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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wonder If His Descendants Would Be Available For Trump's Cabinet?

House Journal, April 22, 1862:

The Speaker, by unanimous consent, laid before the House the following message, received yesterday from the President of the United States, viz:

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit to Congress a copy of a correspondence between the Secretary of State and Benjamin E. Brewster, of Philadelphia, relative to the arrest in that city of Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, at the suit of Pierce Butler, for trespass vi et armiś, assault and battery, and false imprisonment.


This is an interesting little glimpse at the impact of Lincon's habeas suspension:

After the Secretary of War, Mr. Simon Cameron, resigned in January, he was appointed minister to Russia. When he was nearly ready to embark for that country, on April 15th, a writ from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was served upon him at the suit of Mr. Pierce Butler for trespass, assault and battery, and. false imprisonment on the 19th of August previous.

At that time Mr. Butler was suspected of a correspondence with the Confederate States unfavorable to the cause of the Union, and during a moment of public excitement was arrested by order of Mr. Cameron, without process of law, and without any assigned cause, his trunks, drawers, wardrobe, and entire apartments searched, and private papers taken possession of by the United States marshal and four assistants. His office was also examined, his books and papers taken, and in one hour from the arrest he was on his way to New York, with the marshal and his assistants, all armed with revolvers, who conducted him that evening to Fort Lafayette. A subsequent application on the part of Mr. Butler's friends to tho Secretary of War, to ascertain the reason of his action, though in a measure answered, induced no satisfactory response.

He asserted that nothing was found among his papers to call in question his loyalty to the Government, and in obtaining the writ he refrained from arrest and the demand for security from Mr. Cameron, as his wish was merely to test the constitutionality of his imprisonment. He was liberated five weeks from his imprisonment, without a reason being given for his discharge any more than for his arrest.

Secretary Cameron was dogged by corruption, and his fellow Pennsylvania man, Representative Thaddeus Stevens, was not a fan:

Stevens’s anger gave rise to the story of his alleged conversation with Lincoln about Cameron’s dishonesty, told by Samuel McCall, one of his early biographers. Supposedly the president-elect, hearing of Stevens’s negative opinion about Cameron, asked, “You don’t mean that Cameron would steal?,” only to be told, “No, I don’t think he would steal a red hot stove.” Lincoln then retailed this remark to Cameron, who reacted furiously and demanded a retraction. Thereupon Stevens told Lincoln he would retract. “I told you that I didn’t think he would steal a red hot stove. I now take that back.” No confirmation of the story has ever been found, but at the time, Stevens was furious at his rival and considered him dishonest...



April 22, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, April 20, 2018

A Traitor Sez Wut?

Such a sincerely devoted states' righter:

Arlington, Washington City, P.O
20 Apr 1861

Lt. Genl Winfield Scott
Commd U.S. Army

Since my interview with you on the 18th Inst: I have felt that I ought not longer to retain any Commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has Cost me to separate myself from a Service to which I have divoted all the best years of my life, & all the ability I possessed.

During the whole of that time, more than a quarter of a century, I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors & the most Cordial friendships from any Comrades. To no one Genl have I been as much indebted as to yourself for kindness & Consideration & it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry with me, to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind Consideration, & your name & fame will always be dear to me. Save in the defense of my native state shall I ever again draw my sword. Be pleased to accept any more [illegible] wishes for “the Continuance of your happiness & prosperity & believe me

Most truly yours
R E Lee

But you know, different time, love for State over Country, etc, etc.


April 20, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Only The Best Judges

Ah yes, another mind-reading Scalia in the making, just noting that the Framers all agreed unanimously on everything 100%.


April 19, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The people will waken and listen to hear the hurrying hoof-beats of that steed

Let us revere what actually happened in 1775:

The story of "Paul Revere's ride" needs not only correction but perspective.  One hundred twenty-two people lost their lives within hours of Revere's heroics, and almost twice that number were wounded.  Revere's ride was not the major event of that day, nor was Revere's warning so critical in triggering the bloodbath.  Patriotic farmers had been preparing to oppose the British for the better part of a year.  Paul Revere himself had contributed to those preparations with other important rides...

Paul Revere was one among tens of thousands of patriot from Massachusetts who rose to fight the British.  Most of those people lived outside of Boston, and, contrary to the traditional telling, these people were not country cousins to their urban counterparts.  They were rebels in their own right, although their story is rarely told...

In truth, the country folk...staged their own Revolution more than a half a year before.
The Massachusetts Revolution of 1774 was the most successful popular uprising in the nation's history, the only one to remove existing political authority.  Despite its power--or possibly because of its power--this momentous event has been virtually lost to history.
The very strengths of the Revolution of 1774 have insured its anonymity.  The force of the people was so overwhelming that violence became unnecessary.  The handful of Crown-appointed officials...when confronted by 4,622 angry militiamen, had no choice but to submit.  Had opposition been stronger, there might have been violence; that would have made for a bloodier tale but a weaker revolution.
The United States owes its very existence to the premise that all authority resides with the people, yet our standard telling of history does not reflect this fundamental principle.  The story of the revolution before the Revolution can remind us of what we are all about.

