The Weiner Component V.2 #28 – The Pattern of U.S. History & the Evolving Purpose of Government: Part 1

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 178...

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781. This was the format for the United States government until the Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The order in which the original 13 states rati...

The order in which the original 13 states ratified the constitution, then the order in which the others were admitted to the union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The issue here is to discern the pattern(s) of U.S. history and ascertain   the purpose of the Federal and State Governments?  For what are they or should they be responsible.  And how has this changed over the years?

 

Historically during America’s Colonial Period people came for religious freedom which they did not generally extend to those with different beliefs once they were established in their own colony or they came for economic opportunities in order to exist in a non-fixed society where they could achieve goals not possible in Europe.  Here one could gain ownership of land and possibly prosper.  Many also were brought as indentured servants or as slaves.

 

It was to most of these people a New World with new opportunities that did not exist in the Old World, Europe.  The Colonial Governments provided the opportunities and if the settlers could properly utilize them they could make a new life for themselves and for their families.

 

In time, going from the 16th Century to the late 18th Century the settlements and society became more complicated.  On the East coast, in the Americas, Great Britain had gained control of most of the colonies.  By the last quarter of the 18th Century the British Colonies below Canada and above Florida no longer wanted to be ruled as dependent colonies, totally relying upon the mother country.  The immediate problem was taxes decreed by King George III and his Parliament.  This protest brought about the Revolutionary War.

 

When it became clear to England, after the Battle at Yorktown in Virginia on October 19, 1781, that it was too expensive in both gold and men to occupy the American Colonies with an army perennially the British gave the 13 Colonies their independence.  It was cheaper and more practical to simply trade with them.  What was to develop from that was the United States of America.

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The overall purpose of the new state governments, under the Articles of Confederation, was to allow their populations to develop as best they could with the governments essentially providing safety from foreign invasions and keeping order within the individual states.

 

Each state was virtually an independent nation with essentially a largely powerless Congress made up of representatives from all the different governments.  They each could print or mint their own money.  They agreed to cooperate but essentially kept their own sovereignty.  The members of the unified Congress had to go back to their individual state legislatures for decisions over major bills.  And all bills required unanimous approval in order to come into being.  There was no executive office; Congress also had this function. This period lasted from the end of the Revolutionary War until 1788, when the Constitution was ratified and a new government established.

 

What brought the Constitution into being was mainly Shay’s Rebellion, which lasted from 1786 through 1787.  The coastal mercantile class that controlled the government in the State of Massachusetts, in order to raise money, passed a tax to be paid by the small inland farmers who were not represented in the State Legislature and tended to be short of cash.  The tax was vigorously collected, causing tax collectors to seize and auction off land in payment of debts.  During this period many people argued that since the large plantation owners in the Southern states had refused to pay their debts to English merchants, that they had amassed before the Revolutionary War they, the small farmers, could do the same thing to the state of Massachusetts.  This tended to raise fears among the property owning class throughout the new country and brought about for many an awareness of a need for a strong central government that could enforce its will.  It brought about the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 which was chaired by George Washington.

 

In 12 of the 13 states a new government came into existence in 1789 with the election of George Washington as its first President.  In Massachusetts a year earlier the state government was reformed.  Shay’s Rebellion had been one of the major motivating forces for the formation of the Constitution.  Henceforth life, liberty, and the protection of property became the creed of the new government.

 

The Constitution came into effect after 9 states approved it.  12 of the 13 states actually voted for it.  Rhode Island did not send any delegates to the Constitutional Convention and did not approve it.  It held a number of conventions within the state and did not approve the new government in any of them.  Finally in 1790 the Congress of the New United States voted to exclude Rhode Island in the near future from any participation with the other 12 states, thus totally isolating them.  On May 18, 1790, before this bill could come into effect, Rhode Island approved the Constitution and joined the Union.

 

The new government that came into being under the Constitution was run by both the educated and mercantile class.  These people formed the Federalist Party.  They were the elite.  In this government only male property owners could vote.  This group constituted the first political party.  While they ran the country for everyone’s benefit they favored their own class.  The function of government was the same as it had been under the Articles of Confederation.

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In 1800 a new political party was formed under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Republican Party.  Jefferson favored the yeoman/small family farmer.  During a dramatic election with all sorts of denouncement from both sides the Democratic Party won; Jefferson was elected President.  It was still government by the elite; but mainly for the benefit of the small farmer.

 

In point of fact Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon and France.  The sale was technically illegal because the French had promised Spain, the original owner that they would not sell the territory; but there was nothing Spain could do about it since at that time she was ruled by one of Napoleon’s Marshalls and had been conquered by France.

 

To Jefferson the Louisiana Territory extended the new United States’ land area so that there would be land for yeoman farmers, in President Jefferson’s opinion, for the next hundred years.

 

After the War of 1812 the Federalist Party disappeared.  It backed the wrong side in that war, England.  It would not really appear again until 1860 under the new name of the Republican Party.

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With the election of Andrew Jackson to the Presidency from 1828 to 1837 Democracy was spelt with a small d.  By then practically all males voted.  Land was cheap and practically all males owned some.  The vote was essentially universal for males.  In addition the Union had grown from the original 12 to 24 states.  And the Democratic Party had split into Jacksonian Democrats and Non-Jacksonian Democrats.

 

With Jackson the concept of rule by the elite disappeared.  President Jackson was considered by the population as one of their own.  He was the common man elevated to the Presidency and his government extended that concept with what was called the “spoils system,” whereby anyone could hold any government job.  It was now, to pre-quote Lincoln, “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  Its overall purpose remained the same as it had been before: the government provided what was necessary in the country to exist, the people had the opportunity to make use of what the government provided.

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With the earlier invention and dissemination of the Cotton Gin slavery, which had been dying out, became the means for the Southern states to raise cotton.  Cotton became the chief export of the large Southern planters.  It fostered the new Industrial Revolution and made slavery again important in the Southern States.  Spinning thread and weaving inexpensive cloth became the first major industry of the new Industrial Revolution.

 

At first England controlled this new industry; then it spread to the rest of Europe and the Northern parts of the United States.  The new Industrial Revolution was begun by an industry based initially upon slavery in the Southern United States.  To them Cotton was King.  It reestablished slavery as an economic system.

 

Gradually the Non-Jacksonian Democrats became a myriad of political parties.  The largest pro-business party was the Whigs.  Another was the Abolitionists which consisted of those who were against slavery.  There were innumerable others; some lasted a short period of time and disappeared, others persisted.  By 1860 the Whig, the abolitionists, and innumerable other smaller parties coalesced into the Republican Party and because the Democratic Party split into two political parts, the Northern and Southern Democrats, the new Republican Party won the Presidential Election with 40% of the vote and Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican President of the United States.

 

Lincoln’s name was not on the ballot in any Southern state.  The election consisted of two separate elections; one in the Northern and Western States and one in the Southern States.

 

This began the Civil War and the one question that had never been settled when the nation was first established under the Constitution was resolved by the outcome of the war: Who was more powerful the States or the Central Government?  In addition slavery was ended.

