July 14, 1948: Truman Begins Giving Them Hell

 

This being a presidential election year I have been thinking lately of prior presidential election years.  In 1948 the Democrats held their national convention in Philadelphia as they did this year.  No president seeking election has ever faced a more daunting prospect than Harry Truman.  His party was fractured, with the pro-segregation Dixiecrats, under Governor of South Carolina Strom Thurmond, peeling off Democrats of the right and the Progressives, under former Vice-President Henry Wallace, peeling off Democrats of the left.  In his acceptance speech Truman gave notice to the nation that if he was going down in November, he was going down swinging.  Here is the text of his speech:

I am sorry that the microphones are in the way, but I must leave them the way they are because I have got to be able to see what I am doing– as I am always able to see what I am doing.

I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the honor which you have just conferred upon me. I shall continue to try to deserve it.

I accept the nomination.

And I want to thank this convention for its unanimous nomination of my good friend and colleague, Senator Barkley of Kentucky. He is a great man, and a great public servant. Senator Barkley and I will win this election and make these Republicans like it– don’t you forget that!

We will do that because they are wrong and we are right, and I will prove it to you in just a few minutes. (more…)

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Published in: on July 31, 2016 at 3:25 am  Comments Off on July 14, 1948: Truman Begins Giving Them Hell  
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633 Squadron

Squadron Leader Adams: Well, at least the rockets won’t happen.
Air Vice Marshal Davis: Of course they’ll happen. But they won’t start tomorrow, or this month or on D-Day, and that’s important.
Squadron Leader Adams: Then what’s it all add up to? All their sacrifice?
Air Vice Marshal Davis: A successful operation.
Squadron Leader Adams: But they’re probably all dead. All 633 Squadron.
Air Vice Marshal Davis: You can’t kill a squadron.

Ending, 633 Squadron (1964)

Something for the weekend.  The theme song from 633 Squadron.  In my misspent youth I spent endless hours watching old war movies on TV.  One of my favorites was the British flick 633 Squadron (1964) which recounted the fictional tale of a British Mosquito bomber squadron and their self sacrificial attempt to take out a well-defended Nazi V2 rocket fuel plant in occupied Norway.  The film won praise for its aerial sequences, cutting edge in 1964 and George Lucas has cited the squadron’s attack on the plant as influencing the trench run sequence attack on the Death Star in Star Wars. (more…)

Published in: on July 30, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on 633 Squadron  
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Review: Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party

 

(I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

I went to see  Dinesh D’Souza’s Hillary’s America yesterday with with my bride and my son.  We all loved it.  My review is beneath the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in force. (more…)

Published in: on July 29, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Review: Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party  
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1916 Republican Party Platform

 

One hundred years ago the Republicans were optimistic as to their chances to unseat Woodrow Wilson.  By nominating Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a moderate progressive, they had healed the split that had led to their defeat in 1912.  This healing was underlined when Theodore Roosevelt declined the nomination of the Progressive Party that he had founded in 1912 and had a telegram read at the Progressive convention, held at the same time as the Republican convention, announcing that he was endorsing Hughes.  Here is the Republican party platform for 1916:

 

 

In 1861 the Republican party stood for the Union. As it stood for the Union of States, it now stands for a united people, true to American ideals, loyal to American traditions, knowing no allegiance except to the Constitution, to the Government, and to the Flag of the United States. We believe in American policies at home and abroad.

Protection of American Rights

We declare that we believe in and will enforce the protection of every American citizen in all the rights secured to him by the Constitution, by treaties and the laws of nations, at home and abroad, by land and by sea. These rights, which in violation of the specific promise of their party made at Baltimore in 1912, the Democratic President and the Democratic Congress have failed to defend, we will unflinchingly maintain. (more…)

Published in: on July 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on 1916 Republican Party Platform  
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Federalist 56 – Madison

The previous paper covered in this series – and I’m sure you all remember back four years ago when I discussed Federalist 55 – dealt with the size of the House of Representatives. Madison continued on the theme in the 56th Federalist Paper. Once again Madison was at pains to strike a careful balance, arguing that the House was large enough to accomodate representatives who would have adequate knowledge of their constituency, but not so large as to become an over-crowded mess, unable to accomplish anything ofg substance.

At the time of the Constitution’s ratification, a House district was designed to encompass approximately 30,000 people. Madison thinks this is a suitable size for a representative to understand the complexities of the district he represents. As he puts it:

It is a sound and important principle that the representative ought to be acquainted with the interests and circumstances of his constituents. But this principle can extend no further than to those circumstances and interests to which the authority and care of the representative relate. An ignorance of a variety of minute and particular objects, which do not lie within the compass of legislation, is consistent with every attribute necessary to a due performance of the legislative trust. In determining the extent of information required in the exercise of a particular authority, recourse then must be had to the objects within the purview of that authority.

