Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper


Communism and Civil Liberties: The Election of 1952

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

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Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper


The United States Supreme Court and the New Deal

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

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Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator, contributor with Constituting America and adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research

There has been much discussion about the reach and scope of executive power.  While certainly Presidents Washington and Jefferson provide good lessons about what would be accepted practice from an executive, perhaps no other President besides Lincoln gives as extensive a model of executive authority.

To start, President Lincoln responded to the April attack on Ft Sumter and the growing secessionist movement by putting executive power front and center.  The Civil War started during the Congressional recess and President Lincoln would prosecute the North’s response for nearly 3 months before calling Congress Read more

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and a fellow with Constituting America as well as an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina became the first state to declare that it had seceded from the Federal union.  Many modern historical revisionists will try to explain away slavery’s role in the secessionist movement and the civil war, that followed.  For these individuals it is critical that the conflicts that led to the Civil War involve issues such as tariffs and other domestic policies over which reasonable men might disagree.

Curiously the South Carolina Declaration fails to mention these  issues.   Read more

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper: Legal commentator and Fellow at the Center for Political and Constitutional Studies at Frontiers for Freedom

In 1783, George Washington drafts a letter that he asks to be sent to the state legislatures of all the states that made up colonies of the USA.  These states were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

Washington wrote as a retiring general and war hero to commend to his fellow citizens the need to examine its government’s existing operational flaws and pursue the kind of improvements that were soon to be found in a newly drafted US Constitution.   Read more

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation, and a legal commentator

Proposed Amendment: Child Labor Ban Amendment:

Section 1: The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age.Section 2: The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.

The Child Labor Amendment is a proposed and still-pending amendment to the US Constitution offered by Ohio Congressman Israel Moore Foster in1924, during the 68th Congress.

Perhaps one of the biggest political fights of the 20th century involved the question of whether the federal government had or should have authority to regulate child labor.  Alexander Hamilton and Horatio Alger stood on one side representing those who thought that child labor was a positive influence and on the other side stood influential novelist Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and a host of high society New Englanders who believed that this constituted a completely unnecessary and even ruinous exploitation of the nation’s youth.

Estimates varied about the size and scope of the problem.  The 1880 census reported that roughly 17% of all children were “gainfully employed.”  By 1910 that number had risen to nearly 19%.  However even at its highest point, the lion share of the youths working did so on a farm, and mostly that of their own families.  Fewer than 25% worked in canneries or any manufacturing plants.

The first state to restrict child employment was Massachusetts.  In 1836 they banned 15 year olds from manufacturing jobs and then six years later adopted a law making it illegal to allow 12 year olds to work for more than 10 hours a day.  By the turn of the century 28 states had adopted child labor laws.

However, leaders of the Teddy Roosevelt wing of progressivism within the Republican Party felt that state action was insufficient.  They argued that it was essential that the feds take over these regulations in order to make them uniform and also in order that the rules could be as aggressive as was practical to end the scourge of child labor.

Historians report that they started by trying to ban the interstate transport of articles produced in factories or mines that employed children under 14.  The Department of Commerce announced the creation of a Federal Children’s Bureau and began a full-throated contribution to the fight with updates and missives about the need for federal action.

Senator Albert Beveridge an early backer of a federal ban solicited and reported on the claims by known socialist agitators that there were thousands of “thumbless boys and girls who don’t know how to play.”

The promoters of federal action even went so far as to include a ban in the 1912 Republican platform causing President Taft to break with the party when he declared federal child-labor law unconstitutional.  Unfortunately by the time that President Wilson would come into office – even after having opposed the concept while campaigning – he would determine that it was expedient to sign a ban into law.  The Supreme Court would promptly strike down the measure arguing that “Freedom of Commerce will be at end, and the power of states over local matters may be eliminated” if the law were allowed to stand.

Nevertheless, Congress was undaunted.  Congress came back this time with a measure that proposed a 10% profits tax on all industries that violated the recommended child labor standards.  This too the Supreme Court struck down – this time 8-1.

It was then that the advocates decided that a Constitutional Amendment was in order.  Congressman Israel Foster of Ohio and Senator Samuel Shortlidge of CA introduced the measure.  They worded the amendment to cover not just employment, but work generally.  In other words, the amendment purported to give the federal government the power to intervene on behalf of any child under the age of 18 who was responsible for “chores” as well as those who actually worked at factories.

Starting off with support from the NEA, the American Legion, the YWCA, the PTA, and even Presidents Warren and Harding the amendment seemed unstoppable.

The Child Labor Amendment has been ratified by the legislatures of the following 28 states:

  1. Arkansas in 1924
  2. Arizona in 1925
  3. California in 1925
  4. Wisconsin in 1925
  5. Montana in 1927
  6. Colorado in 1931
  7. Illinois in 1933
  8. Iowa in 1933
  9. Maine in 1933

10. Michigan in 1933

11. Minnesota in 1933

12. New Hampshire in 1933

13. New Jersey in 1933

14. North Dakota in 1933

15. Ohio in 1933

16. Oklahoma in 1933

17. Oregon in 1933

18. Pennsylvania in 1933

19. Washington in 1933

20. West Virginia in 1933

21. Idaho in 1935

22. Indiana in 1935

23. Utah in 1935

24. Wyoming in 1935

25. Kentucky in 1936

26. Kansas in 1937

27. Nevada in 1937

28. New Mexico in 1937.

However, two arguments would ultimately stop the Child Labor Ban amendment in its tracks.  The first was the claim that alcoholism and drunkenness among fathers was the reason why so many young people were in the workplace.  And secondly, groups like the Women’s Constitutional League of Maryland effectively explained that at the end of the day, “The fathers and the mothers are better prepared to pass judgment upon the needs and the welfare of their children than this Congress is.”

A new opposition coalition developed made up of the Catholic Church, farmers, and ordinary families.  Together along with the claim that most of the “childsavers” were childless caused much of the momentum to slow and then ultimately reverse.

In true ironic fashion, it was Massachusetts where the amendment would face its major defeat.  The Archbishop of Boston mounted a vigorous campaign against the amendment as being anti-family and claimed that it would “take from parents the right and duty to educate and guide their children.”  Suddenly the Lutherans joined in the effort.  An advisory referendum was scheduled for the state and the amendment lost in a lopsided vote 697,563 to 241,461.  This was the beginning of the end.

Perhaps the most significant consequence of the introduction of the Child Labor Ban Amendment is that the right of the people to determine ultimately what the policies and rules of their nation would be remain with the people through the state legislatures.  In a landmark case, Coleman v. Miller the US Supreme Court in a dispute over the Child Labor Ban Amendment officially recognized that if Congress does not specify a ratification deadline, then the proposed amendment remains pending business.  Today, with 50 states in the Union, the ratifications of 10 additional states would be required to incorporate the proposed Child Labor Amendment into the Constitution.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

June 19, 2012

Essay #87


Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation, and a legal commentator

Proposed Amendment: Slavery and the States Amendment:

State’s sole right to regulate slavery proposal:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

This proposed amendment is the so-called Corwin Amendment.  Passed by the 36th Congress on March 2, 1861, the Corwin Amendment offered by Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin was presented as a means of forestalling the secession of Southern states prior to the beginning of the Civil War.

It had become increasingly clear to many in Congress that a conflict was occurring over the status of slave versus non-slave states that could have cataclysmic effects on the Union.  In the 36th session alone, there were more than 200 different measures introduced regarding the subject of slavery including nearly 60 Constitutional amendments.

The Corwin Amendment sought to forbid any future attempts to amend the Constitution to empower the Congress to “abolish or interfere” with slavery as a way to ensure that southern states would not feel obligated to leave the American Union.  Presented as a last ditch effort to prevent the collapse of the Union, the proposal didn’t have the intended effect.  The newly formed Confederate States of America organized and declared that it would pursue a path of independence completely ignoring Congress’ intentions with the Corwin Amendment.

Notably the Corwin Amendment has the distinction of being the only constitutional amendment to have an actual numerical designation assigned to it by Congress—the proposing resolution includes the name “Article Thirteen.”

After passing the House and Senate, congressional leaders prevailed upon incoming President Lincoln to send a letter to each governor alerting them that the amendment had passed.  While President Lincoln never endorsed the measure, he acquiesced to the request.

By the time President Lincoln had been elected, seven southern states had seceded and within a few months four others would join them.  While Lincoln had not campaigned on a platform to end slavery where it existed, he had pledged to use the power of the federal government to prevent slavery from spreading to territories that were not yet states.  His willingness then to send the letter was yet another demonstration of the lengths he was attempting to go to prevent the dissolution of the union.

Ohio has the distinction of the being the first legislature to ratify the amendment on May 13, 1861.  However by March 31, 1864 the commencement of the Civil War and changing public sentiment led the legislature to rescind its ratification.  Since Congress did not include a final ratification date for this proposed amendment, it technically is still pending.  In 1963 more than a century after it was ratified, Texas state representative Henry Stollenwerck introduced a resolution to ratify in the Texas statehouse.   It was referred to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Constitutional Amendments on March 7, 1963, and received no further consideration.

It is noteworthy that the Confederate Constitution contained no provision like that found in the Corwin amendment.  Even though the Confederate charter explicitly authorized slavery in the Confederacy, it didn’t seek to prevent or bar future amendments that might restrict or abolish slavery.

Most scholars believe that even if the Corwin Amendment had been adopted it would not have been irreversible.  That is to say, Congress and the states could bar Congressional interference with slavery if they wanted but they couldn’t bar a subsequent Congress and the states from either repealing the amendment the same way they did when they adopted prohibition and then repealed it later or adding new amendments that had the same effect.  In other words, the mere adoption of the Corwin Amendment would not have prevented a subsequent Congress from passing an amendment to ban slavery or to protect the voting rights of blacks who were formerly slaves.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

June 18, 2012

Essay #86

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation, and a legal commentator

Proposed Amendment: Titles of Nobility Amendment:

If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them

Introduced in 1810, the so-called Titles of Nobility Amendment (TONA) was sponsored primarily by Maryland Senator Philip Reed.  Historians argue that this amendment’s purpose was two-fold.  One to make it more difficult for foreign agents to buy or influence votes in state and federal elections, and secondly to prevent saboteurs and enemies of America from promising land, wealth, and titles to officers in the military or other prominent appointees in government as a way to undermine their loyalty to the United States.

Senator Reed, the primary sponsor, was quite a character.   A revolutionary war hero, purportedly during the battle of Stony Point, he cut off the head of an American deserter and had it displayed on a pike as a deterrent to other deserters.

As a Senator from Maryland, Senator Reed and his constituents were keenly aware of the younger brother of French Ruler Napoleon Bonaparte’s marriage to the daughter of wealthy Baltimore merchant William Patterson.  Jerome Bonaparte’s marriage to Elizabeth Patterson (the Paris Hilton of her day) not only scandalized Northeastern American society, suggestions that the marriage would result in a lifetime annuity and a title for Ms. Patterson and her heirs was sufficient to remind American leaders of the need to minimize the ability of foreigners to influence American society and its political structure.

Primarily supported by Federalists, the amendment’s substance galvanized the Congress getting broad support.  The resolution passed both houses of Congress in 1810: the United States Senate by a vote of 19 to 5 and by the House of Representatives by a vote of 87 to 3.  It was sent to the states and awaits action for ratification.   According to the Supreme Court, in a case entitled Coleman v. Miller, the amendment is still available to be considered and ratified by the various states, as there is no deadline for ratification specified when Congress initially proposed the amendment.  As least 26 more states would have to ratify the amendment in order for it to become part of the Constitution today.

This amendment was ratified by 12 state legislatures:

1.  Maryland (December 25, 1810)

2.  Kentucky (January 31, 1811)

3.  Ohio (January 31, 1811)

4.  Delaware (February 2, 1811)

5.  Pennsylvania (February 6, 1811)

6.  New Jersey (February 13, 1811)

7.  Vermont (October 24, 1811)

8.  Tennessee (November 21, 1811)

9.  North Carolina (December 23, 1811)

  1. Georgia (December 31, 1811)[1]
  2. Massachusetts (February 27, 1812)
  3. New Hampshire (December 9, 1812)

Senator Reed lived to be 69 years of age, dying in 1829.  A memorial marks his grave to this day as one of Kent Maryland’s most distinguished citizens.

Today the only controversy about this so-called “Titles of Nobility Act” is whether it was already ratified.  Historians overwhelmingly agree that the amendment was not ratified.  In 1833, the brilliant and highly regarded judge and commentator Joseph Story wrote “it has not received the ratification of the constitutional number of states to make it obligatory, probably from a growing sense, that it is wholly unnecessary” and the 1848 edition of Bouvier’s Law Dictionary recorded that TONA “has been recommended by Congress, but it has not been ratified by a sufficient number of states to make a part of the constitution.”

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

June 15, 2012

Essay #85

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation, and a legal commentator

Amendment XXVI:

Section 1:  The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

Section 2:  The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


18-Year Olds Right to Vote

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Perhaps one of the few instances where the issue of congressional power was litigated prior to passage of the amendment, section 2 of the 26th amendment has this distinction.  Many Americans today do not realize that the debate over the minimum age to vote in the U.S. began during World War II and the issue continued to grow even as the War wound down.  President Dwight Eisenhower was the first U.S. president to officially endorse lowering the voting age to 18.  For most of its history, the U.S. had adopted 21 as the minimum age.

President Eisenhower, like a growing number of American policymakers, recognized a clear disparity between 18 year olds being old enough to fight for their country in war and yet they were not considered responsible enough to cast a vote in electing the representatives that could decide the policy.  This sensible argument was powerful enough to persuade Georgia and Kentucky to lower the minimum voting age during World War II.

Unfortunately the process of state-by-state reform didn’t appear to be moving fast enough for its advocates.  By the time of the Vietnam War, it had become increasingly clear that Congress had to take some action in this area.  Between the budget pressures, anti-war efforts, and the need to rely on the draft, Washington policymakers determined that they should act affirmatively to lower the voting age.

Taking the lead nearly 20 years after serving as Vice-President to President Eisenhower, President Nixon agreed to sign a law that amended the Voting Rights Act to lower the voting age to 18 for all Federal, State, and local elections.  There was a problem with this solution:  it didn’t meet Supreme Court muster.

The act signed into law in 1970 was challenged in the federal courts.  In Oregon v. Mitchell the Supreme Court declared that the Congress didn’t have the authority to set a minimum age requirement for voting in state and local elections.

President Nixon would then call upon Congress to adopt a Constitutional amendment to remedy the matter. It passed Congress in March 1971 and would set a record – 4 short months – as the fastest ratification of any of the amendments to the Constitution.  By July, President Nixon would certify that the amendment had indeed been ratified.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

June 12, 2012

Essay #82

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation, and a legal commentator

Amendment XXV, Section 4:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Section 4 is the only part of the 25th amendment which has never been invoked. It was created especially to empower the Vice President, together with a majority of the Cabinet or of “such other body as Congress may by law provide”, to declare when necessary that the President of the United States is disabled. This would occur by formally submitting a written declaration to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Upon its delivery, the Vice President would become Acting President.

Section 4 is meant to be invoked if Vice President and the Cabinet determine that the President’s incapacitation prevents him from discharging the duties of his office and the President does not voluntarily proffer a written declaration to that effect.

Since this provision may involve a conflict between the President and the rest of his administration there are safeguards to prevent the invocation occurring unfairly. Therefore, the President may resume exercising his Presidential duties in response to the Vice President’s declaration by sending a written declaration to the President pro tempore and the Speaker of the House explaining that he is able to assume his duties.

It is only then that if the Vice President and Cabinet remain unsatisfied with the President’s condition, they may within four days submit another declaration to the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore that the President is incapacitated.

If this occurs, Both Houses of Congress must assemble within 48 hours if not already in session to make a determination. Within 21 days of assembling or of receiving the second declaration by the Vice President and the Cabinet, a two-thirds vote of each House of Congress is required to affirm the President as unfit. Upon this finding by the Congress, Section 4 states that the Vice President would “continue” to be Acting President.

Should the Congress resolve the issue in favor of the President, or if the Congress makes no decision within the 21 days allotted, then the President would “resume” discharging all of the powers and duties of his office.

If for some reason the Congress sides with the President yet the Vice President and Cabinet determine later that the President is incapacitated, the Vice President can continue to invoke Section 4. The President could send a declaration stating that he is capable of handling his duties and presumably the allotted 21-day Congressional procedure would start again..

History notes that there have been at least two occasions where there was serious consideration of invoking Section 4. The first involved the March 30, 1981 assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. A group of Presidential advisors gathered at his bedside following his surgery and in conjunction with the doctors findings, determined that he was competent to carry on the affairs of state. The second occasion also involved President Reagan.

Late in his term, President Reagan replaced his chief of staff – Donald Regan – with Howard Baker. Howard Baker was pressed according to media reports to make an assessment as to whether President Reagan then 76 was “mentally sharp.” After holding a meeting with the President and the rest of his staff, Baker easily concluded that President Reagan was capably handling his duties as President.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

June 8, 2012

Essay #80

Guess Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

Amendment XXV Section 3

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Since the nation’s founding there have been lingering questions about the presidential succession process.  As drafted by the framers, Article II of the U.S. Constitution provided that the vice president shall “discharge the Powers and Duties” of the president in the case of the president’s “Death, Resignation, or Inability.”

Seemingly clear enough in 1787, it increasingly became obvious there were serious gaps in the process.  Congress was given the responsibility to work out the details for what might occur if both the Vice President and President were incapacitated.  At the same time the Constitution was opaque over what constituted inability or scenarios in which a previously incapacitated President might have his authority restored.

Until the 25th amendment was ratified, the vice presidency had been vacant 16 times after a president or vice president had died or resigned. *

President Garfield tragic assassination was a major case in point regarding Presidential Succession.  Assassin Charles J. Guiteau disgruntled over not being able to obtain a federal post shot President Garfield.  The president would slip in and out of comas over the next 80 days.  As a result he would perform only one official act during this period – the signing of an extradition paper. President Woodrow Wilson was disabled by a stroke in 1919–1921. Many presidents have suffered shorter periods of disability. In no instance were the disability provisions invoked. *

Many in Washington thought that President Eisenhower’s heart attack in 1955 and then subsequent stroke in 1957 made clear that the modern presidency needed a succession plan.  However, the subsequent campaign between Nixon and Kennedy, either of whom would set the record for youngest president in US history moved the issue to the back burner.

Ironically, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which brought the issue immediately to the forefront.  This far into the 20th century the United States couldn’t answer long-standing questions such as when the president died, did the vice president automatically become president, or only serve as acting president? What happened when the vice presidency was vacant?  The Twenty-fifth Amendment, would at long last answer these questions.

