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Happy Independence Day! Read The Declaration of Independence with your family and friends!

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Click Here to Hear Constituting America Founder & Co-Chair Actress Janine Turner read the Declaration of Independence!

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

From the National Archives website: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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A Memorial Day Message by Constituting America Founder & Co-Chair Janine Turner

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Constituting America first published this message from Founder & Co-Chair Janine Turner over Memorial Day Weekend, 2010, the inaugural year of our organization.  We are pleased to share it with you again, as we celebrate our 7th birthday!  

On this Memorial Day weekend, I think it is appropriate to truly contemplate and think about the soldiers and families who have sacrificed their lives and loved ones, and given their time and dedication to our country.

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Constitutional Issues In The 2016 Election – Guest Essayist: Professor William Morrisey

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Faithful readers of Constituting America’s 90-Day Study have followed the story of our constitution through each of our presidential elections. We have seen that the moral foundations of both of our constitutions—the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution that replaced it—find their most cogent expression in the Declaration of Independence. There, the Founders held the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments must therefore be framed to secure those unalienable rights. Our God-endowed, or natural, rights—regulated by the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God—find security in our legal or civil rights, defended by a system of government so structured as to channel the ambitions of political men and women toward the guardianship of those rights. This requires a regime designed to empower the government so our rights can be defended effectively against those who threaten them, at home or abroad. At the same time, the powers of that government will check and balance one another, so that no single individual or group of individuals will likely usurp all those powers, setting us on the road to tyranny. America’s early Constitutional conflicts centered on the question of how much power should be placed in the hands of the national government vis-à-vis the states’ governments. But whether Federalists or Anti-Federalists, Hamiltonians or Jeffersonians, all of the principal founders aimed at securing the natural rights of Americans by the means of well-designed constitutional forms.

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Happy Independence Day! Read The Declaration of Independence with your family and friends!

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Click Here to Hear Constituting America Founder & Co-Chair Actress Janine Turner read the Declaration of Independence!

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

From the National Archives website: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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2012, Barack Obama Defeats Mitt Romney – Guest Essayist: Michael Barone

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Only once before the twenty-first century has America had three consecutive eight-year presidencies: the years 1801-25 in which three members of “the House of Virginia,” Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe each won two general elections and served for eight years. Historians have called the end of this period “the Era of Good Feelings,” in part because Monroe won his second term without opposition with a single electoral vote cast for his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams.

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2008, Barack Obama: Forty-Fourth President of the United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Barack Obama: Forty-Fourth President of the United States

Nickname: The First African-American President

Terms in Office: 2009-2013; 2013-present

Fast Stats

  • Born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Parents: Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro
  • Barack Obama is still living and in office
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 47; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 51
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 51
  • Religious Affiliation: Congregationalist (Protestant)
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Height: 6 feet 1 inch
  • Vice President: Joseph Biden

Bottom Line

President Obama is the current president of the United States and is serving his second term in office. Obama passed his landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act; oversaw the capture and death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden; and enforced a multibillion dollar stimulus in an attempt to help the economy. He has struggled with a scandal regarding the surveillance of the American people by the federal government and an ever-growing debt and deficit.

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2004, George W. Bush Defeats John Kerry: Due Process, Terrorism, And The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Andrew Langer

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“One of (PATRIOT Act II’s) provisions would apparently enable federal employees to strip US citizens of their rights without due process. More broadly, it would create a separate, very shadowy justice system for terrorist suspects in which most of the rights and procedures normally guaranteed criminal suspects can be abrogated at the discretion of the government.” – John Kerry, A Call To Service, pp. 177-178 (2003)

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2000, George W. Bush Defeats Al Gore, Ralph Nader: A Case Study On Choosing Electors – Guest Essayist: The Honorable John N. Hostettler

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Congress Sets Times for Electors

Article II, Section 1. Clause 4:

The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Title 3, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code describes the timeframe for the choosing of and voting by members of the Electoral College.

Sec. 1: The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.18

Sec. 7: The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State as the legislature of such State shall direct.19 [emphasis added]

Choosing Electors: A Case Study

The presidential election of 2000 provided an excellent insight into the practical application of the Constitution’s provision for choosing electors for that office. After the polls closed on November 7, 2000, attention soon turned to the state of Florida and a growing controversy over punch-card ballots used in a few of its counties. The combined count of the electors from all of the states presumed to be assigned to the Democrat candidate Albert Gore, Jr. Republican candidate George W. Bush indicated that the race was going to be close that the results of the popular vote for president in Florida would determine the outcome of the race. This was due to the fact that the assignment of electors would be determined by that popular vote.

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1996, Bill Clinton, Presidential Elections, And Constitutional Rule Of Law – Guest Essayist: Brian Chilton

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At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 a Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” to which Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The 1996 presidential election cycle and the twenty years hence have demonstrated the fragility of Franklin’s “If.”

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1992, Bill Clinton Defeats George H.W. Bush – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Bill Clinton: Forty-Second President of the United States

Nickname: The Comeback Kid

Terms in Office: 1993-1997; 1997-2001

Fast Stats:

  • Born August 19, 1946, in Hope Arkansas
  • Parents: William Jefferson Blythe III and Virginia Dell Cassidy; Stepfather: Roger Clinton
  • Bill Clinton is still living
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 46; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 50
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 50; Age upon Conclusion of Second Term: 54
  • Religious Affiliation: Baptist
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Height: 6 feet 2.5 inches
  • Vice President: Al Gore

Bottom Line:

Bill Clinton dealt with two government shutdowns during his presidency: one from November 14 to November 19, 1995, and another from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996. He still managed to stabilize the American economy and balance the national budget. Clinton also experienced several international successes and continued national prosperity, but he was forced to fight to overcome three scandals.

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1988, George H.W. Bush Defeats Michael Dukakis – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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A Thousand Points of Light: George H.W. Bush and the 1988 Election

George H.W. Bush had three significant obstacles to overcome if he wanted to be elected president in 1988.  The first was that Bush’s election seemed to be a referendum on eight years of the Reagan presidency.  Americans were split over that legacy with conservatives wanting to build on his economic and foreign policy achievements in the Cold War, while liberals wanted to stop a third consecutive term by a conservative Republican.  The recent Iran-Contra hearings had damaged the Reagan presidency and fed the partisanship.

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1984, Ronald Reagan Defeats Walter Mondale: Geraldine Ferraro Nomination As Vice President And The Constitutional Implications Of The Feminist Movement – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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Morning in America: Ronald Reagan & the 1984 Election

In his 1984 State of the Union Address, President Ronald Reagan laid out his principles and vision that had guided his first term and provided the foundation for his re-election campaign. He reminded voters that the economy was growing rapidly and was back on track after the horrific stagflation of the Carter administration. The “crisis of confidence” of the 1970s was conquered by a renewed American spirit.  Reagan was proud to report that, “There is renewed energy and optimism throughout the land.”  Indeed, he touted, “America is back, standing tall.”

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1980, Ronald Reagan Defeats Jimmy Carter, John Anderson: The Critique Of The Administrative State – Guest Essayist: Andrew Langer

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In many ways, the circumstances surrounding the 1980 presidential election mirror those surrounding the 2016 elections: America’s economy in the doldrums and an electorate hungry for change. But the 2016 elections allow us the hindsight of nearly four full decades of history, and teach us that if we aren’t willing to learn those lessons, we are doomed to repeat them.