The implicit argument is the purview of the federal government will be quite limited, therefore a representative need only acquite expertise in subject matters that will directly impact his constituents. The representative did not need to be on a first-name basis with each of his constituents, nor did he need to be aware of every little bit of minutiae affecting them. He had to attain a general knowledge of those matters, and only those matters in which the federal government might have a say over the lives of the people he represents. Therefore he would not be spread too thin according to the original constitutional design.

So what are the areas of particular interest?

What are to be the objects of federal legislation? Those which are of most importance, and which seem most to require local knowledge, are commerce, taxation, and the militia.

A good representative will have to have some particular insight when it comes to regulation and taxation, but Madison did not think this required each state to have more than a handful of representatives, depending of course on the size of the state.

As far as it may consist of internal collections, a more diffusive knowledge of the circumstances of the State may be necessary. But will not this also be possessed in sufficient degree by a very few intelligent men, diffusively elected within the State? Divide the largest State into ten or twelve districts, and it will be found that there will be no peculiar local interests in either, which will not be within the knowledge of the representative of the district. Besides this source of information, the laws of the State, framed by representatives from every part of it, will be almost of themselves a sufficient guide. In every State there have been made, and must continue to be made, regulations on this subject which will, in many cases, leave little more to be done by the federal legislature, than to review the different laws, and reduce them in one general act. A skillful individual in his closet with all the local codes before him, might compile a law on some subjects of taxation for the whole union, without any aid from oral information, and it may be expected that whenever internal taxes may be necessary, and particularly in cases requiring uniformity throughout the States, the more simple objects will be preferred. To be fully sensible of the facility which will be given to this branch of federal legislation by the assistance of the State codes, we need only suppose for a moment that this or any other State were divided into a number of parts, each having and exercising within itself a power of local legislation. Is it not evident that a degree of local information and preparatory labor would be found in the several volumes of their proceedings, which would very much shorten the labors of the general legislature, and render a much smaller number of members sufficient for it?

Madison adds that the national legislature will include a number of individuals who will have already served as state legislators, and therefore they will be able to convey local information into national debates over legislation. As for the militia, differences in discipline may differ from state-to-state, but will not differ within each state, so a representative does need to possess a specialized understanding of local circumstances on this subject.

In the next paragraph, Madison asserts that the intra-state similarities justify a smaller number of representatives. Districts will not vary significantly. Over time states will diversify, growing larger in population and in the types of people occupying it. The constitution addresses this by granting an increase in the number of representatives as the population grows and becomes more diffuse.

Whether Madison’s logic still holds 238 years later considering the manifold increase in both the issues over which the federal government claims dominion and in the population, where average district sizes are now over 20 times greater than at the time of ratification, is a subject worthy of debate. In a sense the logic still holds, even if the federal government oversees many more matters of interest, and even if the districts are much larger. Districts may be larger in population size, but a representative’s ability to gather information is also dramatically improved. And though we lament the decline in the number of “swing” districts, it does mean a representative is likely reflecting the will of most of his or her constituents, if nothing else.

-Paul

 

1916 Democratic Party Platform

 

One hundred years ago the United States was going through a presidential election, just as we are this year.  Here is the platform of the Democrats for 1916.  Note their appeal to Americanism, which Donald Trump announced last week would be his policy as opposed to globalism.  The platform also has a section on Mexico, indicating that border problems with that nation are nothing new in American history:

The Democratic Party, in National Convention assembled, adopts the following declaration to the end that the people of the United States may both realize the achievements wrought by four years of Democratic administration and be apprised of the policies to which the party is committed for the further conduct of National affairs.

I. Record of Achievement

We endorse the administration of Woodrow Wilson. It speaks for itself. It is the best exposition of sound Democratic policy at home and abroad.

We challenge comparison of our record, our keeping of pledges and our constructive legislation, with those of any party of any time.

We found our country hampered by special privilege, a vicious tariff, obsolete banking laws and an inelastic currency. Our foreign affairs were dominated by commercial interests for their selfish ends. The Republican Party, despite repeated pledges, was impotent to correct abuses which it had fostered. Under our Administration, under a leadership which has never faltered, these abuses have been corrected, and our people have been freed therefrom.

Our archaic banking and currency system, prolific of panic and disaster under Republican administrations,—long the refuge of the money trust,—has been supplanted by the Federal Reserve Act, a true democracy of credit under government control, already proved a financial bulwark in a world crisis, mobilizing our resources, placing abundant credit at the disposal of legitimate industry and making a currency panic impossible.

We have created a Federal Trade Commission to accommodate perplexing questions arising under the anti-trust laws, so that monopoly may be strangled at its birth and legitimate industry encouraged. Fair competition in business is now assured.

We have effected an adjustment of the tariff, adequate for revenue under peace conditions, and fair to the consumer and to the producer. We have adjusted the burdens of taxation so that swollen incomes bear their equitable share. Our revenues have been sufficient in times of world stress, and will largely exceed the expenditures for the current fiscal year.