Stymied during the Eisenhower administration, this time the urgency was clear.  Even The American Bar Association endorsed the proposal.  On January 6, 1965, Senator Birch Bayh formally proposed the amendment.  It was passed by Congress on July 6, 1965, and ratified on February 10, 1967, making it the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

Reportedly Presidents G HW Bush and Bill Clinton established detailed plans in compliance with Section 3 to deal with incapacity during their terms although ultimately they never needed to be invoked.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty


June 7, 2012

Essay #79

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute


Amendment XIII, Section 2

  1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
  2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially made all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime unlawful.

Introduced by Ohio Rep. James Ashley originally in 1863, it languished for over a year until companion legislation was introduced in the United States Senate. To give the resolution a final strong push, President Abraham Lincoln had pushed for its inclusion in the GOP platform in 1864 and personally persuaded Democrats from pro-union states to support the effort.

Ultimately, it was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865, and adopted on December 6, 1865.

Historians record that when the House vote was announced the galleries cheered, congressmen embraced and wept, and Capitol cannons boomed a 100-gun salute.  One Representative, Congressmen George Julian of Indiana wrote in his diary, “I have felt, ever since the vote, as if I were in a new country.”

On December 18, Secretary of State William H. Seward declared that it had been officially ratified by the states.  It was the first such change to the Constitution in 61 years, and it happened just two and a half months before President Lincoln would be tragically assassinated.

Since our country’s founding the issue of slavery had bedeviled our nation.  At the Constitutional Convention good men like George Mason of Virginia argued vehemently against slavery, warning his fellow delegates:   “Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant.  They bring the judgment of heaven on a country.  As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this.  By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, providence punishes national sins by national calamities.”

While the Constitution that was ultimately adopted failed to completely resolve the slavery issue, it was neither completely silent nor neutral.

The oft-criticized 3/5th compromise specially limited the ability of southern slave-holding states to obtain equal representation in the House of Representatives with that of the non-slave-holding northern states.  Ultimately this would result in a pro-freedom tilt in the House of Representatives.  The Constitution also gave Congress the power to prohibit the importation of new slaves after 1808, which Congress promptly did once it was legally allowed to.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

With the passage of the 13th Amendment (specifically clause 2) Congress was given full power to stamp out slavery in all its forms. The motivations of the Members of Congress give us a great degree of insight into the meanings and operations of clause 2 of the 13th Amendment.  While most discussions of the 13th amendment include the 14th and 15th, Congress’ treatment is quite different.  At the time of its introduction, its Republican supporters in Congress and abolitionists across the land saw this amendment and Section 2 in particular as a comprehensive tool to root out not just slavery, but all of its vestiges.

It is for this reason that they didn’t stop with just banning or ending slavery; they empowered Congress to root it out.  Their goal was to assure that the ending of slavery wasn’t a hollow victory, that passage lead to a national commitment to adopt whatever substantive changes were needed to eliminate all “badges and incidents of slavery.”

The men surrounding the introduction were very clear in their objectives.  Leaders like Senator James Harlan, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, Sen. Charles Sumner, and Rep. Wilson were virulently anti-slavery.  They worked assiduously to draft language that would cover “every proposition regarding slavery.”   And they also saw the 13th amendment as the affirmation of the founder’s principles.  Rep. Godlove Orth (R-IN) said that the 13th Amendment to “be a practical application of that self-evident truth” of the Declaration of Independence “that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It was in this context that within days of passage of the 13th Amendment, Members of Congress began debating new statutes to achieve the Thirteenth Amendment’s purposes.  The first bill introduced roughly a week after the amendment was ratified was S. 427 by Senator Henry Wilson (R-MA).  This bill prohibited states, municipalities, corporations and all persons from excluding any person on account of race from travel on railroads or navigable waters.  Although this bill ultimately stalled in Congress, within 2 years four laws using the congress’ enforcement power would be enacted:  The Civil Rights Act of 1866, The Slave Kidnapping Act of 1866, the Peonage Act of 1867, and the Judiciary Act of 1867.  The Civil Rights Act of 1866 in particular set the pace for an aggressive intervention on the part of Congress on behalf of the newly freed slaves.   It provided litigants the right to transfer their legal disputes to federal court when the local and state court system failed to allow them an opportunity for relief.  Across the nation the new law aided families and individuals that had never had access to the court or to equal protection of the law.

Unfortunately for the abolitionists, subsequent elections and the deaths of key leaders would result in an ebbing of enthusiasm for use of the 13th amendment’s authority to remediate the wrongs of slavery.  The deaths of Salmon P. Chase, Thaddeus Stevens, and Edwin Stanton were huge losses for the freedom agenda.  And new President Andrew Johnson was particularly hostile to their efforts going so far as to veto many of the remaining anti-slavery measures that could pass Congress.  But the final death knell for robust authority arising under the 13th amendment came from the Supreme Court.

In a series of lawsuits groups together as the Civil Rights cases, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (18 Stat. 335) originally proposed by Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Benjamin F. Butler (both Republicans) in 1870, passed by Congress in February, 1875 and signed by President Grant on March 1, 1875.

The Act protected everyone, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, to the same treatment in “public accommodations” (i.e. inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement).  Violators could face a penalty anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and/or 30 days to 1 year in prison. In a setback that the drafters of the 13th amendment would not have expected, the Supreme Court ruled that the 13th amendment like the 14th and 15th amendment didn’t authorize Congress to intervene in private non-government areas. The Court’s ruling would stifle Congress’ ability to exercise its Section 2 power for nearly a century.

It is ironic that many of the 1875 Act’s provisions were later enacted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, this time using the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.

Eventually the Court would reverse itself.  In 1968, in a case called Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. the US Supreme Court case once again dealt with the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  In that case they held that Congress could regulate the sale of private property in order to prevent racial discrimination: “42 U.S.C. § 1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property, and that the statute, thus construed, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment.”

A long time coming, the view of the framers was finally validated.  Today as during Reconstruction, Congress, the President and the Courts recognize that Section 2 gives Congress the power to “determine what are the badges and incidents of slavery, and the authority to translate that determination into effective legislation” to prevent its effects.

Horace Cooper is the Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation and is a legal commentator

April 24, 2012

Essay #47


Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

Amendment VI:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of counsel for his defence.

“…Right to confront your accuser…”

Perhaps more so than any other provision, the 6th Amendment’s confrontation clause is one of the greatest criminal justice protections of the Constitution.

While many Americans today may not be aware, there was a time when trials didn’t operate with the protections that we rely upon today.  Consider the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh.  Well known for promoting tobacco in England, he was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, and explorer.

In 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh was arrested and accused of treason against King James.  Raleigh was allegedly one of the primary conspirators of the so-called “Main Plot,” an effort to end the rule of King James an install his cousin in his place.

The trial was held in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle and the primary evidence relied upon by the crown was the signed confession of Henry Brook, the Baron of Cobham. Throughout the trial, Raleigh requested that Baron Cobham be called in to testify so that he might demonstrate the falsity of the claims, “[Let] my accuser come face to face, and be deposed. Were the case but for a small copyhold, you would have witnesses or good proof to lead the jury to a verdict; and I am here for my life!”

Even though criminal law prevented the use of so called “hearsay” evidence, the crown’s tribunal refused to compel Baron Cobham’s testimony.   Without the ability to publicly force the baron’s testimony or to challenge his veracity, ultimately Raleigh was found guilty and imprisoned in the famous Tower of London.

This experience was a powerful one for the colonists coming to America and would significantly influence the contours of the 6th Amendment.

The modern Supreme Court has made it clear that the “Confrontation Clause guarantees an opportunity for effective cross-examination, not cross-examination that is in whatever way, and to whatever extent, the defendant might wish.”

The power of the government to use its resources to accuse, indict and try an individual is considerable.  The framers understood this concern and therefore provided for a means whereby the individual could have the ability to limit the impact of the government’s power in this arena.   The confrontation clause explicitly places a limit by requiring that evidence be presented by a bona fide witness capable of being “cross examined” or challenged on the witness stand.

Thus instead of unknown witnesses or unidentified individuals presenting allegations secretly to convict a person, the confrontation clause requires not only that the government identify those individuals as part of the trial, but to also allow the defendant to rebut or challenge any evidence they attempt to present.

Typically the confrontation rule requires that this occur in open court.  This rule not only applies to witnesses, but also to any written documentation or other types of evidence that the government may wish to present in a trial.  In other words, not only must a homeowner – who was an eyewitness — submit to “cross examination” in a burglary trial, any finger print or blood evidence must also be subject to a challenge by experts in finger print and forensic science.

Normally, evidence is testimonial, that is there is a person making the statement which is considered by the judge or jury and he or she must generally be available for cross examination.  While there may be an exception for a circumstance wherein the witness is unavailable, generally speaking the defendant must have had a prior opportunity for cross-examination of the witness before that testimony is allowed.

Furthermore the confrontation clause is one of the reasons that so-called “hearsay” evidence is limited in court.  Hearsay simply covers the type of information that may prove useful for a trial that is presented by someone other than an eyewitness about information that typically only the eyewitness could recount.  Because of the confrontation clause, even the limited evidence that is allowed to be presented under hearsay exemptions still must be presented by witnesses that can be challenged.  For example, a so-called deathbed confession may be allowed to be entered as evidence.  However the person or document presenting the evidence must be capable of being challenged regarding their motive or accuracy etc.

Without the confrontation clause, a valuable right would not exist that protects individuals against the power of the state. Per the terms of the confrontation clause, Ex Parte or out of court statements are generally not allowed, defendants are guaranteed the right of “personal examination” of the witness, the witness must testify under oath, and the jury must be allowed to observe the demeanor of the witness in making his statement.

Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute and is a writer and legal commentator

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March 28, 2012

Essay #28

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

“… Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation…”

Americans today take great pride in the accomplishments and brilliance of the drafters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  One of the things that this essay will demonstrate is that quite often the protections that we take for granted came about as a result of the prudence and wisdom of the founders and in particular their specific response to the challenges they were exposed to or aware of.   Many Americans may not appreciate that this provision isn’t just pivotal, it is in some sense central to America’s claim to independence.

The 2nd clause of the 4th Amendment makes clear, magistrates and others allowed to issue warrants must not issue “general” warrants, but instead when court orders are issued, they must be precise and detailed.  Warrants must specify descriptions of items demanded to be seized and judges must be convinced that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

As is the case with much of America’s legal system, British history is a good starting point to understand this provision.

Let’s start with the “Star Chamber” or camera stellata as it was called in Latin.  It was sort of a super-appeals Court that held its meetings in the “Starred Chamber” of the Royal Court (a place initially created for meetings of the King’s Council in England.)  Reports of its existence suggest it operated early as the 13th Century and sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641.

Made up of royal advisors and judges, the so called “Star Chamber’s” primary responsibility was to address civil and criminal matters involving elites to ensure that the kingdom’s laws were enforced against the powerful and the prominent.  Its sessions were held in secret.  It made no pretense of operating under traditional court rules involving criminal or civil procedure.  There was also no right of appeal, no juries and even no right to confront accusers or even for witnesses to testify.  However perhaps more offensive than these predations was its authority to issue “general warrants.”  These warrants were given to the sheriff or other local law enforcement officer and empowered them to retrieve items necessary to support the Star Chambers pre-ordained conclusions.

In other words, instead of saying that based on a signed statement by a witness, J. Smith was believed to hold in his home, item X, an illegal product, “general warrants” allowed the Sheriff to search all of J. Smith’s properties and seize any and all of his personal items without identifying any particular item.  The seized items would be subsequently examined by the staff of the Star Chamber to see which if any could be used as evidence against J. Smith.  The items typically weren’t returned and even when they were, they were often damaged or destroyed.

Over time the British recognized the inherent abuses associated with the operations of the Star Chamber. Finally, in 1640, the British Parliament adopted the Habeas Corpus Act and abolished the Star Chamber in 1641.

Unfortunately when making the decision to shut down the Star Chamber, the British Parliament hadn’t acted to eliminate the use of general warrants.  Abuses involving general warrants would continue over another 100 years before British society generally would recognize the ills of its use in particular.

One of the most prominent cases of abuse of general warrants that the founders would have been familiar with was the fall out from the British government’s attempt to use general warrants against Englishman John Wilkes, publisher and political activist and critic of the Crown, in 1763.

Wilkes, a member of parliament, during Prime Minister George Grenville’s government, published “The North Briton” which mocked and criticized King George III and the Grenville administration.  Using general warrants King George had Wilkes and nearly 50 of his associates arrested and charged with seditious libel.  Not only were he and his associates arrested, their personal property, papers, and effects were seized. The abuses that occurred were obvious for all to see.  As a Member of Parliament, Wilkes had immunity from these charges and while he was able to convince the Chief Justice to dismiss the case his troubles wouldn’t end.  Within the next 5 years he’d be charged again and again.  Notwithstanding these charges and subsequent expulsion from Parliament he would be re-elected 3 times.

Wilkes fled to France but eventually returned to England.  Wilkes would subsequently be elected Mayor of London and get recognition for his efforts to support the rights of English citizens and his efforts contributed to the fall of the Grenville government.   Wilkes’ ongoing arguments for Freedom of the Press, broader suffrage rights and religious toleration would ultimately find broad political support in England before his death.

But perhaps the greatest influence for the framers was the use of “general warrants” to enforce the infamous Townshend Acts of 1767.  Passed by the British Parliament, the Townshend Acts was adopted purportedly to provide for the salaries of colonial appointees, but many colonialists suspected its primary if not total rationale was to establish the precedent that the British Parliament had the right to tax the colonies.

As part of its efforts to enforce this revenue act, the British Parliament created the American Board of Customs Commissioners and the commission leapt at the opportunity to use “general warrants” to deter smuggling and tax evasion.  These warrants issued under the authority of the crown were particularly troublesome.  They violated the colonial charters’ rules that warrants were legal only when they provide a reason and a basis for searches.   Whereas Colonial warrants were limited in scope and time, the Commissioner’s general warrants had no time limits other than the life of the King and were transferable allowing one person holding the warrant to transfer his rights over to the other.  Additionally, the warrant holder could search any person or property at any time. Writ holders essentially were laws unto themselves.

Massachusetts Assembly James Otis whose catchphrase is “Taxation without Representation is Tyranny” called the general warrants “the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty, and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law book.”

The new taxes proved to be quite unpopular and colonial appointees using the general warrants even more so.  Ultimately those responsible for collections requested military assistance. The British sent the fifty-gun warship HMS Romney to Boston Harbor in May 1768 to enforce the law.   Rather than quelling the situation, this dramatic escalation made matters worse.  Starting with the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party the gross abuse of general warrants and Townshend Acts would lead directly to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolution.

It is that framework which influenced the writers of the 4th amendment.  Although far more jurisprudence is placed on the importance of the first clause of the 4th Amendment, for historians, the notion that government may not issue warrants to law enforcement officers without any justification or any particular limits to seize goods or people was a powerful enough issue that it was a key ingredient in the formation not only of a provision of the Bill of Rights, but the formation of an entire nation.

Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute and is a writer and legal commentator

March 12, 2012

Essay #16

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

Watch or Listen to Janine Turner Read: *The Bill of Rights: America’s Bulwark of Liberty – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, senior fellow with the Heartland Institute


Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Constituting America Fellow

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The First Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution make up what is called “The Bill of Rights.”  This remarkable collection of limitations on the power of the national government was written by James Madison and heavily influenced by George Mason.  Today it operates as a barrier to oppressive government at all levels and protects citizen liberty.

While most Americans at the time of the writing of the US Constitution agreed that the Articles of Confederation had failed to provide the former colonies with the powers needed to insure the experiment in self-government would succeed, there was another contingent who argued that any new and expanded powers given to the central government must be overlaid with specific limits in order to ensure that the citizens rights wouldn’t be trampled.  They argued that rather than limiting principles, there should be specific prohibitions on what government is allowed to do, especially in the context of its treatment of its citizens.

The two camps generally called themselves Federalists and Anti-Federalists.  While the design and makeup of the original Constitution is a triumph of the Federalists, the Bill of Rights represents the success of the Anti-Federalists.

Timeless in their rigor and value, the Bill of Rights has proven to be a brilliant tool to limit government excesses and insure that the individual has the kinds of freedoms that many of us take for granted.  While the writers of the Constitution created a system of checks and balances that cause the three branches of government to be limited in their ability to achieve hegemony vis-à-vis the other, it is the Bill of Rights that has done more to protect individual liberty  — doing so by specifically placing limits on government power.

While the Federalists won the day with the original draft of the Constitution, it soon became clear that the American people wouldn’t accept the Constitution unless a Bill or Rights was agreed to.  Shortly after meeting, the first Congress began that process.  Originally 17 Amendments or changes to the Constitution were presented and passed by the House of Representatives. Of those 12 were passed by the United States Senate and sent to the states for approval in August of 1789. 10 of these  were  approved (or, ratified) with George Mason’s state of Virginia becoming the last to ratify the amendments on December 15, 1791.

Indubitably, liberties that we take for granted as Americans find their origin in the Bill of Rights.  One key aspect of the Bill of Rights is that instead of expanding or authorizing the powers of the central government, the Bill of Rights squarely and directly treats government power as a potential threat to citizen liberty and places clear and unequivocal barriers to government action.  More a list of what government cannot do, the Bill of Rights provides a zone of liberty that makes our American system of citizenship the envy of the world.

The supporters of the concept of the Bill of Rights understood that government’s tendency was to expand and over-run the individual.  And the beauty of the Bill of Rights, its simplicity is, it limits government power and by doing keeps Americans free.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

 The government cannot make you believe in a religion.

 The government cannot keep you from practicing any religion you choose.

 The government cannot keep you from saying what you wish.

 The government cannot keep you from writing what you want.

 The government cannot stop you from publishing what you wish.

 The government cannot keep you from joining together peacefully with others to express your views.

 The government cannot prevent you from complaining about what the government or others are doing to you.

The framers understood that freedom of faith, thought, political belief and other forms of expression were central to citizen liberty and they specifically barred government action in this arena.  Rather than leave to the majority whether Catholics, Protestants, Jews or even people of no faith would receive preference by the national government, the First Amendment insures that no religious group would be preferred nor would any be penalized.  It also prevents the government from using coercive powers to reward certain political thoughts or writings as well as punishing the same.  Finally it further insures that citizens have the right to complain specifically about the activities of the government and to engage in demonstrations as well as formally taking measures to get the government itself to change policies.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

 The government cannot take away your right to own and keep guns.

Rather than leave firearm access to the government, our Bill of Rights explicitly insures that the right to bear and own firearms is a fundamental right – not a privilege – that resides with every citizen.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

 The government cannot make you let soldiers to live in your house unless the country comes under attack and Congress specifically authorizes it.

