Sunday, October 25, 2020

good morning jeremy


William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England was must reading for any American colonist seriously considering a career in the law.  

You don't fabricate a new country's legal system from imaginative vapors.  To do so would be to break with the prevailing culture of its people and the legitimacy of continuing  to do what works.  Laws governing one's everyday life are generally followed, no matter the disruption that envelopes the top of the political pyramid.

John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, reflects the pride and personal ownership he gives to his English heritage.

 America's first leaders, Federalists like Washington, Adams and Hamilton, chose independence from Great Britain while remaining loyal to much that was English, particularly its legal system.  Republicans, led by Jefferson, characterized this mindset as being Torey, too enamored with monarchy.  Federalists, in turn, condemned Jefferson and his followers as being Jacobins - demagogues, rallying mobs of dangerous democrats.  The era around 1800 was described as bitterly partisan.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, a Federalist, found himself impeached by the House of Representatives for rendering politically biased verdicts.  His subsequent acquittal by the Senate helped set precedence for judicial independence. 

Judges around the time of Thomas Jefferson's presidency were more openly political than they generally are today.  It was understood that politics prevailed when appointing judges.  Laws express the view of those in power and the role of the judge is to enforce these democratically arrived at statutes.  Someone will always have a thumb on the scale so it might as well be you, if you've got the power.

A family bids farewell and Godspeed to loved ones venturing across the Atlantic to the new, rising nation of America. 

The character of the new nation was changing rapidly as large numbers of people left behind loved ones in Ireland and France to seek greater fortune in America.  The country was energized by this steady infusion of those braving danger for a chance at personal freedom and economic opportunity.  It made for a rambunctious political climate as ruthless individuals took every advantage democracy provided to achieve electoral victory.  The old-school wise man above the fray Federalist politician was deeply offended by what he saw as vulgar vote-buying tactics employed by Jeffersonian Republicans - and with great success.

Oliver Ellsworth and his wife, Abigail, relax at home.  After a term as a Federalist Senator from Connecticut Ellsworth became the third Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, preceding John Marshall.

The early Federalist dominance in Congress and the presidency was being quickly pushed aside as state legislation became increasingly democratic.  The road to elected office required behavior beneath anyone considered to be a gentleman.  In 1801 when Jefferson entered the White House and his Democratic-Republicans swept the Congress, the new president saw his judicial branch populated exclusively with Federalist judges, the last bastion of a swiftly dying party.


Of the three branches of the federal government - executive, legislative and judicial - the judges were made to feel the runt of the litter when it came to obtaining power, prestige and accommodations.  The nation's Supreme Court held their proceedings in a Congressional committee room and the six justices, when not in session, were expected to ride circuit over frontier backroads to preside over local court trials.

Thomas Jefferson's view of the Constitution was that it was more a political document than a legal one - which would carry with it the added authority of being the final word on all matters government.  From his viewpoint, Federalist judges were a potentially despotic veto power that could move to block the voting will of those giving him the right to legislate.  In any event, such abuse from the bench has no Constitutional protection. 

William Marbury just wanted the law to be obeyed.  His commission to be Justice of the Peace for the District of Columbia never arrived, despite having both Senate approval and the signature of the President himself, John Adams.  The Jefferson administration's refusal to honor this legal obligation would send Marbury to the Supreme Court for remedy.

James Madison, Jefferson's secretary of state, saw Marbury's appointment as one of Adam's midnight filling of a judgeship, part of a last-ditch Federalist effort to obstruct the Republican agenda.  Marbury's suit would be heard by six justices, all Federalists, on the Supreme Court.  The question became whether the executive branch of the government would honor a verdict favoring Marbury or would it ignore the Supreme Court's ruling as being judicial overreach - outside the court's constitutional authority.

Chief Justice John Marshall isolated the fundamental risks to the Supreme Court's authority, which were the other political, elected, branches of government - Congress, the President.  The Court's viability lie with the willingness of these competing branches to abide with an unfavorable ruling.  Marshall believed William Marbury had every right to his commission based on Congressional law.  This is where the politically savvy Chief Justice saw his opening.  He could establish, for the first time, the Court's authority to be the last word on what the law says and what it means.  

In this instance the Congressional statute sending Marbury to the Supreme Court for remedy was in clear violation of the Constitution's Section III - the highest court is an appellate court and does not hear original trial cases except in the rarest of instances.  Marbury had no standing before the Supreme Court because the law legislated was unconstitutional and, therefore, void.  

