Electoral Protections

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The Electoral College was designed by…. Madison and Hamilton to help guarantee that Federal cooperation was protected in the election of the President.  Fearing that plurality would bring nationalized power to the executive branch, Madison argued that the mixed authority of Federalism was the best protector of republican virtue:

The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies politic.  From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a mixed character, presenting at least as many federal as national features.     Madison, Federalist 39

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Americans enjoy the privilege of voting… yet millions choose not to vote, and many who do take it as seriously as their daily chores.  Uninformed voters squander this important freedom, while single issue voters often trivialize the gravity of elections.  The responsibility of voting was best described by Theodore Roosevelt:

“A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the  character of the user.”

Stopping the Buck- Truman

When Donald Trump turned on his “Generals” and Barack Obama fired General Stanley McChrystal… partisans were quick to compare the moves to Truman’s relieving of Douglass MacArthur.   Trump’s utter lack of policy depth caused a rift with his inner circle of former generals.   McChrystal was placed in the improper position of a celebrity and interviewed by a journalist who did not provide proper boundaries for what was on or off the record.  All of his comments, even the off-color ones, were printed in Rolling Stone magazine.  Obama didn’t like the opinions of his commander and fired him for personal reasons.

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These have all been politically motivated- Truman faced a Constitutional crisis in 1951. 

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MacArthur disobeyed orders from Truman… disregarded mandates from the United Nations, and was insubordinate when he met with members of Congress behind Truman’s back.  Truman understood that generals would disagree with him, may even do so publicly.  But MacArthur’s actions went far beyond critical words and Truman had to take action, “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”    The official public notice made it clear, in America, civilian authorities make policy, not soldiers.

“With deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties. In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the Constitution of the United States and the added responsibility which has been entrusted to me by the United Nations, I have decided that I must make a change of command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands and have designated Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway his successor.

Full and vigorous debate on matters of national policy is a vital element in the constitutional system of our free democracy. It is fundamental, however, that military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution. In time of crisis, this consideration is particularly compelling.

General MacArthur’s place in history as one of our greatest commanders is fully established. The Nation owes him a debt of gratitude for the distinguished and exceptional service which he has rendered his country in posts of great responsibility. For that reason I repeat my regret at the necessity for the action I feel compelled to take in his case”

Truman and Civil Rights

Harry Truman announced a bold plan to guarantee civil rights to all Americans regardless of race. He made the declaration to a special session of Congress on February 2, 1948.

His plan divided his party’s convention that summer.

“Today, the American people enjoy more freedom and opportunity than ever before. Never in our history has there been better reason to hope for the complete realization of the ideals of liberty and equality.

We shall not, however, finally achieve the ideals for which this Nation was founded so long as any American suffers discrimination as a result of his race, or religion, or color, or the land of origin of his forefathers.

Unfortunately, there still are examples—flagrant examples—of discrimination which are utterly contrary to our ideals. Not all groups of our population are free from the fear of violence. Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship and participation in the government under which they live.

We cannot be satisfied until all our people have equal opportunities for jobs, for homes, for education, for health, and for political expression, and until all our people have equal protection under the law

The legislation I have recommended for enactment by the Congress at the present session is a minimum program if the Federal Government is to fulfill its obligation of insuring the Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the law.

Under the authority of existing law, the Executive branch is taking every possible action to improve the enforcement of the civil rights statutes and to eliminate discrimination in Federal employment, in providing Federal services and facilities, and in the armed forces.

I have already referred to the establishment of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The Federal Bureau of Investigation will work closely with this new Division in the investigation of Federal civil rights cases. Specialized training is being given to the Bureau’s agents so that they may render more effective service in this difficult field of law enforcement.

It is the settled policy of the United States Government that there shall be no discrimination in Federal employment or in providing Federal services and facilities. Steady progress has been made toward this objective in recent years. I shall shortly issue an Executive Order containing a comprehensive restatement of the Federal non-discrimination policy, together with appropriate measures to ensure compliance.

During the recent war and in the years since its close we have made much progress toward equality of opportunity in our armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. I have instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed services eliminated as rapidly as possible.”

Changing the Office Forever

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“The President is the direct representative of the American people…”  Andrew Jackson defiantly responded to his censure by the Senate.  Jacksonians believed the election victory in 1832 was a mandate from the people to kill the National Bank.  Jackson withdrew the nation’s deposits from the bank despite protests from Congress and his own Cabinet.  Bank President Nicholas Biddle responded by contracting credit- sending the nation into a panic.  Congress was powerless to stop Jackson, the Senate’s censure an empty gesture.