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1976, Jimmy Carter: Thirty-Ninth President Of The United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Jimmy Carter: Thirty-Ninth President of the United States

Nickname: The Peanut Farmer

Terms in Office: 1977-1981

Fast Stats

  • Born October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia
  • Parents: James Earl and Lillian Gordy Carter
  • Jimmy Carter is still living
  • Age upon Start of Term: 52; Age upon Conclusion of Term: 56
  • Religious Affiliation: Southern Baptist
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Height: 5 feet 9.5 inches
  • Vice President: Walter Mondale

Bottom Line:

Jimmy Carter tried to fix a struggling U.S. economy while simultaneously working to promote international peace and stability, winning a Nobel Prize in 2002.

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Our Constitution Works: President Ford’s Date With Destiny: Guest Essayist – Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation

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The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, the Grand Rapids Economic Club and the National Constitutional Center hosted “Our Constitution Works: President Ford’s Date with Destiny” on October 20, 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The following is a partial transcript of the videotaped panel discussion. Used with permission.

Doug DeVos, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation Trustee, National Constitution Center Trustee and former Chair of the Grand Rapids Economic Club hosted the event. Steve Ford, son of Gerald & Betty Ford, illustrated his father’s belief in the pardon decision by retelling the story in which he personally asked his father about the pardon.

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1972, Richard Nixon Defeats George McGovern: Watergate – Guest Essayist: Professor David Kopel

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During the 1972 election, incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon won an astoundingly large margin, garnering 520 electoral votes. Despite his huge advantages during the election, President Nixon and his campaign operatives engaged in unethical and illegal activities during the campaign. The ultimate victim of Nixon’s crimes turned out to be Nixon himself, as he was forced to resign in 1974 after his misdeeds were uncovered. The unraveling of Nixon’s criminal conspiracies led to reforms for good government.

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A Different Take On Watergate – Guest Essayist: John Marini

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The American Mind with Charles R. Kesler: Presented by The Claremont Institute. Originally published on Jan 30, 2014 in the third segment with University of Nevada Reno Professor John Marini, Marini and Kesler discuss President Nixon and his losing battle with Washington bureaucracies. Used with permission.

PRESIDENT NIXON VS. THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE.  An Interview with John Marini

John:  You have to begin to see what Nixon’s plan was after the election, and there you get a better sense of his view that this is the last time that we’re going to be able to take on the centralized bureaucratic apparatus and be able to hold it back.

Charles:  John, if Richard Nixon were a character in a western, who would he be?  Simon Legree?

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1972, Richard Nixon: Thirty-Seventh President of the United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Richard M. Nixon: Thirty-Seventh President of the United States

Nickname: Red Hunter

Terms in Office: 1969-1973; 1973-1974

Fast Stats

  • Born January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California
  • Parents: Francis Antony and Hannah Milhous Nixon
  • Died April 22, 1994, in New York, New York; age 81
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 56; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 60
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 60; Age upon Conclusion of Second Term: 61
  • Religious Affiliation: Quaker
  • Political Party: Republican
  • Height: 5 feet 11.5 inches
  • Vice President: Spiro T. Agnew (1969-1973) and Gerald R. Ford (1973-1974)

Bottom Line:

Most of Nixon’s successes came from international policy: his treaty with the Soviet Union, his negotiation to open trade with the People’s Republic of China, and his attempts to conclude the Vietnam War. In 174, a year into his second term, Nixon resigned to avoid the humiliation of impeachment after the infamous Watergate Scandal.

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1968, Supreme Court Decisions On Civil Rights: An Issue Raised By George C. Wallace – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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Anyone who believes that today’s political discourse has reached a new low should consider the political career and rhetoric of George C. Wallace, a 1968 Presidential candidate for the American Independent Party, a party formed by Wallace after the Democratic Party rejected his segregationist agenda.  Wallace was at the forefront of resistance to the Supreme Court’s civil rights decisions, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

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1968, Richard Nixon Defeats Hubert Humphrey, George C. Wallace: The Rise Of The “New Left” – Guest Essayist: Professor Steve Knott

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A House Divided: The Presidential Election of 1968

The presidential election of 1968 was held amidst a deluge of violence and civil unrest. That the United States managed to survive this annus horribilis was a testament to the resilience of its people and of its constitutional framework. The simple fact that the election proceeded apace, as did a peaceful transition of power from one party to another, were welcomed signs of health in a body politic that some considered to be terminally ill.

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1964, Lyndon B. Johnson Defeats Barry Goldwater – The “Great Society” And The Constitution: Guest Essayist: Brion McClanahan

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Part of this essay is taken from Brion McClanahan’s 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016).

The 1964 election between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson was a watershed election.  Goldwater “flipped” the South and by the early 1970s, the South was voting solidly Republican for the first time since Reconstruction. These weren’t the same Republicans, however, as conservative Southerners begrudgingly gave up allegiance to the Democrat Party for a candidate they believed better reflected their political worldview.

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1960, The Election Of The First Catholic President As A Vindication Of The First Amendment’s Clauses On Religious Freedom And Religion Establishment – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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JFK, Catholicism, and the 1960 Election

The American Founding ushered in a “new order for the ages” that included the unprecedented and remarkable natural right of liberty of conscience.  The First Amendment protected this universal right of all humans and banned Congress from establishing an official religion.  The Constitution also banned all religious tests for national office.

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1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower Defeats Aldai Stevenson – Guest Essayist: James Legee

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The election of 1956 saw Adlai Stevenson again tasked with the unenviable duty of an electoral contest against Dwight D. Eisenhower, which, it will come as no surprise, did not end in Stevenson’s favor.  Eisenhower is well known to students of history and government, Stevenson, a one-term governor of Illinois, barely garners a mention in most books on the Cold War.  Despite his loss, Stevenson was an important bridge between the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt administration and the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson.  He articulated a progressive platform that would guide the Democratic Party for the coming decades in regards to domestic policy.  Electoral defeat is quite common for ideologues and intellectuals on both ends of the ideological spectrum, but part and parcel with his intellectual bend came a truly unique rhetoric for the role of government in society.

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A Memorial Day Message by Constituting America Founder & Co-Chair Janine Turner

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Constituting America first published this message from Founder & Co-Chair Janine Turner over Memorial Day Weekend, 2010, the inaugural year of our organization.  We are pleased to share it with you again, as we celebrate our 6th birthday!  

On this Memorial Day weekend, I think it is appropriate to truly contemplate and think about the soldiers and families who have sacrificed their lives and loved ones, and given their time and dedication to our country.

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1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower Defeats Adlai Stevenson: Communism And Civil Liberties – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper

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Communism and Civil Liberties: The Election of 1952

The election of 1952 brought about the first GOP presidential victory in more than 20 years.  It came about at a time while many in America were weary from World War II, and they were very apprehensive about the potential for subversion by the Soviet Union and its radical Marxist ideology.

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1948, Harry Truman: The Atomic Bomb, Cold War, Marshall Plan & The Fair Deal and Civil Rights Reform – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Harry S. Truman: Thirty-Third President of the United States

Nickname: The High-Tax Harry

Terms in Office: 1945-1949; 1949-1953

Fast Stats

  • Born May 8, 1884, in Lamar, Missouri
  • Parents: John Anderson and Martha Ellen Young Truman
  • Died December 26, 1972, in Kansas City, Missouri; age 88
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 60; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 64
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 64; Age upon Conclusion of Second Term: 68
  • Religious Affiliation: Baptist
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches
  • Vice President: none (1945-1949) and Alben W. Barkley (1949-1953)

Bottom Line:

Harry Truman assumed the presidency in 1945 after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. As president, he oversaw the conclusion of both the European and the Pacific front in World War II. Truman won a surprise second term, during which time he worked to stabilize the American economy to prevent a second depression and organized the American invasion of Korea during the Korean War.