Even though war-making activity is the quintessential government duty and activity, this power is not unlimited.  While it might be cost-effective or even efficient, government has to respect that our homes are our property and may not be overtaken by the military during peace-time and during war only in a legal manner determined by Congress.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

 The government cannot come into your home unless it has legal permission from a judge.

Perhaps one of the greatest threats that the citizen faces is the potential that the central government will use force to enter our property whether under pretext of solving crimes or ferreting out critics of the government residing therein.  The founders recognized that the principle that the individual citizen was the “king” of his own “castle” especially when the government sought unlawful entry was a powerful limit on government excesses.  Juxtaposing judges and other magistrates before the government can take, enter or search property protected liberty in the 18th century and the 21st as well.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

 The government cannot hold you in jail for a major crime without the knowledge and approval of your fellow citizens.

 The government cannot try a person twice for the same crime.

 The government cannot make incriminate yourself.

 The government cannot take away your life, liberty, or property without following the law.

 The government cannot take your private property from you for public use unless it pays to you what your property is worth.

King George and his predecessors in England had the ability to falsely accuse and even imprison or execute his opponents without even a pretext of any real violation of the law.  Our system rejects this idea.  The Bill of Rights requires that your fellow citizens be presented with the charges against you and that those charges not be presented to you more than once or that you or your property be taken from you without having legal recourse to challenge it.  Americans can’t be forced to give incriminating testimony against themselves and their assets can’t be confiscated by the government without being justly compensated.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

 The government cannot hold you in jail for a long time without a trial if you  are accused of having broken the law.

 The government cannot deny to you a speedy trial with a jury of your fellow citizens.

 The government cannot keep secret from you those who will speak against you.

 The government cannot prevent you from having your personal attorney.

 The government cannot keep you from having other people help you defend yourself in a courtroom.

Instead of the use of secret trials and star chambers, our system specifically requires that when people are accused the trials must not be unnecessarily lengthened and must be held in public.  The individuals who decide guilt or innocent – jurors – must be impartial and residents of the area where the accused crime was to have occurred.  Instead of announcing new charges mid-trial, the government must announce the charges with specificity and must present witnesses against him and must allow him to bring in his own witnesses to testify on his behalf and may not prevent him from having legal assistance if he chooses.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

 The government cannot keep you from having a trial decided by your fellow citizens in civil disputes and the fact-finding by the jury in those trials cannot be overturned by other courts.

Civil cases, like criminal cases provide potential opportunity for liberties to be risked.  Our founders guaranteed that civil disputes will be subject to jury trials instead of the whims of government magistrates and also that the findings of jurors can’t be second guessed by judges.  The government can’t pick sides or use its judicial appointees to try  to influence the outcomes of civil disputes.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 The government cannot make people pay an unfairly high amount of money for bail while they wait for a judge or jury to hear their case.

 The government cannot punish you for a crime in a cruel and unusual way.

The government is not allowed to skip the trial phase by holding citizens in jail with high bails having nothing to do with the severity of their crime or any flight risks they pose.  Even when citizens are found guilty, the federal government may not assess fines that aren’t connected with the severity of their crime nor may they issue punishments that are depraved and unduly harsh.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

 The government cannot limit your rights to just those listed in the Bill of Rights.

Reaffirming the anti-federalists view that government tends to expand whenever and however it can and ultimately crowding out the rights and privileges of its citizens, our founders have made it clear that the Constitution and even the Bill of Rights do not attempt to outline every existing natural or inalienable right of citizens.

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.

 The government cannot claim to possess more power and authority than what the Constitution permits, and all other powers not listed in the Constitution belong to the states or individuals.

Since the Constitution is a charter of specific and enumerated powers, there are rights that exist above and beyond those addressed in it.  Those powers and rights that are not specifically addressed in the Constitution and those powers that are not banned by states through the Constitution are real and duly allowed to be exercised by the states and the people.

Horace Cooper, a Constituting America Fellow, is co-chairman for Project 21’s National Advisory Board and adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. In addition to having taught constitutional law at George Mason University, Mr. Cooper was general counsel to U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey.





Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute, visits with Janine Turner on the Janine Turner Radio Show, Saturday, September 3 on DFW’s KLIF.  Listen as they discuss Professor Joe Postell’s (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) essay on Article I, Section 3, Clause 2 found in Constituting America’s Analyzing the Constitution project at this link:

Interview with Janine Turner on the Janine Turner Radio Show

Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute, and author of our “90 in 90” Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 Essay, visits with Janine Turner on the Janine Turner Radio Show, Saturday, July 30 on DFW’s KLIF.  Listen as they discuss Mr. Cooper’s essay on Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 found in Constituting America’s Analyzing the Constitution project at this link:

Listen to Horace’s analysis of an important detail that was not addressed when the 17th Amendment was passed!

Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 of the United States Constitution

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Amendment XXIII

1:  The District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:   A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the states, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a state; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

2:  The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:


A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State…….

While many Americans – including many in Washington, D.C. – may not be aware, the Founders originally contemplated that Congress would be the primary authority over any and all aspects of the nation’s capital and not the residents themselves.

The 23rd Amendment changed the U.S. Constitution to allow residents of the District of Columbia to vote in Presidential elections.  Before the passage of this amendment, residents of Washington, D.C. were unable to vote for President or Vice President as the District is not a U.S. state. They are still unable to send voting Representatives or Senators to Congress.

Operating under the auspices of Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 [[The Congress shall have Power] To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.] the Congress has nearly Carte Blanche to set up rules for the operation of the capital city.

The 23rd amendment places specific limits on Congress’ authority by its expressed grant of voting rights to DC residents.  However the grant is not unlimited.  It restricts the district to the number of electors of the least populous state, irrespective of its own population. As of 2010, that is Wyoming with three Electors.

The 23rd Amendment does not change the status of DC.  The language clearly establishes that D.C. is not a state and that its electors are only for Presidential elections. The House Report accompanying the passage of the Amendment in 1960 expressly states that the Amendment would not change the status or powers of the District:

[This] . . . amendment would change the Constitution only to the minimum extent necessary to give the District appropriate participation in national elections. It would not make the District of Columbia a State. It would not give the District of Columbia any other attributes of a State or change the constitutional powers of the Congress to legislate with respect to the District of Columbia and to prescribe its form of government. . . . It would, however, perpetuate recognition of the unique status of the District as the seat of Federal Government under the exclusive legislative control of Congress.

History shows that the government of the city of Washington and the District of Columbia have been dominated by Congress for most of the district’s history.   The Congress has expanded and restricted the franchise several times since the District’s creation.  In the 1820s Congress acted to let DC citizens vote for a Mayor and City Council.  After the Civil War changed course and created a territorial form of government for the district. All the officials, including a legislative assembly, were appointed by the president. This system was abandoned in 1874, when Congress reestablished direct control over the city government. From the 1870s forward until 1961 District residents had no rights to vote whatsoever.

The 23rd Amendment opened the door at the Presidential level and in recent years  Congress would expand the franchise further.  First, Congress allowed DC residents to elect a School Board. In 1970, DC citizens gained a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives.

By 1973, Congress would pass the Home Rule Act which District residents approved in a special referendum in 1974.  This act allows citizens to elect a Mayor and City Council.

This is the present system operating in Washington, DC today.

Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Amendment XVI

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

At the founding of our nation, the framers decided not to allow the federal government to assess income or other direct taxes unless they were apportioned according to population.  A direct tax is simply any tax that is paid directly to the federal government by the individual.  Commonplace today, these types of taxes were frowned upon when the nation began.  Instead of income or other direct taxes, the founders thought that indirect taxes – sales taxes, import duties and the like – were legitimate means for the federal government to raise money.

The consensus of the founders was that the power of direct taxation would shift the dynamic between the individual and the state in a powerful and oppressive way.  With direct taxing power, it was feared that Congress could assess a tax on all persons with no limits on the amount.  Whether assessed as a percentage or a fixed amount, these taxes couldn’t be readily avoided or evaded by the citizens.  For instance, a person couldn’t simply not engage in the behavior that was subject to taxation the way you could with a sales tax or other transaction style tax.  A direct tax could apply to income, land, cattle, securities transactions etc. and force people to either pay the tax or have their property confiscated.  In addition, with Congress’ power of the purse over the army and the militia, the people would be powerless to prevent collection.

Although not consistently, the Supreme Court struck down several attempts by Congress to establish so-called “direct” taxes.  However, during one critical period – the Civil War – the Supreme Court upheld a temporary income tax established to fund the war effort.  The Revenue Act of 1861 levied a flat tax of 3% on annual income above $800 (or roughly $20,000 in today’s dollars)

In 1893, after the war was over and the temporary tax expired, Congress adopted another income tax law.  In this case, the Congress attempted to assess a federal tax on income derived from real estate.  In 1895, in Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan and Trust, the Supreme ruled that the income tax was unconstitutional.  This view prevailed through the turn of the century.

Historians suggest that the growing needs of the Federal Government necessitated a regular and more lucrative revenue source and increasingly politicians in both parties eyed the direct or income tax as a solution.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1909 that the effort to push for an amendment began.

President William Taft sent a formal message to Congress requesting that an amendment be adopted that would allow Congress to have this power once and for all.  The Senate approved the Sixteenth Amendment unanimously 77-0 and the House approved it by a vote of 318-14.  After being ratified by 36 states in February of 1913, it became law.  Ultimately, 42 of the 48 states would ratify the amendment.

Within a few years, it had become the principal source of income for the federal government.  Nevertheless, its impact wasn’t obvious.  In the beginning, hardly anyone had to file a tax return because the tax did not apply to the vast majority of the people in the U.S.  For example, in 1939, 26 years after the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted, only 5% of the population, counting both taxpayers and their dependents, was required to file returns. Today, nearly all adults and even some youths must file an annual income tax form.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Article III, Section 3, Clause 1-2

1:  Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.  No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

2:  The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

The issue of role of loyalty to one’s own country isn’t nearly as simple a matter as it might appear. Of course, most people have a natural affinity for the country where they were born or at least spent most of their life in. Moreover, should the government actually have the authority to compel you to love your country? Finally, what does it mean to be disloyal? There are crucial distinctions between the right to exercise dissent, criticism and disagreement and the actual disloyalty to one’s own country.

Merriam-Webster defines treason as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family”

Throughout history, many rulers have used the issue of loyalty to the country or sovereign as a tool to oppress their critics or even as a pretext for mistreating unpopular individuals in the country. At the same time, treason is considered perhaps the worst possible crime both because the victims aren’t individuals but all of the society that live in a given country.

Depending on the nature of the treasonous activity engaged in, the citizens of the entire nation may suffer financial harm or in extreme circumstances face loss of life or limb. Unlike the laws of many nations which can be changed at will, the U.S. Constitution specifically defines treason and does so in a way that seems obvious in impact.

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

In fact, this is the only crime that is specially outlined in the Constitution. Recognizing the severity of the threat that treason posed to the new nation, one of the first acts of the United States Congress made treason a capital offense:

“If any person or persons, owing allegiance to the United States of America, shall levy war against them, or shall adhere to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States, or elsewhere, and shall be thereof convicted on confession in open Court, or on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act of the treason whereof he or they shall stand indicted, such person or persons shall be adjudged guilty of treason against the United States, and SHALL SUFFER DEATH;

The language tracked the Constitution and gave clear guidance to every American that dissent and political debate were not to be considered in any way an example of disloyalty to the nation. At the same time, the new statute made it clear that the new nation would deal severely with those convicted.

Most readers quickly understand that joining others to levy war against our country would constitute treason, but what of “adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” The founders recognized that there were some actions that were so uniquely inimical to loyalty that they could be punished even if they didn’t involve actual war-making against America. Examples of “adhering to their enemies” might include selling the designs for a subterranean entry into the White House or making and providing false identification cards to foreign agents to allow them to enter the Pentagon. “Aid and comfort” refers to counseling, abetting, plotting, assenting, consenting, and encouraging any act against the United States being carried out by an enemy of America.

While treason charges have most often been used in the context of war between nations there is no specific provision limiting treason charges to actions by a person on behalf of an enemy country. In other words, the Constitution does not limit a treason charge to an individual supporting an enemy nation such as Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Support for terrorists such as Al Qaeda, which have no specific nationality, can just as easily result in a charge of treason.

In addition, it’s no coincidence that the standard of proof for a conviction for treason in the Constitution was rigorous. This provision tracked the “English Treason Act of 1695” which precisely required a treason trial to require evidence of at least two witnesses to whatever act of treason was charged as a way to minimize the ability of the sovereign to accuse his political enemies of treason and have him or her executed.

The second provision is straightforward:

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Like most countries, the United States Congress has for nearly 200 years consistently insisted that the maximum punishment that could be levied against those convicted of treason would be execution. While our Congress has that authority, they are not unlimited in this area. Congress is not allowed to pass a statute that works a “corruption of blood” – a law that would interfere with the transfer of property from father to son – unless the property is confiscated prior to the death of the treasonous person.

Treason is insidious and truly dangerous because it involves crimes in which people who should owe a degree of loyalty abuse that trust in a way that endangers all of society. Cicero explains, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.”

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 10-13

10:  To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
11:  To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
12:  To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
13:  To provide and maintain a Navy;

It is especially timely to discuss the so-called “war” powers of Congress in light of recent events internationally.  Although much focus at present is directed at the issue of the President’s authority, this essay will focus exclusively on the United States Congress.

  • To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
  • To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  • To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  • To provide and maintain a Navy;

Pointedly Congress does not have specific authority to carry out the prosecution of a military engagement, but it does have significant authority to participate in the decision and continuation of that military engagement.  In that sense, the “War Power” is divided between the President and Congress.

Many Americans forget that the “War Powers” under the Articles of Confederation ostensibly rested with the national government but was far more attenuated in reality because it relied upon an enthusiastic acquiescence of the several states:  Article III of the Articles of Confederation. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

The Founders sought to address this matter.  Not unlike the present debates over the President’s authority to carry out military actions, the Founders feared the ability of the monarch to enter into war without the consent of the people as they had witnessed the royal wars for centuries in Europe.  At the same time, they had learned that they should not take the principle of diffusion of war power too far.  In their mind, the Articles of Confederation had in fact gone too far and it represented a major national security threat for the newly independent United States of America.

As James Madison would explain to Thomas Jefferson in a letter in 1798, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all [Governments] demonstrates, that the [Executive] is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the [Legislature].”

Thus, specific war powers are granted to the Congress – not the least of which is the actual power to declare war.

During the existence of the Articles of Confederation, the national government had the sole authority to create courts for the trials of piracy and related felonies committed on the high seas.  However, the national government did not have any authority to address the issue of compliance with the existing international rules against piracies and other crimes on the high seas.  Prior to the Revolution, all of the European nations had entered into agreements but the U.S. did not have authority to enforce these rules or to reject them.  The Constitution specifically addresses that limitation and gave the Federal government the ability to choose to comply, reject or modify international agreements regarding piracy.

First, Congress has the specific power to “declare war.”  A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by at least one national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another.   Congress has officially declared war five times.  In Federalist 69 Hamilton reminds readers that the power to declare war was an important one since the President of the U.S. did not have it.  Under the Constitution, Hamilton explains, the president’s authority was:

“. . . in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the land and naval forces . . . while that of the British King extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all of which by the Constitution would appertain of the legislature.”

Next, let us look at the power of Congress to grant letters of Marque and Reprisal.  This power grant a far more unusual and yet clearly lawful means for Congress to carry out its international and/or national security interests.  Here’s the essence of the power:  Congress can authorize a private person or private army – not a part of the United States armed forces – to conduct reprisal military-like operations outside the borders of the U.S.

Not unlike the powers exercised by the French Foreign legion, our Constitution authorizes Congress to grant such a right presumably with payment or a bounty in any instance in which the citizens of the U.S. are injured by individuals or armies of another country whenever the other country denies justice to the American(s) who have been harmed.

Additionally there is the rarely examined “capture clause” – the power of Congress to establish the rules for the distribution of spoils of captured enemy ships or captured territories.  In the modern war era, military victims publicly eschew the capturing or claiming of the goods and property of the conquered parties.  However, this was not always so.  In fact, the so-called “capture clause” was considered extremely important to the fledgling nation of America.

Often times the federal government could not afford to pay soldiers or obtain credit to buy armaments.  By being able to set up a means for disposing of the goods and other spoils that were captured in battle, the U.S. had an alternative way to address this issue.  General George Washington declared during the Revolutionary War that a centralized and standardized system for the handling of prizes was vital to the war effort. In fact, one of the first federal courts created by the United States government under the Articles of Confederation was the Federal Appellate Court of Prize – which existed to adjudicate disputes over spoils captured in war.

The final war power of Congress involves the authority to raise and support armies and to provide and maintain a navy.  While most of the early residents of America recognized that the federal government should have authority to “raise and support” armies, ultimately there was some disagreement over how that power should be dispersed.  Under the crowns of Europe, kings could not only declare war, they also had individual power to “raise and support” armies without needing the input of their subjects.  Even when Kings co-existed with Parliaments, their ability to exercise their war powers nearly carte-blanche stymied the ability of their subjects to exercise any significant influence – not just in war – in nearly all matters of national interest since wars sapped resources, finances, and labor in a way that Parliament couldn’t readily counteract.

Additionally the standing army operated as a direct threat not just on the purse strings of the nation but a clear threat was aimed at the citizenry as well especially when these forces concentrated themselves within the home territories in large numbers.  Instead of giving this power to the President, our system specifically requires that Congress approve the creation and timing of all rules involving the establishment of an army and navy.  In fact, this grant of authority is the basis for Congress’ power to establish the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as selective service requirements.  With regard to the army in particular, the Constitution included the appropriations limitation as a means to quell fears that a standing army might be used to threaten American citizens.

Indeed Congress has broad power when it comes to war making.  But it is noteworthy that this power is divided in many ways with the President – not as a point of confusion or a result of a lack of trust in either the executive or the legislature, but instead as part of a precise calculation that if both the President and Congress must collaborate in order to carry out war, war would not be entered into easily or for long.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4

4:  To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

Here are two special grants of authority to Congress that the framers of the Constitution agreed were necessary.  The first power is Congress’ authority “to establish an UNIFORM RULE of naturalization throughout the United States.”

Naturalization is defined as the process of becoming a citizen or the establishment of citizenship rights.  At the time of creation of our Constitution, naturalization was commonly recognized as “The act of investing aliens with the privileges of native subjects.” It was also common among most of the European nations that the law draw a distinction between being a citizen and being an alien (a visitor or temporary resident).  Arguably, this distinction, which we still observe today, existed at least as early as the foundation of the Roman Empire.

The power to establish “uniform” rules of naturalization is among only three that Alexander Hamilton identified in Federalist #32 as being exclusive powers of the federal government.  The other two being setting rules and exercising jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and the right of Congress to exclusively “lay duties on imports and exports.”

