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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Я, например, приветствовать наших новых повелителей русский

Not Lin-Manuel Miranda, Federalist 37:

Energy in government is essential to that security against external and internal danger, and to that prompt and salutary execution of the laws which enter into the very definition of good government. Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society.

An irregular and mutable legislation is not more an evil in itself than it is odious to the people; and it may be pronounced with assurance that the people of this country, enlightened as they are with regard to the nature, and interested, as the great body of them are, in the effects of good government, will never be satisfied till some remedy be applied to the vicissitudes and uncertainties which characterize the State administrations.

On comparing, however, these valuable ingredients with the vital principles of liberty, we must perceive at once the difficulty of mingling them together in their due proportions.

The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on one side, not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those intrusted with it should be kept in independence on the people, by a short duration of their appointments; and that even during this short period the trust should be placed not in a few, but a number of hands. Stability, on the contrary, requires that the hands in which power is lodged should continue for a length of time the same.

A frequent change of men will result from a frequent return of elections; and a frequent change of measures from a frequent change of men: whilst energy in government requires not only a certain duration of power, but the execution of it by a single hand.

Well, shit, man.  This was never gonna fucking work.


January 15, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Damn, Now I Wish We Had A Hereditary Monarchy

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Federalist 22:

One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption. An hereditary monarch, though often disposed to sacrifice his subjects to his ambition, has so great a personal interest in the government and in the external glory of the nation, that it is not easy for a foreign power to give him an equivalent for what he would sacrifice by treachery to the state. The world has accordingly been witness to few examples of this species of royal prostitution, though there have been abundant specimens of every other kind.

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrages of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which, to any but minds animated and guided by superior virtue, may appear to exceed the proportion of interest they have in the common stock, and to overbalance the obligations of duty. Hence it is that history furnishes us with so many mortifying examples of the prevalency of foreign corruption in republican governments.

Well, shit, man.  This was never gonna fucking work.


January 14, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Donald Trump, Jr, In Paris

Ah, the heady days of January 14, 1784:

On the report of a committee, consisting of Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson, Mr. [Elbridge] Gerry, Mr. [William] Ellery, Mr. [Jacob] Read and Mr. [Benjamin] Hawkins, to whom were referred the definitive treaty of peace between the United States of America and his Britannic Majesty, and the joint letter of the 10 September, from Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Jay,

Resolved, unanimously, nine states being present, that the said definitive treaty be, and the same is hereby ratified by the United States in Congress assembled...

Now know ye that we the United States in Congress assembled having seen and considered the definitive articles aforesaid have approved, ratified and confirmed and by these presents do approve, ratify and confirm the said articles and every part and clause thereof, engaging and promising, that we will sincerely and faithfully perform and observe the same, and never suffer them to be violated by any one or transgressed in any manner as far as lies in our power...

Resolved, That the said ratification be transmitted with all possible despatch, under the care of a faithful person, to our ministers in France, who have negotiated the treaty, to be exchanged.

Resolved, That Colonel Josiah Harmar be appointed to carry the said ratification.

Ordered, That the Superintendent of Finance furnish Colonel Harmar with money to defray his necessary expences.

Resolved, That a proclamation be immediately issued, notifying the said definitive treaty and ratification to the several states of the union, and requiring their observance thereof...

One hopes PEEONUS abrogates this abominable treaty as soon as practicable...


January 14, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Russians Have No Word For 'Bankruptcy'

Not long before the House considered Hamilton's report on the Treasury:

Mr. Boudinot, from the committee appointed to examine the Journal of the last session, and to report therefrom all such matters of business as were then depending and undetermined, made a report, which was read, and is as followeth:

Your committee further report, that committees were appointed to prepare and bring in the several bills following, to wit:

A bill to establish a Uniform System on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.

Something near and dear to PEEONUS' heart.


January 11, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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когда президент это делает, это не является незаконным

Yes, actually, he bloody well should:

“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built," said Trump attorney Sheri Dillon.

Dude ran for the highest office of the land, and will swear to uphold the Constitution which says no goddamned emoluments.  A good businessman would have assessed the risks to his business before making a decision to go into public service.  Like the Fucking Framers intended.


January 11, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Far gone in Utopian speculations

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Federalist 6:

The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord.

Is it not (we may ask these projectors in politics) the true interest of all nations to cultivate the same benevolent and philosophic spirit? If this be their true interest, have they in fact pursued it? Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found that momentary passions, and immediate interest, have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility or justice?

Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the former administered by MEN as well as the latter? Are there not aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust acquisitions, that affect nations as well as kings? Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealousy, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities?

Is it not well known that their determinations are often governed by a few individuals in whom they place confidence, and are, of course, liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those individuals? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory?

Have there not been as many wars founded upon commercial motives since that has become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned by the cupidity of territory or dominion? Has not the spirit of commerce, in many instances, administered new incentives to the appetite, both for the one and for the other? Let experience, the least fallible guide of human opinions, be appealed to for an answer to these inquiries.

