Authored by William Robert Barber
Those that govern have been at each other’s throat since President Washington’s appointment of Chief Justice John Jay to the Supreme Court, the seating of the first congress and Alexander Hamilton’s insistence on establishing those certain means of paying off the federal debt. The clash between Northern and Southern politicians over where to locate the capital and the frustrated bitterness of Southern representatives when congresses’ Northern majority passed, with only six Southern votes, the Excise or Duties on Distilled Spirits Act. The tax on liquor was created to cover the cost of the federal assumption of State debts; withstanding the neediness of the legislation, the tax ignited the infamous Pennsylvania Whisky Rebellion in 1794 wherein President Washington ordered federal troops to quell and subsequently ordered the leaders hanged. Henry Lee of Virginia (later to be the father of Robert E. Lee) wrote to James Madison complaining that he would rather risk the loss of life and holdings, “than to live under the rule of a fixed insolent Northern majority.”
In the early days of the republic the precedence was forthcoming the frame of lawfulness was encapsulated within the literal interpretation of the constitution itself. Specificity as to the operating interrelationship between the three branches of government had not (with exceptions) been recognized as constitutionally conventional. Then Chief Justice John Marshall took office. The justice defined, affirmed, and created along with the Chief Justice’s original concept of judicial review, the Supreme Court as a coequal branch of government. He metaphorically in the 34 years of his tenure as Chief Justice took the bull by the horns and almost single-handedly clarified and laid the basis for American constitution law.
Surely these were tenuous times for the republic; aside from the nation’s growing pains there was the natural difficulty of implementing the words and meaningfulness of the constitution into lawfully actionable measures. Divisiveness, jealousy, and the divergent economic wherewithal between the North and South seeded resentfulness along with numerous displays of disparity over ideological viewpoints.
Considering the background of the recent French Revolution one could appreciate the Federalist inclination to strengthen the powers of the federal government. Chief Justice Marshall was a federalist, so was the person who nominated him, President John Adams, the federalist controlled all branches of government until Thomas Jefferson was elected in the presidential election of 1800. Marshall favored an expansive reading of the enumerated powers and was consistent in his demand that federal law subjugated State.
The Federalist papers authored by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay noted, “you must first enable government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
It is the “oblige it to control itself,” portion that has failed implementation. It’s feasible that the winning of the Civil War by President Lincoln’s federalist government, the governing of the defeated South by Marshall Law, and the dismantling, by the Supreme Court, (i.e. the 1873 SC interpretation of the 14th Amendment known as the “Slaughter House cases) of the 1789 constitutional limitations expressed within the principal of federalism that initiated the progressive era. An era of economic and property regulation; a time of expansive governmental mischief, wherein, clauses within the constitution originally intended to constrain, were reinterpreted, such as the Commerce Clause, as an opportunity for the federal government to grasp power not restrict.
Since the very beginning, opprobrious characters have played their part across the panorama of America’s political history. Whether their intent was honorable or dishonorable, sensible or ludicrous, right or wrong, their effect has been felt; nothing much has changed. Today the political choice in the U.S. is whether the populous will vote in Obama for a second term as president and therefore espouse, endorse, and henceforth ratify the progressive’s entitlement belief. Or whether the voters will choose an ideological belief that is founded on merit and self-determination.
As a conservative the knowing that Obama could just as easily win as loose is very discombobulating for me. All I am left with as of this date is the wish and hope that the Republicans can pull together a winner and not self-destruct before the primary is over.