Entries by Amanda Hughes

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Election Of Congress: Why Election Method Matters For Stability And Continuity Of Representative Government – Guest Essayist: Gary R. Porter

The “election method” of Congress has many facets: who is entitled to vote, how they vote, even such mundane things as how votes are counted (does a hanging chad count?). As Madison reminds us: “the essence of government is power and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

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May 23: Direct Election And How The Number Of Constituents Per Congressional District Affects Representation – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

James Madison observed in Federalist 52, “[I]t is particularly essential that the [House of Representatives] should have an … intimate sympathy with, the people.” At the same time, he wrote four essays later, “The truth is, that in all cases, a certain number at least seems to be necessary to secure the benefits of free consultation and discussion; and to guard against too easy a combination for improper purposes: as on the other hand, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit, in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude….Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

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May 22: Rule Of Law: Do Our Laws Apply To All? – Guest Essayist: Gary Porter

“[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community,” wrote Founder Benjamin Rush in a 1788 letter to David Ramsay. (Emphasis added) Do our laws apply to all?

Interpreting Benjamin Rush, do these laws deserve the name of law if they only apply to “ordinary Americans” and not the elite of Congress?

The Rule of Law should be the bedrock of our society; but this “bedrock” has the appearance today of shifting sand.

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May 21: Rule Of Law As The Bedrock Of American Society – Guest Essayist: Gary Porter

“If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws — the first growing out of the last.” – Alexander Hamilton

“Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny,” said Englishman Edmund Burke. The Roman historian Tacitus expressed a similar sentiment: “Formerly we suffered from crimes. Now we suffer from laws.” “[I]f the public are bound to yield obedience to laws to which they cannot give their approbation, they are slaves to those who make such laws and enforce them,” complained “Candidus” in the Boston Gazette on January 20, 1772. Finally, a civil law which contravenes natural law is either “spoilt law” (Thomas Aquinas) or of “no validity” (Blackstone).

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May 18: Rule Of Law And Separation Of Powers: Preservers Of Liberty – Guest Essayist: Richard E. Wagner

LISTEN ON SOUNDCLOUD: It is a commonplace of democratic rhetoric to assert that we residents of democracies are governed by law and not by men. To be governed by men means that those who hold power can create privileges for themselves and their allies. In contrast, to be governed by law means that holders of […]

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May 17: Rule Of Law: Accountable, Not Arbitrary, In Regards To Representing The American People – Guest Essayist: Marc Clauson

“The most important demand of the Rule of Law is that people in positions of authority should exercise their power within a constraining framework of well-established public norms rather than in an arbitrary, ad hoc, or purely discretionary manner on the basis of their own preferences or ideology. It insists that the government should operate within a framework of law in everything it does, and that it should be accountable through law when there is a suggestion of unauthorized action by those in power.”

The essential idea is that no ruler or governing body is above the law, even those who actually make those laws.

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May 16: Rule Of Law: Meaning And Importance To Functions Of Congress In Representing The American People – Guest Essayist: Adam MacLeod

The phrase, “the rule of law,” means that the power and discretion of those who exercise government powers is constrained. Officials may not do whatever they want. They must instead act according to rules, rights, customs, and other laws. This is the significance of John Adams’s classic formulation, which he enshrined in the Massachusetts Constitution, that the goal of the Constitution was to produce a “government of laws, and not of men.”

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May 15: Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) (D-TX) – Congresswoman And Judiciary Committee Member – Guest Essayist: Patrick Cox

“My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution. It is reason and not passion which must guide our deliberations, guide our debate, and guide our decision.” – Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX) speaking during the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings on President Richard Nixon, July 25, 1974.

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May 14: Representative Government: The Founders’ Design For The American People To Rule Within A Civil Society – Guest Essayist: James D. Best

The Framers knew the country needed a stouter government than the Articles of Confederation provided, but they had only recently fought a war to escape a king and had no intention of reimposing that kind of oppressive power on the new nation. The country needed a stronger government, but not so strong it could override the will of the people.