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Jackson’s victory in the Bank War… radically changed the Presidency.  In many ways, he was our first modern President; using the office in a role of national leadership, rather than passive executive.  His war on the Bank forever changed the relationship between the President and the American people.  Not only did Jackson triumph over Biddle, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster- the Bank War increased the power of the Presidency beyond anything the Framers could have imagined.  The voters would continue to look to the President to make policy, not just sit in judgement of Congressional actions.  Jackson’s leadership solidified the control a President had over his party- the Democratic party carried out Jackson’s will – “My friends never leave me….”

March 12, 1864: Dramatis Personae

Almost Chosen People

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With the ending of winter, the campaign of 1864 was coming close, as careful observers could tell by two executive orders issued by Lincoln.  The first on March 12, 1864 detailed the new command structure, with Grant made General-in-Chief, Sherman placed in command in the West, and McPherson commanding the Army of the Tennessee.  Grant was depending upon his command team from the Army of the Tennessee to win the War in the West, while he took command of the Army of the Potomac.  The useless Halleck was demoted from General-in-Chief and made Chief of Staff.  It is characteristic of Lincoln that he spared the feelings of Halleck by indicating that the demotion was at his request and thanking him for his completely barren services.  The second executive order, calling for a draft of 200,000 men, was issued on March 14, a sure sign that the fighting this year would…

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The Army Airborne and the start to Camp MacKall

Pacific Paratrooper

Airborne, Camp MacKall

The original idea for an American airborne came from Gen. Billy Mitchell in 1918. His commander, Gen. Pershing agreed, but once the WWI Armistice was signed, the plan was terminated. In the late 1920’s, Germany began training parachute units and in the 1930’s, they led the world in gliders. Russia created the Air Landing Corps in 1935. Japan started in 1940 with German instructors. The U.S. did not take note until Germany was successful on Crete in 1941.

Smitty, 187th RCT/11th Airborne Division, Camp MacKall 1943

The American tradition was born when 48 men jumped at Ft. Benning on Aug. 16, 1940, where Private Eberhard, promised to yell to his buddies below, was the first to shout out “Geronimo”. General William Lee is considered the “Father of the Airborne.” My father, Everett Smith or “Smitty” (as you’ll get to know him), did not care for heights or…

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Madison and Party

The current political parties are trying to harness the power of the disinterested masses by stoking fears and passions rooted in volatile issues like immigration and the culture wars. Both parties want to maintain a majority and implement policy. Neither side has been given such a mandate by the people. Any minority with greater than 46% of the population is one that cannot be disregarded. Few true statesman remain, and sadly they are the most marginalized in our current climate.

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Madison warned us of such tactics:

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

Madison and American Spirit

Madison argues that oligarchy is difficult in America because of our size and diversity… but critics consistently cited the House of Representatives as the most susceptible institution in the new government.

 

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Anti-Federalists argued that the Representatives would have the least amount of sympathy… with the masses of people; focusing exclusively on the narrow interests of their few electors, ignoring the will of the majority.  Madison first counters with a historical analysis of the British system and the necessary role of states in the Federal system.  But he concludes his argument in Federalist #57 by appealing to what he describes as the American Spirit:

 

“If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”

Andrew Jackson’s Magnificent Truxton

Presidential History Blog

Andrew Jackson loved horses since early boyhood

AJ: Rider and Racer

The story of 12-year-old Andrew Jackson serving as messenger in the Continental Army and later captured and imprisoned is true, told in every history book. Besides his daring and rash personality and general knowledge of the woods and trails in the Carolinas, it was his superb riding skill that got him the messenger job.

He had a good way with horses from the start. By 15, he was considered an excellent judge of horseflesh, and a savvy trader. He also discovered the spirit of the speculator within himself. It cost him his modest inheritance. Nevertheless, the Sport of Kings would always be a passion with Old Hickory.

He came to Nashville, TN when he was twenty, having read law sufficiently to pass the South Carolina bar. In pre-statehood Tennessee, lawyers were a welcome commodity. There was land to purchase…

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Related Reading: “Tecumseh and the Prophet” by Peter Cozzens

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Tecumseh and the Prophet:
The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation
by Peter Cozzens
533 pages
Alfred A. Knopf
Published: October 2020

Peter Cozzens’s recent book “Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation” was published in the fall of 2020. Cozzens is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and the author or editor of nearly two-dozen books covering the Civil War and US-Indian relations during America’s westward expansion. He is probably best-known for “The Earth is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West.”

For more than twenty years the classic biography of Tecumseh (~1768-1813) has been John Sugden’s “Tecumseh: A Life.” But biographies of the Shawnee chief have traditionally minimized or ignored the…

See the full review at:
www.thebestbiographies.com

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