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1948, Harry Truman Defeats Thomas Dewey, Strom Thurmond (“Dixiecrat”), Henry Wallace (Progressive Party): “States’ Rights” And Civil Rights Issues Raised By Dixiecrats – Guest Essayist: Professor William Morrisey

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1948: The Dixiecrats

The primary elections of 2016 have invited comparisons to political factions in American politics that haven’t appeared in such clear focus for nearly seventy years. Although the Republican Party of 1948 had papered over its divisions between moderate-to-liberal business interests on the East Coast—represented by New York Governor Thomas Dewey—and Middle-Western conservatives—represented by Robert Taft and, behind him, Herbert Hoover—Democrats split bitterly into three groups. The mainstream of the party nominated President Harry Truman; the left wing (which included democratic socialists and some communists) ran Henry Wallace on the ticket of the Progressive Party; and the segregationist, southern Democrats ran South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond on the ticket of the States’ Rights Democratic Party or “Dixiecrats.” In one of the most famous upsets in American political history, Truman overcame his party’s fracturing and defeated Dewey, although the Dixiecrats won the combined 38 electoral votes of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina. The Progressives failed to win a single electoral vote.

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1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt Defeats Thomas Dewey: Constitutional Implications Of Roosevelt’s Liberal Internationalism, United Nations – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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Global War and Peace: The 1944 Election

In his 1944 State of the Union address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered a “Second Bill of Rights” that redefined the rights of the founding bill of rights. This radical pronouncement promised economic security and “positive rights” guaranteed by the federal government.

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1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Unprecedented Run For A Third Term – Guest Essayist: Andrew Bibby

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FDR’s Third Term and the Twenty-Second Amendment

On November 5, 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first and only U.S. president to be elected for more than two terms. A newspaper headline depicted the historic moment with a joke that captured the public’s ambivalence toward Roosevelt’s unprecedented break from tradition: “Safe on third!”

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1936, Supreme Court Opposition To New Deal Laws – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper

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The United States Supreme Court and the New Deal

Many a law student is familiar with the line, “A switch in time, saved nine.”  It refers to the actions of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justice Owen J. Roberts – Supreme Court justices who switched their votes from holding the legislative program of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt unconstitutional to joining the “political deference” team of Harlan F. Stone, Louis D. Brandeis and Benjamin N. Cardozo to approve FDR’s proposals.

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1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt Defeats Alfred Landon: Administrative Centralization And Its Implications For Constitutionalism – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, running for re-election in 1936, received 60.8% of the popular vote, second-highest popular vote percentage since that method of selecting presidential electors became dominant in the 1830s. Only Lyndon Johnson’s 61.1% over Barry Goldwater in 1964, Richard Nixon’s 60.7% over George McGovern in 1972, and Warren Harding’s 60.3% over James Cox in 1920 are on a similar scale. The electoral vote was even more lopsided, as Roosevelt defeated Kansas Governor Alf Landon 523 votes to 8 (46 states to 2). Only Ronald Reagan in 1984 (525 votes to 13; 49 states to 1 plus D.C.) and Richard Nixon in 1972 (520 votes to 17; 49 states to 1 plus D.C.) enjoyed similarly impressive margins since the modern two-party system emerged.

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1932, The “New Deal” – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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In 1932, the U.S. economy reached its nadir during the Great Depression.  Unemployment had risen to more than 20 percent, or 11 million Americans, matched by a similar number of the underemployed as factories and businesses closed their doors.  Banks were closing at an alarming rates as people instantly lost their life savings.  Hundreds of thousands of farmers and urban dwellers alike were suffering forecloses and lost their homes.  Breadlines were long and strained the resources of private charities and local governments.

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1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt Defeats Herbert Hoover: How The Great Depression Threatened Constitutionalism – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The 1932 Presidential election took place during the height of the Great Depression.  While a number of candidates ran on third party tickets, the main fight for the White House featured the incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover against Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt and none of the other candidates garnered more than 2% of the popular vote.  Hoover had won the presidential election in 1928 on a pro-business platform promising continued prosperity.  Nine months into Hoover’s term, on October 24, 1929, the stock market crashed, beginning the period that would become known as the Great Depression.  The challenges created by the downward economic spiral consumed Hoover’s term and were a main focus of the 1932 presidential election.

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1928, The Effects Of Urbanization On The U. S. And Its Implications For Constitutional Government – Guest Essayist: Scot Faulkner

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How Urbanism Forever Changed America

The 1928 Presidential Election remains the zenith of Republican political power.  Republican Herbert Hoover crushed Democrat Al Smith, winning 58 percent of the popular vote and 83 percent of the electoral vote. [1] The landslide was fueled by years of prosperity, affection for outgoing President Calvin Coolidge, and deep seated concerns over Smith’s Catholicism. Republicans also amassed majorities in the House and Senate not seen again until 2014.

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Herbert Hoover: Thirty-First President Of The United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Thirty-First President of the United States

Nickname: The Great Humanitarian

Terms in Office: 1929-1933

Fast Stats

  • Born August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa
  • Parents: Jesse Clark and Hulda Randall Minthorn Hoover
  • Died October 20, 1964, in New York City, New York; age 90
  • Age upon Start of Term: 54, Age upon Conclusion of Term: 58
  • Religious Affiliation: Society of Friends (Quaker)
  • Political Party: Republican
  • Height: 6 Feet
  • Vice President: Charles Curtis

The Bottom Line

Herbert Hoover served one term, during which he struggled to combat the Great Depression that began the first year he was in office.

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Women’s Suffrage And The Impact On Presidential Elections – Guest Essayist: Rachel Sheffield

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In the 2012 presidential election, 53 percent of the voters were women. Imagine if women, who make up about 51 percent of the American population, couldn’t vote. It wasn’t that long ago when that was a reality.

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1924, Calvin Coolidge Defeats Robert M. LaFollette, Burton K. Wheeler (Progressive Party), And John W. Davis: The Direct Election Of Presidents – Guest Essayist: Professor Joe Postell

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From today’s standpoint, the presidential election of 1924 might appear to be an oddity or an outlier.  In 1924 the nominees of both parties ran on a conservative domestic agenda of limited government and tax cuts.  For this reason author Garland Tucker calls 1924 “The High Tide of American Conservatism.”

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1920, The Sedition Act And Eugene Debs: Raising Of The Issue Of The “Red Scare” – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The Election of 1920: The Sedition Act, Eugene Debs, and the “Red Scare”

Eugene V. Debs was a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World and a frequent Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America.  Debs became a well-known socialist both through his political activity and as a result of the government’s criminal prosecution of his activities.  Other essays in this series cover the numerous Presidential elections in which Debs ran, as well as the other candidates in the 1920 Presidential election. This essay focuses on the Sedition Act of 1918, Debs, and the “Red Scare.”

