Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008) – Guest Essayist: State Representative David Eastman

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Does the Constitution Give Americans the Right to Vote Without Photo Identification?

In 2005, the State of Indiana passed a state law requiring that most Indiana voters who voted on Election Day would have to show government-issued photo ID before voting. The law provided an exception for those who lived in senior centers, and provided an alternate method of voting if you lost, forgot, or could not afford to get a photo ID. Note: The law also provided free state photo ID’s to those who did not already possess an Indiana driver’s license.

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Dennis v. United States (1951) – Guest Essayist: State Representative David Eastman

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Is Advocating the Violent Overthrow of the United States a First Amendment Right?

On June 22nd 1940, France surrendered to Germany, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Smith Act the very same day. It was believed that the rapid fall of France was due in no small part to subversion by communists allied with Germany. There was concern that U.S. entry into the war might lead to similar subversive plots taking place here in the United States. Most prominently, the Smith Act made it illegal to advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government or to form an organization for that purpose. Read more

Furman v. Georgia (1972) – Guest Essayist: State Representative David Eastman

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Is the Death Penalty Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Furman v. Georgia was another 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court; meaning, that if any one of the nine justices on the Supreme Court had changed their mind, the result would have been very different. The case dealt with three men who had been convicted in either Georgia or Texas. Two of the men were convicted of rape. The third was convicted of murder. All three men were given the death sentence following separate jury trials. 

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Adair v. United States (1908) – Guest Essayist: State Representative David Eastman

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Can Congress Discriminate Against Non-Union Members?

In 1898, Congress passed the Erdman Act, making it a crime to fire an employee for belonging to a union. Because the Constitution does not expressly give the federal government the power to regulate employment, Congress limited the law to apply only to employees involved in interstate commerce, thereby taking advantage of a clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which states:

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Untried Weapons — Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 7) – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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Previous essays in this series explored why the Constitution is ineffective at restraining federal officials today, and illustrated how members of the present generation must come to view their relationship to the Constitution if it is to be of service in effectively limiting federal overreach. The most recent essay highlighted current efforts to amend the Constitution through an Article V convention. The series now concludes with another largely untried weapon in the citizen’s arsenal today; issue-based legislative accountability.

A Deaf Congress

In 2014, researchers at Princeton University released the results of an exhaustive study that analyzed more than twenty years of federal policy. The study evaluated various actors and the effect that they had on public policy. After examining literally thousands of laws and how those laws came to be made, they were forced to admit that ‘the number of American voters for or against an idea has literally no impact on the likelihood that Congress will make it law.’ Specifically, they concluded that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the level of political sincerity possessed by the average American today is miniscule, near zero, statistically insignificant.

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Untried Weapons — Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 6) – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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Previous essays in this series explored why the Constitution is ineffective at restraining federal officials today, and illustrated how members of the present generation must come to view their relationship to the Constitution if it is to be of service in effectively limiting federal overreach. This series now concludes by highlighting two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints today; issue-based legislative accountability, and the calling of a convention of states to amend the United States Constitution.

A Convention for Our Time

When we survey the Constitution today, it is increasingly difficult to picture it as the splendid banner raised by Washington and his fellow delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Nor does it today call to mind the iron chains described by Thomas Jefferson when he spoke of binding men down from mischief “by the chains of the Constitution.” Instead, the Constitution hangs frayed and tattered today, a silent witness to more than two centuries of flying above our nation’s capital. Its form has changed very little since 1787, but much of the life has gone out of it. Some today have begun to ask if it isn’t time for another convention—and in no state is this idea greeted with greater enthusiasm than here in Alaska. Holding a convention would open the door to a whole series of amendments, which could add new thread to a tattered banner, and in so doing breathe new life into the Constitution. Even so, when the idea of a second convention first began to gain traction in 1788, James Madison argued that the timing of any future conventions should be chosen only with great care. Whether the timing is right for another convention is an important question, and one to which any serious student of the Constitution should give careful consideration.

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Untried Weapons – Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 5) – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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This essay continues a series exploring briefly why the Constitution is ineffective at restraining federal officials today, and illustrates how members of the present generation must come to view their relationship to the Constitution if it is to be of service in effectively responding to federal overreach. The series will conclude by highlighting two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints; issue-based legislative accountability, and a convention of states to amend the US Constitution.

