Guest Essayist: Marc Lampkin, Shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and graduate of the Boston College Law School

Amendment XX, Section 2:

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

The XXth Amendment is fairly straightforward.  Often referred to as the “Lame Duck Amendment” the XXth Amendment’s purpose is to update gaps in the original draft of the Constitution setting the time and dates for the Congress and the President — in particular the amendment changed when terms of elected federal officials begin and end in order to line their terms beginning and ending with the election process.

The amendment’s purpose is to limit the chances that when Congress meets the legislators casting the votes were duly elected, rather than retirees or those who had failed to win re-election.

The primary sponsor of the XXth Amendment was Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska.  Senator Norris believed it to be his greatest legislative achievement.  It was passed on March 2, 1932.

When the Constitution was originally ratified, the outgoing Congress under the Articles of Confederation had set March 4, 1789 as the date for which the new federal government would begin.  On an ongoing basis the Constitution provided that the Congressional session would begin on the first Monday in December.

In addition, the second session would begin a month after the election and continue until March 3.  This had the effect of allowing Members to serve during the second session even if they had retired, were defeated, or simply had not chosen to run for re-election.

Initially the schedule made sense as it accommodated the travel and weather difficulties that faced the new nation.  At the time of the founding, roads were bad and travel long distances was often difficult.  Having four months from Election Day to the start of the session seemed prudent.  However, over time, the improvement in road building and the use of trains and boats made such a delay unnecessary.

In addition, the time delay had other pernicious effects.  When President Roosevelt was first elected he was required to wait four months before he could begin any steps to respond to the Great Depression.   Many across the nation believed that the provisions in the Constitution setting the dates for a 19th century world were particularly unhelpful in the 20th century.

This led to the push for passage of the XXth Amendment.

In addition to limiting “lame-ducks” from setting policy at the national level, the XXth Amendment also means that there was a shorter period between the election and the convening of the new Congress and that the outgoing President would have time to consider the outgoing Congress’ legislation.

Marc Lampkin is a Shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and is a graduate of the Boston College Law School

May 22, 2012

Essay #67

Guest Essayist: Marc Lampkin, Shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and graduate of the Boston College Law School

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.

Power to Tax Incomes

The 16th Amendment is an excellent example of why it is important to act judiciously and cautiously when it comes to amending the Constitution.  Most Americans recall that when our nation was founded, the framers did not agree to allow the federal government to tax the income of its citizenry.  In fact they specifically included a proviso that provided that neither income taxes nor any other type of direct taxes could be collected by the federal government.  Instead of collecting taxes in that manner, up until passage of the 16th Amendment the federal government was funded primarily by indirect taxes – duties and sales taxes.

One of the reasons that the founders wanted to limit the type of taxing authority of the federal government was that it was a way to ensure that the individual citizen was protected from an overbearing federal authority.  The consensus was that if Congress had the power to assess taxes directly on individuals they could single out certain individuals or all individuals for excessive taxation and there would be no upper limit on the amount assessed.

Sales taxes or import duties were indirect taxes that while affecting the livelihoods of individuals could be more readily avoided if individuals felt they were unfair or unwise.  Nevertheless, a direct tax combined with Congress’ power to control the military meant that taxation power could reach any individual for any reason and it was for that reason viewed as a threat on liberty.

Although this understanding waned after the first 50 years or so of the Constitution’s ratification, the Supreme Court acted vigilantly to ensure that federal lawmakers accepted the restraint on Congress’ taxing power.  However, there was at least one period when the Court relented – the Civil War.  The Supreme Court upheld the Revenue Act of 1861.  This law assessed a 3% flat tax on almost all income.

Nevertheless, subsequently the Court returned to form and refused to allow Congress to continue income taxes or other direct taxes.

Around the turn of the century far more conversation among policy makers focused on ways to increase revenues for the treasury.

Fairly quickly a rift was revealed.  More Democrats than Republicans supported the idea of an income tax.  Moreover, when the measures were introduced GOP Senators would delay or filibuster action on the measure.  This practice over about a decade led to some of the first campaign themes that one party – the Republicans – was “the party of the rich.”

By the time President Taft came to office, due to the failure of the GOP to explain to the public why it thought a federal income tax as a concept was a bad idea, most Americans generally held favorable views about the income tax and were suspicious that the Republicans were solely motivated by a desire to protect wealthy individuals from taxation.

Additionally due to the shellacking the GOP took in the federal elections of 1892, it was felt by party leaders that the GOP’s position advocating steady increases in tariff rates on household goods was a non-starter.  It was in this environment that President Taft began publicly advocating alternatives to tariff funding for the federal government including advocating an income tax.

Some of his critics in the Democratic Party thought they saw an opening to once again push the income tax but the same pattern of the last decade continued.  A bill would be introduced and then quietly killed in the Senate.  Only difference was that now the bills being introduced were by Republicans and but since nothing changed in terms of enactment the Republicans were given a pass in the political arena.

In April 1909, Texas Senator Joseph W. Bailey, a conservative Democrat who also opposed income taxes, came up with a plan that would ultimately upset the apple cart.  He decided to embarrass the Republicans by trying to get them to publicly admit that they actually opposed income tax bills.

The progressives within the GOP including Teddy Roosevelt, Hiram Johnson, and Robert La Follette waxed enthusiastically on behalf of the bill.  This placed President Taft in an awkward position.  He wanted to be seen as being for an income tax, yet he wasn’t ready to actually enact one.

Perhaps his plan was too clever.  In any event, the strategy that he came up with to once again kill the measure would ultimately fail.  Recognizing that the same plan of having GOP members block it wouldn’t work with so many “progressive Republicans” supporting the measure, the new strategy was predicated on making the income tax measure a Constitutional amendment.  Taft and his team counted on conservative state legislatures refusing to go along with the idea and letting it stall out in the hinterlands.

As part of the plan, President Taft formally requested the amendment and the House and Senate duly acted.  The House vote was 318-14 and the Senate voted unanimously. However, the states didn’t balk as anticipated.  In February of 1913 it was ratified just 4 years after Congress has submitted it to the states.

Today income taxes are the principle source of income for the federal government.

