One of the biggest drawbacks to history as a popular culture event is that we have long ago lost the connection to those folks who “were there” when it happened. Prince Charles hinted at this yesterday when speaking about it being the last real opportunity we (corporately) would have to really connect with the D-Day Veterans. That was a mere seventy-five years ago. What about events a hundred years on?
It is an article of faith in the Conservative movement that Income taxes are “wrong.” Originalists will point to Sections 8 and 9 of Article I of the Constitution and screech loudly that the “Framers never intended for there to be an income tax!” Others will claim that somehow or another the 16th Amendment wasn’t properly ratified or some such AHT to support their claim that Income Taxes are not just wrong, but a socialist conspiracy.
No, this is really the place to argue the political positions of those who favor an income tax, but we do need to look at two things. First, the methodology by which it happened and second, the rationale behind it from a constitutional perspective.
On June 16, 1909, the President of the United States delivered to Congress a message proposing legislation for consideration that he felt necessary and expedient (Article II Section 3). In his message, President Taft proposed an increased excise tax and at the same time proposed that Congress adopt a resolution to amend the Constitution and allow a direct tax as an income tax.
It’s a rather remarkable example of a man who disagreed with modern interpretations of things but was willing to handle it in the manner which the Framers set up to handle such things…
I am almost always amused when politicians today talk about how tough they have it. You know the lines they use… “Nobody has ever been attacked like I have been…” or my new favorite, “This is the worst (fill in the blank situation) that the Nation has ever faced. There is much talk of impeachment and “the worst ever” this or that.
Once upon a time, we talked about the Second Man to be President. In any case, it turned out to be John Adams, one of the men who served the revolution literally from the beginning. But now, as President, he faces “the worst situation the nation” has ever faced. France, our longtime ally and friend is attacking our merchant ships at sea. There are reports that French Officials have attempted to bribe American diplomats. And languishing in an American jail, is an Englishman, Jonathan Robbins, having been arrested in South Carolina for murder and mutiny. The Republicans are furious that Adams is interfering in the case. They call it “obstruction” and they are certain that they have grounds to impeach the man who most today hold in the highest regard.
NOTE: There are a couple of errors in the slides, particularly John Marshall being misidentified as John Jay. This is pointed out in the audio of the show.
When it comes to the concept of Executive Privilege, we tend to think of more modern Presidents who are perhaps in trouble (Nixon/Clinton) or just in a tiff with Congress (Obama/Bush). In fact, the whole concept goes back much further, when the first real populist President refused to hand over to Congress a letter he himself had written to explain to his Cabinet why he wanted to withdraw US funds from the 2nd Bank of the United States.
The issue was so divisive, and Jacksons refusal so infuriating to the Senate Leader Henry Clay, that it caused the formation of the Whig Party and led to the idea that a Presidential Election is a referendum on a given policy.
It also made a clear reminder to the US Senate that it was not “Accusers, witnesses, counsel and judges” of a President. And it established the idea that the President has a responsibility to choose advisors and cabinet members that he wants to carry out his policies, not Congress.