Monday, January 31, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
So here's a quiz:
During President Washington's first term, the United States consisted of how many states?
6) All of the above.
The answer is: 6, all of the above. How can this be, you ask? Here goes. Article VII of the Constitution proposed by the Philadelphia Convention provided that ratification by nine states would bring the Constitution into effect. New Hampshire ratified the document on June 21st, 1788, the 9th state to do so. Virginia followed suit a few days later, and New York ratified the document in July. The nation's first presidential election took place between December, 1788 and January 1789, and George Washington was innaugurated in April, 1789.
Article VII also provided that the Constitution only applied to those states that had actually ratified it. Hence, ratification by New Hampshire, though it brought the Constitution to life, did not annex states that had, to that point anyway, not ratified it. North Carolina did not ratify until November 21, 1789. Rhode Island held out until May 29, 1790. Thus, George Washington initially presided over a nation of 11 states, then 12, then, halfway through his term, the original 13 colonies. (Note also that Washington only carried 10 of these 11, because New York did not cast its votes.)
Thus, from June 21, 1788 until May 29, 1790, Rhode Island, for instance, was a sovereign nation, as was North Carolina, from June 21, 1788 until November 21, 1789.
But that's not all.
Vermont ratified the Constitution on March 4, 1791 and was admitted to the Union as the 14th state, having function as an independent republic, minting its own coins.
Kentucky then ratified the Constitution on June 1, 1792, becoming the 15th state.
Thus, by the end of his term, Washington, who began as President of a United 11 States, was President of a union of 15.
Why? One obvious possibility is the balance of power between employers and employees."
Friday, January 7, 2011
* * * * *
While Lithwick's recommendation would make for an interesting and important history lesson, the House of Representatives is not, thankfully, a history department. Presumably the point of reading the Constitution yesterday was to impress upon members of the House both the source and the limits of their authority over their fellow citizens. Judged by this standard, the House properly read the actual Constitution that binds us and not those parts that We The People have discarded.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
"Now the Republicans running the House, under pressure from the Tea Party are requiring that every time a member of Congress introduces legislation he or she must certify that it is constitutional. Makes you wonder why conservatives care so much who sits on the Supreme Court—since they seem determined to usurp its job."
Contrary to Beinart's assumption, the Supreme Court is not the only branch of government with an obligation to enforce the Constitution. Simply put, Congress may not punt its responsibility to adhere to the document from which it derives its authority. No language in the Constitution grants courts a monopoly on the duty to adhere to our fundamental law. By its terms, the Constitution is the "Supreme Law of the Land" and thus, it seems, binding on all governmental actors, and not merely those who wear robes. Indeed, the First Congress debated the constitutionality of the proposed National Bank and the scope of the President's authority to remove Officers of the United States. Such debates were a waste of time if, as Beinart suggests, constitutional interpretation is the exclusive job of courts. Moreover, when justifying the institution of judicial review at the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention, James Wilson, later a Supreme Court Justice, argued that a President could decline to enforce a law he believed to be unconstitutional and that, in the same way, judges could decline to enforce unconstitutional laws that came before them. It would be odd indeed if the President and the Courts where charged with adhering to the Constitution, while Congress was free to ignore it.
Ironicially courts, the supposed repository of interpretive monopoly Beinart proposes, themselves have rejected this monopoly. The Supreme Court begins its judicial review of statutes passed by Congress by presuming such statutes Constitutional. As Justice Bushrod Washington (pictured above) put it in Ogden v. Saunders, 25 U.S. 213 (1827).
"It is but a decent respect due to the wisdom, the integrity, and the patriotism of the legislative body by which any law is passed to presume in favor of its validity until its violation of the Constitution is proved beyond all reasonable doubt. This has always been the language of this Court when that subject has called for its decision, and I know that it expresses the honest sentiments of each and every member of this bench."
Such a presumption only makes sense on the assumption that Congress considers the constitutionality of legislation before acting on it. Thus, Congress's failure to pass legislation because its members believe a proposed enactment to be unconstitutional is in no way a "usurpation" of the appropriate role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system.
Despite this oversight, Beinart's essay is well worth reading. Among other things he challenges members of the "Tea Party" to reconcile their commitment to limited government with the sort of muscular foreign policy endorsed by modern conservatives, a foreign policy that consumes billions of dollars per year in discretionary spending on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, thereby increasing the deficit against which Tea Partiers inveigh. Beinart suggests that true concern for limited government should cause members of the Tea Party to rethink their acquiescence in the sort of foreign policy currently endorsed by the Republican Party.