Marc Lampkin is a Shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and is a graduate of the Boston College Law School

May 10, 2012

Essay #59

 

 

Guest Essayist: Marc. S. Lampkin, a Vice President at Quinn Gillespie

Amendment XXII

1: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

2: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

The 22nd Amendment was ratified on February 27, 1951.  It places terms limits on the office of the President and provides that no US President can be elected to more than two terms. It also limits the maximum time a President may serve to 10 years, if one should succeed to the office.

The issue wasn’t new – in fact the founders had specifically considered this issue.  Proposed language limiting the number of terms our elected officials could serve was rejected three times during the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers saw no reason why an effective and popular elected official should be arbitrarily forced out of office. On the contrary, the Founders thought that short terms of office — interrupted by frequent elections — would better ensure accountability than limited terms, which is why members of the House of Representatives, the branch designed to be the closest to “the people,” have to run for re-election every two years.

However at the same time instead of using a rule in the Constitution – America had the Washington precedent.  At the founding of the United States government, a clear and consistent pattern had been created by Washington – Presidents served only for two terms.   Consistent with the idea that the American president was a monarch President George Washington made clear that he had no intention of running for a third term in 1796.  This pattern stayed intact for nearly 150 years and then Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President.

He was first elected President in 1932, and re-elected in 1936.  The eight years that followed his first election saw the dramatic expansion of the federal government as part of his administration’s response to the Great Depression.  Although the economy had not been revitalized by 1940, many Americans – particularly Democrats – were quite impressed with the leadership he showed in transitioning the federal government from a government of limited powers to one with far more ambitious goals.  From creating a federal minimum wage and a host of public works programs to expanding federal regulation of business generally, Roosevelt fundamentally transformed the Federal Government and American society.

And since the Depression had not yet ended, Democrats were especially fearful that these changes would get rolled back so when it came time for the Democrats to nominate a candidate for the Presidency in 1940, they settled on renominating Roosevelt.  At the same time WWII had begun — even though the U.S. would not enter it until 1941

When 1944 rolled around, changing leaders in the middle of World War II, which the United States was now fully engaged in, seemed extremely unwise, and FDR ran for and was elected to an unprecedented fourth term.

However he would not complete his fifth term.  He died less than 100 days after his inauguraton.  Within a year of the war ending Congress – pressed by Republicans – determined to insure that George Washington’s self-imposed two term limit would become enshrined in the Constistution.

Specifically excepting Truman from its provisions, the 22nd Amendment passed Congress on March 21, 1947. After Truman won a second term in 1948, it was ratified on February 27, 1951 (1,439 days).

Marc Lampkin is a Vice President at Quinn Gillespie

Guest Essayist: Marc. S. Lampkin, a Vice President at Quinn Gillespie

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.

Perhaps more than any other Amendment, the 6th Amendment protects the liberties of the American people most directly.  It is so effective in carrying out this goal that most Americans give its protections little thought or consideration.

By setting up the framework which limits the ability of the government to arbitrarily accuse and incarcerate the citizens at large the 6th Amendment minimizes the likelihood that criminal charges will be filed against political enemies of the state. In America no one can be arrested, tried, sentenced and imprison without it occurring under a set of rules in public, with a written record that can be accessed by the public and members of the media.  Prior to the adoption of the 6th Amendment, these protections didn’t exist for large parts of Europe and Asia.

There are seven elements of the 6th Amendment:

 

Speedy Trial:  As recognized by the Supreme Court this provision has three obvious benefits to the accused

  1. To prevent a lengthy period of incarceration before a trial. In other words the accused won’t be giving unlimited detention without having been tried and convicted.
  2. To minimize the effects of a public accusation. Undue suffering from a false accusation shouldn’t occur for more than an absolute minimum amount of time.
  3. To ensure that too much time didn’t lapse making it harder for the accused to defend himself either as a result of death or sickness of witnesses or due to loss of memories by needed witnesses.

 

Public Trial: Under its terms the trial must be open to the public and accessible by the media.  Interestingly, this right predates English common law and possibly even the Roman legal system and has been thought to be essential to ensure that the government can’t use the court system as an instrument of persecution because the knowledge that every criminal trial is open and accessible to the public operates as an effective restraint.

Impartial Jury: Unlike a trial in which a judge or panel of judges make a decision, a jury trial is a legal proceeding in which the jurors make the decision.  Interestingly the size of the jury is universally assumed to be 12 but in state criminal trials it can be as few as 6 individuals and in Ancient Greece a criminal trial might include over 500 persons in the jury.  No matter the actual size, it is essential that the individuals who make up this jury be free of bias and prejudice.  They should be representative of the population at large from which the accused comes from but should not be his immediate family or close friends.

Notice of Accusation: It is not sufficient that the state merely take the time to accuse an individual.  The government must also inform the accused of the specific nature and cause of the accusation and do so in a way which makes it reasonably possible for the accused to mount a defense against the charge.  Additionally all of the charges must be outlined and must include all ingredients necessary to constitute a crime.

In other words, the government can’t secretly charge you with speeding or tax fraud and yet not let you know specifically how or when you committed the crimes.  They must be specific and precise in order to make it possible for you to explain, justify or otherwise defend yourself against the charges.

Confrontation: The right to directly question or cross-examine witnesses who have accused a defendant in front of the jury is a fundamental right which like the impartial jury and public trial requirement pre-dates the English legal system.  A variation of this right is referenced in the Book of Acts which describes the Roman governor Porcius Festus, discussing the proper treatment of his prisoner the Apostle Paul: “It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man up to die before the accused has met his accusers face-to-face, and has been given a chance to defend himself against the charges.”

Compulsory Process: Like the confrontation clause, the right of “Compulsory Process” protects Americans from unfair criminal accusations by allowing them to be able to obtain witnesses who can testify in open court on their behalf. Even if a witness does not wish to testify, compulsory process means that the state can subpoena him and force the witness to testify or be in contempt of court.  If a person did not have compulsory process, witnesses who know of your innocence but who simply didn’t wish to be involved could lead to a guilt conviction of an innocent person.  Embarrassment or fear are not legitimate excuses to avoid compulsory process because this right is designed to ensure the accused has the opportunity to present his strongest defense before the jury.