Prior to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, the states had created their own individual rules for determining citizenship.  As sovereigns, they could do so.  However, with the ratification of the Constitution, Congress was given the authority to establish a uniform naturalization policy – one for the entire nation.

Here’s an interesting side note:  Modern readers may not be aware that throughout much of the early part of our nation’s history policymakers were aggressively trying to encourage migration to the U.S. and it was felt that by granting central authority to the Federal Government barriers to immigration could be lowered.

The lack of a uniform immigration rule was — generally speaking — considered one of many defects in the Articles of Confederation.  James Madison notes in Federalist #42 that “The dissimilarity in the rules of naturalization has long been remarked as a fault in our system, and as laying a foundation for intricate and delicate questions.”  Madison and the other founders were concerned about the fact that now that the states were a nation, should Virginia be allowed to set the naturalization rules for South Carolina or vice versa? As long as states had this citizenship power, they would in essence interfere in the ability of people who happened to arrive in a given state to be able to migrate to another state.  This would frustrate the notion that we were actually citizens of a nation.

Also in Federalist #42 Madison posits the potential that without a uniform rule for citizenship a person could become a resident of two different states – one with strict rules for admission and another with less strict.  In the event this individual committed a crime that might lead to forfeiture of his citizenship rights in one state, he could potentially argue that his rights in the other state allow him to supersede the penalty.  “The new Constitution has accordingly, with great propriety, made provision against them, and all others proceeding from the defect of the Confederation on this head, by authorizing the general government to establish a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States.”

Now turning to the topic of bankruptcy.  Notwithstanding Madison’s view that “The power of establishing uniform laws of bankruptcy is so intimately connected with the regulation of commerce, and will prevent so many frauds where the parties or their property may lie or be removed into different States, that the expediency of it seems not likely to be drawn into question….” there is quite a bit of discussion that could be had on this topic.

Today the discussion of bankruptcy is fraught with disputes over the moral legitimacy of needing to give bankrupt individuals a second chance versus a system that allows scofflaws to walk away from their financial obligations.  The American federal system of bankruptcy from its inception has erred on the side of the “second chance” perhaps because so many of the earliest U.S. residents were men and women who migrated for to America for a “second chance.”

Bankruptcy or insolvency is a legal status of a person who cannot repay the debts he owes to his creditors. Note that unlike naturalization law, even though bankruptcy cases are filed in United States Bankruptcy Court (units of the United States District Courts), and there are federal laws which govern bankruptcy procedure, state laws have a significant impact on the outcome of disputes.

While the framers might have dismissed the need for a comprehensive discussion on the topic – the topic of bankruptcy is not only interesting, it is example where the U.S. was quite advanced in its attitudes – well ahead of other countries of its day.

The American system is in many ways a response to the history of Bankruptcy while being much more modernist.  In England, the first official bankruptcy laws were passed in 1542, while Henry VIII ruled.   Under its terms, a bankrupt individual was considered a criminal and was subject to criminal punishment, which could range from imprisonment in debtors’ prison to hanging.  By the early Eighteenth century, a significantly more enlightened attitude dawned.  The British adopted statutes that allowed the discharge of some debts as long as debtors agreed to pay what they could afford.

Under the Articles of confederation, most states were still throwing into jail individuals who could not pay their debts.  Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence was one of many prominent Americans subject to this indignity.   However, because of Congress’ grant of this power, the U.S. was able to take the lead in the uniquely American practice of debtor’s “relief.”   Under its terms, not only was prison ended for debtors, but also individuals could choose to initiate bankruptcy for themselves rather than wait for creditors to force them and the Court’s involvement ensured a far more equitable accounting of the debts and the ability to discharge those that simply could not be paid.

As the process of examination unfolds throughout this 90 day cycle it becomes increasingly clear that the United Constitution is a remarkable document which addresses policy issues of the past and the present in very careful and well thought out ways.

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

The House of Representatives or the people’s house was created by design to be the most democratic body and the legislative chamber closest to the public.   It is the larger of the two chambers and its elections the most frequent at the federal level.

In his essay on the “Original Contract” philosopher David Hume in 1752 said “The people, if we trace government to its first origin in the woods and deserts, are the source of all power and jurisdiction, and voluntarily, for the sake of peace and order, abandoned their native liberty and received laws from their equal and companion.”  The design and make up of the House reflects this view.

James Madison mentions in Federalist #52, the design and make up of the House of Representatives is predicated on the notion of a republican form of government.  As Madison points out: “It is a received and well-founded maxim, that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.”

“…Members chosen every second year” ensures that House members will be appropriately responsive to the public.  If the elections were more frequent there is the risk that House Members would stay in a perpetual election mode – constantly campaigning and less able to exercise their judgment and wisdom.  On the other hand if the elections were held less frequently there was the risk that the House Members might exercise their personal judgments too and simultaneously the public might find it harder to hold them accountable due to the length of time between elections as passions and memories subside.

The two year cycle provides a happy medium that ensures accountability while also giving House members some limited ability to juxtapose their own judgment on policy matters.

The next provision establishes the Constitutional requirements for being a voter in a federal House election.  The founders could have established an independent requirement or it could have authorized Congress to do so.  Instead they took a third way – establishing that whatever voting requirements the states created for their own state assemblies would be used for the Federal House of Representatives election.   The provision specifically requires that federal voters meet the same requirement needed to vote for the larger branch of the state legislature – typically the state House.

Thus, if a state required you to be a resident for 5 years and a property holder in order to vote in state legislative elections, that standard would apply in order to vote in federal House elections.  Conversely if another state required voters merely to pay a fee in order to vote in state legislative races then there could be no additional restrictions for voting in the federal elections.

Instead of states being able to interfere with federal elections or vice-versa, the citizens in each state find that the requirements for voting for state and federal elections are identical.

The Constitution sets the age for House members at 25 years for a few reasons.  The age of 25 recognizes that younger individuals have a natural right to influence the political process and participate in the decision making while ensuring that all of those serving in government possess the necessary maturity, experience, and competence to perform effectively.

The citizenship requirement is equally interesting.  The Constitution does not require the individual to be a “natural born citizen” – only a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years.  While Congress has the authority to define the requirements for U.S. Citizenship, the Constitution only requires that a House member meet that standard for at least 7 years.

At the same time that the individual must be a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years, the requirement to represent a district within a state is not 7 years as a state resident.  Note that the standard for the candidate is that he or she must be “an inhabitant” of the state – i.e. a person who has established his domicile.  Often disputes arise over whether a candidate actually lives in the district that he or she is running in.  But there is no legal recourse at the federal level – the Constitution only requires that he or she live in the state not in the county or district where the federal election is being held.

This section endorses a notion that is replete within all parts of the Constitution – a republican form of government ensures the people’s liberty is maintained.  In this case the liberty of the people is safeguarded through clearly defined rules for holding elections and candidate requirements.

 Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute

Posted in Analyzing the Constitution Essay Archives | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “February 23, 2011 – Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute”

  1. Susan says:

February 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

“The greater the power the shorter the term should be”, wow! how true! Best argument I’ve heard for term limits if I ever heard one!

  1. Brad says:

February 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

Janine and Cathy,

Are you going to be writing your daily essays again? I miss your wisdom that you shared with the Fed Papers.

  1. Shannon_Atlanta says:

February 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

I was wondering , since each state can make its own rules on voting, would it be upheld as Constitutional if my state of Georgia decided one must have earned income to vote?

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

Mr.Cooper, I thank you for being our guest scholar and dedicating your time
to write this most informative essay. Isn’t this fun?!
I learned so much. I realize that when I read the Constitution there is so much to
absorb and thus I skip over certain parts such as the requirements for the “voter”
are maintained at the state level. I always thought this section dealt with requirements for the representative only, yet, I now know it also deals with the requirements of the voter!
Also interesting that the representative merely has to live in the state
but not the district. Fascinating!
The quotes from Madison and David Hume resonate as do your words in the closing paragraph, “a republican form of government ensures the people’s liberty is maintained.  In this case the liberty of the people is safeguarded through clearly defined rules for holding elections and candidate requirements.” Is the constitution relevant?
Yes!!! Thanks Mr.Cooper

  1. Mary Oprea says:

February 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

It’s interesting that our US Reps can be as young as 25. I wondered how many were actually this young, so I did some research.

According to Wikipedia (“List of current members of the United States House of Representatives by age and generation”), we have 0 reps from the Millennial Generation who would be in that age bracket. The majority of our Reps are Boomers, born from 1943-1960. Only 28% of the Reps are younger than the Boomers (“Generation X”).

It looks like our younger generation are busy getting their education (which usually requires more than 4 years these days) and establishing their homes. However, the cost of running in an election could be an impediment also.

GI Generation:1901 – 1924 (1 rep)
Silent Generation: 1925 – 1942 (58 reps)
Boomer Generation: 1943 – 1960 (254 reps)
Generation X: 1961 – 1981 (120 reps)
Millennial Generation: 1982 – 2003 (0 reps)
Vacant – 2

  1. Ron Meier says:

February 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Question for Mr. Cooper. The idea of a two year term for the “people’s house” is that voters can throw them out if they are not representing the voters. Some of our representatives have spent their entire work life in the House. Many of us believe that service as a member of the House should not be a career choice. In my case, I think one should not spent more than half an estimated 40 year work life as a career politician. Are we barking up the wrong tree with respect to the original intent of the writers of the Constitution when we press for term limits, since the representatives must be representing the voters as the voters wish if they are reelected for more than 20 terms?

  1. Cutler says:

February 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Thank you very much, Mr. Cooper for your insightful essay. I must now turn my thanks to Mr. James Madison in his quote: “the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.” It is completely this attitude that the founding Fathers had when forming this country, not “Just how much government intrusion will the American public tolerate?” Washington (D.C.) has rotated a complete 180 degrees from limiting power originally to seeing how far it can stretch it while still giving lip service to the Constitution.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I agree with you Cutler. Obama (and his wife!) have overstepped their boundries one to many times for my taste, yet nobody sees this. It seems with this president four years is too long in power. The main problem is that the people are so unaware of these happenings they can’t see straight into the trap they are walking into. I believe the entire system needs to collapse so we start over, it’s not the ideal choice, but it will open people’s eyes.

  1. H Cooper says:

February 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Shannon asks an interesting question as to whether the State of Georgia could require a person to have “earned income” in order to vote in the state assembly and thereby require a similar rule for federal elections. While no longer applicable today due to the adoption of the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when the Constitution was first created states had broad power to determine what constituted an eligible voter. Today the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act effectively mean that states have limited ability to restrict voting because the VRA prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

  1. Scott Miller says:

February 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

It would be nice if there was a printable version of each essay available as well as a version that could be emailed to freinds and family not aware of Constituting America’s study of the U.S. Constitution!

  1. a guy says:

February 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Are you actually suggesting that we take voting rights away from legal, law abiding citizens if they are without income? What if they’re disabled or going to school or college on social security survivor benefits?

And personally, though I am anything but a supporter of Obama, the last thing I want to see is for our entire system to “collapse”. Things are bad enough as they are now.

  1. Barb Zakszewski says:

February 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm

thanks to Mr. Cooper for his insightful analysis of this Article and Section and putting it into an historical context. 2 year terms for House of Representative members, 2 years being seen as a happy medium between perpetual campaigning and becoming less responsive to the people they represent. Unfortunately, most House members today are more concerned with keeping their jobs and are in perpetual campaign mode, then in doing anything of substance. I’m wondering if maybe a Constitutional amendment to increase the term of a House of Representative to 3 or 4 years might be in order. Get them to focus on the tasks at hand instead of worrying about re-election, at least for a little while.

  1. ThreeDogs says:

February 24, 2011 at 1:41 am

“the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.”

Was there general agreement on this among the founders?

If so they must have thought that the most powerful body would be the the House, followed by the Executive branch, followed by the Senate and then the Judicial branch (lifetime appointments)!

Seems to me that the Judicial has over time become the most powerful.

What do you think?

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 24, 2011 at 5:36 am

…and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

I have always taken that clause to be speaking of the Electoral College Electors. There had to be qualifications for the Electors of the Electoral College too such that the qualifications of the Electors must be the same as that of the most numerous branch of the state’s legislature as Electors are those who cast their ballots for the President at the state capitol. From there, the ballots of the Electors collectively from each state are sealed and sent to the Congress to be opened up and read aloud how many votes from that state for a Presidential candidate.

  1. yguy says:

February 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Are you actually suggesting that we take voting rights away from legal, law abiding citizens if they are without income? What if they’re disabled or going to school or college on social security survivor benefits?

It needs to be understood that while we are indeed endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, suffrage is not among them; and there is certainly nothing wrong with denying parasites the right to vote themselves even more largesse from the public treasury.

Which is not to say people in such circumstances as you mention are all parasites. I’m just making a more general point.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

Agreed ThreeDogs. The Judicial branch used to be the least powerful. In fact, people would leave to state positions to gain more political power.

  1. Robert Saunders says:

February 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Please explain the wording, “and who shall not”, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

  1. Susan says:

February 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

It is formal 18th century usage for if you haven’t lived you shall not be elected to represent the place.

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks for asking .. I would love to write daily essays.. I am working toward that goal. For now, I am having fun blogging thanks for joining us!! Isn’t this fun?

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

The Federalist Papers were written from 1787 to 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.   They were published in several New York State newspapers to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution that had been crafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.  Numbering 85, the essays outlined the ways the new federal government would operate and why this type of government was the best choice for the United States of America. Each of the essays were signed “PUBLIUS” and they remain today as an excellent reference for anyone who wants to understand the United States Constitution.

Hamilton opens Federalist #1 with an introduction of the present state of affairs in the then existing United States of America and his plan to explain over a series of Papers why the new federal government created by the U.S. Constitution was necessary.  Premised in his argument is a fundamental foundation upon which our system of government is based — self-government or rule by the consent of the governed.  From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate.  Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.

At the time of the writing of Federalist #1 the United States of America is governed by the Articles of Confederation. Drafted by the Second Continental Congress in 1776, the Articles of Confederation had been submitted to the states for ratification in November of 1777.

As outlined by the Continental Congress, the federal government by 1787 had the authority to make war, negotiate diplomatic agreements and treaties, and acquire and oversee new territories that had not yet become full-fledged states.

However, by the time of the Philadelphia Convention that year many of the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation were obvious.  The government created by the Articles was incapable of providing the authority and power needed to be a fully functioning authority. Instead of a division of authority among three separate branches, the federal government exercised all of its authority through a unicameral legislature called the Congress of Confederation.   Ironically, such a concentration of power masked the overall weakness of the federal government.

In order to change or amend the Articles, it required unanimous approval of the states.  This standard made making any changes or reforms nearly impossible.  The federal government had no power to tax and as such could not meet even its most basic financial responsibilities.  A threshold requirement that nine of 13 states approve major laws passed by the Congress limited the ability of Congress to act on any but the most uncontroversial matters.  In addition, it is significant that the Articles provided no authority for Congress to resolve conflicts between the states or to set up countrywide rules to encourage merchants and commerce.

Hamilton along with many other of our Founders recognized that if the United States was ever to become an economic powerhouse capable of defending itself from enemies without and within it was essential that the changes proposed in the Constitution were adopted.  You see it was not simply dumb luck that we have this national charter.  Now more than 200 years later we Americans share in the legacy created by these men and women who had such foresight and wisdom.

The Philadelphia Convention convened in May of 1787 and did not finish until September.  When the convention finished Delegate Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman.  She asked Mr. Franklin, “What have you given us?  A monarchy or a republic?”  He famously replied, “A republic…if you can keep it.”  Therein lies our task as citizens today.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Horace Cooper is a Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

47 Responses to “April 28, 2010Federalist No. 1, General Introduction, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

  1. Peter says:

    It is particularly interesting to me that Hamilton and Madison, who worked so well together to produce the Constitution and see it through to ratification, later became the driving force behind the first two political parties (The Federalists & The Jeffersonian-Republicans, which today are known as the Democrats). United in the cause of bringing the nation into being, they later split over the direction it should take.

    It would be interesting to see how–and if–the differences that later developed between are foreshawdowed in The Federalist Papers. Perhaps some of the experts could build that analysis into their commentaries as the series moves forward.

  2. Lillian Harvey says:

    “…it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and 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. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”

    I wonder how Mr. Hamilton would feel about the “power grab” enacted on the backs of the American people in the form of “Healthcare *access through mandated insurance purchase*” as an Individual Right? He certainly didn’t think much of the “rights” of people over the “firmness and efficiency” of government.

    It is clear that the anti-Federalists had a reason to be nervous for the future of our country and establishing a federal system without a clear delineation between the rights of individuals and the powers granted to government by those individuals. Without that rich debate, would we have ever gained the deep appreciation for the liberty and prosperity that was possible as this country grew? To even think that modern day Progressivism is in anyway aligned with the thinking of either of these schools of thought is absurd, imho. How far away they are from what the Founders were talking about and doing.

    Do our selected leaders of today really understand how far this process has strayed? I feel there are tricks and tyrants afoot.

    Are you all as blown away by what you are reading as I am? I studied these documents in school, of course. But I feel like I am finally understanding them because there are such contrasting ideas being practiced in our government today. Process is everything. I understand why these 1st Principles were adopted and why they fought so hard to enact them. Time to restore the Republic to 1st principles. No pain, no gain.

  3. Will says:

    @Lillian Harvey
    Yes, I’m pretty much blown away by understanding the deeper meanings in these documents. Until this project I never really understood how things like Social Security, Medicare and parts of the health reform bill really *are* unconstitutional, and should be abolished.

  4. Lillian Harvey says:

    Finding the reset button is one thing, but pushing it is another. Each day, I’m finding more courage to accept the consequences of doing just that. There are more of us to convince that we are on the wrong track and there will be sacrifices to get us straight. Projects like this one are our best hope to help us make the necessary case through educated and considered argument against the legislative waste passed for the “good of the people”.
    Donna had a great description of how the study of case law and rulings on precedents rather than original intent has assisted in getting us off track. Being able to see legislative proposals through the principles laid out in the Constitution demonstrates that most have no place being enacted at the Federal level. There is so much bloat in the Executive as a result. Of course “Washington is broken”. This structure was not designed to carry that extraordinary and unnecessary weight.

  5. Susan Craig says:

    From Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun”. It continues to amaze me at the well rounded understanding of the human condition that our Founding Fathers had. How our ‘education’ has failed us.

  6. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I made the comment to my husband last night, that since I started reading the Constitution again through this series, watching the news took on a complete new dimension. Listening to Congressmen discuss the Immigration Laws and the Goldman Sachs debacle, I am realizing that many have no idea what they are talking about. Congressman and newscasters alike are saying things like ‘This Law Makes it a Crime to be an Illegal Immigrant’. I had to clean out my ears when I heard that one. Surely I was mistaken. Sadly, I wasn’t.

