Selected works from American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology. Kramnick, Isaac and Theodore J. Lowi. W. Wl Norton & Company, Inc. (2009)

Frederick Douglas, “What Are the Colored People Doing for Themselves?” (1848)

“The present is a time when every colored man in the land should bring this important question home to his own heart,” Douglass (1848) passionately writes directly his piece to the black community, (p.589).  Douglass (1848) argues, that although white people are chaldouglass1lenging slavery, the anti-slavery movement needs black people to join the movement to further progress as a people.  “One of the first things necessary to prove the colored man worthy of equal freedom,” Douglass (1848) writes, “is an earnest and persevering effort on his part to gain it,” (p.590).  To Douglas (1848), abolition will not be achieved, “unless we, the colored people of America, shall set about the work of our own regeneration and improvement,” and that if not, “we are doomed to drag on in our present miserable and degraded condition for ages,” (p. 590).  Douglas (1848) argues it would take more than a law of abolition to free black people, that only through education can the character of a free people be achieved.

“Lectures on Slavery” (1850)


Douglass (1850) tells the history of slavery as first 20 Africans on a small plantation in Virginia, to growing to over three million in his time residing all over the country.  “Slavery forms an important part of the entire history of the American Union…and has anchored itself in the very soil of thee American Constitution,” Douglass (1850) writes (p. 591).  Douglass (1850) criticizes the lack of Constitutional rights afforded to black people such that slavery, “has thrown its paralyzing arm over freedom of speech, and the liberty of the press,” (p. 591) and has “seduced the church, corrupted the pulpit,” (p. 592) and that Americans, succumbing to its influence, relinquish their conscience and religious beliefs to defend it.  Douglass (1850) warns that slavery is so powerful that it threatens to destroy the Union to protect its self-interests.

Douglass (1850) describes the brutalities of slavery, when one man is legally another’s property; “the law gives the [slave] master absolute power over the slave.  He may work him, flog him, hire him out, sell  him, and in certain contingencies, kill him, with perfect impunity,” (p. 592).  “The slave is a human being,” Douglass (1850) pleads, “devested of all rights — reduced to the level of a brute…inserted in a master’s ledger, with horses, sheep and swine,” (p. 592).  Douglass (1850) describes that slaves are denied wives, children, commodities, and property and that a slave “labors in chains at home, under a burning sun and a biting lash,” (p. 592) while his exploiters dine in luxury, travel, get educated, live in comfortable shelter, and maintain a high social status.  Douglass (1850) describes how slave masters use whips, chains, gags, thumb-screws, knives, pistols, and dogs to torture slaves into compliance.  Douglass (1850) condemns, not only the Southern slave states, but the Northern free states as well such that “the whole American people are responsible for slavery, and must share, in its guilt and shame, with the most obdurate men-stealers of the south,” Thus, Douglass (1850) charged, everyone must join the abolition movement and “labor for its utter extirpation from the land,” (p. 594).

“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” (1852)

While Douglass (1852) commends the Founding Fathers for their bravery and patriotism in writing the Declaration of Independence in the defense of a new nation, and that although Douglass admires them, he criticizes them for their pro-slavery stance. Douglass (1852) asks rhetorically, “Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” and that regarding the 4th of July commemoration, “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary,” (p. 595).  Douglass (1852) writes, “the rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me…this Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine.”  Douglass (1852) argues that to “call upon [the slave] to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony,” (p. 595).  Douglass (1852) pleads, “in the name of liberty…in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon,” for people to denounce slavery, “the great sin and shame of America,” criticizing  proponents of slavery, as morally wrong and unjust hypocrites (p. 596).

Douglass (1852) argues that to deny liberty, which the Union has already determine is a necessity of life, to a black man, you therefore are denying him his manhood and reducing him to an animal.  Douglass (1852) criticizes the incredulousness of the slavery debate, “Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery?” such that is “the principle of justice, hard to be understood?” (p. 597).  Douglass (1852) argues that the immorality of slavery is obvious given the known brutalities of slavery and that “the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced,” (p. 598).  Douglass (1852) asks in summation, “What to the American slave is your 4th of July?” and responds that it “reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim,” (p. 598).  To the slave, Douglass (1852) writes, is a fraud, deception, and hypocrisy, and such behavior “would [even] disgrace a nation of savages,” (p. 598).

John C. Calhoun, “Speeches on the Reception of Abolition Petitions” (1837)

In Calhoun’s (1837) view, slave-state citizens and institutions are victims of intense hatred by the free-states that will result in contention “more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained towards another,” and “burst the Union asunder,” (p. 601).  Calhoun (1837) argues that “abolition and the Union cannot co-exist” because, “we, of the South will not, cannot surrender our institutions,” (p. 601).  Calhoun (1837) believes slavery to be “good” not “evil” under the argument that “never before has the black race of Central Africa…attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually,” (p. 602).  Calhoun (1837) argues that the “low, degraded, and savage condition” of Africans “under the fostering care of our institutions,” have become “comparatively civilized,” (p. 602).  Calhoun (1837) argued that slaves were living healthier and more comfortable lives than poor Europeans.  If slaves were granted freedom and social equality ending white superiority, Calhoun (1837) warned that white people would be forced into slavery serving black masters.

“Calhoun’s Resolutions” (1838)  

Calhoun (1838) argued that forcing States to abolish slavery is an unconstitutional seizure of States rights and southern economical disenfranchisement, endangering peace and crippling to the Union.  Calhoun (1838) concludes that the South “will long continue to preserve, our free institutions…which we are called on to defend by the highest and most solemn obligations that can be imposed on us as men and patriots,” (p. 607).

