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A Letter from Cathy Gillespie re: Analyzing the Constitution

As we come to the end of our 90 Day Journey Analyzing the United States Constitution, I want to join Constituting America Founder and Co-Chair Janine Turner in thanking all those who made this study possible.  We thank our talented and generous constitutional scholars who participated:

David Addington
Vice President for Domestic and Economic Policy
The Heritage Foundation

Steven H. Aden, Esq.
Senior Counsel
Alliance Defense Fund

Prof. Bill Allen
Michigan State University

John S. Baker
Professor of Law Emeritus
Louisiana State University Law School

Andrew Baskin, Attorney
Director of Education & Volunteers
The Constitutional Sources Project

James D. Best
Author of Tempest At Dawn 

David J. Bobb, Ph.D.
Director and Lecturer in Politics
Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship
Hillsdale College

Justin Butterfield
Constitutional Attorney, Liberty Institute

Robert Chapman-Smith
Instructional Design Associate, Bill of Rights Institute 

Horace Cooper
Legal Commentator and a Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute 

Carol Crossed
Owner and President
Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum

Cynthia Dunbar
Asst. Prof. of Law
Liberty University School of Law

William Duncan
Director, Marriage Law Foundation

Scot Faulkner
Executive Director
The Dreyfuss Initiative

Colin Hanna
President, Let Freedom Ring

Allison Hayward
Vice President of Policy, Center for Competitive Politics 

Hadley Heath
Senior Policy Analyst, Independent Women’s Forum

Scot Faulkner
Executive Director
The Dreyfuss Initiative

Troy Kickler
Founding Director of the North Carolina History Project

Joerg W. Knipprath
Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School

David B. Kopel
Research Director, Advanced Constitutional Law
Denver University, Sturm College of Law

Marc Lampkin
Quinn Gillespie and Associates

Andrew Langer
President
The Institute for Liberty

Gary McCaleb
Senior Counsel
Alliance Defense Fund

Dan Morenoff
Attorney

Prof. Will Morrisey
Hillsdale College

Joe Postell
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

Jeff Reed
Former Constitutional Law Professor, Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky 

Professor Charles Rice
Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Notre Dame

Judge Jim Rogan
Superior Court of California 

Tara Ross
Author, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College

Dr. Charles K. Rowley
Duncan Black Professor of Economics at George Mason University and General Director of The Locke Institute

George Schrader
Student of Political Science, Hillsdale College

Prof. Kyle Scott
Department of Political Science
University of Houston

Mr. Kelly Shackelford
President and CEO of Liberty Institute

Julia Shaw
Research Associate and Program Manager
B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies

Larry Spiwak
Lawrence J. Spiwak
President, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies

W. David Stedman
Editor, Our Ageless Constitution

Nathaniel Stewart
Attorney

Paul S. Teller, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the Republican Study Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives

Kevin Theriot
Senior Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund

And we thank our hardworking and dedicated project director and coordinator, who spent many late nights posting essays, and organizing the various contributions:  Horace Cooper and Amanda Hughes

We thank those of you who have read these essays and joined in the discussion, blogging your thoughts!  We invite you to spread the word and let your friends, civic groups, and personal network know about the resources that exist on the pages of Constituting America! We invite more to join our Constitutional dialogue! 

A special thank you goes to Constituting America National Youth Director, Juliette Turner, who has tirelessly interpreted these erudite essays for kids (and adults like me who need the extra help sometimes in understanding!), crafting each into “Constitutional Fun Facts”!   Please check out Juliette’s Blog for Kids at: http://www.constitutingamerica.org/juliette/

But most of all, I would like to thank Constituting America Founder and Co-Chair Janine Turner who had the creative vision for this project, and whose daily energy and enthusiasm drives Constituting America! 

What an undertaking to spend 90 Days studying this brilliant document, section by section, amendment by amendment, and at times clause by clause.  But yet, study we must. To protect our rights and our liberties, we must first know them, and understand them.

The Constitution of the United States of America is the world’s longest surviving written charter of government.  This miracle, a product of the brilliant minds of our founding fathers, rooted in their study of government, knowledge of history, and profound understanding of the nature of man, has survived because “we the people,” have cared enough for it to survive. 

For 224 years, each generation of Americans has passed this torch of knowledge and liberty to the next.  John Adams gave us this charge: “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” But how can we instruct our children if we aren’t educated ourselves?

The mission of Constituting America is to help our generation pass the torch to the next, in ways that new generations of Americans can relate to, engage with, and understand! We thank you for joining us in this mission, and for your enthusiastic participation! 

Sincerely,

Cathy Gillespie
Co-Chair, Constituting America

 

 

 

April 28, 2010 – Federalist No. 1 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, April 29th, 2010

We made it to the Federalist Papers! I hope you are as excited as I am to dive into these fascinating op-eds – the media and PR campaign for the Constitution! I am travelling today  – (Howdy from Texas!) And typing in the dark, in a hotel room in Austin, trying not to wake my daughter. So, please forgive the brevity of tonight’s post.

Federalist 1 is striking to me in that Alexander Hamilton’s view of the gravity of the crossroads America was at, is clear to him in a way that is rare for someone in the midst of current events of their time.  Looking back, with a 222 year perspective on the situation, it is easy to agree that had the States failed to ratify the new Constitution, it would most certainly have been a loss for mankind.  But for Hamilton to have the vision to see that, at the starting gate of the United States’ journey into the world, reveals him to be a visionary of the highest magnitude.

This quote near the beginning of Federalist #1 sums up the precipice the United States was teetering on:

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

Hamilton’s support of civil political discourse also resonated with me:

“Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

This is the nature of man, and we can see that not much has changed in 222 years! But Hamilton is right about the ineffectiveness of angry discourse. Both  ends of the politcal spectrum were guilty of this in Hamilton’s era, just as some on both sides still utilize these tactics today. It is so refreshing and much more educational when political discussions can be had without anger and personal attacks.

I look forward to the coming 84 days.  I am embarking upon this journey with fresh eyes, having never read the Federalist from cover to cover, despite having a degree in Political Science! To think back to the days before the internet, Twitter, or Facebook, before 24 hour cable news, before radio, when communication by the spoken and written word (on real paper) was the only means of spreading a message, it is enthralling to read these papers and witness an 18th Century PR campaign, and to be able to look deeper into some of the founding fathers’ thoughts, values, principles and world views, as they set about to shape our Nation.

Good night!

Cathy Gillespie

7 Responses to “April 28, 2010Federalist No. 1Cathy Gillespie

  1. Not much has changed in 222 years? I’d say not much has changed in 50,000 years. One of my favorite movies is ‘Quest for Fire’, set back then. They’re just like us, with slightly less technology. And if you watch it, you will see the world’s first joke! (It involves a coconut.)

  2. Dale says:

    I am playing catch up as I have missed some reading “making a living” like each of us must do. To reflect back, these writers and framers of the US Constitution and the Federalist papers too, were people of business and commerce first. They were not career politicians with a guaranteed pay check from government/ you and I. What a unique perspective they brought to their thinking and actions compared to our present, so called leaders. They were scholars and statesmen with an outstanding view of the past, able to reflect their understanding into the present. Now, in our humble study of their great acts, may we spread the knowledge and fever of faith through out this great land.

  3. Kay says:

    Just bought my paperback copy of The Federalist Papers, and started underlining and taking notes. Hamilton, as Cathy noted, knew human nature, our passions, for good or ill, and acknowledges them. I like that…honesty about human nature.

  4. Kellie says:

    I have tried to read the Federalist Papers before, and had a hard time, mostly due to the language, it can be hard to follow. I am so thankful that Ms Turner and others have taken on this assignment for America, it is so vital that we understand the thoughts and theories that our founding fathers took into account while building our great nation. These blogs will help me better understand these theories and thoughts, and I think I will enjoy reading these papers much more than before. I agree with Kay’s post, in that is it fascinating how Hamilton began his papers with his emphasis on human nature and our passions as a people. I hope someday we can find leaders in this country who know and understand that and will be willing to fix what has broken.

  5. Rich_H says:

    I think the entire first paragraph could be applied to the American people today, with minor modifications, in an appeal to once again consider the importance of our Constitution:

    AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on [the] Constitution [of] the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of [a country] in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of [maintaining a] good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to [watch a good government system be undone by political contrivance] and force [by men of ill will towards freedom]. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

    Hamilton sure nailed this one: “that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government.”

    How many times has the left abused the word “rights” to find what does not exist in the Constitution? From the right to privacy to justify abortions to the right to other peoples money (redistribution), health care, housing, etc.

  6. David Hamilton says:

    I too find myself late at the starting line, but I am committed now to catching up.

    I as well have to confess to owning a well “dog eared”, annotated, and coffee stained copy of the “Federalist Papers”, that I also have made previous forays into with the intended goal of a complete reading of these editorial pieces, editorial pieces that in fact are the detailed instructions that supplement the “Quick Start Guide” that is our Constitution.

    Many people express a level of frustration with understanding the writing style of the authors of these pieces. Despite being a prolific reader, I admit to having to stop and reread passages and dwell on them to gain a thorough understanding of their intent.

    Bearing in mind that these founding documents, The Declaration of independence, these Federalist Papers, and most especially The Constitution itself, were written not for any specific, highly educated body of people, but for the whole body of the people, to read, understand, and live by. It is a shocking display of the level of degradation of our usage and understanding of our own language, and the causes of this degradation being at least as vital, albeit separate, a topic for discussion as the documents themselves.

    Specifically addressing Federalist #1, I find myself struck with the sense that our Constitutional Republic has been under assault from within by Madison’s dreaded factions, from the beginning.
    From The “Alien and Sedition Acts” of John Adams, to the crippling of States Rights of Lincoln, on to the socialist policies of FDR, and now mandated health care.

    The current struggle to “restore” our constitutional republic is one the founders would little doubt readily recognize, but would certainly be flabbergasted by the extent to which civil discourse, and honorable intent has deteriorated.

  7. Tim Shey says:

    Back in 1994 I read the first 200 pages of “The Federalist Papers”.

    I “discovered” this website this past week–Jim Best sent me an email telling me about Constituting America. This looks like an excellent website. I am looking forward to reading more of it.

    I believe the U.S. Constitution was inspired by the Holy Ghost. It seems like the great leaders of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and the great intellectuals were Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson.

April 29, 2010 – Federalist No. 2 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, April 30th, 2010

Some great discussion going on!  Love the give and take. I am learning so much from everyone’s analysis and comments, so I thought tonight I would highlight some of the quotes from Federalist No. 2, and from the posts and blog comments which especially resonate with me.

My good friend, Marc Lampkin, did an excellent job as Guest Blogger today.  We especially appreciate Marc coming back on in the afternoon to further expound on John Jay – he provided some enlightening background information.

Have you all been watching Janine’s Daily Podcasts on the website? I highly recommend you check them out each day for the lighter side of Constituting America.  Yesterday she gave us a tour of her ranch and longhorns (don’t you love their names?), and today we got to see where she does her best work – her car!  Janine and I have an ongoing battle of who has the most miles on their car.  Mine is currently at 130,405 and I believe Janine may be beating me by about 10,000 miles.  As moms, it seems we spend the majority of our day driving or sitting in parking lots waiting.  Amazing how much you can get done in a parking lot!

As for Federalist No. 2, I had several favorite passages:

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”

As Shannon pointed out, the people cede power to the government.  And similar to the point Janine made in her post, when we are not educated and informed, when we are lax, or not paying attention, we are making the decision to cede even more of our individual rights and liberties.

The other quote that caught my eye, and was highlighted earlier today by Susan, was:

“Admit, for so is the fact, that this plan is only RECOMMENDED, not imposed, yet let it be remembered that it is neither recommended to BLIND approbation, nor to BLIND reprobation; but to that sedate and candid consideration which the magnitude and importance of the subject demand, and which it certainly ought to receive.”

Again, the theme is an educated, engaged and thoughtful electorate.  Issues of great magnitude deserve thorough consideration. When we ground ourselves in the U.S. Constitution and the principles upon which this country was founded, we have a road map to guide us through the maze of public policy proposals that can easily lead down roads that will ultimately take our country in the wrong direction.

A big thank you to all of you who are blogging! We invite our silent partners to find your voice and let us hear from you!

And a final big thank you to our founder and co-chair, Janine Turner! Janine had the idea for Constituting America over a year ago, promptly registered the domain name, and got to work organizing!   It is her vision that has brought us the 90 in 90 = 180: History Holds the Key to the Future program. Janine is an inspiration to me, as she continually puts God, her daughter, and her country first in her life. It is an honor to serve with her in this effort.

Good night!

Cathy Gillespie

5 Responses to “April 292010 – Federalist No2 – Cathy Gillespie

  1. Amy Winchester says:

    I am so grateful for this Website and have been telling my friends, e-mailing them, and telling others I work with. I have never read the Federalist Papers and have found so much foundational truth and we are only on #4. What a gold mine! Anecdote: re: being informed and educated. I was at the public library the other day waiting for my grandson and thought I would read my daily Federalist reading so asked the librarian if they had a copy of theFederalist Papers. She did not know what they were and someone overhearing my said, ” I think I have heart that name before. What are they?” So I was able to inform them and the librarian took down the Web site information. We have to keep spreading the word. This is great!

  2. Susan Craig says:

    How sad that librarians need to be informed as to the debates about our founding documents!

  3. This is a great website and Miss Turner certainly has an incredible grasp of the constitution…..read: The divider in chief….at…..
    http://cooperscopy.blogspot.com/

  4. Roger Jett says:

    I just happened upon this website tonight and have not fully digested all that’s available here. I am impressed with what I see. We are in danger as a nation and one of the biggest challenges I see us facing is our lack of understanding and appreciation of what we have been blessed with. As a people, I’m afraid we have over time grown quite ignorant, but the American People are not generally stupid and ignorance can be overcome by learning and developing the ability to discern truth. To all who have played a roll in building this website I say thank you and may God bless you.

  5. Rich_H says:

    Jay’s opening statement, “WHEN the people of America reflect that they are now called upon to decide a question, which, in its consequences, must prove one of the most important that ever engaged their attention, the propriety of their taking a very comprehensive, as well as a very serious, view of it, will be evident.” Is relevant today, Americans will have to reflect that they now must decide a question; will we return to the Constitution or abandon it for Obama’s transformation into a lesser America under the ruling thumb of a gigantic government.

    Some people suggest we need a Constitutional Convention today but do we today have people of the caliber of out Founders? Whom Jay describes as, “This convention composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom” who “without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.”

    Do we have such people who would be in that convention today?! No! We do not need a convention. We need a return to the original Constitution.

    Contrast the difference between the patriots founding our country and the leaders betraying America today. Our Founders “only RECOMMENDED, not imposed” this plan and explained the 7 page Constitution in detail with 33federalist papers. Today Obama/Dems rammed through an over 1000 page health care plan against public will, unseen and unexplained, in fact lied about. Pelosi said it needed to be passed so we would know what’s in it. How have we sunk so far?

    If the progressive left is not stopped and their damage undone, we shall surely be saying of our beloved America, “FAREWELL! A LONG FAREWELL TO ALL MY GREATNESS.”

 

 

April 30, 2010 – Federalist No. 3 – Cathy Gillespie

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Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Howdy from Texas! I am still here in the Lone Star State for a few more days.   Tonight Janine and I were honored to be invited to a wonderful gathering hosted by our friends Don Hodges and David Thompson and many new and old friends in Dallas to fill them in on Constituting America and how they can be involved.  We are gratified by the enthusiasm those in attendance have for learning and spreading the word about the U.S. Constitution, and hope to see our Dallas friends joining us on the 90 in 90 = 180: History Holds the Key to the Future Blog!

Today’s reading, Federalist 3, begins to address the benefits of the new government proposed by the U.S. Constitution, vs. a government of independent, sovereign states, as some at the time advocated.  It is interesting that one of the first justifications for the Constitution expounded upon by John Jay was the safety and security of the homeland, still a primary concern today.

Jay’s statement that “one good national government affords vastly more security against dangers of that sort than can be derived from any other quarter,” is certainly true.  A government that is perceived as strong will be less vulnerable to attack than one that is divided and weak.

Chuck  invoked Ronald Reagan today, and President Reagan was on my mind as I read Federalist No. 3 as well.  In a compelling National Security speech on March 23, 1983, Reagan said:

The defense policy of the United States is based on a simple premise: The United States does not start fights. We will never be an aggressor. We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression – to preserve freedom and peace.

Just as a body’s strength is dependent on its skeletal system, our country’s strength is dependent on its Constitutional backbone.

Our founding fathers knew they lived in a world that posed threats, and they knew the best way to keep the peace was a strong, unified country.  Two hundred twenty-two years later, our world still poses threats, and the stronger and more unified the United States is perceived, the safer we will be.

Have a great weekend everyone!

See you Monday for Federalist No. 4

Cathy Gillespie

9 Responses to “April 302010 – Federalist No3 – Cathy Gillespie

  1. Susan Craig says:

    That is one thing I can never figure out. How when we have never been the initiator of aggression and very infrequently have we retained, annexed and or occupied for our profit can we be called imperialist? What dictionary definition of that word do people who think that hold to?

  2. Reed W says:

    Wow, the more I read, the more I am grateful for the founding fathers and their consideration and determination to bring about a united government that was motivated towards the shared rewards of a participating society. They looked to bring forth the best in we humans, considered all the pitfalls we manipulate, over stepped their own, and reached for the honesty of common decency. It was so down to earth and selfless, and good. Can we still live up to it, as Franklin implied? O gosh, we need a really big big wake up for a lot of people, politicians and voters. They gave us the tools, the framework, it’s not dissolved yet. How do we get this education out? It is so amazing that all this even came about. Thanks again for having this symposium!

  3. Daneen says:

    “our country’s strength is dependent on its Constitutional backbone”. It seems to me that in the plethora of labels tossed out these days–liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, independent, etc — the Constitution itself has been completely forgotten. I identify myself as a Constitutionalist and people actually ask me “What’s that?” How sad that they do not even ASSUME a meaning for that label…

    I applaud and appreciate what you’re doing here, it is more crucial now than at any time in our history–will spread the link!

  4. Bob Greenslade says:

    You wrote:

    “Today’s reading, Federalist 3, begins to address the benefits of the new government proposed by the U.S. Constitution, vs. a government of independent, sovereign states, as some at the time advocated.”

    It appears you are asserting that the Constitution consolidated the States into one nation and they are no longer sovereign entities because they surrendered their sovereignty to the federal government.

    Please explain your comment. Thanks.

  5. Hi Bob – Thank you for your question! Ours is a federal system. Often people are confused about it, and this is one of the reasons we initiated this project – to try to address concerns just as you mentioned. If you look at the preamble, our Constitution makes clear that the beginning and the end of the government’s authority comes from the consent of the people. We the people desire to form “a more perfect Union; establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense…. ordain and establish this Constitution.”

    By ratifying the U.S. Constitution the people caused the State to cede certain powers to the federal government. Both the Constitution itself and the founders who drafted and confirmed it imply only that states ceded the powers enumerated and listed in the U.S. Constitution as powers belonging to a federal government. All other authority continues to rest with the people and the states respectively. When the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, both the 9th and 10 amendments reaffirmed this principle.

  6. Roger Jett says:

    Excellent comments by Cathy and all ! I would like to add a quote attributed to James Madison that for me is pertinent to the discussion as it pertains to the sovereignty issue.
    ” We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

  7. Kristine says:

    Roger Jett regarding your post: WOW. Intuitively, we know this, and it is what our parents taught us; but here it is in black and white from the Father of the Constitution. Very powerful and worth remembering. This incident in NYC is a good example of one man using his intellegence and God-given sense to prevent a terrorist attack. What if he decided not to get involved and let someone else take care of the problem. Boom.

    Thanks for the quote.

  8. Andy Sparks says:

    Unfortunately, it can not be proved that James Madison said that. Especially with the proliferation of the internet, bogus quotes are flying around everywhere that can not be appropriately attributed to the authors. Below is a reference asking the question of the validity of this very quote:

    http://candst.tripod.com/misq1.htm

  9. Roger Jett says:

    I agree with Andy Sparks that we can all too easily latch on to a bogus quote off of internet sources. I apologize for not citing the source for my earlier post concerning a quote that has been “attributed” to James Madison. My source for ascribing this quote to Madison is Frederick Nymeyer, Progressive Calvinism, (January, 1958), Vol. 4, p. 31.

 

May 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 4 – Cathy Gillespie

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May 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 4 – Cathy Gillespie

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Hello from Virginia! I made it back from Texas in the wee hours of the morning, thanks to some thunderstorms and unexpected equipment on the runway at Reagan National Airport!

To all who have been posting – Thank you!! We invite all our visitors to add their comments! We love the sense of community, and are learning so much from each of you.  If you have a question, please ask it, and if we can’t answer it, hopefully some of our blog participants can!

Federalist #4 elaborates upon a phrase stated in the preamble to the Constitution: ”We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I’m reminded of a quote of a famous Texan from the 1970′s and 1980″s, Eddie Chiles, who said all he wanted the federal government to do was defend the shores, deliver the mail, and leave him alone!  It is no accident that Eddie Chiles started his quote with “defend the shores,” and that so many of the first Federalist Papers touch on this theme of defending our country.  It is one of the powers enumerated in the Constitution that the federal government is best equipped to perform.

The other quote that caught my eye was the last phrase: “……how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.”  As citizens of the United States, the more common ground we can find with each other, the better. And the more educated our citizens are about the founding principles of our country, the easier it will be for us to find common ground.

Good night!

Cathy Gillespie

7 Responses to “May 32010 – Federalist No4 – Cathy Gillespie

  1. Bill Kenagy says:

    Note in the preable it says, “promote the general welfare.” Not to provide for the general welfare.

  2. Bache says:

    A quote from Benjamin Franklin…” The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” His saying reflects the ideology of the preamble “to promote the general welfare.”

  3. Roger Jett says:

    Good Morning Cathy Gillespie and All !

    In penning what was to become our national anthem, Francis Scott Key in 1814 at Fort McHenry, in his second verse and fourth verse, continued on the theme, “defend our shores” :

    On the shore, dimly seen through the mist of the deep,
    Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
    What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
    As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses ?
    Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
    In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
    ‘Tis the star-spangled banner ! Oh long may it wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

    Oh! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
    Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation,
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    May God bless us, preserve us and keep us brave and free!

  4. The equality of all people stand on the OPPORTUNITY that our freedom provides. We all have the same OPPORTUNITY to “pursue happiness” without the overreach of government taking from one and giving to another. Everyone has the same opportunity to work hard and succeed, what one chooses to do with that opportunity is up to them. And if you think someone needs help use your money to help them don’t take mine(not that I have any) But I believe that we “reap what we sow” so I’m still sowing baby………

  5. Julie Bedard says:

    @Bill Kenagy—well said. There is a big difference between “promote” and “provide”. The next queston becomes–what did they mean when they wrote “general welfare”? As we know this also has been twisted and misconstrued throughout time to move towards “social justice” policies. I take it to mean “to promote the general welfare of the UNION”–again to protect and defend the Union from external and internal sources so it remains intact for all people within the Union to live peacefully and pursue their dreams without fear of disharmony, chaos, and war.

  6. Susan Craig says:

    The conflict of promote and provide occurs within the constitution itself. The Preamble says promote while article 1 says provide.

  7. Kellie says:

    @Julie Bedard: Well said on the issue of interpreting the “general welfare” of the Union. I have found that those truly well-versed on the Constitution know and understand that meaning to be for the protection of the Union from external and internal sources, NOT that we provide welfare to those in need within the Union, as is currently interpreted. My fear is that it’s proper meaning is not being taught in the schools…

 

 

May 4, 2010 – Federalist No. 5 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

A big thank you to Horace Cooper for serving as our Guest Blogger for Federalist No. 5.  Excellent analysis from Horace, and great discussion!  Thank you to everyone for participating!   I would like to share a few of the lines and thoughts  from today’s post and blog comments that particulary resonated with me.

As many pointed out today, the Founding Fathers were visionary in their ability to look down the road and see what the future had in store for the United States.   They had this ability because they were keen students of history, political philosophy, and human nature.   David said it well,  “Clearly, our Founders were men of letters who understood the precedents of their age.”

As Susan H. pointed out, history does repeat itself. Our founders understood that fact much better than we do today.    These days we tend to believe we are immune to the cycles that every civilization has experienced throughout the ages.  If our forefathers were with us today, they would certainly be able to predict our future better than we can ourselves!

Carolyn pointed out Horace’s last line, which I loved:  ”The very large swath of land and significant population of America potentially were the greatest strength of the nation in unity but could be its greatest weakness in disunity.”  I felt that summed up Federalist #5 perfectly!

I am continuing to learn much from you all! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please invite others to join us!

Looking forward to Federalist No. 6!

Cathy Gillespie

PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts.  Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

 

May 5, 2010 – Federalist No. 6 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Hi everyone – thank you to Professor Allen for your enlightening essay! And thank you to everyone for your comments today.

I love the realism of Alexander Hamilton: “men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.”

We are fortunate our founding fathers were well read students of history, philosophy and political systems.   They understood that we, as humans, are imperfect, and that civilizations through the ages have fallen victim to the character flaws of their leaders and citizens, time and time again.  The Constitution they proposed, with its delicate checks and balances, was designed to take man’s nature into account.

My favorite line from this essay was “Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age, and to adopt as a practical maxim for the direction of our political conduct that we, as well as the other inhabitants of the globe, are yet remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue?”

Over 200 years later, we, and the rest of the world, are still “remote from the happy empire of perfect wisdom and perfect virtue”-a state humans will most likely never attain.  As we consider how we deal with Iran and other terrorist nations, we should remember Alexander Hamilton’s words, and not assume we can simply talk things out.  These nations have not had the benefit of  freedom.  Oppression breads violence, and reinforces man’s darker side.

The United States of America, though,  is one of the greatest humanitarian and charitable nations on the planet.  How is that possible, given the nature of man as described by Hamilton?  Our founders – we the people – designed a government based on Godly principles, ceding only enough power to the government to keep man’s darker side in check, but allowing the freedom necessary for our better qualities to flourish, and be brought to bear upon the problems facing our Nation and the world.

Cathy Gillespie

PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts.  Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

 

May 6, 2010 – Federalist No. 7 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Welcome to Federalist No. 7 – 90 in 90 = 180: History Holds the Key to the Future!!!!

Are you all watching Janine’s Behind the Scenes Videos? http://gallery.me.com/janineturner62#gallery Tonight she gives a shout out to the Constitutional Scholar Guest Bloggers!