Counsel:  Perhaps the most meaningful of all of the 6th Amendment rights, is the right to select the attorney or counsel of your choice to represent you in a criminal case.  While much attention has been focused on the issue of when and whether every accused person must be provided with a minimally competent attorney, the framers felt that the greatest threat was not being able to hire the advocate of your choice.  As early as the year 1300 there was an advance trade made up of individuals who represented or advocated on behalf of accused individuals or individuals who needed to make special pleadings before the government.  At the time of the founding of the United States most of the colonies had adopted a policy of allowing accused individuals in all but the rarest cases the right to hire the counsel of their choice to aid in their defense.  In other words the framers emphasized the importance of the accused having the option either through his own resources or through that of his friends and family to hire the best and most talented advocate and to prevent this would be considered an injustice.  Even though modern litigation over this provision focuses more on the need to insure that every one is provided an attorney “even if they can not afford one” the greatest benefit of this provision is that every individual may choose to expend any or all of their resources to find the most capable lawyer they desire.

The 6th Amendment embodies much of the Founder’s concerns about the potential abuse of the individual by the government.  The founders were quite familiar with the list of abuses by the English monarch.  It is interesting to note that of the 26 rights mentioned in the first through the eighth amendments, 15 of them have something to do with criminal procedure and notably 7 of those 15 are found in this amendment.

Marc S. Lampkin is a Vice President at Quinn Gillespie

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Federalist Paper #2 was written by future Federalist party chieftain John Jay to address what many founders felt was a critical deficiency regarding the then existing government authorized by the Articles of Confederation.  The deficiency was the major vulnerability the young nation faced because it lacked sufficient national authority to defend itself or to enforce its laws.

Reflecting his view that the public “choose” the new central government contemplated in the Constitution rather than simply acquiesce in it, Jay presents his arguments in terms of the “self interest” of the readers.  “It is well worthy of consideration therefore, whether it would conduce more to the interest of the people of America that they should, to all general purposes, be one nation, under one federal government, or that they should divide themselves into separate confederacies, and give to the head of each the same kind of powers which they are advised to place in one national government.”

John Jay was the oldest contributor to the Federalist Papers at age 41.  Jay, a staunch abolitionist who would go on to become governor of New York and successfully ban slavery statewide, also had served as President of the Continental Congress and was a principal negotiator of the Treaty of Paris.  After the U.S. Constitution was ratified, he would become the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

At the time of the writing of Federalist #2, it had only been a few years since the Revolutionary War had ended.  Although the Americans had just successfully defeated one of the most powerful military forces on the planet when it successfully won its independence against England, barely five years later the capacity to carry off a similar feat was dramatically undermined by the operation of the Articles of Confederation.  In addition, compounding matters there was increasing sentiment among the political class that instead of presenting a “united” front as part of a United States of America, the states should actively consider whether even the loose association authorized by the Articles was either useful or worthwhile.

John Jay vigorously argues that not only should the states remain united; they should adopt the proposed Constitution’s federal style of government.  It was Jay’s view that the crisis of the Revolutionary War had led to the hasty creation of the Articles of Confederation and even as its defects became apparent, those deficiencies were not great enough to prevent America from prevailing in the war.

Now that the war was over, the problems of the Articles had been so severe that the Philadelphia Convention had been convened to attempt to ameliorate its difficulties.  Of course the result of the convention was an entirely new compact being drafted.  The central theme of this compact is that it contains a Federal Government with specific authority and power to carry out its limited but important duties in a way that the Federal Government authorized under the Articles of Confederation could not.

John Jay presents two basic premises that are basis for his argument:  it is a fundamental responsibility of government that it has the necessary power to regulate conflict and administer the laws it has lawfully enacted.  Secondly, in order for any grant of authority to be legitimate it must be consensual — that is the people must grant the government the powers.

While Jay recognized that any of the government powers exercised ultimately came from the people, the issue was which of these powers should be reserved for citizens and which were usefully granted to the government.  The test for Jay was whether a particular grant of authority best protected the safety and interests of the American populace.   However, this problem was made more difficult when the question of whether the Americans should unite under one national government or instead become separate states.

To Jay the answer was a strong union. He believed that for all intents and purposes, the confederation of states were already a union.  He argued that the geographical make up of the nation including its topography and “navigable waters” created natural boundaries that encouraged commonality.  Additionally the faith, language, principles and customs of the people who dwelled in this land which were overwhelmingly similar also argued for a strong union.

“This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.”

Since the land, people and language made it naturally more efficient to remain together then Jay believed that it was essential that the government they were subject to had the authority and power to carry out its duties in a way that the Articles of Confederation had never allowed.  “It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that object.” It was John Jay’s considered view that the adoption of the Constitution in the long term would prove beneficial to all Americans both in a time of military conflict and in times of peace.

Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC is a graduate of Boston College Law School

 

Guest Blogger: Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC and graduate of Boston College Law School

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Federalist #16

In Federalist #16, Alexander Hamilton continues to outline the deficiencies of the present system of government authorized under the Articles of Confederation.  It is Hamilton’s view that the loose confederation will lead to lawlessness and ultimately anarchy once the inability to enforce its own laws becomes apparent.

This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring; and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war.

The system that was in place had two important facets:  it was a voluntary association of the states and secondly it was in most respects a government whose actions were non-binding. The fact that the Articles of Confederation were voluntary meant that the Congress ruled with the consent of the governed and therefore exercised their authority lawfully.  However, the fact the government could not enforce its dictates meant that ultimately festering conflicts could result in armed conflict among the several states as the enforcement mechanism of last resort.  Furthermore, due to the differences between the size and influence of some of the states, the confederation was particularly ill suited for America.  With no enforcement power, the confederation created asymmetric power centers encouraging large and powerful states to see national policies for their benefit while disregarding the needs of the smaller and less powerful states.  In the unlikely circumstance wherein the Congress adopted a policy that might benefit small states, larger states might ignore them with impunity.  Such a circumstance potentially leads to civil war.

In fact, Hamilton observes that this asymmetric distribution of authority had other problems unrelated to the tendency towards internal armed conflict.  Even when faced with exogenous threats, because the states view themselves as sovereigns — motivated primarily by their own self preservation — the national government would either not have access to the resources necessary to prevent an attack from a foreign enemy or perhaps simply not respond to an attack if the attack was perceived as being against one of the states rather than the nation as a whole.

If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of the national government it would either not be able to employ force at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who resisted the general authority. It would rarely happen that the delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member, and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty, similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common defense.