George Fitzhugh, “Sociology for the South: or, the Failure of Free Society” (1854)

Fitzhugh (1854) writes “we do not set children and women free because they are not capable of taking care of themselves, not equal to the constant struggle of society,” (p. 626) arguing both children and women lack the will, virtues, and cunning necessary to survive compete in the labor market, hold property, or have political rights such that they would soon after fall into destitution.  Fitzhugh (1854) argues that equal rights results in oppression of the lower classes which are most in need of protection; Fitzhugh (1854) argues the low class’s oppression is caused by their own failures, ignorance, wants, and contention which drives landlords and employers to raise prices and lower wages.  Had the Irish been serfs, Fitzhugh (1854) claims, they would have been “cherished and taken care of by those same landlords and employers.”  Fitzhugh adds that slaves, unlike the free low-class, “never die of hunger, [and] scarcely ever feel want,” (p.  629).

Fitzhugh (1854) argues that wealthy property owners “are masters of the poor” that, unlike slave masters, hold “none of the feelings, interests or sympathies,” in protecting laborers (p. 628).  Fitzhugh (1854) argues that free societies abandon the Christian, golden rule virtue and instead promotes selfishness and the destruction of societal happiness.  Fitzhugh (1854) claims equality would effectively abolish the right to private property as well as caused political instability.  Slavery, Fitzhugh (1854) argues, is the only “remedy for [the] evil” of the wealthy and strong oppressing the poor and weak, (p. 631) and that slavery has lead to the progress of great civilizations in history.  Fitzhugh (1954) argues that slavery is more fair to the laborer because it rewards wants rather than labor input, and slaves, being of cheap and unrefined wants, are satisfied with food, shelter, and clothing.

“Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters” (1857)

To Fitzhugh (1857), low-class labor is effectively white slavery without slave masters, far more exploitative than the black slave trade.  Fitzhugh (1857) believes the government does not need the consent of the public but rather uses force; if women, children, and black people are involved in the creation and consent of our government or allowed voting rights, it will cause anarchy.  Fitzhugh (1857) believed that governing requires force, not morality, such that when a slave “sees the driver’s lash, becomes accustomed to obedient…the lash is the force that impels him,” (p. 643).

Robert B. Taney, “Dred Scott v. Sandford” (1857)

The Court ruled against Scott, denying him the right to sue, under the argument that constitutionally, Scott was not a citizen of Missouri.  The Court questioned if 1) Scott and his family were free in Missouri, and 2) is Scott free given his “removal” to Illinois? (p.   Congress passed the Missouri Compromised, which abolished slavery in Missouri among other states, however, the Court discredited the law’s constitutionality such that federal authority within US territory is limited to the States of the Union during the drafting of the Constitution, and therefore could not affect States acquired elsewhere.  The Court concluded that the Constitution regards the slave as the private property of the slave owner.

Abraham Lincoln, “Speech at Peoria, Illinois” (1854)

Lincoln (1854) asks how the contention over slavery should be resolved.  “What then?  Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings?  Is it quite certain that this betters their condition?” (p. 651)  What about accepting blacks as social equals? “We well know that those of the great mass of white people will not,” and therefore “we can not, then, make them equals,” (p. 651).  Lincoln (1854) argues emancipation depends on if the black slave is or is not a man; if he is a man, he should be granted freedom from the despotism of slavery.  Lincoln (1854) warns the greedy exploitation of slave labor may destroy the freedoms granted to whites (if the Union dissolves).

“Speech on the Dred Scott Decision in Springfield, Illinois” (1857)

Abraham_Lincoln_Hero_Chair-ABLincoln (1857) claims that SCOTUS Justice, “Judge Douglas dreads the slightest human recognition of the negro,” and regards them “not human enough to have a hearing,” (p. 659).  Lincoln (1857) warns the greedy exploitation of slave labor may destroy the rights and freedoms granted to whites.  Lincoln (1857) observes the large proportion of biracial people in slave-states and denies that he is implying slave masters “are inclined to exercise this particular power which they hold over their female slaves,” (p. 659) which grants the slave master the right to rape and forcibly impregnate black women.  Lincoln (1857) notes the differing opinions of the political parties — Republicans support abolition and regard “the negro is a man,” while the Democrats protect slavery and “deny his manhood,” (p. 660).

“Letter to Boston Republicans” (1859)

Upon Jefferson’s commemoration, Lincoln (1959) notes the irony of the Jeffersonian argument, holding personal liberty above property rights, to the current ideology that denies “one man’s” (likely Scott) personal liberty, is regarded as secondary to the property rights of another.  “All honor to Jefferson,” Lincoln (1859) writes, whose philosophies “shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression,” (p. 662).

 “Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society” (1859)

Lincoln (1859) criticizes the Southern “mud-sill” theory that regards low-class labor as more sufferable than slavery.  Lincoln (1859) argues that “there is not such thing as a free man being fatally fixed for life,” (p. 663).  “Free labor,” Lincoln (1859) argues, is a “just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all…[and the] improvement of condition to all,” (p. 664).  Lincoln (1859) encouraged the combination of labor and education will ensure “no community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression in any of its forms,” (p. 666).

“Cooper Union Address” (1860)

Lincoln (1860) recalled George Washington’s decision to abolish slavery in the Northwestern Territory and “his hope that we should at some time have a confederacy of free States,” (p. 666).  Lincoln (1860) criticizes Conservatives for their policy decisions on slavery contradicting their Conservative principles; “If you would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy of the old times,” (p. 667).

“New Haven Address” (1860)

Lincoln (1860) commends New England which allows labor strikes and freedom to work when and where you want to; “I like the system which lets a man quit when he wants to,” (p. 668).  Lincoln (1860) ensures the right to acquire capital, and that he does “wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else,” (p. 668).  Lincoln (1860) believes that every man, including blacks, is entitled to improve his condition.