Please check these videos out for the lighter side of Constituting America!  You will be glad you did!

In Federalist Paper No. 7 Alexander Hamilton explores possible causes of tension, disagreement and outright warfare between states if joined as a loose confederation instead of through the proposed U.S. Constitution.

Territorial disputes, trade disagreements, apportionment of the public debt of the
United States, “laws in violation of private contracts, as they amount to aggressions on the rights of those states whose citizens are injured by them,” and differing alliances between various states and foreign nations,  are all listed as divisive factors which could prove destructive without a central arbitrating force.

The fact that even with the ratification of the United States Constitution our country could not avoid civil war, validates Hamilton’s concerns that without the Constitution, the natural tensions between states would eventually erupt.  Thanks to the founders’ wisdom and vision, even with civil war, the United States Constitution lit the path for the healing and reconstruction of our Nation.

It is hard to imagine what the United States might have looked like if the Constitution were not adopted, but the founding fathers envisioned a future similar to Europe, and they knew they did not want to emulate the European countries.   “From the view they have exhibited of this part of the subject, this conclusion is to be drawn that America, if not connected at all, or only by the feeble tie of a simple league, offensive and defensive, would, by the operation of such jarring alliances, be gradually entangled in all the pernicious labyrinths of European politics and wars;  and by the destructive contentions of the parts into which she was divided,  would be likely to become a prey to the artifices and machinations of powers equally the enemies of them all.”

Our current leaders would be wise to assess if it is any more attractive today to emulate Europe than it was over 200 years ago. As we chart the course for the next two hundred years, we must choose if we embrace the U.S. Constitution and the founding principles of our country, including “The spirit of enterprise, which characterizes the commercial part of America.” This “unbridled spirit” as Alexander Hamilton referred to it, is part of what has made the United States a great nation.  Will we bridle our spirit of enterprise and drift from the Constitution and our founding principles? And what will our Nation look like in 200 years if we do? Our founding fathers could most certainly predict the outcome, and if we read these papers carefully, we can too.

Cathy Gillespie

PS – We are working to consolidate all blog comments onto the Daily Guest Bloggers page, and Janine and I will be posting our daily essasy on the Guest Blogger’s Post as “Comments” as well as the usual standalone posts.  Please post all your blog comments on the Guest Bloggers Page so its easy to see all the great comments in one place! Thank you!

 

May 7, 2010 – Federalist No. 8 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, May 7th, 2010

Thank you all for another week of wonderful insights!

Please encourage the children in your life to sign up online for our We The People 9.17 Contest!  We are looking for entries especially in the short film and PSA categories for high school!  Middle school and high school students can also enter a cool song or an essay, and the elementary school kids are invited to submit a poem or holiday card.  Prizes include $2,000 for the winning high school entries and gift cards and other prizes for the younger kids.   More information, including rules and signup form, is available at  www.constitutingamerica.org

A recurring theme on these posts and blogs has been our amazement at the foresight, vision and wisdom of our founding fathers.  There are times in reading their words that certain sentences seem to leap off the page with relevancy for today.  We find this long term vision and wisdom amazing because the elected officials of our generation deal mainly in the here and now.  We are an immediate gratification society, and the majority of today’s leaders respond accordingly.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear our current policy debates discussed in the terms we find in these Federalist Papers, with the spirit of civility and long term vision of our founders? What will the new health care bill mean to us 200 years from now?  What impact will the various immigration reform proposals have far into the future?   Wouldn’t it be interesting for some of our members of Congress to write a series of articles similar to the Federalist  Papers, addressing the consequential issues facing our country today?

What words from our generation of leaders will resonate 200 years from now?  I can’t answer that question, but I do hope and pray that 200 years from now, United States citizens will still be reading and studying the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, and will still be amazed at the foresight and wisdom of our founders.

Have a great weekend, and wishing you all a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 10, 2010 – Federalist No. 9 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, May 10th, 2010

Thank you Professor Knipprath for yet another enlightening essay!

In Federalist 1, A General Introduction, Hamilton asserted that a wrong decision on this “important question” of whether or not to ratify the United States Constitution, would “deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

Federalist 9 reminds us of the grand experiment that America was and is.  History was littered with failed Republics.  Another failure could forever doom future attempts at governing within the framework of a Republic. Success, however, could inspire similar governments around the world, liberating mankind. The stakes were high, and the founders recognized their place in history.

This was America’s chance to prove that a Republican form of government could work – that political science had progressed, and refinements had been made including, as Hamilton lists:

“The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election,” and ”the ENLARGEMENT of the ORBIT within which such systems are to revolve.”

I love how Hamilton takes on the arguments of his opposition, and further quotes, paraphrases, and explores Montesquieu to make his points, ending with an explanation of the importance of the State governments within the framework of the proposed Constitution, and their “exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power.”

Thomas Jefferson called the Federalist, “The best commentary on the principles of government, which ever was written.” Federalist 9 certainly lives up to this high praise.

Looking forward to Federalist 10!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 10 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

It’s been exciting to see so many blog participants today! A big thank you to those who are with us every day, and an enthusiastic welcome to some of our newer folks!   Each of you brings a unique and valuable perspective to these pieces.  The larger the group we hear from, the more complete and “whole” our understanding becomes!

I was fascinated by the descriptions of factions in human nature, with faction defined as a group, majority or minority, united by a common passion or interest “adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”  Knowing we can’t control the cause of these factions, the founders set out to control the effects.

Madison argues that a republic is more effective than a democracy in controlling the effects of factions.  I would bet that most citizens today cannot explain the difference between a republic and a democracy.  Federalist No. 10 not only explains the difference, but outlines the reasons why a Republic is more effective than a Democracy in representing the broad interests of the community and Nation.

I loved this sentence: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal distribution of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it.”

Madison saw “an equal distribution of property” as “improper and wicked.” There is a moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society.  Men possess different abilities, and their “diverse faculties” produce different classes of property owners.  A republic balances the interests of these different classes.

Finally, towards the end of Federalist No. 10, a sentence that made me smile: “In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried.”  It is interesting to see that over 200 years ago, they still had problems with “dirty tricks,” in campaigns!

Thank you again to everyone for your insights today!!

Cathy Gillespie

3 Responses to “May 112010 – Federalist No10 – Cathy Gillespie”

  1. Dave says:

    Cathy, you commented on Madison’s acknowledgment that men by nature possess a diversity of faculties. But, what almost jumped off the page for me was the next sentence–”The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.” This idea is similar to what Jefferson wrote in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence telling us that governments are instituted among men to secure our unalienable rights. Our diverse faculties are such an integral part of who we are that they are probably as unalienable as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One can come to a paradoxical conclusion that when individuals with diverse faculties, situated differently in time and space, are truly free, the result is a whole lot of inequality–that’s material inequality not political inequality. So a necessary corollary of liberty is inequality and it then follows that a prime function of government is actually to protect inequality. Of course in the long run, society is better off if individuals are allowed to flourish using the unique faculties with which they have been endowed. This is a problem today in an era of identity politics, the politics of envy and class warfare–individuals can’t be allowed to flourish.

    It is clear to me that the Founders conceived of government, properly structured, as a means of protecting us from one another. The modern conception of government for most Americans is diametrically opposed to the Founders’ conception. Today, we have some Americans using government to invade the property rights and impair the faculties of other Americans. Government today is seen as a provider government; a government that will provide not only the bare necessities, but also a house, a job with a certain pay level, medical care, a car, internet, a cell phone and, most recently, appliances. And what most people fail to realize, or they do realize and just don’t care, is that before the government can provide anything to anyone it must first take resources or labor from some other citizens. So now we have an ever-growing segment of our population who wish to obtain for themselves through the force of government that which they refuse to provide for themselves by tapping into that quintessential American trait of an “unequaled spirit of enterprise.” The Founders no doubt were familiar with the fundamental law of economics that says, “Man tends always to satisfy his needs and desires through the least possible effort.” If it’s easier to get something through political means using coercion than through economic means using voluntary contracts and transactions, then men lacking virtue won’t waste any time to start organizing to gain control the political process with the singular aim of redistribution.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    Ah yes another prime example of the hubris of man. Man thinks that he can equalize and homogenize what GOD has created as diverse and interesting. This ranks right up there with the belief that puny man could possibly destroy anything as complex and wonderful as the climate of the earth. Yes we can soil to uninhabitability our own particular corner but on a global scale not so much.

  3. Madison also saw large corporations as an evil. so the “moral case to be made for allowing the spirit of free enterprise to reign in our society” was not as cut and dry as Libertarians make it seem. Madison wrote that “there is an evil which ought to be guarded agst in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ecclesiastical corporations. The power of all corporations, ought to be limited in this respect” – – James Madison, Detached Memoranda, circa 1817

    This pretty much contradicts the “moral case to be made” in favor of a progressive case for trust busting and legislating against “too big to fail.”

 

 

May 12, 2010 – Federalist No. 11 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, May 13th, 2010

You all are kicking up some dust in the comments today! I love the back and forth.

And thank you to Dr. Postell for your essay! We appreciate your participation and guidance.

Thank you also to Constituting America’s founder and co-chair Janine Turner for her brilliant essay, published early today!  I am burning the midnight oil.

I begin tonight with these sentences, the first sentences of Federalist No. 11:

“THE importance of the Union, in a commercial light, is one of those points about which there is least room to entertain a difference of opinion, and which has, in fact, commanded the most general assent of men who have any acquaintance with the subject. This applies as well to our intercourse with foreign countries as with each other.”

The above quote reflects another area in which the founding fathers showed great insight, wisdom and vision.  Today, African countries are suffering economically from the tariffs and entry fees they impose on each other.  European countries suffered as well.  Only recently have they unified economically, learning from our example. And some see a political unification of Europe as a likely next step.  The founders saw the necessity of economic unity, and acted on it, over 200 years before Europe came to the same conclusion.

It is fascinating to me that in the early stages of our country, the founders could so clearly discern “the adventurous spirit, which distinguishes the commercial character of America,” and recognize that  “the unequaled spirit of enterprise…..is itself an inexhaustible mine of national wealth.”

The power of Congress “to regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” found in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, certainly propelled our country to its preeminent world economic leadership position.  The Commerce Clause allows the United States to present a unified economic front to the world, and for individual states to not penalize each other.   But the Commerce Clause has been a double edged sword.  When utilized to keep markets free and unfettered, it allows our Nation to soar, tapping into that uniquely American “unequaled spirit of enterprise.”  But when the Commerce Clause is utilized to regulate and stifle the spirit of enterprise, it can “clip the wings by which we might soar.”

The current health care reform legislation stretches the Commerce Clause further than it has ever been stretched before.  Instead of regulating economic activity between the states, Congress is using its power to mandate that people pro-actively make purchases from private sector companies. I wonder what Mr. Hamilton would think of the federal government’s intervention into that type of “commercial relations.”

Tim W. said it especially well in his post today, “It was refreshing to see Hamilton cast commerce as a virtue, rather than the vice portrayed by some in power and in the larger information media.”  The founders recognized that the most valuable natural resource of the United States is its people ,their “adventurous spirt,” and “unequaled spirit of enterprise.”

Thank you to all of you who are joining us in shining a light on the founding principles of our country, so that they may once again be our guide.  Please continue to spread the word, and invite your friends to read and blog with us.

On to Federalist No. 12!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 13, 2010 – Federalist No. 12 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, May 14th, 2010

Federalist Number 12

Thank you to Dr. Paul Teller for your insightful post today, and to Dr. Joe Postell for your enlightening post yesterday! We are blessed to have Constitutional scholars such as yourselves helping us on our journey through the Federalist Papers!  And thank you to everyone who continues to comment, and share your thoughts!  I am learning so much from each of you.

“The assiduous merchant, the laborious husbandman, the active mechanic, and the industrious manufacturer,–all orders of men, look forward with eager expectation and growing alacrity to this pleasing reward of their toils.”

Taxes. No one like them.  Since biblical times the tax collector has been seen as one of the most despised members of society.

Taxes sparked the American Revolution.  It is in our heritage to resent taxes, especially when we feel we have little or no say in how the money is being spent!

Yet, Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 12 makes an argument we may not like to hear – taxes are necessary.  We must find ways to fund the government :

A nation cannot long exist without revenues. Destitute of this essential support, it must resign its independence, and sink into the degraded condition of a province. This is an extremity to which no government will of choice accede. Revenue, therefore, must be had at all events.”

The question is how.

It is fascinating to observe the progression of taxation in our country.  From the Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To a federal tax code that is over 7,000,000 words long (thank you to my friend Steve Moore for this fact, cited in a great piece he did for National Review http://article.nationalreview.com/268573/our-income-tax-monstrosity/stephen-moore)

What happened?

In federalist No. 12 Hamilton advocates consumption taxes because they are more fair, people will tolerate them better, and they are easier to collect.   There were no assured means of assessing personal property ownership or personal income during this period in our country, and as Hamilton wrote, “because personal assets are difficult to trace, large tax contributions can only be achieved through consumption taxes.”

In three years we will “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the income tax, the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It is hard to believe that this complicated, lengthy tax code has been in existence for less than 100 years.  The explosion of this code in such a short time shows the tendency of government to grow and intrude into our life and liberty, unless we vigilantly keep it at bay, guarding the boundaries of our freedom.

It was eye opening to read Federalist No. 12, and see that in the early days of the Republic, an income tax was the furthest thing from the founders’ minds.   These were men of great vision, and this is one more area where their foresight shines.

If only we had listened to them more closely!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 14, 2010 – Federalist No. 13 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, May 14th, 2010

A big thank you to Dr. Morrisey for his insights today on Federalist 13, and his broader thoughts on the themes  of Federalist 1–14.

We especially appreciate Dr. Morrisey coming back later in the day! The exchange between Dr. Morrisey and  Marc Stauffer on the relationship between economics and morality hit on an important founding principle.  Free enterprise is more than an economic issue or theory; it is a moral issue.

Mr. Stauffer brought up the fact that we “tend to look at our government in terms of economic remedies/gain and less at its moral implications.”  Dr. Morrisey expounded on this by pointing out that “The Founders understood the relation between morality and economics in a much more careful way than we do.”

Indeed, there is a moral case to be made for free enterprise:  People should have the freedom to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams; our children should not be held back by the debt of our generation; the tax burden of our country should not fall on a minority of our citizens, and at death parents should be able to pass on to their children the assets they worked hard for all their life, instead of turning a large portion over to the government in the form of a death tax.  Our founders understood that economic freedom is a fundamental moral issue before it is anything else.

Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, makes the moral argument for economic freedom better than anyone I have ever heard speak on the subject.  For anyone who is interested in this view, I suggest his excellent Wall Street Journal article, “The Real Culture War is Over Capitalism,” from April 30, 2009: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124104689179070747.html

When the moral argument for free enterprise is made, we begin the cultural shift that is so needed in our country.

Thank you again to Dr. Morrisey and Mr. Stauffer for bringing up this important topic.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 17, 2010 – Federalist No. 14 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Federalist #14

First, a big thank you to Dr. Allen for his insightful comments.  As usual, Dr. Allen does much more than simply explain to us what is in the reading, he takes us several steps further.

And thank you to all of you who commented today.  Especially to Kay for her heartfelt story about the airport encounter, and the glimpse into the soul of our Union.

Wow! I loved Federalist #14!  There are so many beautiful passages about unity in our country –  “the kindred blood which flows in the veins of American citizens, the mingled blood which they have shed in defense of their sacred rights, consecrate their Union, and excite horror at the idea of their becoming aliens, rivals, enemies.” While the American people “have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience…”  But the item that most caught my attention was the discussion of the difference between a republic and a democracy. I was struck by the fact that many of the communication and travel constraints our founding fathers operated under have been removed in present day by technology, and by the fact that technology is facilitating our country’s move toward democracy, something our founding fathers would not see as an improvement.

The difference between a republic and a democracy is so important, and so little understood.  In Federalist 14 and elsewhere, Publius devotes a good amount of time explaining the difference between these two forms of government, and detailing the weaknesses of a democracy as opposed to a republic.  In our founding fathers’ time, a democracy within a large geographic area was impossible, limited by the “distance from the central point which will just permit the most remote citizens to assemble as often as their public functions demand, and will include no greater number than can join in those functions.”  In Federalist 14 Madison points out that the geographic size makes the United States much more suited to a republic than a democracy.

Today, technology has erased the constraint imposed by geographic size, and our culture is drawing us towards democracy. Television shows such as American Idol where millions of people cast ballots; online polls where instant readouts of the public’s tastes, preferences and opinions are measured; Twitter, Facebook: all put more power than ever in the collective public’s hands to instantly express opinions on any matter.

But the weakness of pure democracy is the same, whether it is a small geographic area where the people are physically coming together to vote on every issue affecting them, or whether it is millions sitting at computers, in front of their televisions, or texting on their cellphones “voting.”  As Hamilton states in Federalist 71, “The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests.”

In Federalist 10 the weakness of pure democracy was summed up this way: “From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

As the culture draws us toward democracy, and with the geographic constraints on democracy removed by technology, it is more important than ever that we understand the systemic flaws of this type of governance.

Our elected officials must be firmly grounded in the meaning of the republic, and their role in balancing competing interests and factions.  We must understand the fundamental reasoning and principles that drew our founding fathers to govern through a republic, and the Federalist Papers are vital for that understanding.

I am so grateful for all who are adding to our knowledge base each day, and journeying with us through these readings.  Thank you!!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 18, 2010 – Federalist No. 15 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Have you been watching Janine’s Behind the Scenes Videos? They are fantastic! Last night Juliette Turner, Constituting America Youth Director, talked about the We The People 9.17 Contest, and how important it is that young people understand the Constitution and founding principles of our country!  Check out these fun, short videos – where else can you see pets reading the Federalist Papers, or meet Longhorns with names like Revolution or America’s Pride?  You’ll see some beautiful Texas landscapes, and if you click on the right one, you’ll even get to hear Janine sing the Star Spangled Banner!

Thank you to Professor Allison Hayward of George Mason University!  Your thorough explanation, and tie-in to Europe’s present day troubles, made Federalist No. 15 come alive!  Thank you also to all who posted today.  If you are reading, and haven’t written your comments in our blog, please join the conversation! We need your voice and view!

I echo Professor Hayward’s observation that Hamilton’s Federalist No. 15 is a bit of a downer after Madison’s optimistic essay yesterday.  Madison’s Federalist No. 14 made my heart swell with pride to be a citizen of the United States of America.   Federalist No. 15 reminds us that our country soared to greatness, strength and respect from humble beginnings. In 1788 the prospect of failure was very real.  Hamilton does a brilliant job describing the environment, and paints a bleak picture, “the last stage of national humiliation”:  lack of respect in the world, debt, no troops, declining commerce and land values, lack of private credit –  the list goes on and on.  The country was at a low point.

But out of this low point, rose our great Nation – rebuilt upon the framework of the United States Constitution.  In fact, if all had been going well in the late 1780′s, the beautiful, unique, perfectly balanced republic that emerged might never have been born.

That is the lesson I take from Federalist No. 15. And one I have learned from Constituting America’s co-chair and my good friend, Janine Turner, who is an inspiration to me.  Janine often speaks about how tough times etch our character and shape us into who God wants us to be.  The tough times in Hamilton’s day produced the United States Constitution.

Our country is again going through tough times.   Hamilton’s words throughout Federalist No. 15 could easily be describing our present day circumstances. But look what these tough times have already wrought:  a renewed passion and engagement of the citizens of the United States!    There is an energy and thirst for knowledge taking hold across the country that I have not felt before in the 25 years in which I have been involved in politics.

Where will this lead? What lies ahead?  When we Americans join together, with our spirit of enterprise, ingenuity and passion, only good things will result. We are once again on the “precipice” Alexander Hamilton speaks of, but I predict we will not plunge into the abyss.  Instead, we will emerge stronger, fortified, with a renewed, patriot’s zeal and commitment to our country’s founding principles.

I look forward to the readings that lie ahead, sharing with you and others, and putting what I am learning to use!

Good night and God bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 19, 2010 – Federalist No. 16 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, May 20th, 2010

A big thank you to our guest blogger Marc Lampkin! Marc, thank you for guiding us today!

I so appreciate all of you who take the time to comment.  You often see nuggets of wisdom in these papers that I have glossed over on my first reading, and your posts send me scrambling back to find the phrases you elaborate on.

Two phrases jumped out at me upon my first reading of Federalist 16, though, and they are the same mentioned by Nickie and Carolyn:

An experiment of this nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority. The success of it would require not merely a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void. If the people were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives, they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest. Attempts of this kind would not often be made with levity or rashness, because they could seldom be made without danger to the authors, unless in cases of a tyrannical exercise of the federal authority.

“A people enlightened,”  ”natural guardians of the Constitution”

“We the people,” are the natural guardians of the Constitution, because as our country drifts from the Constitution, it is “We the people,” who have the most to lose.  If we are not “enlightened,” to understand what we had, and have, we will certainly not know what we have lost, and are losing.  And our children will understand even less than us. We must not only enlighten ourselves, but enlighten our children, so the torch of freedom may be passed to the next generation of Americans.  Watch Janine’s Behind The Scenes Videos starting today, as she teaches her daughter about the Constitution in a several part series!  Janine Turner Short Film Part 1 Constituting America

I am both amazed, and a bit embarrassed to admit how much I am learning through this exercise. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in political science, yet I don’t recall ever picking up the Federalist in college.  This reading is my first time through these prescient papers.   Tonight, I feel empowered that I am becoming “enlightened,” and that the founding fathers considered us – ‘we the people” – to be the guardians of the Constitution.   The more I learn, the better I can guard it!  And the more I can teach my children! On to Federalist No. 17!

Good night and God Bless,

Your fellow guardian of the Constitution,

Cathy Gillespie

2 Responses to “May 19, 2010 – Federalist No. 16 – Cathy Gillespie”

Mark Hansbauer says:
May 20, 2010 at 3:30 am
The people must be “enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority. . . .”
The distinction between a “legal exercise” and an “illegal usurpation of authority” implies knowledge of the difference between “legal” and “illegal.” Is a governmental action “legal” simply because it follows precedent or is based on a plausible interpretation of the Constitution? Is such action “illegal” when it contravenes precedent or is based on a novel interpretation of the Constitution? These questions bring out the possibility that it is not sufficient for the people to understand the Constitution merely at the textual level. There has to be knowledge of standards that ‘stand above’ the Constitution, not to usurp it, but through which we arrive at the fullest and most just construction of the document.

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 11:30 am
Mark, good observation. The Constitution did not come complete with a rule book for construction or, as we would say, interpretation. Who is to decide what is constitutional? How are they to go about the process of deciding? And on what are they relying? It seems to me that the approach to the Constitution has become one of avoidance. Interested parties have an agenda or result in mind and then scour through the case law to find any little precedent they can hang their hat on to nudge the law incrementally toward their desired result.
Each incremental step away from the Constitution seems completely innocuous, plausible and reasonable. But after 230+ years, the “constitution” they are interpreting is strikingly different from the one the framers put their name on. Others have likened it to generations of judges and legal scholars attempting to improve an Old Master painting with a brush stroke here and a brush stroke there. Hubristic acts of defacement and vandalism are what I call those narrow-minded, agenda-driven improvements. Want a different constitution?–AMEND IT! There are, after all, amendment provisions.
Some legal minds get it. Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas come to mind. There are others:
“I claim the right to look at the Constitution itself, stripped of judicial encrustations, as the index of constitutional law.”–Justice Jackson
A judge “remembers above all that it is the Constitution which he swore to support and defend, not the gloss which his predecessors may have put upon it.”–Justice Douglas
“The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what we have said about it.”–Justice Frankfurter
The Founders did not suffer from delusions of grandeur; Hamilton says it was never about “the chimerical pursuit of a perfect plan. I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man.” (No. 85) They did give us constitutional means to make it “more perfect.” I wish we would use those means instead of unconstitutional ones which rely on the arbitrary policy preferences of unelected judges with lifetime tenure.
We have ended up with, as other Constituting America contributors have mentioned, the Orwellian doublespeak of engaging in commerce by not engaging in commerce. (see Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U. S. 11 (1942))
Mark, sometimes what I see is not a question of knowledge of what’s “legal” or “illegal.” They have the knowledge; they just want a different outcome. Thanks for getting me to think about these ideas.

May 20, 2010 – Federalist No. 17 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, May 20th, 2010

What a great discussion we’ve had on Federalist No. 17!  Thank you to William C. Duncan for his insightful comments!  Dr. Morrisey, thank you for joining us today with your contributions as well!

In Federalist 17 Hamilton addresses the concerns of the anti-federalists by making the case that the national government will not try to encroach upon the states’ rights and powers:

“It is therefore improbable that there should exist a disposition in the federal councils to usurp the powers with which they are connected; because the attempt to exercise those powers would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory; and the possession of them, for that reason, would contribute nothing to the dignity, to the importance, or to the splendor of the national government.”

For the sake of argument, Hamilton imagines a scenario where the national government might try to overstep its bounds, and explains that “the people of the several States would control the indulgence of so extravagant an appetite.”

The founders had set up the unique and artfully constructed set of checks and balances to keep the federal government from extending its reach past the powers it was specifically given.  So, what happened?  How could Hamilton have gotten it so wrong?  I have been pondering this all day.  The answer is that the system the founders so carefully constructed was tampered with.  It is ironic that Federalist No. 17 was rendered inaccurate by the 17th Amendment! Like any piece of delicate machinery, once the balance is off, the results go awry.

Hamilton could also not fathom that the national government would desire to control the details of peoples’ lives.  He thought it would be too tedious a task for a government more interested in the big picture of “commerce, finance, negotiation and war.”  Our country had been founded on personal liberty and the “unequaled spirit of enterprise,” mentioned in Federalist No. 11.  It would go against everything their countrymen had fought for, for the federal government to encroach into peoples’ lives and trample their rights, so it was truly hard for Hamilton to foresee.

It is so commonplace today for the federal government to involve itself in the minute details of daily living, that most people don’t realize the balance of government is far off what the founders had envisioned, and the Constitution dictates.  It is eye-opening to see the world through Hamilton’s eyes, a time in history when people could not imagine or predict the scope of power the federal government has achieved.

Only by studying the founders’ intentions, and the structure specified in the Constitution, can people understand how far off the path of freedom our country has veered. The Constitution is our road map and our guide, and to head in the correct direction, we must consult the map.

I thank everyone for their continued participation!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 18 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, May 21st, 2010

Another week of 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future draws to a close!  Thank you to Andrew Langer for your participation as a Guest Constitutional Blogger! And thank you to everyone who is posting such well thought out and researched comments.