And about that successful, bloodless revolution in Mass the year before:

For ordinary citizens, the most visible sign of direct British rule under [1774's Coercive] Acts was to be seen in each county’s Court of Common Pleas. These courts, in session four times a year, heard hundreds of cases, most involving the nonpayment of debts. The courts, with their power to foreclose on property, would now be presided over by new judges, appointed by the royal governor and answerable only to him. Understandably, the county courthouses became the focus of the colonists’ resistance to the new regime:

    * When the governor’s new judges arrived at the Worcester County courthouse, they were met by a crowd of five or six thousand citizens, including one thousand armed militamen. The judges, sheriffs, and lawyers were forced to process in front of the crowd and repeatedly promise not to hold court under the terms of the Acts.

    * In Great Barrington, 1500 unarmed men packed the courthouse so full that the judges literally could not take their seats.

    * In Springfield, a crowd of about 3000 forced the judges and other officials to resign their positions.

In addition to closing the courts, crowds throughout the colony forced the resignations (or escapes into Boston) of all thirty-six of the governor’s councilors, including Thomas Oliver, the lieutentant governor of the colony. They also ignored the prohibition against nonapproved town meetings; they not only met, they held elections, and began to assemble an armed colonial militia. In short, they simply ignored the royal government and proceeded to set up their own.

In a period of about thirty days, from mid-August to mid-September of 1774, the ordinary people of rural Massachusetts, mostly farmers, ended British rule over themselves and their countryside forever. With no real organization, no official leaders, no fixed institutions – and no bloodshed – they went up against the most powerful empire on earth, and won. Their victory resulted from the sheer force of their numbers, along with their unshakable determination to be their own rulers. As one British loyalist unhappily put it at the time: “Government has now devolved upon the people; and they seem to be for using it.”

How come Longfellow wrote about The Ride and The Arsenal at Springfield, but not about bloodless revolution?


April 18, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, Pax Americana | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Cudjo Power

Virginia's secession ordinance:

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain that the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying or adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the Union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. And they do further declare that the said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.

This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at a poll to be taken thereon on the fourth Thursday in May next, in pursuance of a schedule to be hereafter enacted [Spoiler: the secesh won].

Done in Convention, in the city of Richmond, on the 17th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The day before, an ostensibly anti-secesh delegate from Patrick County, Samuel G Staples, delivered his speech in favor of Vexit:

I announced to my constituents, when I was a candidate for a seat in this body, that while I cordially endorsed the reasons that impelled the seceded States to dissolve their connection with the Federal Government; yet I doubted the propriety of their course, and I hesitated not to declare that sound policy dictated a united movement on the part of all the Southern States, in order to procure from the Northern people an acknowledgment of our absolute equality in this government and of all the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution.
They declared in the Declaration of Independence that, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government and provide new guards for their future security." They did not wait until the King of Great Britain had riveted the chains around them and bound them to slavery; but they took up arms at the first dawning of any attempt at subjugation.

I find it interesting that so many folks in the South were concerned about their equality in Federal government when they were in fact over-represented thanks to the 3/5s clause.  Also, too, how they thought being enslaved was a bad thing worthy of violence to overcome.


April 17, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, April 13, 2018

May He who has made his Angels encamp around you

Art: II. Sect. 2. "he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the U. S. &c"

Mr. RANDOLPH moved to "except cases of treason." The prerogative of pardon in these cases was too great a trust. The President may himself be guilty. The Traytors may be his own instruments.

 - Debates of the Constitutional Convention, September 15, 1787

Presidents pardon pretty bad people quite a bit, going back to the first insurrection against our constitutional government. 

George Washington suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, and many of the traitors were put on trial, though generally there was a lack of evidence despite Alexander Hamilton's best efforts.  A number of people--including the jury that convicted one rebel--implored the President to show mercy.  The Father of Our Country did ultimately issue stays of execution, and grant pardons for the revolutionaries.

As Washington explained in his 7th SOTU on December 8, 1795:

It is a valuable ingredient in the general estimate of our welfare that the part of our country which was lately the scene of disorder and insurrection now enjoys the blessings of quiet and order. The misled have abandoned their errors, and pay the respect to our Constitution and laws which is due from good citizens to the public authorities of the society. These circumstances have induced me to pardon generally the offenders here referred to, and to extend forgiveness to those who had been adjudged to capital punishment. For though I shall always think it a sacred duty to exercise with firmness and energy the constitutional powers with which I am vested, yet it appears to me no less consistent with the public good than it is with my personal feelings to mingle in the operations of Government every degree of moderation and tenderness which the national justice, dignity, and safety may permit.

In conclusion: fuck Donald Trump and Scooter Libby.


April 13, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Cause Of All Those Statues

The genteel South's heritage!

FORT SUMTER, S. C., April 12, 1861 3.20 a. m.

