Sunday, August 30, 2015

Death and Taxes

 “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Ben Franklin

Franklin made the above quip many times, always to approving nods. Complaining about taxes is as American as apple pie, Thanksgiving, and NASCAR. After all, the Revolution started over a three pence tax on tea. Here is an excerpt from Tempest at Dawn that shows the Revolution didn't revoke Franklin's immutable law.

The owner of the Indian Queen appeared instantly. Bowing respectfully, he asked, “Gentlemen, is there anything else you desire … another ale, tea and cakes, a plate of cheese? We have excellent cognacs.”
“No, no,” Morris said. “We’re ready to retire. Thank you for your hospitality.”
The innkeeper never looked at Morris; instead he aimed a witless grin at Washington.
“My pleasure. The general’s always welcome at the Indian Queen.”
All evening, Madison had found the Innkeeper’s solicitous behavior irritating. Now he was amused by his inadvertent slight toward the rest of the party. Washington often elicited bumbling adulation.
“Thank you,” Washington said, with a regal nod of the head. “We’ll be in Philadelphia for a spell, so we’ll visit your fine establishment again.”
“Yes, the Federal Convention. A noble endeavor. My best wishes.”
“And what might those wishes be?” Washington asked.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is the US Constitution Viable in the 21st Century?

U.S. Constitution

Today, many people question the viability of our Constitution. People ask if 18th century men could anticipate the complex issues of the 21st Century. In other words, can something written over two hundred years ago direct a government in our modern world? The short answer is yes, but let me explain.

When James Madison brought the Virginia Plan to Philadelphia, it was not a list of laws, but a system of government. A system that forthrightly recognized the weaknesses of man, and delineated a set of checks and balances to distribute power; not just between the three branches of government, but also between the federal government and the states.

Although the delegates debated endlessly over the elements of the design, and made major revisions to Madison's plan, they always kept the debates focused on limiting centers of powers. They were serious men designing a system of government for the ages to protect liberty for themselves and their posterity. Although not a common phrase at the time, every one of the fifty-five men at the Federal Convention would agree with the maxim that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lincoln at Cooper Union

Lincoln photo from day of speech

In early 1860, Abraham Lincoln was a little known regional politician from Springfield, Illinois. The Republican Party was new, and had failed running national hero John C. Frémont for president in 1856. Abraham Lincoln chances of ascending to the presidency under the Republican banner were slight. All that changed in New York City on February 27, 1860. That afternoon, Lincoln had his photograph taken by Mathew Brady, and in the evening, he gave a historic speech at the Cooper Union. Lincoln often said that Brady’s photograph and his Cooper Union address propelled him to the presidency.

Below is a highly abridged version of Lincoln’s speech.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

John Boehner in a Pickle Quotes Yours Truly

government news, 2016 campaign
John Boehner

John Boehner posted an article today at Constituting America. Near the beginning, he quotes an earlier article that I wrote for the site: “Concentrated political power frightened the Founders. They especially feared unrestrained executive power.”

It was an honor to be quoted by the Speaker of the House, but I felt his article weak. I suspect that the political turmoil in the 2016 race prompted him to write a reassuring piece claiming that the House was fighting executive encroachment on legislative powers.

Unfortunately, the actions related in the article are old and long ago lost their allure. People are frustrated. They want consequential action, not base appeasement. Few take comfort that the House puts its trust in the glacial judicial branch to protect its prerogatives. The United States Congress has its own powers ... if they can work up the courage to use them.