Entries by Amanda Hughes

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.

, , , , , ,

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.

, , , , , ,

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.

, , , , , ,

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.

, , , , , ,

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.

, , , , , ,

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?

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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?

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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?