SIR: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.

We have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servants,
Captain, C. S. Army, Aide-de-Camp.

Now for the bookend:

On April 12, 1865, a telegram from Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant arrived to inform Major-General William T. Sherman about General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  Sherman congratulated Grant and added, “The terms you have given Lee are magnanimous and liberal.  Should Johnston follow Lee’s example I shall of course grant the same.”
In the Federal camps that evening, Special Field Orders No. 54 was read.  This was the official announcement of Lee’s surrender on April 9th.  Sherman closed that with encouragement to his troops, “A little more labor, a little more toil on our part, the great race is won, and our Government stands regenerated after four long years of bloody war.”

Sadly, we never did resolve the war's root cause of tariffs...


April 12, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, April 08, 2018

Dumbocrat Take Of The Day

What we ought not normalize is Trump's corruption.  Impeachment is constitutionalized as a way to rein in hammer blows to our democracy.  It's inherently a political tool.  You tool.


April 8, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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I Am Not A Crackpot

I think the 17th Amendment is just grand, and not just because it's a perennial target for repeal by whackjobs and GOP candidates who claim a deep love for federalism.  I bring it on this 105th birthday because:

Connecticut had the distinction of being the requisite thirty-sixth state to ratify the Seventeenth Amendment, thereby making it a part of the Constitution. The governor, Simeon K. Baldwin, noted in his inaugural address on January 8, 1913, the importance of ratifying the proposed amendment.

Although the original resolution calling for ratification was adversely reported from the House committee on federal relations on March 27, the House was able to adopt a substitute resolution on April 8 by a vote of 151 to 77, and, five minutes later, the Senate concurred by a voice vote." While Connecticut was the last requisite state to vote ratification and did so on April 8, the Seventeenth Amendment did not become a part of the fundamental law of the land until May 31, 1913, because of the failure of the proper officials in a number of the states promptly to notify the State Department of the favorable action of their state legislatures.

Of course you're going to have certain inefficiencies in such a clunky mechanism, so it's not suprising that there were delays officially amending the Constitution because of failures on the part of various state officials (see Mississippi and the 13th Amendment).  What's interesting about that in this case is there appear to be some discrepancies between what various records say was the ratification date.

Okay, that might not seem interesting at first blush, but such things fuel conspiracy theories.  I mean, we've got some folks claiming there are "missing" amendments.  Others who assert the 14th Amendment was never ratified.  And let's not forget the 16th and 19th Amendments!

Even the 17th has its nutjob haters (including those who see it as part of a greater conspiracy to destroy America).  For example:

The amendment was declared ratified on April 8, 1913

According to the official documents from the National Archives, Arkansas ratified April 14, 1913; Connecticut ratified April 15, 1913; Wisconsin ratified May 9, 1913.

How is it the ratification process could be completed April 8, 1913, when three states didn't vote until after that date?

All it takes a little bit of misreading and misunderstanding to use such things as evidence of anything nefarious or otherwise faulty.  

First of all, the amendment was declared ratified on May 31, not April 8.  You certainly can read contemporary accounts of what transpired back then which mark April 8 as the date when the 36th state approved, but it's not like the White House announced anything official on Twitter that day.  

But what of this claim that Connecticut didn't actually ratify until April 15?  I've found both a Connecticut government source and a Federal document which suggest that is the case.  Yet the GPO indicates April 8 is correct.

So who's right?  Lemme just observe that the GPO also shows Pennsylvania as having ratified on April 2.  Yet that same Congressional document above says April 15.  A series of typos?  A deliberate attempt to conceal the true dates so we don't see the process as illegitimate?

I suspect it has something to do with delays in reporting to the US Secretary of State.  The history excerpted above seems to bolster that idea, as does Vermont's experience ratifying the Constitution itself.  Our Convention did its work on January 10, 1791, the Secretary transmitted results on January 21, and Congress received the necessary paperwork on February 9.  So on what date did we ratify?

Hardly something to hang your conspiracy on.  But these are the same people who see smudge marks, typos, etc, as indicative of something other than simple errors.  So, you know, whatever.

What's so strange to me is that I've not seen any similar conspiracy theories--the magically "lost" amendment notwithstanding--about the abolition of slavery.  Many years later after the 13th Amendment's passage, Lincoln's secretaries, Nicolay and Hay, collaborated on an article about it:

The ever-vigilant public opinion of the loyal States, intensified by the burdens and anxieties of the war, took up this far-reaching question of abolishing slavery by constitutional amendment with an interest fully as deep as that manifested by Congress. Before the joint resolution had failed in the House of Representatives the issue was already transferred to discussion and prospective decision in a new forum.
The logic of events had become more powerful than party creed or strategy. For fifteen years the Democratic party had stood as sentinel and bulwark to slavery; and yet, despite its alliance and championship, the peculiar institution was being consumed like dry leaves in the fire of war.

