Chauncey Wealthyman graduated from Pritchett a small college in Missouri at the top of his class in the first decade of the 20th century. He went to graduate school at M.I.T. and upon graduation developed a system that rewarded him remarkably well so that he felt an obligation to donate money back to his college.
He wrote to President Uriel Sebree Hall of Pritchett College the following: “A science building being necessary to properly educate students in science, I am donating ten million dollars to the school for that purpose.” President Hall wrote back to him: “Thank you for your most generous donation. We will now be able to use your contribution to improve our standing in the field of athletic by constructing a new athletic building and facilities for our athletes.”
Chauncey wrote back to the president complaining that he set out the purpose of his gift and expected the college to abide by his wishes. In response President Hall explained in writing back to Chauncey: “The letters prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit the second part, the operative clause.” In other words the college felt free to use the money in any way it saw fit.
We saw something like that just recently. Fred Eshelman sent $2 million to True the Vote on November 5, two days after Election Day. He sent another $500,000 to True the Vote a week later. In effect he believe his donation to True the Vote was because it said it planned “to launch lawsuits in swing states, to gather whistleblower complaints about issues with the election, and to conduct “sophisticated data modeling and statistical analysis to identify potential illegal or fraudulent balloting.””
“True the Vote announced on November 17 that it was dropping lawsuits it had brought in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”
Justifying its action “The group’s president and founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, blamed “barriers to advancing our arguments, coupled with constraints on time.” She added that that “the lawsuits represented only a “fraction” of its work.”
Making it more succinct it is as if Fred Eschelman wrote: “in order to help you file lawsuits, interview whistle blowers, and identify fraud, I am donating 2.5 million dollars.” Catherine Engelbrecht pressed for time decided that prefatory clause announced his purpose but it did not limit the operative clause which was giving it the money to use whatever way it wanted.
One final example. The Bill of Rights of the United States has the following language in the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Justice Antonin Scalia examined it in the decision in the Heller case (District of Columbia, et. al. v. Heller) and he wrote that the Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause.
It’s sort of like saying that when someone says, “I want you to build a house for me, here is a million dollars” it is the equivalent of saying here is ten million dollars. Justice Scalia suggests that those behind the Second Amendment engaged in a bit of folly. They really did not mean to write those extra words.
He tells us that that Amendment should read simply: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
You would have to agree it was pretty stupid for our founders to spend all that time crafting unnecessary words. I always thought they were well educated people who knew what they were doing and said what they intended to say. I figured their final product was written with a purpose in mind and no surplusage words were used.
We have seen the results of his analysis, something I suppose those unnecessary words were intended to prevent. There are lots of folk walking around with military style weapons threatening our government officials, invading state capitals, attempting to kidnap a governor, and intimidating officials who only are doing their jobs. That is what happens when are willfully trying to please an anti-American organization like the NRA by rewriting the Bill of Rights Second Amendment.