James Madison wrote, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” He and his fellow delegates enabled this objective by enumerating specific, balanced powers to each branch, and then purposely giving each branch checks on the other branches. First balance powers between the branches of government, and then place checks on those powers so they may not be abused. As the first three words of the Constitution assert, the Framers felt the American people should rule the government, not vice versa.

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May 11: Virginia House Of Burgesses And Colonial Legislatures As The Basis For Consent And American Self-Government – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

If Congress concerned itself only with matters necessarily national or international in scope, this view need not raise concerns. But as Congress busies itself with more and greater intrusions into personal decisions, such as health insurance, one might ponder if the same alienation felt by Americans of the 1770s towards the far-away British government is not felt 250 years later by Americans towards their own. Do such laws still meaningfully reflect the consent of the governed so emphatically proclaimed by the House of Burgesses against the Stamp Act?

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May 10: Holding Power Accountable: Magna Carta, Parliament, And The Origins Of Representative Congress – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner

Magna Carta’s revolutionary concept of holding the King accountable for a breach of contract with England’s nobles was broadened in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson established rights above Common Law and Medieval precedents with the famous phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

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May 9: Magna Carta (The Great Charter), Parliament And The Origins Of Representative Congress – Guest Essayist: Marc Clauson

The final version of the American Congress can be traced back to the Magna Carta itself, but in addition, our Founders drew on a rich source of political ideas that developed throughout the same period from Magna Carta on. The initiating event then was the core of the British “Ancient Constitution,” but the foundation was the growing notion that the people ought to play a greater role in making laws. The representative body was the mechanism to achieve that goal.

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May 8: The Challenge Of Congressional Representation (2013) By Richard Fenno: A Summary – Guest Essayist: The Honorable Frank Reilly

“There’s a natural tension between being a good representative and taking an interest in government,” said Conable. Toward the end of his Congressional career, he began to believe his interest in government was beginning to overtake his desire to be a good representative.

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May 7: Newt Gingrich (1943) – House Speaker, Republican Whip From Georgia; Led The 1994 Contract With America – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner

Rep. Thomas Reed (R-ME) comes closest to Gingrich’s impact on the Legislative Branch. Reed was known for his communication ability, and his mastery of parliamentary procedure. As speaker (1889-1891/1895-1899) he mastered both of these skills to bring the House of Representatives back into alignment with the original rules written by Thomas Jefferson. Many consider his success assured the “survival of representative government”. Gingrich remains an insightful commentator and provocative thinker. Returning the House to the rule of law, and being highly responsive to the will of the voter, remain lasting historic achievements that strengthened our democracy.

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May 4: Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) – Senate Member From New York, Democratic Party Leader – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

Moynihan is one of a dying breed in Washington- someone who effectively could interact with members and presidents from the opposing political party and who as Avalon notes tried to bring the long perspective to various issues. 

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May 2: Thomas Phillip, Jr. (Tip) O’Neill (1912-1994) – House Speaker, Democratic Whip & Majority Leader From Massachusetts – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

While Tip and Reagan had different political views and approaches, they showed that great debates and the efforts of compromise sometimes can result in good end results for the nation.

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May 1: Robert Taft (1889-1953) – State Representative, U.S. Senator From Ohio; Son Of President William Howard Taft – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

Taft was known as “Mr. Republican” because of his allegiance to limited government at home and a non-interventionist foreign policy that represented mainstream Republican thinking during the mid-twentieth century. While not the most gregarious politician, he was a well-respected, diligent statesman who dedicated his life to an ideal of public service.

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April 30: Michael Mansfield 1903-2001 House Member Senate Majority Leader MT Guest Essayist James Legee

Michael Joseph Mansfield served as both representative and senator from the state of Montana, and would go on to serve as United States Ambassador to Japan. Mansfield was born March 16, 1903 in New York though his life soon took a turn for the difficult.

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April 27: Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) (1908-1973) 36th U.S. President, Vice President, House Member, Senate Minority & Majority Leader From Texas – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

LBJ is remembered for his significant legislative achievements both as a member of Congress over a long period of time and in his Vice President and President roles.