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Warren G. Harding: Twenty-Ninth President Of The United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Twenty-Ninth President of the United States

Nickname: Charming Harding

Terms in Office: 1921-1923

Fast Stats

  • Born November 2, 1865, in Blooming Grove, Ohio
  • Parents: George Tryon and Phoebe Elizabeth Dickerson Harding
  • Died August 2, 1923, in San Francisco, California; age 57
  • Age upon Start of Term: 55; Age upon Death: 57
  • Religious Affiliation: Baptist
  • Political Party: Republican
  • Height: 6 feet
  • Vice President: Calvin Coolidge

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1916, Woodrow Wilson Defeats Charles Evans Hughes – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The 1916 Presidential election pitted incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson against Republican Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes.  The election was a very close one and had significant ramifications for the “progressive” movement.

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1912, Eugene Debs’ Socialism And The U. S. Constitution – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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Dissenting from the Supreme Court’s 1905 opinion in Lochner v. New York that found unconstitutional a maximum-hour law for bakery employees, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., declared, “[A] constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of the citizen to the State or of laissez faire.” Holmes’s point is valid at least to the extent that the Framers–most of whom adhered to the then-dominant mercantilism–did not encrypt the grand contours of a particular system of political economy in the Constitution’s provisions aligning and balancing individual liberties and governmental powers. Yet, the Constitution also protects personal rights whose exercise is more likely to be realized in a political system premised on fundamentally liberal (in the classic meaning) conceptions of the role of the government and the individual’s relationship to the State than in a system that rests on a different view of such essential matters.

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1912, Theodore Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” – Guest Essayist: Professor William Morrisey

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By August 1910, Theodore Roosevelt had been out of office for a year and a half. He was unhappy with President William Howard Taft’s performance. Although Roosevelt had effectively designated Taft as his successor and continued to esteem him personally, Taft wanted no part of the rising Progressive movement in American politics. By 1910, Roosevelt did, for reasons that remain controversial.

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1912, Woodrow Wilson Defeats William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs: Woodrow Wilson’s “New Freedom” – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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“The Professor and the Bull Moose” 1912 Election

In June, 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt broke with the tradition of candidates not attending conventions and arrived at the Republican National Convention with great fanfare. He fervently announced, “We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord.” He then proudly labelled himself a “Bull Moose.”

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Progressivism And The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Matthew Spalding

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In The Federalist No. 47 James Madison asserted that “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Indeed, the importance of the separation of powers was so widely accepted by the American public in 1788 that Madison could confidently declare it to be “the sacred maxim of free government.” Today, however, government agencies routinely make, enforce, and adjudicate legally binding rules that have the full force and effect of laws passed by Congress. Such evidence leaves no doubt that there has been a revolutionary shift in the constitutional theory guiding American politics since the time of the American Founding. But how—and why—did this revolution come to be? The answer is to be found in a broad movement known as progressivism that came to dominate both the American academy and government in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.

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1908, William Howard Taft Defeats William Jennings Bryan – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The 1908 Presidential election featured the incumbent Republican President Theodore Roosevelt following through on his promise to not seek a third term and encouraging the Republicans to nominate Secretary of War William Howard Taft.  While a number of third party candidates ran against Taft, the only non-Republican candidate who garnered any significant votes was the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan.  Bryan had been the Democratic nominee for President in 1896 and 1900, but the 1908 election was the most lopsided of his three defeats in the race for President.

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1904 And 1908 Elections: Theodore Roosevelt’s “Square Deal” vs. William Jennings Bryan’s Populism – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The United States Constitution is silent on the subject of corporations.    After the Civil War, as American society began to quickly evolve from agrarian to industrial, politicians from both major parties raised concerns about the rise of corporations, banks, and businesses, and the need for protection of the individual.  Against this backdrop, two important political figures emerged on the national scene.  William Jennings Bryan was a leader of the Populist Party (which would merge with the Democratic Party in 1896) who unsuccessfully ran for President in 1896, 1900 and 1908.  Republican President Theodore Roosevelt proposed a number of “progressive” initiatives through his “Square Deal” program and other policies and positions.  Other essays in this series cover the various Presidential elections in which Bryan and Roosevelt were their parties’ nominees. This essay compares the progressive and populist views of Roosevelt and Bryan, respectively.

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1904, Theodore Roosevelt Defeats Alton Parker: Anti-Trust Legislation – Guest Essayist: Steven Aden

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“The Most Absurd Political Campaign of Our Time”:  Teddy Roosevelt, Alton Parker and the Election of 1904

The candidates who squared off in the presidential election of 1904, Republican President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and Democrat Alton Parker, were both native to New York State; beyond that one commonality, they were a study in contrasts.  Parker was tall and rangy, but with a tentative demeanor that seemed to apologize for looming over others.  Parker resigned his post as the chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to run for the nation’s highest office.  True to his calling and by all accounts a thoughtful decision maker on the bench, Parker was quiet and professorial, and an unimpressive speechmaker with a voice like a cracked reed.   The barrel-chested, bull-voiced Roosevelt, on the other hand, had been tapped for the vice presidency by William McKinley on the strength of his renown as the Rough Rider who led his troops up San Juan Hill in 1898, as if he had carried the country on his shoulders to victory in the Spanish-American War.  The living embodiment of the national will that found its expression in “Manifest Destiny” and the Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt was arguably the most physical president America has ever had.  Sometimes overcome by pent-up energy, Roosevelt would jump up from his seat in the Oval Office and hike in a straight line for five miles, climbing, jumping, and swimming all barriers natural or manmade he encountered on the way.  This exercise exhausted the few staffers and security officers who could keep up with him, but Roosevelt would return refreshed and invigorated.

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1896, William McKinley Defeats William Jennings Bryan: The Gold Standard vs. Bimetallism – Guest Essayist: Karl Rove

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America’s politics leading into the 1896 election looks familiar. The political system was broken: In five presidential elections, no one received 50% and for 20 of 24 years, America had divided government and gridlock in which little got done. The animosity between the parties was beyond normal partisanship: they were still fighting the Civil War.

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William McKinley: Twenty-Fifth President Of The United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Twenty-fifth President of the United States

Nickname: Major McKinley

Terms in Office: 1897–1901; 1901

Fast Stats

  • Born January 29, 1843, in Niles, Ohio
  • Parents: William and Nancy Campbell Allison McKinley
  • Died September 14, 1901, in Buffalo, New York; age 58
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 54; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 58
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 58; Age upon Assassination: 58
  • Religious Affiliation: Methodist
  • Political Party: Republican
  • Height: 5 feet 7 inches
  • Vice President: Garret Hobart (1897–1899); Theodore Roosevelt (March–September 1901)

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Grover Cleveland: Twenty-Second And Twenty-Fourth President Of The United States – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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Grover Cleveland

Twenty-second and Twenty-fourth President of the United States

Nickname: The Veto President

Terms in Office: 1885–1889; 1893–1897

Fast Stats

  • Born March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey
  • Parents: Richard and Anne Neal Cleveland
  • Died June 24, 1908, in Princeton, New Jersey; age 71
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 47; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 51
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 55; Age upon Conclusion of Second Term: 59
  • Political Party: Democratic
  • Religious Affiliation: Presbyterian
  • Height: 5 feet 11 inches
  • Vice Presidents: Thomas A. Hendricks (1885) and Adlai E. Stevenson (1893–1897)

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1888, Benjamin Harrison Defeats Grover Cleveland: The Constitutional Issues Raised By Cleveland’s Veto Of Pension Legislation For Veterans – Guest Essayist: Brion McClanahan

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Portions of this essay are from the chapter “Grover Cleveland” in Brion McClanahan, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016).