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After the Civil War America went rapidly through the Industrial Revolution.  The railroads covered the nation, industry rose rapidly, there was the very rapid rise of new cities and the phenomenal growth of the old ones.  The country underwent rapid change with the growth of monopolies and oligopolies.  Actually practically every industry by the end of the 19th Century had become a monopoly with one of its lawyers having a seat in the U.S. Senate.  Just about all the state legislatures were prone to bribery.  Rockefeller’s Standard oil not only had a reputation of refining oil it also refined state legislatures.

 

Initially the state legislatures elected the members of the Senate; they were to serve the needs of the individual states.  The 17th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1913.  It caused the members of the Senate to be elected by the direct vote of the people of the respective states.

 

It was during this period that the nation changed from a rural country with cities to an urban one with rural areas that produced the necessary food for the population.  The changes were so rapid that the support systems and support laws had to be developed with and after the changes.  Proper water for the people of the cities, evacuation of sewerage, building regulations, proper ventilation, a sane workday in the factories, rules for the employment of women and children, and so on.  All this and more had to be understood and laws had to be passed regulating these conditions.  All this would take an infinite amount of time to be done.  And all this would initially condone an infinite amount of corruption and bribery.

 

Initially the Populist Party came into existence to support the agrarian class.  Among other things the railroads were charging the farmers different rates to transport their crops.  The rule was to charge what the traffic would bare.  In most cases the trains were the only way to get the crops to market.

 

From 1892 to 1896 the Populist (People’s) Party, a U.S. agrarian political party came into existence.  It was hostile to cities, banks, railroads, and banks.  It contained the poor white cotton farmers of the South and the wheat farmers in the Plain States.  In 1896 it supported the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan.  The Republican candidate William McKinley won that election.  The Populists became part of the Democratic Party after that election.

 

The major change at the beginning of the 20th Century was the Progressive Movement.  Some of its leaders were Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, both Republicans and Democrats.  Robert M. La Follett, Charles Evans Hughes, William Jennings Bryant, and Al Smith were also some of the reformers.  Efforts were made to reform local government, public education, industry, etc.  It was a local, state, and national movement.  It brought about financial reform with the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and women’s suffrage in 1919 with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Presidential Election of 1920 that made the Republican, Warren G. Harding President of the United States, was the first time all the women in the country voted in a national election.

 

The Progressive Movement targeted political machines and their bosses.  They sought regulation of monopolies and corporations through antitrust laws.  They were essentially an urban movement which largely and successfully brought the country into the Twentieth Century.

The reform stopped when the United States entered World War I.  After the war with the refusal of the U.S. to sign the Versailles Treaty and join the League of Nations the country entered into a corrupt Republican period that in 1929 ended with the Great Depression.

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In the early part of the 20th Century lawyers like Louis Brandeis, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, began using sociological facts as evidence.  This was a first, expanding the concept of what presented   proof.  The function of the government was still to provide a safe base for its people in which to live; they were still responsible for themselves and their families.  Basically, where the individual or family couldn’t handle the situation it was up to the local religious organization and/or neighbors to help the situation and provide aid.  This had worked up to now.

 

With the Great Depression, which was a world disaster, a good percentage of the population could no longer provide for their basic needs.  This was far beyond what local charitable organizations could handle.  In general all the neighbors were in the same deplorable situation.  Overnight the country changed, jobs disappeared and a fair percentage of the population could not handle the economic situation, but the Republic Government under President Herbert Hoover with the multi-millionaire, Andrew Mellon as his Secretary of the Treasury, could not adjust to the crisis.  There had been depressions and recessions in the past and in all cases the economy had eventually adjusted itself and come out of crisis after a period of time.  They expected that to also happen here.  Consequently they kept talking about prosperity being around the corner.  After three years the depression just got deeper and it was time to elect a new President.  The Candidates were Hoover for the Republicans and Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Democrats.

 

In addition, shortly before the election, the veterans from World War I, who had been promised a bonus in the future, organized a Bonus March and came to Washington, D.C., requesting that Congress give them their promised bonus then.  They set up a camp just outside the city.  Congress refused to vote the bonus and President Hoover ordered General Douglas MacArthur to clear the veterans out of the flats.  In the process of doing this several were killed.

 

When the election came the Democratic candidate, Franklin D. Roosevelt won by an overwhelming majority, 57.4 percent of the vote.  It was with this administration that the United States expanded the purpose of government, adding the maxim that it was responsible for the welfare of the people who could not care for themselves.

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What we’ve seen from the Colonial Period on was that the overall purpose of government was to provide a safe place for the citizen to get on with his life.  When the citizen ran into situations beyond his ability beyond his ability to deal with then the community and the religious organization would help him.  The government provided safety and security from foreign invasion and presumably a safe place to live.

The Weiner Component V.2 #20 – The Origins of American Government & its two Major Political Parties

A cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum.

A cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To understand the government and the two major political parties in the United States we need to examine assorted economic happenings.  These entities changed the course of history in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.  The first was the invention of the Cotton Gin, from the 1780s on, another was the American Revolution, a third was a rebellion by small yeoman farmers in inland Massachusetts, and the fourth was the Constitution of the United States.  What occurs here is a cause and effect relationship that brings about major historical changes.

************************************

Eli Whitney was an American inventor who developed the Cotton Gin.  The word gin is short for engine.  The problem with cotton is that it is filled with seeds.  It takes a person working diligently for an hour to clean one pound of cotton.  A single cotton gin could clean 55 pounds daily.  Whitney received a pattern for his gin in 1807.  Like the grist and sawmills he expected to charge farmers for cleaning their cotton by getting 2/5 of the cotton cleaned.  The mechanical simplicity of the device and the primitive state of the pattern law made infringement inevitable.  Local carpenters could easily make duplicates of the gins.  Ultimately lawsuits consumed the profits and the cotton gin company went bankrupt in 1797.  Whitney, however, gained national, if not international fame for his invention.

 

Cotton had been very labor intensive and expensive.  The new inexpensive cotton changed the economics of the world by bringing about the Industrial Revolution in England in the early 19th Century and it also made slavery profitable in the new United States.

 

Prior to the 1790s slave labor was a slowly dying institution.  Slaves were employed in the growing of tobacco, rice, and indigo.  None of these crops were particularly profitable.  With the invention of the cotton gin cotton became the chief source of wealth in the American South; it became king cotton or the chief export of the new United States.  In the Southern settlements from South Carolina to Texas cotton became the dominant economic force and slavery became the key institution of Southern society.  This would persist until the end of the Civil War.

 

With the early Industrial Revolution from the late 18th Century, both England and New England became dependent upon this crop.  Their factories buzzed spinning thread and weaving cloth.  In the American South enormous fortunes were produced and the large cotton growers lived regally.  They tended to utilize the large English purchasers as suppliers of all the goods they wanted, ordering furniture, grand pianos or whatever they decided they wanted or needed.  This in time resulted in their spending more than their current crops allowed.  Eventually the large plantation owners owed their future crops to these people.  To the English manufacturers this was good business because it tied these planters and their crops to them.  The combined debt must have been in the millions.