In Federalist 18, the founding fathers are telling us that History, indeed does hold the Key To the Future, as the name of this blog indicates.

Not even a fourth of the way through the 85 Federalist Papers, and we have all been amazed at the foresight of the founding fathers.   They seem to have an uncanny ability to see the future.   We know they did not have a crystal ball or special powers, so what was their secret? The answer is that they were extremely well read students of history, philosophy, and human nature.   They took the time to think; they actually thought about the future, and used their knowledge to predict outcomes if certain paths were chosen.

Today, we live in an instant gratification society. If a problem is not immediately upon us, it is not dealt with.  If a problem looms twenty years away, we do not want to address it.  Our founding fathers had a much longer vision looking ahead, and looking back.

The depth of knowledge of the founders about ancient civilizations, and the lessons drawn from them is fascinating.  As Juliette, Janine’s daughter observed, they knew all this and didn’t even have Google!

The founders took the time to study these ancient civilizations so they could draw the important lessons from them:  the necessity of a closer union so the strong states would not tyrannize the weak, that “a weak government, when not at war, is ever agitated by internal dissentions, so these never fail to bring on fresh calamities from abroad,” that a stronger union can repel invaders.

Somewhere along the way our society has lost respect for history.  People want to alter it, to make it fit their world view.  In arrogance we believe we are immune from the mistakes of the past and don’t take the time to analyze events or draw lessons from them.

In today’s comments, Ron made an important point – to change this culture of disrespect for and ignorance of history, we need to take action! He encouraged us to “find some historical event that you’re passionate about, do the research, and tell the story. Service clubs need speakers for every week’s meetings, so there are plenty of opportunities. We just have to do it. Taking action is important. Exercises like this should stimulate us to some action; if we finish this FP exercise and go back to living our lives as we did before, then we’ve gained knowledge, but done nothing to rediscover our heritage or, more importantly, to help others do the same.”

Ron is so right!!  As we read the Federalist, our eyes open to many truths, one of which is the importance of looking at lessons from history as we move forward.   We need to find ways to take action, and share what we are learning with others.  Whether it is Ron’s idea of speaking to civic clubs, or simply forwarding a link to this blog to your personal email list, you can make a difference in  opening people’s eyes to the founding principles of our country, and the importance of knowing the United States Constitution.

Thank you to each of you for all you do for our Nation!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

One Response to “May 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 18 – Cathy Gillespie”

Barb Zakszewski says:
May 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm
I like Ron’s idea too. We must take the knowledge we are gaining and share it, or it will just grow old and stale in our brains. I’ve been talking to everyone I can think of, informing this of this website and the knowledge I’m gaining…I actually write a small column for the monthly newsletter of a club I belong to and have told our editor of my plans to start writing a summary of the what’ I’m learning here each month!! I’ve constantly encouraged my club’s members to become active, and as Janine says, “knowledge is POWER!!!”. Let’s all spread the word!!

May 24, 2010 – Federalist No. 19 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, May 24th, 2010

Professor Knipprath, thank you for an essay that goes way beyond Federalist 19, addressing the natural order of the universe!  Your observations not only reflect what we have seen in history, but also what we are seeing in our country today.

Federalist 19 continues to reveal to us that the United States system of government as outlined in the Constitution is not just the result of our founding fathers’ vivid imaginations and creativity.  The system of government they designed is based on an astute observation of history, an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the governmental systems of many civilizations, and the improvements upon those systems our founders devised, taking into account their deep understanding of human nature, the people of the United States, and the resources of our great land.

Publius’ arguments for ratification are compelling because he doesn’t simply give an opinion, he backs up his position with example after example.

One of the last sentences of Federalist 19 caught my eye:

So far as the peculiarity of their case will admit of comparison with that of the United States, it serves to confirm the principle intended to be established. Whatever efficacy the union may have had in ordinary cases, it appears that the moment a cause of difference sprang up, capable of trying its strength, it failed.”

Unlike many governmental systems in history, the system of government designed by our founders, within the structure of our Constitution, has allowed our country to withstand differences capable of “trying our strength.”  Our system of government has not failed us, even in trying times.  We survived the Civil War. We survived the Great Depression.  We survived riots in the 1960’s. We survived World War I, World War II and terrorist attacks upon our country.  We will survive the current immigration problems besieging many of our states. Through the course of history we have calibrated and recalibrated the course of our Nation through our elected representatives.

I believe that is what Andy was trying to say in a post this weekend:

“This country was founded on the ability to change direction in government by the vote. That happened two years ago because a majority of people felt change should happen. If that change went too far, then an opportunity to reset the course will occur in November.”

and what Janine says in her FoxNews Op-ed, Your Vote is Your Voice: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/30/janine-turner-supreme-court-justice-constitution-elections-elected/

Going back to Professor Knipprath’s essay, an informed, educated and engaged citizenry is the energy that keeps our Republic from decay.  It is what keeps our system of government so carefully constructed by our founders, from failing us during the trying times.

The responsibility rests with We The People. When we  understand our rights embodied in the United States Constitution as well as the principles upon which this country was founded, we can elect those who will use the Constitution as our guiding light as we forge the course of the future, keeping us strong during the  times capable of “trying our strength.”

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 25, 2010 – Federalist No. 20 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

“Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.”

Thank you Mr. Duncan for your excellent observation that the founders relied on experience to ascertain truth, not “their unaided ability to reason out new solutions,” not “subtle thinking and cleverness,” and definitely not partisan politics.

Thanks to our enlightened, well educated founding fathers, the United States of America rests on the foundation of thousands of years of lessons learned from many civilizations.  As Hamilton observed in Federalist No. 9, “The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement. The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients.”

Our culture does not value history as much as it once did.  And there is an undisputable massive effort underway to re-write the history that we are teaching our children.  If our leaders are ever to return to a framework for decision making that incorporates an objective look at history, we must all work, in our own way, to instill in our children and fellow citizens a renewed passion for learning about the past.  We must work to preserve the integrity and accuracy of the history taught in our schools.

I am still thinking about Ron’s call to action last week in the comments section of Federalist No. 18, and how important it is that we all engage in culture creation.

As Janine so eloquently wrote in her op-ed,  A Call to Arms for America’s Parents, we as parents must take responsibility for teaching or children history.  We can start with some of the excellent books by Dr. William J. Bennett, including The American Patriot’s Almanac and America: The Last Best Hope Volume I and II. We can encourage our children to enter Constituting America’s We the People 9.17 Contest, asking them to think about and articulate how the U.S. Constitution is relevant today.  And we can share the 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future project with our families.

Sign up for our newsletter email list and forward the emails out to your friends.  Forward the link to Juliette Turner’s Youth Videos like the one below where she reads from Dr. Bennett’s book and talks about the First Amendment.

Juliette Turner\’s Weekly National Youth Director Video

We can each have an impact in our circle of influence.  And if we all work in our own small way to change the culture, to encourage an awakening to our country’s roots, foundation, and founding principles, to encourage a thirst for learning the lessons written for us in history, we will succeed.

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 26, 2010 – Federalist No. 21 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Yesterday, May 25, 2010, marked the 223 anniversary of the convening of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.  The National Constitution Center is sponsoring an innovative Twitter program which Constituting America is promoting: www.twitter.com/secretdelegate .

The premise is that a rogue delegate is secretly “tweeting” from the Constitutional Convention and giving us “the inside scoop.” It is fun! If you are on Twtter, check it out! If you aren’t on Twitter, consider signing up!  It is vital that we utilize “new media,” to spread the word about the Constitution and the founding principles of our country.

Thank you to all of you who participate in this blog, follow Constituting America on Facebook (www.facebook.com/constitutingamerica), and Twitter (www.twitter.com/constituteUS) , and forward emails out to your friends!  A big thank you, also, to Horace Cooper for sharing your insights on Federalist 21 with us!

In Federalist 21, Publius begins an itemization of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation in order to build a case for the proposed Constitution.  The Articles of Confederation were clearly not taking the country in the direction the founding fathers hoped it would go.  Imagine what shape the country must have been in, in 1787, for our founders to have undertaken the monumental task of travelling to Philadelphia, and spending over three months in the oppressive summer heat crafting the Constitution.

From Hamilton’s writings, it seems the national government did not have enough funds to operate, the states were not being adequately protected from domestic uprisings such as Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts, and the founders foresaw long term problems in the unequal way taxes were being collected from the states through quotas.

How are these Federalist Papers relevant today? The United States of 2010 is again in a period of challenging times.  A shaky economy, threats from our borders, and protesters from groups such as SEIU that are increasingly bold and unruly. Most recently to the point that Nina Easton, a member of the media who would normally support the rights of protesters, has openly condemned a group of over 500 who showed up next door to her home, on the lawn of her neighbor, Greg Baer.

All the while, the national government seems to be ever growing and reaching, employing the “Star Trek” principle: Boldly Going Where No United States Government Has Gone Before – running our auto companies, our health care system, and even trying to dictate what types of food we eat!

For those who are unhappy with the course of our country, there is solace in Alexander Hamilton’s words:

Where the whole power of the government is in the hands of the people, there is the less pretense for the use of violent remedies in partial or occasional distempers of the State. The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.

Thanks to our Constitution, and our republican form of government, there is a structure in place to change the course of the country, and get back onto the path envisioned by our founders, the path of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise.

Tough times in 1787 sparked an amazing document that has guided our country for over 200 years, now the oldest federal constitution in existence.

What positive outcome will the tough times of 2010 produce?  I am praying it will be a rekindled passion for the United States Constitution, and the founding principles of our country – the principles that have allowed us to be, in Janine Turner’s words, “America the beautiful, America the hope.”

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 27, 2010 – Federalist No. 22 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Thank you Dr. Morrissey for walking us through Federalist No. 22!  Publius certainly covers a lot of ground in this Federalist Paper!  If only our current elected officials would take the time to methodically explain major proposed legislation in this manner.   Our “sound bite” culture and collective short attention span does not lend itself to deeply and thoroughly understanding the many issues facing us.

The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were many: lack of federal regulation of commerce, including foreign commerce and interstate commerce; the weakness of the state quota system for raising armies; problems of equal suffrage among the states; the weaknesses of the 2/3 majority requirement for important resolutions ; lack of “one Supreme Tribunal,” and overall so many problems with the Articles of Confederation that they were not deemed fixable by amendment.  Publius goes on to point out the weakness of a Congress with only one legislative body, and the final and most important flaw: The people never ratified the Articles of Confederation.  It is with this final point that my favorite quote from Federalist 22 appears:

“The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”

One of the things I have enjoyed most about reading The Federalist are the quotes like the one above, that leap off the page, and speak to us so clearly, 223 years later.  They encapsulate principles that our country has drifted from, and remind us of the intent of the founders.  When these principles are followed, our country flourishes.  When we drift from them, we stagnate.

If only our founding fathers could come back today, and write a series of Federalist Papers where they analyze our current governmental structure in the same manner they analyze the Articles of Confederation, and methodically itemize all the places our country has deviated from their original founding principles.  I have a feeling they would have a hard time confining their essays to 85!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 28, 2010 – Federalist No. 23 – Cathy Gillespie

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Saturday, May 29th, 2010

As I read Federalist 23, I thought about attacks the United States has endured in the last century: especially the air attack on Pearl Harbor, and September 11, when hijacked commercial airliners were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 was crashed before it could reach its target.  These types of attacks have been unimaginable to the people of the United States, even our leaders at the highest levels of government, until they occur.  And the only certainty is that our country will eventually be attacked again, in a new creative way, that we once again cannot imagine.

Alexander Hamilton knew this. His words, “The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite….” and, “it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them,” ring true as we remember the wars our country has fought through the years since 1787, and the many times the President has had to send troops into hostile situations.

The founders wisely built checks and balances into our national defense.  While the Congress is given the power in Article I, Section 8 to declare war and to raise and support troops, the President is designated as the Commander in Chief in Article II, Section II, a power used broadly by Presidents to send troops where the President has deemed necessary. The War Powers Act of 1973 attempted to clarify and formalize consultation with Congress by the President when sending troops into hostile situations, and put a time limit on troops sent by the President without Congressional approval.  The Constitutionality of this law has been questioned, some have advocated for its repeal, and most recently in July, 2008 a bi-partisan Commission led by former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher, recommended improvements.

While there is tension between the executive and congressional branches over the parameters of their war powers, it is imperative that our government provide for our defense, and be given the power to do so. Whether it be stopping Hitler and Japan in World War II, halting the spread of communism, as was attempted in Vietnam, or fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, our American Troops, directed by our Commander in Chief, have bravely kept our country safe and preserved our liberty.

It is fitting we read Federalist No. 23 on this Memorial Day Weekend.  Let us honor those men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that our freedom lives on, and let us be thankful for the wisdom of our founders who knew that providing for the common defense was best left in the hands of our federal government.

Cathy Gillespie

 

May 31, 2010 – Federalist No. 24 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, May 31st, 2010

It is interesting that in the early days of the republic, people feared a standing army. The Pennsylvania and North Carolina Constitutions went so far as to say, “As standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, THEY OUGHT NOT to be kept up.”  This was a legitimate fear, based on history, as Allison Hayward points out in her essay today.  (Thank you, Allison, by the way, for your second Guest Blogger essay!! We appreciate your insights!!)

Our founders addressed this possible threat to the peoples’ liberty by placing the power of Commander in Chief with the executive branch (Article II, Section II of the Constitution), but the power to raise armies with the legislative branch (Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution).  And they even included a clause which forbade the appropriation of money for the support of an army for any longer period than two years, as a precaution to keeping troops without necessity.

Today, on Memorial Day 2010, most Americans look at our military not with the suspicious eye of our forefathers, but with heartfelt pride and gratitude.  Two days ago Rasmussen announced a poll showing that 74% of Americans have a favorable view of the U.S. Military.  Only 12% had an unfavorable opinion and 13% weren’t sure.

I believe part of this strong support for our troops is due to the founding fathers’ wise use of checks and balances in structuring the government’s control of the military, balancing power between the legislative and executive branches.  The abuses that the anti-federalists feared have not come to pass.

An equally important factor responsible for American support of our troops is the quality of the men and women who, since the elimination of the draft, have chosen to serve. These are brave, selfless men and women – fathers and mothers – who leave their families for years at a time to go to foreign lands and defend freedom.  These members of the armed services make sacrifices in their personal life, their financial life, their physical and mental health, and sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice, all to defend our liberty.  I am honored and blessed to count many active duty members of the military as friends, and I cannot think of any people with higher character, sense of patriotism and duty to country than these service members.

God bless those who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom, may God be with their families, and may God be with and bless our active duty military and veterans.  Our country owes you all a huge debt of gratitude.  Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 1, 2010 – We The People 9.17 Contest Update and Federalist No. 25 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

DON’T MISS!! Juliette Turner’s newest video about our contest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNnhC3F5nJE

 

We are almost one month away from our We The People 9.17 Contest entry deadline of July 4.  We need everyone’s help in recruiting kids to enter!  We have been told email is the most effective means of recruiting entries and spreading the word, so please feel free to cut and paste this blog and circulate it to your email list.

Constituting America is seeking  high school students to submit entertaining short films, public service announcements, cool songs, and of course, essays by July 4th for our We The People 9.17 Contest!! We have a good number of essays, but not as many short films, public service announcements and songs as we were hoping for, so if you know any high school students who have a talent for making movies, or composing and singing songs, please direct them to:  http://www.constitutingamerica.org/downloads.php for more information, rules and to sign up online! Prizes for high schoolers include $2,000, a trip to Philadelphia on September 17 (Constitution Day), and Governor Huckabee has invited the contest winners on his show! The National Constitution Center has offered to show the winning short film in their theatre, and highlight our contest winners in their Constitution Day events.

Constituting America is seeking Middle School Students to enter cool SONGS and well written essays!! We have a good number of essays, but not as many songs as we were hoping for!  Please spread the word to any Middle School kids you know, especially those who like to compose and sing, and direct them to: http://www.constitutingamerica.org/downloads.php for more details, and to sign up online!!  Prizes for Middle School kids include gift cards, publicity on the Constituting America website, and other cool surprises!

And, calling all Elementary Schools kids who like to write poems or draw! We need poems, and art for a holiday greeting card!  Again, please see: http://www.constitutingamerica.org/downloads.php for rules and details, and to sign up for the contest online!!   Prizes for Elementary School kids include gift cards, publicity on the Constituting America website, and other cool surprises.

If school is still in session in your area, please contact social studies teachers, art departments, music departments, and theatre/film departments! This is a great project to fill those last days of school when teachers have possibly run out of curriculum or want to give students a chance to earn some extra credit!  Church youth groups are another possiblity.  And if anyone has ideas or ways to get the word out to the military about this contest, we would love your help in doing so!

As for Federalist No. 25 – first of all, thank you Professor Knipprath! I echo Susan in saying I always look forward to your posts.  And what a beautiful essay Janine wrote on Federalist 24 & 25.  I am not sure I have ever read a better tribute to the troops  for Memorial Day.

Like Greg, Professor Knipprath’s line: “Hamilton raises an important broader point here, namely, the use of contrived crises not only to justify military action, but any government action,” especially resonated with me.  It seems that more and more frequently, “crisis,” is used to justify the government creeping into areas of our lives, and the marketplace,  where our founding fathers never intended it to go.

In Federalist 24, Hamilton used a phrase I love  – he describes the American people as “so jealous of their liberties.”  If we can once again become a people educated about and “jealous of our liberties,” we can begin to roll back some of the government encroachment the founding fathers tried to guard against.  We must stay alert and awake!

A hard task at 2:26 a.m. as I write this post!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 2, 2010 – Federalist No. 26 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Thanks to everyone who joined our discussion today, and to our Guest Constitutional Scholar Bloggers, Daren Bakst and Troy Kickler!

I asked you all last night to help us recruit kids to enter the We The People 9.17 Contest, Entries due July 4!  Thank you!! We have had several new online signups today at http://constitutingamerica.org/contestsignup.php Please keep spreading the word!!

Here is one additional request – as you recruit young people to the contest, please ask their parents, and the older kids, to join us on this blog! We learn so much from each other. The more people we have participating, the more we learn!!

Tonight, the first paragraph of Federalist #26 grabbed my attention.  I even printed it off and carried it down the hall to show my husband who was trying to watch TV in peace!  But as he read the sentences below, he agreed – these words ARE relevant today:

IT WAS a thing hardly to be expected that in a popular revolution the minds of men should stop at that happy mean which marks the salutary boundary between POWER and PRIVILEGE, and combines the energy of government with the security of private rights. A failure in this delicate and important point is the great source of the inconveniences we experience, and if we are not cautious to avoid a repetition of the error, in our future attempts to rectify and ameliorate our system, we may travel from one chimerical project to another; we may try change after change; but we shall never be likely to make any material change for the better.

I admit I had to look up a few words. I had a vague understanding of their meanings, but reading the definitions added to the richness of Hamilton’s message.

ameliorate – to make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory; improve; meliorate.

chimerical – 1 : existing only as the product of unchecked imagination : fantastically visionary or improbable
2 : given to fantastic schemes

Even though Publius uses this first paragraph to make his case for the legislature to have the power to provide for national defense, these words reverberate with meaning, as I think of the numerous ways the balance between “legislative power and liberty” (thank you Mr. Bakst & Kickler for that phrase) has been disrupted.

Our founders created a system of checks and balances, and nothing less than our freedom is dependent upon its equilibrium.   Whether we tip too far towards anarchy, as Hamilton feared if the legislature wasn’t granted the power to provide for the national defense, or too far towards government control in our lives, the result is a deviation from the system of government our founding fathers so carefully designed.  When “We the people” allow the government to get out of balance, we allow our liberty to fade, creating those “inconveniences,” Hamilton references, and we fail to make “any material change for the better.”

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 27 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 4th, 2010

Thank you to our Guest Constitutional Scholar Blogger, Julia Shaw!  And thank you to all who posted your comments today.

While reading Federalist 27, I found myself thinking, “How was Hamilton so wrong?”

He begins by arguing with one of the premises of the anti-federalists:

“As far as I have been able to divine the latent meaning of the objectors, it seems to originate in a presupposition that the people will be disinclined to the exercise of federal authority in any matter of an internal nature.”

Hamilton may be correct that people will be accepting of the federal government if it is well administered, but as Peter Roff so correctly points out in his coment today, it is impossible to effectively manage the behemoth the federal government has become.  And while most people do not mind the exercise of federal authority in the internal matters enumerated as federal powers in the Constitution, what they do mind is the federal government’s usurpation of those powers that according to the 10th Amendment are ”reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This quote startled me as well:

“The inference is, that the authority of the Union, and the affections of the citizens towards it, will be strengthened, rather than weakened, by its extension to what are called matters of internal concern.”

Ask any small businessperson who is struggling to comply with EPA, OSHA, IRS, and numerous other sources of “red tape,” if his or her affection towards the federal government is strengthened or weakened by all the mandates, regulations, rules and laws with which he must comply.

Hamilton could not have imagined the reach the modern day federal government has into U.S. citizen’s “internal” lives.   He had no way of knowing the 17th Amendment would be added to the U.S. Constitution, one of many factors that threw off the systems of checks and balances the founders had so carefully constructed to avoid a power grab by the federal government.

Hamilton got this right, however:

“It will be sufficient here to remark, that until satisfactory reasons can be assigned to justify an opinion, that the federal government is likely to be administered in such a manner as to render it odious or contemptible to the people, there can be no reasonable foundation for the supposition that the laws of the Union will meet with any greater obstruction from them, or will stand in need of any other methods to enforce their execution, than the laws of the particular members.”

Many would argue that we are moving into the “odious and contemptible” zone with the ever expanding powers of the federal government contained in some of the legislation passed in the last few years.  At least 13 states would deem the health care bill “odious and contemptible,” as they mount their constitutional challenges to it.

In the comments section tonight, Adam proposed an interesting idea – a fourth branch of government entitled the Accountability Branch.  I would argue that branch already exists, but it goes by another name: “We The People.”  We are charged with keeping the government accountable.  As Janine wrote so eloquently in her Fox News Op Ed, Your Vote is Your Voice, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/30/janine-turner-supreme-court-justice-constitution-elections-elected/, our power to vote is the great leveler in restoring the balance to our government.

In order to use that power wisely, We The People, of the Accountability Branch, must be educated and awake.  Thank you to all of you for your participation, and for your wakefulness!  Let’s keep spreading the word, and inviting others to join us!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 4, 2010 – Federalist No. 28 – Cathy Gillespie

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Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Thank you to Dr. Morrisey for your insight into Federalist No. 28, and for checking back in with us over the weekend!  You are a wonderful resource to our “90 in 90” Participants!

It is interesting to me that Hamilton seems to be calling for the federal government to use the military to enforce domestic law in some circumstances.  He mentions specifically “seditions and insurrections.”

However, the American people have a strong history of opposing military enforcement of domestic law, unless requested by the state.  Our forefathers rightly feared a standing army, due to abuses and usurpations of power the British Army had imposed on them.

After the Civil War, during Reconstruction, U.S. soliders were utilized to enforce law in the South. The issue came to a head during the election of 1876.  Democrats dropped their challenge of this very close election (Rutherford Hayes won by one electoral college vote, but Samuel Tilden won the popular vote), when a compromise was reached to pass the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878:

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Federalist No. 28, and the subsequent Posse Comitatus Act are both very relevant today, because in 2006, President Bush could not send federal troops in to Louisiana to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, until he was specifically requested to do so by Governor Blanco.  As a result, the federal government was not able to respond as quickly as many would have liked.

Later that year, an attempt was made in the 2006 Defense Authorization Act to revise the Posse Comitatus Act, to enable the President to respond more quickly in these types of emergencies.  While the measure passed in 2006, it was repealed in 2008.   As United States Citizens, it is “in our genes,” to be wary of standing armies, and certainly military enforcement of domestic law.

As I read Federalist 28, the below quote reminded me of why it is so important we all continue our effort to educate our youth and citizens about the U.S. Constitution and the and the foundation it sets forth regarding our freedoms and rights.

“The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities of resistance increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the citizens understand their rights and are disposed to defend them.”

Thank you to all of you who are joining us in our mission, speading the word and taking the time to blog with us!

Have a Blessed Sunday, and we look forward to blogging on Federalist 29 tomorrow!

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 9, 2010 – Federalist No. 31 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

“IN DISQUISITIONS of every kind, there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind.”

Federalist No. 31 has one of the strongest beginnings and endings of any of the essays I have read so far.  Hamilton begins by reminding us of the importance of “primary truths,” and “first principles.”  When our elected officials are guided by the first principles and truths upon which our country was founded, our freedom and prosperity will be protected.

Mr. Cooper makes an excellent point in his essay today, that instead of scrutinizing specific tasks the government takes on, our elected officials should start from the macro level, and apply first principles in every decision, asking the question, “is this task a legitimate function of the federal government?”

After laying out the importance of the guiding truths in discerning the legitimate functions of government, Hamilton makes the case for the federal government having the “unqualified power of taxation,” so it has the resources to fulfill those duties and powers for which it is responsible, according to the Constitution.

Our modern day problem is that the federal government has utilized its power to tax, to fund powers far beyond the scope of those enumerated in the Constitution.

Hamilton could not imagine the federal government’s modern day usurpation of powers because the checks and balances the founders designed were meant to curb governmental encroachment.  Indeed, because of the power of the states in selecting U.S. Senators (before the adoption of the 17th Amendment), Hamilton envisioned States more likely to usurp federal powers, than the other way around.

Hamilton closes by reminding us that the responsibility to stop the encroachment of government at the state or federal level, rests with the people, thus ending Federalist 31 as strongly as he opens it.  “We the people”  must keep government within its proper scope and powers “delineated in the Constitution.” He states that the people “hold the scales in their hands,” and hopes they “will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the State governments.”

“Everything beyond this must be left to the prudence and firmness of the people; who, as they will hold the scales in their own hands, it is to be hoped, will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the State governments.”

How will “We The People,” adjust the scales to bring the constitutional equilibrium back into balance?  It is clear the founders expect us to.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 10, 2010 – Federalist No. 32 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 11th, 2010

Thank you to Professor Knipprath for your excellent insight into Federalist No. 32.  We greatly appreciate your generous gift of time to the 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future Project!

The purpose of Federalist 32 seems to be to reassure citizens that the Federal Government’s power to tax will not preclude states from raising the revenue they need to operate their state governments. While making that point, Publius gives us an excellent tutorial in the balance of power that exists between the federal government and the states, under the Constitution:

“the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States.”