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April 26: Howard Worth Smith (1883-1976) – House Member From Virginia, Rules Committee Chairman – Guest Essayist: Bruce Dierenfield

Howard W. Smith, a Virginia Democratic congressman, was one of America’s most powerful politicians from the New Deal to the Great Society. A master obstructionist who chaired the House Rules Committee, he used his power to fight the liberal agendas of presidential administrations from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Lyndon B. Johnson.

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April 25: Samuel Rayburn (1882-1961) – House Speaker From Texas – Guest Essayist: Patrick Cox

Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn was one of the most influential and respected leaders in American history.  Rayburn served with distinction as he achieved many important changes to American society, government and the nation’s economy.   Rayburn holds the record for serving longer than any other Speaker of the House in U.S. history. According to longtime friend and colleague Congressman Richard Bolling, Rayburn was cleverly described as the “baldest and levelest head in Washington.”

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April 24: Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902) – House Speaker From Maine Known For “Reed’s Rules” – Guest Essayists: Joseph Postell & Samuel Postell

Today’s Congress accomplishes a lot less than the one over which Reed presided because party leaders no longer have the powers that Reed created.  Majority party cohesion has been undermined, and the leaders of the majority party are increasingly incapable of advancing necessary reforms.  As a result, the people increasingly look to the President.  Studying Reed’s vision for the House of Representatives reveals another possibility: with stronger parties, Congress can maintain its own authority, and accomplish the business of the people more efficiently, than it does today.  Reed and his rules illustrate a potential solution for the disappearing role of Congress in contemporary American politics.

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April 23: James G. Blaine (1830-1893) – House Speaker & Senate Member From Maine, Secretary Of State, Presidential Candidate – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

James G. Blaine was a politician from Maine who first served in the Maine House of Representatives and then moved to the federal stage, where he became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, a United States Senator, Secretary of State and Republican nominee for President.  Nicknamed “the Magnetic Man,” Blaine was one of the leaders of the Republican Party during the late 19th Century and one of the great debaters.

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April 20: Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) – Missouri House & Senate Member – Guest Essayist: Ben Phibbs

LISTEN ON SOUNDCLOUD: “For the President and the Party: The Loyal Career of Senator Thomas Hart Benton” “Now you…rascal, I am going to punish you. Defend yourself!”[1] The taunt ferociously barreled into the infant autumn air of Nashville, Tennessee, flying comfortably from the tongue of a notorious brawler with a slender, scarred frame that lamented […]

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April 19: Daniel Webster (1782-1852) – Secretary Of State, New Hampshire House & Senate Member, Known As “The Great Orator,” Part 2 – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

In a speech in 1837, he issued a warning free citizens must never forget, “There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to be masters.”

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April 18: Daniel Webster (1782-1852) – Secretary Of State, New Hampshire House & Senate Member, Known As “The Great Orator,” Part 1 – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

Daniel Webster, alongside Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, was a member of the “Great Triumvirate,” that remarkable group of speakers whose grand and widely-circulated speeches enlivened debates in the Senate and electrified the American people. Webster, the “Great Orator,”

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April 17: John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) – Seventh U.S. Vice President, South Carolina House & Senate Member, Part 2 – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

Calhoun’s approach to consent of the governed, as expressed through concurrent majorities of the whole and of its affected constituent minorities, presents a relevant model for peaceful resolution of fundamental political questions that well preserves both “Liberty and Union” in a large, diverse, and divided country.

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April 16: John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) – Seventh U.S. Vice President, South Carolina House & Senate Member, Part 1 – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

For nearly the first half of the nineteenth century, three men dominated the debates over the great issues of the day. They were the “Great Triumvirate,” Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Continued tomorrow

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April 13: Henry Clay (1777-1852) – House Speaker, Whig Party Leader, Kentucky Senate Member – Guest Essayist: Sam Postell

…the first to understand that Congress was in need of leadership if it were to be understood as an important power of the government rather than a mere servant of the president. Although he was a man of action, his speeches bequeath a rich knowledge of constitutional theory that allow us to appreciate the importance of the rules and orders of the legislature.