On the other hand, since the Articles of Confederation do not give Congress the power to lay and assess the taxes without consent or to compel the armies necessary to stave off attacks, the weakness that the American government presents to other nations would appear quite provocative.  Hamilton complains that by their nature, the states as sovereigns are not transparent entities and therefore even assessing duties or raising armies is unduly difficult.  Does a state refuse to pay up its share because of actual shortages it is experiencing or because its support for the cause identified is lackluster?

If there were a national government like the one described in the Constitution, it would already have the authority to defend itself — recognizing that an attack on one part was an attack on all.

Even if the conflict from foreigners is not the result of a coordinated assault i.e. a war, foreign governments would still be tempted to sow dissension among the states, Hamilton argues.  As long as the states themselves are complete sovereigns, they have every incentive to evaluate foreign relations, trade, and even aid solely in terms of its impact on them as sovereigns and not on the nation as a whole.  Hamilton calls this “Its more natural death is what we now seem to be on the point of experiencing, if the federal system be not speedily renovated in a more substantial form.”

Nevertheless, even if the states were to voluntarily provide the resources for an army, would the force be used to intimidate would be attackers or instead to enforce through intimidation its policies among the states themselves?

It remains to inquire how far so odious an engine of government, in its application to us, would even be capable of answering its end. If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of the national government it would either not be able to employ force at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who resisted the general authority.

Then this would present concerns that are even more troublesome.  Wouldn’t it be the case that what Hamilton calls the “delinquency” (meaning the failure of compliance) would occur not just among one state but also likely among several?  In addition, wouldn’t powerful states attempt to align themselves in ways to avoid suffering the consequences of their delinquencies?  If so using the military to enforce compliance begins to look a lot like civil conflict or civil war now that the states joined together in alliances are using enforcement of national policies as a tool of enforcing their perceived advantages.

Hamilton writes, “It would rarely happen that the delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member, and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty, similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common defense. Independent of this motive of sympathy, if a large and influential State should happen to be the aggressing member, it would commonly have weight enough with its neighbors to win over some of them as associates to its cause.”

A final critique that Hamilton makes of the Articles of Confederation stems from the notion that it would be beneficial that states would affirmatively approve most of the policies adopted by the national government.  While on its face, it might appear that requiring a second step in order to assure that a given statute must go into effect would be good for liberty, Hamilton argues that it was more likely to lead to anarchy or civil conflict.

Under the U.S. Constitution many checks and balances were already put in place, which acted in many ways as hurdles to excessive, or passion based legislation.  The new Constitution by its design sought to encourage greater deliberation leading to legislation that is more necessary and weeded out that which was frivolous.  Forcing the additional step of state approval would be needlessly limiting the flexibility of the national government while sowing seeds for conflict.

Hamilton asserts, If it be possible at any rate to construct a federal government capable of regulating the common concerns and preserving the general tranquillity, it must be founded, as to the objects committed to its care, upon the reverse of the principle contended for by the opponents of the proposed Constitution. It must carry its agency to the persons of the citizens. It must stand in need of no intermediate legislations; but must itself be empowered to employ the arm of the ordinary magistrate to execute its own resolutions. The majesty of the national authority must be manifested through the medium of the courts of justice. The government of the Union, like that of each State, must be able to address itself immediately to the hopes and fears of individuals; and to attract to its support those passions which have the strongest influence upon the human heart. It must, in short, possess all the means, and have aright to resort to all the methods, of executing the powers with which it is intrusted, that are possessed and exercised by the government of the particular States. To this reasoning it may perhaps be objected, that if any State should be disaffected to the authority of the Union, it could at any time obstruct the execution of its laws, and bring the matter to the same issue of force, with the necessity of which the opposite scheme is reproached.

Hamilton reveals himself to be quite alarmed by the potential threats posed by the Articles of Confederation.  While he may not see the U.S. Constitution as a panacea to all problems that the young nation might  face, he believes that by its design, it is far better able to prevent conflict, or in the event that conflict occurs, it would be able to see that the nation was ultimately able to survive it.

Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC is a graduate of Boston College Law School

18 Responses to “May 19 – Federalist No. 16 – The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union, From the New York Packet (Hamilton) – Guest Blogger: Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC and graduate of Boston College Law School”

Susan Craig says:
May 19, 2010 at 9:03 am
The more I read and study what transpired between the Declaration of Independence and the end of George Washington’s second term the more I find myself squarely between the two factions. I see the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation but seeing how some of the programs that were darlings of the Federalists have developed I think I would have fought to caveat the Federal Government a little more strictly and defined the relationship of State to Federal a little more clearly.

Charles Babb says:
May 19, 2010 at 11:55 am
How would we ever make any sense of these writings, were it not for the wise interpretation and guidance of our special guest bloggers? Thank you.
I would like to explore Mr. Lampkin’s thoughts in the following observation;
“Under the U.S. Constitution many checks and balances were already put in place, which acted in many ways as hurdles to excessive, or passion based legislation. The new Constitution by its design sought to encourage greater deliberation leading to legislation that is more necessary and weeded out that which was frivolous. Forcing the additional step of state approval would be needlessly limiting the flexibility of the national government while sowing seeds for conflict.”
Do we not see a design fault here, resulting in excessive legislation, happening today? Is this one of the areas where you, Susan, would like to have seen greater clarification?
I shudder to think what the volume of legislation is that has been passed over the years. And yet in November we will elect, or re-elect, representatives who will go to Washington and pass more confusing and conflicting legislation, largely because (1) they try to hide the intent of their proposed legislation through volume and “legalize” and (2) our representatives are too lazy to read it.
How can you “deliberate” that which you do not comprehend?
And once it becomes the law of the land, if they do not enforce it, are they not in violation of their “Oaths of Office”?
What recourse then do “we the people” have?
We have November.
MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA

Nickie Summers says:
May 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm
Two thoughts come to mind reading the founding papers:
First, it is crystal clear to me how far our country has moved away from the Constitution (defining principles and the relationship between the federal government and the states/citizens.) The Federalist/founding papers are redundant making the case to caution people of an ‘over reaching’ government. Hamilton says in No.15, and I’m paraphrasing, the idea of the Constitution is incompatible with the idea of government and therefore a Republic is the only safeguard against an unruly government. No. 16 expands on that and much more. Federal government has to remain small and ‘in check’ to their boundaries/responsibilities….that brings me to my second thought…’The People’….
Second, the founding papers completely empower each citizen – they own the begining and the end of the political process. Our political leaders are turned around in that thinking today. Americans are engaged and ‘owning’ their role to govern…we can/will change the political mindset and landscape in DC and around this great country.
Go Team USA!!