Well, shit, man.  This was never gonna fucking work.


January 10, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Belisarius Just Got The President Re-elected

Madame Streep to the white courtesy phone:

[T]he stern, tho unerring voice of posterity, will not fail to render the just sentence of condemnation on the man who has entailed upon his country deep and incurable public evils

History does not record President Washington's 3am twitter rampage for some reason...


January 10, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, January 09, 2017

Responding To The SOTU In A More Genteel Epoch

January 9, 1790:

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee that an address ought to be presented by the House to the President of the United States, in answer to his Speech to both Houses, with assurances that this House will, without delay, proceed to take into their serious consideration the various and important matters recommended to their attention.

Sorry, that's more than 140 characters.


January 9, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Kids Today: How Do They Work?

Sorry kid, print is dead.  But I'd be happy to let you and your cohort make political decisions that impact your future life, if only your brains weren't so utterly undeveloped.  Don't blame me: blame the Founders!


January 8, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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I Cannot Wait For Minority President Trump's First SOTU

The first drinking game prior to the Whiskey Rebellion would provide contrast:

Various considerations also render it expedient that the terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of citizens should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.

Uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures of the United States is an object of great importance, and will, I am persuaded, be duly attended to.

[T]here is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impressions so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours it is proportionably essential.

To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways - by convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness - cherishing the first, avoiding the last - and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.

Unaminously-elected guy...LOSER.


January 8, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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The Framers' Cult

Emoluments, eschmoluments:

At the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Edmund Jennings Randolph—a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787—proclaimed unambiguously that the clause applied to presidents. Randolph also noted that the proper remedy for a presidential violation of the Emoluments Clause is impeachment. If “the president receiv[es] emoluments from foreign powers,” Randolph explained, “he may be impeached. … I consider, therefore, that he is restrained from receiving any present or emoluments whatever. It is impossible to guard better against corruption.”

Tillman speculates that Randolph simply misunderstood the scope of the clause. But it’s difficult to imagine that one of his fellow Framers would not have corrected him at some point, and his is the clearest account of the Emoluments Clause from anyone present at the Constitutional Convention.

All three of you know I love citing debates and whatnot, but let's just remember just how far--or not--those Framers' remarks really get us.  Take what the flip-flopping Father of the Constitution wrote in 1821:

As a guide in expounding and applying the provisions of the Constitution, the debates and incidental decisions of the Convention can have no authoritative character. However desirable it be that they should be preserved as a gratification to the laudable curiosity felt by every people to trace the origin and progress of their political Insitutions, & as a source parhaps of some lights on the Science of Govt. the legitimate meaning of the Instrument must be derived from the text itself; or if a key is to be sought elsewhere, it must be not in the opinions or intentions of the Body which planned & proposed the Constitution, but in the sense attached to it by the people...

Or closer to the Convention's epoch, how about what the Father of Gerrymandering said in 1791:

[A]re we to depend on the memory of the gentleman for a history of their debates, and from thence to collect their sense? This would be improper, because the memories of different gentlemen would probably vary, as they had already done, with respect to those facts; and if not, the opinions of the individual members who debated are not to be considered as the opinions of the Convention...

The gentleman's arguments respecting the sense of the State Conventions have as little force as those relating to the Federal Convention. The debates of the State Conventions, as published by the short-hand writers, were generally partial and mutilated; in this, if the publications are to be relied on, the arguments were all on one side of the question; for there is not in the record, which is said to contain the Pennsylvania debates, a word against the ratification of the constitution; although we all know that arguments were warmly urged on both sides.

But the Framers were so smart and prescient, amirite?

Most alarming...has been the effort by some to intimidate and coerce electors duly designated in a handful of states to change their vote when they cast them in less than three weeks.

These attacks, not only on the integrity of the Electoral College, but on the electors themselves, are unprecedented, unseemly and precisely what the Framers predicted.

Yes, the Framers had such great predictive faculties that their original implementation of the Electoral College failed in the first national election not involving the unanimously-elected Father of His Country, resulting in the 12th Amendment.  Surely they foresaw the age of social media and online petitions!

Ah well, the sense of the people is as the sense of the people does.  Somedays I really do think we should have a new Convention just to let the whole fucking thing fall apart, which it's trying to do now regardless.  At least New England could go its own way the way we threatened to a couple times before the Civil War.  The West Coast is welcome to join in the fun, too.


January 8, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Corruption Is As Corruption Does

Melancton Smith, Anti-Federalist delegate to New York's ratification convention, June of 1788:

If great affairs of government were trusted to a few men, they would be more liable to corruption. Corruption, he knew, was unfashionable amongst us, but he supposed that Americans were like other men; and tho' they had hitherto displayed great virtues, still they were men; and therefore such steps should be taken as to prevent the possibility of corruption. We were now in that stage of society, in which we could deliberate with freedom;--how long it might continue, God only knew! Twenty years hence, perhaps, these maxims might become unfashionable...


God only knew...