“First Inaugural Address” (1861)

Lincoln (1861) assures the South that he would not free their slaves and would continue enforcing fugitive slave laws.  Lincoln (1861) regards Southern mobilization as an attempt to disrupt the Union.  Lincoln (1861) declares it unlawful to secede from the Union and that “acts of violence, are insurrectionary,” (p. 671).

“Second Inaugural Address” (1865)

09disunion-douglass-blog427Lincoln (1865) remembers his 1st inaugural address, addressing the nation in hopes to preserve the Union, while insurgency sought to destroy it; one party (the South) would make war to end the Union, while the other (the North) would accept war to preserve it.  Lincoln (1865) acknowledged the powerful influence of slavery was the cause of the Civil War, such that it sparked rebellion by States that sought to preserve it.  Lincoln (1865) questioned how “any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged,” (p. 685).  Lincoln credits the abolition of slavery as G-d’s will, and that both the North and South were punished with the sufferings of war for their oppression.  Lincoln (1865) believes that if G-d’s will intends to prolong the nation’s suffering “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,” His judgments are true and righteous, (p. 685).  Now let’s “bind the nation’s wounds…[and] do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations,” (p. 685).

Henry Brown and John Marshall Harlan, “Plessy v. Ferguson” (1896)

After the bloody sacrifices of the Civil War, the equal citizenship of blacks was finally granted to them by the Fourteenth Amendment.  Decades later, when States enforced racial segregation, blacks challenged that it violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights, in which “States are forbidden from making or enforcing any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” (p. 943).  The Supreme Court, in the most heinous abuse of the rule of law, restricted black rights for 50 years after it upheld segregation as not in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, despite no lawful consideration of its expressed powers, finding instead Brown’s personal view that segregation is a “reasonable regulation” of States.  Brown (1896) went further to defend state segregation by criticizing blacks for calling segregation “a badge of inferiority” and he argued it was a black construct and they have civil and political equality and therefore are not considered inferior.  This was a blatant lie; if blacks were truly politically equal, why did they not get equal protection from segregation?  Brown (1896) attempts to justify this, by arguing its a social, not political, regulation; he also said Constitutional rights cannot elevate a socially inferior race to the level of a more superior one.  Brown (1896) also blames “racial instincts” on social inequality and said integration must be “a voluntary consent of individuals,” not forced legislation to commingle “negro” and white races, (p. 944).

Mr. Justice Harlan Dissenting    Harlan (1896) argues that “our Constitution is color-blind”, regarding all races without distinction such that no legislative body may regard race in matters of civil rights, (p. 945).  White people view themselves as the dominant race in our society, and are indeed far more wealthy, educated, prestigious, and powerful than blacks, but still equal in civil rights.  Therefore, it is with regret that the Court has chosen to deny “the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race,” (p. 945).  “The arbitrary separation of citizens, on the basis of race…cannot be justified upon any legal grounds,” (p. 945).  The predicted “evil” results of integration will be greatly overshadowed by State oppression based on race.  Segregation is symbolic of black servitude despite their legal equality and the argument that their designated services are “equal” in quality is an obvious ruse that will never compensate for the trespasses of segregation.

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)




Hiram W. Evans, “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism” (1926)

“Intellectually mongrelized ‘Liberals'” (p. 981) —  shaming white Liberals’ anti-racist views such that it is similar to the cross-breading of an animal with a more inferior animal.  “remarkable race character”(p. 981) – believes American whites were “bred” to be the most superior race.  America’s establishment was “given” as “inheritance” to American white men (p. 981).  Referred to American whites as “Native Americans”. Evans (1926) feels whites are the ones discriminated against by being denied their privilege of slavery.  Evans (1926) views white despotism as an act of philanthropy, regarding slaves as “whom we had allowed to share our heritage and prosperity…that had given him shelter,” (p.982).


1848 – 1865

The Civil War era and debate over slavery was the most contentious period in American history.  The Northern free-states and Southern slave-states were deeply divided on the issue of abolition; both sides, unwilling to concede, accepted that without resolution, the Union will likely plunge into civil war.  Pro-slavery Calhoun (1837) accused Northern abolitionists of inciting hatred towards Southern people and encouraging violence “more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained towards another,” (p. 601).  Abolitionist Douglass (1850) defended the North’s unyielding attitude, and forewarned that “there can be no peace to the wicked while slavery continues in the land, it will be condemned,” (p. 593).  Arguably neutral, Lincoln (1854) blamed the instability of the Union on divisive actions of both the North and the South such that “one side will provoke, the other resent,” (p. 653).

Discussion: What were the most prominent elements of the philosophical debates between pro-and anti-slavery forces before the civil war? Did the war drastically change these philosophical differences, or did the debate basically begin after the war where it left off before the war?

Debate after the Civil War

Social equality:


Debate before the Civil War

Christianity of Slavery –



    • North: Supports social equality: (Douglas) Although abolition and Constitutional rights are a necessary step for black social and political equality, without access to education for themselves and their children, will never gain the wisdom, character, and strength needed to build and maintain social equality. (Lincoln) argues that communities cannot be oppressed if both educated and labored

    • Opposes social equality: (Lincoln) Cannot permit blacks social equality because the massive opposition by whites.

    • South: Opposes social equality: (Calhoun)  If black people were elevated to social and political equality with whites ending white superiority, southern white people would be forced into slavery and serve black slave masters. (Fitzhugh) Equality would effectively destroy the right to private property, social equality such as voting rights would result in lawlessness


    • Exploitation

      • North: Black Slavery (Douglass) Slave masters lived in prominence and luxury while slaves live like farm animals.  Slaves forfeited not only their labor but their free-will; slave masters were permitted full authority to direct every aspect of a slave’s life from prohibiting religious congregation to criminalizing literacy.  Slaves parents were robbed of their own children as slave masters sold them into lifetime bondage; slaves masters deny slaves the social securities and virtues of marriage.  (Lincoln) warns the greedy exploitation of slave labor may destroy the rights and freedoms granted to whites. Lincoln (1857) observes the large proportion of biracial people in slave-states and while he denies that he is suggesting slave masters “are inclined to exercise this particular power which they hold over their female slaves,” (p. 659) he notes the slave master is granted the right to rape and forcibly impregnate black women.