This sounds very much like the language in the 10th Amendment:

Amendment X: 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.

Publius goes on to explain the three types of cases where the Federal government is granted exclusive authority, overriding state sovereignty:

(1)  “Where the Constitution in express terms granted an exclusive authority to the Union;

(2) where it granted in one instance an authority to the Union, and in another prohibited the States from exercising the like authority;

(3) and where it granted an authority to the Union, to which a similar authority in the States would be absolutely and totally CONTRADICTORY and REPUGNANT.

Making it clear that states will be allowed to levy taxes on “all other articles,” except imports and exports, Publius does caution that it might not always be prudent for the federal government and states to exercise their concurrent taxation powers and tax the same articles, but that “an inconvenience of the exercise of powers” doesn’t “extinguish a pre-existing right….”  Most people would agree that modern day levels of taxation at the state and federal levels have passed the point of prudence!

The balance of power between the federal and state governments Hamilton describes in the beginning of the essay was structured to ensure our freedom.  The disturbance in the equilibrium of the balance of power between the federal and state governments has resulted in greater levels of taxation at the state and federal levels, thus limiting our personal financial freedom and damaging the economy.

As unfunded federal mandates on the state governments have grown, the states’ need to raise revenue has increased.  IRS.gov lists only nine states without an income tax! As the states’ need to raise revenue has increased, they have become more and more dependent on federal dollars, with mandates attached, thus altering the balance of power even more. As the federal government has ventured in to areas our founders never intended, its need to raise revenue has increased as well.

Once again, we see the damage done by disturbing the delicate balance of power so artfully designed by our founding fathers.  The more we learn about the original structure and design of our government, the better equipped we are to work to restore the equilibrium which protects our liberty.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 33 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 11th, 2010

In Federalist No. 33, Hamilton defends the Necessary and Proper clause, found in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

The Congress shall have Power To…….. make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Hamilton’s main defense of the clause, as Professor Knipprath points out, is to say that the clause merely restates a power that exists with or without the clause.

Driven by curiosity as to why the framers included the controversial words, if the power existed with or without them, I did some research.

I found the following information in the excellent resource book, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, Edwin Meese III Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board:

The necessary and proper clause served two purposes in the framers’ minds:

1. to allow the Congress to do what was necessary to organize the government (create executive departments, set the number of Supreme Court Justices, divide out judicial power among courts).

2. to help carry out Congress’s enumerated powers contained in Article I, Section 8.

In his essay on pages 146-150, in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, David Engdahl tells us the opponents of the Constitution nicknamed this clause the “sweeping clause,” or the “general clause,” and Brutus, their spokesperson, said it “leaves the national legislature at liberty, to do everything, which in their judgment is best.”

Engdahl tells us that James Wilson who authored the clause, explained at Pennsylvania’s ratification convention that he saw the clause as “limited,” and “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”  Wilson stated that the clause authorizes what is “necessary to render effectual the particular powers that are granted.” In other words, the clause authorizes no more than the powers already enumerated, and is to assist in fully effectuating those powers.

The Necessary and Proper Clause has become the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, much as the anti-federalists feared.  Congress is able to justify certain laws constitutionally by enacting legislation that is within the scope of its enumerated powers, but the same legislation may also affect areas outside of the enumerated powers, adding to the “federal creep,” unintended by the founders and predicted by the anti-federalists.  As Professor Knipprath points out, the Necessary and Proper Clause is aptly nicknamed the “elastic clause.”

Hamilton’s answer to this problem is clear,

“If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”

This is why it is so important that “We The People” are educated, and understand the “just bounds of authority.” If we don’t know the Constitution, how will we know when it is injured?

Thank you to all of you who are joining us on this educational journey! Your energy and enthusiasm is inspiring, and we are learning from every comment on the blog!

Please continue to forward our web address, http://www.constitutingamerica.org to your friends, and encourage them to join us.

If you are silently reading along, please add your voice to our blog!!  90 in 90: = 180 is not complete, without YOUR thoughts!!

Have a great weekend!

God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 14, 2010 – Federalist No. 34 – Janine Turner and Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, June 14th, 2010

Howdy from Independence Hall in Philadelphia! Actually we just entered Interstate 95 South! Cathy, Juliette and I are returning from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Cathy is driving, Juliette is editing the behind the scene video and I am typing tonight’s essay on Federalist Paper No. 34 which Cathy and I are doing in tandem.

Cathy, Juliette and I were in Philadelphia scouting locations for our Constitution Day celebration of our Constituting America, “We the People 9.17 Contest” winners. It is going to be so much fun!! We are planning our events, which will include press opportunities, regional and national; entertainment;  historical enlightenment and a bevy of educational wonders.

We visited the brilliant National Constitution Center, and we are excited to reveal the news that they have offered to exhibit ALL of the winners’ works at the center. Our winners’ works will be a part of the legacy honoring the United States Constitution. Our winners will also stand as a tribute to American citizens and other children regarding the value of knowing and respecting our Constitution.

The minute we walked into the doors of the Constitution Center we were enveloped by the magnificence of our founding fathers’ document. The details about the Constitution, exhibited in both a formal and modern way, instantly intrigued our senses. They had mesmerizing movies and interactive information at our fingertips and we wanted to stay for days.

One of our favorite places was the Signers’ Hall, which had statues of all of the signers of the United States Constitution, in animated conversation. It was so cool!! (Be sure to watch our Philadelphia behind the scenes video!) David Eisner, the President and CEO of the Constitution Center, has offered to have a screening, reading and performance of our winners essays, songs and short film (and the behind the scene documentary we are going to film of the winners) in the Kirby Theatre in front of a distinguished audience and press.

We then joined our Constitutional colleague and friend, Rochelle, who guided us through other visually stimulating opportunities in front of momentous monuments such as Independence Hall!! The winner’s trip to Philadelphia is going to be an enriching experience for all of us and an inspiring event for the country.

If you haven’t yet encouraged your children or children you know to join our “We the People 9.17 Contest” then please do so. There still is ample time! Entries are due July 4th.

Now we turn our attention to Federalist Paper No. 34.
The topics are varied in this paper but there were a couple of Alexander Hamilton’s statements that captivated Cathy’s and my interest.

“Let us recollect, that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambitions, of others.”

“To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude, that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway, than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquility, would be to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.”

These two paragraphs represent Alexander Hamilton’s
genius and foresight. However “mild and beneficent” we may be, we are powerless to “extinguish the ambition of others.” How relevant is this statement to the challenges we face today with terrorism. A strong defense is the only rational choice when up against the “fiery and destructive passions of war” that weave within the fiber of human nature. If we do not remain vigilant then we will be basing our decisions along side the “weaker springs of the human character.” History has proven this time and time again and our forefathers always based their decisions upon the lessons of history.

When one doubts the timely application of the writings of the Federalist Papers and the resiliency of the Constitution, one needs to simply become acquainted with the phrases such as these by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 34.

America is under attack, and unfortunately will continue to be. We must not align ourselves with the weaker side of human nature. We must always be readily prepared to carry the torch of peace, freedom and prosperity with the wiser forces of human nature: wisdom, willingness, and a watchful eye that is buoyed by a strength and fortitude that defies the enemy.

God bless from now Mount Vernon, Virginia!

Janine Turner &
Cathy Gillespie

 

June 15, 2010 – Federalist No. 35 – Janine Turner & Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Hello from Virginia, three miles from Mt. Vernon!  The Gillespies are so glad to have Janine and Juliette staying with us for a few days during their East Coast Constituting America Tour!  They began in New York last week, travelled to Boston, and yesterday we visited Philadelphia (with a side trip to the Jersey shore)!

Today began with Janine and Juliette taping a radio interview with Laura Ingraham!  Stay tuned to this site for news as to when it will air!

We then walked the halls of Congress, and visited several Members, including Congresswomen Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn, and Congressman Scott Garrett, the Chair of the Congressional Constitution Caucus.   We saw many groups of young people touring the Capitol Complex, and we took the opportunity to talk to as many of them as possible, and invited them to enter our We The People 9.17 Contest!  We got a great reaction from them, and many indicated they would enter! Remember, entries are due July 4th!!!!

We were excited to learn about the Congressional Constitution Caucus.  We should encourage our elected Representatives to join this caucus, and assist Congressman Garrett in his mission of educating members of Congress about the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Tonight, the Gillespie house is buzzing with Constitutional Activity!   Janine is preparing for an interview with Fox News, Juliette and my daughter Mollie are editing the Behind the Scenes Video of our trip yesterday to Philadelphia, and Janine and I are writing our Federalist Paper No. 35 essay together, since we are in the same place.

Thank you to Joseph Postell for an excellent analysis of Federalist No. 35:  a continuation of Publius’s discussion of taxes, and reflections on the nature of representative government.  How fitting we are blogging on this subject, on a day we walked the halls of Congress!

Publius begins his essay by stating several maxims regarding taxes, including:

“All extremes are pernicious in various ways.”

“Exorbitant duties on imported articles would beget a general spirit of smuggling; which is always prejudicial to the fair trader, and eventually to the revenue itself.”

“When the demand is equal to the quantity of goods at market, the consumer generally pays the duty; but when the markets happen to be overstocked, a great proportion falls upon the merchant, and sometimes not only exhausts his profits, but breaks in upon his capital.”

“The maxim that the consumer is the payer, is so much oftener true than the reverse of the proposition.”

“Necessity, especially in politics, often occasions false hopes, false reasonings, and a system of measures correspondingly erroneous.”

And, most importantly: “It might be demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will always be the least burdensome.”

The theme of these quotes is that the consumer, the merchant, and ultimately the economy suffers when taxes become oppressive.  When raising taxes to address “necessities,” false reasonings do not render the hoped for results.   For example, the stimulus bill was supposed to lower the unemployment rate to 8 percent or below, but despite all the money spent, unemployment has not reached that target.  Would a less “oppressive” means, such as cutting taxes, have yielded better results?

In Federalist 35, Publius also responds to various criticisms the anti-federalists made regarding the makeup of Congress.  The ratification opponents argued that only a Congress reflective of the public at large, with the same percentage of merchants, landowners, manufacturers, etc  as exist in the general population of the country, could truly represent the interests of the people.  Publius explains that this will never happen if people are free to vote for whoever they choose.  He goes on to point out that the nature of a representative government is to look past the faction that the Representative may personally hail from, and work toward the greater good.  Because members of Congress are dependent upon the votes of their constituents, Publius states that Congressmen will take care to inform  themselves of the opinions of all their constituents, seeking out the best policies for all, and not just individual factions.

Publius ends with a description of qualities that he feels those who make decisions on tax policy for the country should have:

“There can be no doubt that in order to a judicious exercise of the power of taxation, it is necessary that the person in whose hands it should be acquainted with the general genius, habits, and modes of thinking of the people at large, and with the resources of the country. And this is all that can be reasonably meant by a knowledge of the interests and feelings of the people. In any other sense the proposition has either no meaning, or an absurd one.”

And calls on each citizen to judge for himself who best meets that criteria:

“And in that sense let every considerate citizen judge for himself where the requisite qualification is most likely to be found.”

As “considerate citizens,” our next turn to “judge” will be November 2, 2010.  May we all exercise our judgment, and our precious right to vote!

God Bless,

Janine & Cathy

 

June 16, 2010 – Federalist No. 36 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Another great day for Constituting America as Janine and Juliette continue their Constituting America East Coast Tour!

Today I had the privilege of joining Janine at the DC FOX Studios, where she taped an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.  Janine will be featured as Power Player of the Week this Sunday, June 20. Click here to check your local listings for airtime!

I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.  As founder and Co-Chair of Constituting America, Janine has put her visionary idea into action, and is making a difference at the most fundamental level of our political system.  She is reminding us of our roots, inspiring us to learn about the Constitution, and the founding principles of our government.   I am honored to serve as co-chair of this effort with her, and am looking forward to seeing her as Power Player of the Week this Sunday!

Regarding tonight’s Federalist Paper No. 36:

Barrels of ink in the Federalist Papers were devoted to taxes – a sensitive subject for our forefathers.  Taxation without representation had been one of the causes of the American Revolution, and Publius obviously saw taxation as an issue that could derail ratification if not sufficiently understood.

Taxes are no less sensitive an issue for the public today.  Many a candidate has lost an election after being accused of raising taxes, wanting to raise taxes, or not paying his taxes!

In Federalist 36, Hamilton closes out a seven part series of explaining the federal and the states’ role in taxation, as well as defends the Constitution and the structure and powers set out for taxation.  Again and again through this seven part series it is evident that Hamilton could not have predicted the size and scope of today’s federal government, and the tax burden it puts on the American people.

Hamilton had envisioned minimal state taxes:

“When the particular debts of the States are done away, and their expenses come to be limited within their natural compass, the possibility almost of interference will vanish. A small land tax will answer the purpose of the States, and will be their most simple and most fit resource.”

However, states tax much more than land these days!  Only nine states don’t have a state income tax!  What happened?  One contributing factor to the ever increasing taxes at the state level are unfunded federal mandates, another way the federal government has crept slowly across Constitutional boundaries. As I was doing a bit of research for tonight’s essay, I stumbled upon a fascinating website:

The National Conference of State Legislators, http://www.ncsl.org Standing Committee on Budgets and Review has a section on their website called Mandate Monitor .  Unfunded federal mandates are tracked and catalogued on this site.  The most recent edition of the unfunded federal mandates list can be downloaded on this link: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/standcomm/scbudg/CatalogJune2009.pdf

Check out this weblink and list to see how much and what kind of burden our federal government is putting on the states!

As Jesse reminded us tonight, and as Janine likes to say: “Knowledge is power!”

Please continue to spread the word about Constituting America, our 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future Blog, and the We The People 9.17 Contest for Kids! Please invite your friends to join us in our educational journey!

Thank you to all who are participating with us on the 90 in 90 Blog! Your voice is important, and we thank you for your gift of time, and your well thought out contributions.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 18, 2010 – Federalist No. 37 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 18th, 2010

Wow! What a day!  We wrapped up the last day of Janine and Juliettte’s Constituting America’s East Coast Tour with a wonderful morning at the Supreme Court.  We learned about Chief Justice John Marshall (considered one of the greatest Chief Justices of all time), Marbury vs. Madison (which established the principle of judicial review), and some interesting trivia about who can qualify to be appointed as a Supreme Court Justice!  We saw the beautiful chambers, and some other parts of the building not often seen. We even saw the bust of John Jay, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers! It is interesting this third branch of the government did not have a permanent home until the Supreme Court building was opened in 1935.

On a personal note, I had a bit of a challenging day, as we found a leak in my closet (and mold!), I got stopped by the Capitol Police because I didn’t put on my turn signal before turning (and had left my purse at home with my driver’s license in it!) and my health insurance was accidentally cancelled (it has since been reinstated), but in between all those events, Janine and I kept reading today’s Federalist Paper, No. 37, and discussing it, so we could get ready to write our essays tonight!

I found Federalist No. 37 a breath of fresh air, after wallowing in the weeds of taxes for the last seven papers.  It was nice to take a break, and zoom out to the big picture of the Constitution once again.  Madison, the father of the Constitution, is the perfect voice to remind us of the challenges that had to be overcome to produce this majestic document, a perfect balance of energy, stability, and liberty!

In this current environment of political polarization and bickering, I was especially interested in Madison’s observation that, “In some, it has been too evident from their own publications, that they have scanned the proposed Constitution, not only with a predisposition to censure, but with a predetermination to condemn; as the language held by others betrays an opposite predetermination or bias, which must render their opinions also of little moment in the question.”

Today’s frenzied pace of life, which is so dependent on sound bites, and video clips, leads even more to  elected officials and citizens who are tempted to pre-judge proposed policies without trying to understand them.  Simply because a proposal comes from one political party or the other leads to snap judgments, and subjective analysis.  To solve the tough problems our Nation faces, we need to find more of those who have “a sincere zeal for the happiness of their country,” and “a temper favorable to a just estimate of the means of promoting it.”  We need more people in our country today – citizens and leaders – who are willing to objectively consider proposed policies, and find common ground to work for solutions.

Of course, it is hard to find common ground if we aren’t starting from the same foundation.  That is why it is so important that we understand the founding principles of our country.

As we think about our own government and citizens, bitterly divided by factions, we can see that it was truly a miracle that the Constitution was produced!  Madison’s quote:

“The real wonder is that so many difficulties should have been surmounted, and surmounted with a unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking of the astonishment. It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution,”

reminds us of the hand of God in the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention and the miracle that took place there.

May the miracle of the Constitution serve to inspire us and our leaders to work towards common goals and solutions, grounded in the founding principles of limited government, free enterprise and individual freedom.

What a gift it is to read the words of our founding fathers, and let them light our way!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 18, 2010 – Federalist No. 38 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 18th, 2010

First, a reminder to watch Fox News Sunday, for Janine as Power Player of the Week! Chris Wallace does a great sit down interview with Janine about Constituting America! Check your local listings for airtimes!

Thank you, Professor Knipprath for your essays yesterday and today.  You have a great way of not only explaining, but augmenting and filling in the gaps!

I would like to echo Seth’s comments today, lauding the open and vigorous debate the founders engaged in during the ratification process.  In this essay, Madison takes on the anti-federalists in the most direct attack yet,  by listing their objections, including a lack of bill of rights, disagreement on how the bill of rights should be framed, unequal representation for big states in the Senate and small states in the U.S. House, concern about the power of direct taxation, wariness of possible taxes on consumption, worry of a tendency towards monarchy, etc. The list goes on and on.

Madison eloquently points out that the document is not perfect, but better than the alternative:

“It is a matter both of wonder and regret, that those who raise so many objections against the new Constitution should never call to mind the defects of that which is to be exchanged for it. It is not necessary that the former should be perfect; it is sufficient that the latter is more imperfect.”

Indeed, one of the most beautiful traits of our Constitution is that the founders knew it was not perfect.  They had a mechanism to address that: the amendment process.

The amendments trace our country’s history, and are a vivid reminder for all to see of our country’s attempt to refine this majestic document.  Some of the amendments have been wiser than others.  Some corrected grave injustices, and some made changes that in hindsight may have been better left unmade.  But they all reflect the founders’ intent as to how the Constitution should be modified, if change is to be made.  Even the amendment process contains checks and balances!

Federalist No. 38 is an example of our country’s grand tradition of political debate at its finest.  Through the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, both sides were thoroughly aired in a way that is a lost art in our modern culture.

Thank you to all who participate in the civil, intelligent and insightful political discourse on this site, in the true tradition of the founding fathers!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 39 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, June 21st, 2010

There are still two weeks left for young people to enter the We The People 9.17 Contest!

How is the Constitution Relevant Today?

Entries due July 4th!

High School Students: We need more short film, PSA and song entries!! We are accepting essays from high school students as well.  Prizes including $2,000 per category; trip to Philadelphia; possible TV appearance!!

Middle School students: write a cool song, or an essay! Prizes include gift cards, and national exposure!

Elementary School students: draw a picture, or write a poem!  Prizes include gift cards and national exposure!

Details and exact topics for each category on this link: http://constitutingamerica.org/downloads.php

Now for Federalist No. 39:

Thomas Jefferson called the Federalist Papers “the best commentary on the principles of government … ever written.”  Federalist No. 39 certainly lives up to this quote!

This paper reads like a textbook, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were a part of our childrens’ textbooks! I am betting it is not often included.

First the definition of a Republic:

“a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior,”

Next, a careful analysis of the national vs. federal qualities of the components that make up the “real character of the government”:

(1)” the foundation on which it is to be established” – (ratification is a federal act)

(2) “the sources from which its ordinary powers are to be drawn” – the sources of power are national (U.S. House); federal (U.S. Senate); and a combination of national and federal (Executive Branch/Election of the President).

(3) “the operation of those powers” (national)

(4) “to the extent of them” (federal)

(5)  “the authority by which future changes in the government are to be introduced” (neither “wholly national nor wholly federal”)

Federalist 39 makes clear the depth and breadth of the system of checks and balances the founders so carefully constructed.  The three branches of government, and the enumerated powers of the national government are some of the more obvious checks and balances of our Republic. But the fact that the elements which make up the character of our government (foundation; sources, operation and extent of power; and authority by which changes are made) are so well balanced between federal and national qualities is amazing!  It is like cutting into a beautifully decorated cake, and finding intricate designs within, and on the various layers.

It is the depth with which these checks and balances are etched into the structure of our government that gives me hope that our Constitution and our Republic will survive. Though we may drift from time to time, there are systems built into the Constitution that allow “we the people” to bring our country back onto the intended path when we stray too far outside the Constitutional framework.

The Constitution is our roadmap.  We must look at it, read it, understand it, and respect it.  It must stay in our national consciousness.  How else will we know when we have taken a wrong turn?

Our liberty hangs in a delicate balance.  When the balance is disrupted, we lose our freedom!

Thank you to all of you who are blogging and adding to the debate, and our collective understanding! And a big thank you to Professor Baker for your enlightening essay!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 22, 2010 – Federalist No. 40 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Federalist No. 40 brings up a subject I have been curious about since embarking upon this journey through the Federalist Papers in April.  How did the delegates, charged with revising the Articles of Confederation, justify constructing an entirely new government?

Madison lays out the case brilliantly.  First quoting the recommendation of the  Annapolis Meeting in September of 1786,  and then the Congressional Recommendation of February 1787, Madison carefully analyzes the language used.  He emphasizes the words, “such further provisions adequate to the exigencies of the union,” from Annapolis, and the words from the Congressional recommendation “establishing in these states a firm national government,” and “such further provisions…adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the union.”

He then questions, if the goals in the mission statement are “irreconcilably at variance with each other,” i.e.:

a “NATIONAL and ADEQUATE GOVERNMENT could not possibly, in the judgment of the convention, be affected by ALTERATIONS and PROVISIONS in the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION; which part of the definition ought to have been embraced, and which rejected?”

Madison points out that one phrase deals with means, “alterations and provisions in the articles,” and the other with the ends, “national and adequate government adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the union.” Madison argues the ends are more important than the means.  While this view gave us our Constitution, it is an arguably dangerous view for our elected officials to take, and one that has been employed from time to time throughout our history and other civilizations to justify various acts.

Possibly realizing the danger of this mindset, Madison goes on to argue that, in fact, the it may not be impossible to reconcile the two charges of “alterations and provisions in the articles” with a “national and adequate government.”

He proceeds to walk through each step, stating:

1.  an alteration of the TITLE, could “never be deemed an exercise of ungranted power.”

2. “ALTERATIONS in the body of the instrument are expressly authorized.”

3. “NEW PROVISIONS therein are also expressly authorized.”

4. Is “power is infringed, so long as a part of the old articles remain?”

Madison identifies the major departure from the charge  of Annapolis and the Congressional recommendation as the change in the ratification process, from the requirement of the confirmation of all states, to the requirement of the approval of nine states.  The founders altered the ratification process because they did not want to put the fate of the union in the hands of the 13th state.

While Madison lays out the case for the scope of governmental reform undertaken by the delegates, in the end he reminds us that whatever the delegates proposed, “it is to be of no more consequence than the paper on which it is written, unless it be stamped with the approbation of those to whom it is addressed.”

In the end, the judgment rested with the people, as it does with us today.

God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 23, 2010 – Federalist No. 41 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Yesterday we passed the halfway mark for the 90 in 90: History Holds the Key to the Future Program !  We are more than halfway through our 90 day journey to read the Federalist Papers and U.S. Constitution in 90 Days!

A big thank you to all our 90 in 90 particpants.  We thank you for taking the time to read, and share your thoughts. Some of you blog so regularly, I feel I know you!  Others pop in from time to time, and it is always refreshing to read a comment from a new person!

Please continue to spread the word, and invite your friends.  Every comment adds to our group’s understanding.   Don’t be shy! Your comment or thought may be just the thing someone needs to read!

Thank you to Professor Knipprath for your enlightening essay.  You continue to be one of our groups’ favorite guest Constitutional Scholar Bloggers!  We appreciate you coming back on during the day to add comments and answer questions.  Today, your analysis of the Congress’s power to spend, and the general welfare clause was very helpful!

What a gift it is to read the writings of these brilliant men and have the benefit of hindsight – to be able to look back 222 years and see which of their predictions were correct, where the anti-federalists’ fears were substantiated, and to be able to heed their wise words, relating them to situations we face today.

As Professor Knipprath points out, Madison once again returns to addressing the anti-federalists’ fears of  a standing army.  Abuse at the hands of the British Army was a real and painful memory to our founding fathers.  And throughout history standing armies had become enemies of the people they were charged with protecting.

Madison wisely recognizes the need for the Union to be equipped to protect itself:

“How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The means of security can only be regulated by the means and the danger of attack.”

This statement is even more true today, when our enemy cannot be pinpointed geographically, and is ever present.  Thankfully, the anti-federalists’ fears of a standing army were unfounded.  As I mentioned in my Memorial Day essay, a recent Rasmussen poll showed that 74% of Americans have a favorable view of the U.S. Military.  Only 12% had an unfavorable opinion and 13% weren’t sure.

While the anti-federalists’ fears of a standing army were never validated, their fears of Congress’s power to spend certainly were!

Madison protests:

“Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.”

If Madison were alive today, I believe he might owe the anti-federalists an apology!  The anti-federalists’ worst fears about “an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare,” have been realized.  Congress’s taxing and spending is out of control, and the national government has reached into areas far beyond its enumerated powers.

What are we to do? In Federalist 51, Madison states, “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”

“We The People” are to exercise our control.

“Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty, ought to have it ever before his eyes, that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America, a be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it.”

I look forward to the next few Federalist Papers, as Madison defends the Congress’s powers, and we examine them in depth.

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 24, 2010 – Federalist No. 42 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 25th, 2010

“But the mild voice of reason, pleading the cause of an enlarged and permanent interest, is but too often drowned, before public bodies as well as individuals, by the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.”

This quote sums up the challenges the founders faced in pulling such disparate interests together for the common good.  Each state presumably had laws in place that favored their particular state.  From commerce to naturalization, the elected leaders of the states had crafted policy to benefit their parochial interests.  Even though Madison makes very convincing arguments for the necessity of the powers claimed by the Congress, it must have been very difficult for the States to cede some of their authority, even for their collective long term gain.

It is indeed a miracle that the delegates were able to set aside their states’ “impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain,” and produce the United States Constitution!

“Impatient Avidity for immediate and immoderate gain,” continues to be the stumbling block for many governmental reforms today, aggravated by our immediate gratification culture.  If we want to read a book, we download it to our Kindle.  If we want to watch a movie, we download it to our laptop or TV.  We grab songs mid-air straight off the radio and pull them into our iPods!  Hungry? Pop a meal into the microwave or drive through your favorite restaurant.  Want to go somewhere? Hop on an airplane.  Talk to someone? Call them on your cell or text them! If our computer is “slow,” meaning a page takes a few extra seconds to load, our blood pressure rises.