For a whole decade it had been defeated in every great contest of congressional debate and legislation. It had withered in popular elections, been paralyzed by confiscation laws, crushed by Executive decrees, trampled upon by marching Union armies. More notable than all, the agony of dissolution had come upon it in its final stronghold--the constitutions of the slave States. Local public opinion had throttled it in West Virginia, in Missouri, in Arkansas, in Louisiana, in Maryland; and the same spirit of change was upon Tennessee, and even showing itself in Kentucky.

Here was a great revolution of ideas, a mighty sweep of sentiment, which could not be explained away by the stale charge of sectional fanaticism, or by alleging technical irregularities of political procedure. Here was a mighty flood of public opinion, overleaping old barriers and rushing into new channels. The Democratic party did not and could not shut its eyes to the accomplished facts.

I particularly like the part about how final emancipation couldn't be "explained away...by alleging technical irregularities of political procedure."  Brings to mind a favorite, goofy ruling by the Utah Supreme Court regarding the subsequent amendment.  After summarizing how regular everything was in passing the Thirteenth, it then went into great detail about just how illegitimate the Fourteenth was.

But maybe everybody was just waiting for the Trump Era to twist Spielberg's movie into a new conspiracy.  Or perhaps they don't need to...


April 8, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Thursday, April 05, 2018

I have maturely considered the Act

April 5, 1792:

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives

I have maturely considered the Act passed by the two Houses, intitled, "An Act for an apportionment of Representatives among the several States according to the first enumeration," and I return it to your House, wherein it originated, with the following objections.

First—The Constitution has prescribed that representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers: and there is no one proportion or divisor which, applied to the respective numbers of the States will yield the number and allotment of representatives proposed by the Bill.

Second—The Constitution has also provided that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand; which restriction is, by the context, and by fair and obvious construction, to be applied to the seperate and respective numbers of the States: and the bill has allotted to eight of the States, more than one for thirty thousand.

George Washington.

That was 50% of Washington's total vetoes, neither of which were overridden.

Anyway, the apportionment was to be the first post-Census, so clearly a lot was riding on it.  There was quite a split amongst the president's advisors (detailed opinions here, summary notes by Washington's secretary here).  Jefferson recorded:

The President called on me before breakfast first introduced some other matters, then fell on the representn bill which he had now in his possn for the 10th day. I had before given him my opn in writing that the method of apportionmt was contrary to the constn. He agreed that it was contrary to the common understanding of that instrument, to what was understood at the time by the makers of it: that yet it would bear the constn which the bill put, he observed that the vote for against the bill was perfectly geographical, a northern agt a southern vote, he feared he should be thought to be taking side with a southern party. I admitted this motive of delicacy, but that it should not induce him to do wrong: urged the dangers to which the scramble for the fractionary members would always lead. He here expressed his fear that there would ere long, be a separation of the union; that the public mind seemed dissatisfied tending to this.

In the end, not only did Jefferson's ideas sway Washington, but his proposed formula became the standard apportionment for five decades (here's how we do it today).  Interestingly enough, the previous year Jefferson figured in another veto discussion, as former Congressman Abraham Lincoln noted a few score years later:

When the bill chartering the first bank of the United States passed Congress, it's constitutionality was questioned. Mr. Madison, then in the House of Representatives, as well as others, had opposed it on that ground. Gen: Washington, as President, was called on to approve or reject it. He sought and obtained on the constitutional question the separate written opinions of Jefferson, Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph; they then being respectively Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Attorney General. Hamilton's opinion was for the power; while Randolph's and Jefferson's were both against it. Mr. Jefferson, after giving his opinion decidedly against the constitutionality of that bill, closes his letter with the paragraph which I now read:

It must be admitted, however, that, unless the President's mind, on a view of every thing, which is urged for and against this bill, is tollerably clear that it is unauthorized by the constitution; if the pro and the con hang so even as to ballance his judgment, a just respect for the wisdom of the legislature, would naturally decide the ballance in favor of their opinion: it is chiefly for cases, where they are clearly misled by error, ambition, or interest, that the constitution has placed a check in the negative of the President.

February 15- 1791- Thomas Jefferson- 

So Jefferson at that point was once again opposed to the controversial measure in question, but advised that the president defer to Congress if he wasn't absolutely sure on the constitutionality.  In this case, though, it would seem there was no threat to Southern power (Jeffersonian distrust of bankers notwithstanding), so maybe that compelled him to be more conciliatory.  

Perhaps I'm being unfair and there were no such calculations in Jefferson's mind.  Yet given the "slave bonus" that arguably helped elect him as the first "Negro President" and ultimately set the stage for the dissolution that Washington feared and Lincoln presided over, I can't help but wonder...


April 5, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, April 02, 2018

Has Trump Ever Actually Used A Coin As Legal Tender?