The Constitution in the 21st Century

The two hundred and forty years of our independence as a nation are replete with examples of times that our constitutional forms were temporarily set aside, and sometimes by our nation’s most revered statesmen. The claim of public necessity was used sparingly at first, but it is now made by presidents with an alarming frequency, and in recent years simply on the grounds that Congress has been slow to act. While the nation was once strict in drawing distinctions between matters of truly dire emergencies and matters of mere presidential impatience, it is claimed by some today that the American people have adopted a much more permissive posture and no longer have need of a Constitution whose primary role is simply to serve as an impediment to progress and “the political will of the people”. The nature of the Constitution as a political document is now readily admitted. What is now more likely to be questioned is whether it is—and should remain—a legal document as well. As Washington forewarned us, we have now reached that point where change by usurpation has become the custom of the land.[1]

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Untried Weapons – Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 4) – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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This essay continues a series exploring briefly why the Constitution is ineffective at restraining federal officials today, and illustrates how members of the present generation must come to view their relationship to the Constitution if it is to be of service in effectively responding to federal overreach. The series will conclude by highlighting two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints; issue-based legislative accountability, and a convention of states to amend the US Constitution.

The Constitution and the Permissive Public

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton made the rather unremarkable observation that “…nations pay little regard to rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to the necessities of society.”[1] For an example, he drew from antiquity the case of Sparta’s highly decorated admiral, Lysander, in the Peloponnesian War. Term limits in Sparta required that Lysander resign as admiral at the end of his one year term of office and that no person could hold the office of admiral a second time. Yet when Sparta suffered a naval defeat, Lysander was soon called upon to lead the Spartan Navy once more in battle. Hamilton noted “how unequal parchment provisions are to a struggle with public necessity.” To paraphrase; it isn’t a fair fight. When constitutional limitations are paired against public necessity in the boxing ring, it’s like trying to take on an opponent whose weight class is three classes higher than yours. Sure, you may get a few punches in. You may even secure a few concessions from your opponent in the process. But in the end, constitutional limitations will inevitably succumb to perceptions of public necessity.

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Untried Weapons – Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 3) – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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This essay continues a series exploring briefly why the Constitution is ineffective at restraining federal officials today, and illustrates how members of the present generation must come to view their relationship to the Constitution if it is to be of service in effectively responding to federal overreach. The series will conclude by highlighting two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints; issue-based legislative accountability, and a convention of states to amend the US Constitution.

Continuous Physical Reconnaissance

One of the lessons drilled into cadets at West Point, until it begins to find its way into their dreams at night, is the absolutely vital requirement to observe friendly obstacles on the battlefield. Army doctrine on this is as straightforward as it is inflexible: “Continuous physical reconnaissance of protective obstacles is extremely critical. Units must keep protective obstacles under continuous observation at all times” (Army Field Manual 90-7).

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Untried Weapons – Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 2) – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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This essay continues a series exploring briefly why the Constitution is ineffective at constraining federal officials today, and highlighting two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints, both of which claim support from the Constitution and America’s Founding Fathers.

The Constitution in Tatters

As a document setting effective limits on the power of the federal government, the Constitution today lies tattered and worn, each article a testament to a battle lost and a fortification overrun (or bypassed) on the way to the consolidation of power in Washington. Some beginning students of the Constitution today are perplexed and genuinely wonder how it could be that a document that reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” can today have nearly the same effect as if the Framers had instead decided “the powers not delegated to the States by the Constitution will be reserved to the federal government.” Beginning students are particularly prone to reason that if it is simply written in the Constitution, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, it must be so, and that’s all there is to it.

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Untried Weapons – Repairing The Tattered Remains Of A Constitution That Has Not Been Tried And Found Wanting, But That Has Been Found Difficult; And Left Untried (Part 1)* – Guest Essayist: David Eastman

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This essay is the first in a series inspired by federal overreach in Alaska. The series explores briefly why the Constitution is ineffective at constraining federal officials today, and evaluates two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints; issue based legislative accountability and a convention of states to amend the United States Constitution, both of which claim support from the Constitution and America’s Founding Fathers.