Grover Cleveland lost the 1888 election to Benjamin Harrison through voter fraud, and it involved what may be considered the first major lobby group in American history, the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veteran’s organization that had deep pockets and the ability to swing elections in favor of the Republican Party, the real brawn behind the organization.

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1884, Grover Cleveland Defeats James G. Blaine: The Issues Surrounding The Furor Stirred By The “Rum, Romanism, And Rebellion” Slogan, Regarding Religious Freedom And Anti-Catholic Prejudice – Guest Essayist: Peter Roff

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The election of 1884 was the first to put a Democrat in the White House since the Civil War. That it did, albeit narrowly was a testament to the way even the earliest stages of industrialization had transformed the country, setting it on the road to something far removed from its, rural, agricultural, protestant roots.

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1880, James Garfield Defeats Winfield Scott Hancock: The Tariff Controversy, Post-Civil War – Guest Essayist: Kirk Higgins

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When one reflects on the history of the United States, the politics of the Gilded Age are often overlooked. Many find little value in understanding the intricacies of the political wheeling and dealing, often engineered by political machinery in both major parties. Nevertheless, these elections are as a part of the collective American consciousness as any before or since. They are central to understanding the American political character as it dealt with the aftereffects of the great national tragedy that was the American Civil War.

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1876, Rutherford B. Hayes v. Samuel Tilden: Controversy Over Election Returns In This Election – Guest Essayist: Professor Forrest Nabors

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Not long after the Civil War began, the poet Julia Ward Howe witnessed a procession of Union troops near Washington, D.C. Later that night, words stirred her from her sleep; she arose and caught them on paper. The lines of the Battle Hymn of the Republic that Howe penned that night alerted the hearer that God’s retributive justice had awakened, as Jefferson predicted (“his justice cannot sleep forever”), and at that moment, was moving upon the earth.

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1876, Rutherford B. Hayes Defeats Samuel Tilden: The End of Reconstruction – Guest Essayist: Professor Forrest Nabors

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We remember 1865 as the year when our Civil War ended. But by another measure, the standard of von Clausewitz, that war is politics continued by other means, the political conflict that erupted into formal war did not end until after Rutherford B. Hayes was sworn in as president in 1877. The period known as Reconstruction after the war continued that political conflict and was also violent, though the combatants were paramilitaries and its wars were not wars of maneuver with grand armies.

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1872, Civil Service Reform – Guest Essayist: Professor Forrest Nabors

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The regular appearance of remarks on financial corruption in the proceedings of Congress in the Nineteenth Century might seem to indicate that American Government always was susceptible to the highest bidder. Rather, these comments are markers of Americans’ strong dislike and fear of corruption than they are proof that financial corruption was in fact eating the roots of their republicanism. The Americans had good reason to regard financial corruption in their government as an unmitigated evil, and so they loudly denounced it when they espied it, and publicly shamed, if not impeached, corrupt politicians upon discovery.

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1872, Ulysses S. Grant Defeats Horace Greeley: The Continuing Controversies Over Reconstruction – Guest Essayist: Professor Forrest Nabors

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The old bromide that politics makes strange bedfellows was never truer than during Reconstruction, from 1865-1877, a period of profound political chaos. Coalitions unexpectedly broke apart and unexpected coalitions formed. And never did America experience a presidential election that was more strange than the presidential election of 1872. The deep cause of this chaos was that the entire American political regime was undergoing change.

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1868, Constitutional Issues Surrounding Black Suffrage – Guest Essayist: Professor Forrest Nabors

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How should we understand the laggard steps of the United States towards the legal enforcement of equal civil and political rights for black Americans? A prevailing sense among Americans today is that the end of legal discrimination was the result of historical evolution. That is, beginning from a morally retrograde starting point, the nation grew and gradually shed its impure prejudices. Partial victories opened new opportunities for more victories, until this evolution culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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1868, Ulysses S. Grant Defeats Horatio Seymour: Reconstruction And The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Professor Forrest Nabors

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Fearless and firm under fire, unflaggingly modest despite reverent acclaim, and always practical – these outstanding qualities of Ulysses S. Grant are acknowledged, whether begrudgingly or enthusiastically, by the many critics of his presidency as well as by his defenders. Grant was quintessentially American, and yet as a leader he proved that his particular mixture of quintessentially American qualities represented the best of us, which might explain why his soldiers trusted him, the northern people adored him and the southern people respected him.

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Civil War Amendments – Guest Essayist: James Legee

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For nearly the first century of her existence, America had left a promise unfulfilled to both the souls that resided within her borders, as well as humanity at large.  That promise, largely taken for granted today, cost the blood of nearly five thousand in the American Revolution and hundreds of thousands in the Civil War, is the revolutionary idea expressed in the Declaration of Independence that every person is born equal.  The Civil War and Reconstruction fundamentally altered the Union, and most certainly for the better.  The Civil War Amendments, the 13th, 14th, and 15th, sought to fulfill the promise of equality for those enslaved.

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1864, Holding A Presidential Election During A Civil War – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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When asked what might derail his agenda for his new Conservative Party government, former British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan is said to have responded, “Events, dear boy. Events.” That aptly describes how the political fortunes of war-time Presidents play out. It is surprisingly difficult for incumbent commanders-in-chief to win even if military campaigns are successful. True, Franklin Roosevelt won in 1944. But, even as the Allies were defeating the Axis powers, the popular Roosevelt won with the lowest percentage margin of victory of his campaigns. When elections occurred while the war effort appeared to be flagging, incumbents have fared badly. In 1952, as a result of the Korean War stalemate, President Harry Truman could not even win re-nomination by his own party, and the Democrats lost decisively. In a similar vein, in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson declined to pursue the Democratic Party nomination for re-election after the newscaster Walter Cronkite and other elements of the media turned the disastrous and strategic military defeat of the Viet Cong during the Tet offensive into a prevailing popular tale of American defeat.

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1864, Abraham Lincoln Defeats George McClellan: Constitutional Issues Raised By Lincoln’s Conduct Of The War – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The Election of 1864: Constitutional Issues Raised by Lincoln’s Conduct of the War

The 1864 election pitted the incumbent, Republican President Abraham Lincoln, against George McClellan of the Democratic Party.  It was the first election since 1840 in which an incumbent was renominated by his own party.  A major focus of the election was the Civil War and the divided Union.  Lincoln’s actions as President would also be considered by the electorate, which reelected him in a landslide.

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1860, Abraham Lincoln’s Understanding of the Constitution, Part 2: The Importance Of The Union – Guest Essayist: David J. Shestokas

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“… if constitutionally we elect a President, and therefore you undertake to destroy the Union, it will be our duty to deal with you as old John Brown has been dealt with.”
– Abraham Lincoln, December 3, 1859

John Brown had been hanged for treason on December 2, 1859.  Brown had lead a raid on the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia on October 16.  Brown and his group had intended to secure weapons to arm slaves for a revolt against their masters. The United States Marines, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee captured the raiders, foiling the plan. On November 2, Brown received his death sentence.

