papers carries a lot of weight!   So keep the above handy and know that you can ALWAYS quote The Federalist Papers as authoritative. 

      Do you know what the supreme Court justices of today consider authoritative on the meaning of Our Constitution?  THEIR own previous opinions!  Imagine!And I expect Palin Smith meant that the federal government today sees us all as living in dock-Yards.  Not that she thinks we all live in dock-Yards.

  • Kirk Fraser

    Publius’ mental skills ought to be reproduced in teachers and students worldwide, as should mine represented by   It’s so obvious reading her work that the Federal Government has control of the things it owns and nothing else, thus the federal health care law and countless (since the Federal Government itself can’t count them [John Stossel]) other laws, policies, and regulations have no rightful place in America.
    There might be room for the federal government to set up a states advisory department to SUGGEST good laws for states to adopt if they choose.  For example, Oregon’s superior vote by mail system allows citizens to take their time to vote instead of being pressured to vote at poles.  Getting the word out to the other states wasn’t done so we may still hear of hanging chad in the next election.  Likewise such a department could do some health care research on hospitals - one in Longview WA charges 4.4 times for the same basic services one in Astoria OR charges - there’s got to be some lessons to reduce prices there.  After discovery, the states might be advised how to encourage their hospitals to cut costs.

  • Dawn

    It would appear to me that Article 1, Sec. 8, Clause 17 U.S. Constitution simply refers to the notion that the United States Government has ‘sole’ authority over all properties federal. As such the United States Government would not recognize any other government’s (State or Local) attempt to legislate effective law upon same. I doubt seriously any of the Justices are going to interpret this clause as a limiting constraint upon the Federal Government in the implementation of Federal Law. Any Federal Law.

    Congress proposes and passes law upon each and every citizen in this Country nearly every day. Suggesting that this clause nullifies the ACA is merely specious. Assuming such would suggest that Congress could not effectively enforce a multitude of previously passed laws aimed at control of various situations already happening on lands not owned by the Federal Government. Therefore those laws could and would be declared unconstitutional. Simply not going to happen! 
    As for the Mariner Hospital Act. This unfortunately does give some precedence in an effort to institute a Federal Health Insurance System. How much so would remain to be seen. Interestingly, this act made available hospital locations that WERE NOT on Federally owned land, much as the authors article here would suggest otherwise. Case in point in  New Orleans, Louisiana. A Mariners Hospital wing was commissioned to be leased from a local hospital not owned by the Federal Government. It was also done before the United States took official possession of the Louisiana TerritoriesMy estimation would be that the current model of National Health Care Law being reviewed by SCOTUS will NOT pass muster, or fit the mold previously cast in 1798. Yes, they’re likely to throw out the individual mandate. No, they’re likely not going to throw out any other part of the law. Congress has the power to regulate commerce. It is in the National interest.Security was the impetus bringing forth the Mariners Hospital Act in 1798. As such, commerce today is much more integrated to the security of our Nation. This would include the health and welfare of a working citizenry (all) nationwide. This can easily be supported as fact if challenged in Court (although it would be best if Mr. Verilli were not the Solicitor General to defend such). But, as a result of overturning this mandate (something that still works under free enterprise concepts), you might likely see a universal single payer system voted on and passed in the mandates stead. Case closed from there on.I just think we may end up with something far worse than what the ACA currently represents.     

  • Jandyreid

    Thanks PH, the truth and clear thinking wins the day, at least for those who are open minded.  There are many here and in the Constitution Forum who will make use of it!