Given this way of life, it is no surprise that we want quick fixes to the policy problems our country faces.  We don’t have the patience to work out the hard issues. Unlike our founding fathers, we have been unwilling to make short term sacrifices for long term gain.

Instead of doing the hard work necessary to reach a consensus in line with our country’s founding principles, and that most Americans could accept, health care reform was hurriedly passed in a matter of months.

Most people agree a simpler income tax code such as a flat tax, or a national sales tax in place of an income tax, would be an improvement on our complicated system!  Yet, those who benefit from the complex code, or who currently pay no taxes, find it hard to support a reform that would cause them to personally sacrifice short term, but in the end bring more freedom and prosperity to all.

The same holds true for social security reform.  Those currently receiving social security, or those who are about to receive it, do not want to give up their “immediate…..gain,” to support a reform that could ensure long term security of our citizens.

Our energy policy poses a similar challenge.  We know our dependence on foreign oil is a problem, and depending on our relations with the world, could put our country in a crisis situation.  But what are we doing to address it?

Susan mentioned immigration policy as another example of a “hard issue,” that our leaders have not had the tenacity to tackle.

These types of reform and legislative action take long term vision, and often cause some short term sacrifice.  Our founders had the vision and fortitude to work through the tough problems and overcome “the clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.”

Can our elected officials do the same? We The People must make our voice heard, and encourage them to pursue policy with a zeal for the overall good, in line with our founding principles, despite “clamors of an impatient avidity for immediate and immoderate gain.”

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 25, 2010 – Federalist No. 43 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, June 25th, 2010

The entry deadline for We The People 9.17 Contest is drawing near!  The deadline of July 4 is only 9 days away.  There is still time to enter, though, and we would love as many entries as possible!!

Most schools are now out for the summer, so please sit down with your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or other children in your life, walk through the rules and guidelines on this link: http://constitutingamerica.org/downloads.php and encourage them to enter our contest!!

If you have high school kids, our contest is especially cool! The high school winners and a parent or guardian will be our guest for an exciting trip to Philadelphia on September 17, Constitution and Citizenship Day.  Once in Philadelphia, the National Constitution Center has offered to show the winning short film and PSA in their theater, and use their theater as a venue for the winning song to be performed and the winning essay read. We have a press conference planned, and a possible appearance on a television show is in the works!  High school students also receive $2,000 for the winning entry in each category: Short Film, PSA, Song and Essay.  We are especially hopeful for more Short Film, PSA, and Song submissions, so encourage that teen in your life, grade 9-12 during the 2009-2010 Academic Year, to get their creative juices flowing, and get busy this weekend!!

Elementary and Middle School kids are part of the contest, too!!  Middle School students may submit a song, or an essay and Elementary School kids submit a drawing, which will be used as the official greeting card for Constituting America, or a poem.  Younger kids will receive gift cards and other cool prizes.

The winning entries will be showcased on a Behind the Scenes downloadable DVD that will highlight the first prize recipients, contain educational material about the U.S. Constitution, and interviews with the winners.   We are making this DVD available on our website as a teaching tool for schools on September 17, Constitution and Citizenship Day, a day all educational institutions receiving federal funds are required to present educational programs about the U.S. Constitution.

We The People 9.17 challenges kids to think about how the Constitution is relevant to their lives today, and express themselves in new and innovative means.  By creating their contest entry, they internalize a deeper interest in and awareness of our United States Constitution.

As for Federalist No. 43, I was amazed at the thoroughness of the founders in addressing some of the not so obvious, but important elements of a Republic.  The laundry list of miscellaneous powers all contribute to “the safety and happiness of society.”

One of the most important powers listed in Federalist 43 is that of amending the Constitution:

“That useful alterations will be suggested by experience, could not but be foreseen. It was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should be provided. The mode preferred by the convention seems to be stamped with every mark of propriety. It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

The existence of an amendment process for the Constitution shows that our founders knew it was not a perfect document.  There is a process for changing it.  And even the amendment process contains checks and balances!

The Constitution is not a living, breathing document that changes with the times, or at the whim of a judge, Congress, or the President.  That does not mean it cannot be changed. There is a process that should be respected, and the difficulty of making a change causes us to respect the amendments.  They are reminders of our struggle as humans, and as a country to continually strive to improve, and to correct our mistakes.  If we find an amendment doesn’t work, we have the freedom to repeal it, but even if repealed, the amendment will always be there, a reminder of what we tried.

Thank you to all who have blogged with us this week.  A big thank you to Professor Knipprath for your thoughtful, well researched essays!

Don’t forget to recruit some kids to the We The People 9.17 Contest!  It’s not too late!! Entries due July 4th.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Good Night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

P.S. See you Monday, for Federalist Paper No. 44!!

 

June 28, 2010 – Federalist No. 44 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, June 28th, 2010

In Federalist No. 44 Madison completes his list of and defense of powers delegated to the federal government.  In this essay he discusses restrictions on the authority of the States in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution.  Most of these restrictions make sense, even today, such as the restriction on States entering into treaties, coining money, producing paper money, granting any title of nobility etc.

In Article 1, Section 10, States are also prohibited from passing bills of attainder and ex post facto laws.  I wanted to know more about this, and did a little research in the  Heritage Guide to the Constitution .  On page 170 essayist David Forte writes, “The framers regarded bills of attainder and ex post facto laws as so offensive to liberty that they prohibited their use by both Congress (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3) and the states.”  Essayist Daniel Troy points out “these are the only two individual liberties that the original Constitution protects from both state and federal intrusion.”

It quickly came back to me that ex post facto laws are retroactive laws, punishing an act that was lawful when it took place.

I had to look up bill of attainder, though.  Webster defines bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) as “an act of legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a trial.”

Madison states, “Bills of attainder, ex-post-facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.”  David Forte, in the Heritage Guide, points out that some States had enacted these types of laws after the Revolution, and our founding fathers wanted to  eliminate these tyrannical practices many had suffered under, under the crown.

It is interesting to note that the federal government’s powers are specifically enumerated in the Constitution, while the States’ powers are not enumerated.  By listing only what the States are prohibited from doing, the groundwork is laid for what eventually became the 10th Amendment:

“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.”

Madison spends a good deal of the second half of his essay defending the “necessary and proper clause.” We last heard about the “necessary and proper,” clause in Federalist No. 33, The Same Subject Continued: Concerning the General Power of Taxation, by Alexander Hamilton.

In both Federalist 33, and Federalist 44, Publius addresses what is to be done if the federal government oversteps its bounds, as many opponents of the necessary and proper clause feared.

Hamilton stated in Federalist No. 33:

“If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”

And Madison in Federalist No. 44:

“If it be asked what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part of the Constitution, and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning……in the last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.”

A recurring theme of the Federalist Papers is that the responsibility to uphold the Constitution rests with the people.

To uphold the Constitution, we must first know it, and understand it.

I am grateful for all I am learning each day.  Some days I learn from an enlightening quote that pops off the page.  Other days, I delve deeper into a topic I don’t quite understand or want to learn more about.  Every day, I learn from all of your blog comments and through our wise and talented Guest Constitutional Scholar Bloggers. Thank you to Pofessor Knipprath for being one of our most frequent contributors!  We love your essays!

Thank you for joining us on this journey, as we strive to continue learning, so we can live up to the phrase our founders bestowed upon our collective intellect, “the genius of the people.”

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 29, 2010 – Federalist No. 45 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” James Madison, Federalist No. 45

In Federalist 45, Publius once again assures us of the limited, but necessary nature of the federal government’s powers.  In previous essays Madison and Hamilton have assured readers that if, in the unlikely event, the federal government oversteps its bounds, the states will sound the alarm, and the people will rise up to defend the Constitution.

Of course, the picture painted by Madison of the few and defined powers of the federal government  in Federalist 45 is radically different than our reality today.  One is tempted to ask, how did these wise men get their prediction of the future so wrong?

Assuming the structure of government designed by our founders was sound and sufficient to preserve individual liberty, a more appropriate question might be, how did our country deviate from the roadmap they laid out for us?

The Constitution, as designed by our founding fathers, creates a system of government designed  to preserve the peoples’ individual liberty. Our liberty hangs in a delicate balance of power between the federal government and the states.

As with any delicate structure or piece of machinery, when you move a part that affects the balance, the structure begins to fall, or the machine ceases to function in the way in which it was intended.

One of the key points Madison makes in his assurance that the federal government will not encroach upon state governments is the provision in the Constitution that “The Senate will be elected absolutely and exclusively by the State legislatures….Thus, each of the principal branches of the federal government will owe its existence more or less to the favor of the State governments, and must consequently feel a dependence, which is much more likely to beget a disposition too obsequious than too overbearing towards them.”

The 17th Amendment, which took the appointment of U.S. Senators out of the state legislatures’ hands, and provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators by the people, fundamentally changed the structure of government the founders had designed.  An important check on the federal government’s power was removed.

The other factor Publius did not foresee was the phenomenon of federal funding offered to states with strings attached. As more burdens are placed on states by the federal government through unfunded federal mandates, the enticement of federal dollars with strings attached grows.  When states accept this type of funding, the federal government’s reach into the states’ purview increases.

Federalist 45 reminds us of what our country could look like, had the checks and balances laid out by the founders not been slowly eroded.  For many years, “We the people,” have not been paying attention.

As we go forward, we should remember Hamilton’s words in Federalist No. 33:

“If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”

What a gift these words of Hamilton, Madison and John Jay are, patiently explaining the United States Constitution, and our founders’ vision for our country!   We cannot understand what we are losing, if we don’t understand what we had.

We cannot know if the Constitution is “injured,” if we do not know what is in the Constitution.  Thank you Professor Knipprath, and all the blogger commenters, for augmenting our understanding!

As Janine likes to say, “Your vote is your voice.” In these federalist papers we are finding our voice, and in November, our voice will be heard!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

June 30, 2010 – Federalist No. 46 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Federalist No. 46 – The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared – How is this relevant today?

Tomorrow, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will appear before U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson to argue against lawyers from the Obama Administration, who have filed a motion to dismiss Virginia’s challenge to the recently passed healthcare bill.

Cuccinelli will argue that the provision that forces citizens to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine, is in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it compels citizens to engage in commerce.

Virginia recently passed a law stating that Virginians do not have to purchase health insurance. Florida has filed a lawsuit similar to Virginia’s, and over 20 states have joined.

Cuccinelli is quoted in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch as follows, “”The Commerce Clause [of the U.S. Constitution] does not give the federal government the power to order you to buy a product.  We’re fighting to protect liberty as best as we can.”

The Richmond Times Dispatch article goes on to quote Governor McDonnell as saying that the healthcare legislation would cost Virginia an additional $1.5 billion in health care costs by 2022. One of the primary cost factors is the expansion of Medicaid.

As Madison predicted:

“On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”

And:

“They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other.”

Throughout the Federalist Papers, the above themes surface again and again.  The ultimate authority of the government derives from the people.  If the federal government oversteps its bounds, the people will sound the alarm, and the states will rise to defend their rights.

For many years, and for various reasons the people and the states have let the federal government slowly encroach.  But the people are awake, and are awakening the states.  The alarm is sounding.

Tomorrow, Cuccinelli’s court appearance is an important step in guiding our country back to the path of liberty, and back to the constitutional structure envisioned by our founding fathers.

AND Thank you to David Kopel! I LOVED the breakdown of how many state, federal, local employees there are, and how many military! Last night when I read Madison’s statement in Federalist 45 that fewer people will be federal employees than state employees, I immediately began trying to find those numbers, and finally gave up, because it was so late.  I was happy to read your essay this morning and see that you had them.

Thank you to all those who commented today, and thank you to our founder and co-chair Janine Turner for her great press appearances today on Laura Ingraham and Megyn Kelly!  I believe it was Chris Wallace who said Janine is spreading the word like a modern day Paul Revere.  I could not think of a better description. All of you who are participating in this blog, and in the Constituting America effort are great patriots, and our founding fathers would be proud.

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 1, 2010 – Federalist No. 47 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, July 2nd, 2010

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Federalist 47 begins a fascinating discussion of separation of powers.  Thank you to Dr. Baker for your insights on this essay!

“Separation of powers,” and “checks and balances,” are often used interchangeably, but as Dr. Baker pointed out, they are two distinct terms.  If our government had merely separation of powers, without the checks and balances, we could fall prey to tyranny through the separate “silos” of government.  There would be no impeachment process for a President who violated the law; there would be no Senate confirmation of Supreme Court or high level Administration appointments. There would be no Presidential veto of legislation passed by Congress.  And there would be no rulings on the Constitutionality of legislation passed by Congress.

But “checks and balances,” mean that powers cannot be totally separated.  They are shared, and that is what creates the balance.  The President shares legislative power with the Congress through his veto.  The Congress shares executive branch power through their participation in the confirmation process and the impeachment process.  The courts share legislative power in their ability to declare legislation brought to them for adjudication as unconstitutional.  The states and federal government share responsibility for amending the Constitution through the amendment ratification process.  And ultimately, the people are the final check on government, through their vote.

Our founding fathers put the greatest care and thought into designing a system of government that would best ensure our liberty. The structure of our government, under the United States Constitution, is designed to hold our liberty in a delicate balance. I picture our freedom suspended carefully, amidst an intricate structure, with interlocking parts, all dependent upon the other, yet with distinct columns and blocks representing the three branches of government, the federal government, and then the states.  Changes to the structure cause our liberty to “shift,” and ultimately, it begins to disappear.

As we have discussed earlier, the 17th Amendment was a major change to the structure of our government.  Other changes have happened in less obvious ways, but have had no less an impact on our liberty.

We must understand the careful structure of our government, as set forth under the Constitution, or else we will not know when the separation of powers, and the checks and balances are being disturbed.  If we don’t notice when one branch usurps the powers of another, we may not notice the ensuing disappearance of our freedoms, until it is too late.

The Federalist Papers left by our founders are like an owners guide to our Constitution.  They explain the Constitution, how it is constructed, why it is constructed as it is, and the historical framework they utilized to make the decisions they did.  What a blessing it is that our founding fathers can speak their words of wisdom to us today, through these great papers.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 2, 2010 – Federalist No. 48 – Cathy Gillespie

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Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

It is essays such as Federalist 48 that validate Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote about the Federalist Papers, “the best commentary on the principles of government … ever written.”

The checks and balances of our government, so beautifully constructed by the founders, are based on this axiom from Federalist No. 48:

“It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”

Our founding fathers knew that separating powers into three branches of government was not enough to ensure the liberty of the people.  Without “checks,” any one branch could become tyrannical.

It is ironic that the best way to accomplish separation of powers is to not completely separate the powers, but for the three branches to “share” some aspects of the powers, in order to wield checks on each other.

It is also ironic that the legislative branch, the branch closest to the people (at least the U.S. House), is also the branch most likely to overstep its bounds.  The quotes in Federalist No. 48 about the legislative branch could easily have been written this year, as in 1878.

“The legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex.”

“The legislative department derives a superiority in our governments from other circumstances. Its constitutional powers being at once more extensive, and less susceptible of precise limits, it can, with the greater facility, mask, under complicated and indirect measures, the encroachments which it makes on the co-ordinate departments.”

“Where the legislative power is exercised by an assembly, which is inspired, by a supposed influence over the people, with an intrepid confidence in its own strength; which is sufficiently numerous to feel all the passions which actuate a multitude, yet not so numerous as to be incapable of pursuing the objects of its passions, by means which reason prescribes; it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.”

“One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as oppressive as one.”

Madison points out the many reasons why legislative branches are prone to usurpations of power:

1. “Legislative power is exercised by an assembly,” …… with an intrepid confidence in its own strength.”

2. There are enough members of the legislative body to “feel all the passions which actuate a multitude,” yet few enough to actually act on those passions.

3. “Its constitutional powers being at once more extensive, and less susceptible of precise limits,” allow it to mask with greater ease “under complicated and indirect measures, the encroachments which it makes on the co-ordinate departments.”  (The “Commerce Clause,” and the “Necessary and Proper Clause,” are perfect examples in our federal legislative branch of the “more extensive, and less susceptible of precise limits,” of which Madison speaks)

4. The legislative department has the power to tax (“access to the pockets of the people”).

5. The legislative branch has some influence over the wages of those who fill the federal government jobs (“pecuniary rewards”), and controls the budgets of the departments and agencies.

The founders knew the predisposition of the legislative body, and thus built in checks on legislative power. One of the most important checks they devised was the appointment of U.S. Senators by the State Legislatures.  The removal of that “check” by the ratification of the 17th Amendment caused a disturbance in the balance of power, and allowed the Congress to encroach past its enumerated powers further than the founders ever dreamed possible.

In a blog comment on Federalist 46 today, Andrew points out an important truth:

“A key point most posters missed and that was not really addressed in the essay is that it still was voters who have approved of the expansion of the federal government. Voters elected congressmen and presidents who supported the expansion of the federal government. Most are reelected, and there is rarely any movement to undo expansions because those expansions are popular with the majority.”

Andrew is correct.  “We The People” allowed the checks and balances to break down. It is “We The People,” who are charged time and again with sounding the alarm and protecting the Constitution.

“If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.” Federalist No. 33 (Hamilton)

In order to protect the Constitution, and keep government in check, we must first know the Constitution and understand the principles upon which it was based.

Thank you all for a wonderful week of blog comments, and a big thank you to Professor Baker for his enlightening essay!  Federalist 48 is one of my favorite papers yet.

Looking forward to Federalist 49!

Wishing you all a wonderful July 4 weekend as we celebrate the birth our country!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

 

July 6, 2010 – Federalist No. 49 & Federalist No. 50 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia where we are busily sorting, copying, downloading and uploading We The People 9.17 Contest entries for our judges!   It is inspiring to see the hard work, creativity, and talent of young people across our Nation, all pondering and expressing “How the United States Constitution is Relevant Today!”

These young people give Janine and me hope, because they are the future “genius of the people,” the “fountain of power,” alluded to in Federalist No. 49.  Every student who sat and thought about the U.S. Constitution in order to compose a song, write and direct a short film or PSA, write an essay or poem, or draw an illustration, is a young person who is now more aware of our country’s founding principles, and more knowledgeable about the U.S. Constitution.

Federalist No. 49 and No. 50 make arguments against engaging the people too often on the very serious task of amending the U.S. Constitution.  In Federalist 49, Publius takes on the idea of calling a Constitutional Convention whenever one of the branches of government oversteps its bounds, and Federalist No. 50 argues against periodic, set and scheduled Constitutional Conventions.

It is argued in both papers that having the people too regularly and directly involved in changing the Constitution will cause passions to rule over reason.  Although the arguments in Federalist 49 and 50 against an Amendment process that was too open and subject to the political whims of the day are fascinating, I find it even more fascinating to explore the founders’  final result:  Article V of the Constitution.

The amendment process that resulted, is, like the rest of the Constitution, a marvel of design in checks and balances between state and federal power:

Article. V.

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

Either Congress (through a 2/3’s vote in both Houses) or the States (through 2/3’s of the State Legislatures calling for a convention) may initiate the Amendment Process.

To actually ratify the proposed Amendment, three-fourths of the States must approve, either through their State Legislatures, or by State Conventions, but it is interesting to note that the mode of ratification to be utilized is directed by Congress.

The beauty of the amendment process, as Madison described in Federalist 43 is:

“It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

In practice, what is our country’s history of amending the Constitution?  Has it worked out as well as Madison intended and predicted?

I found some fascinating answers in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pages 284-286 in an essay by Dr. Matthew Spalding and Trent England:

5,000 bills proposing to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress since 1789.

Of those 5,000 bills, only 33 amendments have been sent to the States for ratification.

The states have never succeeded in calling for a constitutional convention, although some of the attempts have gotten very close – within one or two states of the required 2/3’s.

Those supporting the 17th Amendment got very close, and were lacking only one state in their constitutional convention effort when Congress proposed the 17th Amendment.

Currently, there are 27 Amendments to the Constitution, the last one passed in 1992. Interestingly, this Amendment, the Congressional Compensation Amendment, was first proposed by James Madison in 1789!

The amount of amendments proposed versus amendments ratified, and the most recent amendment, which essentially took 200 years to pass, are examples that our Founding Fathers designed a process that met their goal of a process that was “neither too mutable,” nor fraught with “extreme difficulty.”

The amendments to our United States Constitution read like a history of our country.  Each one stands for a struggle, a herculean effort of the people to “form a more perfect union.”  Some took hundreds of years, others took less, but all were thoroughly considered and debated. And, interestingly, the longest amendment to the Constitution, textually, by my calculations, is the 14th Amendment, which at 434 words is shorter than most of these essays!

Looking forward to today’s comments on Federalist No. 51, one of my favorite Federalist Papers!

Your Fellow Patriot,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 6, 2010 – Federalist No. 49 & Federalist No. 50 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia where we are busily sorting, copying, downloading and uploading We The People 9.17 Contest entries for our judges!   It is inspiring to see the hard work, creativity, and talent of young people across our Nation, all pondering and expressing “How the United States Constitution is Relevant Today!”

These young people give Janine and me hope, because they are the future “genius of the people,” the “fountain of power,” alluded to in Federalist No. 49.  Every student who sat and thought about the U.S. Constitution in order to compose a song, write and direct a short film or PSA, write an essay or poem, or draw an illustration, is a young person who is now more aware of our country’s founding principles, and more knowledgeable about the U.S. Constitution.

Federalist No. 49 and No. 50 make arguments against engaging the people too often on the very serious task of amending the U.S. Constitution.  In Federalist 49, Publius takes on the idea of calling a Constitutional Convention whenever one of the branches of government oversteps its bounds, and Federalist No. 50 argues against periodic, set and scheduled Constitutional Conventions.

It is argued in both papers that having the people too regularly and directly involved in changing the Constitution will cause passions to rule over reason.  Although the arguments in Federalist 49 and 50 against an Amendment process that was too open and subject to the political whims of the day are fascinating, I find it even more fascinating to explore the founders’  final result:  Article V of the Constitution.

The amendment process that resulted, is, like the rest of the Constitution, a marvel of design in checks and balances between state and federal power:

Article. V.

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

Either Congress (through a 2/3’s vote in both Houses) or the States (through 2/3’s of the State Legislatures calling for a convention) may initiate the Amendment Process.

To actually ratify the proposed Amendment, three-fourths of the States must approve, either through their State Legislatures, or by State Conventions, but it is interesting to note that the mode of ratification to be utilized is directed by Congress.

The beauty of the amendment process, as Madison described in Federalist 43 is:

“It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

In practice, what is our country’s history of amending the Constitution?  Has it worked out as well as Madison intended and predicted?

I found some fascinating answers in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pages 284-286 in an essay by Dr. Matthew Spalding and Trent England:

5,000 bills proposing to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress since 1789.

Of those 5,000 bills, only 33 amendments have been sent to the States for ratification.

The states have never succeeded in calling for a constitutional convention, although some of the attempts have gotten very close – within one or two states of the required 2/3’s.

Those supporting the 17th Amendment got very close, and were lacking only one state in their constitutional convention effort when Congress proposed the 17th Amendment.

Currently, there are 27 Amendments to the Constitution, the last one passed in 1992. Interestingly, this Amendment, the Congressional Compensation Amendment, was first proposed by James Madison in 1789!

The amount of amendments proposed versus amendments ratified, and the most recent amendment, which essentially took 200 years to pass, are examples that our Founding Fathers designed a process that met their goal of a process that was “neither too mutable,” nor fraught with “extreme difficulty.”

The amendments to our United States Constitution read like a history of our country.  Each one stands for a struggle, a herculean effort of the people to “form a more perfect union.”  Some took hundreds of years, others took less, but all were thoroughly considered and debated. And, interestingly, the longest amendment to the Constitution, textually, by my calculations, is the 14th Amendment, which at 434 words is shorter than most of these essays!

Looking forward to today’s comments on Federalist No. 51, one of my favorite Federalist Papers!

Your Fellow Patriot,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 8, 2010 – Federalist No. 52 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!  Having spent many years working for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, I am thrilled to see several Federalist Papers devoted to the subject of the U.S. House.

Unfortunately, Congress as an institution and the people who serve there are suffering from a negative public perception.  As with any group of people, there are a few who deserve the public’s disdain.  And there are others who may not be re-elected this November because they have not carried out their constituents’ will.  But based on my experience of working first hand with many of these men and women, I have developed the highest respect for the institution of the U.S. House, and for most of  those elected from their congressional districts to serve, Republicans and Democrats.

The founders designed the U.S. House of Representatives to be close to the people:

As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.

Publius argues that an election every two years is frequent enough to maintain the people’s liberty:

“I conceive it to be a very substantial proof,that the liberties of the people can be in no danger from BIENNIAL elections.”

This is true, as long as the people uphold their duty articulated in Federalist No. 33, to “take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”

Elections every two years keep members of Congress close to their constituents.  There are extended  breaks from votes during January, February, April, July, August, September, and Congress usually breaks for good anywhere from mid-October in election years to mid-November or mid-December in the off years.  During these breaks, most Members of Congress go back to their districts, hold town meetings and other forums, and work hard to meet with their constituents and listen to them.

We have all seen the video footage from town meetings of Congressmen or women who appear to be disengaged, uniformed, hostile to their constituents, or out of touch, especially during the health care debate.    From my experience, these members of Congress are the exception, rather than the rule.

Most members of the U.S. House, of both parties, are well informed, hard working individuals who deeply love their country and sacrifice a great deal to serve the people of their congressional district. Most keep their families in their congressional district, and are in Washington only when they have to be, flying in to vote Tuesday through Thursday, and back home Thursday evenings to spend Friday through Monday working in their congressional district.

Most members of Congress are very accessible to their constituents. Any citizen may “walk the halls,” of Congress, and stop in at their U.S. Representative’s office, or any U.S. Representative’s office, often getting to at least say hello to the member of Congress, even without an appointment, if they are willing to wait.  And if they request a meeting with enough lead time, most people who want to have a sit down meeting with their member of Congress are usually able to get one scheduled.  Janine, Juliette and I walked the halls of Congress recently, and met with Congressman Scott Garrett, Chairman of the Congressional Constitution Caucus, and Congresswomen Blackburn and Bachmann.  We even met with Senator Scott Brown on the Senate side!  We witnessed all taking the time to say hello to visiting constituents while we were there.