January 8, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Friday, January 06, 2017

Speaking Of Flip Flops

Just harping on it because it's what I do, consistency has never, ever been a big part of American politics. Like, ever.

And the Framers didn't even trust the Framers.  Because humans is as humans does.  As does turtles.


January 6, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Senator Turtle, Hippo-Crate?

It's quite shocking that the GOP would all of a sudden come to Jesus when it comes to Executive prerogative.  The Framers surely never flip-flopped when expedient!


January 5, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ain't Like They're Gonna Get Work Done Anyway

In the Olden Days you could really count on Congress:

The number not being sufficient to constitute a quorum, they adjourned until tomorrow at 11 o'clock.

Would that a sufficient number never showed up for the current session.


January 4, 2017 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

When Love Must Die

For all those revolutionaries out there:

  • 1991: The Soviet Union was no more, as its last institutions were absorbed by Russia and the other former republics.  Thus one-third of my college degree was rendered obsolete 7 months after I graduated.

So why would you think the United States would last forever?


December 31, 2016 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Donald Trumps Hates This Tea!

The Tea that bainfull weed is arrived. Great and I hope Effectual opposition has been made to the landing of it. 

 - Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, December 5, 1773

The classic FB meme that annoys me, lo these many years later:

Have none of these motherfuckers actually read the Declaration of Independence beyond its preamble?  There were 27 (TWENTY-FUCKING-SEVEN) grievances enumerated, 1 (ONE) of which was "imposing Taxes on us without our Consent" about 17 (SEVENTEEN) from the top.

I'll be a little charitable on the 2% increase claim, though I don't find it convincing.  It's all a little muddy, but it appears to me that the Townshend Revenue Act reduced the tea tax essentially from 12 cents (4 shillings) to 3 cents (well, pence) per pound of tea (weight, not sterling).  The original principle at stake was Parliament's assertion of the right to tax Colonies at all--it was now to be actually collected and spent in America--but once all the other taxes were repealed, revolutionary ardour cooled a bit.

With the Tea Act, however, Colonials were really pissed about giving the East India Company a goddamned monopoly and corporate tax break.  Here's John Dickinson, writing as RusticusNovember 27, 1773:

Are we...to be given up to the Disposal of the East-India Company, who have now the Assurance to step forth in Aid of the Minister, to execute his Plan of enslaving America?

Their conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given ample Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Meu. They have levied War, excited Rebellions, dethroned lawful Princes, and sacrificed Millions for the Sake of Gain. The Revenues of mighty Kingdoms have centered in their Coffers. And these not being sufficient to glut their Avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled Barbarities, Extortions and Monopolies, stripped the miserable Inhabitants of their Property, and reduced whole Provinces to Indigence and Ruin.

Fifteen hundred Thousand, it is said, perished by Famine in one Year, not because the Earth denied its Fruits, but this Company and its Servants engrossed all the Necessaries of Life, and set them at so high a Rate, that the Poor could not purchase them. Thus having drained the Sources of that immense Wealth, which they have for several Years past been accustomed to amass, and squander away on their Lusts, and in corrupting their Country, they now, it seems, cast their Eyes on America, as a new Theatre, whereon to exercise their Talents of Rapine, Oppression and Cruelty.

The Monopoly of Tea, is, I dare say, but a small Part of the Plan they have formed to strip us of our Property. But thank GOD, we are not Sea Poys, nor Marattas, but British Subjects, who are born to Liberty, who know its Worth, and who prize it high. We are engaged in a mighty Struggle. The Cause is of the utmost Importance, and the Determination of it will fix our Condition as Slaves or Freemen.

It is not the paltry Sum of Three-Pence which is now demanded, but the Principle upon which it is demanded, that we are contending against. Before we pay any Thing, let us see whether we have any Thing we can call our own to pay. [JD's emph.]

So it wasn't the extremely small tax that angered Colonials, but rather a variety of other issues: that old saw, "no taxation without representation"; the revenues being used to pay salaries of colonial officials, taking away accountability from the People; a huge government loan and corporate tax break for EIC, undercutting American smuggle...um, traders; etc.

Really, if the Framers were against taxation per se, would they have codified Congress' plenary power to tax in the Constitution?  And, of course, the Tea Act effectively REDUCED the price of tea for Americans, who were also taxed less overall than subjects in England, but whatever.

Since we're talking tea, we have to look at the British East India Company's role in this passion play.  Chartered in 1600, EIC was essentially the commercial and colonial arm of England, who at the time wasn't powerful or rich enough yet to dominate the world on its own.  By 1757, EIC had won the Battle of Plassey, which essentially marked the beginning of the company's and country's Indian empire.  

None other than Adam Smith held the company in rather low regard:

[A] company of merchants are, it seems, incapable of considering themselves as sovereigns, even after they have become such...It is the interest of the East India company, considered as sovereigns, that the European goods which are carried to their Indian dominions should be sold there as cheap as possible; and that the Indian goods which are brought from thence should bring there as good a price, or should be sold there as dear as possible. But the reverse of this is their interest as merchants. As sovereigns, their interest is exactly the same with that of the country which they govern. As merchants their interest is directly opposite to that interest.