      • Low-class labor – Lincoln (1859) argues that “there is not such thing as a free man being fatally fixed for life,” (p. 663).  “Free labor,” Lincoln (1859) argues, is a “just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all…[and the] improvement of condition to all,” (p. 664).
      • South: White Slavery (Calhoun) Slaves, despite their inferiority to poor Europeans, are far more healthy and comfortable. (Fitzhugh) Slave masters are caring, generous, and affectionate and slaves are always fed, while the callous employer ignores the starving low-class.  Slavery is more profitable for the laborer than employment because it rewards wants rather than labor input, and slaves, being of cheap and unrefined wants, are satisfied if provided adequate food, shelter, and clothing.  Low-class laborers excessively work and are denied sleep and leisure time, while slaves work less hours and allowing time for sleep and leisure

Christianity of Slavery

  • North: Slavery is morally evil and inhumane: (Douglass) Defied Christian virtues of peace, compassion, and equality in the eyes of G-d,

    South: Slavery is morally good and charitable: (Calhoun) Africans were savages, and through slavery, were civilized and improved morally and intellectually, Slavery promotes peaceful coexistence between races. (Fitzhugh) Slavery abides by the Christian golden rule as slave masters are caring, generous, and affectionate and protect slaves from starvation, Slavery is a cure for the “evil” of poor and weak suffering,

  • Personal rights v property rights

    • North: (Douglas) The Constitution grants basic human rights to “all men” yet black men are lawfully denied these protections

    • South: Unconstitutional: (Calhoun) Federal abolition law encroaches on States rights and unlawfully seizes private property, Economically disenfranchising southern States to benefit northern States. (Fitzhugh) Equality would effectively destroy the right to private property


Conflicts in the Young Republic and Jacksonian America

Alexander Hamilton, “First Report on the Public Credit” (1790)

“That an adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of high importance to the honor and prosperity of the United States,” (p. 297).  Hamilton (1790) argues that borrowing and credit are a necessity for all nations; all nations, such as in times of wahamilton1r, must borrow capital and have good financial credit to do so.  Hamilton (1790) also argues public credit is necessary to invest in resources, to ensure justice, to unify the States, essential for trade, agriculture and manufacturing, and lowering interest rates.  Hamilton (1790) was a proponent of a federal public credit account.  Hamilton (1790) quotes the Constitution, “all debts contracted and engagements entered into before the adoption of that Constitution shall be as valid against the United States under it, as under the confederation,” (p.303) arguing the federal government will take up the debts of the Revolutionary War from every State.  If there is “not a national assumption of the state debts,” (p. 304) Hamilton (1790) argues, there will be problems of interest rates and with the various creditors and that in the best interests of industry and commerce, all States should be held by the same regulations.

“Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank” (1791)

Hamilton (1791) supports the creation of a national bank, and address criticisms that such action would be unconstitutional.  Hamilton (1791) suggests “that there are implied as well as expressed powers,” (p.305) of government and maintains it is applicable to the the “necessary and proper” (p. 306) clause of the Constitution arguing creating banks is a right of a sovereign government.  Hamilton (1791) makes the argument that a bank would be essential to the regulate trade between the States, borrowing money, and regulating foreign currency.  Hamilton (1791) argues by design, the Constitution gives the federal government the power of the United States’ financial administration.

“Report on Manufactures” (1791) 

Hamilton (1790), in favor of federal manufacturing investment, address four major concerns in opposition: agriculture is more beneficial, industry will do fine by itself, the United States lacks the labor force and cannot compete with Europe, and inevitable monopolies will be detrimental to society.  Hamilton (1790) argues federal manufacturing investment would yield benefits such as  increasing national revenue, high employment rates, sector diversity, and encouraging emigration.

Henry Clay, “Speech on the Tariff” (1824)

Clay (1824) writes, “Our agriculture is our greatest interest…Can we do nothing to invigorate it?” (p. 390).  Clay (1824) argues that in order to secure a sustainable national economy, it would need the “PROTECTION of our own legislation against the inevitable..action of foreign policy and legislation,” (p.391) and therefore it is necessary to establish a tariff.  Clay (1828) claims the purpose of the tariff is to “tax the produce of foreign industry, with the view of promoting American industry,” (p.391).

John Quincy Adams, “First Annual Message to Congress” (1825) 

Adams (1825) supported federal funding of “internal improvements” such as expeditions to explore United State territories, a national university, a national astronomical observatory.  Adams (1825) argues improvement should be encourage in a free society and promoting science and enlightenment would progress the country and benefit citizens.

Daniel Webster, “Speech on Jackson’s Veto of the United States Bank Bill” (1832)

Webster (1832) supported a federal bank as well as private management of the bank.  Webster (1832) claimed “government banks are among the most dangerous of all inventions,” (p. 446).  Webster (1832) argued government operated banks would bar foreign investment, and claimed opposition is class warfare.  Webster (1832) foreigner’s money in national banks is not a threat because the money is subject to United States law.