Members of Congress also maintain offices and staffs in their congressional district, whose sole purpose is to serve the constituents, untangling them from governmental red tape, facilitating military academy appointments, and participating with citizens in the community on local projects.

It is understandable that people are frustrated and angry when Congress passes a bill so large no one can read it, with provisions that go against the U.S. Constitution and our founding principles of limited government and free enterprise.  But that is where elections every two years come into play.  It is the people’s responsibility to make their views known, and the most effective way to do that, is on election day.

In 1994, and in 2006, the people’s voice was heard. Despite gerrymandering (which I agree with Jon and Professor Rowley, is a terrible modern day development) control of the U.S. House shifted, because the people were unhappy.

As we have said many times on these pages before, knowledge is power. Before you judge your member of Congress, get to know him or her, or at least try! Find out their voting record, their attendance record. Do they hold town meetings? If so, attend! Ask a question. Send an email. Write a letter. Request a meeting.  Sit down with their congressional district staff. You may be surprised to find out how hard your member of Congress is actually working for you, or you may have your worst suspicions confirmed, and decide a change is needed.

“The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government.”

Let’s use that powerful tool granted to us by the Constitution!

Thank you to all of you for your continued participation, and your insightful comments.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 9, 2010 – Federalist No. 53 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, July 9th, 2010

Federalist 53 was a reminder to me of how blessed our country is to live under a system of government “established by the people and unalterable by the government.”

“The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country. Wherever the supreme power of legislation has resided, has been supposed to reside also a full power to change the form of the government.”

We forget that in many other countries, terms of office may be capriciously changed to meet the political needs of the office holders.

Publius refers to “frequency of elections,” as the “cornerstone” of free government.  A theme throughout the Federalist is the people’s role in protecting their own liberty.  Elections are the people’s voice.

Publius also outlines the importance of members of Congress having enough time to learn the job.  He predicts that some members of “superior talents; will, by frequent reelections, become members of long standing.”

A recent Congressional Research Service report on the average tenure of a member of Congress  stated:

“The average years of service for Members of the 110th Congress, as of January 3, 2007, when the Congress convened was 10.0 years for the House and 12.82 years for the Senate. This is a record for the Senate. House Members who took their seats at the beginning of the 102nd Congress (1991-1993) represent the high point of Representatives’ average tenure (10.4 years).”

This is interesting, compared to the early history of our country, when most Senators did not even complete their six year term.  CRS notes that in the early Republic, House Members began to exceed their two year terms after the Fourth Congress, but their average service did rise above four years until 1901-1903.  During the Great Depression, the average tenure of a U.S. House member shot up to seven years.

Many people today call for term limits, to bring back the concept of citizen legislator.  As these proposals develop, attention would need to be given to the power of staff, especially committee staff, who, if not checked as well, would end up with even greater influence as members of Congress come and go.

Although Publius points out the merit of some seasoned legislators, he also warns, “No man will subject himself to the ridicule of pretending that any natural connection subsists between the sun or the seasons, and the period within which human virtue can bear the temptations of power.”

There are strong arguments on both sides of the term limits issue, but as Publius reminds us in Federalist No. 51:

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”

The people are the energy of the government. When they are engaged and paying attention, recognizing that knowledge is power, the need for term limits will not be as great. Even the best governmental structures will not reap the desired results, unless the “genius of the people,” the primary energy of government is fully engaged and deployed.

Thank you to all of you who are joining us on this journey through the Federalist Papers.  Knowledge is Power!

Looking forward to Federalist No. 54!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 12, 2010 – Federalist No. 54 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, July 12th, 2010

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”

Federalist No. 51

Federalist No. 54 reminds us of the fact that the United States Constitution was not, and is not, a perfect document. It is a reflection of human nature, and as our founders knew, human beings are not perfect creatures.  Federalist 54 addresses Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, the Three-Fifths clause. The counting of  human beings as 3/5’s of a person, and the preservation of  the institution of slavery for 20 years, are some of the Constitution’s greatest blemishes.  Although 3/5′s was a compromise, with the ultimate goal being the elimination of slavery, it is still a blemish on a document that is a beacon of liberty for our country and the world.

I was curious where else slavery is mentioned specifically in the Constitution and consulted the Heritage Guide to the Constitution (one of my favorite Constitutional resource books). I found that slavery is also addressed in Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 (Slave Trade); Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 (Fugitive Slave Clause); and Article V (Prohibition on Amendment: Slave Trade).  The Slave Trade clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Clause 1) did not allow the federal government to prohibit the slave trade until January 1, 1808.  According to Dr. Mathew Spalding in the Heritage Guide, on that very day, January 1, 1808, Congress passed a prohibition of the slave trade, and President Thomas Jefferson signed it into law.   Although they could not ban slavery at the inception of the Constitution, the founders put a mechanism in place to start the country on that path, and banned it as soon as they could.

Through their humility and understanding of human nature, our founders knew the Constitution was not perfect.  They devised the Amendment process to make corrections, adjustments and refinements, a process not too easy, but also not too difficult, a process Madison describes in Federalist 43:

“It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

One of the great characteristics of Americans is that we are always striving to be better, to improve, and to grow.  Many Amendments to the Constitution reflect this growth.

Although we may not always be proud of every step in our journey, we can be proud that as a country we have made corrections from where we started, that our founders recognized we would need to make corrections, and that a process is in place to continue to refine this brilliant, but human, document.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 13, 2010 – Federalist No. 55 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!  Ed and I make our home on land that once belonged to President George Washington.  His home, Mt. Vernon, is not far from our house!   I find today’s issue of the total number of the House of Representatives even more fascinating because it was the only issue on which President Washington offered an opinion during the Constitutional Convention!  As our distinguished Guest Constitutional Scholar, David Bobb points out, George Washington seconded a motion to reduce the ratio of House Members to people from 40,000: 1 to 30,000: 1.  This must have signified Washington’s strong feelings that the U.S. House be “of the people.”

I’ve spent most of my career working in and around Congress and never knew that the original ratio in the U.S. Constitution of U.S. House Member to constituents was 30,000: 1 !!  I do know that the average Congressional district today contains roughly 700,000 people.  I also know that the immense size of these districts, both by population, and often geographically, makes it expensive to run campaigns, and demanding, schedule-wise, for U.S. House members to be all the places they need to be.

Dr. Bobb points out the last time an adjustment was made in total size of the U.S. House was 1912, when it was adjusted to 435, the current number today. Despite the fact that the size of the U.S. House has not been adjusted since the early 1900’s, I believe it would be very difficult, expensive, and not necessary for quality of representation, to increase the size of the U.S. House.

Increasing the size of the U.S. House would necessitate adding more office space and staff, a difficult proposition on crowded Capitol Hill. Staff are already crammed into every nook and cranny that exist in the House office buildings, and many Committee staff are blocks away in “annex” office space.  One could argue that if the size of the U.S. House were to be increased, individual staff sizes per Member and office budgets per member could be reduced. In practice, it is hard to imagine Members of Congress voting to reduce their staff or office budgets, even if the number of constituents they represented decreased.

With today’s technology, members of Congress are able to represent much larger congressional districts, yet be in touch with their constituents in more direct and intimate ways than their 1912 counterparts ever dreamed possible.  Members of Congress “tweet”;  answer messages on Facebook; participate in “tele-Town Hall Meetings” (large dial in conference calls); hold interactive polls on their websites; hire pollsters to conduct professional polls; receive instantaneous input on legislation via email (rather than wait days for snail mail to catch up with their votes cast); field thousands of telephone calls to their offices, and of course still hold the traditional town hall meetings.  In geographically large congressional districts members often traverse the district via airplane.  Youtube, 24 hour cable TV news, the plethora of radio and internet talk shows and blogs, all put members of Congress at an engaged citizen’s fingertips.

Many would argue that despite new ways of communicating with constituents, Congress doesn’t seem to be listening.  Increasing the size of Congress would not change this phenomenon. Congress listens at the ballot box.  Citizens must become educated and engaged, and remember that as Janine so eloquently put in one of her op-eds, your vote is your voice.

As I encouraged in a recent essay, get to know your member of Congress.  Go to a town meeting and ask a question.  Write a letter, send an email, request a meeting in DC or your congressional district.  Visit with his or her staff. Research your U.S. Representative’s voting record.  You may be either pleasantly surprised, or have your worst suspicions confirmed.  But either way, you will be able to make an educated decision in November.

I am unable to conceive that the people of America, in their present temper, or under any circumstances which can speedily happen, will choose, and every second year repeat the choice of, sixty-five or a hundred men who would be disposed to form and pursue a scheme of tyranny or treachery.—Federalist No. 55

 

July 19, 2010 – Federalist No. 59 – Cathy Gillespie

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Monday, July 19th, 2010

Hello from Mt. Vernon Virginia! As Janine mentioned in her essay last night, we have been very busy over the past few days reading essays and poems, viewing short films and public service announcements, listening to songs, and looking at artwork, all submitted by a diverse group of young people across the country, with theme of how the Constitution is relevant to them today!

The good news is that we received an overwhelming response for our first “We The People 9.17 Contest!”   The entries have been inspiring! The contest entrants all worked hard and put forth their very best efforts and creativity!

The bad news is that there are only so many hours in a day, and I have discovered that every now and then, I actually need to sleep!   I have missed writing essays on Federalist Papers for a few days, but have been greatly encouraged by the knowledge of, respect for, and dedication to the United States Constitution by the young people who entered the contest.

Stay tuned for updates on the “We The People 9.17 Contest,” including the announcement of our distinguished panel of judges, and September 17 activities in Philadelphia where we will reveal the contest winners!

Federalist No. 59 discusses the advantages of the federal government regulating its elections.  As someone who has worked in federal campaigns, I believe it makes sense to have uniform federal election laws, and the only way to achieve uniformity, is to regulate these elections federally.

Through a series of legislative acts, beginning in 1867 when Congress passed a law prohibiting officers from soliciting political contributions from Navy Yard workers, Congress has passed laws to require public disclosure of federal campaign contributions, set limits on individual contributions to federal campaigns, prohibit certain sources of campaign donations,  restrict certain types of federal campaign expenditures, and in certain cases, limit federal campaign expenditures if public financing is accepted.  Because of abuses that occurred during the Watergate era of our country, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was established in 1975 as an independent agency, with civil enforcement jurisdiction, authority to write regulations, monitor compliance, and serve as a centralized source of information about federal elections, federal campaign committees, and federal campaign donors.

If you have never taken a few minutes to explore the Federal Election Commission website: www.fec.gov, I highly recommend it.  You will find it fascinating!  With a few clicks (“Campaign Finance Reports and Data” on left sidebar, and then “Search the Disclosure Database”) you can search Federal Campaign Contribution Data in a variety of ways.   You can also read about the latest campaign finance laws and regulations and a history of the FEC.

Like all other congressional powers, our founding fathers devised checks on Congress’s regulation of Federal elections.  One check, the States’ power to appoint U.S. Senators, was removed with the adoption of the 17th Amendment.  This was an important structural check, noted by Hamilton in Federalist No. 59 as “that absolute safeguard which they (States) will enjoy under this provision.”

While the States have lost their power to have a voice in Congress’s power to regulate federal elections, the judicial branch is still actively engaged.  The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Electio Commission (holding that the First Amendment prohibits restrictions on corporate financing of independent advertising in federal election campaigns) is one example.

Of course the most important check is our vote.  As Janine Turner stated in her Fox News Op-Ed, Your Vote is Your Voice . Ues it!  Research how your member of Congress votes on Federal Election Law issues.  Do you agree or disagree? Let your vote be your voice on November 2, 2010!

 

July 20, 2010 – Federalist No. 60 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Federalist No. 60 continues the discussion of the federal government regulating its own elections, this time addressing specific dangers of the national government having this power.

Publius takes each perceived danger and dissects it, asking rhetorically who would be favored by the federal government if the government were to favor a certain class of citizens through regulation of elections.  He surmises that the country is diverse enough that every group will be represented and this is not a danger.

He further points out that the Congress is only empowered to regulate the time, place and manner of elections, not who can vote.  Qualifications to vote are fixed in the Constitution, “and are unalterable by the legislature.”

How blessed we are as a Nation that our right to vote is protected in stone, in the U.S. Constitution.  We forget what uncertainty many around the world face when it comes to elections, and their right to participate.

As echoed in most of the Federalist Papers, Publius ends by reminding citizens of their role in protecting the U.S Constitution and their God given rights, citing the public as the ultimate check against tyranny of the government:

“Would they not fear that citizens, not less tenacious than conscious of their rights, would flock from the remote extremes of their respective States to the places of election, to overthrow their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge the violated majesty of the people?”

What a beautiful system of checks and balances our founding fathers constructed, delicately balancing and protecting our liberty!

On to Federalist No.61!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 21, 2010 – Federalist No. 61 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!

Thank you to Professor Kyle Scott for soaring to 50,000 feet and giving us the aerial view of Hamilton’s important point in Federalist 61!  I was in the weeds, struggling to make sense of where and when elections should be held, and the most important point of this paper sailed right over my head until I read Professor Scott’s essay.

Federalist 61 gives us an important insight and specific example of the founders’ view and intention of the construction of the United States Constitution:  broad principles outlined that provide a structure and framework to guide the specifics of future legislation as time and events require.

Our founders had great wisdom as to what is appropriate for the Congress to decide, the specific powers that should be delegated to the federal government, where the federal government’s limits are, and what needed to be carefully spelled out and guarded in the Constitution.  Reading back through Federalist Papers 52-61, the founders gave Congress many powers when it came to elections: deciding the time of elections, the power to modify election law, even the power to alter the total number of U.S. Representatives.  These are all powers Publius argues are “safe for the legislature to decide.” The important guiding principles, such as the frequency of elections, and who may vote (broadened with Amendments, thanks to the “genius of the people”) are safely embedded in the Constitution.

In Federalist 51, Publius writes:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Giving the government any power over the laws affecting the election of its own members is a tricky proposition.  The founders’ carefully crafted system of checks and balances, including “THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE,” (Federalist No. 22) have preserved our liberty for over 200 years.

Let us not forget the words of Federalist No. 60 regarding the ultimate “check” of the people:

“Would they not fear that citizens, not less tenacious than conscious of their rights, would flock from the remote extremes of their respective States to the places of election, to overthrow their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge the violated majesty of the people?”

Looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and comments today!!

Stay cool!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 22, 2010 – Federalist No. 62 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, July 23rd, 2010

In Federalist No. 62 Publius explains that the Senate was intended to be the more deliberative body.  It was designed to be very different from the U.S. House.  Senators must be older, age 30 instead of the required age 25 for the House; must have been citizens longer, nine years required for the Senate, while only seven for the House; and Senators were to be appointed by State Legislatures (until the ratification of the 17th Amendment providing for direct election of Senators).  Senators’ terms of office are six years, while U.S. House members serve for two years.

These differences were meant to slow the legislative process, to provide for a “cooling off” period, from the passions of the U.S. House.  There is a famous, often quoted story, of Thomas Jefferson (who was in France during the Constitutional Convention) returning to the U.S. and asking Washington why the delegates had created a Senate.  In Washington and Jefferson’s day, people often poured their hot coffee into their saucer before drinking it, to cool it.  Washington observed Jefferson doing this, and asked “Why did you pour that coffee into your sauce?” When Jefferson replied the obvious, “to cool it,” Washington answered, “Even so, we pour legislation into the Senatorial Saucer to cool it.”

The Senate’s famous tactic of the filibuster is another longstanding tradition meant to slow the legislative process. The  U.S. Senate website notes that until the cloture rule was adopted in 1917, there was no way to stop extended debates except by “unanimous consent, compromise, or exhaustion.”

It is hard to read Federalist No. 62 and not be reminded of the healthcare bill that recently became law.  Many of the founders’ words of warning found in this essay could have easily been written just a few months ago about this legislation which was hurried through the Congress, without the thorough vetting or deliberation our Founders intended:

“The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.”

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

One might wonder why the Senate did not act as the Founders’ had intended, as a brake on this rush to pass a healthcare bill that many Members of Congress did not have time to read?  The fact that State Legislatures no longer appoint U.S. Senators may have certainly had an impact, as well as the general partisanship that exists so much more in the Senate today, than in the past.

One thing is certain, Publius’s careful explanation of the Founders’ intentions in creating the Senate is as good as any political science textbook I have ever read. We should all work to get the Federalist Papers back into the schools and colleges!  Thomas Jefferson called the Federalist, “The best commentary on the principles of government which has ever been written.”  Federalist No. 62 certainly lives up to that billing!

On to Federalist No. 63!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 23, 2010 – Federalist No. 63 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon Virginia! Thank you Professor Morrisey  for your enlightening essay on Federalist 63! The methodical nature in which Publius addresses every aspect of the Constitution, and the elements of the government of the United States never cease to amaze me.   Federalist 62 explained how the Senate was to be organized: qualifications, appointment by state legislatures, equal representation among states, number of members and term, and the purpose of the Senate; Federalist 63 elaborates on the unique role of the Senate and its responsibility, while Federalist Nos. 64-66 explore its powers.

Federalist 63 emphasizes the role of Senators as Statesmen. By design, Senators were intended to be mature individuals who exercise responsibility, and give consideration to the long term impact of a “succession of well-chosen and well-connected measures, which have a gradual and perhaps unobserved operation.”

Some would argue there are fewer true Statesmen in the Senate today than we have seen in the past. Senators such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun don’t seem to exist in the same way they once did.  However, we recently lost such a statesman, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.  While some may question Senator Byrd’s support of prolific federal spending, he is the undisputed “Father of Constitution Day,” held each September 17!

Senator Byrd’s amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 designated September 17, the anniversary of the 1787 signing of the Constitution, as Constitution Day.  This bill was signed into law by President Bush on December 8, 2004 as Public Law 108-4-47.  Thanks to Senator Byrd, on September 17 all educational institutions receiving federal funds are required to hold programs on the United States Constitution.

Janine and I have a goal to imbue Constitution Day into the cultural consciousness of our country!  Constituting America is planning several events in Philadelphia this September 17, featuring our We The People 9.17 Contest for Kids Winners.  If you will be in the Philadelphia area, please join us!  Watch our website for more details.

Thank you, Senator Byrd, for your vision in establishing this important day of recognition for the United States Constitution in our country.  Thank you for your service to our Nation.  While I may not have always personally agreed with your votes and your interpretation of the Constitution, I will miss your Statesman-like grace and love for our founding document!

Below are Senator Byrd’s own words about Constitution Day:

CELEBRATING OUR CONSTITUTION

Our Constitution is the foundation of our freedoms.  Just a few pages, written on parchment, established for all time the direction and structure of these United States.  The first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, guarantee our freedoms:  freedom of speech; freedom of religion; the right to assemble; the right to petition the government; the right to bear arms; and the right to vote.  Our liberties are protected by that Constitution, not only by the Bill of Rights, but also by the separation of powers and the checks and balances among the three equal branches of our government.

Each of us should give thanks that on September 17, 1787, our forefathers signed their names to the new Constitution and launched mankind’s most remarkable experiment in self-governance.

But a great Republic cannot sustain itself unless its citizens participate actively in their own government.  To do that, I strongly believe, that our citizens must be familiar with the Constitution and the intent of the Framers who wrote it.

In December 2004, I helped to enact a federal law that designates September 17th of each year as Constitution and Citizenship Day.  I did so because I care so deeply about this precious document.

Consequently, I invite all Americans to take the time on September 17th to read, analyze, and reflect on the Constitution.  It is a learned and dynamic document.  Brilliant in its brevity, it remains extraordinary in its wisdom.  It is my hope that citizens of every State in the Union, including children, will be inspired to organize local celebrations on Constitution Day.

Let us spread the excitement of celebrating Constitution Day far and wide, through every hill and dale, across the Great Plains, through the Deep South, across the West, the Southwest, the Northeast, as well as up and down the Atlantic Seaboard, and especially in West Virginia.  Let us all unite on September 17th to appreciate our magnificent Constitution.

Unless we understand our birthright and guard it vigorously, we risk losing the gift of the Framers.  Our Constitution continues to inspire millions around the globe.  It has survived the stresses and strains of more than 221 years of incredible challenge and change.

Our Constitution’s Framers were willing to risk everything they owned, even their own lives, to give us the great treasure that is our nation and our form of government.  Each of us has an obligation to hand that treasure on to future generations intact and strong and secure.”

 

July 26, 2010 – Federalist No. 64 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Federalist No. 64 begins a discussion of the powers of the Senate, specifically the power to ratify treaties.

It is interesting that the Senate and the House each possess distinct powers, reflective of the founders’ view of each institution’s strengths.  The U.S. House, closer to the people, controls the “purse,” while the U.S. Senate, designed to be the more stable and mature body, handles issues such as ratification of treaties, confirmation of certain executive branch officials and Supreme Court Justices, and serves as the court for impeachment trials.

The Senate’s power to ratify treaties the President makes is another example of the brilliant system of checks and balances designed by our founders.   The founders had great confidence in the ability and character of the Senators that would serve, based on the qualifications they had to meet in order to be appointed, and based on the fact that they would be appointed by the State Legislatures.

Publius states:

“This mode (appointment of Senators) has, in such cases, vastly the advantage of elections by the people in their collective capacity, where the activity of party zeal, taking the advantage of the supineness, the ignorance, and the hopes and fears of the unwary and interested, often places men in office by the votes of a small proportion of the electors.”

I wonder how often Federalist No. 64 was quoted during the debates on the 17th Amendment almost 100 years ago.

Publius goes on to extol the level of qualifications a Senate candidate must meet in order to be appointed, “men of whom the people have had time to form a judgment, and with respect to whom they will not be liable to be deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which, like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”

In this age of sound bites, with newspapers closing every day, there is less and less substantive reporting about candidates. It seems that in the modern age, it is easier than the Founding Fathers imagined for the people to be “deceived by those brilliant appearances of genius and patriotism, which like transient meteors, sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.”

This quote jumped out at me as well:

“In proportion as the United States assume a national form and a national character, so will the good of the whole be more and more an object of attention, and the government must be a weak one indeed, if it should forget that the good of the whole can only be promoted by advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole.”

When the federal government makes policy that puts undue burdens on states, it is not “advancing the good of each of the parts or members which compose the whole.

The Founders put every precaution and a carefully balanced structure in place to ensure members of the U.S. Senate were “men of talents and integrity.

However, as is often repeated on these blog pages, and by Publius, the final check is “the genius of the people.”

Get to know your U.S. Senators.  Which, if any, in your state are up for re-election? Research their voting record.  Go to their August town hall meetings.  Write them a letter.   Find out if your Senator is a man, or a woman, “of talents and integrity.”

Knowledge is power!

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 27, 2010 – Federalist No. 65 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Federalist No. 65 defends the role of the Senate as the court of trial for impeachments.  It is fascinating that this intuitively judicial function would be delegated to the legislative branch – another example of the intricate checks and balances built into the Constitution, perfectly calibrated to preserve our liberty!

In the impeachment process, there are “checks” even within this check, as the U.S. House “has the sole power of impeachment,” (Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution).  In other words, the branch of the legislature closest to the people, the U.S. House, has the power to decide if there is sufficient cause to bring charges of impeachment.  Our founders believed the people should decide (through their U.S. Representatives), if there is sufficient cause for trial to determine if “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (Article II, Section 4) have possibly taken place.

The power to convict rests with the Senate, however, as the founders believed the great responsibility of impeachment should be shared between the legislative bodies.  The Senate was deemed the wiser, mature, and more stable body, capable of such consequential decisions.

“Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel CONFIDENCE ENOUGH IN ITS OWN SITUATION, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an INDIVIDUAL accused, and the REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE, HIS ACCUSERS?”

If the founders had made the impeachment process too easy, it could fall victim to the political whims of the day; too hard, and the people would not be able to remove those who violate the public trust. Much like the amendment process which seems to have found the perfect balance between “that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults,” (Federalist No. 43), the impeachment process  is designed with the perfect equilibrium between too facile, and too complex.  As Troy Kickler notes, of the seventeen Americans impeached since 1789, only seven have been convicted.

As we journey slowly through the Constitution, with the Federalist Papers as our guiding light, it is awe inspiring to uncover layer after layer of checks, balances, and built in safeguards for our liberty.  And to think this beautiful, delicate governmental structure that so ably protects our freedom was designed and agreed upon in a little over three months, in a hot room in Philadelphia!  George Washington called it “a little short of a miracle.” With over 200 years of hindsight, and in-depth study, it becomes more and more apparent that a true miracle occurred.

Good night and God Bless!

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 28, 2010 – Federalist No. 66 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

In Federalist No. 66, Hamilton continues his defense of the Senate’s role as court of trial in the impeachment process.  The anti-federalists believed this role concentrated too much power in the hands of the Senate.  As we work our way through the Federalist Papers, it is fascinating to have the benefit of hindsight to explore how the structure built by the framers has played out.

In my personal journey through our 90 in 90, History Holds the Key to the Future, I have learned just how much I did not know!!

I have discovered the Senate.Gov website is a marvelous resource and repository of history. I consulted it for a list of Senate impeachment trials, and found this link:

http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Senate_Impeachment_Role.htm#4

The above link contains an illuminating narrative of the Senate’s role in impeachment trials, and the major controversies that have arisen over the years, including the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

In 1960 U.S. Rep Gerald Ford famously stated, “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

The link also contains the below listing of Senate Impeachment Trials.  Since 1789, the Senate has conducted 19 impeachment proceedings, with an even split of 7 acquittals and 7 convictions.  Three cases were dismissed.

Complete List of Senate Impeachment Trials
To date, the Senate has conducted formal impeachment proceedings 19 times, resulting in 7 acquittals, 7 convictions, and 3 dismissals.