Marshall saw the win-win nature of the verdict.  Jefferson and his Republicans would cede an important power to the Court in exchange for celebrating their victory over the Federalists.  When it comes to the Constitution, reality is what the Supreme Court says it is. If rule of law is to mean anything then the Court's decision must be honored.  To do otherwise would be to remove the boundaries restricting the powers of those governing.



©  Tom Taylor


Sunday, October 18, 2020

good morning justin


Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin West
1738 - 1820

A future of great promise.  This could be a detail of a mural at the pavilion celebrating science and industry, except that this is also stage lighting the birth of a nation.  It feels good to believe sky's the limit! when it comes to this young nation's future.  Democracy is always an experiment, though.  Just ahead, four years down the road, is Andrew Jackson's generational shake free of the status quo.  Forty more years and the experiment cracks open into total war between states.  

The artist Benjamin West resided in London and was good friends with Benjamin Franklin, subject of this painting.  

Charles Willson Peale 
1741 - 1827 

Charles Peale tried saddle-making then clock repair before discovering his aptitude for portraiture.  He raised money to sail to England at twenty-five to study under Benjamin West.  After three years he returned to Philadelphia and eventually joined the Pennsylvania militia and rose to captain during the Revolutionary War.  Peale outlived three wives, having ten children by his first, six by his second.  His third wife, a Quaker woman, although sparred from serial childbirth, nonetheless died with Peale a still vibrant seventy.  He frequently named his children after his favorite artists, including Titian, Rubens and Rembrandt, whose portrait of Thomas Jefferson currently hangs in the White House.

George Washington
Charles W. Peale 

Peale painted Washington sixty times, all based upon an initial seven in-person portraits beginning in 1772.  Compare this portrait of Washington, done the year he became president, with West's rendition of Franklin.  One, bigger than life mythological Ben, the other sober republican, matter of fact patriot George.  Peale's no big deal rationalism would lose favor to more heroic renderings of Washington as the great man's acclaim grew to legendary heights.

John Trumbull
1756 - 1843

Four of John Trumbull's works hang in the Capitol Rotunda, yet for all his contemporary success he would always be hustling for money.  The son of Connecticut's governor, a Harvard graduate at seventeen and, briefly, an officer under Washington early in the Revolutionary War.  In 1780, while the war continued in the colonies, Trumbull sailed to England to also study under Benjamin West, as did Charles Peale.  While there Trumbull would be imprisoned in retaliation for Washington having hanged a British officer as a spy.  Trumbell would return to America upon his release several months later. 

Declaration of Independence
John Trumbull

The Declaration of Independence, one of Trumbull's Rotunda paintings was a group portrait as much as it was celebrating the central event of the American revolution.  Compare this revolutionary gathering with that of Eugene Delacroix's depiction of the French Revolution below.  With Trumbull we have wealthy men presiding over an upheaval in restrained legal fashion while Delacroix's brotherhood of humanity are storming the barricades.


Liberty Leading the People
Eugene Delacroix
1798 - 1863

Thomas Sully
1782 - 1872 

Thomas Sully was born in England but at the age of nine moved with his actor parents to Charleston, South Carolina where his uncle managed a theatre.  Sully's artistic talent was discovered early and by eighteen he was painting professionally.  His career required he move first to Virginia, then Boston, New York and finally settling for good in Philadelphia at age twenty-three, during Jefferson's second presidential term.


Marquis de Lafayette   (1757 - 1834)
Thomas Sully

Born an aristocrat, Lafayette embraced the words of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence and made his way to America in 1776.  Already a skilled French officer Washington made Lafayette a major general in the Continental Army at the age of nineteen.  He was wounded at Brandywine and later he commanded troops that trapped the British forces at Yorktown, leading to the Cornwallis surrender to Washington and subsequent freeing of the colonies from English rule.

Lafayette was instrumental in overturning French monarchy in 1789 but was later imprisoned for five years by more radical elements of the French Revolution.  President James Monroe brought about Lafayette's return visit to America in 1824 where he toured all twenty-four states, hailed with affection as an American revolutionary hero.  Upon his death he was buried in Paris under soil imported from Bunker Hill.

