Archive for September 17th, 2012

Our Constitution: Beacon Light Of Human Liberty

September 17, 2012

Our Constitution Is Beacon Light Of Human Liberty

Today is the 153rd anniversary of signing of the Constitution of the United States. On this day in `1787, some thirty odd members of the Constitutional Convention, sitting in Philadelphia, affixed their signatures to the document with which few, if any of them were satisfied, but which they believed was the best upon which the majority could agree.

Even George Washington, who presided over the meeting, was dubious as to whether the constitution would be adopted by the thirteen states; and even if adopted, he had little faith in its permanence.

How much better the makers of the constitution wrought then they themselves anticipated!

Today there exists not an instrument of government anywhere which is more strongly entrenched in the affections of the people; nor is there one which gives so much promise of enduring in a world in flux and revolution.

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The document was born out of a great national crisis.

The thirteen colonies successfully had won their political independence from Great Britain, but they had failed utterly to achieve national unity. On the contrary, the drift was steadily toward disunion, civil war and anarchy.

The Articles of Confederation made what national government there was both feeble, incompetent and futile.

A few of the more far sighted among the leaders — Washington, Madison, Hamilton and Franklin, among others — saw the imperative necessity for action if the country were to be saved, and thus it was that the governors of twelve states were prevailed upon to appoint delegates to consider revision of the Articles of Confederation.

That was their instructions.

But happily for us the delegates voted to disregard these instructions and drew up an entirely new constitution for the United States.

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Nor is it fair to those who wrote the constitution to say that their prevailing temper was conservative — that the aim they had in view was not only to secure the unity of the country, but to assure the security of property as well.

Perhaps the frankest statement as to this prevailing view came from Roger Sherman, who said:

The people should have as little to do as may be with the government.

Thus it was that when the constitution was completed some twenty delegates refused to sign it and it was denounced by such famed patriots as Patrick Henry and old Sam Adams as “a rich man’s document.”

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This fear of the dangers of “mob government” or too much control by the “masses” is evident to even the casual student of the work of the convention.

The president was not to be chosen by the people, neither were the senators. To select the former an electoral college was set up, which theoretically was to be composed of the best men in each state who in turn would meet and choose with deliberation and care the man best suited to be president. Of course, it only worked that way in the first two elections. But senators continued to be named by the state legislatures until after the turn of the present century.

The president’s power was curbed by provisions that all treaties should be subject to the test of a two thirds vote of the senate, while all appointments were made subject to senate confirmation.

The president, however, could put a check on both houses of congress through the veto power, while wide but deliberately vague authority was given to a powerful judiciary appointed for life.

Moreover, in the original draft there was no Bill of Rights, no protection for freedom of speech, the practice of religion and the press.

It was Thomas Jefferson who refused to give his support to the constitution unless a pledge were given that the Bill of Rights would be incorporated as soon as possible after the new government was established, which was done.

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The constitution has proved its worth through the years. It has provided security for property, but also has safeguarded human rights. Today it is the beacon light of freedom in a world over much of which has spread the darkness of totalitarianism.

It is the hope of Democracy in a world where despots sneer at popular government as decadent and hopeless.

As we ourselves sustain and support the constitution we shall prove these despots to be liars and frauds; and thus hasten the day when the ideals of liberty which it enshrines shall once more become the common heritage of humanity.

Fresno Bee Republican (Fresno, California) Sep 17, 1940

Liberty Fetes Constitution

September 17, 2012

The Constitution — America’s Gibraltar

Fresno Bee Republican (Fresno, California) Sep 17, 1937

Constitution Adopted September 17, 1787

A Rock Foundation

Hamilton Daily News Journal (Hamilton, Ohio) Sep 17, 1937

Have you ever seen the Statue of Liberty’s torch ablaze before? Then just look how the smoke pours from it above. The occasion was the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. Army and Navy color guards join to present the colors on the parapet of the statue’s pedestal, Bedloe’s Island, New York harbor.

The Helena Independent (Helena, Montana) Se[ 17, 1937

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Taking as his theme the history of the Constitution, the attacks which have been made upon it and the security it provides the American people, Associate Justice John A. Matthews, principal speaker at yesterday’s Kiwanis meeting said that while the communist party boasts of 500,00 members in this country, an even greater threat to liberty is being made by “intelligent demagogues.”