Susan Craig says:
May 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm
That is a symptom, Charles. What I would have liked defined was that rather vague commerce clause that has allowed the Fed to homogenize what was potpourri. Before if you did not like the way Massachusetts regulated its business, you could choose from any of the established States or explore into the territories. Now its Massachusetts or Massachusetts lite.
I would have liked a more elaborated upon clause. My suggestion, States may order commerce within their borders as they see fit. Should disagreements arise between States in the conduct business the Federal will act as Good Faith arbiter to facilitate and promote the smooth conduct throughout the country. Not exactly a legal beagle but I think something like this would have kept the SCOTUS from declaring wheat grown on private property for private consumption under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government by virtue of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution.

Ron Meier says:
May 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm
Too bad the creators of the EU didn’t read the first 20 or so FP before creating the EU. Had they done so, they wouldn’t have let some members in and they would have instituted some kind of enforcement mechanism. More likely, the EU would not have been created, since the prospective initial members would not have approved the sanctions for misbehavior.
re Charles’ comment about the sheer volume of legislation, to say nothing of the thickness of each individual piece, when our legislators run for reelection, they have to demonstrate that they were in attendance for xx% of all votes, the higher the better. If someone has a lower than acceptable percentage, then the opponent runs negative campaign ads demonstrating that the legislator is not doing his or her job. I submit that it might be better if our legislators would spend more time deliberating on the really important legislation and skip showing up to vote for legislation that they know nothing about and that is not critical to survival of our nation. As our Attorney General and Director of Homeland Security have just demonstrated, they don’t even have time to read a simple 10 page piece of legislation (Arizona’s law), yet they feel qualified to speak authoratatively on the law they haven’t read. Our legislators are in similar constraints and likely have staff read certain portions and give them briefings; I doubt they even read legislation they propose.

Carolyn Attaway says:
May 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm
Nickie, I too picked up on the citizen empowerment theme toward the end of this paper. There were several parts that begged to be read out loud, but two statements caught my eye, and I had to read them several times to absorb the impact of their words: “An experiment of this nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority . . . . If the people were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives, they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest.”
The first statement contained the sentence a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority. I find this choice of words interesting given that enlightened means to have intellectual or spiritual light; and usurpation of authority means illegal seizure and occupation of a throne. How true do these words ring today that the people must remain vigilant of their government and the laws that are passed unto the citizens themselves less they become subjects to the throne of government through unconstitutional laws and practices? Are we not experiencing a degree of this usurpation of authority today? Is one of the main reasons we gather daily on this web-site is to renew our vigilance and become enlightened with our founding documents?
The second statement reiterates this theme with the words as the natural guardians of the Constitution would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest. In Paper 15 Hamilton tells us that the only proper objects of government are the persons of the citizens, so it stands to reason that they would be the natural guardians of the Constitution. And being guardians they would have the decided preponderancy; superiority in weight; power, to defend the Constitution against illegal practices on either State or Federal levels to ensure its authority. We, as citizens of the United States, are charged with this duty.
I find these words amazing.

yguy says:
May 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm
“What I would have liked defined was that rather vague commerce clause that has allowed the Fed to homogenize what was potpourri.”
However vague it may be, there is no way it can be reconciled with Wickard v. Filburn (1942), wherein SCOTUS held that a person not engaging in commerce could be penalized under color of the commerce clause.

Jimmy Green says:
May 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Interesting that Hamilton’s belief of state delinquencies in a confederacy would result in civil war.
Yet less than a century latter a civil war between the states would arise under a constitution that Hamilton felt would prevent it.
I believe Hamilton’s desire for a constitution that must be able to legislate over the state and citizens is an implicit understanding of the nature of any true Federal System. The problem is the balancing act between a sovereign state jealously protecting its states rights and an federal government with certain enumerated powers over the sovereign states. Hamilton’s view of the powers of the federal government often seem like a dark cloud on the horizon. Granted the federal government in order to maintain the union has to exercise a degree of control over the states and citizenry.
However this is done via our elected officials in the congress. The States and peoples views are expressed through them such that hopefully any federal legislation is not unseemly harsh on the state or citizens as if they were blindsided. Hamilton’s writings seem somewhat of a dark nature and come across to me as someone who places state sovereignty a distant second to federal prerogatives. However reading the founding documents will show that states vigorously enforcing state rights its necessary to prevent that which Hamilton believes will occur under a confederacy.
Its good that Hamilton recognizes that the states should definitely intervene if the feds legislation becomes a “tyrannical exercise of the federal authority”.
However that’s an extreme viewpoint with most government tyrannies today being a rather long affair that slowly change the country with most of the citizens unaware of the slo-mo tyrannical creep. Interesting read.

Andy Sparks says:
May 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm
Jimmy, I think you hit the nail on the head with Hamilton. Remember he was born and grew up in the British West Indies. He didn’t come to America until he was 17, so he had no loyalty to any particular state. While he was educated and settled in New York, he joined the Continental Army only a few years later. What better place to gain an interstate perspective than in the army. Under Washington’s tutelage, he quickly learned about the deficiencies of the Congress under the AOC during the war in regards to raising troops, supplies, and other necessaries to keep the army going. I think any reference he makes to state power is so to appear not too enthusiastic for a national government. After all, he is trying to convince those moderate anti-federalists to vote for ratification. If it were up to him, he would have preferred a British style government; in fact his detractors referred to him as a monarchist while he headed the Federalist party.