    And I could have cried when I heard the congressmen grilling Goldman Sachs CEO’s. They had no idea what they were asking, and could not understand the answers. Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe Goldman Sachs is an innocent victim in this mess, but the dog and pony shows our Congress puts on is embarrassing. And it’s all for political gain. I find it hard to believe they will prosecute Goldman Sachs; just like passing an immigration law, it is to dangle the carrot in front of unsuspecting voters for the November election.

    Our country burns, while our Congress fiddles. I wonder if Benjamin Franklin knew how prophectic his words would be.

    On another note, I find it interesting that all the letters are signed PUBLIUS. Publius was the “Chief man of the Island of Malta” mentioned in Acts 28:7 (Another proof that our founders read the Bible). How appropriate that they used the name of the man who entertained Paul and his companions while they were shipwrecked on Malta, and were seeking a permenant place of residence. Paul and his companions stayed on the island until the stormy season had passed. Could our founders have felt that same way in trying to ratify the proposed Constitution? I find this very interesting and it sheds a new light on this process for me.

  7. Carolyn Attaway says:

    I forgot to add on my previous post, that I believe with Knowledge comes Responsibility. As we read and discuss the Constitution and Federalist Papers, we are being charged with passing what we learn to others. No more couch activists! If we are to help restore our country, we must step into it. Finding the perfect balance between teaching and not preaching, will be a challenge for me, I know. But I heard a great piece of advice that other day on the radio. The talk show host was talking to a priest who works out west. The priest said the difference between liberals and conservatives, is that liberals use their emotions for their arguments, while conservatives use facts. When dealing with feelings, one must tread carefully.

  8. Shannon Castleman says:

    Carolyn, right on. agree with you that Goldman Sach’s is not a Saint. However, if my Economics degree taught me anything, it is this: They have the right to short an invenstment just as we have the right to wait for that new pair of jeans to go on sale. (That is basically ‘shorting’ the position.)

    If people are wise stewards of their money, and diversify their investments like the BIBLE commands, they really wouldn’t be hurt by one bad apple.

  9. Susan Craig says:

    My ‘couch’ efforts have included posting the days revelation on my local news station’s blog site and calling the HS principle and ensuring that the HS was aware of the educational tools and contest available for his students.

  10. Maggie says:

    I, too, am embarrassed at the debacle going on with the grilling of Goldman Sachs…especially since the one doing most of the grilling (and using profanity) is from my district. I agree that those doing the grilling have no idea what they are talking about. Yes, something needs to be done about reigning in Wallstreet but how and at what cost? The government itself is up to its eyeballs in the cause of the financial mess we are in. Our founders KNEW that humans crave and seek power and that power corrupts (“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”….John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton). That is exactly why they were so careful in their drafting of our Constitution and the follow up Federalist papers. The government was not MEANT to be Big Brother. Their “powers” were meant to be very limited. Government is neccessary to prevent anarchy, but “we the people” are the ones in power (alteast we are supposed to be).

  11. Robert Shanbaum says:

    What a curious commentary on Federalist #1! Mr. Cooper, could you have written less about the actual content of Hamilton’s essay?

    The bulk of the essay is not about government at all. It opens and closes with a bit about the importance of the decision. But in the middle five paragraphs, Hamilton gets to his main purpose, which is to “poison the well” – to try to bias the reader against the other side, which Hamilton expects to rise in opposition to the new Consititution, before he has a chance to speak. Look at the litany of characteristics that the opponents will have: “ambition, avarice, personal animosity…” They will have some personal interest in the preservation of more powerful state governments (“…power, emoluments, and consequences of the offices…”). Essentially, it’s an exercise in mudslinging – but it’s the most elegant and dignified mudslinging since Marc Antony’s eulogy in Julius Caesar.

    Federalist #1 doesn’t shed much light on the Constitution at all, except to the extent that it sheds light on the way politics worked in the Eighteenth Century. And when I read the following, in which Hamilton predicts how his adversaries will behave, I can’t help but think, this could have been written yesterday:

    “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.”

  12. Robert Shanbaum says:

    Lillian, you do realize, do you not, that when Hamilton wrote that “a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people”, he was referring to people whom he expected would oppose the Constitution by arguing that it would give the government too much power to infringe on people’s rights? You realize, don’t you, that those people – the ones who argue that they’re interested in “the rights of the people” – those are the bad guys in Hamilton’s narrative?

    The good guys here, according to Hamilton, are the ones who promote the virtues of a government having “firmness and efficiency”.

    I ask because in your comment immediately following the citation, it sure looks like you could be positioning yourself as one of Hamilton’s bad guys when you argue that the government’s actions are a “power grab enacted on the backs of the American people.” That sounds to me like it could be characterized as a “zeal for the rights of the people.” Whether one would see it as a “specious mask” of the same is probably a matter of one’s political persuasion.

    You might want to read a little more about Hamilton. He’s something of a problem for those who are seeking support in the Constitution for de minimis government. In the Philadelphia Convention, for example, he proposed a centralized government in which the former states were stripped of their sovereignty altogether. (Importantly, to give you comfort, he did not prevail, obviously).

    Elsewhere in these blogs, Hamilton was referred to as “evil” because he favored centralized, powerful government (which he did indeed, to a greater degree than any modern progressive of whom I’m aware). But whether you like his politics or not, he was in fact one of the framers of the Constitution, and he apparently saw sufficient comportment (dare I say, “potential comportment”) between it and his politics to allow him to go to the trouble of working for its ratification by writing these articles.

    To answer your question about how Mr. Hamilton would feel about your alleged “power grab”, I’d say, he would be perfectly alright with it.

    On that same topic, it may interest you to know that in 1798, the fifth Congress created the Marine Hospital Fund, which established a network of federally-run hospitals along the eastern seaboard to care for sailors and seamen, financed by a federal tax on their wages of twenty cents per month. That system persisted into the 1980’s. I think that in addition to what the Founders and Framers wrote, it’s instructive to look at what they did.

  13. David Hathaway says:

    My interest in the Federalist Papers was begun when I read the recent biography of Alexander Hamilton, written by Ron Chernow. It was an interesting read, especially since Hamilton went on to found and The First Bank of The United States, the first Fed. I highly recommend this book.

    I’m sorry that I have delayed reading the Federalist Papers for so long. Thanks for the guided opportunity to make up for lost time.

  14. Karen Sherer says:

    I LOVE this opportunity to really refresh my understanding of the roots of our wonderful country by reading and blogging with all of you about the Constitution and the Federalist Papers! I’ve never blogged before so I was excited to finally find a topic I could respond to that offers something new and, perhaps, worthwhile. @ Carolyn Attaway: you provide so much food for thought, and maybe Madison did name Publius from the Publius of the Acts of the Apostles as the author of the Federalist Papers but the edition I am using had an insightful introduction by a man named Charles A. Kessler. He wrote that Publius Valerius Publicola was instrumental in establishing the republic of Rome. He called Publius the founder and savior of Rome and that Plutarch compares and contrasts this man with Solon the democratic lawgiver of Athens in “Parallel Lives”. Kessler wrote that Hamilton named the author of the papers “Publius” to trump the anti-federalists who were using “Cato” and Brutus” (also heroes of the Roman republic) as pseudonyms for their anti-federalist papers.
    Also @Carolyn: I hope to end my career as a “couch activist” as I become more able to defend my political belief with facts. And I also heard that interview on talk radio about the difference between liberals and conservatives and I find that really true.

  15. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Susan – Great “couch” activities! I didn’t even think about the local news station blog. Good idea.

    @Shannon and Maggie – I for one am glad that the GOP has stopped the Financial Reform from getting to the floor for debate. I do not trust this Congress with Financial Reform, especially since they will not even address Fannie and Freddie, or want to put more bailouts for Big Banks in this bill. That just scratches the surface. I would love for this Senate to stop anything from going through until after the election AND they address spending!

    And the Founders had it right about Congress should not be a full time job. I cannot even begin to describe my emotions when I heard Tim Geithner comment “I never had a real job”. Doesn’t that spike confidence in his abilities to help the ‘real’ world?

  16. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Karen – Awesome piece about Publius Valerius Publicola. I find it intriguing that the name Publius is close to the word Public, which can be defined as people constituting a community, state, or nation, or a particular group of people with a common interest, aim. I am really enjoying learning so much from everyone’s input about our founding documents.

    The hardest thing I have found about getting off the couch so far is pulling my friends with me.

  17. Thomas Soyars says:

    While true when written this part may be even more true today:

    “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.”

  18. Ron Meier says:

    At my church, we are having a sermon series titled “Get off your donkey.” It is based on the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:34, who got off his donkey to serve his fellow man, even though the injured man was one others, including priests, avoided and refused to help. In like manner, by following this program, we should have the courage to get off our donkeys, armed with the knowledge of what our founders wanted this great country to be, and be ready to “fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish the race,” 2 Timothy 4:7. We have a lot of work to do, and it’s time to get off our own donkeys and force our leaders to get back on the track our founders placed us on more than 200 years ago. The tea parties are a good start, but only a start. Remember what Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”

  19. Ron Meier says:

    And, thanks to Janine and Cathy for getting this going! Two women who listened to Burke and got off their donkeys.

  20. Ron Meier says:

    Interesting comment when Hamilton says: “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.” It’s interesting to me that much of the rhetoric in DC today is supposedly based on making everything better for everyone other than the wealthy; it seems that this is a ruse to convince the people that having more government will make this happen, when the ultimate end game is to maximize control over the majority of the people. 50% don’t pay income taxes now; if the Administration and Congress can move that up to 70% or so, then they’ll have the people right where they want them.

  21. Jesse says:

    As I finished Federalist 1, I concluded that it set out the plan for the series of essays, what was to be discussed, and tried to debunk one of the first objections – that the individual states are better off without being under the umbrella of a nation.

    My personal belief is in line with Federalist 1 – America is a great country because of its ability to bring the talents, resources, opinions and people of the individual states together while allowing the states to experiment and maintain their individuality.

  22. Andy Sparks says:


    The Publius pseudonym used by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay was named for the Roman Consul Publius Valerius Publicola who supposedly helped form the Roman Republic. He lived around 500BC, well before the birth of Christ.

  23. Melanie says:

    How impressive you all are in your commentaries! I suspect the only thing our Founding Fathers would be proud of and respect today (were they to awaken to our current state) would be the new rebirth of patriotic activism, the passionate rediscovering of our heritage, and the determination of Americans to restore our great republic to it’s true form of constitutionally limited government of, by, and for The People.

    Lillian rightly appreciates how wise our Founders were in their understanding of human nature, and how delicate and difficult to maintain a limited government would be. I can never get over the profound wisdom of our Founders in that they not only understood the nature of their righteous endeavor, but they understood how unique in the annals of all human history their undertaking was! They were IN the moment, and they KNEW they were in the moment. How grand! Lillian, it does just blow one away.

  24. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Carolyn here is a question, if to become a naturalized citizen you must be able “to speak, write and read words in the English Language in their common usage” and it is violation of the law to vote if you are not a citizen, why do we need to print voting ballots in any language but English and provide interperters at voting places as is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1964? Is it because we knowing allow People who are not Citizens to vote?? I have ask this question of Congressmen in the past and have never received an answer.

  25. Shannon Castleman says:

    Chuck, great point. As a matter of fact, that is the main reason Obama and his ilk are against the AZ law-because many of their voting base will leave. The Democrats have to rely on illegal votes/ACORN tactics/the Black Panthers with their bats at a voting place in Philly, etc. to win an election.

    They cannot win on the merits of the debate.

  26. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Chuck – That is a good question. I do believe all official tests, such as citizenship, driver’s licenses, voting, etc, all should be in English. But keep in mind, there are many in Congress who do not want to make English the official language of the United States. As a matter of fact, do we even have an offical language yet?

    According to Congress.Org – ’2/26/2009–Introduced.National Language Act of 2009 – Makes English the official language of the U.S. government. Requires the government to: (1) conduct its official business in English, including publications, income tax forms, and informational materials; and (2) preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the United States of America. Provides that no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the government act, communicate, perform, or provide services or’
    Bill # H.R.1229

    Original Sponsor:
    Peter King (R-NY 3rd)

    Cosponsor Total: 31
    (last sponsor added 04/21/2010)
    1 Democrats
    30 Republicans

    Only 31 sponsors, pretty amazing huh?

  27. Horace Cooper says:

    Several commenters have mentioned that Hamilton’s repeated preference for an efficient central government meant that he would embrace the sizeable federal government that exists today. However no fair reading of Hamilton and his writings would yield this assessment. Hamilton’s arguments about a strong central government should be juxtaposed against the organizational handicaps of the government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. His view was that the government needed to more capable and agile in order to accomplish the limited set of objectives outlined in the Constitution — not the all encompassing objectives presently undertaken by the modern Federal Government. Additionally as a member of the burgeoning merchant class Hamilton believed that there was a fundamental responsibility of the federal government to encourage commerce. For him the lionshare of the regulatory state would be anathema.

    H Cooper

  28. Rob D says:

    @Robert S:

    Liberty basically means limiting other people’s power, and to do this effectively, you support a lesser power against a greater: the pope against the emperor, the king against the pope, the parliament against the king, and so forth.

    When the States dominated, it makes sense to strengthen the central government. Now the balance is tipped the other way, so we oppose Washington’s excesses.

    “Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have he same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress.” —Hamilton, Federalist #28

    Also, please let’s appreciate our guest commentators. If there’s more to add, then you can happily add it.

  29. Andy Sparks says:


    You are right on. The Federalist essays are propoganda! They were written specifically to convince New Yorkers to ratify the constitution because many parts of that state had anti-federalist sentiments. It’s important to remember that Madison and Hamilton were strong supporters of a more energetic federal government. Both had witnessed first hand the anemic government under the AOC as representatives from their respective states. They were not proponents of limited government (Madison would become so, but not at this time). In fact, Madison had proposed that the Constitution allow the federal government to negative any state law and was deeply concerned when it was not adopted. Hamilton all but proposed the government be an electable monarchy with the executive and Senate being elected for life. Hamilton, of all the founders, would probably be the most proud of how the USA became a world superpower.

  30. Debbie says:

    The signing of the the name Publius interested me enough that I looked up the definition in Wikpedia. The name Publius is a Roman masculine given name meaning “public” in Latin, one of the small group of common forenames found in the culture of ancient Rome.

    There are also references to other Publius names, such as: Publius Valerius Publicola (Roman Consul), Publius Clodius Pulcher (Republican politician), Publius Cornelius Scipio (Roman Consul), Publius Quinctilius, (Roman General and Politician), Publius Clodius Thrasea Paetus (Senator during Nero’s Reign), and Publius Aelius Fortunatus (Roman Painter).

    In actual fact we may never really know who was the real Publius, or was the name used because it meant public.

  31. I so love this, hello everyone. There is so much going on these days that you could almost lose your place if you didn’t press to maintain your focus . I am not complaining but I find the rapid fire of the political scene makes me ponder some of the tactics outlined in the book- Rules for Radicals -. This site is so helpfull,giving an intellectual boost via articulating my own as well as marinating my thoughts in all that is offered on this site.I watch and listen to cable news and radio programing to gather opinions,and while I value the points of view,this site has helped.
    Someone said that we should get rid of Social Security, Medicare and some of the Health care bill,I have to respecfully say if that were to happen, I would be mad as a hatter…. I have been paying into these (not health care )for well over 40 years, holy mackeral that would probably cause many of us older folks to get out our pitch forks.As I would be in the front line. I understand (I think) the point that was trying to be made but fair is fair.
    AZ,I am following this situation very closely and have heard things that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.Bottom line the Goverment has failed and in their failure have denied the citizens in boarder states and all states actually their Constitutional Rights. This group of people are not fullly included in the discussion of civil rights and I don’t think for one minute that it is a mistake.To stand the two groups side by side might provide too much lite on the subject for any real question to even be proposd.The Feds need to get off thier butts and do their jobs,.
    Debate debate debate is the name of the game ,what I find distressing is the demonizing of opposing opinions, . This keeps us honest, or should ,using tricks or slight of speech is a shame.
    Enough from me I guess I should get down off my soapbox. Good Night all.

  32. Shannon Castleman says:

    Andy, good comments. However, I take a different approach than you based on your comment: “It’s important to remember that Madison and Hamilton were strong supporters of a more energetic federal government.”

    It is my belief the reason they wanted a more energetic Federal Government is because under th AOC, the feds couldn’t even raise taxes in order to fund what the constitution stipulated.

    I would rather ask a different question: Pick the most ‘big government’ “Founding Father”, bring him bck to life, bring him to America in the year 2010, and ask him his thoughts.

    Tell that Founding Father that the feds and state governments want to tell me how much salt to eat, want to tell McDonald’s they can’t serve toys with Happy Meal, want to tell cops in AZ they can’t research someone’s citizenship who has been pulled over for a DUI, want to tell me I have to purchase health care insurance, and then record their thoughts.

    I don’t believe the quotes would be printable:)

  33. WeThePeople says:

    @Peter, I too find that interesting that Hamilton and Madison went on to be so influential. It’s odd that their beliefs, or at least one of them, changed. But wasn’t Andrew Jackson behind the creation of the democratic party?
    I think that by signing the papers by the name PUBLIUS, the actual writers separated themselves (all of them being significant political figures of the time) from the Federalist Papers, and made the connection back to the people. I think that, despite the elevated language, it would make the public feel more closely related to the topics addressed in the papers. It would make them feel like the concerns expressed here should be theirs as well.

  34. Tricia Revolinsky says:

    “From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.”
    What confuses me about this is that the creators of the Constitution decided that the Constitution was effective immediately and that the Articles of Confederation were debunk. They didn’t wait for all the states to ratify that the AOC was now null and void. They hoped that most of the states would ratify it and all the others would fall in behind them. Only after stubborn little Rhode Island ratified it, did it really become a true document formally accepted by the people. Until that point, the Constitution was in all respects, self-enacting.

  35. Carolyn Merritt says:

    The US Constitution that Hamilton, Madison & Jay defended has become one of the most copied and admired documents in the history of mankind. The Federalist itself was published in Spanish in 1811 by the Venezualan Manuel Garcia de Sana, along with copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Federalist influenced movements in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and in Europe.

    Hamilton believed in the future greatness of America and believed that our nation could and would be one of power and strength. He somehow knew the United States would be a world power. (And wouldn’t apologize for it either).

  36. the articles of confederation was an absolute disaster. The states didnt wait to ratify it and because of this many problems arose. Even after the constitution was formed these states were fihting over many other issues than the ge=reat compromise resolved. ONly after rhode island ratifed the constitution did the people of the new wnited states accept the constitution. Be fore this document was ratified howver, the articles did a bad job at holding the counrty together, and only after the constitution was formed did the US truely become a self sustaining nation.

