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Cedar Rapids Gazette Newspaper Archive: November 10, 1974 - Page 6

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   Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - November 10, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa                                6A The Cedar Rapids Gazelle: Sun., Nov. 10. Lecture Seven U.S. Obsessed with Politics Editor's Note: This is ths seventh of 18 articles explor- ing the theme, In Search of the American Dream. This article discusses (he preoccupation with politics and constitutional government during the post- revolutionary days of 1787- 1801. The author is professor of American history, Cornell University. By Michael Kammcn CcmvrigH, 1974, Regents ol the Universi- ty ol Colllornia Distributed bv Conlev News Service Domestic travelers as well as foreign visitors to the young United States uniformly noticed the national obsession with politics. "They are all commented an Englishwoman after a trip through Connecticut. There was much to be recti- fied in the political organiza- tion of the new nation in order to make law and justice prevail, to avert mob rule, and "to render unnecessary an appeal to the as Jefferson put it, "or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction-of their rights." Writing in 1781, Jefferson recalled that Virginia's con- stitution had been written in 1776 "when we were new and unexperienced in the science of government." JJespile their inexperience, however, from the onset of Revolution the most astute among our Founders had insisted that the good society required a sci- ence of politics embodied in sound constitutions. As John Adams said in January, 1776: "The divine science of politics is the science of social happi- ness, and Ihe blessings of so- ciety depend entirely on the constitutions of government." In 1780 he avowed that "The science of government is my duty to study, more than all other sciences." First Priority Knowledge of legislation and administration and ne- gotiation look first priority for him. Adams' contemporaries increasingly came to share this belief, especially in the years after 1786, when the need for a central government stronger than the Confedera- tion became apparent. Their faith had roots deeply embed- ded in the constitution-writing habit which started within the states and culminated in Phil- adelphia at the Grand Conven- tion of 1787. Written constitu- tions quickly came to be seen as blueprints for the well- ordered polity and guarantors of the good society. By 1787 Adams was ready to hazard a conjecture that virtue should be properly regarded as an "effect of the well-ordered constitution, rather than the cause." By the time his pres- idency gave way lo Jeffer- son's, constitutionalism had been securely established as the foundation of the Amer- ican governmental edifice. Jefferson, In his first Inau- gural address In March, 1801, assumed that since the contro- versial election just passed had been "announced accord- ing to the rules of the constitu- tion, ail will, of course, ar- range themselves under the will of the law, and untie is common efforts for the common good." Talking endlessly about a science of politics, however, was easier than actually dis- covering or implementing such a science. During the war years, 1776-1783, there had been heavy reliance upon government by committee, both in the Continental Congress and in the localities; so that many worried, by 1779, whether the country would "shortly be overrun by committees." Under the Arti- cles of Confederation the bal- ance of power tipped a little loo much toward the legisla- tive bodies. Hence the authors of the Federal Constitution in 1787 an urgent need for more "energy" in public af- fairs, for getting things done to strengthen the ex- ecutive branch and corre- spondingly modify some re- cent powers of the legislative branch through certain re- straints. They also hoped thereby to achieve a better equilibrium and they ration- alized that equilibrium in terms of a necessary separa- tion of powers. Their sense of proper system of checks and balances among the agents of the people was incorporated in the Constitution. Who Would Govern Still remaining was the question of exactly who would govern the governors, espe- cially now that the Founders had discovered just how elu- sive a quality Virtue could be. Their dilemma is best posed, perhaps, in this manner: what is the proper balance between freedom and order in a re- publican society where men are imperfect and often cannot control their passions? They had a number of answers, or solutions, and we should note the major ones carefully. First, the Founders believed in explicit restraints and hoped to avoid ambiguity wherever possible; the limits of power had to be defined. As one student wrote, "the con- stitution should be the avowed act of the people at large. It should be the first funda- mental law of the State, and should prescribe the limits of all delegated power." Second, they intended by the separation of powers not only "that the legislative, ex- ecutive, and judiciary depart- ments, ought to be forever separated and