William Blount, Senator

Date of Final Senate Action: January 11, 1799

Result:  expelled, charges dismissed

_______________________________

John Pickering, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action: March 12, 1804

Result: guilty, removed from office

_______________________________

Samuel Chase, Justice

Date of Final Senate Action:  March 1, 1805

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

James H. Peck, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  January 31, 1831

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

West H. Humphreys, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  June 26, 1862

Result:  guilty

_______________________________

Andrew Johnson, President

Date of Final Senate Action:  May 16/26, 1868

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

Mark H. Delahay, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  no action

Result:  resigned

_______________________________

William Belknap, Secretary of War

Date of Final Senate Action:  August 1, 1876

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

Charles Swayne, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  February 27, 1905

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

Robert Archbald, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  January 13, 1913

Result:  guilty, removed

_______________________________

George W. English, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  December 13, 1926

Result: resigned, charges dismissed

_______________________________

Harold Louderback, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  May 24, 1933

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

Halsted Ritter, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  April 17, 1936

Result:  guilty, removed from office

_______________________________

Harry E. Claiborne, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action: October 9, 1986

Result:  guilty, removed from office

_______________________________

Alcee Hastings, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  October 20, 1989

Result:  guilty, removed from office

_______________________________

Walter Nixon, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action:  November 3, 1989

Result:  guilty, removed from office

_______________________________

William J. Clinton, President

Date of Final Senate Action:  February 12, 1999

Result:  not guilty

_______________________________

Samuel B. Kent, Judge

Date of Final Senate Action: July 22, 2009

Result: resigned, case dismissed

_______________________________

G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., Judge

Date of Final Senate Action: case pending

I hope you all are learning as much as I am about the history of our country, the founding principles upon which our country is based and how these principles were applied by the framers in creating the structure of our Republic, through the United States Constitution!!

Thank you for joining us!!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 29, 2010 – Federalist No. 67 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, July 29th, 2010

“The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution.

Hello from Mt. Vernon Virginia!  In Federalist No. 67, Publius vigorously defends the above sentence in the U.S. Constitution, and uses the anti-federalists’ arguments against it as an example of their distortion of the powers of the presidency.

It is appropriate I should be writing from Mt. Vernon, Virginia today, as President George Washington made the first use of the power of the recess appointment in 1789, to fill several federal district court judgeships.  On July 1, 1795 President Washington made a recess appointment to appoint John Rutledge as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, upon Chief Justice John Jay’s resignation to become Governor of New York.   Within 15 days of Chief Justice Rutledge’s recess appointment, Rutledge made a controversial speech attacking the Jay Treaty, saying he would rather see President Washington die, than sign the treaty! Chief Justice Rutledge’s tirade led many to believe he was mentally ill or intoxicated when he made the speech.  (for more on this story, see my source: http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL31112.pdf, page 17).

Consequently, when Chief Justice Rutledge was nominated by President Washington for a full life term in December of 1795, Rutledge’s nomination was rejected by the Senate five days later by a vote of 10-14,  making him the shortest serving Chief Justice in United States History!

From the moment of its inception, the United States Constitution went to work. The checks and balances and separation of powers delineated in this great document provided boundaries even on our first and revered President, George Washington.  Imagine if the 24 hour news cycle had existed in President Washington’s time.  The story of Chief Justice Rutledge would have been covered non-stop, and his speech would have certainly been all over You Tube!  But despite the difference in technology, and the span of hundreds of years, our United States Constitution works much the same today as it worked at the time of its birth, like gears in a machine, steadily providing a check to one branch, and then another, with our liberty delicately balanced.

To the extent that one branch goes too far, and encroaches on another, or provides a check where none should be, it is not a failure of the machine, it is a failure of the energy behind the machine – “We the people.”   Our knowledge is power, and our power translated to action is energy!

Thank you Troy Kickler for your brilliant essay, and your continued participation in our 90 in 90 History Holds the Key to the Future project.

And thank you to our fellow Patriots and “guardians of the Constitution,” (Federalist No. 16) for participating in our blog!

On to Federalist No. 68,

Cathy Gillespie

 

July 30, 2010 – Federalist No. 68 – Cathy Gillespie

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Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Greetings from Long Beach Island, New Jersey! The Gillespies are on our family vacation, and it has been a little hard to keep up with the essays, but I am determined to catch up!  In case you are wondering, the weather has been beautiful, the water warmer than usual, and we have been visiting with Ed’s extended family, his brothers and sisters and all the Greco cousins! There are at least 30 members of the Gillespie and Greco families here now, with the Moore cousins on the way, on Thursday!

The electoral college, the subject of Federalist No. 68, is one of the least understood components of the United States governmental structure.  I recommend this website for anyone who wants to brush up on the subject:  http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/

It is so important we all understand the electoral college and its importance to our republican form of government.  There has a been a recent movement to abolish the electoral college.  But another movement to persuade states to adopt proportional voting, instead of the traditional “winner-take-all” method, is also gaining momentum.

My daughter, Mollie Gillespie, writes about the advantage of states adopting a proportional system of allocating their electoral college votes on Juliette Turner’s new Kids’ Blog.  Click on this link and scroll down for Mollie’s essay:  http://constitutingamerica.org/juliette/?p=18

Check out Juliette’s Blog, and ask your kids to participate!  Juliette is reading the Making of America, and writing about it.  She is also encouraging kids to start Patriot’s Clubs!

Inspire our next generation to want to learn about the Constitution and our country’s founding principles! Forward out links to Juliette’s blog, and help your kids start Patriots’ clubs.  Take the time to teach your kids about the electoral college!  They find this subject fascinating, when it is explained to them.  Use the website   http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/ as a guide.

As we have said numerous times on these pages, knowledge is power! Let’s make sure our next generation is knowledgable, so they have the power to determine their future, and the future of our great country.

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

August 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 69 & Federalist No. 70 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Greetings from Long Beach Island New Jersey!  What fun I’ve been having reading the Federalist Papers on the beach! And what interesting looks I get from passersby who take the time to glance at the cover of my book.

Federalist Papers 68-77 are especially interesting to me personally, as I have been fascinated by the Presidency for as long as I can remember. My first “political” experience was writing to President Nixon when I was in grade school, telling him I was praying for him during his struggles.  In Junior high, I begged my father to take me to SMU, in Dallas near where I grew up, to stand in a rope line in order to catch a glimpse of President Gerald Ford.  I voted for the first time in 1980, proudly casting my ballot for Ronald Reagan.  My first college course in political science at Texas A&M was taught by an expert in the Presidency, and although regretfully I can’t remember his name, I loved the course so much, I switched my major from business to political science that semester!

During the last decade, I got an even closer look at the Presidency through my husband’s work with President George W. Bush, and opportunities our family had to interact with him.  I had always admired President Bush’s steady leadership, and his unwavering commitment to certain values and principles, most notably keeping America safe. But getting to know him personally, I admired the way he carried the office of the Presidency.  When you are President, you are always President, whether relaxing in a small group or at public events.  President Bush respected the office, and lived every day in a way that could make our country proud.

Thank you to Professor Joerg Knipprath for your enlightening and thorough essays on Federalist Papers No. 69 (The Real Character of the Executive ) and 70 (The Executive Department Further Considered ).  The historical background you provide gives a useful prism from which to view these two papers that explore the President’s powers versus those of the British Monarch and the New York Governor, and the decision of the founders to have a unified executive, versus two or more heading that branch.

In Federalist No. 69 Publius makes a convincing argument that the United States Presidency, while powerful enough to head the country, is not as powerful as the King, or even the New York Governor (with the exception of the power to make treaties).  This is a fascinating comparison, and reveals the founders’ thought process on why the Presidency of our country is vested with certain powers and limited in others.

Some of the President’s powers originally outlined by the founders have waned, while others have increased. The President’s term in office still remains at four years, but is now limited to two terms by the twenty-second Amendment.

The President’s power to

“nominate, and, WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution,”

has been expanded over the years by the President’s ability to create “Czar” positions.  These “Czar” positions sound eerily similar to the power Publius ascribes to the King, and denies the President having:

The king of Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints to all offices, but can create offices.”

Time Magazine provides an interesting history of “Czars” in the United States at this link: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1925564,00.html

Time states the first Czar existed in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet during World War I, when Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries board, and was known as the Industry Czar.  This must have been the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, as the use of “Czars” has mushroomed from that point forward.

In Federalist No. 70, Publius defends the decision of the founders to have a single executive in the office of the Presidency head the executive branch, versus two or more individuals.  The benefits of a unified executive make an extraordinary amount of sense, especially in protecting the people’s liberty through transparency, and accountability.  As difficult as it was to pinpoint blame in Watergate, for example, imagine how much more difficult it might have been had there been two Chief Executives.  Professor Knipprath quotes Harry Truman’s famous line, “the buck stops here,” and that indeed is one of the most important attributes of the United States Presidency.

The founders’ grasp of history, as they detail the failures of past plural executives, such as the Achaens, or the dissensions between the Consuls and the military Tribunes in Roman history once again illuminates their arguments.  And their grasp of human nature is equally as profound –

“Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even animosity.”

“Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.”

Our United States Presidency is a unique institution, crafted thoughtfully and skillfully by our founding fathers!

On to Federalist #71!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

August 3, 2010 – Federalist No. 69 & Federalist No. 70 – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Greetings from Long Beach Island New Jersey!  What fun I’ve been having reading the Federalist Papers on the beach! And what interesting looks I get from passersby who take the time to glance at the cover of my book.

Federalist Papers 68-77 are especially interesting to me personally, as I have been fascinated by the Presidency for as long as I can remember. My first “political” experience was writing to President Nixon when I was in grade school, telling him I was praying for him during his struggles.  In Junior high, I begged my father to take me to SMU, in Dallas near where I grew up, to stand in a rope line in order to catch a glimpse of President Gerald Ford.  I voted for the first time in 1980, proudly casting my ballot for Ronald Reagan.  My first college course in political science at Texas A&M was taught by an expert in the Presidency, and although regretfully I can’t remember his name, I loved the course so much, I switched my major from business to political science that semester!

During the last decade, I got an even closer look at the Presidency through my husband’s work with President George W. Bush, and opportunities our family had to interact with him.  I had always admired President Bush’s steady leadership, and his unwavering commitment to certain values and principles, most notably keeping America safe. But getting to know him personally, I admired the way he carried the office of the Presidency.  When you are President, you are always President, whether relaxing in a small group or at public events.  President Bush respected the office, and lived every day in a way that could make our country proud.

Thank you to Professor Joerg Knipprath for your enlightening and thorough essays on Federalist Papers No. 69 (The Real Character of the Executive ) and 70 (The Executive Department Further Considered ).  The historical background you provide gives a useful prism from which to view these two papers that explore the President’s powers versus those of the British Monarch and the New York Governor, and the decision of the founders to have a unified executive, versus two or more heading that branch.

In Federalist No. 69 Publius makes a convincing argument that the United States Presidency, while powerful enough to head the country, is not as powerful as the King, or even the New York Governor (with the exception of the power to make treaties).  This is a fascinating comparison, and reveals the founders’ thought process on why the Presidency of our country is vested with certain powers and limited in others.

Some of the President’s powers originally outlined by the founders have waned, while others have increased. The President’s term in office still remains at four years, but is now limited to two terms by the twenty-second Amendment.

The President’s power to

“nominate, and, WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE SENATE, to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, and in general all officers of the United States established by law, and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by the Constitution,”

has been expanded over the years by the President’s ability to create “Czar” positions.  These “Czar” positions sound eerily similar to the power Publius ascribes to the King, and denies the President having:

The king of Great Britain is emphatically and truly styled the fountain of honor. He not only appoints to all offices, but can create offices.”

Time Magazine provides an interesting history of “Czars” in the United States at this link: http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1925564,00.html

Time states the first Czar existed in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet during World War I, when Wilson appointed Bernard Baruch to head the War Industries board, and was known as the Industry Czar.  This must have been the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, as the use of “Czars” has mushroomed from that point forward.

In Federalist No. 70, Publius defends the decision of the founders to have a single executive in the office of the Presidency head the executive branch, versus two or more individuals.  The benefits of a unified executive make an extraordinary amount of sense, especially in protecting the people’s liberty through transparency, and accountability.  As difficult as it was to pinpoint blame in Watergate, for example, imagine how much more difficult it might have been had there been two Chief Executives.  Professor Knipprath quotes Harry Truman’s famous line, “the buck stops here,” and that indeed is one of the most important attributes of the United States Presidency.

The founders’ grasp of history, as they detail the failures of past plural executives, such as the Achaens, or the dissensions between the Consuls and the military Tribunes in Roman history once again illuminates their arguments.  And their grasp of human nature is equally as profound –

“Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even animosity.”

“Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.”

Our United States Presidency is a unique institution, crafted thoughtfully and skillfully by our founding fathers!

On to Federalist #71!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

August 5, 2010 – Federalist No. 71 and Federalist No. 72 – Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Greetings from Mt. Vernon, Virginia!

Once again, I write from ground that belonged to our first President of the United States, and once again, George Washington is a leader, by example, on the item under discussion!

Federalist Papers 71 and 72 deal with the President’s Term in Office, and the idea of Presidential Term Limits.

Through the four year Presidential term, the framers strike the perfect balance – enough time for a President to enact his priorities, yet not endanger the liberty of the people:

“As, on the one hand, a duration of four years will contribute to the firmness of the Executive in a sufficient degree to render it a very valuable ingredient in the composition; so, on the other, it is not enough to justify any alarm for the public liberty.”

The debate about Presidential term limits in Federalist No. 72 is a serious one, and one in which the brilliant amendment process ultimately prevailed.  Hamilton argues that the imposition of term limits takes away the incentive for the President to do his or her best for the people:

“One ill effect of the exclusion would be a diminution of the inducements to good behavior. There are few men who would not feel much less zeal in the discharge of a duty when they were conscious that the advantages of the station with which it was connected must be relinquished at a determinate period, than when they were permitted to entertain a hope of OBTAINING, by MERITING, a continuance of them.”

For many years, tradition began by President Washington held that Presidents stepped down after two terms.  Once this tradition was broken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, momentum gathered to codify what had previously been informally honored.

Eight years is a very long time for an individual to be subject to the stresses and daily intensity of the office of President of the United States. Even though the world moved at a slower pace two centuries ago, the stress of the office was and still is, immense.  We have all observed the photos of the youthful President on inauguration day, and eight years later, wondered at the grey hair and added lines on his face.

In the book, The Real George Washington, by Parry Allison Skousen (a present given to me by my friend and Constituting America Co-Chair Janine Turner), President Washington is quoted at the end of his eight years in a letter to John Jay:

“Indeed, the troubles and perplexities, ….added to the weight of years which have passed over me, have worn away my mind more than my body.”

An observer is quoted in the book as describing Washington after eight years in office this way, “The innumerable vexations he has met with….have very sensibly impaired the vigor of his constitution and given him an aged appearance.”

Since the ratification of the 22cnd amendment, Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush were all elected for two terms, and limited by the 22cnd amendment from running for a third. The above description of President Washington after eight years in office could have easily applied to any of these Presidents.  The office of the Presidency has a way of aging its occupant, and eight years is a sufficient time for any man or woman to bear the responsibility.

Hamilton had also worried that too many ex-Presidents would be a distraction to the country:

“Would it promote the peace of the community, or the stability of the government to have half a dozen men who had had credit enough to be raised to the seat of the supreme magistracy, wandering among the people like discontented ghosts, and sighing for a place which they were destined never more to possess?”

Contrary to Hamilton’s prediction, in modern times, our country and world have benefitted from the wisdom and stature of ex-Presidents. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton headed a Tsunami Relief Fund, President Clinton champions many humanitarian efforts and charities, Former Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton head a Haiti Relief Fund, and Former President Jimmy Carter has greatly raised the profile and success of Habit for Humanity, among other causes.

However, no former President has conducted himself with more dignity, grace and class than Former President George W. Bush.  Former President Bush, referenced almost daily by the current White House as the source of all the country’s problems, has quietly and respectfully stood by, and let our current President lead.  He has refrained from criticism of any elected officials, all the while working steadily to develop the Bush Institute, the arm of his Presidential Library dedicated to the promotion of freedom throughout the world.

Term limits for Presidents have ensured that our country not fall into a “monarchy mentality,” and that at least every eight years, those at the highest levels of government leave to make way for new leaders to serve.

Despite Hamilton’s ominous warnings, term limits for Presidents finally came to the United States Constitution through the process set up by the framers for change: the amendment process.  The founding fathers were brilliant men, whose insights continue to light our path today, but they knew they were not perfect, and could not always predict the future.

That is the beauty of our United States Constitution. When the people see a need for change, the demand is urgent enough, and felt commonly enough to bring about the 2/3’s for proposal and 3 /4’s necessary for ratification, there is a structure and process in place to legitimately and peacefully make a change.   The 22cnd Amendment is one of those changes that has bettered our system of government.

 

August 6, 2010 – Federalist No. 73 – Cathy Gillespie

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Friday, August 6th, 2010

Federalist No. 73 begins the examination of the powers of the Presidency, with a discussion of the President’s role in the legislative process, specifically, the veto.  In writing about the veto power, Publius travels back to Article I of the United States Constitution, the section of the Constitution dedicated to the legislative branch.  Nowhere in Article II, the section of the Constitution dedicated to the Executive branch, is the veto power mentioned.

“Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”–Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution

“Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.”–Article I, Section 7, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution

Article II, the portion of the Constitution describing the executive branch function, states the President’s obligation to provide the Congress information through the State of the Union, recommend proposals for their consideration, convene both Houses in extraordinary circumstances, or adjourn both Houses in the case of disagreement between them with respect to the time of adjournment:

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper….”–Article II, Section 3

The Presidential veto is one of the most important checks and balances in our system of government. By requiring 2/3’s vote in both Houses to override a presidential veto, the Constitution ensures that controversial bills must have overwhelming support of the people, through their representatives in Congress, to become law.

It is interesting that the President’s important power of the veto, never mentioned by the name “veto” in the United States Constitution, is located in Article I, the article describing powers of the legislative branch.  The President, as head of the executive branch, has the power to execute, or carry out the laws of the United States, through the various Departments and agencies.  But through Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2 and 3, he also has the power to enact legislation in two ways:

1. Sign the bill        OR

2. Refuse to sign or return the bill within 10 days (not counting Sundays), when the Congress is in session.

The President has the power to disapprove legislation in two ways:

1. Return the bill “with objections,” (his veto) OR

2. Fail to return or sign the bill within the ten day window during which an Adjournment occurs (known as a pocket veto).

The legislative process and veto power of the President was so important to the framers that they devoted unusual specificity to this subject, detailing the number of days the President has to make his decision to sign, return, or not act, even exempting Sundays in the 10 day period!!!  The 2/3’s required to override the presidential veto is also a well thought out measure addressed in Federalist No. 73:

“It is to be hoped that it will not often happen that improper views will govern so large a proportion as two thirds of both branches of the legislature at the same time; and this, too, in spite of the counterposing weight of the Executive. It is at any rate far less probable that this should be the case, than that such views should taint the resolutions and conduct of a bare majority.”

Professor Rowley brings up the issue of the line item veto, within the context of the “qualified veto.”  I have been a supporter of the line item veto for many years, ever since President Reagan called for this power in his State of the Union in 1986:

“And tonight, I ask you to give me what 43 Governors have — give me a line-item veto this year. (Applause.) Give me the authority to veto waste, and I’ll take the responsibility, I’ll make the cuts, I’ll take the heat.”

President Clinton finally received the power of the line item veto, but the Supreme Court has since ruled it unconstitutional.  It seems that the only way for the president to have the power of the line item veto would be with a constitutional amendment.  And given the forethought the framers put into devising the structure of the veto, as well as the specificity they devoted describing the process, a constitutional amendment would be the most appropriate way to grant the president this power.

Governors across America have found the line-item veto to be an invaluable tool in cutting spending.  And with the Congress’s propensity to pass 3,500 page pork-laden bills, I believe the line item veto would be a useful tool for the president to have.  I respect Professor Rowley’s arguments against it, however, and am thankful for this forum in which we can discuss policy options in a civil and respectful manner.  Thank you also to Professor Rowley for your ongoing blog comments, and your reminder of the inspiration of George Washington, his crossing of the Delaware, and his appeal to the spirit of Americans!

Thank you to all of you for your well thought out blog comments! Each of you sheds a little more light on the issues at hand with the insights you share!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

August 11, 2010 – Federalist No. 76 – Cathy Gillespie

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Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Federalist No. 76 examines the appointing power of the Executive Branch.  One of our blog commenters, Jimmy Green, summed up this paper well today:

“To keep the Executive somewhat honest the legislative branch must consent on appointments.”

This same subject was discussed in Federalist 66, in the context of powers of the Senate:

“It will be the office of the President to NOMINATE, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to APPOINT. There will, of course, be no exertion of CHOICE on the part of the Senate. They may defeat one choice of the Executive, and oblige him to make another; but they cannot themselves CHOOSE, they can only ratify or reject the choice of the President. They might even entertain a preference to some other person, at the very moment they were assenting to the one proposed, because there might be no positive ground of opposition to him; and they could not be sure, if they withheld their assent, that the subsequent nomination would fall upon their own favorite, or upon any other person in their estimation more meritorious than the one rejected. Thus it could hardly happen, that the majority of the Senate would feel any other complacency towards the object of an appointment than such as the appearances of merit might inspire, and the proofs of the want of it destroy.”

Publius is saying that the Senate’s role in the Presidential appointment process is to decide if the President’s nominee is fit for the position nominated, on a merit basis, i.e. is the person qualified to serve in the position for which he or she is nominated?

How is this relevant today? With our newest Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s confirmation in the news, it’s easy to answer that question!

Historically, there have been two views regarding the role of the Senate in the Presidential nomination process of Supreme Court Justices. The two quotes below are excellent examples of each view:

Senator Orrin Hatch stated in 1993:

“If a nominee is experienced in the law, highly intelligent, of good character and temperament, and — most important — gives clear and convincing evidence that he or she understands and respects the proper role of the judiciary in our system of government, the mere fact that I might have selected a different nominee will not lead me to oppose the President’s nominee.”

Senator Barak Obama stated in 2006:

“There’s been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach the confirmation process. There’s some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint the nominee, and that the Senate should only examine whether or not the Justice is intellectually capable and is nice to his wife, or she is nice to her husband. That, once you get beyond issues of intellect and personal character, then there shouldn’t be further question as to whether the Judge should be confirmed. I disagree with the view.  I believe that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent, that, meaningful advice and consent includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record.”

Which of the above views have prevailed over the past few years? Examining the partisan breakdown of recent Supreme Court nominations provides at least a partial answer to that question.

President Clinton’s Supreme Court nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was confirmed in 1993 by a vote of 96-3, supported by 41 of 44 Senate Republicans, 93%.

President Clinton’s Supreme Court nominee, Stephen Breyer, was confirmed in 1994 by a vote of 87-9, supported by 33 of 42 Senate Republicans, 78%.

President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts, was confirmed in 2005 by a vote of 78-22, supported by 22 out of 44 Democrats, 50%.

President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, was confirmed in 2006 by a vote or 58-42, supported by 4 out of 44 Democrats, 9%.  One Senate Republican voted against Alito.

Were Justice Roberts and Justice Alito less qualified than Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsberg, or was an ideological standard applied by the Senators who chose to vote against Justice Roberts’ and Alito’s nominations?

President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, was confirmed in 2009 by a vote of 68-31, supported by 9 out of 40 Republicans, 22%.

Last week President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagain, was confirmed by a vote of 63-37, supported by 5 out of 41 Republicans, 12%.  One Democrat voted against Kagan.

This Senate.gov weblink: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/nominations/Nominations.htm provides an interesting look at our country’s history of Supreme Court nominations.  Scrolling through these votes, a more partisan voting trend has emerged in very recent years.  While Judge Bork was an anomaly, three Justices in the Reagan years were confirmed unanimously: Scalia, O’Connor and Kennedy, with Kennedy being the last Justice to be confirmed unanimously, in 1987.  The attitude of the Senate regarding their role in the appointments process seems to have shifted into partisanship over the last 20+years.

What is the Senate’s proper role in the Presidential Appointment process?

Publius answers that question this way:

“To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.”

Partisanship in the nomination process is difficult to dial back once allowed to seep in.  Is it in our Nation’s best interest for the Senate to adopt the attitude articulated by Senator Hatch in 1993 or the views articulated by President Obama in 2006?

I believe the founders intended the Senate to advise and consent based on their assessment of a nominee’s qualifications more than ideology. However, unless both parties can show evidence of dropping the partisan, ideological criteria for evaluating the President’s nominees – any President’s nominees – it is certainly not in the interest of one party to evaluate nominees based on qualifications while the other party uses an ideological measuring stick.

“We the people,” must educate ourselves regarding our founders’ intentions, formulate our opinion, and make our voice heard through our vote.   As Janine Turner, my good friend and Constituting America founder and co-chair likes to say, “Your vote is your voice.” Use it!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

August 12, 2010 – Federalist No. 77- Cathy Gillespie

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Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Greetings from Arizona!  What a beautiful state and friendly people.  We stopped to get gas, and several people wanted to know more about Constituting America – we ended up having fascinating conversations with them, about the importance of the Constitution, and their love for our country.

I haven’t blogged since I arrived in California on Friday, so I would like to take a moment to catch you up on our Constituting America We The People 9.17 Road Trip!

We spent Friday with Jacob Wood. If you haven’t listened to Jacob’s prize winning song, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” please go to www.constitutingamerica.org and listen!

Jacob is an outstanding young man! We filmed him all day in preparation for a music video we will release in the next few weeks. We loved getting to know Jacob! We also got to speak with his Pastor, and his parents who shared with us some wonderful stories about him.  Look for our Behind the Scenes Video in the coming weeks to learn more about Jacob!

Saturday we prepared for our departure, and today we took off from Los Angeles, headed to Arizona!

As we drove along looking the impressive desert vistas, I read Federalist Paper No. 77, only interrupted by Janine reminding me to look out the window and take in the views!

Federalist No. 77, The Appointing Power Continued and Other Powers of the Executive Considered, continues to explore the President’s power to nominate, and how the Senate’s role affects the balance of power between the White House and the legislative branch.  Hamilton even takes time to explore the ramifications if the U.S. House shared in the Advice and Consent role. Near the end of the essay, the remaining powers of the President outlined in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution are quickly mentioned:

“The only remaining powers of the Executive are comprehended in giving information to Congress of the state of the Union; in recommending to their consideration such measures as he shall judge expedient; in convening them, or either branch, upon extraordinary occasions; in adjourning them when they cannot themselves agree upon the time of adjournment; in receiving ambassadors and other public ministers; in faithfully executing the laws; and in commissioning all the officers of the United States.”

The requirement in the Constitution that the President deliver a State of the Union address to Congress:

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,”

is one of the few specific requirements of the President in the Constitution. Most of the powers given to the President may be utilized at his discretion, but the State of the Union is required.  I am surprised Publius did not spend more time on Article II, Section 3.  I find the State of the Union requirement of the President fascinating, as a validation of the President’s unique bird’s eye view of the country, and as a confirmation of the importance the framers placed on the legislative branch of government, by requiring a report be made to them.