  37. Greg Zorbach says:

    In response to the two posts by Robert Shanbaum, in no particular order:
    Of course “Federalist #1 doesn’t shed much light on the Constitution at all.” It is, after all, titled “General Introduction.” As Mr. Cooper points out, The Federalist Papers “were published in several New York State newspapers to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution that had been crafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787.” It seems to me that to argue means to point out the superiority of your argument and the flaws in opposing ones, as well as any ulterior motives that may exist in those making those opposing arguments. I’m perplexed as to why you would find Mr. Cooper’s blog to be “curious.” He is after all, commenting on a general introduction to an 85-article two-volume set. It did not surprise me that: “The bulk of the essay is not about government at all.” It was billed as an essay on Federalist I, which got the process of persuasion under way. As Mr. Cooper put it: “Premised in his argument is a fundamental foundation upon which our system of government is based — self-government or rule by the consent of the governed. From its inception our Constitution’s validity was tied to the notion that formal acceptance and ratification by the people and the state legislatures was necessary in order to be legitimate. Our Constitution was neither self-enacting nor imposed from a ruler.” Messers Hamilton and Cooper were both setting the stage for what was/is to follow.
    The sense I got from this rereading of Article I was that Hamilton was attempting to introduce the Publius articles by remarking on the “mud-slinging” as you put it, that had marked debate to that point in order to keep that most-important public dialog (as Jay puts it in today’s reading – Federalist II) more substantive, and with candor, even good will. The history of politics is replete with evidence of Hamilton’s warning that those who would stand to lose power (the states’ legislators) under the new Constitution would oppose its ratification, regardless of the strength of the arguments for it. We see that same dynamic in play today: Congress will never vote for a flat tax or term limits: too much restriction on their power. (The closest to the exact opposite I can recall in my lifetime was the new Republican-led congress voting on the first day in session to limit the terms of its committee chairmen.) Hamilton goes on to admit that “Candor will oblige us to admit that even such men may be actuated by upright intentions…blameless at least if not respectable.”
    As you point out, of course Hamilton was on the side of a more-powerful centralize government. That was the point of the Constitutional Convention: to fix the weaknesses in the governing Articles of Confederation and the resulting weak federal government. I do not believe that Hamilton was (or does in subsequent articles) see ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys.’ It is true though that, as you put it: “Whether one would see it as a “specious mask” of the same is probably a matter of one’s political persuasion.” After all during the previous administration dissent was characterized as patriotic. Today the Tea Partiers are accused (by a former president no less) of fomenting violence.
    I believe that a main genesis of our current exercise of rereading the Constitution and the Federalist Papers is rooted in how far the federal government has strayed from the Constitution, especially from the Tenth Amendment. In that regard, the Anti-Federalists and other skeptics were correct to insist on the Bill of Rights. Although the fact of the Tenth Amendment’s inclusion seems to have had no obvious effect on limiting the federal government’s powers to those enumerated in the Constitution.
    Upon rereading Lillian’s blog, I have no doubt that she understands where Hamilton’s views lie. After she lauds the Anti-Federalists, she makes the basic point of Article I (and our current civic exercise) quite nicely: “Without that rich debate, would we have ever gained the deep appreciation for the liberty and prosperity that was possible as this country grew?” You do realize, do you not, that it takes arguments from both sides of an issue to have a rich debate? Is not the point of any debate or series of articles on an important public issue to “to bias the reader against the other side”?
    As to the question of how Mr. Hamilton would feel about the healthcare “power grab” Lillian mentioned, I disagree in your conclusion. First, we don’t know how Hamilton felt about the issue of establishing hospitals for soldiers and sailors. (Since he served General Washington admirably and loyally, I can hazard a guess.) Secondly, the only thing that the concept of caring for those who flight our wars and/or defend our liberties has in common with the current government’s takeover of the entire nation’s healthcare system is that both are/were federally run. Enlisting in the armed forces requires one to give up significant personal rights and freedoms. In turn, the country, with the government as our agent, provides for those individuals. Not many of us who will see our healthcare choices inevitably restricted under the new law ‘enlisted’ in anything, but we will see our freedoms and liberties limited nonetheless. I believe that Hamilton would be perplexed, if not appalled. In fact, Shannon may be right: his reaction may not be printable.
    OBTW, very nice post, Melanie.

  38. Daniel Smith says:

    Given the history of large governments in the past why do you think Hamilton had such faith in this new county?

  39. Andy Sparks says:

    @Shannon – Undoubtedly, you are right. But then again, Madison and Hamilton probably could not conceive that women and blacks would ever be elected as representatives of our government, or be able to even vote for that matter…

  40. Melanie says:

    Janine, the new series, “America, The Story of Us” is wonderful. The focus of the narration seems to be the deep faith, the independent spirit, and the determination of the Americans to live unfettered lives of limitless possibilities! I was thrilled to hear the commercial announcement that every school in America will receive the DVD series. Let’s hope it is put to good use. (And let’s hope its message remains unchanged.)

    The First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” when clearly understood, is so powerful! It makes me want to come to the defense of people of all faiths. If we don’t reclaim and assert our religious heritage, and stand up against the progressive secularization of our country, we will be lost as a nation, and the world will be lost. A little good news today… the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Mojave Desert WWI War Memorial to display the Cross.

    The more we study these writings, the more profound the gems we find.

  41. Robert Shanbaum says:

    Greg, thank you for responding to my comments.

    I did not write that I thought my observations were surprising, and I apologize for being critical of Mr. Cooper. However, I thought that remarks on Federalist #1 should probably include some comments on the content of Federalist #1, and not just reflections on its title, and that’s what I was trying to (happily) supply.

    I didn’t realize that the object here was to learn about “how far the federal government has strayed from the Constitution”, but to learn about the Constitution. An intellectual inquiry that begins with the former purpose may well find its object, but it will fail to understand its subject well, as only that which was sought will be revealed.

    I am not convinced that the oft-cited fourth paragraph has been well understood here. My use of the term “good guys” and “bad guys” was an attempt to use modern vernacular to describe that which is couched in the unfamiliar prose of another era. If you think that Hamilton was not trying to set up the debate as between what we would call “good guys” (his side) and “bad guys” (the other side) in that paragraph, what do you think he was saying?

    I do indeed realize that a debate requires two positions. A debate does not, however, require what Hamilton has done here; that is, attempting to demonize his opponents before the actual debate begins. I am not passing judgment on the use of this technique – I’m simply observing that that appears to be his main purpose here.

    By the way, the Marine Hospital Fund (and its related income tax) covered not just naval personnel, but merchant seamen as well. Also, I am curious about your comment that the healthcare plan will restrict your healthcare choices, and thereby limit your freedoms and liberties: if this or some other healthcare plan implemented by the government were to increase the number of choices available to you, would that expand your freedoms and liberties? Would that make it OK?

    I do agree that Hamilton’s reaction, and for that matter, the reactions of all of the founders and framers, to the modern federal government, and for that matter, the modern world in general, might well be perplexity and dismay (though I think sheer shock would be the most likely reaction); after all, those are reactions of many who have grown up in it.

    With regard to Mr. Cooper’s comment, wherein he disagreed with my conclusion as to what Hamilton’s possible reaction to healthcare reform might be, saying that Hamilton would have been attached to the enumerated powers in the Constitution, I refer both of you to Hamilton’s actual proposal for the new general government, which you can read here:

    Also, you may find his side of a debate with Jefferson regarding the chartering of a national bank informative:

  42. Dale Swartzel says:

    Wonderful article! I think I understand a lot more about what the founders were trying to say and why. Thanks so much.

  43. Ross Bigney says:

    To me the most important lesson from Federalist #1 is the importance of hearing again that even the greatest idea — for example the Constitution — isn’t valid unless the people consent. Our founding fathers were marvelous people — they had such foresight. And people like George Washington who were popular enough that he could have become king of our country but would not. They are truly marvelous people.

  44. Arizona lawmakers have approved changes to the state’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants. The changes were designed to answer charges made by protesters that it will lead to racial profiling by police. The original law stated police can conduct an immigration status check during any quote “lawful contact,” if they have reasonable suspicion a person is an illegal immigrant. It replaces “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention or arrest,” clarifying police may not stop people without cause. The revised law also removes the word “solely” from the phrase “The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.” Read the new Arizona Immigration Law

  45. Kristine says:

    Please note, there is a great article enitled “Could the Constitution stop the new health-care law?” by Nathan W. Tucker in the Christian Science Montior Volume 102, Issue 23 (current issue..weekly publication.) In it he mentions that the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8 do not mention the power to “legislate our health.” He goes on to discuss why the common claim by Congress that the Commerce Clause, and Tax and Spend Clause, and references to general welfare do not support the power grab of mandating the purchase of healthcare. He also mentions the “FEDERALIST PAPERS.”

  46. Rod Criscillis says:

    That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. Will all of the Federalist Papers be brought down to earth in such a compelling way? Thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.

  47. Susan Craig says:

    I don’t know about the suffrage of other races but I see no reason that they couldn’t imagine the suffrage of women because women had suffrage in the late 1700 in the state of my birth New Jersey.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

John Jay continues explaining the need for a United States of America as opposed to either an association of 13 separate and individual states or a collection of three or four nation states.  Jay explains his view that there were significant arguments in favor of a union, specifically by arguing that the recent experience with England and Scotland offer good examples of the benefits.

“QUEEN ANNE, in her letter of the 1st July, 1706, to the Scotch Parliament, makes some observations on the importance of the Union then forming between England and Scotland, which merit our attention.”

Taking up an example that may have been familiar in the eyes of his readers was a useful means for Jay to use to help voters understand the issues that were at stake.  The situation facing Scotland and England provided an excellent rationale for the states to reconsider the developing position among some that a confederation or a breakup into separate states would be useful in the long term.

Jay concludes: “We may profit by their experience without paying the price which it cost them. Although it seems obvious to common sense that the people of such an island should be but one nation, yet we find that they were for ages divided into three, and that those three were almost constantly embroiled in quarrels and wars with one another. Notwithstanding their true interest with respect to the continental nations was really the same, yet by the arts and policy and practices of those nations, their mutual jealousies were perpetually kept inflamed, and for a long series of years they were far more inconvenient and troublesome than they were useful and assisting to each other.”

Moreover, the problem was not simply that 13 separate nations were never going to cooperate.  Jay argued that even if the States were to divide themselves into as many as three separate nations, they would still face problems that would ultimately jeopardize the well-being of the entire people. ”Should the people of America divide themselves into three or four nations, would not the same thing happen? Would not similar jealousies arise, and be in like manner cherished? Instead of their being “joined in affection” and free from all apprehension of different interests,” envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other bordering nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.”

In fact, it was Jay’s considered view that by their very nature there would be differences between the various nations now comprising the original 13 states; and that this would lead to disputes.  Perhaps you could imagine one nation having more commerce, another more population, still yet another possessing larger navy.  Whatever the differences might be – they could not be avoided because the nature of things would be that different influences would occur in each of the separate states — they ultimately would lead to conflicts or fear of conflict.  If you increased the number of nation states from three to 10, you likely would only increase the risks of conflict threefold or more because success or failure by one nation would cause her sister nation to take notice and feel some obligation to adjust in response.

“Whenever, and from whatever causes, it might happen, and happen it would, that any one of these nations or confederacies should rise on the scale of political importance much above the degree of her neighbors, that moment would those neighbors behold her with envy and with fear. Both those passions would lead them to countenance, if not to promote, whatever might promise to diminish her importance; and would also restrain them from measures calculated to advance or even to secure her prosperity. Much time would not be necessary to enable her to discern these unfriendly dispositions. She would soon begin, not only to lose confidence in her neighbors, but also to feel a disposition equally unfavorable to them.”

Jay recognizes that having one nation would eliminate all of those peculiar instances at least in terms of their perception to other countries and greatly attenuate the potential for envy or fear to develop internally.  Because as Jay recognized, nation states naturally are attentive to the concerns and changes that occur in other countries and tend to evaluate them in terms of  whether these changes either advance or retard their own perceived interests it is useful to minimize them wherever possible.

“Distrust naturally creates distrust, and by nothing is good-will and kind conduct more speedily changed than by invidious jealousies and uncandid imputations, whether expressed or implied.”  Jay concludes by pointing out that the very distance between the states and Western Europe made it more likely that any conflicts that would cause government leaders to take sides would occur here in the Americas and not with “distant nations.”

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.

Horace Cooper is a Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

23 Responses to “May 42010 – Federalist No5 Concerning Dangers From Foreign Force and Influence (continuedGuestBloggerHorace CooperLegal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

  1. Brad Tepper says:

    This experience has been fantastic! Thank you Janine and Cathy.

    Now I am stumped. In 1786 John Jay argues for and attempts to secure specific and limited commerce for the Northeastern states with Spain. This was not his assignment either. I believe he was to negotiate rights for the entire confederation of 13 states with Spain. His actions, the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty, thankfully was never ratified.

    One year later, he authors Federalist #5. He then argues AGAINST such a negotiation and specific treaty for a factional section of the states.

    Can someone explain how this 180 seemed to occur? Who/What were the influences?

  2. Susan H. says:

    Good morning everyone,

    I had a few thoughts as I read #5. Jay writes “The history of Great Britain is the one which we are in general the best acquainted, and it gives us many useful lessons. We may profit by their experience without paying the price which it cost them.” I guess this just drove home the point that history does indeed repeat itself. It behooves us all to be students of history. I recently read a historical novel, The Constant Princess, by Philipia Gregoria. In that novel one of the constant worries of the King was invasion from the Scots in the north.

    The other thought I had was in regards to the AZ contoversy. It feels like that state is being forced into a us vs. them position. Instead of the federal government looking out for the Union, they are forcing states to protect their own interests. Now you have other states looking to boycott and withdraw invetments, etc. Sounds to me just like what John Jay was warning against.

    I continue to be impressed by the founding fathers.

  3. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Susan you are exaactly right the Federal Government has failed in it’s first responsibility and that is to protect our borders. This situation has existed for years it is not new. The border states have had to contend with the failure of the Federal Government and the other states have sat by and said it is not my problem. If we are to mantain this union we had better start thinking about what is best for all the states and not just our own. Texas has been at the for front of the EPA because of some of our emmisions but it is because we refine the majority of the oil and gas in this country if we did not the Northeast and Midwest would freeze in the winter and not have transportation. Remember the righters of the Federalist Papers were arguing for this Union with the Enumerated Powers in mind not this Government we see today.

  4. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Horace Cooper’s last line in his entry summed up Paper #5 for me; “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 find it curious that I read this article on the day after I watched the 2nd part of the series “America – The Story of Us”. In the Series, the narrator explained how pioneers continued to expand the States through events such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Alamo, the Gold Rush and the Westward Movement in order to create a better life for themselves. The point that was constantly stressed that what made America so different from all other countries was the ability for their people to be free and that they could carve any life they wanted for themselves.

    The Series went on to explain how Americans in the West wanted to be connected with the East, so with the existance of steamboats and the building of the Erie Canal, the expansion of commerce crossed the continent and had a major impact of the American way of life.

    The great need for commerce and the economic differences between the Northern and Southern States led to a great discord within the Union. This difference eventually led to the Civil War.

    I think of the Civil War in this Paper, because I wonder if the Founders had not pushed so hard to create a Union, if the Civil War would have ended differently. Would the Southern States have remained intact, or consumed into the Northern States after their defeat? Would the Northern States have had the right to demand the abolishment and expansion of slavery?

    I find that the Founders relentless drive to form a Union may not have prevented disunity between the States, but the formation of the Union gave us an ending which could have otherwise been disastrous to America as a whole.

    Like Great Britain, the individual States could have spent years upon years of internal fighting; disrupting any chance of expanding their trade and increasing their strength to be a profitable nation. Instead the Civil War could have turned into multiple civil wars, weakening the states resources to the point of becoming a target for foreign countries to attack. Would we even be a Superpower today?

    Even today with the problems we are facing, there are faint whispers of state secession in the wind. I believe the Union should always remain intact. However; the powers the federal government currentlly holds should be scaled back and limited, and the state’s powers should be restored to their full capacity. Also, if the federal government fails to do its job in protecting the states from invasion (i.e. Arizona), then the states should have the right to protect themselves without federal naysaying.

  5. Neal C White says:

    Excellent comments by all on Federalist No 5. I cannot help but think that we are today experiencing a continuation of the argument that prompted Jay to write this piece. It seems to me that there is an effort to divide our country. It is amazing the number of so called pundits have written articles criticizing Arizona for the realistic passage of legislation suggesting that they wished to see the law upheld in their state. None of those who are protesting had any suggesting how to deal with the very real problems of murder, drugs, destroying of personal and public property to say nothing of the heavy burden of economic support demanded by the Illegal Immigrants.

    If this attitude continues we will see division of our great country in different groups just as Jay is warning us about – and for many of the same reasons he mentioned. Why do we, the citizens, allow this to happen. The vast majority of us are in agreement with Arizona and believe the rest of the Union should support similar action. We are headed for a very bad ending if something is not done to change this attitude and direction that America is now following.

  6. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    The whole problem we have today is the Federal Government with the aid of the Courts exceding the Enumerated Power it was granted under the constitution. If the government operated today as was intended under the original intent of the Constitution the Federal Government would not be involved in 90% of the issues they are involved in today. Just look @ the move today to revise the Clean Water Act to read “all” water instead of just the navigatable waters. With this change the Federal Government will have control of any water in the United States including Playa Lakes. Is this what the Founders intended.

  7. Susan H. says:

    No Chuck, I don’t believe this is what the Founders intended. We the People have the power to make a change at the ballot box. The critical question is will the “vast silent majority” get of “our collective duffs” and do something about it. I think websites such as this one and other venues promoting basic civics education may be the key.

  8. David Hathaway says:

    Today’s Federalist Paper references the earlier letter from Queen Anne. An editorial I read today referenced even earlier the Magna Carta. Clearly, our Founders were men of letters who understood the precedents of their age. I surely wish our leaders today were as well versed. I would be pleasurably shocked to learn that any of our Congress were reading along with us.

    I live in Texas. We are proud of our state, and our superior policy and good management. We are fiercely jealous of our state’s power and push back on the Federal Government’s imposition of policies and costs. In the context of today’s reading, if we were still a Confederacy, it is not hard to imagine that the current AZ brouhaha would lead us to side with her, against the neglectful central government. Heck, we do already!

    Likewise, can’t you imagine Michigan or other economically challenged states looking enviously at Texas? It would be a war waiting to happen.

    I found it interesting that Jay touted the strength of the Northern Hive against that of the southern states. Remember, he was writing to encourage New Yorkers to ratify the Constitution. Isn’t saying “we are more powerful than those lazy southerners” more of an argument against the Constitution? If this were today, and the writer was a Texan, I bet there would be many voices that said, “what do we need New York for?”