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April 12: John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) – Sixth U.S. President, Massachusetts House & Senate Member – Guest Essayist: Brian Pawlowski

LISTEN ON SOUNDCLOUD: While John Quincy Adams was not an exact contemporary of the Founding Fathers he was, in more ways than one, their offspring. Indeed, his bond with the generation of 1776 was familial as well as philosophical. And his sense of duty to that generation, the project they set in motion, and the […]

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April 11: The Great Debates – Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued his Report to the American People on Civil Rights, calling on Congress to pass a civil rights bill to address discrimination and segregation against African Americans.

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April 10: Entry Into WWII And The America First Debate, Part 2 – Guest Essayist: James Legee

On December 10, 1941, the America First Committee dissolved. Shortly beforehand, on December 8 of 1941, Congress voted for war with Japan. The vote was nearly unanimous and the sole vote against war came not from a member of America First.

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April 9: The Great Debates – The Nineteenth Amendment – Guest Essayist: Cleta Mitchell

One hundred and thirty years after ratification of the United States Constitution, women were, at long last, granted full citizenship and voting rights in America. The Nineteenth Amendment is a piece of the struggle for freedom that had eluded half of America’s population for more than a century.

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April 5: Henry Cabot Lodge Senate Debate Of 1919 & The Treaty Of Versailles – Guest Essayist Tony Williams

Throughout the debate over the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations, Senator Lodge stood firmly for the American Constitution and its principles. He did support world peace and hoped to avert another world war, but he would not sacrifice American principles in an attempt to achieve it. He sought to do what was right according to the Constitution.

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April 4: Stephen A. Douglas & Abraham Lincoln In Congressional Debate: The Compromise Of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act Of 1854 – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

Known as “the Little Giant,” Stephen A. Douglas was a politician from Illinois who designed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and served as a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and was the Democratic Party nominee for president against Abraham Lincoln in the election of 1860. Lincoln and Douglas also faced each other during the 1858 race for Senator from Illinois, and the two engaged in a series of famous debates on the question of slavery and the future of our nation. Named the Little Giant because he was small in stature, he was not little when it came to politics and his place in our history as a great debater.

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April 2: The Great Debates – Robert Hayne’s 1830 Senate Speech & Daniel Webster’s Reply, Part 2 – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

Webster returned fire. In a speech equally aroused as Hayne’s, and laced with historical references, constitutional argument, and heavy doses of sarcasm, Webster rejected Hayne’s attacks and painted a picture of an optimistic nationalism that stood in stark contrast to Hayne’s defensiveness.

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March 30: The Great Debates – Robert Hayne’s 1830 Senate Speech & Daniel Webster’s Reply – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

Over the course of approximately a week in late January, 1830, a debate occurred in the United States Senate that historians consider the greatest ever in that chamber. Before a gallery packed with listeners, under the animated gaze of Vice-President John C. Calhoun, Senators Robert Hayne of South Carolina and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts waged an oratorical battle.

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March 28: The Role Of Congress In Creation & Constitutionality Of The National Bank, Part 2 – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

The First Congress was deeply divided over policies at the very start of the new nation. The debates generally centered around the economic policies and financial plans of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The contention about the National Bank in particular generally revealed a sectional and increasing partisan divide between the Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians.

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March 27: The Role Of Congress In Creation & Constitutionality Of The National Bank – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

The vote was the result of a political maneuver to accommodate a matter of much more immediate impact, the realization of Alexander Hamilton’s economic salvage blueprint for the new nation. That blueprint proved crucial to the country’s economic and political fortunes. At the same time, it opened fissures of sectional conflict, constitutional theory, and political partisanship that had remained below the surface, if barely, during the preceding decade.

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March 26: The Decision Of 1789: Congress, The President & Removal Of Presidential Appointees – Guest Essayists: David Alvis & Flagg Taylor

At stake in this struggle over removal power was more than the interior design of a particular department; this debate would shape the way in which the two elected branches of the federal government would relate to one another under the system of the separation of powers. For those who favored a significant role for Congress in the removal power, the concern was to at least check, if not entirely control the executive’s enforcement of law.

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March 23: Statesmanship & The Distinguished Oratory Of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun – Guest Essayist: Brian Pawlowski

Taken together, the political debates of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun guided American politics like no other group save the Founding generation. As Merrill D. Peterson put it, “their arrival on the political stage announced a new era of American statesmanship…

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March 22: Culture Of Debates On The House & Senate Floors – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner

Patrick Henry cautioned, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” In their respective chambers, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have developed unique ways to air differences and make sure information is shared. The Legislative Branch’s culture of debate hold’s power accountable and preserves our nation’s civic culture.