James Fenimore Cooper, “The American Democrat” (1838)

Cooper did not share an egalitarian view on social class.  Cooper (1838) describes social class as “dependent on birth, education, personal qualitites, property, tastes, habits, and, in some instances, on caprice, or fashion,” (p. 465) but mainly depends on property.  Cooper (1838) does not believe that, “one man is as good as another,” (p. 466).  Cooper (1838) argues “there is no natural equality,”  in that “as nature has made differences between men, those institutions which create political orders, are no more than carrying out the great designs of providence,” (p. 466).  Cooper (1838) believed men were equal when it came to rights, and that equal rights encourages meritocracy in society.  Cooper (1838) argues “social inequality of America is an unavoidable result of the institutions,” and that “it is as much a consequence of civilized society, as breathing is a vital function of animal life,” (p. 468).  Without inequality, Cooper (1838) argues, “civilization would become stationary,” (p. 467) and the acquisition of property encourages progress.  Cooper (1838) argues it is impossible to raise all men to high standards, and therefore egalitarianism would reduce all men to the lowest standards.

Orestes Brownson, “The Laboring Classes” (1840)

Brownson (1840) questioned why the laborer is “poor and depressed” while non-laborers are wealthy, (p. 457).  Brownson (1840) acknowledges laborers do not earn money from production and “in general unable to procure anything beyond the bare necessaries of life,” (p. 457).  Brownson (1840) believes himself an abolitionist, but argues with slavery there is less suffering than with low-wage labor.  Brownson (1840) argues the wealthy manufacturer, who pays less than a living wage to his laborers, is a hypocrite for calling himself a Christian and criticizing the slave owner when in reality low wage labor is cheaper for the manufacturer  because slaves at least have food, clothing, and lodging which low wage laborers cannot afford.

Brownson (1840) believes G-d has created all men equal, and therefore it is necessary to “emancipate the proletaries, as the past has emanicipated the slaves,” (p. 459).  Brownson (1840) argues it is necessary to relieve social inequality such as by “Christianiz[ing] the community” (p. 461) and that society should not condone a Christian gospel that allows few men to profit while the masses live in miserable poverty.  Brownson (1840) argues society should adopt the messages of Jesus and lead society to the “great social reform needed,” (p. 462).  Brownson (1840) argues government “must proceed to repeal all laws which bear against the laboring classes, and then to enact such laws as are necessary to enable them to maintain their equality,” (p. 463).  Brownson (1840) believed the influence of the banks benefits the employer and are in opposition to the laboring class; he argues the “subtle influence of credit, and such the power of capital” will eventually overtake government and that banks will have “fatal influence on the political action of the community,” (p. 463).  Brownson (1840) proposes, since inequality stems from being born rich or poor, that upon death, property should “become the property of the state”, (p. 464) to promote equality for the next generation.

Andrew Jackson, “First Annual Message to Congress” (1829)

Jackson (1829) argues that “in a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another,” (p. 421).  Jackson (1829) was an opponent of a tariff on foreign goods arguing that “we must ever expect selfish legislation in other nations,” but that “which will place our own in fair competition with those of other countries,” (p. 422).  Jackson (1829) argued if the national public debt was abolished, “the fiscal power of the States will also be increased” (p. 423) and that States would have more funding for education and other public investments.

“Veto of Maysville Road Bill” (1830)   

Jackson (1830) argues “works of internal improvement” (p. 425) by the federal government encroach on State’s rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction.  Jackson (1830) argues internal improvement programs should be enacted with an amendment to the Constitution rather than implying the federal government has such powers.

“Bank Veto Message” (1832)

Jackson (1832) vetoed the bank bill, claiming “every monopoly and all exclusive privileges are granted at the expense of the public,” (p. 428).  Jackson (1838) critcized the amount of money owned by foreigners such that in times of war, “it would be more formidable and dangerous than the naval and military power of the enemy,” (p. 429).  Jackson (1832) argues that the national bank is unconstitutional because, “there is nothing in its legitimate functions which makes it necessary or proper,” (p. 429).  Jackson (1832) argued that “it is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes,” (p. 429).  Although Jackson (1832) agrees social inequality cannot be avoided, but that constitutionally, every man is equal under the law and such government policies, like titles of nobility in England, generate distinction to the rich at the expense of the poor.  Jackson (1832) called such policies “prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many,” (p. 430).

“Farewell Address” (1837)

Jackson (1837) argues that the Constitution’s “powers being expressly enumerated, there can be no justification for claiming anything beyond them,” (p. 435).  Jackson (1837) commented on “his views on the dangers of moneyed interests and sectionalism to popular democracy and to the Union,” (p. 431).


Kramnick, Isaac and Theodore J. Lowi. American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology. W. Wl Norton & Company, Inc. (2009)


PSC 435 Course Discussion: Was the economic program of Hamilton and the Whigs forward-thinking and realistic, or simply the reflection of monied interests, the primary critique of the Jacksonians?

Hamilton and the Whigs (Clay, Adams, Webster, Cooper) had views distinct from that of the Jacksonians (Jackson, Brownson) such as with the federal government’s involvement in the economy as well as views on social inequality.  Hamilton (1790, 1791) supported the federal “public credit” account, the creation of a national bank (which Webster (1832) argued should be privately operated), and federal investment in manufacturing.  Clay (1824) supported a tariff on foreign imports, Adams (1825) supported federal funding of “internal improvements” such as a university, astronomical observatory, and territory expedition while Jackson (1829) opposed a national bank and federally funded public works as these programs, in his view, were unconstitutional.  Cooper (1838) did not share Jackson (1832, 1837) and Brownson’s (1840) egalitarian view on social class and instead argued inequality is necessary for progress.  Given the arguments made, I tend to agree with the Jacksonians that, in Jackson’s words, Hamilton and the Whigs’ views represent “dangers of moneyed interests and sectionalism to popular democracy and to the Union,” (p. 431).