It appears his treatise (and Dickinson's) was informed by the Bengal Famine of several years earlier, caused in large part by EIC's mismanagement.  As he notes later:

Negligence and profusion, therefore, must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company. It is upon this account that joint stock companies for foreign trade have seldom been able to maintain the competition against private adventurers. They have, accordingly, very seldom succeeded without an exclusive privilege, and frequently have not succeeded with one. Without an exclusive privilege they have commonly mismanaged the trade. With an exclusive privilege they have both mismanaged and confined it.

Even with a monopoly, EIC was sucking wind.  They had over 17.5M pounds of tea sitting around (my back of the napkin estimate is 2-3 times more than England and America consumed annually, but I have no exact source) in 1773, thanks to foreign competition.  The company also was heavily in debt (1.3M Pounds), including to the British government, for a variety of reasons.

So they turned to drug running and getting the aforementioned tax break.  On the latter, we'll let one of the real tea partiers summarize:

While the inhabitants of Boston and the British colonies were thus exquisitively sensible to whatever they deemed hostile to their rights, resenting with equal indignation the most trivial as the most serious attack a resolution was taken in England, which if executed, would have given the victory to the government, and reduced the Americans to the condition to which they had such an extreme repugnance.

Their obstinacy in refusing to pay the duty on tea, rendered the smuggling of it an object, and was frequently practiced, and their resolutions against using it, although observed by many with little fidelity, had greatly diminished the importation into the colonies of this commodity. Meanwhile an immense quantity of it was accumulated in the warehouses of the East India Company in England.

This company petitioned the king to surpress the duty of three pence per pound upon its introduction into America, and to continue the six pence upon its exportation from the ports of England ; such a measure would have given the government an advantage of three pence per pound, and relieved the Americans from a law they abhorred. But the government would not consent, as they were more solicitous about the right than the measure.

The company, however, received permission to transport tea, free of all duty, from Great Britain to America, and to introduce it there on paying a duty of three pence.

This angered folks enough that they did a little dumping of tea in the harbor.  That act of defiance was actually a demonstration against corporatism.  

So about that.  John Adams' recorded the event in his journal the next day (December 17, 1773):

Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This Morning a Man of War sails.
This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire. The People should never rise, without doing something to be remembered -- something notable And striking. This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting, that I cant but consider it as an Epocha in History.

But why'd they dress as Mohwaks?  Bruce E. Johansen on explains:

As the tea symbolised imported British oppression and taxation without representation, the Indian symbolised its antithesis – a 'trademark' of an emerging American identity, and a voice for liberty, against British oppression. The Indian symbol (particularly the Mohawk) appeared not only at Boston's tea party, but also at anti-tea protests the length of the seaboard. Through the pre-revolutionary years, the American Indian, to the colonists becoming Americans, symbolised a sense of liberty and independence, as well as American-ness, which appeared in many forms of propaganda, from songs, to slogans, to political engravings, which served the purpose of modern editorial cartoons.

Paul Revere, whose 'midnight ride' became legend in the hands of Longfellow, played a crucial role in forging this sense of American identity, contributing to the revolutionary cause a series of remarkable political engravings which cast an Indian woman as the symbol of a nation being born, long before Brother Jonathan or Uncle Sam came along. Revere was far from being alone in this regard. The image of the Indian as a symbol of liberation and American identity fits finely the popular conception of the time that America's native people had much to teach Europeans on both sides of the Atlantic. In the pre-revolutionary years, in its most graphic form, the Indian again became a counterpoint to European political tyranny and class stratification.
The Indian as a symbol of an oppressed America made its debut along with the earliest agitation against British taxation. In a cartoon titled 'The Great Financier, or British Economy for the Years 1763, 1764, 1765', George Grenville, First Lord of the Admiralty, holds a balance, while a subordinate loads it with rubbish. William Pitt, the Prime Minister, leans on a crutch as an Indian (representing America) groans, on one knee, under the burden of Grenville's taxes. In the earliest engravings, America is enduring the pain of taxation. Later, the Indians of revolutionary propaganda would take the offensive, shooting bows and arrows at their oppressors, a prelude to armed rebellion by the colonists themselves.

Symbols are powerful and important.  This one worked so well that there were actually a number of other such parties.  F'rinstance, there was one in Annapolis back in October of '74, when the Peggy Stewart was burned:

In the summer of 1774, Thomas Charles Williams, the London representative of an Annapolis merchant firm, tried to smuggle tea across the Atlantic into Annapolis by disguising nearly a ton of it in 17 packages labeled as linen, and loading it among the rest of the cargo on the brig Peggy Stewart. The captain of the brig, Richard Jackson, only discovered the true nature of the "linen" while at sea. A few years before, an Annapolis precedent had been set when its customs officer refused to allow any ships to unload any portion of their cargo until the tax on all of it had been paid. This now alarmed Captain Jackson because most of the rest of the Peggy Stewart's cargo consisted of 53 indentured servants.

