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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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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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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How Executive Overreach Affects Your Liberties – Guest Essayist: James Legee

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Executive overreach often refers to the growth of the administrative state beneath the President, and whether it has grown beyond the Constitutional limits meant to ensure checks and balances, and protect the liberty of the people.  When discussed in the media, among academics, and at dinner tables and coffee shops around the United States, attention is often turned towards the actions, or attempted actions, of the current White House resident.  Debate over executive orders, signing statements, the limits of war powers, recess appointments, border security, healthcare, swirl and blend in a way such that those without an addiction to the news or a background in government, can easily become lost, or worse, turned off from what is happening in current events.

Functionally, and regardless of ideology, it is difficult to debate the fact that the presidency has overstepped the vision the founders had for the office, and the restraint on power the Constitution was intended to serve as. Missing from the discussion is that the presidency – both the office and the person – has more and more insinuated itself into the daily lives and workings of citizens.  This goes well beyond, and began well before, movement politicians, like President Obama or Ron Paul’s attempts for the Oval Office.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013 – Essay #79 – The Right of the People to Rule by Theodore Roosevelt – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate, Master of Arts in Political Science at Villanova University, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good

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Theodore Roosevelt left the office of the President in 1908, only to be drawn back into politics in 1912, disappointed with his predecessor’s defense of the Progressive cause.  He launched the “Bull Moose” Party with the zeal befitting a man who was photographed actually riding a bull moose.  Roosevelt pursued an agenda in 1912 that called for increasing popular participation in government and eroding the barriers between the people and government.  This is also an intentional blurring of the line between a republican form of government and a direct democracy of the kind that existed in antiquity. Read more

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 – Essay #77 – The Presidency: Making an Old Party Progressive by Theodore Roosevelt – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate, Master of Arts in Political Science at Villanova University, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good

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Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most colorful presidents to serve the Republic.  He was a rancher in the North Dakota Badlands, led the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill and received a Medal of Honor for his gallantry, the only President with such a distinction.  While climbing a Mountain in the Adirondacks of New York in 1901, word reached Vice President Theodore Roosevelt that the condition of President McKinley had rapidly deteriorated after an assassination attempt a week earlier.  The next day, McKinley was dead, and Roosevelt was sworn into office as president.  Roosevelt brought an ideology to the Office of the President that was a refutation of the American Founding, Progressivism.  This ideology included a dramatic expansion of power vested in one person, the president. Read more

Monday, May 27, 2013 – Essay #71 – Second Inaugural Address by Abraham Lincoln – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate, Master of Arts in Political Science at Villanova University and Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good

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From the vantage point on March 4, 1865, President Lincoln saw the approaching end of the war, a most terrible war that exacted a toll on America never before seen and not seen since.  Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address, delivered shortly before the war’s end and his assassination, is a brief summation of the events and looks forward to rebuilding the nation and healing her wounds.  It is a speech, which is perhaps unique to its era, but not solely in the events it addresses or its length.  Rather, can you imagine a modern President speaking in such a way today- making recurring references to the bible and God? Read more

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 – Essay #62 – Reply in the Senate to William Seward by Jefferson Davis – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, Villanova University

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Senator Jefferson Davis’ response to William Seward’s State of the Country Speech was effectively a political speech- it was not meant to fully articulate the Southern cause of State’s Rights, nor was it a long-winded justification of that “peculiar institution,” slavery.  Rather, Davis’ goal was to respond to Seward’s earlier speech, which condemned slavery.  Within Davis’ speech, though, we find an idea more dangerous and pernicious than slavery as a positive good or that a State has rights; Davis rejected the central principle of the American Founding and Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Read more

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 – Essay #47 – Letter to John Holmes by Thomas Jefferson – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, Villanova University

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Thomas Jefferson’s April, 1820 Letter to John Holmes came as the nation expanded westward into the Louisiana Purchase, and with the homesteaders and settlers came the question of slavery.  In an attempt to address slavery and its role in the new territories, it was agreed by Congress that slavery would be allowed in Missouri but no other state North of the 36°30′ line; additionally, Maine would enter the Union as a Free State. Read more

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 – Essay #32 – Notes on the State of Virginia Query XIII: Constitution by Thomas Jefferson – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, Villanova University

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Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia provides an examination of the difficulties the State of Virginia faced in governing itself over the course of the Revolutionary period.  Self-government, as the United States has learned over the last two centuries, is no mean feat.  It was made all the more difficult as there were no enduring examples to look to for guidance, and one of the greatest militaries the world had known had waged a war across the Thirteen Colonies.  Query XIII: Constitution addresses a wide range of issues, from justice in representation, the separation of powers, to a warning against expediency in deviating from the rule of law. Read more

Friday, March 29, 2013 – Essay #30 – Letter to John Jay by George Washington – Guest Essayist: James Legee, Graduate Fellow at the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the study of Free Institutions and the Public Good, Villanova University

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Five years after the surrender at Yorktown, circumstances were all but calm for the young republic.  George Washington, retired to Mount Vernon, wrote a letter to the second Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation, John Jay, articulating his concerns over the state of events.  Washington began the letter disquieted by the divergent foreign policies the states pursued.  The focus of the letter quickly shifted from foreign policy, to alarm Read more