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1860, Abraham Lincoln’s Understanding Of The Constitution, Part 1: Its Relation To The Declaration Of Independence – Guest Essayist: J. Eric Wise

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“One would start with great confidence that he could convince any sane child that the simpler propositions of Euclid are true; but, nevertheless, he would fail, utterly, with one who should deny the definitions and axioms. The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free society.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Henry L. Pierce in 1859

Euclid’s geometry begins with five postulates or axioms (e.g., the first postulate, a straight line may be drawn between any two points) that cannot be demonstrated from other principles. The axioms to which Lincoln refers are, of course, the “self-evident” propositions in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created and equal and entitled to inalienable rights. Just as a right triangle cannot be comprehended if the first postulate of Euclid is denied, to Lincoln’s understanding a free society cannot be constructed if Jefferson’s postulates of equality and inalienable right are denied.

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1860, John Bell’s Understanding Of The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The election of 1860 featured a number of candidates vying for the Presidency, with the tensions over slavery at the forefront.   Abraham Lincoln would carry the North for the Republican Party and win the election over numerous candidates, including three contenders that garnered significant votes.  Other essays in this series cover the 1860 Presidential election and certain of the candidates.  This essay focuses on John Bell, the 1860 nominee for President from the newly formed Constitutional Union Party, and his understanding of the Constitution.

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1860, John C. Breckinridge’s Understanding Of The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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Election of 1860

John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky entered the year 1860 as Vice President, having been elected to that office in 1856 as a Democrat from the Stephen Douglas wing of the party. Taking the oath of office when barely 36 years old, one year above the constitutional minimum, he remains the youngest man elected to that office. When the Whig party collapsed because its intrinsic identity as a national party was ground up between the sectional millstones over slavery, the Republican Party emerged as, initially, a staunch anti-slavery movement. Buoyed by its success in the 1858 congressional elections, the party expanded its political agenda. It strongly supported the Union, and moderated, but did not abandon, its official opposition on slavery. By 1860, it was the party of the North, which former Northern Whigs joined enthusiastically.

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1860, Stephen Douglas’ Understanding Of The Constitution – Guest Essayist: David J. Shestokas

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“Tell them to obey the laws and uphold the Constitution.”
Stephen A. Douglas, deathbed instructions for his sons, June 3, 1861[1]

Stephen Douglas’ instruction to his sons to uphold the Constitution should have been quite clear. He had spent three decades in public life, including 18 years in the United States Congress. He had given hundreds if not thousands of speeches on the critical constitutional issues of his day:  organization and admission of new states and the regulation of slavery in territories purchased from France and won in war with Mexico.

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1860, Abraham Lincoln Defeats Stephen Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, John Bell: Constitutional Issues Surrounding Secessionism And “The Crisis Of The House Divided” – Guest Essayist: James D. Best

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The election of 1860 would polarize the nation and challenge the durability of the Constitution. In 1787, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia established a new government for the United States of America. For over seventy years, the country had fought fierce political battles over slavery and federalism. Compromises, pacts, and informal precedents managed to hold the country together. This still-young nation would soon become engulfed in a savage civil war that would eventually complete the work begun in 1787.

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1860, Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address And Mathew Brady’s Lincoln Photo: The Making Of The President – Guest Essayist: James D. Best

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The Making of the President 1860—Mathew Brady and the Cooper Union Address

Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential campaign, yet on a national level, he had served only a single term in the House of Representatives. He had gained renown from his famed debates with Senator Douglas, but remained a minor political figure. How did he make himself a viable candidate? He pulled off this feat in a single day—Monday, February 27, 1860.

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1856, The Rise Of The Republican Party – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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The 1850s was, for the American political party system, a decade of “creative destruction,” to borrow a concept from the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter. This process of collapse and rebirth, sometimes referred to as a political “realignment,” was triggered by the internal contradictions of a constitutional order resting simultaneously on the animating principle of liberty and the continued protection of slavery. The catalyst was the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Lewis Cass-Henry Clay-Stephen Douglas “popular sovereignty” approach to slavery in the territories, and the resultant spectacle of “Bleeding Kansas” as the preface to the Civil War.

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1856, James Buchanan Defeats Millard Fillmore, John C. Fremont: The Kansas-Nebraska Act – Guest Essayist: James D. Best

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1856 Race for President—James Buchanan defeats Millard Fillmore and John C. Fremont

The political scene in 1856 was chaotic. The Whig Party had collapsed because of a regional dispute over slavery. The American Party (Know-Nothings) had scooped up Whig remnants to rail against immigrants and Catholics. The new Republican Party, formed to fight slavery, feverishly pulled together abolitionists from wherever they could find them. Democrats, the last functioning national party, worked hard to stifle their own riff between the free and slave states. These three parties, one wounded and two newborn, would fight for the presidency. A dubious prize since seven presidents in a row had served a single term or less.

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1852, Franklin Pierce Defeats Winfield Scott, John Pitale: The Controversy Over The Fugitive Slave Act Of 1850 – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The 1852 election pitted Franklin Pierce of the Democratic Party against General Winfield Scott of the Whig Party, John P. Hale of the Free Soil Party, Daniel Webster of the Union Party, Jacob Broom of the Native American Party, and George Troop of the Southern Rights Party.  In nominating Pierce, the Whig party refused to renominate the incumbent, President Millard Fillmore.  Pierce won the election in a significant Electoral College landslide over General Scott, 254-42.  As with the 1848 election, and for the next several presidential elections, a major focus of the election was on the question of slavery, especially the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Compromise of 1850.

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Election Of 1848: Abolitionism And The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The 1848 election pitted former President Martin Van Buren of the Free Soil Party against Zachary Taylor of the Whig Party, Gerrit Smith of the Liberty Party, and Lewis Cass of the Democratic Party.  The incumbent, President James Polk, did not seek reelection due to his declining health and his prior promise to serve only one term.  A major focus of election was the question of slavery and whether it would extend to the Western states.   Zachary Taylor narrowly won the election, becoming the third of four Whig Party members to become President of the United States.  As described below, Van Buren’s candidacy on behalf of the Free Soil Party likely influenced the outcome in Taylor’s favor.

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1848, Zachary Taylor Defeats Martin Van Buren, Lewis Cass: Popular Sovereignty In The Territories, Cass’s Issue That Would Affect U. S. Constitutional Politics For The Next Decade – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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The Missouri Compromise of 1820, it has been said often, delayed the Civil War for a generation. The act could not, however, eliminate the reality of slavery and the inherent contradiction of such an institution existing in a society founded on the idea of freedom. The Compromise had loaded the dice in favor of at least a gradual erosion of the slave states’ power, thereby also virtually guaranteeing a serious clash, if those states eventually found themselves in an existential political trap.

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1844, The Issue Of Oregon Territorial Boundary – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!

In the early 1840s, thousands of settlers from the Midwest traveled to Independence, Missouri, where they loaded hundreds of pounds of food, tools, and supplies on their oxen-drawn wagons.  They launched an epic overland trek 2,000 miles to the Oregon Territory and braved its dangers in order to participate in the fur trade in earlier decades, but now mostly for farm land.  The individual decisions of these ordinary Americans in search of opportunity in the West would have implications for international affairs and the election of 1844.

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1844, James K. Polk Defeats Henry Clay, James Birney – Texas Annexation As It Related To The Issue Of Slavery: Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The election of 1844 was notable in that the incumbent Whig President, John Tyler, who ascended to the Presidency when President William Henry Harrison died one month after his inauguration, was not nominated by his party to seek a second term as President.  Tyler’s focus on the annexation of Texas as a slave state set the themes for the 1844 presidential election and also led to James K. Polk becoming the Democratic President.