The ship reached Annapolis on October 14, 1774, and Williams's business partners decided they wanted nothing to do with his attempt at smuggling. They could not think of risking the lives of the indentured servants by sending the ship back across the Atlantic during the storm season which had just begun. They paid the customs tax due and quickly got the human cargo ashore, leaving the tea onboard. The presence of tea aboard ship had inflamed public opinion in Annapolis. Williams and his business partners were threatened with lynching; their store and their homes, with destruction. To avoid that, the business partners offered to burn the Peggy Stewart, which they owned, along with its cargo, which they did, on the night of October 19. This came to be called the Annapolis Tea Party. The city of Annapolis marks this each year with a ceremony.

And beyond these very real acts of property destruction (which people condemning BLM and anti-Trump protesters should recall), Colonials started changing their drinking habits. John Adams again:

I believe I forgot to tell you one Anecdote: When I first came to this House it was late in the Afternoon, and I had ridden 35 miles at least. "Madam" said I to Mrs. Huston, "is it lawfull for a weary Traveller to refresh himself with a Dish of Tea provided it has been honestly smuggled, or paid no Duties?"

"No sir, said she, we have renounced all Tea in this Place. I cant make Tea, but He make you Coffee." Accordingly I have drank Coffee every Afternoon since, and have borne it very well. Tea must be universally renounced. I must be weaned, and the sooner, the better.

His saucy wife:

You must know that there is a great Scarcity of Sugar and Coffe, articles which the Female part of the State are very loth to give up, expecially whilst they consider the Scarcity occasiond by the merchants having secreted a large Quantity. There has been much rout and Noise in the Town for several weeks. Some Stores had been opend by a number of people and the Coffe and Sugar carried into the Market and dealt out by pounds.

It was rumourd that an eminent, wealthy, stingy Merchant (who is a Batchelor) had a Hogshead of Coffe in his Store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A Number of Females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marchd down to the Ware House and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seazd him by his Neck and tossd him into the cart. Upon his finding no Quarter he deliverd the keys, when they tipd up the cart and dischargd him, then opend the Warehouse, Hoisted out the Coffe themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off.

It was reported that he had a Spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of Men stood amazd silent Spectators of the whole transaction.

Thus we have a great beverage divide between our two countries to this day.  Now skip ahead a few years, and it seems that Gouverneur Morris was on target during the Constitutional Convention:

The Rich will strive to establish their dominion & enslave the rest. They always did. They always will...

A firm Governt. alone can protect our liberties. He fears the influence of the rich. They will have the same effect here as elsewhere if we do not by such a Govt. keep them within their proper sphere. 

We should remember that the people never act from reason alone. The Rich will take advantage of their passions & make these the instruments for oppressing them. The Result of the Contest will be a violent aristocracy, or a more violent despotism. The schemes of the Rich will be favored by the extent of the Country.

How does a firm government protect our liberties?  Through things like regulationtaxesproviding services and responding to the will of the People rather than business concerns.  Sadly, the rich, like...say, the Waltons have convinced poor people that government alone is a threat to their liberties.  

As one participant (Plough Jogger, perhaps a pseudonymous homage to John Adams?) said in a protest convention back in 1780:

The great men are going to get all we have and I think it is time for us to rise and put a stop to it...


*sips wine thoughtfully*


December 16, 2016 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

to secure the freight of the ship and its peaceable voyage

On December 15, 1791, the requisite number of States approved what we've come to know as the Bill of Rights.  Despite calling for such amendments during ratification of the Constitution, Virginia was tail-end Charlie because of its rather interesting, complicated politics.

I thought it would be fun to go look at the debates and various original documents to see how it played out.  I won't go into huge detail, but some of the evolution and nuance is fascinating.

Soon after the Constitution was sent to the People, James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson about the factional landscape on December 9, 1787:

The body of the people in Virgina., particularly in the upper and lower Country, and in the Northern neck, are as far as I can gather, much disposed to adopt the New Constitution. The middle Country, and the South side of James River are principally in the opposition to it. As yet a large majority of the people are under the first description. As yet also are a majority of the Assembly. What change may be produced by the united influence and exertions of Mr. Henry, Mr. Mason, & the Governor, with some pretty able auxiliaries, is uncertain.

My information leads me to suppose there must be three parties in Virginia. The first for adopting without attempting amendments. This includes Genl. W and ye other deputies who signed the Constitution, Mr. Pendleton, (Mr. Marshall, I believe,) Mr. Nicholas, Mr. Corbin, Mr. Zachy. Johnson, Col. Innes, (Mr. B. Randolph as I understand) Mr. Harvey Mr. Gabriel Jones, Docr. Jones, &c., &c.

At the head of the 2d. party which urges amendments are the Govr. & Mr. Mason. These do not object to the substance of the Governt., but contend for a few additional guards in favor of the Rights of the States and of the people.