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March 21: Federalist 63: The Senate And Our National Character – Guest Essayist: Forrest Nabors

In crisis Americans are famous for forgetting their differences and pulling together, but the Senate was designed to be our natural rallying point. In the members of that body we were meant to see the best of our country, calmly reminding us of who we are as a people, and inspiring us by their example to follow the path of our duty.

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March 20: Federalist 62: The Structure And Role Of The Senate – Guest Essayist: Forrest Nabors

Their coolness, experience and wisdom would balance the passions, inexperience and hastiness in the other body. Thus, the planned role of the Senate was vital to enacting wholesome and necessary national legislation, was indispensable to the general government and placed the American republic in a likely position to gain an estimable reputation among the nations.

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March 19: Federalist 62 & 63: Senate Powers For Soundness, Order, Stability Of The Congress – Guest Essayist: Joseph M. Knippenberg

A second legislative chamber “doubles the security to the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy.” The more hoops that have to be jumped through, the more groups that have to be coordinated, the harder it is for men (and women) bent on tyranny to accomplish their aims.

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Happy Birthday, James Madison! March 16, 1751 – Federalist Papers 51 & 53 – How The American People Hold Congress Accountable – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

Madison examines various suggested mechanisms by which government might be constrained and liberty preserved. Drawing on the Americans’ experience with the British government as well as their own state governments, he rejects all as insufficient. Thus, formal declarations in state constitutions of the legislative power being vested in the legislature, the executive in a chief officer, and the judicial in the courts, are “a mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments” and would not suffice to prevent dangerous concentration of power.

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March 15: Federalist 10: Political Stability And Good Governance – Guest Essayist: Richard Wagner

Despite the ensuing controversy, we should note that both proponents and opponents of the new Constitution agreed that the prime purpose of government was to secure individual liberty. They also recognized that intrusive government was the prime danger to liberty, even though it was also recognized that some government was necessary to preserve and protect the American system of liberty.

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March 14: James Madison: Guiding The Bill Of Rights Through The U.S. House Of Representatives – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

Although he enumerated several reasons for his opposition, Madison then gave his friend hope when he stated that most important reason in favor of a Bill of Rights was that, “The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with the National sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion.” Madison thought the liberties would become engrained in the American character.

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March 13: Bill Of Rights: Placing Limits On Congressional Governing – Part Three – Guest Essayist: Patrick Garry

Although the Antifederalist concern about limiting the power of the federal government provided the initial impetus for the Bill of Rights, the Bill does more than simply provide a restraint on government action. It seeks to preserve liberty by protecting particular areas traditionally considered essential to individual freedom and dignity.

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March 12: Bill Of Rights: Placing Limits On Congressional Governing – Part Two – Guest Essayist: Gary Porter

Even as early as 1825, Thomas Jefferson was able to observe:

“I see,… and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic; and that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power…”

Was the Bill of Rights necessary?

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March 9: Bill Of Rights: Placing Limits On Congressional Governing – Guest Essayist: Andrew Langer

It was not America’s victory over England in 1781 that was a revolutionary miracle—for following the surrender at Yorktown any one of a number of things could have gone (and in some cases did do) wrong in the creation of our new nation. No, it was the creation of our Constitution and the adoption of the first ten amendments as a “Bill of Rights” that was the true miracle—since both, taken together, were based on a premise that had been unheard-of until that point.

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March 8: Articles Of Confederation – What The Founders Thought Of The Articles Of Confederation And Why They Did Not Last – Guest Essayist: Patrick Garry

Although the Articles had demonstrated the need for a stronger national government, the primary threat to liberty was seen as emanating from such governments. Therefore, the preeminent debate of the time involved how to limit the new federal government so as to prevent it from having the power to commit the kind of abuses once committed by the British government. Liberty was to be protected by a system of limits on government power, not simply by the absence of government power.

