Posts Tagged ‘Benjamin Franklin’

Real World Graduation: Question 29

RealWorldGraduation_Question_29   <– PDF

Article 2, Section 1 of the U. S. Constitution requires the President to take the following oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

An integral part of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution is preserving the rights of the people. The rights of individuals specifically called out in the Constitution and its first ten amendments are:

1) Habeas corpus (right to challenge detainment)

2) Freedom of speech

3) Freedom of the press

4) Freedom of religion

5) Freedom to keep and bear arms

6) Freedom from bearing the expense of quartering soldiers

7) Freedom from arbitrary search and seizure (searches require warrants signed by a judge, with testimony under oath by the officials seeking the warrant)

8) Federal indictment only by grand jury

9) No double jeopardy (a person can only be tried once for the same crime)

10) Immunity from self-incrimination

11) Due process of law

12) Compensation for property allocated for public use

13) Speedy and public trial

14) Cross-examination of witnesses in criminal trials

15) Counsel for defense in criminal trials

16) Trial by jury

17) Facts found by a jury not reviewable by a court

18) Prohibition of excessive bail

19) Prohibition of excessive fines

20) Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.

Also, rights not specifically mentioned are reserved to the people (individuals) or to the states. Based on your understanding of American history, which three would you rate as the worst Presidents with regard to preserving the rights of the people?  The letter after their name indicates their part affiliation (F refers to Federalist, R indicates Republican, N indicates None, D indicates Democrat, D-R indicates Democrat-Republican, which later became the Democratic Party in the 1820’s).

a) Alexander Hamilton (F), Aaron Burr (F), and Benjamin Franklin (F)

b) Richard M. Nixon (R), Gerald R. Ford (R), and George Washington (N)

c) George H. W. Bush (41) (R), James E. Carter (D), and Thomas Jefferson (D-R)

d) Walter Mondale (D), Barry Goldwater (R), and Alf Landon (R)

e) Three among those listed in groups b) and c)

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Posted in Benjamin Franklin, Bill of Rights, critical thinking, fifth amendment, First Amendment, fourth amendment, government powers, habeas corpus, Real World Graduation, Second Amendment, sixth amendment, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »

Why the House Originates Revenue Bills

Why_the_House_Originates_Revenue_Bills <== PDF version

Article 1, Section 7 of the U. S. Constitution states:

“All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.”

It is instructive to recount the debate in the Constitutional Convention during which this provision was decided.  In early July of 1787, the delegates to the Convention were debating many aspects of how the proposed new government would function.  On 5 Jul 1787, a committee led by Mr. Gerry reported out its recommendations, one of which stated in part, “that all bills for raising or appropriating money … shall originate in the first branch of the legislature.”  The debate on this provision occurred the next day.  It turned out that the sentiments expressed by George Mason and Benjamin Franklin convinced the delegates to adopt this provision.  Here are the excerpts from James Madison’s notes regarding the arguments made by Mason and Franklin [1].  Keep in mind that the “first branch” referred to is the House of Representatives, the members of which are directly elected by the people, and the “second branch” is the Senate, the members of which were originally chosen by the state legislatures.  Hence the House represented the people; the Senate represented the states.

“Mr. Mason.  The consideration which weighed with the committee was, that the first branch would be the immediate representatives of the people; the second would not.  Should the latter have the power of giving away the people’s money, they might soon forget the source from whence they received it.  We might soon have an aristocracy.  He had been much concerned at the principles which had been advanced by some gentlemen, but had the satisfaction to find they did not generally prevail.  He was a friend to proportional representation in both branches; but supposed that some points must be yielded for the sake of accommodation.

Dr. Franklin did not mean to go into a justification of the report; but as it had been asked what would be the use of restraining the second branch from meddling with money bills, he could not but remark, that it was always of importance that the people should know who had disposed of their money, and how it had been disposed of.  It was a maxim, that those who feel can best judge.  This end would, he thought, be best attained, if money affairs were to be confined to the immediate representatives of the people.  This was his inducement to concur in the report.  As to the danger or difficulty that might arise from a negative in the second branch, where the people would not be proportionally represented, it might easily be got over by declaring that there should be no negative; or, if that will not do, by declaring that there shall be no such branch at all.”

The delegates believed that the subject of revenue and taxation should be decided by those in the government who most directly represent the people, as they can be held to account more readily than those representing the states.  (However, the members of the Senate are now also elected by the people per the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913.)  James Madison amplified this concept later in the Federalist #58:

“The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of the government.  They, in a word, hold the power of the purse — that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representative of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government.”

It would be novel indeed, if the modern House would refuse to fund something, especially since the national debt is so large.  It would be novel if the House only raised revenue that was necessary for the support of the government; taxes, deficits, and the total debt would likely be much smaller.  But such a great portion of the money raised now goes to spending that is not related to the function of the government per se.  The budgetary power does in fact cause Congress to dominate the government, which is as it should be.  Unfortunately, the revenue policies have in modern times caused the government to exert undue influence over industry and the people alike.

[1]  Jonathan Elliot, Debates on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution in the Convention Held at Philadelphia in 1787; With a Diary of the Debates of the Congress of the Confederation; as reported by James Madison, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1881, Vol. 5, pp. 282-284

 

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Posted in Benjamin Franklin, Constitutional Convention, Federalist Papers, James Madison, U. S. Constitution, Uncategorized | No Comments »