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1841, The Presidency Of John Tyler – Guest Essayist: John S. Baker

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Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House, a Wall Street Journal Book; James Taranto and Leonard Leo, Editors; Free Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

 

Tyler understood the president’s role under the Constitution. His defense of the presidency against Congress and his own party should have earned him a more appreciated place in history.

 
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1840, William Henry Harrison Defeats Martin Van Buren: The Appeal Of Running Military Heroes For President And The Issue Of Generalship As A Qualification For Executive Office – Guest Essayist: Lisa Ice-Jones

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“The President holds the sword of the community” and the Congress “not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules.” The “judiciary has no force or will, but merely an opinion.” Alexander Hamilton states all of this in his Federalist paper #78. The framers knew this separation of power was an important one. Knowing how to wield a sword designated an American patriot but could not and would not be the sole source of power. (Paulsen, 2015)

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1836, The Tariff Issue And The Constitution – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The Election of 1836: The Tariff Issue, Nullification and the Constitution

The 1836 Presidential election saw Democratic incumbent Vice President Martin Van Buren win the election in a campaign that featured four candidates from the newly-formed Whig Party running against Van Buren by region against a background of Southern threats of nullification and secession, caused chiefly by opposition to federal tariff laws as well as by the issue of slavery. The two-term incumbent, Democrat President Andrew Jackson, decided not to seek a third term and supported his Vice President, Van Buren.  Jackson’s second term and the tariff issue and nullification strategy helped lead to the formation of the Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 in opposition to Jackson and his policies.  The 1836 election was the first in which the Whig Party sought to have a party member as President.  The Whig Party strategy to regionalize the electoral votes in 1836 failed, with Van Buren capturing the Presidency.

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1836, Martin Van Buren Defeats William Henry Harrison, Daniel Webster, Hugh White: The Unusual Practice Of Running Three Candidates By One Party (The Whigs) In Different Parts Of The Country – Guest Essayist: Lisa Ice-Jones

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Martin Van Buren was victorious over the Whig Party and its slate of candidates in the election of 1836, but the preparation for this victory had been a long time coming.  Van Buren had been championing the causes of Jefferson’s Democratic Republican party since early in his career.  He was, through his affiliation with his own political machine the “Albany Regency”, described as one of them and having great ability, great industry, indomitable courage and strict personal integrity.”  He later illustrated that he was capable of shrewd political maneuvering.    He chose to “tred generally in the footsteps of President Jackson” (Moore, 2007) but he also knew when to distance himself.  Because Jackson was a popular President with the people, they liked Van Buren’s alignment with Jackson.  They also liked the fact that Jackson trusted Van Buren even though Henry Clay, with his political magnetism, tried to convince the people that Van Buren was Jackson’s puppet and that Jackson would be controlling him from behind the scenes.

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1832, The Anti-Masonic Controversy – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The election of 1832 featured the incumbent Democratic President, Andrew Jackson, against National Republican Party candidate Henry Clay as the main contender.  Jackson easily won re-election.  A third party, the Anti-Masonic Party, also nominated a candidate, William Wirt, who received just under 8% of the popular vote but only 7 of the 286 Electoral College votes.  Formed as a single-issue party, the Anti-Masonic Party had a short lifespan on the American political stage.

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1832, Andrew Jackson Defeats Henry Clay, William Wirt: Re-Chartering Of The Bank Of The U.S. – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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“The Bank, Mr. Van Buren, is trying to kill me, but I shall kill it,” President Andrew Jackson ominously declared on July 4, 1832, to his political confidante and future vice-president, Martin Van Buren, during the apex of his struggle with the Second Bank of the United States.

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1828, Controversy Over Andrew Jackson’s War Record And The Question Of Civilian Control Over The Military – Guest Essayist: Professor William Morrisey

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1828: The General and the Presidency

Americans remember Andrew Jackson’s victory over John Quincy Adams in 1828 as the General’s revenge for his narrow loss to Adams four years earlier, when no candidate received a majority in the Electoral College, the election devolved to Congress, and Henry Clay threw his support to the man most likely to endorse his “American System”—the network of public works or “internal improvements” Clay fought for throughout his career. In accepting the grateful president-elect’s offer of the Secretary of State, Clay opened himself and his ally to the charge of a  “corrupt bargain”—a charge Andrew Jackson fervently believed true, and one he and his political allies kept alive for the next four years.

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1828, Andrew Jackson Defeats John Quincy Adams: The Two-Party System – Guest Essayist: Professor Mark Cheathem

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Andrew Jackson’s defeat of John Quincy Adams in the 1828 presidential election has often been heralded as the beginning of the second American party system. While historians today offer a more complicated interpretation of the two-party system that emerged in the 1820s and 1830s, the 1828 contest between Jackson and Adams was unquestionably a pivotal turning point in American political history.

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1824, The Second Instance Of An Election Decided In The House Of Representatives – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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The election of 1824 was eerily similar to the 2016 campaign.  It was characterized by fierce personal attacks launched by the surrogates of candidates and by the candidates who accused each other of corruption.  Several establishment candidates ran but failed to rouse the base.  One highly popular candidate ran as an anti-establishment, Washington outsider and was widely accused of being a demagogue.  The partisan media lined up for their favorite candidates.  Economic issues ruled the day with many concerned about government intervention in the economy while others railed against “the interests.”

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1824, John Quincy Adams Defeats Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, And William Crawford: Party Nominating Conventions And Popular Votes In Elections – Guest Essayist: Professor Joseph Postell

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The 1824 presidential election produced the infamous “Corrupt Bargain,” in which the House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams as President rather than Andrew Jackson, who finished first in the popular vote and in the Electoral College (but did not reach a majority in either).  More important, however, is the fact that the 1824 election led to the creation of strong political parties and the system of national nominating conventions for the two main parties.

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McCulloch v. Maryland: Not Quite A Campaign Issue? – Guest Essayist: Professor Robert Lowry Clinton

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McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheaton (17 U.S.) 316 (1819), is widely regarded as the landmark case defining the boundaries of power between national and state government in the American federal system. In McCulloch, the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice John Marshall, explored the extent of implied congressional power under the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The Court also determined the effect of the National Supremacy Clause in Article VI when an exercise of state authority conflicts with a national law.

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1820, James Monroe Won Unopposed: The Missouri Compromise – Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter

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The Election of 1820: The Uncontested Race and the Missouri Compromise

The election of 1820 was the last presidential contest in which the ticket ran virtually unopposed.  President James Monroe and his Vice President, Daniel D. Tompkins, won all but one electoral vote, which went to John Quincy Adams.  The only other president elected without opposition had been George Washington in 1788 and 1792.  The Federalist Party ran no presidential candidate and the election effectively marked the end of the Federalist Party.  Monroe’s re-election came in the wake of Congressional debate on Missouri Compromise, which had been passed by the Senate and was still pending in the House at the time of the election.

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1816, Constitutional Issues Surrounding The Second Bank Of The U. S. – Guest Essayist: Professor Kyle Scott

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The debate over the First and Second Banks of the United States expose the difficulties of constitutional interpretation. Additionally, the debate surrounding the Second Bank of the United States is a study of how principles can give way to political expediency. The following essay will provide a brief overview the Banks, discuss the constitutional debate surrounding the Banks, and then discuss the Second Bank as it relates to the presidential election of 1816 in which James Monroe succeeded James Madison by defeating Rufus King.