He cited as an example of the latter, Jay Franklin, author of several “leftist” books and regarded in some circles as a leader in socialistic government tendencies. He referred in particular to a statement attributed to Franklin that the Constitution had been framed by a group of “old farmers.”

Greatest of Time

“As a matter of fact,” the speaker said, “the Constitution was written by the greatest students of government ever gathered together at one time.” In the group were college presidents, ambassadors, governors, members of the Continental congress and others who had proved themselves the most brilliant men of their times.

The average age of this group, he said, was 42 years refuting the implication and “doddering old timers” were responsible for the document.

Swinging into a brief discussion of the Supreme court, over which wide spread discussion has rested because of the president’s plan to pack it, Judge Matthews asserted that unfavorable comment about fire-to-four decisions of the court was unfounded.

Two Favorable

“Actually,” he said, “until the time for the Supreme court furor last winter only three of nine New Deal decisions were by a five-to-four decision. And of these three, two were favorable to the government.”

Generally, Kiwanis voted his talk one of the most interesting of the year.

The speaker was introduced by Warren Batch, program chairman. Musical entertainment included two vocal solos by Mrs. Dorothy Statler, accompanied at the piano by Mrs. Pearl Johnson.

The Helena Independent (Helena, Montana) Sep 14, 1937

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Lower the Net?

Abilene Morning News (Abilene, Texas) Feb 17, 1937

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Previous Constitution Day posts:

What You Should Know About Our Constitution

Preserving Our Constitution

Constitution Day 1922 – Study the Constitution

Across the Path of Popular Impatience

Constitution Proclamation

The New Deal and the Constitution

Progressive Economics: Dealt from a Pack Thumbed by Kings, Despots and Tyrants

The U.S. Constitution: Wet or Dry

A Constitution Day Thought

Herbert Hoover’s Poignant Duty

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 For the Portsmouth Times.

NOTA BENE.

A KING once said, “I am the State;”
Did his assertion make it true?
Another heard the words, “Too late!”
As from his land and throne he flew.

One ruler, in our own fair land,
Sets up his will as all in all;
A greater issues his command,
Liberty’s Goddess to enthral.

When “Constitution” is prefixed “Un-”
And ended by a small “A.L.,”
Are laws illegal, all but one?
And that the law which would compel?

What follows, then? Have we no laws?
No Constitution to uphold?
Judge for yourselves, ye who can draw
Prophetic truth from histories old.

X. ENTRIC.
PORTSMOUTH, O., Nov. 27th, 1862.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Dec 6, 1862

Antietam: ‘By heaven! it was a goodly sight to see – For one who had no friend or brother there.’

September 17, 2012

Image from: (Google book link)

Title: The Secret Service, the Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape
Author: Albert Deane Richardson
Publisher    American Pub. Co., 1865

Incidents of Antietam.

We take the following incidents of the battle of Antietam from “The Field, The Dungeon and the Escape,” by A.D. Richardson.

My confrere and myself were within a few yards of Gen. Hooker. It was a very hot place. We could not distinguish the ‘ping’ of the individual bullets, but their combined and mingled hum was like the din of a great Lowell factory. Solid shot and shell came shrieking through the air, but over our heads, as we were on the extreme front.

Hooker – common-place before — the moment he heard the guns, loomed up into gigantic stature. His eye gleamed with the grand anger of battle. He seemed to know exactly what to do, to feel that he was master of the situation, and to impress every one else with the fact. Turning to one of his staff, and pointing to a spot near us, he said:

“Go and tell Capt. ____ to bring his battery and plant it there, at once.”

The lieutenant rode away. After giving one or two further orders with great clearness rapidity and precision, Hooker’s eye again turned to that mass of rebel infantry in the woods, and he said to another officer with great emphasis:

“Go and tell Capt. ____ to bring his battery here instantly!”

Sending more messages to the various divisions and batteries, only a single member of the staff remained.

Once more scanning the woods with his eagle eye, Hooker directed the aid:

“Go, and tell Capt. ____ to bring the batter y without one second’s delay. Why, my God, how he can pour it into their infantry.”

