Category Archives: Article 1
In the wake of the elections of 1788, the 1st Congress of The United States began to gather in New York.
To say that absolutely nobody had any clue what to do would be the understatement of the last two centuries. Sure, they had the rules laid out in Article I and plenty of experience in State Legislatures, but nobody had any idea if this would actually work or not. Two States had not yet ratified the Constitution and consequently had not even held elections for the new Congress. Travel times were much different than today, as horses or walking were the only ways to get from there to here. Things were slow.
From March 4th, when the Congress convened, it would take a month before a quorum could be achieved. And before a single piece of legislation could be presented, debated or passed, the first order of business in the House was to elect the 1st Speaker of the House. In the Congress of a nation that was as yet strongly divided, the new Speaker was elected on the very first ballot. It was pretty much the only thing that went easy.
The hurdles faced by the 1st Congress were things that we take for granted in today’s Country. At least half of the Congressmen in New York believed that the new Constitution was not sustainable and that New Yorkers – and by extension Northerners – were conspiring to keep the Nations new capital in New York. As James Madison said, “We are in a wilderness with not a single footstep to guide us.”
And so with the Constitution as their guide and the son of a German Immigrant Luthern Pastor, Frederick Muhlenberg, at the gavel, things got underway…
“No Bill of Attainder… shall be passed…” – Article 1 Section 9
In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency, the only person to ever do so. The primary evidence against him was a set of tapes that he had made in the Oval Office, which purported to contain direct evidence of the Watergate Conspiracy, or at least a lot of buzzing that replaced sections that might have proved the Watergate Conspiracy if they hadn’t been so obviously erased.
After he resigned President Ford pardoned Mr. Nixon on September 8, 1974.
Prior to that day, Presidential papers were not considered “public documents.” They were private papers which belonged to the President. In fact, until Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the National Archives through his Presidential Library and Museum in 1939, they had never been available to the public except in the form of books and articles written by researchers who had been granted access.
Until December 19, 1974. On that day, President Ford signed a bill passed by Congress, The Presidential Recordings and Materials Act.” This law, which by definition applied ONLY to the records and Materials of Richard Nixon, made it clear that these were now the property of the United States, to be overseen by the National Archivist, who was charged with determining which records and documents the United States would keep – for potential use in judicial proceedings – and which would be returned as the property of Richard Nixon.
Naturally, the former President sued, claiming that this law was clearly unconstitutional as it violated the ban on Bills of Attainder.
It would take until 1998 to fully resolves Nixon’s role in this. Today, the Federal Courts are preparing to take up two cases that both Defenses are arguing are Bills of Attainder. Will history repeat or will the Courts find that no bills of attainder shall be passed?
The Congress shall have Power To …regulate Commerce…with the Indian Tribes…
ARTICLE I, SECTION 8, CLAUSE 3
That’s how it always begins. Very small.
A man living in Oklahoma has a girlfriend who has an ex-boyfriend who gets into it with the man. In a gruesome crime, the ex-boyfriend is murdered, his genitals left on his chest on the side of the road. Not being a criminal mastermind, the man, Murphy, is caught. As there is little doubt and much evidence that he did it, he is tried and convicted of capital murder. The sentenced is death.
Not so fast…
The crime was committed by a member of the Creek Nation. The victim was also a Creek. And it appears that the crime was committed on Creek land. That being the case, the state of Oklahoma would have no jurisdiction, it would be a Federal case, requiring a Federal 9not State) prosecution. Because of the laws and agreements with the Tribes, such a crime cannot have a death penalty unless the tribe agrees to it, which they almost never do.
Not so fast… was it on Creek land? The Treaty of 1831 says that it is, but subsequent treaties (1966) make it less than clear. Did Congress intend to take the land where the crime occurred away? Did they actually do it? Did somebody make a big mistake and forget a sentence in a document more than a century ago?
And if it is Creek Land, what does that mean to the State of Oklahoma? What if the State of Oklahoma, as we’ve known and loved it since 1907, isn’t the state of Oklahoma? what if it’s only half the size it is today?
Absurd, you say? That’s not what the 10th Circuit Court says. And depending on how the Supreme Court rules, it might not be so crazy. By next June there might be a new old Territory and fifty percent less of the State of Oklahoma.
It’s Constitution Thursday on The Dave Bowman Show…