 

With the formation of a new central government in 1788, caused by the Revolutionary War the Southern cotton barons refused to honor their debts to the English manufacturers.  In essence cotton as an export was still “king” and could always be sold in England or New England.  Some of the English manufacturers sued in the New United States.  Not one ever won his case.  The large cotton growers wiped out millions in debts virtually overnight without spending a penny.

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The American Revolution was fought from 1765 to 1783.  By the end of the Battle of Yorktown it became obvious to the British that it was far less expensive to trade with the American colonies than to gain trading advantages from them by ruling them.  Consequently the colonies gained their independence.

 

The government that the new independent state established was codified under the Articles of Confederation.  This document rested sovereignty with each of the 12 newly independent states with a central elected body have representatives from all 12 states.  The final decision on any measure passed by this Continental Congress had then to be approved by each of the 12 states.  Any state or states that so wished could disregard any measure passed by the Continental Congress.  In essence what existed were 12 independent nation states that had agreed to more or less cooperate with one another.

******************************

In the period during 1786 and 1787 the Revolutionary veteran, Daniel Shay, led 4,000 rebels, called Shayites, in an uprising against economic and civil rights injustices.  Basically the inland area of the state largely consisted of subsistence agriculture.  Mostly where roads existed they were unpaved, becoming muddy and impossible to use during rain, making it impossible for the farmers to bring their crops to the coastal areas where they could be shipped throughout the tidewater areas of the colonies or overseas.  Consequently most, if not all, of the farmers had stills.  A lot of grain made a small amount of whiskey, which was always in demand and could be easily transported.

 

Along the economically developed or older coastal areas of Massachusetts Bay there existed a market economy which was driven by the activities of wholesale merchants dealing with Europe, the West Indies, and elsewhere on the North American coast.  The state government was dominated by this merchant group.

 

After the end of the Revolutionary War the European businesses, for good reason, refused to continue to extend lines of credit to these merchants and insisted that they pay in hard currency, gold.  There was a shortage of such currency.  Also the state government, run by the business class, needed money.  Following a period of taxes not being paid where it could be avoided, the state of Massachusetts passed a whiskey tax on the small inland farmers to be paid in gold coins which were in short supply.

 

The rural farmers were unable to meet the demands made upon them by the merchants or the civil authorities and many began to lose their land and other possessions.  This led to strong resistance against the collectors and the courts where the collectors obtained judgements authorizing property seizures.

 

A great many of these depressed individuals felt that they should be able to cancel the debts the same way that the Southern planters had.  This led to open warfare between the two groups, temporarily shutting down the courts, sporadic fighting, and the governor refusing to enforce actions against the small farmers and being replaced by one who would enforce the law.  In 1787 Daniel Shay, leading 4,000 rebels, attempted to take the federal armory in Springfield, which was stoutly defended by state troops raised as a private army.

 

Eventually in 1787 4,000 people signed confessions admitting participation in the rebellion in return for amnesty.  Most of those indicted were eventually pardoned.  In subsequent years the state legislature cut taxes and placed a moratorium on debts.  In 1787 John Hancock replaced the militant governor.

 

As a note of irony it should be noted that at that time the only people allowed to vote were male property owners.  All the small farmers were property owners.  There were more of them than there were merchants.

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As a result of this and of other effects, many upper class individuals felt that there was a need for a stronger central government that could protect property rights throughout the states.  The most important effect was the call for a Constitutional Convention which would reform the Articles of Confederation, presumably strengthening the central government.  In addition Shay’s Rebellion brought George Washington out of retirement at Mount Vernon to chair the Constitutional Convention and to eventually become President for the first two four year terms.  It also brought two distinct political groups into existence: the Federalists who wanted a stronger central government and the Anti-Federalists who didn’t want this.  It was the merchant, businessmen class against the agrarians and laborers.

 

The people at the Constitutional Convention tended to represent the wealthy and educated classes.  They agreed to hold the meetings in secret and soon discovered that amending the Articles of Confederation could not produce a government with central control of all the states.  Consequently they produced from May 25 to September 17, 1787 a totally new document of government.

 

France has been through more than a dozen Constitutions since 1789; the U.S. has only had one, which still exists and functions.  The reason for this is that the U.S. had two sets of states: One free and one slave.  The elite of upper classes in both ends of the country agreed upon the necessity of a stronger central government.  They did not agree on numerous other issues.  They needed a document of unity but they did not agree upon a host of other issues.  In order to create their document of government they had to compromise upon innumerable issues.  Interpreting these issues, according to the needs of the times, has kept the Supreme Court busy since the inception of the nation.

 

The one issue that the Court could not deal with was the issue of where the basic power lay, with the Federal Government or the States.  That issue was resolved by the Civil War.

 

Although there were different political groups in the United States at that time the issue of political parties was never considered by the Founding Fathers.  Once the new government came into existence so did political parties.  The first one was the Federalist Party, representing coastal business and the educated classes.  They were able to dominate the first three elections, two for George Washington and one for John Adams.  The Federalists were opposed by the Anti-Federalists, who represented the small yeoman farmers like Daniel Shay.

 

The leader of the Federalist Party at that time was not the President but was Alexander Hamilton.  The first dramatic election was that of 1800 when John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson had organized the Anti-Federalists groups and anyone else who was dissatisfied with the Federalists into, what he called, the Republican Party.  As a put-down the Federalists called the new political group the Democratic-Republican Party.  Eventually the word “Republican” was dropped and this became the Democratic Party, which we still have today.  They represented the interests of the small, or as Jefferson preferred to call them, “Yeomen farmers.”  In fact the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the Jefferson administration in 1803 would provide land for yeoman farmers for at least the next 100 years, according to Jefferson.

 

Initially only males voted who were property owners.  With the availability of cheap or free land the Federalists, after the Election of 1800, were never again able to mount a successful Presidential election.  They went out of existence after the War of 1812, when they backed the wrong side, England.  From 1814 on there was only one major political party in the U.S., the Democratic Party.

 

Other groups across the United States formed small political groups.  The other major party that would come into existence in 1835 was the Whig Party, which more or less carried on the values of the old Federalist Party, they represented largely the growing businesses across the ever growing nation which was blossoming with the new Industrial Revolution.  In addition they were also strongly anti-slavery.  In 1860 the Whig Party and a number of fringe groups coalesced into, what was to become, the Republican Party in the Election of 1860.

 

Lincoln was originally a Whig, He won the Presidential Election of 1860 with less than 40% of the popular vote because the Democratic Party had split into two parts, the South voted for one candidate and the North and West voted for another.  With the exception of Virginia where he received less than 2% of the popular vote Lincoln was not even on the ballot on any of the other Southern states.  In essence there were two elections in 1860: one in the South and a different election in the North and West.

 

Here we have the origins of the two major political parties in the United States.  Today, with a so-called Republican President and universal suffrage, the two political parties are at a point where they can barely communicate with one another.

 

Here we can see the origins of our government and our political system.

