First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington Dies On This Day in 1799

639px-gilbert_stuart_-_george_washington_-_google_art_project

On December 14, 1799, at the age of 67, George Washington, our nation’s first commander in chief and first president of the United States, dies of acute laryngitis at his home Mount Vernon.

Following Washington’s death, Congress commissioned Washington’s close friend Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee to write a eulogy for the nation’s president. Lee wrote the eulogy in Philadelphia while staying at Franklin Court, the former home of Benjamin Franklin. The eulogy was presented to Congress on December 28, 1799.

Because it is relatively difficult to find a full transcription of the eulogy online, I have reproduced it in full here –

In obedience to your will, I rise, your humble organ, with the hope of executing a part of the system of public mourning which you have been pleased to adopt, commemorative of the death of the most illustrious and most beloved personage this country has ever produced; and which, while it transmits to posterity your sense of the awful event, faintly represents your knowledge of the consummate excellence you so cordially honor. Desperate indeed is any attempt on earth to meet correspondingly this dispensation of Heaven; for, while with pious resignation we submit to the will of an all-gracious Providence, we can never cease lamenting, in our ‘finite view of Omnipotent Wisdom, the heart-rending privation for which our nation weeps. When the civilized world shakes to its centre; when every moment gives birth to strange and momentous changes; when our peaceful quarter of the globe, exempt as it happily has been from any share in the slaughter of the human race, may yet be compelled to abandon her pacific policy, and to risk the doleful casualties of war: What limit is there to the extent of our loss?—None within the reach of my words to express; none which your feelings will not disavow. The founder of our federate republic—our bulwark in war, our guide in peace, is no more! Oh, that this were but questionable! Hope, the comforter of the wretched, would pour into our agonizing hearts its balmy dew. But, alas! there is no hope for us; our WASHINGTON is removed forever! Possessing the stoutest frame and purest mind, he had passed nearly to his sixty-eighth year, in the enjoyment of high health, when, habituated by his care of us to neglect himself, a slight cold, disregarded, became inconvenient on Friday, oppressive on Saturday, and, defying every medical interposition, before the morning of Sunday, put an end to the best of men. An end, did I say?—His fame survives! bounded only by the limits of the earth, and by the extent of the human mind. He survives in our hearts-in the growing knowledge of our children, in the affection of the good throughout the world; and when our monuments shall be done away; when nations now existing shall be no more; when even our young and farspreading empire shall have perished; still will our WASHINGTON’s glory unfaded shine, and die not, until love of virtue cease on earth, or earth itself sinks into chaos.

How, my fellow-citizens, shall I single to your grateful hearts his pre-eminent worth! Where shall I begin, in opening to your view a character throughout sublime? Shall I speak of his warlike achievements, all springing from obedience to his country’s will—all directed to his country’s good? Will you go with me to the Banks of the Monongahela, to see your youthful WASHINGTON supporting, in the dismal hour of Indian victory, the ill-fated Braddock, and saving, by his judgment and by his valor, the remains of a defeated army, pressed by the conquering savage foe? Or, when oppressed America, nobly resolving to risk her all in defense of her violated rights, he was elevated by the unanimous voice of Congress to the command of her armies: Will you follow him to the high grounds of Boston, where, to an undisciplined, courageous and virtuous yeomanry, his presence gave the stability of system, and infused the invincibility of love of country; or shall I carry you to the painful scenes of Long Island, York Island and New-Jersey, when, combating superior and gallant armies, aided by powerful fleets, and led by chiefs high in the roll of fame, he stood the bulwark of our safety; undismayed by disaster, unchanged by change of fortune. Or will you view him in the precarious fields of Trenton, where deep gloom, unnerving every arm, reigned triumphant through our thinned, worn down, unaided ranks; himself unmoved.—Dreadful was the night. It was about this time of winter—the storm raged—the Delaware, rolling furiously with floating ice, forbade the approach of man. WASHINGTON, self collected, viewed the tremendous scene—His country called; unappalled by surrounding dangers, he passed to the hostile shore; he fought; he conquered. The morning sun cheered the American world. Our country rose on the event; and her dauntless Chief pursuing his blow, completed in the lawns of Princeton, what his vast soul had conceived on the shores of Delaware. Thence to the strong grounds of Morristown he led his small but gallant band; and through an eventful winter, by the high efforts of his genius, whose matchless force was measurable only by the growth of difficulties, he held in check formidable hostile legions, conducted by a chief experienced in the art of war, and famed for his valor on the ever memorable heights of Abraham, where fell Wolfe, Montcalm, and since our much lamented Montgomery—all covered with glory. In this fortunate interval, produced by his masterly conduct, our fathers, ourselves, animated by his resistless example, rallied around our country’s standard, and continued to follow her beloved Chief through the various and trying scenes to which the destinies of our union led.

