A new college-level course, on “The Supreme Court and American Politics,” went online this month with scores of students from around the world already signed up. The course, prepared by Lyle Denniston, a contributor to Constitution Daily for the past seven years, is free.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time…….no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office. – Article 1 Section 6
After their experience in the American revolution and years of watching Kings buy their way to policy, the Framers believed that a simple and even elegant solution was to simply ban the ability of a single person to hold Office both civilly and in the government. Makes sense, right?
So how did we get to the place where the Article is routinely “ignored” and senators become Secretaries?
Over the course of the Convention, Luther Martin (Maryland) had been a petulant opponent of the plan and an irritant to pretty much everybody there – even those who agreed with him. Now that his State, Maryland, is taking up ratification, he will continue to adamantly and vociferously oppose the Constitution. He is the very embodiment of the Anti-Federalists.
Pretty much nobody will listen to his ranting, and Maryland will easily vote to ratify.
It’s what happens after that is so fascinating to me. Because of our own historical myopia, we tend to only see the good and heroic sides of the Framers and Founders. We don’t relate to them as people just like us, facing difficulties and crises. Consequently, we don’t learn from their example of how to deal with and even overcome those difficulties.
The rest of Luther Martins’ life will be spent in various pursuits as a lawyer – including defending Aaron Burr against charges of treason – and in the bottle. But by 1807, he will be called, “The Federalist Bulldog,” by no less than Thomas Jefferson. What drives a man who is virulently anti-Federalist to change his mind? Was it the ultimate “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” Or did Luther Martin discover something about human nature in his later years?