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

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

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

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Ex Parte McCardle (1869) – Guest Essayist: Joerg Knipprath

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Ex parte McCardle was forged in the superheated atmosphere of Southern reconstruction after the Civil War. The struggle to shape that reconstruction pitted the “Radical” Republicans (representing the pre-war abolitionist wing) against moderates within the party. Democrats, reduced to a rump faction, could do little more than get out of the way and, if palatable, delicately offer support to the Republican moderates. The political and constitutional fault line cut between the restrained Lincoln-Johnson presidential reconstruction based on maintaining the existing federalism, but with abolition of slavery, and the program of congressional radicals to treat the South as a conquered province reduced to territorial status, prostrate before Northern arms and to be cleansed of the twin stains of slavery and secession by stripping the erstwhile states of their old constitutional privileges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

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

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

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

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How Urbanism Forever Changed America

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

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

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Twenty-Ninth President of the United States

Nickname: Charming Harding

Terms in Office: 1921-1923

Fast Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grover Cleveland

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

Nickname: The Veto President

Terms in Office: 1885–1889; 1893–1897

Fast Stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Civil War Amendments – Guest Essayist: James Legee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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