Some highlights of An Act establishing a Mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States, passed this date in 1792:

Section 1. Be it enacted...That a mint for the purpose of a national coinage be, and the same is established; to be situate and carried on at the seat of the government of the United States, for the time being: And that for the well conducting of the business of the said mint, there shall be the following officers and persons, namely,–a Director, an Assayer, a Chief Coiner, an Engraver, a Treasurer.
Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That there shall be from time to time struck and coined at the said mint, coins of gold, silver, and copper, of the following denominations, values and descriptions, viz. EAGLES—each to be of the value of ten dollars or units, and to contain two hundred and forty-seven grains and four eighths of a grain of pure, or two hundred and seventy grains of standard gold. HALF EAGLES—each to be of the value of five dollars, and to contain one hundred and twentythree grains and six eighths of a grain of pure, or one hundred and thirtyfive grains of standard gold. QUARTER EAGLES—each to be of the value of two dollars and a half dollar, and to contain sixty-one grains and seven eighths of a grain of pure, or sixty-seven grains and four eighths of a grain of standard gold. DOLLARS or UNITS—each to be of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver. HALF DOLLARS—each to be of half the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain one hundred and eighty-five grains and ten sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or two hundred and eight grains of standard silver. QUARTER Dollars—each to be of one fourth the value of the dollar or unit, and to contain ninety-two grains and thirteen sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or one hundred and four grains of standard silver. DISMES—each to be of the value of one tenth of a dollar or unit, and to contain thirty-seven grains and two sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or fortyone grains and three fifth parts of a grain of standard silver. HALF DISMES—each to be of the value of one twentieth of a dollar, and to contain eighteen grains and nine sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or twenty grains and four fifth parts of a grain of standard silver. CENTS—each to be of the value of the one hundredth part of a dollar, and to contain eleven penny-weights of copper. HALF CENTS—each to be of the value of half a cent, and to contain five penny-weights and half a penny-weight of copper.

Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That, upon the said coins respectively, there shall be the following devices and legends, namely: Upon one side of each of the said coins there shall be an impression emblematic of liberty, with an inscription of the word Liberty, and the year of the coinage; and upon the reverse of each of the gold and silver coins there shall be the figure or representation of an eagle, with this inscription, “UNITED STATES of AMERICA” and upon the reverse of each of the copper coins, there shall be an inscription which shall express the denomination of the piece, namely, cent or half cent, as the case may require.
Sec. 16. And be it further enacted, That all the gold and silver coins which shall have been struck at, and issued from the said mint, shall be a lawful tender in all payments whatsoever...
Sec. 19. And be it further enacted, That if any of the gold or silver coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint shall be debased or made worse as to the proportion of fine gold or fine silver therein contained, or shall be of less weight or value than the same ought to be pursuant to the directions of this act, through the default or with the
connivance of any of the officers or persons who shall be employed at the said mint, for the purpose of profit or gain, or otherwise with a fraudulent intent, and if any of the said officers or persons shall embezzle any of the metals which shall at any time be committed to their charge for the purpose of being coined, or any of the coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint, every such officer or person who shall commit any or either of the said offences, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death.

Shorter: putting the Mint in Philly (the first federal building), creating a variety of necessary offices, establishing the silver dollar as our base monetary unit, pegging it to the Spanish silver dollar, and making our system rational and decimal (take that, Britain, with your pounds, shillings, and pence!).  Not to mention coins are now legal tender and don't fuck with the money or you will hang.  But let's take a closer look at Section 10.

On March 24, the House took up an amendment to the Senate's original bill:

In the tenth section, strike out the words, 'or representation of the head of the President of the United States for the time being, with an inscription, which shall express the initial or first letter of his Christian or first name, and his surname at length, the succession of the presidency numerically,’ and in lieu thereof, insert 'Emblematic of Liberty,' with an inscription of the word LIBERTY.

There was a little debate:

Mr. Page, in support of this motion said, that it had been a practice in Monarchies to exhibit the figures or beads of their kings upon their coins, either to hand down, in the ignorant ages in which this practice was introduced, a kind uf chronological account of their kings, or to show to whom the coin belonged. We havehave all read, that the Jews paid tribute to the Romans, by means of a coin on which was the head of their Caesar. Now as we have no occasion for this aid to history, nor any pretence to call the money of the United States the money of our Presidents, there can be no sort of necessity for adopting the idea of the Senate.

I second the motion, therefore, for the amendment proposed; and the more readily because I am certain it will be more agreeable to the citizens of the United States, to see the head of Liberty on their coin, than the heads of Presidents. However well pleased they might be with the head of the great man now their President, they may have no great reason to be pleased with some of his successors [ed. note: IKR?]; as to him, they have his busts, his pictures every where; historians are daily celebrating his fame, and Congress have voted him a monument. A further compliment they need not pay him, especially when it may be said, that no Republic has paid such a compliant to its Chief Magistrate; and when indeed it would be viewed by the world as a stamp of royalty on our coins: would wound the feelings of many friends, and gratify our enemies.

Mr. Williamson seconded the motion also, and affirmed that the Romans did not put the hi-ods of their Consuls on their money; that Julius Caesar wished to have his on the Roman coin, but only ventured to cause the figure of an elephant to be impressed thereon; that by a pun on the Carthaginian name of that animal, which sounded like the name of Ciaear, he might be said to be on the coin. He thought the amendment consistent with Republican principles, and therefore approved of it.