At the outset of the Constitutional Convention, George Washington rose and declared to each of his fellow delegates “If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.”[1]

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Friday, May 17, 2013 – Essay #65 – Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens – Guest Essayist: David Eastman, Claremont Institute Abraham Lincoln Fellow

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On March 4th 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president.  One week later, The Constitution of the Confederate States of America was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Montgomery, Alabama.2  Midway into the ratification process, on March 21st, provisionally elected Vice President of the Confederate States, Alexander Stephens, mounted the stage of the Athenaeum Theatre in Savannah and delivered what has come to be known as the Cornerstone Speech.  Read more

June 14, 2012 – Essay #84 – Proposed Congressional Apportionment Amendment, Essayist: David Eastman, 2011 Claremont Institute Abraham Lincoln Fellow

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http://vimeo.com/44015708

Before we conclude our 90 Day Amendment Study, we now take a look at some pending Constitutional Amendments, which have not been adopted:

The first in this short series is an amendment on Congressional Apportionment – Essayist: David Eastman, 2011 Claremont Institute Abraham Lincoln Fellow

Proposed Congressional Apportionment Amendment

“After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.”

Few today may be able to tell you, but the most immediate concern in the minds of many Americans following the adoption of the Constitution was not first amendment rights concerning freedom of speech, but rather first amendment rights concerning the number of representatives in Congress. And though it receives comparatively little attention in our own day, it was this issue that the Congress was compelled to tackle in the very first constitutional amendment it adopted (September 25, 1789).

Concerns over congressional apportionment predated ratification of the Constitution and were the subject of fully three of the Federalist Papers, in one of which Madison remarked “Scarce any article, indeed, in the whole Constitution seems to be rendered more worthy of attention by the weight of character and the apparent force of argument with which it has been assailed” (Federalist 55). The initial apportionment scheme that generated such high-spirited controversy was as follows:

“The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative…”

New Hampshire (3)
Massachusetts (8)
Rhode Island (1)
Connecticut (5)
New York (6)
New Jersey (4)
Pennsylvania (8)
Delaware (1)
Maryland (6)
Virginia (10)
North Carolina (5)
South Carolina (5)
Georgia (3)
Total (65)

Madison defended this portion of the proposed Constitution against a two-pronged attack: first, that the number of representatives in Congress, being too few, was inadequate to prevent corruption of the legislative body; and second, that such a number would deprive the body of sufficient knowledge owing to the inability of members of Congress to effectively represent such a large number of constituents. Also relevant was the concern that if the House of Representatives were ever to become too numerous, its character as a representative body would be undermined. Despite Madison’s best efforts to answer these concerns, they persisted, leading several states to propose amendments to this portion of the Constitution, which they submitted to the Articles Congress with their respective ratification documents.

These, and other requests submitted by the states, resulted in the first twelve amendments passed by the United States Congress and submitted to the states on September 25, 1789. Ten of the twelve were soon adopted as the Bill of Rights, and the eleventh would lay silently awaiting ratification until approved by the State of Michigan and finally added to the Constitution 202 years later, on May 7, 1992.

The twelfth and final amendment, the Congressional Apportionment Amendment, was ratified by a majority of states at the time of its passage, but less than the three-fourths required for adoption. This could be due in part to a transcription error that resulted in a mathematically impossible apportionment formula once the population of the United States reached 8 million and before it reached 10 million. The apportionment scheme now in use is determined by Congress, in keeping with the original text of the Constitution.

As it has already secured the approval of Congress, the Apportionment Amendment could follow the path taken by the 27th Amendment and be adopted if ratified by additional states. However, its passage today is unlikely, not only due to the passage of time but also due to the fact that approval would be of limited practical effect as the scheme currently approved by Congress is already in harmony with the Amendment. It seems Congress has been successful, at least as concerns this particular amendment, in fixing a number that is neither so numerous that passions become unwieldy, nor so few that states come to question the ability of their representatives to be independent voices amidst the representatives of other states.

David Eastman is a former U.S. Army Captain, a Claremont Lincoln Fellow. He can be reached at david@davideastman.org.