John Singleton Copley
1738 - 1815 

American born John Copley moved to London at thirty-four and never returned to his homeland.  As his son said, "he was entirely self-taught, and never saw a decent picture, with the exception of his own, until he was nearly thirty years of age."  A wealthy English clientele happily engaged Copley's services over the next couple of decades enabling him to be both financially comfortable and personally rewarded with honors bestowed upon him by those of esteemed cultural European taste.  Although his career kept the artist in Britain, Copley's political heart remained with the more egalitarian American society.  With this in mind he would paint his country's revolutionary heroes.  

Samuel Adams
John S. Copley

Copley uses dramatic lighting to electrify this climatic moment of Samuel Adams demanding the Royal Governor remove British troops from the area on the day following the Boston Massacre in March, 1770.  Copley kept the focus on Adam's character by minimizing detail and keeping his pallet simple.

Paul Revere
John S. Copley

A casually dressed Paul Revere mulls the silver teapot he has crafted prior to engraving it with decoration.  This would be the only teapot Revere made in 1768 because anything having to do with tea was considered provocative during this stormy period with Britain that would lead shortly to revolution.  The Revere family kept the painting in the attic, hidden from public view because they believed his artisan attire was inappropriate for a man of his historic stature.  The poem Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Longfellow brought renewed appreciation of the painting and it was displayed in 1928 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, now its permanent home.

Boston Massacre
Paul Revere
1734 - 1818

Revere's copper engraving titled The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street Boston on March 5th, 1770 and beneath the picture is the inscription that reads, in part:

If scalding drops from Rage from Anguish Wrung
If speechless Sorrows lab'ring for a Tongue, 
Or if a weeping World can ought appease  
The plaintive Ghosts of Victims such as these,
The Patriots copious tears for each are shed,
A glorious Tribute which embalms the Dead 


Despite the passions of the time John Adams as defense attorney for these British soldiers was able to persuade a Boston jury to acquit the King's men of all charges.

Rembrandt Peale
Thomas Sully

Rembrandt Peale was the third of six surviving children, eleven having died, of his mother Rachel Brewer and his artist father Charles Willson Peale.  He would father nine children of his own and despite his noteworthy accomplishments as a painter money could be a problem.  At one point Thomas Jefferson recommended he relocate to Europe as "we have genius among us but no unemployed wealth to reward it."

Thomas Jefferson
Rembrandt Peale
1778 - 1860 

This official presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson resides at the White House.  The next president sits for this portrait despite his immersion in a months' long competition with John Adams for votes followed by Aaron Burr's treacherous attempt to usurp the process once an election day tie is proclaimed.  Nothing in this portrait gives away any hint to Jefferson's concern his future and that of the nation's may hang in the balance.

Gilbert Stuart
1755 - 1828

Gilbert Stuart, whose iconic image of George Washington has resided on the one dollar bill for over a century, was in fact a loyalist to the crown and fled the colonies for England in 1775.  Despite his financial success Stuart continually spent more than he made and returned to the United States in 1793 one step ahead of Debtors' Prison.  Once stateside Stuart's goal was to entice George Washington into a portrait sitting from which he could make copies at one hundred dollars apiece.  Two years later Washington came to Philadelphia to sit for the portrait that became the basis for the engraved image on today's dollar bill.  Stuart's continued success could never match his spending, leaving his family deeply in debt upon his death.  With no money for a proper burial Stuart's body was placed in an unmarked grave that has since never been found.

Abigail Adams
Gilbert Stuart 

Wife and closest advisor to John Adams and mother to John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams was also a close, valued friend to Thomas Jefferson.  She had an active role in guiding the politics and policies of her husband's presidency to the point where his opponents would refer to her as Mrs. President.  Historian John Ellis characterizes the twelve hundred letters exchanged between Abigail and John a "treasure trove of unexpected intimacy and candor, more revealing of any other correspondence between a prominent American husband and wife in American history."



©  Tom Taylor


Sunday, October 11, 2020

good morning jacob




Washington was a small town around the year 1800.  The government spent much of that year moving from Philadelphia to their new home on the banks of the Potomac.  Members of Congress resided mainly in nearby boardinghouses, ones large enough to serve up to thirty of them sitting elbow to elbow around the dining room table.  Few secrets were kept in a place holding such a gaggle of natural-born schmoozers, rubbing shoulders the live long day, then sheltered together that evening under one communal roof.