Who is there that has forgotten the vales of Brandywine—the fields of Germantown—or the plains of Monmouth? Everywhere present, wants of every kind obstructing, numerous and valiant armies encountering, himself a host, he assuaged our sufferings, limited our privations, and upheld our tottering Republic. Shall I display to you the spread of the fire of his soul, by rehearsing the praises of the hero of Saratoga, and his much lov’d compeer of the Carolinas? No; our WASHINGTON wears not borrowed glory. To Gates—to Greene, he gave without reserve the applause due to their eminent merit; and long may the Chiefs of Saratoga, and of Eutaws, receive the grateful respect of a grateful people. Moving in his own orbit, he imparted heat and light to his most distant satellites; and combining the physical and moral force of all within his sphere, with irresistible weight he took his course, commiserating folly, disdaining vice, dismaying treason, and invigorating despondency; until the auspicious hour arrived, when, united with the intrepid forces of a potent and magnanimous ally, he brought to submission the since conqueror of India; thus finishing his long career of military glory with a lustre corresponding to his great name, and in this his last act of war affixing the seal of fate to our nation’s birth. To the horrid din of battle sweet peace succeeded; and our virtuous Chief, mindful only of the common good, in a moment tempting personal aggrandizement, hushed the discontents of growing sedition; and, surrendering his power into the hands from which he had received it, converted his sword into a ploughshare; teaching an admiring world that to be truly great, you must be truly good. Was I to stop here, the picture would be incomplete, and the task imposed unfinished—Great as was our WASHINGTON in war, and as much as did that greatness contribute to produce the American Republic, it is not in war alone his pre-eminence stands conspicuous: His various talents, combining all the capacities of a statesman with those of a soldier, fitted him alike to guide the councils and the armies of our nation. Scarcely had he rested from his martial toils, while his invaluable parental advice was still sounding in our ears, when he who had been our shield and our sword, was called forth to act a less splendid but more important part. Possessing a clear and penetrating mind, a strong and sound judgment, calmness and temper for deliberation, with invincible firmness and perseverance in resolutions maturely formed, drawing information from all; acting from himself, with incorruptible integrity and unvarying patriotism: his own superiority and the public confidence alike marked him as the man designed by heaven to lead in the great political as well as military events which have distinguished the era of his life. The finger of an over-ruling Providence, pointing at WASHINGTON, was neither mistaken nor unobserved; when, to realize the vast hopes to which our revolution had given birth, a change of political system became indispensable.

How novel, how grand the spectacle! Independent States stretched over an immense territory, and known only by common difficulty, clinging to their union as the rock of their safety; deciding, by frank comparison of their relative condition, to rear on that rock, under the guidance of reason, a common government, through whose commanding protection, liberty and order, with their long train of blessings should be safe to themselves, and the sure inheritance of their posterity. This arduous task devolved on citizens selected by the people, from knowledge of their wisdom and confidence in their virtue. In this august assembly of sages and of patriots, WASHINGTON of course was found; and, as if acknowledged to be most wise, where all were wise, with one voice he was declared their Chief. How well he merited this rare distinction, how faithful were the labors of him-self and his compatriots, the work of their hands, and our union, strength and prosperity, the fruits of that work, best attest. But to have essentially aided in presenting to his country this consummation of our hopes, neither satisfied the claims of his fellow-citizens on his talents, nor those duties which the possession of those talents imposed. Heaven had not infused into his mind such an uncommon share of its ethereal spirit to remain unemployed, nor bestowed on him his genius unaccompanied with the corresponding duty of devoting it to the common good. To have framed a Constitution, was showing only, without realizing, the general happiness. This great work remained to be done; and America, steadfast in her preference, with one voice summoned her beloved WASHINGTON, unpracticed as he was in the duties of civil administration, to execute this last act in the completion of the national felicity. Obedient to her call, he assumed the high office with that self-distrust peculiar to his innate modesty, the constant attendant of pre-eminent virtue. What was the burst of joy through our anxious land on this exhilarating event is known to us all. The aged, the young, the brave, the fair, rivaled each other in demonstrations of their gratitude; and this high wrought, delightful scene was heightened in its effect by the singular contest between the zeal of the bestowers and the avoidance of the receiver of the honors bestowed. Commencing his administration, what heart is not charmed with the recollection of the pure and wise principles announced by himself, as the basis of his political life. He best understood the indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and individual felicity; watching with an equal and comprehensive eye over this great assemblage of communities and interests, he laid the foundations of our national policy in the unerring, immutable principles of morality, based on religion, exemplifying the pre-eminence of a free government, by all the attributes which win the affections of its citizens, or command the respect of the world. “O fortunatos nimium, sua fl bona norint !” Leading through the complicated difficulties produced by previous obligations and conflicting interests, seconded by succeeding Houses of Congress, enlightened and patriotic, he surmounted all original obstruction, and brightened the path of our national felicity. The Presidential term expiring, his solicitude to exchange exaltation for humility returned with a force increased with increase of age; and he had prepared his farewell address to his countrymen, proclaiming his intention, when the united interposition of all around him, enforced by the eventful prospects of the epoch, produced a further sacrifice of inclination to duty. The election of President followed; and WASHINGTON, by the unanimous vote of the nation, was called to resume the Chief Magistracy. What a wonderful fixture of confidence! Which attracts most our admiration, a people so correct, or a citizen combining an assemblage of talents forbidding rivalry, and stifling even envy itself? Such a nation ought to be happy; such a chief must be forever revered. War, long menaced by the Indian tribes, now broke out; and the terrible conflict, deluging Europe with blood, began to shed its baneful influence over our happy land. To the first, outstretching his invincible arm, under the orders of the gallant Wayne, the American eagle soared triumphant through distant forests.

