The Federal Government – Focused On Economics From The Start | The Knowledge Dynasty

The Federal Government – Focused On Economics From The Start

by hugovk

When the Framers gathered in Philadelphia, in the words of Lincoln Steffens, they “not only did not, but did not want to, establish a democratic government.”

In 1989, an Oregon Supreme Court Justice put it this way:

“(The Federalists) stood for government by accountable representatives, government with the consent of the governed, not by the governed. ‘Republican’ and ‘democratic’ were not synonyms.”

Such was to be expected, given America’s Architects’ reliance on the political philosophy of John Locke and his notion that, in both appointment and appropriation, the successful government needs protection from the governed.

As Locke saw it, those lacking actual participation in choosing their governors found ample protection in virtual representation, and, citizens who do not topple the government or leave the country had consented to follow all laws.

In America, application of Locke’s theories produced a federal government that barely deserved the label “popular.”

a) The various state legislatures selected the federal senate;

b) The Electoral College decided who would be President; and,

c) These two institutions, insulated from the people as it were, decided who would sit on the federal bench.

Only members of the House of Representatives – 1/6 of the federal government – held their seats due to popular appointment.

The federal government concerned itself with creating and protecting the national economy, leaving the niceties of democracy – who got to vote, what those votes meant, etc. – to the many states.

Granted, most, if not all, states initially reserved the right to vote to white, male landowners.

These same states, however, steadily liberalized their election laws. By the late
1800s, nearly every state operated under a constitution approved by referendum and every one of the forty-five (45) states elected its governor at the polls.

In 1874, America’s Supreme Tribunal refused to use the relatively-recently approved 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection to void a clause of the Missouri Constitution denying women the right to vote.

In 1898, the nation’s High Court, with minimal authority to support the position, declared that corporations were persons within the meaning of the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection, and, voided a Nebraska law limiting railroad rates.

Four (4) years earlier, the Court, speaking through Mr. Justice Brewer, voided a similar Texas law.

“Brewer’s opinion exposed a philosophical line between (he) and his uncle, (U.S. Justice) Stephen J. Field, who (once wrote) that protection of property rights was the highest goal of the Constitution.”

People like Mr. Justice Brewer and his uncle viewed the unfettered abuse of workers as just another property right. If I could find someone who would work twelve (12) hours a day, in unsafe conditions, for hardly enough money, then, the Freedom to Contract clause of the federal Constitution prevented the state government from interfering.

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that, while it would allow state laws regulating especially dangerous employment, the Freedom to Contract Clause prevented extension of state regulation to workers in general.

It is to be remembered that members of America’s Supreme Tribunal were confirmed by a federal senate only indirectly elected by the people.

In the later half of the 1800s, as more and more money gathered in fewer and fewer pockets, bribery became an accepted political practice and the Free-Marketplace of Ideas became the Convenience-Store of Accumulation.

Seats in the federal senate formed the pinnacle of this political aggregation.

Those interested in national legislation toured the country buying senatorships for like-minded statesmen. Local legislative candidates, after pledging to support the “correct” senatorial aspirant, received financing for the graft, ballot-stuffing and intimidation essential to the successful late 1800’s campaign.

Accordingly, federal, state and local politicians all found themselves in bed with the same well-healed corporate whores.

Americans tired of this government by auction, especially in the new states of the West, where the lack of a political machine able to control things with a wink and a nod forced the payola near the surface for all to see.

In 1892, California voters endorsed direct election fourteen (14) to one (1). Nevada voters weighed in a year later, approving the idea by a margin just short of eight (8) to one (1). In 1902, Illinois voters sent the same message by a vote of nearly six (6) to one (1).

The legislatures of thirty-one (31) states – more than 2/3s of the states then in the Union – petitioned Congress for direct elections. Ten (10) states, including Oregon, petitioned for a constitutional convention to write the idea into the national charter.

Numerous times between 1893 and 1902, the popularly-elected U.S. House expressed near-unanimous support for direct election of U.S. Senators. Each time, the appointed federal Senate refused to concur, and, said turn-of-last-century Oregon Gov. T.T. Geer, “for obvious reasons probably never will.”

Evidently, a different way had to be found.

The 1901 Oregon Legislature approved the “Mays Act,” whereby a straw ballot would be held so the people could express their choice for U.S. Senator, with the “election” to be canvassed immediately before the 1903 Legislature appointed Oregon’s next senator.

A rousing show of support for popular government. But, alas, a show is all it was.

The 1903 Legislature, after being told which candidate the people favored, proceeded to appoint a man who had received, at most, a handful of votes at the much-vaunted “election.”

The People’s Power League responded by initiating the Direct Primary Law, an imaginary end-run on the federal constitution — and, the back room politics of Salem — that allowed Oregonians to “elect” their federal senators in 1907.

With one state “electing” its senators, the old appointment system had no chance elsewhere. In 1913, the 17th Amendment spread direct election nation-wide.

Greg Wasson has spent 10 years researching the history of the evolution of popular rule in America. He operates a research service based at the Oregon State Archives, and, specializes in researching the Oregon Revised Statutes, as enacted and changed by the Oregon Legislature.

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