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It should also be noted that when United States history is taught as a survey in the schools everything is taught as a group of events which generally are simplified and not related to one another.  Cause and effect relationships are ignored or not understood.  This article generally deals with, on a general basis, cause and effect.  The invention of the cotton gin and the Industrial Revolution, switching from manmade to machine made products, brought about the changes which resulted in the growth of slavery, the Civil War and the country as it is now,

 

If the discovery of the cotton gin had been delayed for another twenty years or so, slavery might have died out on its own and there would have been no Civil War.  If Shay’s Rebellion had not occurred the government might have gone on under the Articles of Confederation and the United States could have eventually developed a Parliamentary System similar to the present day government of Great Britain.  There certainly would have been no immediate need for a Constitution.  There are certainly a lot of “Ifs” available.  Of course we’ll never know the answer to a lot of these questions because they never happened.

The Weiner Component V.2 #20 – The Origins of the American Government & Its Two Major Political Parties

 

To understand the government and the two major political parties in the United States we need to examine assorted economic happenings.  These entities changed the course of history in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.  The first was the invention of the Cotton Gin, from the 1780s on, another was the American Revolution, a third was a rebellion by small yeoman farmers in inland Massachusetts, and the fourth was the Constitution of the United States.  What occurs here is a cause and effect relationship that brings about major historical changes.

************************************

Eli Whitney was an American inventor who developed the Cotton Gin.  The word gin is short for engine.  The problem with cotton is that it is filled with seeds.  It takes a person working diligently for an hour to clean one pound of cotton.  A single cotton gin could clean 55 pounds daily.  Whitney received a pattern for his gin in 1807.  Like the grist and sawmills he expected to charge farmers for cleaning their cotton by getting 2/5 of the cotton cleaned.  The mechanical simplicity of the device and the primitive state of the pattern law made infringement inevitable.  Local carpenters could easily make duplicates of the gins.  Ultimately lawsuits consumed the profits and the cotton gin company went bankrupt in 1797.  Whitney, however, gained national, if not international fame for his invention.

 

Cotton had been very labor intensive and expensive.  The new inexpensive cotton changed the economics of the world by bringing about the Industrial Revolution in England in the early 19th Century and it also made slavery profitable in the new United States.

 

Prior to the 1790s slave labor was a slowly dying institution.  Slaves were employed in the growing of tobacco, rice, and indigo.  None of these crops were particularly profitable.  With the invention of the cotton gin cotton became the chief source of wealth in the American South; it became king cotton or the chief export of the new United States.  In the Southern settlements from South Carolina to Texas cotton became the dominant economic force and slavery became the key institution of Southern society.  This would persist until the end of the Civil War.

 

With the early Industrial Revolution from the late 18th Century, both England and New England became dependent upon this crop.  Their factories buzzed spinning thread and weaving cloth.  In the American South enormous fortunes were produced and the large cotton growers lived regally.  They tended to utilize the large English purchasers as suppliers of all the goods they wanted, ordering furniture, grand pianos or whatever they decided they wanted or needed.  This in time resulted in their spending more than their current crops allowed.  Eventually the large plantation owners owed their future crops to these people.  To the English manufacturers this was good business because it tied these planters and their crops to them.  The combined debt must have been in the millions.

 

With the formation of a new central government in 1788, caused by the Revolutionary War the Southern cotton barons refused to honor their debts to the English manufacturers.  In essence cotton as an export was still “king” and could always be sold in England or New England.  Some of the English manufacturers sued in the New United States.  Not one ever won his case.  The large cotton growers wiped out millions in debts virtually overnight without spending a penny.

**********************************

The American Revolution was fought from 1765 to 1783.  By the end of the Battle of Yorktown it became obvious to the British that it was far less expensive to trade with the American colonies than to gain trading advantages from them by ruling them.  Consequently the colonies gained their independence.

 

The government that the new independent state established was codified under the Articles of Confederation.  This document rested sovereignty with each of the 12 newly independent states with a central elected body have representatives from all 12 states.  The final decision on any measure passed by this Continental Congress had then to be approved by each of the 12 states.  Any state or states that so wished could disregard any measure passed by the Continental Congress.  In essence what existed were 12 independent nation states that had agreed to more or less cooperate with one another.

******************************

In the period during 1786 and 1787 the Revolutionary veteran, Daniel Shay, led 4,000 rebels, called Shayites, in an uprising against economic and civil rights injustices.  Basically the inland area of the state largely consisted of subsistence agriculture.  Mostly where roads existed they were unpaved, becoming muddy and impossible to use during rain, making it impossible for the farmers to bring their crops to the coastal areas where they could be shipped throughout the tidewater areas of the colonies or overseas.  Consequently most, if not all, of the farmers had stills.  A lot of grain made a small amount of whiskey, which was always in demand and could be easily transported.

 

Along the economically developed or older coastal areas of Massachusetts Bay there existed a market economy which was driven by the activities of wholesale merchants dealing with Europe, the West Indies, and elsewhere on the North American coast.  The state government was dominated by this merchant group.

 

After the end of the Revolutionary War the European businesses, for good reason, refused to continue to extend lines of credit to these merchants and insisted that they pay in hard currency, gold.  There was a shortage of such currency.  Also the state government, run by the business class, needed money.  Following a period of taxes not being paid where it could be avoided, the state of Massachusetts passed a whiskey tax on the small inland farmers to be paid in gold coins which were in short supply.

 

The rural farmers were unable to meet the demands made upon them by the merchants or the civil authorities and many began to lose their land and other possessions.  This led to strong resistance against the collectors and the courts where the collectors obtained judgements authorizing property seizures.

 

A great many of these depressed individuals felt that they should be able to cancel the debts the same way that the Southern planters had.  This led to open warfare between the two groups, temporarily shutting down the courts, sporadic fighting, and the governor refusing to enforce actions against the small farmers and being replaced by one who would enforce the law.  In 1787 Daniel Shay, leading 4,000 rebels, attempted to take the federal armory in Springfield, which was stoutly defended by state troops raised as a private army.

 

Eventually in 1787 4,000 people signed confessions admitting participation in the rebellion in return for amnesty.  Most of those indicted were eventually pardoned.  In subsequent years the state legislature cut taxes and placed a moratorium on debts.  In 1787 John Hancock replaced the militant governor.

 

As a note of irony it should be noted that at that time the only people allowed to vote were male property owners.  All the small farmers were property owners.  There were more of them than there were merchants.

*********************************

As a result of this and of other effects, many upper class individuals felt that there was a need for a stronger central government that could protect property rights throughout the states.  The most important effect was the call for a Constitutional Convention which would reform the Articles of Confederation, presumably strengthening the central government.  In addition Shay’s Rebellion brought George Washington out of retirement at Mount Vernon to chair the Constitutional Convention and to eventually become President for the first two four year terms.  It also brought two distinct political groups into existence: the Federalists who wanted a stronger central government and the Anti-Federalists who didn’t want this.  It was the merchant, businessmen class against the agrarians and laborers.

 

The people at the Constitutional Convention tended to represent the wealthy and educated classes.  They agreed to hold the meetings in secret and soon discovered that amending the Articles of Confederation could not produce a government with central control of all the states.  Consequently they produced from May 25 to September 17, 1787 a totally new document of government.