Barb Zakszewski says:
May 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm
Both Hamilton and Madison seemed to have crystal balls at times, with their keen ability to look 100-200 years into the future. Hamilton argued that the Articles of Confederation could eventually set of a “civil war”..Yet 75-80 years after Ratification of the Constitution, the United states was involved in a “Civil War”…the War for Southern Independence. Although this war was considered to be chiefly over slavery, it was a war also for States Rights, for the 10th Amendment..Many of the things Hamilton predicted in Federalist 16 actually came to pass, by then, and that is what got things started.
As for comments made towards the end of the paper, Hamilton is saying that citizens will tolerate a lot from their government, unless government evolves into a tyranny, similar to what is happening today with the Socialist President and Congress we seem to find ourselves with. I believe there is a tie in to what Hamilton says here and the part in the Declaration of Independence that warns when government sinks to absolute despotism, it is our right and duty to throw off such government and provide new guards for our future security.
The more involved I become in this project, the more I can see where the Nation is going now; we must educate ourselves our families and our friends so that we can fight this and reclaim our Great Country!! The Founding Fathers, rather than being irrelevant as many Liberals think, are becoming more relevant with each passing day. We MUST listen to what they have to say.
God Bless this Great Nation!!

William Matthews says:
May 19, 2010 at 8:59 pm
No one has mentioned this, but under the Constitution Senators were selected by their states not like they are elected today. Before a bill could become a law, each of the states two senators had a chance to weigh in on it. In essence the states had actual representatives in the national government and states could actually control much more how their Senators voted. So perhaps when Hamilton is referring to the Constitution being superior he’s also meaning that states get to exercise their influence without needing to individually approve each law?

Jimmy Green says:
May 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm
Thanks for the input Andy. I plan on reading Hamilton’s autobiography in the near future to gain a better insight on him. Sadly as I’m living in the peoples republic of California, the founding fathers and the founding documents are not rated very highly. But there is hope that one day it will.

Susan Craig says:
May 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm
I think we have a lot to thank or accuse Rhode Island for. If they had not refused to consider ratifying any and I do mean any amendment to the Articles of Confederation how different a picture this would be.

Constituting America says:
May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm
I want to let you know that I have begun a short film with my daughter for my “Daily Behind the Scenes Videos.” Tonight is Part 1. Check it out. The link is on the website on the home page or the link to the YouTube version is on the Constituting America Facebook Page. It’s going to be fun! I direct these and edit them on my computer nightly – with the help of my daughter, of course. The goal of these videos is to enlighten American citizens about our great United States Constitution, our “90 in 90” and our “We the People 9.17 Contest” so, spread the word!
Here we are at Federalist Paper No. 16! I want to thank Marc S. Lampkin for joining us again today. We are so lucky to have your scholarly insights, Mr. Lampkin!
Alexander Hamilton’s quote, “When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation,” speaks volumes. First of all, it is how Alexander Hamilton died, in a dual of passionate discord with Aaron Burr. Secondly, I can’t help but find relevance in these words regarding the situation in Arizona. The more I read, absorb and learn about our United States Constitution, the more I start seeing all aspects of our current political environment through Publius’ eyes –
their reasoning, their framework – which, of course, is the whole point of our “90 in 90.”
“When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation,” starts to make more and more sense to me when I witness, with the rest of America, the friction between our “United States”, Arizona and California. It was experienced over two hundred years ago, has happened throughout our history and it is happening today – “faction.” What we are experiencing as a country is a sample of what would have happened if we had not ratified our Constitution. There would have been no way to keep the peace and find a unity in vision and mutuality of purpose.
Thus, my current assessment is that the cohesiveness of a Federal government served and should continue to serve its purpose in certain areas – one of those areas is the defense and protection of her states.
Thus, the question begs the answer. Why hasn’t the Federal government protected her border states? Yes, states have rights, and yes, the Federal government has grown way beyond our founding father’s intentions but in this instance regarding defense, the federal government should have stepped up to the plate. Arizona has been left to fend for herself and is getting abuse from all angles.
Consequentially, we are witnessing state against state – accusations, misinterpretations – faction. Will California boycott her ally? Will Arizona turn her brother’s lights?
“When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation.”
Let us experience the freedom, uniqueness and independence as individual states yet, the unity of brotherhood as a country. Once the sword is drawn where will the passions end? Discourse is an enticement. United we stand. Divided we fall. Has this not been the theme of these Federalist Papers?
God bless,
Janine Turner
May 19, 2010

Roger Jett says:
May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm
As I have been reading day-to-day the many comments posted to this wonderful forum, I’ve come to appreciate how well read many of you are. It challenges me to study, learn and evaluate how our nation’s Founders strove to provide us with the best government possible. It was not easy for them to establish it, nor will it be easy for us to do our part to restore what has been largely lost. I too find myself at that point that Susan Craig described earlier today, after having read a lot of the writings from the time of the “Declaration of Independence” through the second term of George Washington’s Presidency, she finds herself squarely between the two factions on the issues of the day. As I have read a number of the arguments presented by Jefferson, Mason and Henry, I find myself influenced by points that they made. I don’t find that troublesome …. I do find it most helpful in obtaining a more balanced understanding and more informed opinion. I don’t always find myself agreeing with all that gets said on this forum, but I believe that the process has challenged me to evaluate what I think is right, true and has caused me to grow a little more strong and firm. Thank you Janine, Cathy and all the rest of you who participate. May God bless you all !

Constituting America says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:35 am
May 19, 2010 – Federalist No. 16 – Cathy Gillespie
A big thank you to our guest blogger Marc Lampkin! Marc, thank you for guiding us today!
I so appreciate all of you who take the time to comment. You often see nuggets of wisdom in these papers that I have glossed over on my first reading, and your posts send me scrambling back to find the phrases you elaborate on.
Two phrases jumped out at me upon my first reading of Federalist 16, though, and they are the same mentioned by Nickie and Carolyn:
An experiment of this nature would always be hazardous in the face of a constitution in any degree competent to its own defense, and of a people enlightened enough to distinguish between a legal exercise and an illegal usurpation of authority. The success of it would require not merely a factious majority in the legislature, but the concurrence of the courts of justice and of the body of the people. If the judges were not embarked in a conspiracy with the legislature, they would pronounce the resolutions of such a majority to be contrary to the supreme law of the land, unconstitutional, and void. If the people were not tainted with the spirit of their State representatives, they, as the natural guardians of the Constitution, would throw their weight into the national scale and give it a decided preponderancy in the contest. Attempts of this kind would not often be made with levity or rashness, because they could seldom be made without danger to the authors, unless in cases of a tyrannical exercise of the federal authority.
“A people enlightened,” ”natural guardians of the Constitution”
“We the people,” are the natural guardians of the Constitution, because as our country drifts from the Constitution, it is “We the people,” who have the most to lose. If we are not “enlightened,” to understand what we had, and have, we will certainly not know what we have lost, and are losing. And our children will understand even less than us. We must not only enlighten ourselves, but enlighten our children, so the torch of freedom may be passed to the next generation of Americans. Watch Janine’s Behind The Scenes Videos starting today, as she teaches her daughter about the Constitution in a several part series! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGpmqkx1_JQ
I am both amazed, and a bit embarrassed to admit how much I am learning through this exercise. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in political science, yet I don’t recall ever picking up the Federalist in college. This reading is my first time through these prescient papers. Tonight, I feel empowered that I am becoming “enlightened,” and that the founding fathers considered us – ‘we the people” – to be the guardians of the Constitution. The more I learn, the better I can guard it! And the more I can teach my children! On to Federalist No. 17!
Good night and God Bless,
Your fellow guaridan of the Constitution,
Cathy Gillespie

