The Constitution guarantees each and every state a “republican form of government.” So is Florida’s rather hectic and confused use of multiple methods of amending its State Constitution actually “Constitutional” in the sense of being done by a “republican form of government” as guaranteed in Article IV, Section 4?
Once upon a time, 1633, to be exact, King Charles issued a Royal Charter for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation. Oddly enough, by the time Rhode Island got around to ratifying the Constitution in May of 1790 (the final original State to do so), the charter was still in operation and was held to be in compliance with Article IV Section 4’s guarantee of “a republican form of government.”
By the time the 1840s rolled around, most of the people living in Rhode Island disagreed and decided to write their own State Constitution and elect their own Governor. This did not sit well with either the current government of the State nor with the President of the United States. So when the two sides tried to come to blows, it went about like you would expect it to have, since you’ve never heard about it or seen it in your high school history books.
But it did teach us quite a bit about what a “republican form of government” really is…
In the economic doldrums of the late 1970s, the State of Michigan hit on an idea to take over some land it liked and build a car plant which would create jobs and economic benefit. The people who owned the land weren’t all that thrilled about the idea, nevertheless, the state persisted. Eventually, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that the taking was a legitimate use of eminent domain for economic benefit. Thirty-seven years later, it didn’t turn out to be such a great idea.
The State of Indiana argued yesterday that seizing a person’s car for doing 5mph over the speed limit was not an “excessive fine.” Seriously. That’s not a joke. They really argued that. The Supreme Court didn’t think that it was funny.
The Supreme Court will hear the Bladensburg Cross case after the 4th Circuit ruled that public expenditures used to maintain the monument violated the 1st Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion by the Government. It is always a touchy subject, and the debates are always passionate. From Bladensburg to Texas to San Diego, the debate rages as to what exactly constitutes “establishment” and whether or not the long history of various monuments has any sway in the question of the monument’s status.
Like most things, it’s not as simple as it seems. Nor is the hyperbole – on both sides – helping to sort through the real issues.