Friday, April 14, 2017

The Greatest Founding Mother: Mercy Otis Warren (Part III)

5. Warren did not ask for term limits but said “A Senate chosen for six years will, in most instances, be an appointment for life”. She was right on this point even after the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment which placed the election of Senators in the hands of the people and out of State Legislatures. Presently, there are 14 Senators who have been in office for at least 36 years and there have been 109 Senators in U.S. history to serve that long (Remember a Senator must be at least 30 years old to hold office and life expectancies did not go above 70 until the 1940s). Warren suggests that all serving Congressmen (House and Senate) serve 1 year terms. She writes “There is no provision for a rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done”. Shorter terms “keeps the mind of man in equilibrium, and teaches him the feelings of the governed, and better qualifies him to govern in his turn”. She writes further “and that annual election is the basis of responsibility, - Man is not immediately corrupted, but power with limitation, or amenability, may endanger the brightest virtue”. It is interesting how Warren already understands how money and power in government corrupts politicians. She also takes issue with “As the new Congress are empowered to determine their own salaries”. Furthermore, Warren notes “Passion, prejudice, and error, are characteristics of human nature …” hence there will be those “who betray the rights of the people, under the specious, and popular pretense of justice, consolidation, and dignity”. Therefore, she contends “vesting discretionary power in the hands of man, which he may, or may not abuse” is a huge risk because she notes Hamilton writes in the Federalist papers “that no form of government is perfect” but “we had nothing to fear”. Warren could not have predicted the abuses of present day corruption and lobbying in Washington, but once again, Warren’s concerns were much closer to reality than Hamilton’s.

6. Warren was against a standing army. “It is hoped this country may yet be governed by milder methods than are displayed beneath the banners of military law”. She fears armies “may be sent into foreign countries for the fulfilment of treaties”. Once again Warren is correct. America has intervened throughout history time and time again in foreign wars with the hope of obtaining a “peace”. Sometimes it has worked while other times it has failed. I disagree with Warren’s view (we do need a strong military), but she is correct in the fact that the U.S. has meddled in many conflicts that we should have avoided.

7. Warren’s most passionate argument against the Constitution is that a Federal government would infringe on state rights. Warren writes “annihilating the individual governments, and drawing blood from every pore by taxes, and imposing illegal restrictions”. She makes similar statements throughout the document: “annihilated the sovereignty and independence of the individual governments” or “the annihilation of the independence of the thirteen distinct states” or “ultimately to destroy the state governments, and offer a consolidate system …” Warren disputes the fact Americans need a federal government at all: “that we are incapable of enjoying our liberties – and that we must have a master.” This may have been Warren’s greatest fear and it certainly came to fruition. Even with the Tenth Amendment added to the Bill of Rights to protect the sovereignty of state rights, it is easy to argue that once the Constitution was ratified the states lost their sovereignty. In the 1920 tenth amendment case, Missouri v. Holland Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes brought forth the idea of a “living constitution”. This means the constitution can change as the justices see fit. The idea of a “living constitution” has yielded more federal power at the expense of the states. Besides, it is easy to trump the tenth amendment through congressional legislation on the basis of the “Supremacy Clause”. The sovereignty of states has been dwindling with each passing day. There is no Constitutional power for the federal government to control education, the environment, health, agriculture or energy but they have encroached on State power or sovereignty to dominate these issues.

8. Warren concludes that “One Representative to thirty thousand inhabitants is very inadequate representation…” She also states “It will be allowed by everyone that the fundamental principle of a free government is the equal representation of a free people.” Today, there is about 1 Representative in Congress for every 800,000 people and that number is growing rapidly each year (almost 30 times greater than back in 1800). That is a valid point: Do wealthy lawyers (over 75% of Congress) represent the needs of the people today? I should say not: Politicians are truly out of touch with reality.

9. Warren further contends that requiring only 9 of 13 states for ratification of the Constitution is wrong (it should be unanimous). She also has an issue with how fast the ratifying process was moving: “And the hurry with which it has been urged to the acceptance of the people, without giving time, by adjournment, for better information, and more unanimity has been deceptive in appearance”. This point is analogous to the passage of ObamaCare. It was not only done fast and in a partisan way, but no one even read the law. Just as ObamaCare was unpopular, Warren contends “the voice of the people appears at present strong against the adoption of the Constitution.” Despite this sentiment, state officials in 11 states ratified the Constitution. Warren contends that “Self-defense is a primary law of nature” and it is the right of every American to “resist the first approaches of tyranny” – just like the ObamaCare fight which has been going on for nearly 8 years.

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