Dr. Matthew Spalding, in the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, gives an interesting history of State of the Union speeches, on page 217.  Presidents Washington and Adams delivered their State of the Union speeches orally, as was the expectation by the framers.  Thomas Jefferson, however, broke with tradition and delivered his State of the Union speech in written form, read aloud by the clerks in Congress. Jefferson felt an in person delivery was “too pompous.” President Wilson was the first after John Adams to deliver his State of the Union orally, and every President since President Franklin D. Roosevelt has followed that tradition.  President Coolidge’s State of the Union address was the first broadcast by radio in 1923, and Harry Truman’s 1947 State of the Union address was the first broadcast by television.

I have had the privilege of attending several State of the Union Speeches, including one by President Reagan, one by President Clinton, one by President George H.W. Bush, and one by President George W. Bush.  All I witnessed were an impressive display of the three branches of government, personified by the individuals filling the U.S. House Chamber:

The members of Congress: U.S. House of Representative Members and U.S. Senators, fill the Chamber. The Speaker of the House is seated behind the President, as is the Vice President, who serves as the President pro tempore of the Senate.  The Supreme Court Justices line the front row.

One of the more famous State of the Union speeches occurred when President Obama rebuked the Supreme Court for their Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision:

“with all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that corrects some of these problems.”

Many have debated if it was appropriate for President Obama to criticize the Judiciary Branch so strongly in such a forum, with the Justices seated directly in front of him.  The appropriateness of Justice Alito’s reaction, of mouthing “not true,” has also been debated and discussed.  I believe that when attacked, a person has a right to defend himself. Justice Alito was perfectly within his bounds mouthing “not true.”  It is unfortunate it was necessary.

Just as President Obama should not have attacked the Supreme Court in his 2010 State of the Union, Representative Joe Wilson should not have shouted out “You lie!” in President Obama’s first State of the Union in 2009. When decorum is breached in the State of the Union, or anywhere, sadly standards degenerate on all sides.

The intricate layers of checks and balances in the United States Constitution is amazing.  They are buried in the nooks and crannies of the Constitution, and the State of the Union requirement is an example of this.  The simple requirement of a State of the Union speech puts yet another check and balance into play, and give and take between the branches goes on!

Looking forward to Federalist No. 78, the Judiciary Department!  AND looking forward to telling you about the next We the People 9.17 winner we are unveiling tomorrow in Arizona!!

Good night and God Bless,

Cathy Gillespie

 

April 27, 2010 – The Amendments to the United States Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

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Great discussion today – loved seeing some new names blogging!   Remember to invite your friends to join the conversation – and share this with your children! Encourage them to enter our We The People 9.17 Contest – sign up online ASAP – entries due July 4!  Tell high school students we especially need short films, PSA’s and we are asking middle schoolers and high schoolers to compose cool songs!  Students can enter in teams of two for the songs, short films and PSA’s.  Sign up today!

Tackling the Bill of Rights, and the Amendments in one day was a big job!   As I read through the Amendments, I wondered about the efforts and battles that must have gone into the passage of each.  Reading through the Amendments is like a quick reading of the history of our country.  The Amendments reflect the times and current events in the eras in which they were passed.  We can be proud as Americans that MOST of the Amendments reflect the founding fathers’ principles. (see today’s and yesterday’s blog for lively discussion on some such as the 16th and 17th which many feel do not!)

All of the Amendments have fascinating stories that accompany their passage.  We all know of the stories and have seen photos of the women’s suffrage movement, for example. That battle spanned 50 years before Congress approved the 19th Amendment in 1919 and 3/4 of the States ratified it in 1920. But there is an interesting back story to the passage of the 19th Amendment that I love.  In August of 1920 Tennessee was the final state needed to achieve ratification of the 19th Amendment. The vote in the Tennessee Legislature came down to a young State Representative, Harry Burn, who represented a district bitterly divided on the issue, and who was facing re-election that fall.  Representative Burn had voted previously with the Anti-Amendment forces.  The vote was tied 48-48, and Harry was expected to vote with those opposing the Amendment again.  But Harry carried a letter from his mother in his breast pocket, admonishing him “Don’t forget to be a good boy,” and vote for the Amendment.  Harry surprised everyone by voting yes, and thus on August 18, 1920 Tennessee became the 36th State to ratify the 19th Amendment, and one young 24 year old man empowered millions of women in our country with his brave vote.

Earlier today Rich asked an interesting question about how the 17th Amendment came to be passed, so I pulled two books off my shelf that I recommend to anyone who is interested in the stories and history of the Amendments, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution:

Seth Lipsky’s The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide (2009) and the Heritage Foundation’s Guide to the Constitution, edited by Ed Meese, Mathew Spalding and David Forte (2005).

Upon reading about the 17th Amendment’s history in both of the above sources, I found it was passed in reaction to many State legislatures which were deadlocked on the issue of choosing a U.S. Senator, thus leaving their states without representation in the U.S. Senate. The 17th Amendment was passed in the name of enhancing Democracy, yet many feel it has been detrimental to protecting States’ rights, expanding the federal government’s reach.

To me, the most important Amendments to our Constitution were the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which abolished slavery, established citizenship for former slaves, and prohibited restrictions on the right to vote based on color, race or previous condition of servitude.  President Lincoln received pressure from those who thought the 13th Amendment should be ratified only by the Northern States, in order to get it done quickly.  But Lincoln favored 3/4 ratification of the 13th Amendment by all the States, so the Amendment’s legitimacy could not be challenged.  He also believed the ratification process in the Southern States was important to Reconstruction and healing.  Regarding the 14th Amendment, Seth Lipsky writes, “Were the Amendments musical compositions, the fourteenth would be the grand symphony in four movements, full of exciting themes, varied movements, and clashing symbols….” Indeed the 14th did much more than overturn the Dred Scott decision and extend citizenship to former slaves, it contains the State Action, Privileges or Immunities, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, as well as Section Two, Apportionment of Representatives. The 15th Amendment, the last of the Amendments dealing with Reconstruction, prohibited voting discrimination for former slaves, and any voting discrimination based on race and color.  These three Amendments set the stage for the healing of our country.

It is another testament to the beauty of our Constitution that the Amendments read like a short hand version of the history of the United States.  It is all there, from the the 11th Amendment stemming from States being held accountable for their Revolutionary War Debts, to the 27th Amendment restricting congressional pay raises from taking effect until after an election. Interestingly the 27th Amendment was first proposed in 1789 and finally ratifed in 1992!

What will our next Amendment be?   Let us pray it will reflect the founding fathers’ principles as so many of our great Amendments have.  The only thing that is certain, though is that fascinating stories and struggles will accompany its passage, and it will add to the historical narrative of our country which is embodied in the United States Constitution.

Posted in Constitutional Essays by Cathy, The Amendments to the United States Constitution | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “April 272010 – the Amendments to the United States Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

  1. Susan says:

    We were trying to place the amendments in the context of history by guessing what was going on at the time they were enacted without peeking at the date. Amazingly, we were pretty close.

  2. Mary Lou Leddy says:

    I want to thank bothCathy and Janine for their blogs on the amendments today. As I have never studied theConstitution, Bill of Rights and the amendments in great detail before ; I must admit it can be very challenging to understand; but your blogs as well as the essays of the guest bloggers have made some things much clearer. Thank you again. I look forward to continuing this great study

  3. Pam says:

    I have been trying to get an answer to this question for about a month. In regards to illegal aliens, George Wills wrote an article stating that our policy of granting citizenship to children born in this country to illegal aliens is a misapplication of the 14th Amendment. That it does not apply to illegal immigrants, because at the time it was written, there were no restrictions on immigration.

    As far as I know, we are the only country that has this policy. Right now (to quote George) the best thing a poor person of any country can do for their children is to have them here. I think that changing our policy in regards to children of illegals would go a long way to stop the flood. Any comments?

  4. Susan Craig says:

    My understanding of the whys and wherefores of the 14th was to clarify the citizenship status of the newly emancipated slaves after the Civil War and its intention was never for transient immigrants who wish to anchor themselves here with all the privileges but not necessarily the duties.

  5. Sandra Rodas says:

    I realize that to keep with the 90 day format, it was necessary to have all the amendments be covered in one day, but it sure would be nice to look at each in a little more depth. Maybe when the 90 day challenge is over, we could revisit them one at a time on the blog.

  6. Martin says:

    With regard to the 14th Amendment. Those who would reinvent the Constitution as a document of positive rights versus a document of negative rights have sought to contort the “privileges and immunities” clause to meet their ends.

    Basically, the Constitution is written as a set of guarantees limiting what government actually has the power to do and in fact, limiting what it can do to it’s citizenry. There is a movement under way to redefine government in terms of what it must do for its people.

    The Slaughter supreme court decisions (right after the Civil War) have defined this narrowly to apply to the states, guaranteeing that the federal government supersedes state governments only in the realm of guaranteed protections specified by the Bill of Rights.

    The folks who promulgate the concept of the Constitution as a “living” document want to overturn this precedent so that more “rights” can be forced down over the objections of the states. These new “rights” would be things like – housing, guaranteed employment, health care, and guaranteed access to the political process. By defining them as obligations or entitlements, the government would have to take steps to ensure that they are fulfilled. This would necessarily entail funding and enforcement.

    The movement doing this is called the Constitution 2020 movement.

    Hillsdale College recently produced a paper documenting their efforts. I’ve written a synopsis at whatwhouldthefoundersthink.com, where I’ve included links to this paper as well links to some of this groups writings.

  7. Kirk John Larson says:

    Greetings and Salutations,

    I wish to address certain issues. The 17th Amendment and the 2020 Movement.

    Cathy pointed out that some have argued that the 17th Amendment hurt States rights, and it did. In passing that amendment, State Governments no longer have true representation in Washington. As a result, the Federal government has infringed upon States issues by mandating how the States spends its tax revenues and what laws to pass lest the Federal government would suspend funding as a form of punishment over the states. This practice works to diminish the role and need for State Governments at all. This has been the plan by progressives since 1913. More over, by stripping the State Governments of authority, the Public role in governance and more over the publics ability to self govern is also eroded.

    As for the Constitution 2020 movement; this effort to impose ‘new rights’ is not to say our rights have been lost or confused but to say that the US Government is the sole granter of “Rights.” This is a secular push toward a more socialized society where in the Government defines and prescribes where you live, how you live, and whether or not you live.

    Housing is a replaceable commodity, (Just ask any tornado.) Employment is a personal choice and on occasion deniable due to the lack of employers. Ultimately, the “Right to Employment” is to destroy the Entrepreneurial Spirit of America. Health Care is a personal responsibility. The effort hear is ultimately establish euthanasia as a legal recourse. Then there is guaranteed access to political process, which is an intent to eradicate responsibility. Today, under the law, criminal conduct suspends your rights to vote or participate in the political process such as serving as a representative in congress. (either house) The idea the progressives have here is Americans should be free from responsibility and consequences for their actions. This is intended to bring more freedom but will actually encourage chaos. As a result, the very idea actually produces the opposite affect as the public cannot be trusted to conduct themselves responsibly, so totalitarian rules must be imposed. The two step process bring greater freedom from responsibility and consequences is to eliminate freedom altogether.

    The left will argue to the contrary but the truth is; the absence of responsibility produces chaos and public endangerment.
    Socialism has failed time and again. It will always fail because it dehumanizes the people into little more than cattle to be processed.

 

April 26, 2010 – Articles IV – VII – Cathy Gillespie

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Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Thank you for reading and blogging with us today in our 90 in 90 = History Holds the Key to the Future Program!  Tomorrow is Day 5, and will be our last day on the United States Constitution before we embark upon the Federalist Papers.  Please join us in blogging on the Amendments tomorrow.  If you have been quietly reading along, we want to hear from you!  And please continue to forward our website www.constitutingamerica.org to your friends, and post on Facebook, Tweet, mention on LinkedIn – help us spread the word!

A big thank you also to Professor Knipprath for your insightful comments on Articles IV – VII.  I hate to admit that I am one of those people you speak of in your first sentence, for whom Articles IV – VII were terra incognita!   Yet, these are some of the most important Articles in the Constitution: the amendment process arguably one of the most important of all.

With a 2/3 vote required in both houses of Congress, or 2/3 of state legislatures required to call for a constitional convention to propose an amendment, and then 3/4 of the State Legislatures required to ratify, or 3/4 of the states ratify in conventions, I marvel that the Constitution has been successfully amended as many times as it has.  Our founders brilliantly put mechanisms in place to ensure that the Constitution be difficult, but not impossible to amend.

I noticed in the blog comments today many ideas as to what our next Constitutional amendments should be.  These efforts may take many years.  Various members of Congress have been working for decades to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment , for example.  But thanks to the founders’ wisdom and vision, when the next Constitutional Amendment is passed, we will be assured it has been thoroughly vetted, rigorously debated, and that a super majority of the Congress and States (and therefore a majority of Americans), will agree it is necessary.

Thank you again for your participation, and contributions to our understanding of the United States Constitution.  Keep spreading the word!!

See you in the morning!

Cathy Gillespie

Posted in Articles IV – VII of the United States Constitution, Constitutional Essays by Cathy | Edit | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “April 26, 2010 – Articles IV – VII – Cathy Gillespie”

  1. Richard Heck says:

    First thank you for mentioning God and how important He was and is to our country and how important He was to our founding fathers. I had a question on the election of Senators. Why was this changed and what implications did or does it have on how our government runs today? I saw where either you or Janine mentioned this last week and how health care might have been different if we were still electing them the original way.

    Thanks
    Rich

  2. Hi Richard – I recommend two excellent books that provide background on the U.S. Constitution and and the Amendments:

    Seth Lipsky’s THE CITIZENS CONSTITUTION: AN ANNOTATED GUIDE, 2009 and the HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION edited by Ed Meese, Mathew Spalding and David Forte.

    In brief, Amendment XVII was approved by Congress on May 12, 1912 and ratified by the required 3/4′s of the State Legislatures in less than 11 months. Most of the votes in the State Legislatures were overwhelmingly in favor of ratification, 52 of the 72 state legislative chambers voted unanimously in favor and in all of the 36 ratiflying States’ legislatures, votes against ratification totalled only 191 – 152 of these votes came from the lower chambers of Vermont and Connecticut. It is interesting it took the U.S. Congress so long to approve this Constitutional amendment, which had been considered in one form another since 1826. In 1912, Senators were already being picked by direct election in 29 of the 48 States. States moved to direct election of Senators through a process of non-binding primary elections by the people, whereby state legislators promised to vote for the candidate the people selected by direct election. State laws were even enacted that required State legislative candidates to sign pledges to vote for the Senate candidate the people selected in their “non binding” eection. (Heritage Guide the Constitution, page 413 – 414).

    Electing U.S. Senators by the State Legislatures had become problematic over the years because many State Legislatures were deadlocked and couldn’t agree on a candidate, thus leaving some states without representation in U.S. Senate, often for more than a year. Corruption and Reconstruction politics contributed to these deadlocks. The Indiana Senate seat, for example, stayed empty for two years due to tension between the northern and southern regions of the state.

    The argument for direct election of U.S. Senators was to make Congress more “democratic,” but this change also stripped away an important protection built into the Constitution by the framers to protect States’ rights. Because the health care bill puts new burdens on states, the argument could be made that had U.S. Senators still been elected by State Legislatures, they would have been more oriented towards protecting the interests of their State’s government.

    Interestingly, Georgia Democrat Zell Miller called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment in 2004 before his retirement, saying “federalism has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. Reformers of the early 1900′s killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of the U.S. Senators.” (The Citizen’s Constitution, an Annotated Guide, Page 66).

    Cathy Gillespie

 

April 23, 2010 – Article III of the U.S. Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

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What an exciting first week we have had!  Articles I, II, and III of the United States Constitution, with some outstanding guest bloggers: David Bobb, Andrew Langer and Lawrence Spiwak. 

A big thank you today to Lawrence Spiwak for his thoughts on Article III.  Mr. Spiwak clearly explained the delicate system of checks and balances working  in concert with a strong and independent judiciary.  I loved Mr. Spiwak’s point that the best mechanism for change in the judicial branch is to let the electoral process play out.  That is the best mechanism for change in any branch of the government, but it first requires informed, educated, engaged, and enthusiastic citizens, citizens who know the United States Constituion and our country’s founding principles! 

When reading Article III, I was struck by its brevity, as compared with Articles I and II, and how much latitude Congress was given in establishing the Court system – another example of checks and balances at work.  

I was also very interested in the Alexander Hamilton quote Bill posted from Federalist 78, so I looked it up and thought it worth posting in its entirety:

“Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that in a government which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.  The executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community.  The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated.  The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse, no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither Force nor Will, but merely judgement; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of  its judgments.”

“Neither Force nor Will, but merely judgement.”   I had never thought of the differing powers of the three branches in those terms before, but it is true – the executive and legislative branch have many more enforcement mechanisms and sheer power and will at their disposal, than the judicial branch. 

Thank you for joining us this week as we explored the three branches of government in Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution.   The Assignment for the weekend is to read Articles IV, V, VI, and VII and be ready to blog on them, on Monday!  Tuesday we will blog on the Amendments, and Wednesday we will blog on the the first Federalist Paper.

Have a Blessed weekend!

See you on Monday!!

Cathy Gillespie

3 Responses to “April 23, 2010 – Article III of the U.S. Constitution – Cathy Gillespie”

  1. Jim Baxter says:

    The Founding principles of our Constitution clearly state that
    the powers of government are permanently in the mind and
    hand of The People of the United States of America. Thus,
    every elected person is a temporary steward of their office
    and obligated to serve The American People while in office.

    Such elected officials need to be reminded that they do not
    own the office. WE, The American People, are the owners and
    may give orders to the elected & appointed stewards of the office.

    I have yet to hear this important point-of-failure on the part of
    those who seek to ‘change’ our way of life to an historically
    failure-oriented system of non-representation of stewardshp
    to The People. Why?

    Begging compromise won’t work with the ignorant! Freedom is
    the proper enlargement – not fewer choices for the choicemaker!

    semper fidelis
    Jim Baxter
    Sgt. USMC
    WWII & Korean War

    pointman/follower of The Lion of Judah

    + + +

  2. Clearly our Founding Fathers constructed our Republic on Biblical Principles and like anything else our morality MUST have a “Standard of Measure”, because God’s Word never changes and is always JUST. If we depend on what man’s values are we will always fall short of Justice and the Scales will no longer be balanced. Observing how politicians try to “fundamentally” change our society and inplement their idea of “values” is it any wonder why our country is so divided? Consider what would happen if we changed the “Standards of Measure” for other things, (Science, Mathematics, Music, etc.) The Bible says that the “devil is the author of confusion…..” All this does is separate and divide. However I see many coming back to their conservative principles and I’m thrilled.

  3. valerie says:

    In 1787, the year the constitution was written, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. It states that formal education is to include religion, a “fundamental system of beliefs concerning man’s origin and relationship to the cosmic universe as well as his relationship with his fellowmen.”

    In his farwell address Washington stated, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained w/o religion.”

    Jefferson wrote a bill for establishing elementary schools in Virginia. It includes the following statement, “No religious reading, instruction, or exercise shall be prescribed or practiced inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination.” He must have assumed religion would be taught.

    Franklin outlined five fundamentals in all “sound” religion: one God, the Creator of the universe; said God should be worshipped; the most fundamental good we can do for him is to be good to others; and the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in the afterlife in regards to his conduct here.

    Samuel Adams called the above the Religion of America and equated it with the religion of all mankind.

    These tenets run thru the founder’s writings, and they thought they were so important in “providing good government and the happiness of mankind” that they wanted them taught in school.

    It is obvious from the founder’s own words that they viewed separation of church and state very differently than it is seen today.

    Above facts come from The 5000 Year Leap

April 22, 2010 – Article II of the U.S. Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

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A big thank you to Andrew Langer for his thoughtful post today!   

As I read Article II, I am struck by the incredible wisdom and foresight of the founders.   While the electoral college is true to the Republic form of government they envisioned, it is more necessary today than ever.  With massive population centers concentrated in a few large states, if it were not for the electoral college, states such as New Mexico, or New Hampshire, would simply be “fly over” territory in today’s Presidential campaigns.  The electoral college system ensures that individuals running for President in our country visit many diverse areas and states, and that a wider group of American citizens have an opportunity to affect the Presidential campaigns, and election outcome.

Section 2 is timely as well, as we may soon be seeing more Supreme Court nominations.  It is interesting to note the punctuation in this phrase: “he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint….”   It is soley the President’s prerogative who he nominates, but the Senate is empowered to give “advice and consent,” on the actual appointment.  “Advice and consent” of the Senate for the President’s Supreme Court nominees is a rare convergence of the three branches of government, and differing philosophies have prevailed over the years as to what standards the Senate should utilize in determining their “advice and consent.”  Should the Senate evaluate the President’s Supreme Court nominees on their judicial experience, intellect and temperment alone, or should the nominee’s ideology and judicial point of view be taken into account?  The Constitution provides no definition of what criteria the Senate should utilize in their “advice and consent” duty, and different standards have been applied over the years.  It does seem that in recent confirmation battles, ideology has been a more predominant factor in the process.

As we watch the next Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation, whenever it occurs, we should remember that we are watching our founders’ vision in action.

Thank you to everyone who has shared such thoughtful and insightful comments.  Please spread the word about “90 in 90″ through Facebook, Twitter, and email!  We want to grow our national conversational blog! 

See you tomorrow for Article 3!!

Blessings!

Cathy Gillespie

Posted in Article II of the United States Constitution, Constitutional Essays by Cathy | Edit | 1 Comment »

April 21, 2010 Article I of the U.S. Constitution – Cathy Gillespie

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What a fantastic conversation we have going on the first day of the 90 in 90 Blog! It is fascinating to scroll through the comments, and see how knowledgable you all are!

We have received several emails from teachers who are assigning participation in the reading and blogging as either course requirements or extra credit! We welcome students, children, parents, and families.  And we remind all young people grades K-12 to enter our We The People 9.17 contest!  We need your entertaining short films, PSA’s, cool songs, thoughtful essays, and younger kids, we look forward to your poems and holiday cards!

Thank you especially for making the effort to answer each other’s questions!   Many of you have made suggestions for improving the Constituting America website and blog.  We take your ideas seriously, and appreciate you taking the time to share them.

It is late, and I have been driving all day on a quick trip up north and back, but I wanted to share a few thoughts before we turn our attention to Article II in the morning!

It is no accident that the United States Constitution begins with the words, “We the People.”  It is also no accident that Article I sets out the structure and  legislative powers of the  U.S. Congress.  The U.S. Congress, and especially the U.S. House, are the governmental bodies closest to the American people.   By beginning with the words “We the People,”  and placing the Congress in Article I, our United States Constitution leads with the most important element of our government – us, the people.

I worked as a staff person in Congress for many years, and my former boss, Congressman Joe Barton, was fond of pointing out that the U.S. House of Representatives is the body of government closest to the people.  While Elections every two years may cause Members of Congress and their staffs to feel they are perpetually engaged in a never-ending campaign, the two year term of office keeps U.S. House members accountable to the people who elect them.  And if they stray too far from the will of their constituents, the voters have a frequent opportunity to express their displeasure.   It is the beauty of the system described in Article I that allows the people a mechanism to express their approval or disapproval in a timely way.  The system only works, though, when “we the people” are educated, engaged, and motivated to exercise our rights, especially our right to vote.

I am looking forward to our journey through the U.S. Constitution and the Federalist Papers together! I am already learning a great deal from the blogs posted over the past two days.  Please spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and forward our website link via email.  We want to create as large a national dialogue as possible about our founding principles! Thank you again for your participation.  See you tomorrow!

Blessings,

Cathy Gillespie

Posted in Article I of the United States Constitution, Constitutional Essays by Cathy | Edit | 5 Comments

5 Responses to “April 21, 2010 Article I of the U.S. Constitution – Cathy Gillespie”

  1. Gitel says:

    I’m really impressed by how many people are really interested in learning about our Constitution. In some ways I think the Health Care Bill was a good thing. It finally woke people up to what has been going on in the US for many years.

    Maybe now that people realize the problems with the elected officials, they won’t be so quick to vote for “the lesser of two evils” and realize there are other people out there who want to uphold the Constitution. Maybe now they will look a little closer at the candidates, and their records, before voting.

    I am, at long last, hearing what many of us have been saying for decades. The Constitution has been trampled on, and this has been done because most people didn’t care enough to learn the Constitution and pay enough attention to what their government was doing.

    We can only hope that it isn’t too late.

  2. Alysoun Eversole says:

    Cathy, I could not agree more with you paragraph 6. What are your thoughts on term limits?

  3. Raising the question on the need of term limits gives rise to other questions that need to be answered. There is an organization GOOOH which has a plan to replace all 435 US House Members with ordinary citizen legislators who have been chosen by citizens from their own Congressional District. The Candidate thus chosen signs a contract with the congressional district citizens to email no more than two terms (may be expanded to three terms – under discussion). In addition, the candidate will not raise any money (funding for the campaign will be by the members of GOOOH), will not have any Party pressure, and will not beholden to Lobbyists.

    Over the years, we have fallen into the trap of re-electing 95 percent of incumbents to office of the House. It is time we have other choices for our vote. The day of career politicians must come to an end.

  4. Gregory Boyle says:

    The Constitution has been effectively removed from our government. it remains only in the hearts and minds of those Americans who cherrish what this country once stood for. I have friends and family who proudly served this nation in the armed forces. They fought, bled and died to protect this nation and the Constitution that they swore an oath to. It is now time for the citizens of this nation to put up or shut up. If we do not stop complaining and move to action then the greatest nation the world has ever seen will cease to exist in our lifetime. We expect our soldiers to fight and die for all the freedoms most of us take for granted. We also expect them to refuse to obey illegal orders. The current administration has passed and will pass, more legislation that is in direct contradiction to the United States Constitution. These laws, will in effect, issue orders to be followed by the citizens. Now it is time for We The People to do that which we expect from our soldiers. Refuse to comply. The states need to assert their Tenth Amendment power by passing Enumerated Powers legislation. As more states take a stand and limmit federal power within their borders, we will get the changes we seek in Washington D.C. As long as we continue to fight this battle on the terms that have been laid down by Washington, they have the advantage and victory will remain beyond our reach. The time has come for the American civilian population to prove that we deserve all the sacrifices we have expected and accepted from those who have served throughout our history. Are we willing to get off the bus and actually take a stand, or will we just hold signs until it is all gone?

  5. Term limits seem the antidote to anaccumulation of improper power.Power has the ability to corrupt and these life time Senators and Conressmen are a blith on “we the people”.Their arrogance is alarming and indicates the dangers we have fallen into while we were sleep walking. This health care Bill has set off many many alarm clocks. Thank heavens.