Peace followed victory; and the melioration of the condition of the enemy, followed peace. Godlike virtue, which uplifts even the subdued savage. To the second he opposed himself. New and delicate was the conjuncture, and great was the stake. Soon did his penetrating mind discern and seize the only course, continuing to us all the felicity enjoyed. He issued his proclamation of neutrality. This index to his whole subsequent conduct, was sanctioned by the approbation of both Houses of Congress, and by the approving voice of the people. To this sublime policy he inviolably adhered, unmoved by foreign intrusion, unshaken by domestic turbulence.

“Justum et tenacem propositi virum,

“Non civium ardor prava jubentium,

“Non vultus instantis tyranni,

“Mente quatit solida.”

Maintaining his pacific system at the expense of no duty, America, faithful to herself, and unstained in her honor, continued to enjoy the delights of peace, while afflicted Europe mourns in every quarter under the accumulated miseries of an unexampled war; miseries in which our happy country must have shared, had not our pre-eminent WASHINGTON been as firm in council as he was brave in the field.

Pursuing steadfastly his course, he held safe the public happiness, preventing foreign war, and quelling internal discord, till the revolving period of a third election approached, when he executed his interrupted but inextinguishable desire of returning to the humble walks of private life. The promulgation of his fixed resolution, stopped the anxious wishes of an affectionate people, from adding a third unanimous testimonial of their unabated confidence in the man so long enthroned in their hearts. When before was affection like this exhibited on earth?—Turn over the records of ancient Greece—Review the annals of mighty Rome—Examine the volumes of modern Europe; you search in vain. America and her WASHINGTON only afford the dignified exemplification. The illustrious personage called by the national voice in succession to the arduous office of guiding a free people, had new difficulties to encounter: The amicable effort of settling our difficulties with France, begun by WASHINGTON, and pursued by his successor in virtue as in station, proving abortive, America took measures of self-defense. No sooner was the public mind roused by a prospect of danger, than every eye was turned to the friend of all, though secluded from public view, and gray in public service. The virtuous veteran, following his plough, received the unexpected summons with mingled emotions of indignation at the unmerited ill-treatment of his country, and of a determination once more to risk his all in her defense. The annunciation of these feelings, in his affecting letter to the President, accepting the command of the army, concludes his official conduct. First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life: Pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. To his equals he was condescending; to his inferiors kind; and to the dear object of his affections exemplarily tender: Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues.

His last scene comported with the whole tenor of his life: Although in extreme pain, not a sigh, not a groan escaped him; and with undisturbed serenity he closed his well spent life. Such was the man America has lost! Such was the man for whom our nation mourns! Methinks I see his august image, and hear, falling from his venerable lips, these deep sinking words:

Cease, Sons of America, lamenting our separation: Go on, and confirm by your wisdom the fruits of our joint councils, joint efforts, and common dangers. Reverence religion; diffuse knowledge throughout your land; patronize the arts and sciences; let Liberty and Order be inseparable companions; control party spirit, the bane of free government; observe good faith to, and cultivate peace with all nations; shut up every avenue to foreign influence; contract rather than extend national connection; rely on yourselves only—Be American in thought and deed. Thus will you give immortality to that union, which was the constant object of my terrestrial labors: Thus will you preserve undisturbed to the latest posterity, the felicity of a people to me most dear; and thus will you supply (if my happiness is now aught to you) the only vacancy in the round of pure bliss high Heaven bestows.

 

The Bill of Rights Turns 225 This Week: Learn More about its History

 

fullsizerender-1

This coming Thursday, December 15, marks the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the 10 constitutional amendments we call the Bill of Rights. In honor of the occasion, The Washington Times published a special report marking this historic milestone. I was pleased to submit an article for the special report providing a concise history of the Bill of Rights.

You can read the article online here.

On the Anniversary of Pennsylvania Ratifying the Constitution, A Note On Why It’s So Important to Study the Fierce Debates over the Constitution in 1787-1788.

