Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Difference between European and American Executive Power

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville describes the main differences between the European and American Executive.  How do we, as a nation, match up to his descriptions today?  Here is an excerpt from his writings:

“The sovereignty of the United States is shared between* the Union and the States, whilst in France it is undivided and compact….In the United States the executive power is as limited and partial as the sovereignty of the Union in whose name it acts; in France it is as universal as the authority of the State.  The Americans have a federal and the French a national Government.”

“Sovereignty may be defined to be the right of making laws:  in France, the King really exercises a portion of the sovereign power, since the laws have no weight till he has given his assent to them; he is, moreover, the executor of all they ordain.  The President is also the executor of the laws, but he does not really co-operate in their formation, since the refusal of his assent does not annul them.  He is therefore to be considered as the agent of the sovereign power.”

Toqueville continues:

“But not only does the King of France exercise a portion of the sovereign power, he also contributes to the nomination of the legislature, which exercises the other portion.  He has the privilege of appointing the members of one chamber, and of dissolving the other at his pleasure; whereas the President of the United States has no share in the formation of the legislative body, and cannot dissolve any part of it.  The King has the same right of bringing forward measures as the Chambers’ a right which the President does not possess.  The King is represented in each assembly by his ministers, who explain his intentions, support his opinions, and maintain the principles of Government.  The President and his ministers are alike excluded from Congress; so that his influence and  his opinions can only penetrate indirectly into that great body.  The King of France is therefore on an equal footing with the legislature, which can no more act without him than he can without it.  The President exercises an authority inferior to, and depending upon, that of the legislature.”

Or does he?

*My emphasis added

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Price of Freedom

With America’s current stagnant economy, high cost of living, and an ongoing encroachment upon our liberties by a powerful government, Thomas Paine’s words ring true today more than ever.  In this excerpt from The Crisis – Number 1, Paine argues that the cost of freedom ought to be priceless:

“These are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder conflict the more glorious the triumph.  What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  ‘tis dearness only that gives every thing its value.  Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

United States: A Free Republic?

In the Anti-Federalist Papers, we see a direct confrontation of The Federalist Papers.  Here is an excerpt from one dated 18 October, 1787 where “Brutus” discusses the role of a free republic:

“In a free republic, although all laws are derived from the consent of the people, yet the people do not declare their consent by themselves in person, but by representatives, chosen by them who are supposed to know the minds of their constituents, and to be possessed of integrity* to declare this mind.  In every free government, the people must give their assent to the laws by which they are governed.  This is the true criterion between a free government and an arbitrary one.”

*My emphasis added.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

George Rogers Clark: The Trek to Fort Sackville

On February 5, 1779, Colonel George Rogers Clark led his troop of approximately 170 Kentucky militiamen (nicknamed "Longknives") through treacherous weather conditions from Kaskaskia to Vincennes in the Illinois Country to re-capture Fort Sackville from the British.  The fort was then under the command of British Colonel Henry "the hair-buyer" Hamilton.  Clark's monumental trek with his men in the middle of the winter echoes that of General George Washington's crossing the Delaware.  Often overshadowed by other great men of his time; his statement shall perhaps live forever in the American Spirit: 

"Great Things Have Been Affected By A Few Men Well Conducted."      

To learn more about George Rogers Clark visit:  - George Rogers Clark National Historical Park  - Locust Grove