 

France has been through more than a dozen Constitutions since 1789; the U.S. has only had one, which still exists and functions.  The reason for this is that the U.S. had two sets of states: One free and one slave.  The elite of upper classes in both ends of the country agreed upon the necessity of a stronger central government.  They did not agree on numerous other issues.  They needed a document of unity but they did not agree upon a host of other issues.  In order to create their document of government they had to compromise upon innumerable issues.  Interpreting these issues, according to the needs of the times, has kept the Supreme Court busy since the inception of the nation.

 

The one issue that the Court could not deal with was the issue of where the basic power lay, with the Federal Government or the States.  That issue was resolved by the Civil War.

 

Although there were different political groups in the United States at that time the issue of political parties was never considered by the Founding Fathers.  Once the new government came into existence so did political parties.  The first one was the Federalist Party, representing coastal business and the educated classes.  They were able to dominate the first three elections, two for George Washington and one for John Adams.  The Federalists were opposed by the Anti-Federalists, who represented the small yeoman farmers like Daniel Shay.

 

The leader of the Federalist Party at that time was not the President but was Alexander Hamilton.  The first dramatic election was that of 1800 when John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson had organized the Anti-Federalists groups and anyone else who was dissatisfied with the Federalists into, what he called, the Republican Party.  As a put-down the Federalists called the new political group the Democratic-Republican Party.  Eventually the word “Republican” was dropped and this became the Democratic Party, which we still have today.  They represented the interests of the small, or as Jefferson preferred to call them, “Yeomen farmers.”  In fact the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the Jefferson administration in 1803 would provide land for yeoman farmers for at least the next 100 years, according to Jefferson.

 

Initially only males voted who were property owners.  With the availability of cheap or free land the Federalists, after the Election of 1800, were never again able to mount a successful Presidential election.  They went out of existence after the War of 1812, when they backed the wrong side, England.  From 1814 on there was only one major political party in the U.S., the Democratic Party.

 

Other groups across the United States formed small political groups.  The other major party that would come into existence in 1835 was the Whig Party, which more or less carried on the values of the old Federalist Party, they represented largely the growing businesses across the ever growing nation which was blossoming with the new Industrial Revolution.  In addition they were also strongly anti-slavery.  In 1860 the Whig Party and a number of fringe groups coalesced into, what was to become, the Republican Party in the Election of 1860.

 

Lincoln was originally a Whig, He won the Presidential Election of 1860 with less than 40% of the popular vote because the Democratic Party had split into two parts, the South voted for one candidate and the North and West voted for another.  With the exception of Virginia where he received less than 2% of the popular vote Lincoln was not even on the ballot on any of the other Southern states.  In essence there were two elections in 1860: one in the South and a different election in the North and West.

 

Here we have the origins of the two major political parties in the United States.  Today, with a so-called Republican President and universal suffrage, the two political parties are at a point where they can barely communicate with one another.

 

Here we can see the origins of our government and our political system.

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It should also be noted that when United States history is taught as a survey in the schools everything is taught as a group of events which generally are simplified and not related to one another.  Cause and effect relationships are ignored or not understood.  This article generally deals with, on a general basis, cause and effect.  The invention of the cotton gin and the Industrial Revolution, switching from manmade to machine made products, brought about the changes which resulted in the growth of slavery, the Civil War and the country as it is now,

 

If the discovery of the cotton gin had been delayed for another twenty years or so, slavery might have died out on its own and there would have been no Civil War.  If Shay’s Rebellion had not occurred the government might have gone on under the Articles of Confederation and the United States could have eventually developed a Parliamentary System similar to the present day government of Great Britain.  There certainly would have been no immediate need for a Constitution.  There are certainly a lot of “Ifs” available.  Of course we’ll never know the answer to a lot of these questions because they never happened.

The Weiner Component #170 – The 2016 Presidential Election

On Tuesday, October 8, the 2016 Presidential Election

James Comey

James Comey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

was held.  Surprisingly, the winner that emerged was Donald J. Trump.  Clinton went into the election clearly as the favorite.  According to a phone call with some of her staff she blamed her loss upon the FBI Director, James Comey.   

 

Early in his tenure as Attorney General, Eric Holder stated that it was essential that no government agency take sides in any political activity.  James Comey, the Director of the FBI, did that when he announced toward the beginning of July 2015 that the FBI was investigating the Emails of Hillary Clinton that were sent through a private server when she was Secretary of State.  This went against FBI policy, announcing an investigation while it was in process.  In essence, whether he meant to do it or not, Director Comey was both putting himself and the FBI in the middle of a Presidential Election and influencing its possible outcome.  This had not happened since the days of the first Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who used the agency for political purposes innumerable times.  It was, however, against the instructions of Obama’s first Attorney General and the practices of the institution. 

 

The outcome of that investigation was that Clinton had been careless but had done nothing prosecutable.  The investigation did, however, cast a shadow over her campaign. 

 

Shortly before the election, while early voting was going on in many states, in a different case, an investigation against Antony Weiner communicating inappropriately  with a 15 year old girl in another state, presumably more Clinton Emails were found.  Weiner’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, who was one of Clinton’s close aides, had apparently used Weiner’s laptop computer.  Abedin didn’t know how the Emails got onto the computer.  Even the number of them on the computer was unknown.  The FBI needed a court order to look at the Emails, consequently none had been read.  Only their existence was known.  Comey issued this information to the Republican heads of all the Congressional committees in a letter.  They, in turn, released this information to the press with fictitious statements as to what the Emails contained.  Donald Trump in his campaign quoted the unread emails.

 

Three days before the election Comey announced that the Emails had been duplicates of those seen earlier. There was no case against Clinton.  But the damage had been done.  Several million people had already voted.  Comey had taken the FBI to a new level, it had become a political organization.

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Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.  But Trump had 290 Electoral votes to Hillary’s 228.  The American Democracy does not count each vote equally.  When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution there were thirteen states which had been incorporated together under the Articles of Confederation.  In essence there were thirteen sovereign independent little nations that had acted together during the Revolutionary War and continued to act together under the Articles.  But each was sovereign; they could go their own way at any time.  The delegates under the Articles had very little actual authority to do anything.  When any major decisions about anything had to be made they had to go back to their state legislatures for instructions and, as a final step, all had to agree for the measure to be passed.

 

Before the Revolutionary War the large Southern Planters all owed English merchants millions of dollars which they refused to pay now that they had won their independence.  The prewar situation had been such that these rich planters could order anything they wanted through these English merchants: furniture, building materials of all sorts, clothing, whatever, and the merchants would supply whatever they asked for and deduct the costs from their clients slave raised crops or lumber or whatever else they got from the planters.  The planters generally exceeded their crop profits.  Eventually massive amounts of monies were owed.  After the Revolutionary War the planters considered themselves debt free.  Some of the English merchants sued in American state courts, but they always lost their suit.  No American jury would give them anything.

 

In the new country in Massachusetts the tidewater merchants who ran the government needed to raise a certain amount in taxes.  Transportation at that time was very poor and Inland farmers who raised grain all had stills and turned their excess grain into whiskey, which was much easier to carry to places where it could be sold or traded for needed household goods or whatever else they wanted.  The coastal lawmakers placed the tax on whiskey.  What occurred was called Shay’s Rebellion of 1786 – 1787.  Daniel Shay argued that if the Southern planters could make their debts disappear so could the inland farmers.