I am not able to enumerate the characters which fall in with their ideas, as distinguished from those of a third class, at the head of which is Mr. Henry. This class concurs ar present with the patrons of Amendments, but will probably contend for such as strike at the essence of the System, and must lead to an adherence to the principle of the existing confederation, which most thinking men are convinced is a visionary one, or to a partition of the Union into several Confederacies. 

Indeed, Patrick Henry was no fan of the proposed government frame (and was no democrat).  He spoke near the end of Virginia's Convention:

[A]fter observing that the proposal of ratification was premature, and that the importance of the subject required the most mature deliberation, proceeded thus: — The honorable member must forgive me for declaring my dissent from it; because, if I understand it rightly, it admits that the new system is defective, and most capitally; for, immediately after the proposed ratification, there comes a declaration that the paper before you is not intended to violate any of these three great rights — the liberty of religion, liberty of the press, and the trial by jury. What is the infercnce when you enumerate the rights which you are to enjoy? That those not enumerated are relinquished. There are only three things to he retained — religion, freedom of the press, and jury trial. Will not the ratification carry every thing, without excepting these three things? Will not all the world pronounce that we intended to give up all the rest? Every thing it speaks of, by way of rights, is comprised in these things. 
Is it not worth while to turn your eyes, for a moment, from subsequent amendments to the situation of your country? Can you have a lasting union in these circumstances? It will be in vain to expect it. But if you agree to previous amendments, you shall have union, firm and solid.

I cannot conclude without saying that I shall have nothing to do with it, if subsequent amendments be determined upon. Oppressions will be carried on as radically by the majority when adjustments and accommodations will be held up. I say, I conceive it my duty, if this government is adopted before it is amended, to go home. I shall act as I think my duty requires. Every other gentleman will do the same. Previous amendments, in my opinion, are necessary to procure peace and tranquillity. 1 fear, if they be not agreed to, every movement and operation of government will cease; and how long that baneful thing, civil discord, will stay from this country, God only knows. When men are free from restraint, how long will you suspend their fury? The interval between this and bloodshed is but a moment. The licentious and wicked of the community will seize with avidity every thing you hold. In this unhappy situation, what is to be done r It surpasses my stock of wisdom. If you will, in the language of freemen, stipulate that there are rights which no man under heaven can take from you, you shall have me going along with you; not otherwise.

[Here Mr. Henry informed the committee that he had a resolution prepared, to refer a declaration of rights, with certain amendments to the most exceptionable parts of the Constitution, to the other states in the confederacy, for their consideration, previous to its ratification. The clerk than read the resolution, the declaration of rights, and amendments...]

Madison, who really wanted a clean ratification, embraced the amendment proposals but as something to be pressed for AFTER ratification:

I am persuaded that the gentlemen who contend for previous amendments are not aware of the dangers which must result. Virginia, after having made opposition, will be obliged to recede from it. Might not the nine states say, with a great deal of propriety, "It is not proper, decent, or right, in you, to demand that we should reverse what we have done. Do as we have done; place confidence in us, as we have done in one another; and then we shall freely, fairly, and dispassionately consider and investigate your propositions, and endeavor to gratify your wishes. But if you do not do this, it is more reasonable that you should yield to us than we to you. You cannot exist without us; you must be a member of the Union."

The case of Maryland, instanced by the gentleman, does not hold. She would not agree to confederate, because the other states would not assent to her claims of the western lands. Was she gratified? No; she put herself like the rest. Nor has she since been gratified. The lands are in the common stock of the Union.

As far as his amendments are not objectionable, or unsafe, so far they may be subsequently recommended--not because they are necessary, but because they can produce no possible danger, and may gratify some gentlemen's wishes. But I never can consent to his previous amendments, because they are pregnant with dreadful dangers.

After a plea by Governor Edmund Randolph to vote for Union (depiste his having voted against the final Constitution in Philadelphia) so Virginia wouldn't be left behind, Henry stayed his course and introduced a resolution to delay of ratification until the States could also consider Virginia's proposed changes.  That was narrowly defeated, 88-80.  The main question on approving the Constitution passed by a similar margin, 89-79.

Now to the Bill of Rights.  First, I found an interesting little sideshow regarding what we now know as the First Amendment:

The next clause of the fourth proposition was taken into consideration, and was as follows: "The freedom of speech and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to apply to the Government for redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.

Mr. Tucker then moved to insert these words, "to instruct their Representatives."

James Madison didn't cotton to the idea:

The right of freedom of speech is secured; the liberty of the press is expressly declared to be beyond the reach of this government; the people may therefore publicly address their representatives; may privately advise them, or declare their sentiments by petition to the whole body; in all these ways they may communicate their will. If gentlemen mean to go further, and to say that the people have a right to instruct their representatives in such a sense as that the delegates were obliged to conform to those instructions, the declaration is not true.