By this time seven of the body-guard had fallen from their saddles. Our horses plunged wildly. A shell plowed the ground under my rearing steed, and another exploded near Mr. Smalley, throwing great clouds of dust over both of us. Hooker leaped his white horse over a low fence into an adjacent orchard, whither we gladly followed. Though we did not move more than thirty yards, it took us comparatively out of range.

The desired battery, stimulated by three successive messages, came up with smoking horses, at a full run, was unlimbered in the twinkling of an eye, and began to pour shots into the enemy, who were also suffering severely from our infantry charges. IT was not many seconds before they began to waver. — Through the rifting smoke we could see their line sway to and fro; then it broke like a thaw in a great river. Hooker rose up in his saddle, and, in a voice of suppressed thunder, exclaimed:

“There they go, . . . . . . . Forward!”

Our whole line moved on. It was now nearly dark. Having shared the experience of ‘Fighting Joe Hooker’ quite long enough, I turned toward the rear. Fresh troops were pressing forward, and stragglers were ranged in long lines behind rocks and trees.

Riding slowly along a grassy slope, as I supposed quite out of range, my meditations were disturbed by a cannon ball, whose rush of air fanned my face, and made my horse shrink and read almost upright. The next moment came another behind me, and by the great blaze of a fire of rails, which the soldiers had built, I saw it ricochet down the slope like a foot ball, and pass right through a column of our troops in blue who were marched steadily forward. The gap which it made was immediately closed up.

Men with litters were grouping through the darkness, bearing the wounded to the ambulances.

At nine o’clock I wandered to a farm-house, occupied by some of our pickets. We dared not light candles as it was within range of the enemy. The family had left. I tied my horse to an apple tree and lay down upon the parlor floor, with my saddle for a pillow. At intervals during the night we heard the popping of musketry, and at the first glimpse of dawn the picket officer shook me by the arm.

“My friend,” said he, “you had better go away as soon as you can; this place is getting rather hot for civilians.”

I rode around through the field, for shot and shell were already screaming up the narrow lane.

Thus commenced the long, hotly-contested battle of Antietam. Our line was three miles in length, with Hooker on the right, Burnside on the left, and a great gap in the centre, occupied only by artillery; while Fitz John Porter with the fine corps was held in reserve. From dawn until nearly dark the two great armies wrestled like athletes, straining every muscle, losing here, gaining there, and at many points fighting the same ground over and over again. It was a fierce, sturdy, indecisive conflict.

Five thousand spectators viewed the struggle from a hill comparatively out of range. — Not more than three persons were struck there during the day, McClellan and his staff occupied another ridge half a mile in the rear.

‘By heaven! it was a goodly sight to see
For one who had no friend or brother there.’

No one who looked upon that wonderful panorama can describe or forget it. Every hill and valley, every corn field, grove and cluster of trees was fiercely fought for.

The artillery was unceasing; we could often count more than sixty guns to the minute. It was like the patter of rain drops in an April shower. On the great field were riderless horses and scattering men, clouds of dirt from solid shot and expending shells, long, dark, lines of infantry swaying to and fro, with columns of smoke rising from their muskets, red flashes and white puffs from the batteries — with the sun shining brightly on all this scene of tumult, and beyond it, upon the dark, rich woods, and the clear, blue mountains south of the Potomac.”

The Herald and Torch Light (Hagerstown, Maryland) Aug 16, 1865

Seventy five years ago Corp. Basil Lemley, left, 94, fought with the Union army, and Capt. Robert E. Miles, center, 98 was on the side of the Confederacy in the bloody Civil war battle of Antietam. The two ex-soldiers put aside their one-time enmity and sealed their friendship with a handshake above, with President Roosevelt, right, when he visited the battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland on Constitution day.

Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Sep 18, 1937

Image from Mr Lincoln & Friends – Ozias M. Hatch

After the battle of Antietam, when McClellan’s army lay unaccountably idle, Lincoln, with his friend, O.M. Hatch of Illinois, went to the front. They stood on a hill from which they could view the vast camp, and Lincoln said:

Lincoln — Hatch, Hatch, what is all this?

Hatch — Why, that is the Army of the Potomac.

Lincoln — No, Hatch, no. That is General McClellan’s bodyguard.

The Bee (Danville, Virginia) Jul 31, 1952