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March 7: Articles of Confederation – Congress Wielded All Three Powers: Legislative, Judicial, Executive, Later Separated – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

On November 15, 1777, the Continental Congress approved what was this newly declared independent nation’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.  The Articles included a single governing body, the Continental Congress.   Requiring unanimous ratification by all thirteen of the British colonies, it took until March 1, 1781, when Maryland ratified the Articles, for them to become effective.  The Articles governed until 1789, when the United States Constitution replaced the Articles.

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March 5: The Declaration Of Independence And The United States Congress – Guest Essayist: Gary Porter

Each incoming Congress normally conducts a ceremonial reading of the Constitution in the first few days of the session. Some complain this is merely for show, that Congressmen and women then proceed to completely ignore their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution.” Perhaps there is some truth to this charge. But might we humbly suggest that before reading the Constitution, that Congress also read, out loud, the Declaration of Independence, and then take a moment (or several moments) to reflect on the “thought and spirit” of our government before proceeding with their appointed tasks?

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March 2: What A Republican Form Of Government Means & Why This Structure Mattered To America’s Constitution Framers – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

Under Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution, the United States shall guarantee to each state a republican form of government. That raises the question of what was understood not only by a “republican form” of government, but by the substance of republicanism.

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February 28: Legislative: Most Important Branch, Of The People, Whose Primary Role Is Lawmaking – Guest Essayist: James Legee

These are not minor implications. Congress has the most direct tie to the fount of power in America, the people. All laws, resolutions, chartered agencies, stem from the desires of the people. When congress fails to take the views into consideration, fails to refine them to compatibility with the constitution, with liberty, and with principles of justice, it has, as Webster notes, ceased to be a representative body.

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February 27: Since The First U.S. Congress In 1789: Why, When & How The People’s Branch Convenes – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

In the spring of 1789, several dozen representatives and senators from eleven states (North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution) traveled to New York for the first session of the First Congress. Most fundamentally, they were assembling because the United States had a constitutional republican form of government based upon the consent of the governed.

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February 26: Senate History: Purpose Of The U.S. Senate, The “Cooling Factor” And “Sober Second Thought” – Guest Essayist: James Legee

The Senate was intended to be the upper house of America’s Congress, a long-serving chamber of sober debate.  Here, the passions of human nature, which history watched manifest into noble appeals to virtue and liberty as often as into the deplorable institution of slavery or the savagery of the French Revolution, were to be calmed and sober reason allowed to prevail.

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February 23: House History: Purpose Of The United States House of Representatives As The Immediate Will Of The People – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner

When the U.S. House of Representatives meets, it draws upon this rich and deep history and set of precedents.  It remains true to its origins: larger, rowdier, fractious, governed by rules and votes, and highly sensitive and responsive to the popular will and issues of the moment.  This is in contrast to the slower pace, decorum, and informal agreements that characterize the Senate.

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February 22: Beginnings Of The United States Congress Part 2 – Guest Essayist: Marc Clauson

No institutional arrangement is perfect, as no individual is perfect.  The Founders valued design principles highly, but they also advocated for virtuous public officials.  However, they knew they could not guarantee virtue at all times.  Therefore, they took pains to design, in this case, a Congress that would give voice to the people while limiting the possible abuses of power in that Congress as well as in the other branches.

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February 21: Beginnings Of The United States Congress – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

As Representative James Madison reflected on the task of the First Congress, he stated, “We are in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us.” Perhaps Madison was wrong for the representatives and senators had a few guides at their disposal. They had their experience in the state legislatures and the national Congress under the Articles of Confederation. In addition, they had their wisdom and prudence to pursue the public good in deliberative government. Most fundamentally, they had the new Constitution as the fundamental guide for all their actions.

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February 20: INTRODUCTION Part 2: The United States Congress Today – Guest Essayist: William Morrisey

The careful design of the United States federal government, as seen in our Constitution, has been admired and imitated throughout the world. Yet few Americans today think of their government as very much limited to matters of commerce, military defense, and constitutional law. Nor do we think of Congressmen as citizen-legislators, serving a few years in the nation’s capital and then returning home to the applause of grateful, armed, and vigilant fellow-citizens.

What has happened, since 1787?