Suppose they instruct a representative by his vote to violate the constitution, is he at liberty to obey such instructions? Suppose he is instructed to patronize certain measures, and from circumstances known to him, but not to his constituents, he is convinced that they will endanger the public good, is he obliged to sacrifice his own judgment to them? Is he absolutely bound to perform what he is instructed to do? Suppose he refuses, will his vote be the less valid, or the community be disengaged from that obedience which is due from the laws of the union?

If his vote must inevitably have the same effect, what sort of a right is this in the constitution to instruct a representative who has a right to disregard the order, if he pleases? In this sense the right does not exist, in the other sense it does exist, and is provided largely for.

The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts, asks if the sovereignty is not with the people at large; does he infer that the people can, in detached bodies, contravene an act established by the whole people? My idea of the sovereignty of the people is, that the people can change the constitution if they please, but while the constitution exists, they must conform themselves to its dictates: But I do not believe that the inhabitants of any district can speak the voice of the people; so far from it, their ideas may contradict the sense of the whole people; hence the consequence that instructions are binding on the representative is of a doubtful, if not of a dangerous nature.

I do not conceive, therefore, that it is necessary to agree to the proposition now made; so far as any real good is to arise from it, so far that real good is provided for; so far as it is of a doubtful nature, so far it obliges us to run the risk of losing the whole system.

I think it's clear that Madison understood only money talks.

Anyway, there were shenanigans in the Virginia Legislature and during various electoral campaigns.  But as Madison promised, a slate of amendments made its way through Congress.  Edward Carrington filled Madison in as to the workings in the Virginia Legislature on December 20, 1789 (including Henry's taking his ball and going home):

During the session, there has been much less intemperance than prevailed last year. Mr. H—— was disposed to do some antifederal business, but having felt the pulse of the House on several points and finding that it did not beat with certainty in unison with his own, he at length took his departure about the middle of the session without pushing any thing to its issue...

[He pushed] to refer the amendments sent forward by Congress, to the next session of Assembly, in order that the people might give their sentiments whether they were satisfactory, alledging that in his opinion they were not. To this purpose he proposed a resolution, but finding the disposition of the house to be otherwise, he moved that it might lie on the Table, and went away without ever calling it up again.

Somewhat later in the session the subject of the amendments was taken up—the ten first were, with the exception of perhaps not more than ten Members, unanimously agreed to—on the eleventh and twelfth some difficulty arose...

Through the whole course of the business in that house there was on the several questions equal divisions of the members, so, as to leave the decision to the chair. Notwithstanding the unequivocal decision in the house of delegates for adopting the amendments, yet in the course of the discussion some intemperance was generated—this led to propositions which in the earlier parts of the session none would have thought of, and it was with difficulty that a proposition for demanding a compliance with the amendments proposed by our convention, so far as they have not been agreed to, by Congress was prevented from passing.

This proposition was presented to the house as often as three times, at first it was rejected by a great majority, at the next attempt it was rejected by a less majority, and at the third by the vote of the Speaker. Had Mr. Henry conceived that such would have been the temper in the latter stages of the session, he would not have left us.

So the lower House had passed the BoR.  The Senate was expected to follow suit, but the Anti-Federalists took another stand and rejected the amendments:

We are satisfied that the people of Virginia would never have ratified the Constitution of the United States, but from a confident hope and firm persuasion of speedily seeing it much more materially altered and amended than it would be by ratifying the propositions lately submitted by Congress to the State Legislatures. That although we consider some of the amendments offered as similar, and others nearly equivalent, to a part of the amendments proposed by Virginia and other States, yet that some of them which seem analogous to other amendments so proposed, are not substantially the same and fall short of affording the same security to personal rights, or of so effectually guarding against the apprehended mischiefs of the government...

Ah well.  In the meantime, Vermont became a state and the overall political reality was such that the Constitution was here to stay.  Even Patrick Henry conceded on January 24, 1791:

[A]ltho' The Form of Governt into which my Countrymen determined to place themselves, had my Enmity, yet as we are one & all imbarked, it is natural to care for the crazy machine, at least so long as we are out of Sight of a Port to refit. I have therefore my Anxietys to hear & to know what is doing, & to what point the State pilots are steering, & to keep up the Metaphor, whether there is no Appearance of Storms in our Horizon?

Still took several months, but Virginia finally ratified the BoR on December 15, 1791, about which Congress was informed on December 30.  Oddly enough, Vermont had passed the amendments on November 3, but Congress didn't find out until January 18, 1792.

Thus, after yet another couple years of debate, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson issued his anticlimactic certification.  Professor Lucas A Powe, Jr writes about it:

One would think that the document announcing ratification of the Bill of Rights would have a special prominence in bicentennial celebrations and would, perhaps, be a fit subject for public readings like Washington's Farewell Address. But then one reads the letter of the secretary of state to the state governors announcing the ratification of the Bill of Rights and such thoughts evaporate. "I have the honor to send you herein enclosed," the usually eloquent Thomas Jefferson wrote,

two copies duly authenticated, of an Act concerning certain fisheries of the United States, and for the regulation and government of the fisherman employed therein; also of an Act to establish the post office and post roads within the United States; also the ratification by three fourths of the Legislatures of the Several States, of certain articles in addition and amendment of the Constitution of the United States, proposed by Congress to the said Legislatures, and being with sentiments of the most perfect respect, your Excellency's &c.