Mr. Livermore ridiculed, with an uncommon degree of humor, the idea that it could be of any consequence to the United States whether the head of Liberty were on their coins or not; the President was a very good emblem of Liberty; but what an emblematical figure might be, he could not tell. A ghost had been said to be in the shape of the sound of a drum, and so might Liberty for aught he knew; but how the President's head being on our coins could affect the liberty of the people, was incomprehensible to him. He hoped, therefore, that the amendment would be rejected.

Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, agreed with Mr. Livermore in opinion; adding, that the President representing the people of the United States, might with great propriety represent them on their cons. He denied that Republics did not place the images of their Chief Magistrates on their coins; and said, he was surprised that a member who so much admired the French and their new constitution, should be so averse to a practice they have established; the head of their King is by their constitution put upon their money. Besides, it was strange that for a circumstance so trivial we should lose time in debating, and risk the loss of an important bill.

The said amendment was again read, and a division of the question thereon called for...

Livermore and Smith (both Pro-Administration) lost on the presidential image question, 26-22.  Livermore was also on the losing side regarding the replacement wording, 42-6.  In both instances, one of Vermont's Representatives, Nathaniel Niles, voted Yea, and our other, Israel Smith was not listed as voting.  

The bill passed on March 26 by a vote of 32-22.  Not sure why, but both of Vermont's Representatives voted in the negative (wonder if I can suss out whether it was just because they were Anti-Administration or deeper than that). Two days later, Israel Smith reported to the House that the bill had been truly enrolled, so the Speaker signed. Couple days after that, it was presented to the president for approval.

The following month we got another act establishing copper coinage.  Besides that not much else really was tweaked statutorily for decades.  And thankfully, the only presidents we get on coins unto this day are dead ones, if not necessarily good ones.


April 2, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gettin' Out While The Gettin's Good

The Boston Port Act received Royal Assent on March 31, to punish Patriots (along with the other Intolerable Acts) for making some tea in the port.  That pissed off Benjamin Franklin mightily.  Glad I'm leaving before the British Navy shuts things down...


March 31, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, March 26, 2018

The Right To Take Your Damned Arms

Yeah, Godwin's Law was repealed, so here's the nuttery: “Nazis and leftists have been using children for decades in their attempts to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.”

I already noted on March 14 that the Continental Congress was totes fine with disarming the vast anti-rebellion population, despite their being law-abiding British citizens.  But hey, let's add a few more resolves and whatnot.

Take this one from the standing committee at Brookhaven, New York, on September 1, 1775:

Resolved, That if any person or persons shall hereafter oppose or deny the authority of the Continental or of this Congress, or the Committee of Safety, or the Committees of the respective Counties, Cities, Towns, Manors, Precincts, or Districts, in this Colony, or dissuade any person or persons from obeying the recommendations of the Continental or this Congress, or the Committee of Safety, or the Committees aforesaid, and be thereof convicted, before the Committee of the County, or any thirteen or more of their number, who shall or may meet upon a general call of the Chairman of such Committee, where such person or persons may reside, that such Committee shall cause such offenders to be disarmed; and for the second offence they shall be committed to close confinement, at their respective expense.

A report to John Adams on October 16, 1775:

In the first Place, the Committee of Safety, during the Recess of the Congress, pass’d a Resolve to impress all the Arms of those who had not sign’d the Association by the 16th of Septr., the Time of passing the Resolve, which was done too, only in Consequence of a Letter, or Letters, from your Body, as it is generally imagined. This was first attempted to be carried into Execution on Long Island, in Queen’s County, by sending out one or two of their own Board, with 4 or 5 Citizens, who at the same Time were restrain’d from exercising any manner of Coercion whatever by private Instruction, unless endanger’d by Violence &c. According they went out on the 23rd Ultimo and were treated in the most contemptuous Manner, even to Insult and Threat; declaring they knew no Congress, neither would they sign any Association, nor pay any Part of the Expense accruing by an Opposition to the King’s Troops &c. On the Contrary, that they were determin’d to support the “King’s Laws” and defend themselves against all other Authority &c. Some of this happen’d within 5 or 6 Miles of the City, and some further. They got a few worthless Arms, from some of the most Timid, who, it was tho’t, had concealed their best.

And following the lead of Congress, you've got the likes of Pennsylvania on April 6, 1776:

Resolved, That the Freeholders and Freemen of every Township, Borough, Ward and District, within this Province, qualified to vote for members of Assembly, shall respectively meet together, at some convenient Place, within their several Townships, Boroughs, Wards and Districts, on the Twenty-fifth Day of this Month, and then and there chuse by Ballot three Persons for Collectors of Arms...

Resolved, That the said persons so chosen, or a Majority of them, shall disarm all disaffected Persons before described, and shall appraise, or cause the Arms taken from them to be appraised as aforesaid, and shall pay to the owners the Value of such Arms as are fit for Use, or that can be conveniently made so, depositing all the Arms in the Manner before-mentioned...