Somewhere about the time of Christmas word leaked out of a tie between the two Democrats, seventy-three votes each for Thomas Jefferson and his party's vice-presidential nominee, Aaron Burr.  It was now up to the Federalist-controlled House to determine which of these two leaders they would make chief executive.  Burr made it clear early on he was looking for a deal giving him the presidency.  What a tantalizing scenario this made for Federalists - the two top Democrats, Burr and Jefferson, squabbling over bait set out by their fiercest rivals.  For Burr the stakes were personal - either you grab the brass ring now or kiss that miserable political career of yours gone.

January 9

Federalist congressional leaders caucused Friday in order to agree upon the best way to exploit this new partisan advantage.  No one gets to be president without Federalist support.  Alexander Hamilton's proposal required the winner to sign off on protecting the Federalist financial infrastructure and other, mostly bread and butter, stuff.  The main point, though, was clearly to protect Hamilton's policies financing a dynamic government that encouraged the rapid development of private enterprise.  His bargain for the presidency would be the foundation for all future negotiations.

February 11, Wednesday


A fierce blizzard blew in on the morning Congress convened to tabulate the electoral votes.  Only one of 105 congressmen was absent from the proceedings.  Even Joseph Nicholson, severely ill, had friends carry his stretcher two miles to the capitol building so he could prevent Maryland from going to Burr's camp.

The balloting that day went as predicted, with Jefferson coming up one vote short of the nine needed to win.  Balloting continued on into the night, finally ending at 3 am.  Nineteen ballots in all.  Nothing budged.  House members determined to remain in session until they had a president.  By Saturday evening, after thirty-three ballots, there still was no change.  The vocabulary of frustration was all about.  There were widespread rumors of money exchanging hands for votes.  Virginia's Governor Morris threatened force if Jefferson wasn't installed as president.  Things could get out of hand.

February 14, Saturday

It was a startling occasion for John Adams, as his once best friend called upon him at the White House, mortified by the conditions Federalists required of him if he was to be president.  Thomas Jefferson had been fairly elected in the constitutionally prescribed democratic manner.  He would not allow his hands to be tied by this congressional coup d'├ętat.  He couldn't control his supporters.  There could be civil war.  Adams was unnerved by this talk.


February 14, Saturday afternoon

Congressman James Bayard, the lone representative of the little state of Delaware, had it within his power to bring this presidential contest to a close. Until now this pugnacious Federalist consistently put Delaware in Aaron Burr's column.  There's no possibility he will vote for that slave-owning hypocrite from Virginia.  He doesn't need to.  Jefferson has eight votes and needs nine to make a majority in sixteen states.  What if there were just fifteen states?  Bayard could to vote abstain for Delaware - dropping the total of voting states to fifteen, making Jefferson president with the eight votes he already had.

February 15, Sunday morning

Bayard makes his bosses aware of his desire to pull the plug on this congressional deadlock.  "Let's not get hasty," they reply.  They still needed to determine who was in on the deal and for how much?  Get a hold of Jefferson and Burr.  Who's ready to be president right now, simply by signing off on the Hamilton deal.  It's now or never.  One of you is going to spring.

Bayard contracts a good friend of Jefferson, Maryland Republican Samuel Smith to deliver the Federalist proposal.  Smith plans to see Jefferson that evening and he promises them a response the following morning.

February 16, Monday

A couple of pro forma ballots had already been taken Monday morning when Congressman Smith arrived with news of Jefferson's acceptance of these terms.  Smith assures them he speaks as Jefferson's authorized representative.  This was good news but Federalists cautioned everyone that it could be two more days before they receive Burr's response by courier.  The matter could be settled only by knowing both men's position.

As it turns out Burr's missive arrived at the capitol building that afternoon.  It was quickly taken to the House Speaker, Federalist Theodore Sedgwick.  After opening the envelope and reading its contents, Sedgwick simply said, "the gigg is up."

Jefferson is immediately voted in as third president of the United States.  The letter with Burr's response was burned.  It's message never revealed.

Jefferson claimed to the end he never agreed to any Federalist deal.  His actions, as chief executive, indicates otherwise.  Hamilton's big government treasury policies remained in place.  Federalist bureaucrats kept their job - people he could rely on to do the job well.  The one item that appeared to have annoyed Jefferson most was having to tolerate more money being spent on the navy.