Hamilton supported the public credit claiming it is necessary for funding future war, investment in resources, ensuring justice, unifying states, essential for trade, agriculture, and manufacturing, lowering interest rates, and ensuring States abide by equal regulations.  While Hamilton’s reasonings appear fair, I agree with Jackson that a national bank like “every monopoly and all exclusive privileges are granted at the expense of the public,” such that Webster’s privately operated bank is likely to be influenced by private interests and lead to disproportionately benefitting the wealthier classes at the poor’s expense.  Why should the wealthy profit in the form of interest rates and other monetary policies with the tax dollars of the masses?  I agree a national bank, in purpose to allow the federal government to function is necessary, but Webster’s argument leads me to believe the national bank’s private operation will lead to monetary policy in favor of wealthy elites.  Jackson called such policies “prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many,” (p. 430) and Brownson argued such policies have a “fatal influence on the political action of the community,” (p. 463).  I agree with Jackson that a national bank was abolished, “the fiscal power of the States will also be increased,” (p. 422) such that by letting States reallocate their individual tax revenue, there will not be favoritism between States such that some benefit while other do not.  While I also agree with Adams that territory expeditions, universities, and astronomical observatories would promote science and the enlightenment of society, I believe federalization of such institutions would benefit the wealthy elites rather than the public such that only a select few will have access to such institutions.  Again, this may disproportionately allocate public works to some States despite all States contributing; I believe public works should be a State’s responsibility to ensure fairness.

I also agree with the Jacksonians that the Whigs have very elitist views on social class and that it is reflected in their fiscal policies.  Cooper describes social class as “dependent on birth, education, personal qualities, property, tastes, habits, and, in some instances, on caprice, or fashion,” (p. 465) but mainly depends on property.  Cooper (1838) does not believe that, “one man is as good as another,” (p. 466) and that men were equal when it came to rights, and that equal rights encourages meritocracy in society.  Cooper (1838) argues “social inequality of America is an unavoidable result of the institutions,” and that “it is as much a consequence of civilized society, as breathing is a vital function of animal life,” (p. 468).  Without inequality, Cooper argues, “civilization would become stationary,” (p. 467) and the acquisition of property encourages progress.  To me, Cooper’s views are very elitist in favor of the wealthy few.  Cooper not only acknowledges all men are unequal, but argues social inequalities are necessary for society.  Such thinking leads me to believe the Whigs, such as the Jacksonians’ criticisms, supported policy that would benefit the rich at the poor’s expense.  Brownson takes almost a Marxian view of labor and the corrupting power of the elite on the government.  While I disagree with Brownson that low wage labor is more sufferable than poverty, I agree that it should be noted that low wage labor allows for more profits for the wealthy while the poor go without the necessities of life such as food, shelter, and clothing.  While I do not agree with Brownson that society should promote Christian values, I agree the values of social justice should be encouraged in a free society and the government should enact policy that may relieve such inequality. Lastly, while I believe Brownson’s proposition that in purpose to end the inequality from rich and poor birth, property should be given to the government after death in very extreme and radical, the notion of an estate/death tax to fund social welfare programs to relieve poverty are a good idea. I agree with Jackson that although social inequality cannot be avoided, every person is equal under the law and certain government policies, like the titles of nobility in England, generate distinction to the rich at the expense of the poor and should be avoided.

Environmental law and the Bone Cave Harvestman spider

United States environmental law is a “legal system of statutes, regulations, guidelines, requirements, policies, and case-specific judicial and administrative interpretations” that is used to minimize or prevent behaviors that may negatively affect the environment and public health, (pp.1-4). [1]  One major piece of federal legislation, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), passed in 1973, broadly protects threatened or endangered plants and animals and their critical habitats, (p.715). [1]  Once a species is listed as endangered, the ESA is granted authority to regulate all public and private behavior that may impact listed species, (p.715). [1]  The ESA protects listed species by forbidding actions that may “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” species including the modification or degradation of its critical habitat, (p.716). [1]

In recent political and legal debate, the ESA has come under controversy regarding whether or not the law is constitutional and whether or not the federal government has the authority to intervene in the property rights of individuals under this law.  Under the X Amendment, the federal government must not encroach on state power unless granted authority by the U.S. Constitution. [2]  At the time of the act’s passing, Congress argued it had authority to enforce species protection laws on the federal level and override state’s rights because of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which grants Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce. [3]

The argument against the constitutionality of the ESA is whether or not species only found in one state should be considered “interstate commerce” when the species does not cross state boundaries. [3]  In a recent case that may be seen by the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas rancher John Yearwood is in a legal battle to determine if his private property can be regulated under ESA law given the listed endangered species in question, the Bone Cave Harvestman spider, was found living on his land. [4]   Yearwood’s attorney argues the spider is not a commercially viable species and that since it is located only in Texas, does not warrant interstate regulation. [4]

In my opinion, while I agree with the purpose of the EPA that endangered species and their habitats should be protected from extinction, the use of the Commerce Clause to justify the EPA is unconstitutional as it is hard to determine how endangered wildlife such as spiders, that have no market participation, can be considered “commerce.”  If wildlife is found to affect commerce and therefore (by some legal alchemy I do not know) implicated in the clause, then in Yearwood’s case, I would still argue the law is unconstitutional because the listed spider should not be held under “interstate” regulations if 1) it only resides within one state, and 2) there is no substantial evidence the listed spider species’ survival would negatively affect ecosystems beyond state boundaries (the argument all ecosystems are ‘interconnected’ [5] is an anecdotal observation, that while may be true in general, does not evidently demonstrate how one species of spider located in Texas, which is limited in number, will directly affect wildlife in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Louisiana).   

I agree it makes governing sense for the protection of endangered species and their habitats to be a federal responsibility, but the U.S. Constitution was a flawed document that did not foresee, for example, environmental concerns, and therefore such regulation not specified in the U.S. Constitution (like it or not) must be yielded to the states.  I agree the Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling that government “may not convert congressional Commerce Clause authority to a general police power of the sort held only by the states” applies in this case. [5]  It appears the Commerce Clause has been used here, albeit in good faith, to unconstitutionally expand the powers of the federal government (and force those pesky states to uphold better standards).  It would have made more sense to have enacted an Amendment to the Constitution to grant federal authority over endangered species rather than classify unrelated policy areas as “commerce” or consider two counties in Texas as “interstate” in order to justify unconstitutional overuse of federal power.  