 

The problem was solved when former General George Washington called out the National Guard.  These were tidewater civilians, many of them veterans of the Revolutionary War, who formed up and went inland.  As the soldiers appeared the Rebellion disintegrated.  Some men were arrested and taken back to the coastal city areas.  Washington eventually pardoned all of them but they had been away from their farms for months.  Thereafter they paid their taxes.

 

This was probably one of the main reasons for the Constitutional Convention which met in the state legislative capital in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, from May 25 through September 17.  They claimed that they were going to amend the Articles of Confederation.  But they met in secret, taking no notes during their meetings.  After quickly coming to the conclusion that the Articles of Confederation by themselves could never be effective as a document of government they decided under their Chairman, George Washington, to write a new document.  This was the Constitution.

 

The group, under Washington’s leadership, was essentially made up of the leading men of property.  Among other things they had their own self-interest at heart.  They wanted a government that was strong enough to protect them and their self-interest and free enough to gain the support of the entire population. 

 

In the process of working out the Constitution they faced a number of problems.  One of these was that among the thirteen states there were large and small states.  The small states wanted their rights; they did not want to be overshadowed by the larger states.  This brought about the idea of a bicameral legislature.  Each State would be given two Senators, older and more stable men who were 35 or older, and a House of Representatives, younger men who were 25 or older and elected every two years.  The Senate would be elected every six years and their election would be staggered into thirds every two years so the government could maintain a continuation of whatever it was doing. 

 

The House would be elected directly by men owning property and represent the property owning yeoman; the Senate by the State Legislatures and represent them.  The President would be elected by an Electoral College, the members of which would be the wisest men in the region and they would pick the best man in the United States to be President. This would be done every four years.  There was no thought at this point of political parties.  If no one person received enough votes then the House of Representatives would choose the President.  Everyone agreed that George Washington would be the first President.

 

Under this system the votes are not equal.  Today they count for much more in the smaller states than in the larger ones.  There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, the number is fixed.  Each State has two senators and currently anything, depending upon population, from one to 55 representatives in the House of Representatives.  The number of electoral votes is fixed to the number of senators and house members; that is 535 electoral votes. 

 

In the 2016 Presidential Election the people elected Hillary Clinton with 1.4 million addition votes for Hillary Clinton but the Midwestern States gave the election to Donald J. Trump.  It was not a fair election.  It’s time to again amend the Constitution.  All citizens now have the vote, both male and female, property owners and renters.  All votes should be equally counted.

 

There is another interesting point to be made.  The House and Senate are fixed at 435 House members and 100 Senators.  The population of the United States grows every year.  Every ten years a census is taken of the populations and the number of House of Representative Districts are reassigned on the basis of the population changes or reapportionment.  Each state legislature then redraws the new legislative districts within each state’s boundaries.  In many cases, particularly when the Republicans control the majority of state governments, the voting districts are gerrymandered to give the majority state party the voting advantage.  They can take any shape as long as the line is continuous. 

 

In 2010 the Republicans gained control of most states.  They gerrymandered the Election Districts to their advantage, giving them control of the House of Representatives from 2011 on.  In the 2012 Midterm Election about 1 ¼ million more Democrats voted for members of the House but the Republicans still ended up with the majority of House seats that year.  Gerrymandering can fragment strong Democratic districts attaching them, on a piecemeal basis, as small parts of Republican dominated districts.  This is blatantly unfair.

 

The Constitution has been amended numerous times.  Its initial object was to create, for the first time, a late 18th Century a Democratic Document of government.  It was the first time a Democracy came into existence since Ancient Athens.  The 15th Amendment in 1870 gave every male, regardless of color, the right to vote.  The 17th Amendment in 1913 made the people of each individual state responsible for electing their senators.  The 19th Amendment in 1919 gave women the right to vote.  The 24th Amendment in 1965 did away with the poll tax.  The 26th Amendment in 1971 reduced the voting age to eighteen.  If you were old enough to fight and die for your country you were old enough to vote.  It’s time for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution.  We have had three Republican Presidents who have stolen elections: one in 1876, one in 2001, and one in 2017.  Every vote cast for the President should count equally.  In a true Democracy the People are supposed to rule.

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Another major problem with the 2016 Presidential Election was the fact that voter turnout was the lowest in years.  The Republicans tend to do well when voter turnout is forcibly and/or voluntarily reduced.  In this election, despite numerous lawsuits to stop the process, there was a lot of voter suppression.  In the State of Texas in 2014 it exceeded 200,000.  In 2016 it could have been higher.

 

In addition the two major candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were both the two most disliked Presidential candidates in United States history.  Clinton was polled at a negative 60% level and Trump, at a 75% level.  Fifty-four percent of the population voted; forty-six percent of the population stayed at home and did not vote.  Still even though Hillary Clinton had the majority of votes she had far less than President Obama received four years ago.

 

Donald J. Trump was guilty of everything he accused Clinton of being and doing.  He has just settled a fraud class action lawsuit about Trump University which was scheduled to begin on November 28, 2016.  Trump had previously denounced the Judge as being of Mexican heritage numerous times.  The Judge had recommended that this case, that was filed 2010, be settled out of court. On Friday November 18, Trump settled this and two other Trump University class action suits for 25 million dollars.  Without admitting guilt Trump will be paying each of the class action participants about half of what they spent at Trump University.  If any or all the cases had gone to trial Trump could also have been guilty of fraud and have been impeached for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” by the Republican dominated House of Representatives and found guilty in a trial by the Republican dominated Senate.

 

As far as I know there is still a 40 million dollar fraud suit by the State of New York which could also include participation by other states that were involved.  Also there is a criminal investigation going on concerning Trump’s Tax Free Foundation by the State of New York.  Forty-one other states could also participate in this case because Trump, among other things, tends to ignore state government laws, particularly dealing with his Foundation.  The IRS is also probably involved in this since the monies involved were tax free and probably shouldn’t have been.

 

As a side comment: What I find interesting is that the FBI could investigate The Clinton Foundation, which has a more positive rating than the Red Cross but not bother with the Trump Foundation where the evidence of wrong-doing is blatant.

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Hillary Clinton has been demonized since she was the First Lady in Arkansas in 1979.  She was then called the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock by several Republican writers.  She has been demonized continually since 1979 for essentially pushing for anti-Republican reform.  Presumably Hillary Clinton has never been a proper wife but has been as aggressive toward reform as her husband.  Obviously this behavior, to Republicans, is not being a proper lady. 

 

Where people believe, whose lives are very busy and don’t pay too much attention to the Federal Government other than on election years, is where there’s smoke there has to be fire or if it wasn’t at least partially true the Republicans would never bring it up.  What has been created is a negative myth about her.  Every one of us has made some mistakes over our lifetime or have done some stupid things but these acts do not define us.  Our entire lives do.  Hillary Clinton has worked, and in many cases successfully, to improve conditions around her, particularly for women and children.  To her “Women’s rights are human rights.”

