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The United States Congress. Manchester University Press. It was a much smaller office in the 18th century than it is today. The United States barely had relations with any countries. It was a trivial nation, a third world country essentially. Jefferson did not swing as much weight in the Cabinet at that time as Secretaries of State would in later periods.
The Secretary of War, Henry Knox, essentially acted as an administrator. The wars at the time were wars against Indian tribes. It was a very limited office. The creation of the executive departments was one of the great successes of the first Congress. Congress created them, not Washington himself. The presidency had very little power, so expanding that was a collaborative process between Congress and Washington.
Did the Founders foresee our size today? Few had aspirations for an empire. I think many would have appreciated the growth of the executive department as commensurate with the growth of American power and responsibilities of government. The country has gone through very long periods without any amendments being passed. There was also a year gap between and The Reconstruction amendments [the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments abolishing slavery and granting former slaves citizenship and the right to vote] did not reflect the national consensus whatsoever.
Once those 11 states come back, those amendments became dead letters for a century. Ironically, when Prohibition passed there was a consensus in the country.
It was a mistake, obviously, and had to be undone. There were no formally organized parties in the beginning. But there were Federalists, those who believed in the Constitution and the government that the Constitution made possible. They dominated the first Congress, with huge majorities in both houses. The Anti-Federalists hated the Constitution, they thought it was a disaster right from the beginning and opposed it.
They opposed a strong and vigorous central government, the antecedents to some extent for the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus. Anti-Federalists demanded hundreds of amendments to the Constitution that would weaken the central government, weaken the presidency, restore more power to the states.
A great debate in the first Congress was whether or not there would be any amendments. Madison took more than and winnowed them down to 12, of which 10 of them passed. Some of the amendments that today loom large were barely debated, like the Second Amendment.
There was almost no discussion of the Second Amendment in the Congress when it passed. When we think of the Bill of Rights, we think mostly of the First Amendment — freedom of speech, press, religion, and all that. Many members at the time thought these were trivial, that Congress had no business even considering such things. Almost nobody in Congress felt that the passage of the Bill of Rights was a big deal. That was one of the most astonishing aspects of the research I did into this book. The amendments only applied to actions against the federal government, they did not apply to actions against state governments.
The federal government had no mechanism whatsoever to protect Americans from actions against the state governments, mostly until the Civil Rights era in the 20th century. If the Founders were here today, they would recognize this as a crisis and something that needed to be remedied. But the ratio of inequality has unbelievably ballooned.
If there was any reform that could change the way government operates for the better, it would be to reapportion Senate districts. It grossly distorts power in the federal government in a way the Founders would have found very worrisome, shocking, irresponsible, and not in keeping with their intentions. It demonstrates how the power of states is baked into the foundation of the country. The Founders never foresaw the disparities in population among states today.
Madison initially fought very hard at the Constitutional Convention for both houses being represented in terms of population. Madison opposed the system that was enacted, and he was absolutely right. But I think what they probably would have assumed would occur is that when states became too large, they would subdivide. That was certainly what was assumed would occur in California, where I happen to live at the moment. It was assumed that California would subdivide into two or several parts. That was very much on the table with respect to Texas, too. It was a weak and undernourished branch of government for many years, until John Marshall became Chief Justice [in ].
As late as the s, and possibly later, a person could just disregard the Supreme Court as Andrew Jackson did. Could we see the president disregard the courts, including the Supreme Court? What Trump likes about Jackson is his imperiousness. The press has evolved over plus years. The press then, and for most of American history, was intensely partisan. It became even more so in the subsequent congresses of the early 19th century, just bitterly partisan. By no means as responsible with its standards as it claims to be today. We have a much more aggressive press today.
The Congressional Record is the archetypal example. We are in a really critical moment. Especially the denigration of fact, of truth, by a large sector of the public — and even part of the press itself — in the interest of partisanship. Statistics that show a large percentage of the public doubting the truth of factual reporting is really alarming.
If you were to go back to the famous press war during the election of , you read that stuff and it will stand your hair on end. Scurrilous and dishonest accusations that were hurled by one party against each other, in both directions.
The Founders would be very frightened by this. Military museums offer visitors insight into the history, defining moments, and current status of the branches of the U. Armed Forces:.
The extent of Northern dissatisfaction was indicated in the congressional elections of , when Lincoln and his party sustained a severe rebuff at the polls and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives was drastically reduced. The possible collaboration of his campaign with a hostile foreign government, they would see as something that could possibly rise to the level of impeachment. Nothing came of the proposal, but it is further evidence that by the end of the war both North and South realized that slavery was doomed. January 11, Ashcroft v.
Across the United States, military memorials and monuments commemorate wars, battles, and those who lived and served during those times. Popular points of interest by each major war include:. Ask us any question about the U. We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it. About the U. Close Search Search. American Flag Branches of the U. Government Budget of the U. Government Data and Statistics about the U.