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 1:41 am
Here’s how I see No. 15 and No. 16. Hamilton is laying the foundation of his argument for ratification and basing it on man’s actual experience through history of forming civil governments, human nature, and most importantly for his argument, the actual experience the Americans had with the government under the Articles of Confederation. I need not repeat his parade of horribles here. He had to convince the New Yorkers that the current system was making their lives miserable whether they knew it or not, and that a strong, energetic, centralized, national government was the answer to all their prayers. If they would just stop being so biased towards their narrow, local interests. He assures them that the states will retain their due sovereignty, but the national government will be the supreme sovereign concerning the national objects under its authority.
The new plan would be different in significant ways from the failed confederations of the past. Those alliances always broke down in predictable ways because they were not consonant with human nature. If I may jump ahead an essay, in No. 17 Hamilton tells us:
“It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the object. Upon the same principle that a man is more attached to his family than to his neighborhood, to his neighborhood than to the community at large, the people of each State would be apt to feel a stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the government of the Union; unless the force of that principle should be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.”
We care more about that which is close to us, and we should. Hamilton wants us to give up some of that local care and concern and cede it to the national government in our own enlightened self-interest. And up to a point I think he’s right.
I would caution vigilance for the corrupting influence of power, for the tendency to be profligate with other people’s money, and mission creep. If the national government had stuck to the plan of being a limited government of enumerated powers, and if it had not spent decades and decades trying, and failing, to be all things to all people, we might not be in the sorry state we are in now.
The Founders saw the states within the new plan as laboratories of democracy. Some states’ experiments would be successful and emulated; other states’ experiments would be colossal failures and be rejected, or at least should be rejected (think CA, MI, and NJ.) In this way, mistakes would stay local and not doom the entire republic. The fiscal black hole some states, cities, and corporations are in has been caused almost exclusively by bad legislative, economic, and business decisions. Bailouts using taxpayer dollars to reward imprudent local decisions creates what economists call a moral hazard and offers exactly the wrong kind of incentives with other people’s money, our money.

Dave says:
May 20, 2010 at 3:15 am
Andy, good points about Hamilton the man. I tend to bask in the glow of his brilliance and genius (he was only 30 or so in the summer of 1787,) but then I force myself to consider what aspects of his psychology and life experiences could be influencing his thoughts on government. Madison’s notes of the Federal Convention have Hamilton laying out his plan on June 18. An executive elected for life with supreme veto power? How could he think that was a good idea?
Jimmy, you had written yesterday, “I would be more interested in Hamilton’s views on what should occur if the Federal government fails to uphold its enumerated powers.” That’s exactly what I’ve been wondering. The three branches of our federal government seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s just too much trouble to get the people to act in their constituent role as the “natural guardians of the Constitution” and amend the Constitution; they, our “agents and trustees” (No. 46) just ignore the Constitution and work their way around it, but they do make sure to pay it lip service at the appropriate times.
With the benefit of hindsight, I am amazed at how often in the papers, Publius warns us of what, to him, was the major threat to liberty. He thought the abuse of power would come from the states. After all, the federal government is a creature of the states or a servant of the states. It could never be the case that the creature would supplant the creator or the master would become the servant. Oh really? And something else that still troubles me in the federal system that they were proposing, with its dual sovereignty in different spheres and even with its guarantee of republican government in the states—What is to be done when a state exhibits tyrannical tendencies and is technically not in violation of the Constitution, but is in violation of the founding principles located in the Declaration of Independence? How was the slavery issue to be resolved? Abortion?
Last thought: For the new federal plan to work, the Framers had to have some presuppositions in mind about man and about the world. Were any of the presuppositions necessary for the perpetual success of the union under the constitution to be ratified? And would it be the case that any state of affairs not including those requirements would spell doom for the union.

Guest Blogger: Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC and graduate of Boston College Law School

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Federalist #29 written by Hamilton continues the focus on the subject of the militia and the standing army.  Hamilton is quite enthusiastic in embracing the needs for a common or national military force. He explains, “THE power of regulating the militia, and of commanding its services in times of insurrection and invasion are natural incidents to the duties of superintending the common defense, and of watching over the internal peace of the Confederacy.

In Hamilton’s view, the efficiencies of having one national force as opposed to 13 were significant enough even to overcome the fear that this national force might oppress the people.  Since domestic rebellions in a given state were of interest to the national government (as part of its responsibilities for national defense) as well as to the particular state where the rebellion occurred, it wouldn’t be necessary for a state to expend the resources necessary to handle such a capability and the national force would provide a sufficient capacity to handle such problems.

Arguably, Hamilton claims there could even be advantages that a national force might have over a state force in such a situation. He says, “uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense. It would enable them to discharge the duties of the camp and of the field with mutual intelligence and concert an advantage of peculiar moment in the operations of an army; and it would fit them much sooner to acquire the degree of proficiency in military functions which would be essential to their usefulness.

In Federalist #29, Hamilton wants to respond to those who say that the new Constitution would be far better if somehow the national defense power remained diffused between the several states.  Hamilton believes this would be in the long term destructive to the new American nation.  Moreover, remarkably he turns the argument on itself.  If a standing army is a threat to liberty he asks, why have thirteen standing threats?  Hamilton asserts, “If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia, in the body to whose care the protection of the State is committed, ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions.