I hate Continental Fucking Nazis.


March 26, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, RKBA | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, March 25, 2018


RMJ's comment below brought to mind more quotations and stuff, particularly this:

Is my right to live without the threat of violence (the pursuit of happiness is kind of hard without it, and that's what Jefferson said gummint was for, primarily; oh, that one comes after "life", doesn't it? Hard to pursue anything in death....) really in conflict with someone's ability to own an "assault weapon" (yes, it can be legally defined; it has been before)...

That "right" to own a firearm ain't the untrammeled, unalloyed, and pure "right" they seem to think it is...

Indeed, it necessarily cannot be because we have many natural and constitutional rights, which inherently place limits on our rights and exercise thereof when they come into contact with others' rights.  Now I'm no declarationist, but there's an important marriage of two constitutional aspects in that document of Jefferson's:

[A]mong these [unalienable Rights] are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men...

Those rights are certainly not disparaged by Amendment IX, and in fact are a significant drivers for framing gummint in our Constitution.  And as RMJ notes, if we're dead, it's wicked hard to pursue a lot of our other rights, which is why even Dear, Dead Justice Vaffanculo wrote in Heller:

[L]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.

In flinty, individualist Vermont, where the General Assembly is tackling gun safety regulations, the state constitution's Article 1st codifies our Declaration's statement of principles:

That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

And decades before Heller, the Supreme Court of Vermont declared:

[T]he language of [Article 16] does not suggest that the right to bear arms is unlimited and undefinable.

The Castle Doctrine is all well and good, but I'm not sure anybody reasonably envisioned castles walking around in the public space, armed to the teeth such that scores of kids can die at the merest pull of a trigger.  Our society doesn't have to allow that, despite certain absolutist snowflakes' objections.


March 25, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, RKBA | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Conclusion Is Strictly Syllogistic

Quoting myself from a few years back:

As George Washington, in his capacity of president of the Philadelphia Convention, noted in his letter accompanying the new Constitution's transmittal to Congress:

It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved...

Democratic and republican forms of government are messy and full of conflict between individuals and their rights.  We all have natural rights to ourselves, property and fruits of our labor, but we cede a certain portion to government (e.g., the right to not be taxed, or as libertarians call it, not be robbed) so that we might increase our overall protection.  The formula is a difficult one and there is no single way to achieve this, but we work hard to create constitutions that try balancing individual rights and the powers necessary for government to protect them.

And another time a couple years back:

Consider what John Dickinson, writing as Fabius, said in defense of our Constitution during the ratification debate 18 years after the Boston Massacre:

[I]n forming a political society, each individual contributes some of his rights, in order that he may, from a common stock of rights, derive greater benefits, than he could from merely his own...Humility and benevolence must take place of pride and overweening selfishness.

Americans swim in a sea of overweening selfishness.  So jealous are some of their right to carry any weapon they cannot countenance regulation that might possibly put the smallest of inconvenient limits upon that right (don't get me started on that Ben Franklin quotation).

I'm glaring at certain selfish people in our society right now...


March 24, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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What Do We Want? A Complete Ban On Memes!

Posted by a friend on another friend's timeline:

As you know, dear reader, I hate memes.  They are generally glib, and usually the comments that accompany them are equally so.

In this particular case, it's more of the ad hominem dismissal of motivated, passionate kids, who are actively engaged in a cause that is very directly linked to their own survival.  So clearly these are not the types who eat Tide Pods, but rather are trying to push a policy outcome to regulate a dangerous product, not unlike we do with other dangerous products (including Tide Pods, medicine, cars, etc).

And as is typical, there's a strawman in there as well.  Nobody is, in fact, arguing for anybody's rights to be taken away.  Rather, they are exercising one of their rights to place some limits on another right when it comes into conflict with yet another right.  In this case, suggesting that perhaps certain firearms are “dangerous and unusual weapons" per Heller, which also noted that the 2nd Amendment RKBA is not unlimited (any more than any right).

There is tension in democracy, tension in civil society, and tension when rights collide.  When resolving such issues, there's always a delicate balance.  Neither gratuitous Tide Pod insults nor frantic claims of self-defense have convinced me that unfettered access to AR-15s and their ilk along with high capacity magazines is necessary, let alone protected by our Constitution.

G-d bless the kids and other activists using our political system to find a political solution to a horrifically bloody problem.


March 24, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution, RKBA | Permalink | Comments (1)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Cornerstone Speech

Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, speaking to "the largest audience ever assembled at the Athenaeum" in Savannah on March 21, 1861:

I was remarking, that we are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood. [Applause. ed note: just wait a few weeks.]

This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. . . .

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other -- though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.

Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact...The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically...Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.]
Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind -- from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were.

They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just -- but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails.

But please do tell us how the whole unpleasantness was about tariffs.


March 21, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Friday, March 16, 2018

The Age Of Innocence

So Louise Slaughter (pictured to the right at Eschacon05) died at age 88.  She was cool.