We have lifted human labor from the category of commodities and have secured to the workingman the right of voluntary association for his protection and welfare. We have protected the rights of the laborer against the unwarranted issuance of writs of injunction, and have guaranteed to him the right of trial by jury in cases of alleged contempt committed outside the presence of the court.

We have advanced the parcel post to genuine efficiency, enlarged the postal savings system, added ten thousand rural delivery routes and extensions, thus reaching two and one-half millions additional people, improved the postal service in every branch, and for the first time in our history, placed the post-office system on a self-supporting basis, with actual surplus in 1913, 1914 and 1916.

II. Economic Freedom

The reforms which were most obviously needed to clear away special privilege, prevent unfair discrimination and release the energies of men of all ranks and advantages, have been effected by recent legislation. We must now remove, as far as possible, every remaining element of unrest and uncertainty from the path of the business men of America, and secure for them a continued period of quiet, assured and confident prosperity. (more…)

Published in: on July 27, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on 1916 Democratic Party Platform  
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Titles of Nobility Amendment

the-new-republics-government-8-638

 

Passed by Congress in 1810, the amendment came within two states of being approved between 1812 and 1816.  The text of the amendment:

 

If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them. (more…)

Published in: on July 26, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Titles of Nobility Amendment  
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Civil War Book Haul

 

While in Wisconsin, my family and I visited the Civil War museum in Kenosha.  It has quite a few fascinating exhibits, including period battle flags, uniforms, films, a toy soldier exhibit showing the stand of the Iron Brigade on the first day of Gettysburg, etc.  One of my favorite features of the museum is their gift shop which has a huge collection of used Civil War books for sale.  I never fail to find often rare books on the Civil War.  Here is a list of my purchases for 43 dollars earlier in the week:

  1. Jefferson Davis:   American Patriot 1808-1861, Hudson Strode (1955)-Poor Jefferson Davis, portrayed as the Devil incarnate by the North during the War, he was often used as a scapegoat by Southerners after the War.  The simple truth is that Davis was a gifted man who brought the Confederacy close to independence against all the odds.  Hudson Strode was the first historian to have access to many of the personal papers of Jefferson Davis and launched a vigorous counterattack to the image of Davis as a bloodless pedant, revealing him instead as a passionate and complex man.
  2. The Hidden Face of the Civil War, Otto Eisenschiml (1961)-The Austrian born Eisenschiml was an oil company executive, and a tireless Civil War historian.  He is perhaps best known for his 1937 look at the Lincoln assassination which posited that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was behind the assassination.  I regard this theory as completely loony.  However, Eisenschiml was never afraid of controversy and is always entertaining to read.    In this volume he savages both the North and the South for incompetence in the waging of the Civil War.
  3. The Celebrated Case of Fitz John Porter:  An American Dreyfus Affair, Otto Eisenschiml (1950)-Eisenschiml takes on the case of General Porter who was court-martialed and removed from the Army for his actions at Second Bull Run, and who fought for 25 years to clear his name, a fight he ultimately won.
  4. Lincoln’s Scapegoat General: A Life of General Benjamin Butler, 1818-1893, Richard S. West, Jr. (1965)-A book in defense of “Beast” Butler.  I like seeing arguments made for impossible cases, and attempting to convince me that Butler was not the most incompetent Union general is close to an impossible task.
  5. General Sherman’s Son:  The Life of Thomas Ewing Sherman, SJ, Joseph T. Durkin, SJ (1959)  A biography of the Jesuit son of General Sherman written by a Jesuit.  Go here to read about Father Sherman.
  6. Grant Wins the War, James R. Arnold (1997)-A good one volume look at the Vicksburg campaign, the most decisive campaign of the War.

(more…)

Published in: on July 25, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate

 

Hard to believe that it is 57 years since the Kitchen Debate between Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschchev.  The US scored one of the biggest propaganda coups of the Cold War by building a typical American house, cut in half for easy viewing, at the American National Exhibit at Sokolniki Park in Moscow in 1959.  This was part of an agreement where the Soviet staged an exhibit in New York the same year.  Ordinary Soviets flocked to see it and were awed at the technology in the house featuring the latest labor saving and recreational devices in 1959.  They were floored at the contention of the Americans that this was a typical house that an average American could afford.  The impromptu debate between Khruschchev redounded greatly to the benefit of Nixon who came across to American audiences as an able champion of their cause.  Khruschchev was also impressed by Nixon, so much so that he later claimed that he did everything in his power to defeat Nixon when Nixon ran for President in 1960. (more…)

Published in: on July 24, 2016 at 1:48 pm  Comments Off on July 24, 1959: The Kitchen Debate  
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To Canaan

 

 

Something for the weekend.  To Canaan.   One of the more bloodthirsty songs of our Civil War, it is based on this poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, published in 1862: (more…)

Published in: on July 23, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on To Canaan  
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