On December 12, 1787, Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the United States Constitution. The state voted in favor of ratification by a vote of 46 to 23, and did so after enduring a serious Anti-Federalist challenge to ratification.

 

It’s important to not only make note of this historic anniversary for Pennsylvania and for the nation, but also to take pause and understand the fact that on September 17, 1787, the Constitution was nothing more than a proposal. “We the People,” in state ratifying conventions, decided whether or not “to ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States.”

As the late historian Pauline Maier wrote in her masterful tome “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution: 1787 – 1788,”
Debate over the Constitution raged in newspapers, taverns, coffeehouses, and over dinner tables as well as in the Confederation Congress, state legislatures, and state ratifying conventions. People who never left their home towns and were little known except to their neighbors studied the document, knew it well, and on some memorable occasions made their views known. What the people and the convention delegates they chose decided had everything to do with making the United States in what George Washington called a ‘respectable nation.’
Pennsylvania was not the only state with significant opposition to the Constitution. I encourage folks interested in history and the Constitution to explore the other records of the other state ratifying conventions, as well, or pick up Pauline Maier’s excellent book on the topic.
In 1796, James Madison said,
…whatever veneration might be entertained for the body of men who formed our constitution, the sense of that body could never be regarded as the oracular guide in . . . expounding the constitution. As the instrument came from them, it was nothing more than a draught of a plan, nothing but a dead letter, util life and validity were breathed into it, by the voice of the people, speaking through the several state conventions. If we were to look therefore, for the meaning of the instrument, beyond the face of the instrument, we must look for it not in the general convention, which proposed, but in the states conventions, which accepted and ratified the constitution.
I hope citizens will heed Madison’s words and study not only on the Constitutional Convention records, but also the records of the state ratifying conventions, which are available, in part, in the ConSource digital library, but also through the masterful work of the historians and editors (including ConSource Board member John Kaminski) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who continue to complete work on the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution.
A good place to start this course of study is in Pennsylvania – where 21 of the 23 members of the ratifying convention who voted against ratification outlined their grievances in “The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of the State of Pennsylvania to their Constituents.” In their dissent, they raised the following objections –
[1] The proposed plan had not many hours issued forth from the womb of suspicious secrecy, until such as were prepared for the purpose, were carrying about petitions for people to sign, signifying their approbation of the system, and requesting the legislature to call a convention.
[2] The election for members of the convention was held at so early a period and the want of information was so great, that some of us did not know of it until after it was over, and we have reason to believe that great numbers of the people of Pennsylvania have not yet had an opportunity of sufficiently examining the proposed constitution.- We apprehend that no change can take place that will affect the internal government or constitution of this commonwealth, unless a majority of the people should evidence a wish for such a change; but on examining the number of votes given for members of the present state convention, we find that of upwards of seventy thousand freemen who are intitled to vote in Pennsylvania, the whole convention has been elected by about thirteen thousand voters, and though two thirds of the members of the convention have thought proper to ratify the proposed constitution, yet those two thirds were elected by the votes of only six thousand and eight hundred freemen.
[3] We were prohibited by an express vote of the convention, from taking any question on the separate articles of the plan, and reduced to the necessity of adopting or rejecting in toto.-
The Dissent goes on to list the changes they’d make to the federal constitution –
We offered our objections to the convention, and opposed those parts of the plan, which, in our opinion, would be injurious to you, in the best manner we were able; and closed our arguments by offering the following propositions to the convention.
1. The right of conscience shall be held inviolable; and neither the legislative, executive nor judicial powers of the United States shall have authority to alter, abrogate, or infringe any part of the constitution of the several states, which provide for the preservation of liberty in matters of religion.
2. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, trial by jury shall remain as heretofore, as well in the federal courts, as in those of the several states.
3. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man has a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, as well in the federal courts, as in those of the several states; to be heard by himself and his counsel; to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses; to call for evidence in his favor, and a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent, he cannot be found guilty, nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; and that no man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.
4. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel nor unusual punishments inflicted.
5. That warrants unsupported by evidence, whereby any officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search suspected places, or to seize any person or persons, his or their property, not particularly described, are grievous and oppressive, and shall not be granted either by the magistrates of the federal government or others.
6. That the people have a right to the freedom of speech, of writing and publishing their sentiments,therefore, the freedom of the press shall not be restrained by any law of the United States.
7. That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals;10 and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up: and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil powers.
8. The inhabitants of the several states shall have liberty to fowl and hunt in seasonable times, on the lands they hold, and on all other lands in the United States not inclosed, and in like manner to fish in all navigable waters, and others not private property, without being restrained therein by any laws to be passed by the legislature of the United States.
9. That no law shall be passed to restrain the legislatures of the several states from enacting laws for imposing taxes, except imposts and duties on goods imported or exported, and that no taxes, except imposts and duties upon goods imported and exported, and postage on letters shall be levied by the authority of Congress.
10. That the house of representatives be properly increased in number; that elections shall remain free; that the several states shall have power to regulate the elections for senators and representatives, without being controuled either directly or indirectly by any interference on the part of the Congress; and that elections of representatives be annual.
11. That the power organizing, arming and disciplining the militia (the manner of disciplining the militia to be prescribed by Congress) remain with the individual states, and that Congress shall not have authority to call or march any of the militia out of their own state, without the consent of such state, and for such length of time only as such state shall agree.
That the sovereignty, freedom and independency of the several states shall be retained, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this constitution expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.
12. That the legislative, executive, and judicial powers be kept separate; and to this end that a constitutional council be appointed, to advise and assist the president, who shall be responsible for the advice they give, hereby the senators would be relieved from almost constant attendance; and also that the judges be made completely independent.
13. That no treaty which shall be directly opposed to the existing laws of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be valid until such laws shall be repealed, or made conformable to such treaty; neither shall any treaties be valid which are in contradiction to the constitution of the United States, or the constitutions of the several states.
14. That the judiciary power of the United States shall be confined to cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; to cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more states- between a state and citizens of different states- between citizens claiming lands under grants of different states; and between a state or the citizens thereof and foreign states, and in criminal cases, to such only as are expressly enumerated in the constitution, & that the United States in Congress assembled, shall not have power to enact laws, which shall alter the laws of descents and distribution of the effects of deceased persons, the titles of lands or goods, or the regulation of contracts in the individual states.
In the end, although there was serious dissent in Pennsylvania, the state ratifying convention voted in favor of ratification.