  9. Andy Sparks says:

    Excellent comments and observations, especially Brad and Carolyn. I sometimes hear people say the nation would be better under the Articles of Confederation because the states were independently sovereign. However, they don’t seem to realize the internecine conflicts between borders and commerce that would arise if this were the case. Jay and the other Federalists saw first hand what path a loose confederation of nation states were headed. Eventually, even the United States under the Constitution could not hold the union together without a bloody war.

    Brad, I believe Jay thought that a 25 year moratorium on use of the Mississippi was reasonable at the time. The territories to the west of the Appalachians were still fairly sparse and perhaps he felt getting Spanish agreement in writing that the river would eventually revert to the U.S. was more important than instant gratification. Also, I don’t think he realized the deep resentment the southern states and western territories had for his negotitations until after the treaty was vilified and eventually not ratified. I think it speaks well to him that he realized the mistake that was almost made and changed his line of thinking regarding it.

  10. Melanie says:

    To Brad Tepper, I am equally confused about John Jay’s apparent 180 on the virtue of states’ sovereignty verses a strong federal government. I look forward to others’ comments on this.

  11. Ron Meier says:

    @ Carolyn. Re the Civil War. Would there even have been a Civil War if a Confederation had continued, with the slave states being soverign? Possibly not, but there might have been other wars between the various Confederacies. We just don’t know, because that’s not the path we chose.
    We can look at current day Europe for an example of what might have been. Effectively, the EU is a confederation. Look at the problems that are occuring right now with the Greece situation. We can see the very things the writers of the Federalist were warning us against coming to pass in the EU. The other members of the EU confederation are becoming self centered now that they may have to rescue member Greece. They are asking why should they have to pony up money to rescue their member which has not been fiscally responsible. It will be instructive to see how that one plays out over the next months and years.

  12. Melanie says:

    Today in The American Thinker is an article entitled “Declaration of Independence As Law”,
    written by Ronald R. Cherry. It begins “Our American Declaration of Independence is the supreme, unamendable lawof the United States. Declarational law preceded and trumps our supreme, amendable secular law, the Constitution. As stated in our Declaration, the purpose of secular law (Constitution) is to secure our sacred, unalienable, equal, individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–i.e., private property honestly earned through creative labor : ‘That to secure these rights, Governments [constitutions] are instituted among Men…’ While our Constitution and Bill or Rights are the greatest secular laws ever written, it must be acknowledged that our secular Constitution has a sacred mandate–the Declaration of Independence.

    It’s well worth reading the entire article, the premise is sound.

  13. Carolyn Attaway says:

    @Ron, I think a civil war would have ensued eventually; just like today we do not like to see other people in other countries being mistreated or enslaved, the people of the North would have began to challenge the morality of slavery. It would still have been an issue.

    Greece is a scary situation because the unions in that country have cuddled the Greek citizens for so long. The citizens are rioting in the streets for cut backs such as getting paid for 12 months out of the year instead of 14. Can you imagine?

  14. john jay was a brilliant man who along with the other authors of the federalist papers helped to address issues that the american people felt needed to be addressed. the federalist papers however seem to address issues that hadnt even happened yet. . some of the federalist paers seem to forshadow the civil war that devistated this country. at this time the federal government was trying to force the country to become a union, and this along with issues such as slaverymay have caused the civil war in 1862

  15. Susan H. says:

    To Ron – that is an excellent point you bring up about the EU!

  16. Carolyn Merritt says:

    In my opinion Jay was prescient in using the example of the north being generally “the region of strength” and at some time in the future exert the power over the southern portions of the confederacies. They would not act as neighbors but as borderers, would be prey to discords, jealousies, etc. In short, we would be in exactly the situations which some nations want to see us – formidable only to each other. Was Jay talking about the future civil war?

    @Ron, not only are we seeing what Jay wrote about happening in Europe, we are seeing it happening here on our own shores today. As he states in Federalist 4 . Now we were a nation that could defend ourselves, and provide ourselves with goods and not only that could now export these same goods to other countries cheaper than they could produce them. What has happened to our commerce? It has gone overseas. We no longer manufacture and export goods that are cheaper than other countries can produce. We no longer provide ourself with goods that we produce.

  17. Tricia says:

    @ David. I agree. States wax and wane in power and if they were all independent of each other as under the Articles of Confederation, every state would have some resentment against the others for some past fight or jealousy.

    Under the Constitution, the states can get along (to an extent). By being united as one entity, the separate states can still have their differences, but also work together during times of hardship, such as the Great Depression.

  18. WeThePeople says:

    One of the extracts from the union in England states that a strong union will be able to resist any enemy. It also suggests that our union would be divided by the North and South from the very start. Hmm, it seems that the founding fathers hint about a civil war a lot…So, for the civil war, since part of the union became it’s own enemy, does that detract from our strength as a whole? I know it did at the time, but overall, was it for the best?
    This paper seems to focus on the fact that it would be a burden NOT to separate ourselves from Britain. Wonder how parliment reacted to these papers.

  19. Peter says:

    What is important to conisder is the context – remember the Federalist Papers were printed/published in New York and were, largely, about persuading New Yorkers to accept the idea of a new nation with a new system of government. Virginia was the largest colony while Pennsylvania was probably the strongest in economic terms. Without New York the country could of – and probably would have – split into a northern country and a southern country. What Jay is doing here in one of the last papers he wrote is to build the case for unity from Massachusetts to Georgia. And he does a brilliant job, in my opinion.

  20. A big thank you to Horace Cooper for serving as our Guest Blogger for Federalist No5. Excellent analysis fromHorace, 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!

  21. Seij De Leon says:

    The reasoning in Jay’s writing is solid, there wouldn’t of been any other way to make this nation powerful without unity. But it wasn’t a problem free solution, even as the states came together there was still constant internal bickering mainly between the North and South concerning slavery. Had the United States not been formed, their would have been no single power to regulate decisions concerning slavery in newly formed states and separated states could have made chaos in fighting for what they want, earlier in time than just the civil war.

  22. Howdy from Texas. What a great conversation today. I have to tell you guys, or y’all, I am really learning from not only our guest scholars, but from you who blog. Today was a most thought provoking dialogue. I thank you for joining us and for spreading the word about our “90 in 90.” A great civic discussion, based on the founding principles of our country, is just what our country needs.

    I thank Horace Cooper for his wonderful essay today. Thanks Horace!

    I related to what Tricia said in her blog today regarding the fact that a union gives us the ability to disagree yet to unite in times of trouble. An analogy would be a family. Families may bicker but – watch out – because they will defend each other when one is confronted or in danger.

    In relation to the founding era and Federalist No5, there was still so much to be imagined, discovered and resolved. There was an abundance of mystery in America. This is one of the brilliant aspects of Publius – they had such foresight, almost prophetic. They knew there were differences amongst the peoples of America, with a vast portion of America yet to be discovered and claimed, but they also new that it was better to be with each other rather than against one another; to be governed by a unified vision.

    As our two hundred thirty -four years have evolved, it has become apparent that our differences did drive stakes into our passions but they did not dismember us. If we had not found stability as a burgeoning union then we would never have been able to survive the challenges that were to be wrought by the civil war and the great depression.. to name a few.

    So what is the relevancy of Federalist No5 today? It is in defining the boundaries between the federal government and the states in the twenty first century. It is in the understanding of how much power our founding fathers really intended the federal government to have. It is in the reckoning and reconciling of the autonomy the states were intended to have and should have today. The answers to these questions are complex, especially because it is inordinately hard to rein back leniencies that have already been dispersed. Once one foot is in the door, it is very hard to close it again. Has the federal government planted its boots upon our thresholds too boldly?

    I dare say many of us would answer yes. I dare say many of us agree with Arizona in regard to the fact that she has the right to make her own laws, yet look at how her autonomy is disrupting the union. Is this not exactly what Publius was predicting? However, today, is the fault with the state or with the Federal government who failed to protect her and her people? Or is it the state’s right to defend herself? Is this not addressed in the Constitution in Article I Section 8.16? I, personally, would like to hear some thoughts from our scholars as to what exactly Article 1 Section 8.16 means in relation to Arizona.

    It is only in the educating of America about the United States Constitution that these questions may be answered. Knowledge is power. We cannot appreciate what has been taken away if we have never known what was rightfully ours in the first place.

    The monarchies of Europe didn’t want their “people” educated. An educated people meant that they would be able to see the truths. These truths are self-evident: If we don’t utilize our educated voice someone else will speak for us. And all of our rights will be lost.

    God bless,

    Janine Turner

  23. Kellie says:

    The conflict in AZ today really brings home this issue of unity and states’ rights which is so important to understand if we are to protect our country. The federal government needs to get back to playing the role of protecting the states by enforcing the federal laws already put in place. By turning their back on AZ, they are essentially advocating the disunity. I never really understood how important it was to give the states rights to govern their citizens, yet have the federal government to protect and govern the states. I think the only hope is that people of America and especially AZ understand these concepts and educate each other on the consequences of disunity, and they not let our federal government forget the original principles as discussed in these papers.



Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The Federalist #21: In Defense of Politics

Hamilton opens Federalist #21 with a continuation of a theme:  it will be easier to understand the need to adopt the new Constitution if the defects of the old Articles of Confederation are better understood.  He embarks on an effort to outline what he calls the “enumeration of the most important of those defects which have hitherto disappointed our hopes from the system established among ourselves.”

He starts with the fact that under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government had no power to enforce its rulings.  He sees this as an almost fatal flaw.  He complains that the “most palpable defect of the subsisting Confederation, is the total want of a SANCTION to its laws. The United States, as now composed, have no powers to exact obedience, or punish disobedience to their resolutions, either by pecuniary mulcts, by a suspension or divestiture of privileges, or by any other constitutional mode.” In addition to the hardships  that beset any government incapable of enforcing its on rules and laws, Hamilton explains that such a posture is certainly unique among nations.  He argues that there are no nations — kingdoms or any other kinds of governments which operate without the fundamental ability to carry out its interests.

A second flaw in the present system is that in almost all respects the states are left to fend for themselves.  In one crucial way, Hamilton points out this isn’t even in the interest of states.  What happens in the event there is a local insurrection?  There is no ability for the governor of one state to enlist the citizens of another state to step in and offer assistance.  Thus, there is the potential that states would have to devote significant resources solely for domestic armies that would lay in wait for an uprising meanwhile draining the treasury.  Collectively one might imagine this duplicative waste across the several states equaling more than the amount that a federal government would use to handle the same concerns.  Additionally, the mere fact that the federal government could respond to an internal insurrection could be sufficient to prevent one from forming altogether.  Hamilton further points out that the Constitution’s guarantee that all its citizens would have a “republican” form of government means that in the event the leaders of a state attempt to declare a dictatorship or otherwise suspend democratic control the Federal government could intervene to return liberty back to the hands of the people.

Hamilton turns next to the taxation system set up under the Articles of Confederation.  The “quotas” system that he derides essentially assessed the states themselves instead of having direct taxing authority.  Hamilton explains that a system based on state assessments would fundamentally fail to meet the needs of the American government.  It would be insufficient and in his view significantly inequitable in that it simply presumed that all states were equal in most respects financially.  Hamilton explains that “there is no common standard or barometer by which the degrees of it can be ascertained. Neither the value of lands, nor the numbers of the people, which have been successively proposed as the rule of State contributions, has any pretension to being a just representative.” Furthermore he explains, “there can be no common measure of national wealth, and, of course, no general or stationary rule by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can be determined. The attempt, therefore, to regulate the contributions of the members of a confederacy by any such rule, cannot fail to be productive of glaring inequality and extreme oppression.” While making his argument for a federal consumption tax, Hamilton demonstrates a degree of clarity about the consequences of tax rates being too high that many modern leaders would do well to recall.  If you tax too high, you get less.   Hamilton explains, “It is a signal advantage of taxes on articles of consumption, that they contain in their own nature a security against excess. They prescribe their own limit; which cannot be exceeded without defeating the end proposed, that is, an extension of the revenue. When applied to this object, the saying is as just as it is witty, that, “in political arithmetic, two and two do not always make four.” If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.

With the three defects that Hamilton identifies by implication the answers provided in the U.S. Constitution are clearer and more readily understood.  The Federal government in the Constitution has the power to enforce its rules, defend each of the states individually and collectively and finally assess taxes directly rather than through the states.  Prior to this change the Federal government was indebted, powerless and in many ways so weak, it threatened the liberty of all Americans because it was unable to defend them against most threats.

Horace Cooper is the Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

12 Responses to “May 26, 2010Federalist No. 21Other Defects of the Present Confederation, For the Independent Journal (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

  1. Ron Meier says:

    Cathy has called us to encourage children to participate in this project and contest. I’ve forwarded the link to a principal of a Christian school, but it then occurred to me that schools will be closed for the next several months. So, I sent a link to the woman at my church who runs the Children’s ministry; Sunday schools and Vacation Bible Schools will continue to operate all summer, so they are a good source to get children involved with Constituting America. If we all contact our church children’s ministers, we might get more kids involved.

  2. Maggie says:

    That’s a fantastic idea Ron. I’ll be sending a link to my church’s youth leaders.

  3. Charles Babb says:

    Good move Ron; It is frustrating, to me, to see how easy it is to acquire this information, and to realise that many of our leaders don’t seem to possess it. We have a mid-term election this year and I decided to send the following email to a candidate for Congress from my District.

    “I would sure feel more comfortable casting my vote for you, if I saw that you were participating in this program.

    It appears that too many of our leaders have not made a commitment to understanding our Constitution and why it developed as it did.

    Knowing that those who seek leadership roles are truly committed to preserving that which has made US the greatest Nation in existence, is important to all voters.

    You cannot preserve it, if you don’t understand and live it.

    Seeing your name in our daily blogs would mean to me that you truly do understand and that you are truly committed to preserving our way of life.”

  4. Susan Craig says:

    With the first flaw identified in #21 has merit I don’t think the power of enforcing unfunded mandates was something the founders envisioned. Unfunded mandates in many ways contribute in major ways to not only State budget woes but to the health care costs problem.
    With the second expounded, we see an abrogation of that in the current illegal alien situation. The invasion of our country by people who start off their residency demonstrating a disrespect for our laws is compounded by the movement for boycotts between neighboring states.
    Problem 3 is a well duh! I find the counter-intuitive fact that the more you tax the less you get one of the things that I can not understand how the people in politics do not see it.

  5. Chuck Plano, Tx says:

    Susan people in politics do see it and they ignore it. It is all about the next election cycle and what will get them reelected. When politics became a very profitable profession with life time benifits and very little service is when “We” the people started loosing control of our government and as the number of citizens grew that do not have an investment (income tax) in our government they demand more and more and politicins are all the more ready to give it to them to insure their election to office.

  6. Susan Craig says:

    I suppose I sort of knew that. But being the pie-eyed optimist I hoped that it was not across the board.

  7. Roger Jett says:

    With much insight and skill, Horace Cooper has expounded upon the increased focus that Hamilton has placed toward the “defects” and shortcomings of that form of government prescribed under the old Articles of Confederation. In my post, I ask to be allowed to take a bit of a light-hearted yet I hope pertinent look at that process that we as a nation went through as we debated, charted and then negoitiated our course by which we arrived at a newly designed and better government.

    I begin by confession to the fact (as my family will verify), that I have this tendancy to reduce and relate many things (for which I devote much time), to either an episode of the old Andy Griffith Show, or to a scene from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou”. Well today’s epiphany was inspired by the afore mentioned movie and it helped me grasp a better understanding of how things were for our young country during that time that we were linked together under the “Articles of Confederation”. If you are familiar with this movie, let me direct you to a scene that appeared early on. The main characters, Everett, Pete and Delmar while in prison have formed a “confederacy” with the common goal of achieving freedom. While they are able to escape the chain gang, they are still hindered by the fact that they are in shackles and chains that link them together. As they make their awkward and laborious run for freedom, they must work as a unit because they are literally bound to each other. Necessarily, a joint and coordinated effort must be made in order to put distance between them and the pursuers hounding them. Disaster strikes as they attempt to hop a freight train and it is quickly revealed that there are serious “defects” in their newly formed confederacy. The outside viewer quickly realizes even if Everett, Pete and Delbert fail to fully do so, that this small confederacy, as it is currently formed, is in great danger of not surviving. As they made their run to hop the train, Everrett manages to make it inside the freight car, but fails to remember that his success as an individual is linked to the rest of the confederacy. Delmar only makes it halfway in and Pete after running too great of a distance, falls down and of course Delmar and then Everrett are pulled from the train. After this debacle they individually arrive at the conclusion that a convention is needed in order to review and reconsider the the current form of government for this “outfit” and debate what changes are needed.

    The individual wills are causing division and friction within the group. Also, it has become clear that there has been a failure to determine and define definite lines of authority by which effective leadership can be achieved and maintained. Pete is especially unhappy with Everett’s presumption of a leadership position. Everett makes the case that he, because of his superior intellect should lead. SORRY! I’ve apparently exceeded an allotted amount of space. Hope to finish in another pos

  8. Roger Jett says:

    This is a continuation of my earlier post at 4:20pm. Everett makes the case that he, because of his superior intellect should lead. However, the viewer has already witnessed Everett’s failure to help Delmar and Pete succeed in getting into the freight car ….. a failure that caused the whole confederation to fall off the train in defeat. Self proclamations and self appointments do not make leaders “bona fide”. Later scenes give us further reason to question the ability of Everett to act in the best interest of the others. Everett is determined at all cost to hold his position as “pater-familias”, but finds himself in grave danger of losing his headship over his seven young daughters. If a man fails his wife and daughters, can he then be trusted to be the “bona fide” leader of our little confederacy? Oh constant sorrows!
    Pete displays that he is independent minded and strongly stands up to argue and vie for the leadership role. He has common sense, is committed to duty and loyal (especially to kinfolk). Pete will not be railroaded (though he might fall down while catching a train), but does he have vision and the overall capacity to lead?
    Delmar is the valley of humility in between the two mountains of self-interest. Instead of siding with one faction over another he simply takes the diplomatic position of ” I’m with you fellars”. We chuckle, but that individual quality was greatly needed during the time of transition from the old way to the new. Delmar best represents the many who are first and formost self-governed by the “golden rule” and they serve to be cohesive for the group at large. They hold us together during times of heated debate so that the debate can be completed and hopefully the best interest served. Thankfully, our Founders were successful in their great endeaver to bring about a strong constitutional republic. A government that has enabled us to protect our persons, our property and our freedoms. Thankfully, long after they lost their chains and shackles, Everett, Pete and Delmar also went on to form a more perfect union ….the “Soggy Bottom Boys”.