A second point that Hamilton makes is that sometimes the type of federal or national response needed may not include the need for lethal force.  Because the federal government might have various alternatives to pick from it may not see the need to respond first with a purely military show of force.  A federal government may have a variety of administrative forms that it can use to respond to a given situation, varieties that a state government might not have or if it does to have it across multiple states would be unnecessarily duplicative and therefore inefficient.

Next Hamilton directly addresses Posse Comitatus – also sometimes referred to as sheriff’s posse – originally part of the English common law it involves the authority of a law enforcement officer to obtain assistance from non law enforcement personnel to assist him in keeping the peace or to pursue and arrest a felon.  Hamilton insists that critics can’t have it both ways.  They cannot say that the federal Constitution should be opposed because it does not explicitly provide for this authority or be opposed because its power to engage in posse comitatus is unlimited.  Hamilton argues, It would be as absurd to doubt, that a right to pass all laws NECESSARY AND PROPER to execute its declared powers, would include that of requiring the assistance of the citizens to the officers who may be intrusted with the execution of those laws, as it would be to believe, that a right to enact laws necessary and proper for the imposition and collection of taxes would involve that of varying the rules of descent and of the alienation of landed property, or of abolishing the trial by jury in cases relating to it.”

Then Hamilton turns to the question of the threats associated with the national militia.  Repeating arguments he has made earlier, Hamilton expands upon the concept that not only would 13 armies be unnecessarily duplicative, but it also would be financially and personally burdensome on the people as the force necessary by the aggregation of the states armies across the several states would be greater than the total force used by the national level and even this wouldn’t succeed because the burden would ultimately be rejected by the people. Hamilton explains, “It would form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country, to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil establishments of all the States. To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured.

Finally, Hamilton asks whether the critics who worry about the national militia are being serious.  After all the national army is not made up of people from a foreign land, he says.  “What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests?”

In addition, how could the federal government agree to unfairly subdue a state when not only the state is represented in the federal government, but all of the other states through their representatives would need to consent to such an action. “Where in the name of common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens?

In Hamilton’s considered view opposing the new constitution over the issue of a militia at the federal level is a red herring.  The benefits of having national concentrated authority far outweigh any perceived gains of dispersing this authority over multiple states.

Marc S. Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and Associates LLC is a graduate of Boston College Law School

 

Guest Essayist: Marc Lampkin, partner at Quinn Gillespie and graduate of Boston College Law School

In Federalist #53 James Madison continues a discussion about the description and operation of the United States House of Representatives. In particular his emphasis is targeted to the question of protecting liberty and ensuring electoral accountability through the use of the term for Members of the House of Representatives. Madison observes that there is a natural connection between electoral accountability and the liberty of the people.  The question is how often should the elections occur?  Madison mentions a prominent saying of the time which was “that where annual elections end, tyranny begins..” implying that regular election cycles particularly those that happen at least once a year were best to limit infringement of the liberty of the people.   Madison attempts to explain why the Federal Constitution provides for a 2 year cycle in the House of Representatives and why that length didn’t threaten the freedom of the American people.

Ironically most states have adopted the Federal model of a 2 year cycle for their legislatures.  But as Madison notes this ready embrace of the two year cycle was not always the case.  When he writes the most popular election cycle for legislatures was every 6 months with a few states having annual elections.  Notably Madison observes that South Carolina alone had 2 year cycles.

In any event it is Madison’s view that the specific timeline isn’t as important as the necessity of the elections themselves.  But he argues that the single most important talisman for liberty is the immutability of the charter that authorizes government.

Unlike the British system, Madison explains the Federal Constitution does not bestow unlimited power on the legislature to change and make laws and thus liberty is advantaged.  In contrast to the American model, governments that place nearly limitless power in their parliaments or legislatures like the British system must be on guard continuously for mechanisms whereby government tyranny can be checked. Madison points out, “The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country.”

Madison contends that the American system is predicated on the supremacy of the American citizens and not on the legislature or the executive. In America Congressmen and Senators can’t change their term of office, swap their positions or take on executive or judicial powers.  But in Britain they can make these types of changes and according to Madison did.  As a result many political scientists of the day had settled on the yearly election for legislatures as a ways to keep the government accountable. But with the US Constitution which places specific limits on the government and can only be changed with the consent of the citizens, liberty is much more readily protected.

Next Madison turns to the specific question of why a 2 year cycle.  Perhaps surprisingly, Madison the practicing political scientist reveals himself.  It is Madison’s considered view that the two year cycle allows for greater professionalism on the part of the federal official than a shorter cycle might.  He comes to this conclusion by comparing the relative knowledge base that state legislators have assuming a one year election cycle.  Madison argues that they are capable of learning and addressing the issues of their own individual states within the year time frame.

If state legislators learn about the regulation of ports and appropriate levels of taxation for the own states within a year, assuming the federal government’s issues might add additional complexity and more deliberation at least another year between elections would be useful to ensure that the federal elected officials developed the competence and knowledge necessary to be conversant about the relevant issues they are responsible for.  In particular Madison singles out the critical issue of foreign affairs as an area that it would be useful for elected officials to address with some degree of skill.  Madison notes: “In regulating our own commerce he ought to be not only acquainted with the treaties between the United States and other nations, but also with the commercial policy and laws of other nations. He ought not to be altogether ignorant of the law of nations; for that, as far as it is a proper object of municipal legislation, is submitted to the federal government. And although the House of Representatives is not immediately to participate in foreign negotiations and arrangements, yet from the necessary connection between the several branches of public affairs, those particular branches will frequently deserve attention in the ordinary course of legislation, and will sometimes demand particular legislative sanction and co-operation.”

Wrapping up Madison mentions that the relative distances that elected members of the House would travel also augurs for a longer term of office.  And in another endorsement of the professionalization of Congress, Madison recognizes that over time members with superior talents will become members of long standing.  Thus unlike the careerism incumbent upon a system that rubber stamps the election of state assemblymen  “almost as a matter of course” the Constitution’s election system contemplates that talented and experienced legislators would be preferred so as to avoid “snares that may be laid for them.”

And finally in the event of election disputes a 2 year cycle will give Congress more time to adequately investigate and make an informed determination than might be possible with a shorter term.   Madison concludes: “All these considerations taken together warrant us in affirming, that biennial elections will be as useful to the affairs of the public as we have seen that they will be safe to the liberty of the people.”

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Marc Lampkin is a partner at Quinn Gillespie and is a graduate of Boston College Law School