 

The negative myths about her are just that, negative myths created by the Republicans to put her in her place.  Kevin McCarthy, Charlie McCarthy’s younger cousin, announced over the weekend of November 12th that the House of Representatives’ agenda does not include hearings on Clinton, which were promised for at least the next two years if she were elected President.  They may eventually amend the agenda to hold hearing on Donald J. Trump.  If they could dump Trump then Mike Pence, a good Republican, would be President of the United States and the House could probably do anything it wanted.  That could be the best of all possible worlds for them.

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The Weiner Component #112A – How the United States Government Works

During the Grand Jury examination of the August 8, 2014 shooting of 6’4” eighteen year old Michael Brown by the 6’4” police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri the question was asked by one of the jurors as to which predominated, the state laws or the Federal laws. The Assistant District Attorney never really answered that question for the Ferguson Grand Jury. The Constitution gives that power to the Federal Government and the issue was ultimately resolved by the Civil War which solidly placed power in the hands of the Central Government of all the states.

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The basic document for the organization of the Federal Government is the Constitution of the United States which defines all aspects of our government. Initially, during and directly after the American Revolution, this country was ruled by the Articles of Confederation of the 13 states with most of the power resting within the governments of each of the 13 states. The central government was run by a Congress of the States and had very little direct power. Any measure that it passed had to be agreed upon by all the states involved. It had to no power to tax and had to rely on the states for anything it needed. To fill its monetary needs it had request funds from the states which would simply and individually send money or not.

For these and other reasons this system of government did not work well. A meeting was called to have elected representatives come to Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, from May 25 until September 17. Its purpose was to amend the Articles of Confederation. This assembly occurred nine years after the start of the new nation. Not all the states sent representatives and not all the representatives stayed the full hot summer to work upon the reform.

George Washington, probably the most trusted man in the new nation, was elected chairman. They met during a very hot Philadelphia summer and had to be done when the meeting place would again be used by the state legislature. It was early determined to keep no record of the meetings and to keep the results secret until they were done.

They very early concluded that the Articles of Confederation were completely inadequate and could not be reformed to form a proper government. They determined that they had to start from scratch and develop a totally new government with the power to run the new nation. What emerged at the end of the summer was the United States Constitution. It required 9 of the 13 states to vote approval for the document to come into being. Not all the states initially voted to join.

Interestingly the one issue never resolved at this time was where did the ultimate power rest, with the states or with the new Federal Government? That issue was not resolved until the end of the Civil War. The power rests with the Federal Government.

Virtually everyone has heard of the Constitution but many people don’t quite know what is contains or how it works. They have not read it or remember what they learned in school about it. This lack of knowledge has caused all sorts of confusion and, at times, a lack of voting.

The Constitution begins with a statement of its purpose: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”. This statement is highly important; it explains the reason for the government.

The document itself contained seven articles. The first establishes the government’s legislative powers, establishing a bicameral law making body, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House was to be elected directly by the People for a period of two years while the Senate was to be elected for a six year term at the rate of 1/3d of the Senate reelected every two years by the state legislatures. The House represented the people directly and the Senate represented the States. The minimum age for the House was 25 and the Senate, 30. House representatives were apportioned by population with each state having a minimum of at least one, while each state had two Senators. The Vice President headed the Senate with no vote except in cases of a tie with the second in command being the President pro tempore, the leader of the majority party. The House had to sole power of impeachment while the Senate served as the jury in such cases. All tax bills were to originate in the House of Representatives allowing the people to indirectly tax themselves.

Every bill after being passed in both Houses of Congress had to be signed by the President in order to become law. The President can sign the bill, veto the bill, or ignore it. After ten days an unsigned bill automatically becomes law.

Article 1 also enumerates the powers of Congress: lay and collect taxes, regulate commerce, coin money, declare war, raise and support a military, and establish the primacy of the Federal Government over the states.

It is important to keep in mind that only Congress can pass laws. The President can issue executive orders but generally they last only during his tenure in office. Another president can cancel them by a stroke of the pen.

Article 2 deals with the executive power, establishing a President and Vice-President for a four year period. The means of election is stated, requiring that the individual be a natural born citizen, at least 35 years of age. The people vote for electors whose total number equals that of all the Senators and members of the House of Representatives. Upon the removal of the President by death or for any other reason the Vice-President succeeds him.

The specific oath of office is stated. He is commander and chief of the military and can grant pardons. His appointments and treaties require the advice and consent of the Senate. He is to give Congress the State of the Union information and recommendations from time to time. The President can be removed from office on Impeachment for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

From what has been stated the overall powers of the President have been specifically defined over the years by the way the men who have held that position have acted.

Article 3 deals with the judicial power of the United States. It requires a Supreme Court and such other Federal Courts that Congress establishes. It sets the judges tenure as lifetime and the Constitution as the basis for all court decisions. The document defines the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the specifics and structure of the Supreme Court and the entire court system is left to be defined by Congress.

Article 4 deals with citizens and state’s rights throughout the nation and with new states coming into the Union.

Article Five has to do with amending the Constitution.

Article Six Pertains to business contracts, the supremacy of Federal law over state law, and having all elected and judicial officials taking an oath to support the Constitution.

Article Seven deals with ratification of the Constitution. It required nine states to ratify the Constitution for it to come into being.

While the process of ratification was going on some of the states complained that there was no Bill of Rights within the document. The founders promised to add one after the Constitution was ratified.

James Madison wrote twelve Amendments to the Constitution. Following Article Five, it required a 2/3d vote for the Amendment to become part of the Constitution. Twelve states had ratified the Constitution. Nine states approved ten of Madison’s twelve Amendments and they became the first ten Amendments to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Seventeen additional Amendments have been added to the Constitution since its inception making the total present number 27.

In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

In 1868 the 14th Amendment was passed. It extended civil rights making all people equal.

In 1870 the 15th Amendment specifically extended Black suffrage.

In 1913 the 16th Amendment legalized the income tax.

In 1913 the 17th Amendment authorized the direct election of Senators by the people.

In 1913 the 18th Amendment authorized the prohibition of liquor and the 21 Amendment in 1933 repealed prohibition.

In 1919 the 19th Amendment gave women the vote throughout the United States.

In 1951 the 22nd Amendment limited future Presidents to two terms.

In 1965 the 24th Amendment made poll taxes illegal for anyone to vote.

In 1971 the 26th Amendment moved initial voting from 21 years of age to 18.

The Constitution of the United States is, with some exceptions, a general document. The interpretation of what it means has shifted over the years as the country has gone from a rural nation with some cities to an industrial one with some agriculture. It is a flexible document whose interpretation has been largely defined by the way it was run and by the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, which has the final say upon what it means. And what it means has changed over the years.

By being flexible the Constitution remains as valid today as it did in 1789 when it was first put into existence.

This document was originally set up with a system of checks and balances. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives serve as a check upon each other since both have to pass the exact same bill in order for it to become law. The President by signing or vetoing the bill serves as a check upon the Congress. The President is essentially an administrator and can only suggest that certain bills be passed by Congress. The Supreme Court has, among other things, the power of judicial review which was created by its third chief justice, John Marshall, in the case of Marboro v. Madison and has functioned ever since. Also the Supreme Court can make the final decision about what a law or any part of a law means.