  9. Carolyn Attaway says:

    Thank you Mr. Cooper for your insightful analysis of Paper 21.

    The 3 flaws that Hamilton describes are indeed matters of grave importance for the reasons he mentions, as well as National Security beyond invasion by a foreign power.

    In the second flaw Hamilton points out that States are left to defend themselves, and the trouble the States incur may be too large for them to handle alone.

    Today, many States have to fend for themselves because the Federal Government won’t help them whether by choice or oversight, many speculate on the reasons, but the fact remains that many States are without federal assistance. Border States have to deal with illegal immigration relying on their own resources to guard against illegal entry and activity. Gulf States have to direct their own cleanup efforts from the BP oil spill because of the absence of Federal help; and then on the other hand the Federal Government criticizes them for taking action.

    I believe we as a country are at the point where Hamilton states “The natural cure for an ill-administration, in a popular or representative constitution, is a change of men.”

    The third flaw is very present in our Congress today. Hamilton states “If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product to the treasury is not so great as when they are confined within proper and moderate bounds.” My daughter and I were discussing our economy today, and how that states compared to each other.

    On average, the northern states are heavy laden with unions and high taxes, whereas the western states are quickly becoming bankrupt because of their liberal policies. Yesterday the headlines disclosed the following: Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds. At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

    According to news reports, most states in the Sunbelt have the lowest taxes and largest amount of private businesses. Even though all states are struggling to balance their budgets, and are having to make major cuts in state programs, the Sunbelt states are generally faring better than their sister states. This example tends to support Hamilton’s third flaw and should give high tax states and the Federal Government pause.

  10. Susan Craig says:

    2nd attempt. Chuck, I sort of knew that but being a wild-eyed optimist did not wish to believe it was deliberate.

  11. 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: .

    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 (, and Twitter ( , 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

  12. Debbie Bridges says:

    I was really surprised when I read the argument for the Consumption Tax. We have this same idea being raised and fought for today with the Fair Tax. The IRS has become way to powerful and invasive and the tax system in our country is broken just as it was back when we were under the Articles of Confederacy. I have been learning so much from these posts and will continue to read and eventually catch up with everyone.

Guest Blogger: Horace Cooper, Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

Federalist #31 continues on the topic of the taxing power of the new central government.  Contrasting his significant math and science knowledge with his considered skepticism about humankind generally, Hamilton suggests basic maxims ought to apply as a principle for government’s effective operation.  Just as the maxims in geometry, that “the whole is greater than its part; things equal to the same are equal to one another; two straight lines cannot enclose a space; and all right angles are equal to each other, Hamilton asserts that in ethics and politics, that there cannot be an effect without a cause; that the means ought to be proportioned to the end; that every power ought to be commensurate with its object; that there ought to be no limitation of a power destined to effect a purpose which is itself incapable of limitation.  In other words instead of putting the focus on the means of a particular government activity, greater attention should be paid to whether the purpose is a legitimate one or not.

Rather than merely scrutinizing the technique by which the central government carries out it task say, bailing out automobile manufacturers, Hamilton suggests greater consideration be given to whether it is a legitimate function of the federal government to concern itself with the success or failure of car manufacturers.  A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.

Unless one is particularly scrupulous as to what responsibilities are assigned to the federal government, Hamilton’s view of seemingly unlimited powers of the federal government particularly in the area of taxing authority comes across as audacious and perhaps even dangerous.  However, it is clear upon review that the real danger lies in not carefully assigning duties and responsibilities of the central government.

One key charge of the new government was and remains today, national defense.  In the context of taxation, Hamilton asks how national security can really be put in the hands of the central government if it does not have the ability to call upon the resources, as it needs to carry out its duties.  This is no spurious charge.  One serious problem with the Articles of Confederation is that ostensibly the National Congress had responsibility for national defense, in practice it could not pay for or mandate the carrying out of many of its foreign policy priorities.  Over time this reality could prove quite provocative to the enemies of the new country in America.

Hamilton sees that taxing authority is critical to carrying out national security responsibilities.  As revenue is the essential engine by which the means of answering the national exigencies must be procured, the power of procuring that article in its full extent must necessarily be comprehended in that of providing for those exigencies.

In the military context, this argument is perhaps most powerful.  Nevertheless, even outside of that arena one can contemplate areas of responsibility (such as the administration of justice) in which it is necessary to focus on the importance of the objective and therefore loosening the limits on methods.  If the area of responsibility is appropriate, Hamilton argued that the central government needed the taxing authority to carry out the responsibility.

Critics charged that a general taxing authority for the federal government would make it difficult for states to raise the resources they need for their responsibilities, as the taxes of the federal government would tend to crowd out the resources needed by the states.  It is true that excessive taxation would have that effect, but not necessarily taxation generally.  Hamilton recognizes that there will be legitimate responsibilities that government should carryout.  If those are excessively funded or there are duties undertaken greater than the legitimate responsibilities that government should have, the flaw is not with taxing authority but instead with the government’s makeup or its design.  I repeat here what I have observed in substance in another place, that all observations founded upon the danger of usurpation ought to be referred to the composition and structure of the government, not to the nature or extent of its powers.

Powers split among a bicameral legislature along with an executive and judicial branch each with unique and overlapping authorities providing a check and balance against each other resulting in a greater protection of liberty for all the citizens will do more than a limit on the type of taxation policy.

Hamilton closes essay #31 with an observation that reveals a great amount of prescience for such a young man.  He says that the same risks that could lead to a national government over-reaching in its power and authority over the people existed just as well with the state government.  While at the time it was nearly universally assumed that state governments — being close to the people — would never overstep their bounds, it appears today that composition and structure matter just as much as the state level as it does at the local level.  Modern state governments have taken on most if not more of the duties of the central government’s welfare state with far fewer organizational or structural restrictions on doing so than exist at the federal level.  Taking the opposite view of Hamilton, many states have balanced budget requirements but no formal limits on the types of duties that it may assume.  Often as a result the residents in these “ambitious” states are extremely overtaxed.  States like Texas and to a lesser degree Florida have far more limits on the accepted tasks of the state government and their residents are taxed less.  Nevertheless, regardless of one’s concerns about the lack of formal limits on taxation in the constitution, Hamilton concludes it is by far the safest course to lay them altogether aside, and to confine our attention wholly to the nature and extent of the powers as they are delineated in the Constitution. Every thing 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.

Horace Cooper is the Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Legal Commentator and Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation

In Federalist #42, James Madison attempts to clarify the importance of national powers found in the Constitution that are essential to the successful operation of the government particularly in national and international affairs.  Categorizing these powers as second and third class was a means of distinguishing them not to disparage them.  Among them are: relations with foreign nations including the ability to make treaties,  to send and receive ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;  and to regulate foreign commerce as well as interstate commerce between the states among others.

It is noteworthy that among the “second class of powers” he refers to is specifically the power to regulate and ban the importation of slaves.  Rather than hide or downplay this provision, Madison like many of the founders understood that while the acceptance of the institution of slavery was part of the compromise that allowed them to go forward with the Constitution, they made sure the public understood their anti-slavery sentiment and their plans to exercise the powers at the federal level.  Madison reminds his readers that “while it is to be wished, that the power of prohibiting the importation of slaves had not been postponed until the year 1808, or rather that it had been suffered to have immediate operation” within the space of 20 years “It ought to be considered as a great point gained in favor of humanity …. within these States, a traffic which has so long and so loudly upbraided the barbarism of modern policy; … will receive a considerable discouragement from the federal government, and may be totally abolished..” As Madison predicted and although it is often unmentioned, Congress banned the importation of slaves in August of 1808 the same year that the Constitution gave them the authority to do so.

In any event, Madison explains that while several of the international powers existed within the Articles of Confederation, others did not.  Treaty making and ambassadorial relations were among the powers of the first government.  However, the Constitution made treaty making easier by requiring two-thirds of the Senate to ratify them and caused ratified treaties to be treated as the equivalent of federal law in terms of conflicts with state laws.

On the other hand, the Articles failed to adequately address the issue of defining and punishing piracies and other felonies committed on the “high seas.”  Madison explains that the Constitution is far superior in this regard because although tribunals were authorized under the Articles, the actual definition of the violations as well as the scope of activity covered was not provided for in the Articles.  Madison feared that such a scenario could mean that one of the States could have a law defining an offense as piracy that the other states do not recognize.  When a breach of this law occurs, Madison laments that such a situation could result in the other states being obligated to submit manpower and related resources to defend claims that they do not even recognize or embrace.

Since the regulation of international or foreign commerce had been addressed in other contexts, Madison passes on it here.

Among the third class of powers that Madison references are those involving “the harmony and proper intercourse among the States and these include:  “to regulate commerce among the several States and the Indian tribes; to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin; to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the current coin and securities of the United States; to fix the standard of weights and measures; to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws of bankruptcy, to prescribe the manner in which the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved, and the effect they shall have in other States; and to establish post offices and post roads.”

It is difficult to look at this list of authorities without seeing the merchant class sympathies of Madison and the founders.  While it may seem incredible today to consider, Madison and Hamilton were not neutral on the question of whether the new government should be pro-business or not.  Explicitly empowering the federal government to coin money, establish standards for weights, prevent counterfeiting, enact bankruptcy laws as well as create a federal mailing system and construct federal highways make much more sense if one understands the founders’ sympathies for America being a mecca for entrepreneurship and related economic opportunity.

Madison makes clear that the power of interstate commerce was tied to international commerce and without interstate commerce power state and local governments would continue to have the authority to frustrate trade.   “A very material object of this power was the relief of the States which import and export through other States, from the improper contributions levied on them by the latter. Were these at liberty to regulate the trade between State and State, it must be foreseen that ways would be found out to load the articles of import and export, during the passage through their jurisdiction, with duties which would fall on the makers of the latter and the consumers of the former. We may be assured by past experience, that such a practice would be introduced by future contrivances; and both by that and a common knowledge of human affairs, that it would nourish unceasing animosities, and not improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public tranquility.”

Madison recognizes commerce and business activity as crucial to the success of the American system.  Madison makes clear that even in the context of Indian relations that commerce with the tribes was a key issue that warranted national government attention.  “What description of Indians are to be deemed members of a State, is not yet settled, and has been a question of frequent perplexity and contention in the federal councils. And how the trade with Indians, though not members of a State, yet residing within its legislative jurisdiction, can be regulated by an external authority, without so far intruding on the internal rights of legislation, is absolutely incomprehensible.” Madison argues that with this issue handed completely and explicitly to the federal government the nation would get the benefits without undue restraint interfering.

Next Madison turns to the question of rules of naturalization.  Instead of the uniform system that we take for granted, Madison complained about the fact that each of the former colonies had adopted its own views for immigration policy which prevented the new government from deciding in a sophisticated way who it desired to become citizens and who it didn‘t. “The dissimilarity in the rules of naturalization has long been remarked as a fault in our system, and as laying a foundation for intricate and delicate questions. In the fourth article of the Confederation, it is declared “that the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice, excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall, in every other, enjoy all the privileges of trade and commerce,” etc. …. The result is that some states essentially had the ability to confer upon individuals rights that they could exercise all across the nation based solely on the happenstance of which area they entered.

Just as Madison argued that it was in our nation’s interest to have a uniform immigration policy established by the Federal government one would imagine his displeasure at the failure of today’s federal government to maintain control over its on rules with regard to immigration policy.  Either because of complexity of compliance with immigration rules, a failure to construct adequate border barriers, limited personnel assigned to immigration enforcement etc, the federal government today is allowing a hodgepodge policy to form influenced more by where or how a person enters the United States instead of ascertaining in advance who should be allowed to enter.

Madison concludes the essay with a statement that reaffirms his view of the importance of business and commerce.  Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Horace Cooper is a legal commentator and is the Director of the Institute for Liberty’s Center for Law and Regulation.


Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, writer and director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

In Federalist #66 Alexander Hamilton attempts to respond to objections about the new United States Senate acting as the Court in the event of impeachments of judges or executive branch officials.

The first complaint raised by critics of this set up was that “the provision in question confounds legislative and judiciary authorities in the same body, in violation of that important and well established maxim which requires a separation between the different departments of power.”  It is noteworthy that Hamilton eagerly accepts the notion that liberty is protected by dividing duties among several branches of government.  In the case of the Senate acting as the impeachment court Hamilton suggests that this “partial intermixture of those departments for special purposes” is acceptable because of the benefits which accrue and because the Constitution doesn’t really mix these as much as critics charge.

Hamilton notes that the House and the Senate play unique roles that are essential — the House acts as the accuser and the Senate acts as the jury or judge.  The House requires a simple majority for the accusation, but the Senate requires a concurrence of two-thirds ensuring that a too hasty or contrived accusation isn’t carried out.  He next points out that in the State of New York the Senate is the impeachment court and the highest judicial authority for civil and criminal cases.  If having the United States play a role as jurors in impeachment is unwarranted, how much more so is it true with the Constitution of New York?

The second issue raised is that having the Senate act as the Court “contributes to an undue accumulation of power in that body, tending to give to the government a countenance too aristocratic.”    Not only does the Senate in conjunction with the Executive have treaty-making power, critics charged that the impeachment role potentially made them the most influential division of government.  Hamilton says that there is no objective measure of which part of the new government was the most influential.  Instead Hamilton argues that we should recognize that the House of Representatives being the popularly elected branch is most likely to be the most powerful and influential branch of government.  Hamilton explains that the House initiates impeachment (a strong power), and it is noteworthy that all revenue bills must originate in the House.  The House also adjudicates disputes over the election of the Presidency.  Weighed together the unique powers of the House demonstrate that there isn’t too much power being concentrated by the United States Senate.

The next objection was that the Senate would be ineffective in this role because “they would be too indulgent judges of the conduct of men, in whose official creation they had participated.”  Here Hamilton explains that the criticism leveled against the Senate goes against the example in most of the state governments and almost all national governments that Hamilton has ever seen.  All of them presume some role on the part of the parties that appointed individuals in policing those individuals’ misdeeds.  Hamilton says that one byproduct of this dual function is that Senators may be more scrupulous about who they vote to confirm since they will ultimately be called to task in the removal of those individuals if they act corruptly.  Additionally since they only vote to confirm and in fact the Constitution contemplates no role in the actual selection of the individuals ultimately nominated there is little reason to think that Senators would take casually their responsibilities to confirm or convict in an impeachment trial public officials.

The final complaint was that the Senate can’t objectively carryout this responsibility because “union with the Executive in the power of making treaties” may be the occasion for actual collaboration in misdeeds and corruption.  Here Hamilton is responding to charges similar to those in objection number three.  Instead of alleging lenience by the Senate, this objection is that perhaps the Senators would somehow be complicit in the misdeeds of the individual being impeached and therefore would fail to carryout their duties with regard to the impeached individual.

Hamilton argues that this complaint really is a complaint against the integrity of the President and the Senate generally.  Whether they had impeachment power or not, their propensity for misdeeds would be distinct and separate from the issue of abusing the impeachment court process.  There is no reason to think that their unique role as Senators would make them more likely to support corruption than would being a Member of the House of Representatives Hamilton explains.  Nevertheless, Hamilton recognizes that even if individual members of the Senate were corrupt, the fact that they must all act in concert minimizes the likelihood that some corruption on the part of an executive branch official would be collaborated and harbored by two-thirds of Senators.

Finally, Hamilton closes with this prescient observation.  Perhaps the greatest assurance that the Senators will carryout their responsibilities in impeachment impartially is that it would serve to “divert the public resentment from themselves by a ready sacrifice of the authors of their mismanagement and disgrace.”  In other words, rather than suffer in the public’s eye, Senators will readily impeach corrupt officials.

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Horace Cooper is a writer and is the director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty


Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Director of the Center for Law and Regulation at the Institute for Liberty

Federalist Paper 80 was printed in the Independent Journal in New York on June 21, 1788.  Hamilton sets out to outline the jurisdiction of the Federal judiciary as outlined in the new Constitution.  He explains that federal jurisdiction involves “all cases in law and equity arising under the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States; between citizens of the same State claiming lands and grants of different States; and between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign states, citizens, and subjects.”

In his view in order to best evaluate the “the proper extent of the federal judicature” it is necessary to understand the appropriate role of federal judges. Hamilton outlines five instances which constitute “appropriate” areas of responsibility for federal judges:  first, litigation that arise as a result of conflict over the laws passed by Congress or the United States Constitution, second litigation resulting from disputes with the President and his administration while carrying out Congressional statutes, third any disputes in which the United States government is a party, fourth disputes between states and/or foreign nationals, fifth litigation involving the high seas which are of maritime origin, and lastly any disputes which state judges might be thought to be partial or biased.

Hamilton rightly observes that a key ingredient in the operation of a federal system is a judicial system with the authority to oversee disputes arising from the federal power.  He cites the obvious example of 13 different courts assessing the same set of facts and reaching different outcomes as a key reason that the states should not have this power.  Hamilton calls such an outcome a “hydra in government, from which nothing but contradiction and confusion can proceed.”

One area that Hamilton mentions that should receive further explanation for federal jurisdiction are instances involving disputes between two states, between one state and citizens of another and between citizens of different states.  Suggesting that there are disputes that lead to war and insurrection, Hamilton cites the Imperial Chamber the High Court in Germany created in the latter part of the 15th century by the Holy Roman Empire for the “vast influence of that institution in appeasing the disorders and establishing the tranquillity of the empire.”  It is perhaps a curious choice as an example by Hamilton because the Imperial Chamber was notoriously slow in carrying out its deliberations.  Lawsuits involving territories often took more than 100 years before rulings were issued.  In fact, when the Court was finally dissolved in 1806 there were cases pending that were over 300 years in age.  Compared to the Imperial Chamber, the American judicial system travels at the speed of light.

This seemingly simple exposition of the appropriate jurisdiction masks a sophisticated understanding that exists in the United States — we are a system of dual jurisdictions.  Thus there are significant areas of litigation that — not only would Hamilton not have mentioned — is primarily left to state courts to address.

One of the earliest examples of the dispute between Federal and state authority arose in 1818 in a case called United States v. Bevans, 16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 336 (1818).  The case involved a federal prosecution of a murder that took place on board a military combat ship the Independence that was anchored in the Boston harbor in Massachusetts.  In this case, the defense successfully argued that this case should not be tried in Federal Court under admiralty law because the ship was docked in the state of Massachusetts.   In its ruling for the defense the Supreme Court explained, “The article which describes the judicial power of the United States is not intended for the cession of territory or of general jurisdiction…  It is difficult to compare the two sections together, without feeling a conviction, not to be strengthened by any commentary on them, that, in describing the judicial power, the framers of our constitution had not in view any cession of territory; or, which is essentially the same, of general jurisdiction.”  The Supreme Court notably upheld the very distinctions that Hamilton outlined in Federalist #80.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010