You can explore the full debates in the Pennsylvania ratifying convention in the ConSource digital library here.

The Pennsylvania Form of Ratification reads

In the Name of the People of Pennsylvania. Be it Known unto all Men that We the Delegates of the People of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general Convention assembled Have assented to, and ratifyed, and by these presents Do in the Name and by the authority of the same people, and for ourselves, assent to, and ratify the foregoing Constitution for the United States of America. Done in Convention at Philadelphia the twelfth day of December in the year of our Lord one Thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our Names.
Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg President George Latimer Benjn Rush Hilary Baker James Wilson Thomas M’Kean W Macpherson John Hunn George Gray Samuel Ashmead Enoch Edwards Henry Wynkoop John Barclay Thos. Yardley Abraham Stout Thomas Bull Anthony Wayne William Gibbons Richard Downing Thomas Cheyney John Hannum Stephen Chambers Robert Coleman Sebastian Graff John Hubley Jasper Yeates Heny Slagle Thomas Campbell Thomas Hartley David Grier John Black Benjamin Pedan John Arndt Stephen Balliet Joseph Horsfield David Deshler William Wilson John Boyd Tho Scott John Nevill Jno Allison Jonathan Roberts John Richards James Morris Timothy Pickering Benjn Elliot Attest James Campbell Secretary

George Washington on “the insidious wiles of foreign influence.”

With recent explosive reports that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) found that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, I thought I’d call attention to something George Washington warned the nation about in his 1796 Farewell Address

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Further investigation is clearly required to determine the full extent to which Russia interfered with the 2016 election. What I will say, though, is that American citizens ought to continue to carefully follow this story and, in the words of Washington “be constantly awake” to “the insidious wiles of foreign influences.”

Wyoming Passes First Law Granting Women the Right to Vote On This Day in 1869

The Wyoming territorial legislature passed the first woman’s suffrage law on December 10, 1869, and women voted in the state for the first time in 1870. The legislation extended suffrage to “every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory.”

At the time, there was no organized suffrage movement in the Wyoming territory. William Bright, who was persuaded by his wife that all citizens should have the right to vote, sponsored a bill to extend the franchise to women.

Bright’s colleagues in the territorial legislature had a variety of reasons for voting in favor his bill – some were motivated by a sense of fairness, others, unfortunately, viewed it as an opportunity to counteract the voting rights of newly enfranchised African American men, and for still others it was a way to gain publicity and persuade more pioneers to settle in the western territory.

Regardless of the motivation of the various territorial legislators, once Wyoming women got the right to vote, the state kept up its tradition of being a first for women. Wyoming went on to become the first state or territory with female jurors, female justices of the peace, and, in 1924, it became the first state to elect a female governor (Nellie Tayloe Ross).

Before Wyoming entered the union in 1890, it passed a new state constitution in 1889, guaranteeing women the right to vote. When the U.S. Congress threatened to withhold statehood over the issue, Wyoming officials responded that the territory would rather remain a territory for 100 years than join the union without women’s suffrage. Congress ultimately relented.