[1] Sullivan, Thomas F. P., Environmental Law Handbook, 22nd Ed. Bernan Press, 2014.

[2] Cornell Law School, “Commerce Clause,” Wex Legal Dictionary. URL:

[3] Biber, Eric. “The ESA and the Commerce Clause,” Legal Planet Insight & Analysis: Environmental Law and Policy. URL:

[4] Kerkman, Maggie and Casey Stegall. “Texas Rancher Caught in Regulatory Web After Rare Spider Found on Land,” Fox News, 02 March 2017. URL:

[5] Will, George. “Federal Power Spins Its Ever-Growing Web,” 20 May, 2017. National Review. URL:

Revolutionary Thought

The Constitution of the United States (1776)

The US Constitution grants legislative powers to a representative Congress, separated into two powers, the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The House of Representatives shall be elected every two years, must reside in their respective states, and representation is proportional to each state’s population.  Senators must be elected every six years having two Senators represent each state.

Congress is granted lawmaking power with the President of the US given veto power.  The Congress is also given numerous other powers such as the power to take out debt on behalf of the US, establish naturalization rules, coin money, establish roads and post offices, copyright laws, punish crimes, declaring war, maintaining an army and navy, and possession of federal property.

The Constitution prohibits states from entering into treaties or  alliances, coin money, establish credit, and grant titles of nobility.  States may not also impose trade taxes or maintain armies without consent of Congress.

The President is granted four years to serve and the Electoral College, officials appointed by the States, is granted power to elect the President.  The President has the power to command the army and navy, make foreign treaties, appoint judges to the Supreme Court, address Congress to make recommendations, and may be impeached for crimes and misdemeanors.

The Supreme Court, appointees chosen by the President, is given judicial power over US laws, Constitutional law, and foreign treaties.

The Constitution of the United States, 1776. URL:


John Adams, Thoughts on Government (1776)


“A republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men,’” Adams (1776) wrote quoting the then British constitution.  Adams (1776) argued a republic was the best form of government because it had the best capability to execute the law impartially.  Rather than the public make laws, Adams argued, “wise and good”, fairly elected representatives should be in power.  These representatives should also be an illustrative sample of the public such that it is able to “think, feel, reason, and act” like the public at large.

Adams (1776) was also in favor of multiple bodies of government rather than one assembly.  He argued one assembly would be “liable to all the vices, follies, and frailties of an individual” and therefore likely to be “productive of hasty results and absurd judgments.”  Adams (1776) argued a “controlling power” (such as the executive and judicial branches) was necessary to regulate and prevent the poor governing a single assembly would yield.  A single assembly would also be undesirable because, as in the case with Holland, Adams writes, could potentially elect itself into permanent government positions, ending the public’s participation in lawmaking.

While Adams (1776) was a proponent of a representative legislative body, he argued representation was unsuitable for the executive branch because of secrecy and efficiency and judicial branches were “too numerous, too slow, and too little skilled in the laws.”  Adams (1776) also believed a single assembly in charge of all branches of government would be too self-interested to effectively govern and settle legal disputes fairly and therefore only the legislative branch should be representative.  Adams (1776) argued the representative legislative branch should be split into two assemblies with the executive branch as mediator to avoid confrontation.

Adams (1776) argued the executive branch should be a small council of officials elected by the legislative branch, with a single individual serving as president of the council.  He believed elections should be held every few years in rotation to ensure elected officials have the support of the public.  Adams (1776) also argues the judicial branch should be appointed officials skilled in the law, with lifetime appointments to ensure appointees are acting in their own conscious rather than make decisions to ensure re-election; “they should not be dependent upon any man; or body of men,” Adams (1776) writes.

Adams, John. Thoughts on Government. 1776. URL:


Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

“Government, even in its best state, is bust a necessary evil…[we] are exposed to the same miseries by a Government, which we might expect in a country without Government,” Paine writes (p.69).  To Paine, government is “a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world,” such that mankind lacks the morality to govern itself without laws (p.71).

Paine, Thomas. Common Sense, 1776.  URL:


James Madison, Federalist No. 10 (1787)

Madison (1787), under the pen-name Publius, criticized “popular governments” or “pure democracy” because of “factions” or interest groups that would surely arise with governments of this form.  In Madison’s belief, factions were dangerous because their interests may be in disregard for the rights of citizens or overall interests of the country. Without restricting liberty, Madison (1787) argued, the negative affect of factions may be prevented if the country is filled with citizens of varying interests as to compete and deter a monopoly of interests.

Madison (1787) argued in favor of a republic rather than a democracy.  He believed representatives would be more likely to promote the public good and factions would be prone to corruption and “betray the interests, of the people.”

Madison, James. Federalist No. 10, 1787. URL:

Federalist, No. 48 (1788)

Madison (1788a) argues democracy may lead to tyranny while a republic would ensure governing is based on public, rather than individual interests.  He believed government powers should be divided into separate assemblies that can yield power over each other to avoid supremacy by one assembly.

Madison, James. Federalist, No. 48, 1788. URL:


Federalist, No. 51 (1788)

Madison (1788b) argues the branches of government: legislative, executive, and judiciary, should be separate and independent powers and to ensure this, he advocates that each body should have as little influence on selecting officials of other bodies.  While Madison (1788b) believes the public should have input on government appointments, precautions must be taken to protect the minority from overwhelming majority interests.

Madison, James. Federalist, No. 51, 1788. URL:


Alexander Hamiliton, Federalist, No. 70 (1788)

Hamilton (1788a) argues for an individual to govern as Executive because, in his belief, a strong executive branch would make for a stronger government.  The Executive would be one individual to ensure there would be no stalemate decisions, and advises other branches of government to check the executive branch and avoid a dictatorship.