Yet I can't help but note that she'd been in office for 32 years.  Our old Senator, Pat Leahy, has been in office since 1975.  Junior Senator Bernie's been in DC since 1991.

At some point, we really need to make way for newer generations.  Yay for Conor Lamb, a mere babe at 33.  And yay for all those activist kids fighting for their lives against the NRA and its stooges, following in the footsteps of youth in bygone eras.

The olds can act like 4th-graders and fuck things up pretty badly through their entrenched myopia.  Perhaps our graduated ages of maturity, majority, and responsibility need to be adjusted.

In light of our current political environment, imma become more militant about term limits, mandatory retirement, and ever lower voting ages.  Who's with me?


March 16, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (3)

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When Europe sends its people, they're not sending their best.

All this while ye Indians came skulking about them, and would sometimes show them selves aloofe of, but when any aproached near them, they would rune away.

 - William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation

So this is the day that a particular indigenous person reportedly came to Plymouth Colony in 1621 and said, "Go away, Mexicans! My name is Donald Trump."  I might be making that up.

Anyway, as I've noted before, even with the real event being such a yuuuge part of our common lore, I can't find any contemporaneous documents recording Samoset's alleged words verbatim.

Bradford wrote simply of the encounter:

[A]bout ye 16. of March a certaine Indian came bouldly amongst them, and spoke to them in broken English, which they could well understand, but marvelled at it. At length they understood by discourse with him...

Mourt's Relation provides a bit more detail:

Fryday, the 16.a fayre warme day towards; this morning we determined to conclude of the military Orders, which we had began to consider of before, but were interrupted by the Savages, as we mentioned formerly; and whilst we were busied here about, we were interrupted againe, for there presented himself a Savage which caused an Alarm, he very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the Randevous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to goe in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldneffe, hee faluted vs in English, and bad vs well-come, for he had learned some broken English amongst the English men that came to fish at Monchiggon...

Now, understanding that not finding stuff online is hardly dispositive, the earliest formulation of the mythological greeting I could dig up comes from The Annals of America in 1829:

On the 16th of March an Indian came boldly, alone, into the street of Plymouth, and surprised the inhabitants by calling out, " Welcome, Englishmen ! Welcome, Englishmen !" He was their first visitant; his name was Samoset...

Then it seems by the turn of the 20th century that version had solidified into legendary fact (one notable exception being Edward Arber's recapitulating and cleaning up Mourt's).  Anyway, I wonder why the narrative apparently started to take shape in the first couple decades of the 19th century?

Perhaps since our other founding myths were maturing by Independence's 50th anniversary, people were looking more at earlier colonial epochs as well?  It also seems more or less around the same time as New Englanders' interest in their Puritanical history increased, at least if one can judge by the establishment of the Pilgrim Society and its celebrations.

Whatever the impetus, I find the evolution of such things to be fascinating, despite its being agitprop Trump would be proud of.


March 16, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

any further experiments on their patience may have fatal effects

Months after several generals appealed to Congress regarding late pay and changes to their promised pensions, an anonymous letter circulated the Continental Army's camp at Newburgh on March 10, 1783:

My friends! after seven long years your suffering courage has conducted the United States of America through a doubtful and a bloody war; and peace returns to bless—whom? A country willing to redress your wrongs, cherish your worth, and reward your services? Or is it rather a country that tramples upon your rights, disdains your cries, and insults your distresses?

Have you not lately, in the meek language of humble petitioners, begged from the justice of congress what you could no longer expect from their favor? How have you been answered? Let the letter which you are called to consider to-morrow make reply! “If this be your treatment while the swords you wear are necessary for the defence of America, what have you to expect when those very swords, the instruments and companions of your glory, shall be taken from your sides, and no mark of military distinction left but your wants, infirmities, and scars?

If you have sense enough to discover and spirit to oppose tyranny, whatever garb it may assume, awake to your situation. If the present moment be lost, your threats hereafter will be as empty as your entreaties now. Appeal from the justice to the fears of government; and suspect the man who would advise to longer forbearance.

Washington responded to the threats of mutiny on March 15:

[T]o suspect the man who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us.

The freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter. I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army, and from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it compleat justice: that their endeavours to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt.

But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their determinations are slow. Why then should we distrust them, and, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired, and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No, most certainly, in my opinion it will cast it at a greater distance.
While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner, to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favour, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures, which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity, and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained. Let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress

Legend has it that those assembled weren't impressed, but:

After reading these remarks, Washington prepared to read a letter from a Congressional delegate, but then stopped to put on eyeglasses, saying: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind, in the service of my country”; this has also been reported as: “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.” Some of the officers—having been assembled by Washington to check a rebellious spirit among them—were moved to tears.

Trying to screw Americans out of their entitlements is an age old tradition Paul Ryan is trying to uphold.  But now there's no George Washington who can calm things down, which...probably is a good thing at this point.


March 15, 2018 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink | Comments (0)