Note: Although, Wyoming is the first state with a law and then state constitution explicitly guaranteeing women the right to vote, women first voted in the New Jersey under its 1776 Constitution, which vaguely stated that “all inhabitants” of the state could vote. Women voted in New Jersey until 1807 when the state legislature passed a law limiting suffrage to free white males.

 

On This Day in 1863, Lincoln Issues Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction

On December 8, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln offers his conciliatory plan for reunification of theUnited States with his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. The Proclamation reads –

WHEREAS, in and by the Constitution of the United States, it is provided that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment;” and

Whereas, a rebellion now exists whereby the loyal state governments of several states have for a long time been subverted, and many persons have committed, and are now guilty of, treason against the United States; and

Whereas, with reference to said rebellion and treason, laws have been enacted by congress, declaring forfeitures and confiscation of property and liberation of slaves, all upon terms and conditions therein stated, and also declaring that the President was thereby authorized at any time thereafter, by proclamation, to extend to persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion, in any state or part thereof, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions and at such times and on such conditions as he may deem expedient for the public welfare; and

Whereas, the congressional declaration for limited and conditional pardon accords with well-established judicial exposition of the pardoning power; and

Whereas, with reference to said rebellion, the President of the United States has issued several proclamations, with provisions in regard to the liberation of slaves; and

Whereas, it is now desired by some persons heretofore engaged in said rebellion to resume their allegiance to the United States, and to reinaugurate loyal state governments within and for their respective states: Therefore–

I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known to all persons who have, directly or by implication, participated in the existing rebellion, except as hereinafter excepted, that a full pardon is hereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened, and upon the condition that every such person shall take and subscribe an oath, and thenceforward keep and maintain said oath inviolate; and which oath shall be registered for permanent preservation, and shall be of the tenor and effect following, to wit:–

“I,                 , do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified, or held void by congress, or by decision of the supreme court; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the supreme court. So help me God.”

The persons excepted from the benefits of the foregoing provisions are all who are, or shall have been, civil or diplomatic officers or agents of the so-called Confederate government; all who have left judicial stations under the United States to aid the rebellion; all who are, or shall have been, military or naval officers of said so-called Confederate government above the rank of colonel in the army or of lieutenant in the navy; all who left seats in the United States congress to aid the rebellion; all who resigned commissions in the army or navy of the United States and afterwards aided the rebellion; and all who have engaged in any way in treating colored persons, or white persons in charge of such, otherwise than lawfully as prisoners of war, and which persons may have been found in the United States service as soldiers, seamen, or in any other capacity.

And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that whenever, in any of the States of Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina, a number of persons, not less than one tenth in number of the votes cast in such state at the presidential election of the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty, each having taken the oath aforesaid, and not having since violated it, and being a qualified voter by the election law of the state existing immediately before the so-called act of secession, and excluding all others, shall reëstablish a state government which shall be republican, and in nowise contravening said oath, such shall be recognized as the true government of the state, and the state shall receive thereunder the benefits of the constitutional provision which declares that “the United States shall guaranty to every state in this Union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or the executive, (when the legislature cannot be convened,) against domestic violence.”

And I do further proclaim, declare, and make known that any provision which may be adopted by such state government in relation to the freed people of such state, which shall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent as a temporary arrangement with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class, will not be objected to by the National Executive.

And it is suggested as not improper that, in constructing a loyal state government in any state, the name of the state, the boundary, the subdivisions, the constitution, and the general code of laws, as before the rebellion, be maintained, subject only to the modifications made necessary by the conditions hereinbefore stated, and such others, if any, not contravening said conditions, and which may be deemed expedient by those framing the new state government.

To avoid misunderstanding, it may be proper to say that this proclamation, so far as it relates to state governments, has no reference to states wherein loyal state governments have all the while been maintained. And, for the same reason, it may be proper to further say, that whether members sent to congress from any state shall be admitted to seats constitutionally rests exclusively with the respective houses, and not to any extent with the Executive. And still further, that this proclamation is intended to present the people of the states wherein the national authority has been suspended, and loyal state governments have been subverted, a mode in and by which the national authority and loyal state governments may be reëstablished within said states, or in any of them; and while the mode presented is the best the Executive can suggest, with his present impressions, it must not be understood that no other possible mode would be acceptable.

Given under my hand at the city of Washington the eighth day of December, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

The proclamation was issued with the hopes of expediting the Reconstruction process. By this time during the Civil War, much of the Confederate states were under federal control. Lincoln’s plan proposed that if 10% of a state’s voting population swore allegiance to the United States and approved emancipation, then Reconstruction of the government could begin in that state.

