“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Guest Lecturer

After close to a year and a half of blabbing on here by myself, I now introduce my first guest speaker, ch, the long-time friend to whom I referred in the previous post, “Persons Unknown”.  After reading that post, ch, a retired history teacher, wrote to me about the history of the Constitution, confirming that the interests and purposes I found in its language were indeed those of the Founding Fathers.  With his permission, I here publish the email he sent to me.  Bracketed remarks printed in italics are my comments on his thoughts.

“About the formation of the Constitution:  what really propelled the Framers to meet in Philadelphia was Shay's Rebellion, which had just occurred in Massachusetts.  Shay was a disgruntled farmer who was protesting taxes levied upon him by the elites in state government.

“At the time, the federal government, initially created by the Articles of Confederation, really couldn't compel states to pay their requested share of taxes to the federal government, so the federal government was weak.  So it could afford no real army and could not put down the rebellion.  The federal government at that time also did not provide for a president, so there was no one to lead the non-existent troops against the very existent rebellion.  Fortunately for the powers that be, however, Massachusetts was well funded, could afford to have a militia, and was possessed of a strong governor -- and it was curtains for Shay.

“Well, the wealthy across the land saw the handwriting on the wall, and quickly came to the conclusion that if they didn't get a strong central state together fast to protect their goods, they might have their purses swiped by the common man.  Intolerable!  So they (ALL WEALTHY MEN) met in Philly, in the summer of 1789 I think it was, to remedy the weaknesses in the federal government.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  

“What emerged was a new central government possessed of the powers to tax, the powers to declare war, the power to regulate the post, the power to regulate weights and measures, and the ability to regulate commerce.  Now there was new daddy in the room.  And the first real test for dad was when George Washington and his boys in their new shiny uniforms rode off to heavy-handedly suppress a bunch of down at the heels whisky distillers in Pennsylvania who didn't want to have their trade controlled by no ‘guv-mint’.  (This was the ill-fated Whisky Rebellion.) 

“To be fair however, the Constitution created a federal government of limited powers.  All powers not given to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people, and the federal government can only regulate what it is expressly articulated in Article I Section 8.  It can however, pass all laws ‘necessary and proper’ to implement the ‘Express Powers’.

[I’d say that is the detail in which the Devil is said to reside.]

“The clauses most frequently stretched by the ‘necessary and proper’ clause are the war powers, the tax powers, and the famous commerce clause.

[See my remarks on the program I heard on “Community Rights in my Persons Unknown post.]

“The federal government is also a government of checks and balances and separation of powers, devices designed to prevent (in theory) any one from running away with all the power.  And Madison thought at the time that, due to the size of the new country, it would be impossible for any one faction, out of the many in such a large land, to rise to supremacy.  In a sense he thought that size does matter.

“Furthermore, all revenue bills had to arise in the House, the branch most beholden to the rank and file.  

“However, a quick qualification:  all three branches are insulated from the will of the people.  The president is elected by the Electoral College.  Until the passage of the 17th Amendment, Senators were chosen by state legislators.  And federal judges are appointed for life so that they can be immune from popular opinion.

“Also, when first ratified, the Constitution did not contain a Bill of Rights.  However, when Washington promised that he'd get one passed the first day in office, which he did, that soothed a lot of feathers.  Of note, Madison wrote both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  For 5'2" he was a big man.

“Personal Comment:  I really like Washington, Adams, Madison and most of all that old geezer Franklin.  I really get the feeling that they were just feeling their way, and trying to create a new land of opportunity while trying as much as possible to protect individual liberty.  (Of note, I'm using ‘liberty’ in its modern sense, but at the time ‘liberty’ meant the ability to use ones property unencumbered by anyone else.)  But he whom I despise is Hamilton.  Fortunately Aaron Burr had his way with him.

“So, when someone says that they are a member of the Federalist Society
(isn't Chief Justice Robertsa member?) what they are advocating is a strong central state that can maintain order and protect property.

"Can ya dig it?

“Cheers, ch

[Roberts is or was a member not only of the Federalist Society but probably of Opus Dei as well.]