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1816, James Monroe Defeats Rufus King: The Hartford Convention – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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Rufus King: delegate from Massachusetts to both the Confederation Congress and the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (where, he was one of five members of the influential Committee of Style), long-time U.S. Senator from New York, unsuccessful candidate for governor of New York, two-time American ambassador to Great Britain (where his first successor was James Monroe), and three times unsuccessful Federalist Party candidate for high executive office in the general government—twice for vice-president and once for president. It was this patriot’s lot to lead the disgraced and disintegrating rump of the Federalist Party in its last national campaign.

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James Madison Defeats DeWitt Clinton: The Wartime Election Of 1812 – Guest Essayist: Sam Agami

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The waging of war is the greatest challenge any person in national authority can face.  It is an all-consuming task.  It is an undertaking that can destroy both leader and nation.  Of all governments, Constitutional Republics face the greatest challenge.  Conscripting armies, rationing materials, the issuing and obeying of unquestionable orders; all of these go against the very nature of a Constitutional republic.  In a time where national sovereignty is at stake, it is tempting to overlook the importance of core principles such as the consent of the governed and rule of law.  How many republics across the globe have transitioned into military dictatorships that started as temporary states of emergency?   As Abraham Lincoln so famously reflected in Gettysburg in 1863, “…we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived (in liberty) and so dedicated can long endure…”    

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1808, James Madison Defeats Charles Pinckney: The Embargo Act Of 1807 – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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On June 22, 1807, the American frigate USS Chesapeake set sail from Norfolk, Virginia for the waters of the Atlantic to join in a squadron heading to the Mediterranean to battle the Barbary Pirates.  The 50-gun British warship HMS Leopard immediately pounced upon the ship and sought to board her seeking deserters from the Royal Navy.  When American Commodore James Barron refused the demand, the Leopard fired a warning shot and then loosed a deadly broadside at the Chesapeake.  The thunderous barrage was followed by others, and the beleaguered American ship could only offer meager resistance.  As the smoke drifted around the opposing ships, three American sailors lay dead and eighteen writhed in agony from horrific wounds.  Barron had no choice but to surrender, and the British seized four seamen though only one was a British subject.

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1804, The Constitutional Significance Of The Louisiana Purchase: An Election Issue – Guest Essayist: Professor Robert McDonald

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The best argument against Thomas Jefferson’s 1804 reelection might well have been his presidency’s greatest success. The purchase of Louisiana doubled the nation in size, ensured the free flow of commerce along the Mississippi, and removed from the continent the threat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s France, which would soon take possession of the territory from Spain. Yet it was also unconstitutional—as Jefferson understood.

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1804, Thomas Jefferson Defeats Charles Pinckney: The Significance Of The 12th Amendment – Guest Essayist: James Legee

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The election of 1804 is markedly less significant than the “Revolution of 1800.”  While the triumph of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans over Adams and Hamilton’s Federalist Party is noted by Jefferson as an event that “will ameliorate the condition of man over a great portion of the globe,” 1804 failed to merit such hope for the future of humanity.  It would, however, measure the ability of the new Constitution to remedy itself through the amendment process and lead us to questions on the nature of the executive branch and what representation in a republic means.

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1800, Electoral College Tie Between Jefferson And Burr, Throwing An Election Into The House Of Representatives For The First Time – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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Today, having the House of Representatives elect the president seems strange, almost freakish. But to the Framers, the participation of the House in this process was expected to be common-place. The problem arises out of the practical need for at least a two-step procedure. There first must be a mechanism to nominate a number of candidates for the office and, second, a process to select the winner from those nominees.

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Election Of 1800: Constitutional Implications Of The Alien & Sedition Acts – Guest Essayist: Tony Williams

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In the summer of 1798, the capital of Philadelphia was gripped by several fevers.  Ships from the tropical West Indies brought Yellow Fever to several port cities including Philadelphia, causing thousands to flee for their lives as the number of victims escalated.  The epidemic, however, hardly compared to the political fever taking hold over the country.

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1800, Thomas Jefferson Defeats John Adams: The First Peaceful Transfer Of The Presidency From One Political Party To Another – Guest Essayist: Kevin Gutzman

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John Adams’ narrow victory over Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1796 foreshadowed the contentious political environment of Adams’ sole term. Soon enough, the Republican opposition went into full battle mode, and Adams’ refusal to respond by playing party chieftain goes a long way toward explaining his narrow loss in 1800. Read more

1796, John Adams Defeats Thomas Jefferson: Surviving America’s First Election Between Competing Political Parties – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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Six months before his retirement from the presidency, George Washington gave a farewell address to the nation. Among several memorable passages is his warning about the evils of the spirit of party, particularly as it manifests itself in republican forms of government. “This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature having its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments…; but in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.” Read more

1792, George Washington Sets The Tone For America As Its First Elected President – Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath

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In early 1790, in just the second year of the general government under the new constitution, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton delivered on the charge made to him by the first Congress in 1789 to prepare a plan for the “adequate support of public credit.” This First Report on the Public Credit proposed to pay off the foreign and domestic debt at par through new U.S. bonds, which, in turn, were to be paid off through import duties and excise taxes, such as those on whiskey. To help tie disparate creditors of the states to the national program, the general government also would assume the Revolutionary War debts of the states. Later that year, he submitted the related Report on the Bank of the United States. This analogue to the Bank of England, but owned principally by private investors and with branches set up in various states, was to provide the core of a nascent banking system necessary for the country’s commercial development.

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1789: George Washington And The First Presidential Election Under The New Constitution – Guest Essayist: James D. Best

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The First Presidential Campaign—George Washington, 1788-89

George Washington won the first presidency under the newly established Constitution. He ran unopposed, professed not to want the job, remained for the most part at Mount Vernon, and yet won unanimously. Many believe he never campaigned, but instead acquiesced to a call to duty from his countrymen. Perhaps it was not so simple.

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Does The Electoral College Still Work? – Guest Essayist: Tara Ross

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Our founding generation would doubtless be surprised to discover that America’s presidential election system has become the subject of some controversy.

Indeed, our Founders were rather proud of the process they’d created.

“The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1788, “is almost the only part of the system . . . which has escaped without severe censure . . . . I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”

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Why Was The Electoral College Created? – Guest Essayist: Tara Ross

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The Electoral College may be one of America’s most misunderstood institutions.  How often do you hear a media outlet or school textbook gratuitously bash our presidential election system as “outdated” or “archaic”? It’s said to be a relic of the horse and buggy era—a process created by slaveholding Founders who didn’t trust the people to govern themselves.

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Millennials’ Time To Choose – Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner

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If one were to look through the list of America’s past presidents, one would quickly conclude that many of the men who held our nation’s highest office would not have reached the Oval Office if they ran today. For example, James Madison’s soft voice and small stature would have branded him as too meek and complacent to serve, Andrew Jackson’s mistake of marrying a technically-still-married-woman would have been the subject of countless attack adds, Abraham Lincoln’s strange looks and history of deep depression would have deterred many voters, Theodore Roosevelt’s choice to leave his infant daughter behind while he wrangled the wild west would have been looked upon as unsound judgment, Warren Harding’s extramarital flings would have inevitably surfaced quickly in the primaries, Franklin Roosevelt’s fragile health would have caused his opponents to label him as unable to serve…and the list goes on and on.

So what changed? Read more