Lincoln declared that all those who opposed the Union – with the exception of those who ranked above Colonel in the Army or Lieutenant in the Navy, as well as traitors to the Union – would be pardoned and have their property rights (except for slaves) restored, on the condition that they swore this oath of allegiance:

“I,                 , do solemnly swear, in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all acts of congress passed during the existing rebellion with reference to slaves, so long and so far as not repealed, modified, or held void by congress, or by decision of the supreme court; and that I will, in like manner, abide by and faithfully support all proclamations of the President made during the existing rebellion having reference to slaves, so long and so far as not modified or declared void by decision of the supreme court. So help me God.”

The radical Republicans in Congress wanted a much harsher process for ex-Confederates and wanted a guarantee for the civil rights of freedmen before Reconstruction was to begin in a state. Lincoln noted in his proclamation that “while the mode presented is the best the Executive can suggest, with his present impressions, it must not be understood that no other possible mode would be acceptable.” While his proclamation was to start the process of Reconstruction, he suggests with the language above that he is open to other policies proposed by Congress.

As we know Lincoln never gets to complete his presidential reconstruction, because he is assassinated in April 1865. In 1866, Congressional Republicans seize control of Reconstruction from President Johnson. Under congressional reconstruction,

Congress denied representatives from the former Confederate states their Congressional seats, passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and wrote the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, extending citizenship rights to African Americans and guaranteeing them equal protection of the laws. The 14th Amendment also reduced representation in Congress of any southern state that deprived African Americans of the vote. In 1870, the country went even further by ratifying the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave voting rights to black men.

On This Day in 1787, Delaware Becomes the First State to Ratify the U.S. Constitution

 

delaware-license

On December 7,  1787, Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution, doing so by a unanimous vote.

The Delaware Form of Ratification reads

We the deputies of the People of the Delaware State, in Convention met, having taken into our serious consideration the Fœderal Constitution proposed and agreed upon by the Deputies of the United States in a General Convention held at the City of Philadelphia on the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven, Have approved, assented to, ratified, and confirmed, and by these Presents, Do, in virtue of the Power and Authority to us given for that purpose, for and in behalf of ourselves and our Constituents, fully, freely, and entirely approve of, assent to, ratify and confirm the said Constitution.
Done in Convention at Dover this seventh day of December in the year aforesaid, and in the year of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth In Testimony whereof we have hereunto subscribed our Names-
SUSSEX COUNTY
John Ingram John Jones William Moore William Hall Thomas Laws Isaac Cooper Woodman Stockley John Laws Thomas Evans Israel Holland
KENT COUNTY
Nicholas Ridgely Richard Smith George Truitt Richard Bassett James Sykes Allen McLane Daniel Cummins senr.
Joseph Barker Edward White George Manlove
NEW CASTLE COUNTY
Jas. Latimer, President James Black Jno. James Gunning Bedford senr.
Kensey Johns Thomas Wattson Solomon Maxwell Nicholas Way Thomas Duff Gunng Bedford junr.
To all whom these Presents shall come Greeting, I Thomas Collins President of the Delaware State do hereby certify, that the above instrument of writing is a true copy of the original ratification of the Fœderal Constitution by the Convention of the Delaware State, which original ratification is now in my possession. In Testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the Delware State to be hereunto anexed.
Since 1933, the governors of Delaware have proclaimed December 7 as Delaware Day in honor of when Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, thus making Delaware the first state in the new nation. Delaware also commemorates being the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution with its license plates which read “The First State.”

The 13th Amendment Was Ratified On This Day in 1865

doc_040_big-1

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. The amendment reads –

Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

The 13th Amendment abolished both slavery and involuntary servitude throughout the nation and gave Congress the power to enforce the Amendment by “appropriate legislation.”

At the outset of the Civil War, few could imagine such a revolutionary amendment. In 1861, President Lincoln’s aim during the war was not to disrupt the South’s system of slavery, but instead to reunite the fractured nation.

According to Dr. Abigail Perkiss,

By the summer of 1862, though, with mounting deaths and desertions and declining enlistments of white soldiers, the President reconsidered his position.

By the end of the war, more than 186,000 black men had enlisted in Lincoln’s army, some 134,000 of whom came from slave-holding states.  Some were freed blacks who had made lives for themselves in the South, but many more were slaves who, when troops marched through the Confederacy, took it upon themselves to claim their freedom and sign up for the Union cause.

And as black soldiers entered the military, the relationship between the war and the institution of slavery became more intertwined.  As Lincoln saw it, with the inclusion of African-Americans in the conflict, the fight had become defined by the question of slavery.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, which read –

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twentysecond day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. Johns, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South-Carolina, North-Carolina, and Virginia, (except the fortyeight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth-City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

The proclamation was largely a military gesture, and it only freed slaves in the Confederacy, where Lincoln had no control. And yet, as historian Eric Foner describes, the symbolic proclamation had real effect –

“[N]ever before had so large a number of slaves been declared free. By making the army an agent of emancipation and wedding the goals of Union and abolition, it ensured that northern victory would produce a social transformation in the South and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American life.”