The ordering in Jefferson's transmittal is quite consistent with the view that the Bill of Rights originated in a desire to kill the Constitution. The goal of the Antifederalists was to defeat, in any way possible, ratification. Pointing to the failure to include a declaration of rights was the most effective way of creating opposition to the Constitution. That it was a ploy is demonstrated by the fact that the Antifederalists were far less interested in the "necessity" of a Bill of Rights after the Constitution was ratified than they were when it might have been defeated. Thus Jefferson got it right: fish were more important, and the Bill of Rights ran a poor third.

As I've noted before, there was a parallel set of flip-flops on the BoR, with Federalists and Antis essentially adopted each other's positions, so it is not surprising that Jefferson's proclamation would be a bit muted.  Politics is shifting sand, and always has been...


December 15, 2016 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

You Say It Like It's A Bad Thing

OMG, we're having a Constitutional Crisis!  It ain't the first, and upon reflection, I'm not so sure it ain't a bad thing.

Hells, it was a failure of the British Constitution so dearly beloved by John Dickinson et al that ignited our noble Revolution.  A crisis under the inadequate Articles of Confederation resulted in the parchment from Philly.  Significant petulance after a legitimate presidential election brought us the worst bloodshed in our history, I'll grant, but also the ostensible end to chattel slavery.

Our first verifiable criminal president (Nixon) avoided impeachment and gave us the first vice-president (Ford) and president (Ford) under a relatively new amendment (the 25th).  Our first verifiable sex hound president got impeached and the stock market went up.  Our first Muslim president did everything right, including traditional American warmongering, and the stock market went up even more in the face of historic Republican obstruction.

Most of us didn't want Trump.  Now the Majority can do whatever we want to take this crisis and turn it into opportunity.  Let the GOP states call a Convention.  We can learn from 1787 and not compromise.  Blue States will finally be rid of the Red Moochers Who Prefer White Supremacy.  Whatever.

Fuck it.  Fight it.  It's all the same.


December 14, 2016 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy Holidays!

A holiday that began on this date in 1815:

The U.S. Senate created a select committee on finance and a uniform national currency, predecessor of the United States Senate Committee on Finance.

This was a direct response to President Madison's 7th Annual Message to Congress on December 5th:

Although the embarrassments arising from the want of an uniform national currency have not been diminished since the adjournment of Congress, great satisfaction has been derived in contemplating the revival of the public credit and the efficiency of the public resources. 
The arrangements of the finances with a view to the receipts and expenditures of a permanent peace establishment will necessarily enter into the deliberations of Congress during the present session. It is true that the improved condition of the public revenue will not only afford the means of maintaining the faith of the Government with its creditors inviolate, and of prosecuting successfully the measures of the most liberal policy, but will also justify an immediate alleviation of the burdens imposed by the necessities of the war.

It is, however, essential to every modification of the finances that the benefits of an uniform national currency should be restored to the community.

To put it into context, the War of 1812 created a great deal of chaos in our nation's financial state.

The war had...led the federal government to rack up significant debt. Without the First Bank, the government had to rely more heavily on state banks to help finance the war. The influx of federal government deposits to these institutions led them to issue greater quantities of banknotes and loans.

The proliferation of banknotes increased money in circulation and resulted in inflation, because too much money was chasing too few goods. Without the First Bank’s ability to limit the state banks’ issuance of paper currency, there was no longer an entity that could control the amount of money created. In addition, strong demand for loans during the war increased interest rates and thus bank profits. Without the restraining hand of the Bank of the United States, state banks became less cautious in their lending habits and credit expanded rapidly.

In effect, the country found itself in circumstances similar to those after the Revolutionary War: mounting debt from a war with England, soaring prices, and devalued money from rising inflation. These problems and the resulting economic consequences would soon lead the United States to make another attempt at creating a national bank. In 1816, President James Madison signed the bill that would create the second Bank of the United States.

Leading up to the Bank Act, the debate included this little morsel from Representative Randolph, Democratic-Republican from Virginia:

All banking institutions were alike in their desire to swell their profits to the greatest extent, howsoever correct and virtuous the directors might be in their private characters; and he would guard against every public robber of every grade, whether he be a Governor General of India or a Bagshot highwayman. He would put it out of the power of this bank to commit frauds on the community, without ruin to itself.

Anyway, the constitutionality of the National Bank was challenged and upheld in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819):

Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.

Yet when President Andrew Jackson vetoed the Second Bank 16 years later, he noted:

The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.

Can't argue with that.  I'm sure Preznit Trump will take it to heart as he turns his deepest thinking toward the greatest fiscal issues of our time.  Hell, after he destroys everything, we can reap great savings by eliminating the Senate Finance Committee!


December 11, 2016 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)