In addition it is important to remember that only Congress can make and pass a law. The President is the Chief Administrator in the government. He can issue an Executive Order but he cannot make laws only Congress or the People can do that.  Congress by passing a law and the People through Amending the Constitution.

 

 

The Weiner Component #19 – Guns & the American Way of Life

National_Rifle_Association

The Second Amendment to the Constitution states:  “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.”   What does it mean?  Why was it written?

The Constitution was adapted in 1787 by eleven of the Twelve States that had won their independence from England.  Each state functioned as an independent entity, existing as a loose new nation under the Articles of Confederation.  The Constitution was meant to tie the states into a single unit or nation and required ¾ of the states, 9, to approve it.  Some of the state constitutions included a Bill of Rights that specifically stated the rights of all individuals.  A number of the states requested that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution.   The Founders promised this during the ratification process.  The question then became where to put this declaration.  Some wanted it to be in the document, others wanted it to be added as an appendage to the Constitution.  It was finally decided to add it as Amendments to the Constitution.   James Madison wrote twelve Amendments; ten of these were adopted and became the Bill of Rights in 1791.

The Second Amendment is a run-on sentence that has two distinct meanings.   Is the purpose of this sentence to give everyone the ability to be armed or is it to provide a militia in times of need?

Any established government needs a militia.  The new United States did not have one.  After the Revolutionary War all the troops went home, both from the states and the National government.  In emergencies the central government drew its troops from the free citizenry within the states.  The states did not have any functioning military; they got their troops from their citizenry.  Therefore it would follow that the local citizens had to have their own armaments, muskets, which could be used when the occasion occurred.

This would be a logical interpretation of the Second Amendment when it came into being shortly before the turn of the 19th Century.  Nowhere does it indicate an unlimited right to bear arms: pistols, rifles, automatic weapons of war, assault armaments, rocket launchers, high impact ammunition, magazines or drums capable of holding up to one hundred rounds of ammunition.  People owned weapons in the early days of our nation because they were tools used for hunting and protection.  We now have stores that provide us with food and police forces that provide us with protection.  We have set up a government under the Constitution that provides for our safety and welfare.

The Second Amendment has been used to sanctify the possession of weapons.  How important is the ownership of guns to a good percentage of the American public?  And how important are the types of ordinance owned?

My oldest son owns one or several weapons.  He goes hunting on average of no more than once a year, going with friends from California to Colorado.  He specifically told me once that if you own guns you need a safe at one end of your house for your weapons and a safe at the other end of your house for the ammunition.  He currently has four sons living with him and his wife.  If an emergency ever arose where he had to protect his family would he have time to get a gun and load it?  As a matter of fact in a large number of shootings that occur in households where the owner has a weapon for defense, it is the owner who gets shot.  Unlike the movies a gun does not necessarily stop a home invader and it is very difficult for an ordinary person to actually shoot someone.

Yet the thought, to my son, of someone taking his guns away from him is virtually inconceivable.  It is like removing a holy relic from his house.  He would support no government administration that attempted to do this.  I don’t consider him unique.  I suspect a goodly percentage of the gun owners in this country have a similar attitude.

What is there that is so wonderful about owning a weapon?  I would suspect that it fills some psychological need, some extension of power or strength, or even of identity.  The gun has become part of their integral self.  This is probably the essence of the “gun culture” in the United States.

Yet for this we, as a nation, pay a continuing price in terms of continued use by the irresponsible or mentally disabled in terms of lives continually taken from our citizens.  Perhaps the most blatant instance is the massacre of children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December of 2012 by a mentally ill young man.  These killing shocked the nation and have brought the legality of military assault weapons into question.

Does the average gun-loving citizen need a weapon that the military would use in a war firefight?  I hardly think so.  Somehow the Second Amendment to the Constitution has nothing to do with all of this.

What is the cause of this “gun culture” in the United States?  If we look to the movies, particularly on television a good percentage of the films utilize weapons and shoot outs.  Does this really exist in real life or is it a fantasy to enhance the myth of manliness in drama?  The cinema has also created a mythical  “old west.”  People there generally did not go around wearing pistols in holsters and continually settling their disputes with a fast draw.  Cowboys wore pistols as a noisemaking tool in controlling cattle.  Most westerners owned rifles that they did not carry with them at all times.  The various attempts to legalize concealed weapons are relatively new phenomena.  Today we seem to be trying to get back to a time that never really existed.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is an organization of 4.3 million members in a nation of over 330 million people, where the leadership holds positions far to the right of a goodly percentage of its own members who, according to poles taken since the Newtown, Conn. Tragedy, would like to see more regulation on the sales of assault and other weapons, as well as high impact ammunition.  I understand that there is pressure brought upon this group by other small groups far to the right of the NRA who feel the NRA has compromised and given up far too many gun rights already.  Also the NRA, in addition to being funded by its member’s dues, is also funded by the weapon industry.  They are considered a powerful lobbying group and are heavily involved in political campaigns.  The NRA has what seems to be a “one strike” principle.  If anyone of either party ever supports legislation that restricts weapon usage in any way they will financially oppose him in his next primary and/or election.  Their goal seems to be to increase the number of weapons out among the general public with no restriction on the types of guns or ammunition.  .

However, the situation, as it currently exists, is totally ridiculous.  In terms of the percentage of weapons in the hands of the population there are far more today than there ever was in the wildest days of the Wild West.  The legal requirements for buying weapons today are a joke.  Anyone can buy virtually any kind of firearm if they have the cash.  And, unfortunately, the system as it is currently set up allows anyone to purchase these weapons at will.

The NRA’s president, Wayne La Pierre, has suggested that Congress pass a law and fund having a police officer in every elementary school in the United States.  That, he apparently feels, would protect all children from unstable people on their campuses with weapons.  That would bring about several undesirable changes.  It would turn every single elementary school into an armed camp and destroy the concept of the school being a safe place.  Also Mr. La Pierre has not been to any elementary or any other public school campus in many years.  The campus covers a large area of land, far more that a square block, with a multitude of classrooms.  How would one police officer be able to assure safety constantly throughout the entire structure?  Also there were police present during the Columbine High School Massacre and the Virginia Tech Massacre.  They were not able to stop killing sprees by unstable people.

The NRA concept is nonsense.  It would create feelings of insecurity among the students and staff of the elementary schools in our nation and probably create generations of insecure people.  In addition all those anxious people with weapons would have occasional accidents.  What we need to do is limit the types of weapons available and provide total background checks on all persons purchasing any kind of firearm.

Do people have a right in the United States to own guns?  I suspect that James Madison’s reason for writing the Second Amendment to the Constitution is different from the interpretation of some of the judges who have ruled on its meaning.  If we look at the era between 1980 and 2012 we find that there have been conservative Republican presidents for twenty of the thirty-two years.  They have appointed a host of conservative justices.  Given the reverse from 2008 on we could get a like or larger number of liberal judges.  The interpretation of the Second Amendment can easily go either way.

No one is saying that guns should be removed from everyone.  What this article is indicating is that sanity should rule the ownership of weapons.  Responsible people have no problem with them; it is irresponsible individuals who should not be able to acquire them.

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