Nearly a year later, in mid-December 1863 Congressman James Ashley of Ohio introduced a bill supporting a federal prohibition on slavery. A month later, in January 1864, Missouri Senator John Henderson submitted a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment.

The Senate, dominated by Republicans, passed the amendment on April 3, 1864, but the amendment languished in the House of Representatives, where many Democrats rallied against the amendment for encroaching on the rights of the states. Because the amendment was not confined in its reach to the federal government, but instead extended to both the states and individual citizens, many Democrats feared it too greatly expanded the powers of the federal government.

The election of 1864 secured Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. And on January 31, 1865, the 13th amendment passed the House by a vote of 119 to 56, seven votes above the needed two-thirds majority vote for a constitutional amendment.

The amendment was then sent to the states for ratification and was ratified on December 6, 1865, when Georgia voted to ratify the Amendment.

And so today we mark the 151st anniversary of the formal abolition of slavery in the United States of America.

 

A Toast to the 21st Amendment, Ratified on December 5, 1933

 

Dec05LN-blog480.jpg

 

 

On December 5, 1933, national prohibition came to an end, when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment, which went into effect nearly 14 years earlier.

The 18th Amendment reads –

SECTION 1

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

SECTION 2

The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

SECTION 3

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

The 18th Amendment was adopted after a concerted campaign by the national temperance movement. The proponents of the national temperance movement believed that alcohol led to reckless and destructive behavior, and that prohibition would lead to reductions in crime – especially issues related to domestic violence – and would improve the health and welfare of all Americans.

It’s important to note that by 1830,

the average American over 15 years old consumed nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol a year – three times as much as we drink today – and alcohol abuse (primarily by men) was wreaking havoc on the lives of many, particularly in an age when women had few legal rights and were utterly dependent on their husbands for sustenance and support.

While prohibition did dramatically reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths, it also gave rise to a large black market for alcohol and strengthened organized crime.

You can explore a Prohibition timeline provided by PBS here.

Prohibition came to an end when the 21st Amendment was ratified. The 21st Amendment reads –

SECTION 1

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

SECTION 2

The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

SECTION 3

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

The 21st Amendment returned regulation of alcohol to the states. Each state sets its own rules for the sale and importation of alcohol.

A federal law provides federal funds to states that prohibit the sale of alcohol to minors under the age of 21. As a result, all 50 states have set their minimum drinking age at 21. The rules regarding sale and importation of alcohol varies widely between states.

 

 

 

There’s Still Time to Register for the 5th Annual Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition for High School Students

High School teachers – there’s still time to register your students for the Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition. Additional information about the Competition is below –

The Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce their Fifth Annual Virtual Supreme Court competition. This competition offers teams of two high school students the opportunity to research cutting-edge constitutional law, write persuasive appellate briefs, argue against other students through video chats, and try to persuade a panel of esteemed attorneys during oral argument that their side is correct. This year the competition focuses on Trinity Lutheran Church v. Sarah Parker Pauley, exploring whether funding a playground associated with a Church violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

ConSource Executive Director Julie Silverbrook believes “the Virtual Supreme CourtCompetition is an excellent opportunity for high school students to develop core civic and constitutional literacy skills. Students are required to read the text of the Constitution, explore the history behind a contemporary constitutional dispute, and construct persuasive arguments. We know that experiences like theVirtual Supreme Court Competition leave a lifelong impression on participating students and encourages them to stay informed and engaged throughout their lives.”

Tanya Reyna, a winner of the 2016 Virtual Supreme Court Competition, noted that while her local community in Texas suffers from “an influx of drugs and criminals” and has dampened her views about the future of her community and the nation, her experience with the Virtual Supreme Court Competition “eased [her] apprehension [about the future].” She said that meeting “students, lawyers, professors, and judges” willing to take time out of their busy schedules “to inform younger generations of citizens about our legal system,” demonstrated to her that “as long as there are citizens like them, America will continue to hold a bright future.”

The members of the grand-prize winning team, the Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. or New York City to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration in September 2017. Members of the runner-up team will each receive an iPad Mini. Members of the third and fourth place teams will each receive a $100 Amazon.com Gift card.

Screen shot 2016-10-02 at 10.51.13 PM.png

 

Josh Blackman, President of the Harlan Institute, champions theVirtual Supreme Court Competition, which provides an “unprecedented opportunity for high school students to engage in the highest level of appellate advocacy. They research the issues, write briefs, and make oral arguments before our judges. The strong caliber of the winning teams last year really impressed us. We can’t wait to see how the teams perform this year!”

Teachers interested in participating should sign up at HarlanInstitute.org, add an account, read the problem, and get started!

Please send any questions to info@harlaninstitute.orgor info@consource.org.

If you’re interested in supporting the Virtual Supreme Court Competition and the extraordinary students who participate across the country, please consider making a donation today!