Hamilton, Alexander. Federalist, No. 70, 1788. URL:


Federalist, No. 78 (1788)

Hamiliton (1788b) argues the executive should appoint judges to the judiciary branch of government.  Hamilton warned of the dangers if the judicial branch was beholden to other branches of government, “if the power of making them was committed either to the Executive or legislature, there would be danger of an improper complaisance to the branch which possessed it,” Hamilton (1788b) writes.

Hamilton, Alexander. Federalist, No. 78, 1788. URL:


Federalist, No. 84 (1788)

Hamilton (1788c) discuss to proponents of a bill of rights why such a document is not necessary.  He argues that 1) the Constitution already includes “provisions in favor of particular privileges and rights,” and 2) that the Constitution secures “common and statute law of Great Britian.”  Hamilton (1788c) provides examples such as habeas corpus, illegality of ex post facto laws, and titles of nobility.  Hamilton (1788c) argued a bill of rights originated as a list of rights of subjects not surrendered to a king, and that a Constitution ensures citizens “surrender nothing; and as they retain every thing they have no need of particular reservations.”  In Hamilton’s (1788c) view, a bill of rights is a way to pre-emptively view rights as under threat when there is no threat of surrender said rights in the first place.

Hamilton, Alexander. Federalist, No. 84, 1788. URL:


Thomas Jefferson, To James Madison, 1787.

Jefferson (1787) agree that government should be organized into legislative, judiciary, and executive branches.  He was in favor of a publicly elected legislative branch with the branches of government in checks and balances with each other and that limited terms would prohibit lifetime appointments or foreign incluence in the electorate.  Jefferson (1787), however, disagreed with the lack of a bill of rights that would ensure habeas corpus, trial by jury, and other established rights; Jefferson questioned the assurance that Congress would not take away these rights if they were not otherwise written into law.

Jefferson (1787) was also critical of a strong federal government, or “energetic government,” calling it “oppressive” and advocated a well-informed public would create a just majority rule.


Richard Henry Lee, Letters from the Federal Farmer (1787)

Lee (1787) argued the Constitution would establish one homogeneous federal government rather than the desired separate republics under a federal government.  He criticizes Congressional powers claiming they limit the sovereignity of the states.  Lee (1787) argued the Constitution and its representative government would lead the “transfer of power from the many to the few,” (p.254).

Lee, Richard Henry, Letters from the Federal Farmer, 1787. Kramnick and Lowi, 2009, pp. 248-256.

Robert Yates, Essays of Brutus (1787-88)

Yates (1787-88) warned of Congressional power such that “there is no limitation to this power” (p.258) and argued a the Constitutional federal government encrouched on the liberties of the states such as abolishing state legislatures.  He warned Congress could abuse their power and restrict the rights of the public and therefore provisions must be made to ensure certain rights will be protected from Congressional seizure.

Yates, Robert. Essays of Brutus, 1787-88. Kramnick and Low, 2009, p.256-266.


PSC 435 Course Discussion: Who had the better arguments about the Constitution (and politics more broadly), the Federalists or the Anti-Federalists? Why?

During the Revolutionary period in early American history, two camps, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists disagreed over how a stable republican government should be organized and whether or not the States should adopt the Constitution of 1776.  After much public debate, the Constitution of 1776 was adopted along with a Bill of Rights as a compromise between the two camps.  The Federalists: John Adams, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton argued in favor of the Constitution while the Anti-Federalists: Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Yates argued against the Constitution’s power over States and its lack of a bill of rights.  In my view, I believe the Anti-Federalists had the “better” arguments in the Constitutional debate.

The Anti-Federalists provided two main arguments for why the Constitution in its current form was problematic: 1) the Constitution encroaches on the rights of the States, and 2) without a written bill of rights, Congress could seize all rights of citizens.  Lee (1787) criticized the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution claiming they limit the sovereignty of the States such that Congress is granted power to seize the lawmaking abilities of the States and this would lead to the “transfer of power from the many to the few,” (p.254).  Yates (1787-88) warned there was no provision in the Constitution that kept Congress from abolishing state legislatures.  Jefferson (1787) agreed a strong federal, or “energetic government” would be “oppressive;” I agree that the Constitution of 1776 did not protect States from federal encroachment and it was not until the X Amendment that States were granted sovereign powers (not delegated to the federal government) within their territories.

Jefferson (1787) argued a bill of rights was necessary to ensure Congress would not take away the rights of citizens such as habeas corpus, trial by jury, and other established rights.  Yates (1787-88) agreed that “there is no limitation to this power”, (p.258) and that Congress could restrict the rights of the public and a bill of rights was necessary to prevent government seizure.  I agree a bill of rights is necessary to ensure citizens are granted unalienable rights that Congress has no power to seize and this should be written into law.  While Federalists Adams and Madison did not mention a bill of rights in their works, Hamilton (1788c) argued a bill of rights was unnecessary because 1) the Constitution includes “provisions in favor of particular privilages and rights,” and 2) the Constitution secures “common and statute law of Great Britain” such as habeas corpus, illegality of ex post facto laws, and titles of nobility.

In my view, Hamilton’s argument that a bill of rights is unnecessary because rights are not under threat and therefore do not require protect is flawed because, as Jefferson (1787) argues for example, the Constitution does not protect other rights such as freedom of the press.  Hamilton (1788c) is naive to think represenatives in Congress know better or in Adams’ (1776) words, too “wise and good” to seize public rights; it is certainly a possibility unless the law forbids it.  While a bill of rights might remind Hamilton of a contract between a king and his subjects and belittle his vision of a modern republic, representatives, like the public, must also be governed.  A bill of rights in my view, in the words of Thomas Paine, (1776), is “a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.”