National Parks

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    Are the national parks constitutional? My thinking has always been that the national parks could be justified constitutionally under the idea that the federal government has the power to own and regulate federal lands. Is this right?


    There’s no such general power enumerated in the Constitution. My own reading is “no,” for the reasons that John C. Calhoun gave in opposing a proposed bill to pay Dolley Madison $30,000 for James Madison’s papers: that doing so violated the tenets of constitutional interpretation laid out by Madison in his Bonus Bill Veto Message (1817). I think I’m the only Madison biographer who has ever agreed with Calhoun on that one.


    All that hast to be remembered about the NP System is that it is, in part, an outgrowth of progressivism. Nothing the progressives did or advocated was constitutional. It didn’t matter.

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