Bottom line is the problem was resolved constitutionally.  Rule of law prevailed - despite the passions, suspicions and calls to action - stability ruled.  Two passionately opposed camps agreed to shake hands, accept the result and provide for a peaceful exchange of power.  Optimism was the mood of the day.



©  Tom Taylor


Sunday, October 4, 2020

good morning jack




Path to Presidency:  John Adams

70 votes needed for a majority of the 138 votes available in the Electoral College.

New England:    39 votes

New Hampshire        6

Vermont                    4

Massachusetts        16

Rhode Island            4

Connecticut               9

Mid-Atlantic states:    22 votes

New Jersey               7

Delaware                   3

New York                   12

These states delivered all their electoral votes to Adams in 1796 and were expected to do so again in 1800.

To win his bid for reelection Adams needed an additional 9 votes.  His most likely sources would be these battleground states:

Pennsylvania            15

Maryland                   10


 It's safe to assume Noah Webster was a Federalist.  Accomplished people chose the party celebrating rational, measured judgment - businessmen successful in commerce and finance, as well as statesmen chosen from Federalist ranks for great public calling.  Federalists have controlled the presidency, congress and the courts since the nation's inception.  This twelve year winning streak helped replace resolve with complacency, and a presumptive entitlement to power.  The result is an emperor posturing and parading, unaware of his own nakedness.   

Notice how the parties were already regionally aligned.  Jefferson's small-government southern republicanism competed with the more commerce-driven motivations of northern politicians.  

States:            32 votes

Virginia                    21

Georgia                     4

Kentucky                   4

Tennessee                3

21 electoral votes in Virginia - nearly twice the twelve total New York brings to Adams.  A trio of states combine their puny totals with that of Virginia to give Jefferson a modest start of 32.

 James Callender made a living hitting below the belt.

His services were sought after by republican leaders such as Thomas Jefferson who admired his gift with the poison pen.  Callender exposed Hamilton's ongoing affair with another man's wife.  He revealed the secret dictatorial desires of George Washington and filled readers in on the warmongering policies of President Adams.  

Jefferson believed print media was his party's best means of breaking Federalist control of the Federal government.  In five years time Jeffersonian newspapers more than doubled in number to become forty percent of the market by 1800.

James Callender was an early target of the Alien and Sedition Acts enacted by Congress to silence government critics during tensions with France.  Callender would eventually serve nine months in a Richmond, Virginia prison and pay a two hundred dollar fine.

Aaron Burr picked John Adams' pocket of all New York's electoral votes, turning the president into an underdog in his bid for reelection.  Burr raided the presumed Federalist stronghold of Manhattan of its laborers and artisans, people who worked with their hands and resented the presumptive airs of Federalists.  Adams and his backers were stunned to find New York's state legislature swing to the Democratic-Republicans.  Twelve votes critical to the president had switched to Jefferson's camp, just like that. 

The scorn Alexander Hamilton expressed towards his fellow Federalist John Adams was public, frequent and personal.  Hamilton spent the summer touring New England telling folks their president was unfit.  He worked behind the scene to obstruct Adams' initiatives, including several months delay sending American envoys to Paris to successfully complete an honorable agreement with France.  Word of this accomplishment would not reach the United States until after the election on December 3rd - too late to be of help to Adams.

Charles Pinckney was a wildcard in the final hand played to win the presidency in the 1800 election.  It was a scheme promoted by Hamilton to maneuver Pinckney pass Adams for the Electoral College win.  This effort failed once it became clear Pinckney would not cooperate in this treachery.  Thomas Jefferson would be awarded South Carolina's eight votes, giving him an electoral majority of seventy-three, and presumably making Jefferson next president of the United States.  Turns out though, another candidate - Aaron Burr, got seventy-three votes as well.  This wasn't going to be easy.

The Democrats' vice-presidential nominee, Aaron Burr, was more than happy to undercut his running mate, Thomas Jefferson, for a chance at the top spot, the presidency, once he got word of the tie.  Which of these two men became president was now a matter for the House of Representatives to decide.  Unfortunately for Jefferson the House was currently controlled by his rivals, the Federalists.  For them it was a case of pick your poison.  At the same time Federalist leaders made clear their decision could be swayed by a deal and they were ready to haggle.



©  Tom Taylor