distinct from each but also that they would achieve a separation of offices, i.e., abolish the perni- cious colonial practice of plu- ral office-holding. Third, they thereby meant to have a government not of men but of laws, as Adams asserted in 1787. Fourth, they envisioned a political society of such vast geographic extent that by encompassing "a greater vari- ety of parties and in Madison's words, "you make it less probable that a majori- ty of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens." Realistic View By the end of the 1780s, then, the Founders had come to realize, with John'Adams, that "it is the insatiability of human passions that is the foundation of all govern- and that the science of politics had, as Hamilton said, now "received great improve- ment." Their realism did not dampen their enthusiasm, however, and they continually reaffirmed a strong faith in the necessity and value of republican government. Ad- ams, the most cynical, did so in 1790 and often thereafter. Jefferson, who was more opti- mistic, insisted in 1801 that "this government (is) the world's best and he never ceased to cherish that belief. The decade of the 1790s was not, however, without its polit- ical problems and govern- mental crises, among them problems unforeseen by the sagacious students of public life who sat in Philadelphia throughout the summer of 1787. They had not fully anti- cipated the emergence of pol- itical parties and the divisive- ness that parties could cause. Nor had they imagined the extent to which a Federalist- dominated judiciary might hand down court decisions along consistently partisan lines. By 1800, therefore, their science of politics was deeply unsettled by the question of should be re- sponsive to or independent of the will of the people. They had not imagined, either, that popular roots organizations of political life become controversial, as they did in 1793-94. Nor had they foreseen that so soon in the history of the new republic there would be a steady shift from Liberty to Stability as the most desired of national needs. In part (he Issues of the 1790s, in both domestic and foreign policy, were sparked by genuine disagreements among leaders and populace alike over how best to secure the ultimate goals for which the American Revolution had been fought. And in part these issues were exacerbated by economic self-interest. Thus the Southerners, who before 1776 had been the strongest Anglophiles, now tended to be Francophiles, while the New Englanders now tended to be Anglophiles. Contemporaries had their explanations, of course, many of them hinging upon commercial concerns. But the important point for us is that the emergence of all these issues during the 1790s a very major addi- tion to the Founders' science of politics: recognition and legitimization, for good and for ill, of public opinion as a potent force in national af- fairs. in December, 1791, in an important essay on "Public Opinion" in the National Ga- zette, James Madison wrote: "Public opinion sets bounds to every government and is the real sovereign in every free one." Both the Federalists in power as well as the Repub- lican opposition, in which Madison played a key organ- izational role, promptly recog- nized the need to have wide public support for their poli- cies. They therefore early es- tablished newspapers as ideo- logical media. Thus, in 1795. when the Republicans were hoping to defeat John Jay's Treaty settling territorial and maritime disputes with Eng- land, a Virginia politician wrote to a New Yorker that "a change in the public senti- ment now so universally man- ifested against the is the great desideratum of our opponents. .To this object all their efforts will be pointed, and to frustrate them we have concluded an address to the people of the United States to be printed and dispersed in handbills." So, loo, Madison expressed to Jefferson in February, 1798, his belief thai "the public opinion alone can now save us from the rash measures of our hotheaded executive (John Ad- The idea of newness, of being unprecedented, also had an important place in the pan- theon of early American thought. As Jefferson in- formed an English friend in March, 1801, "the great extent of our republic is new (i.e., Its sparse habitation is new. The mighty wave of public opinion which has rolled over it is new." Some made a fetish of their newness, and others even Town Under Death Sentence By James Quinn NIOBRARA, Neb. (UPI) Old Niobrara is under a death sentence. By December, 1975, all of its 585 residents will have to be out, by order of the federal government. Niobrarans were mad about it for a while, but now a lot are thinking it may be for the best. The reason is they can hear the giant earth movers, ce- ment trucks and other construction machinery that is building a new Niobrara on a bluff south of the town. Others are still mad. Even though the government is helping out, they say they're losing money. Niobrara has to move. The beneath Ihc old town is constantly rising be- cause of Missouri river backup water .caused by the Gavins Point dam, built downstream in 1957. In 1970, congress enacted legislation to spend million to move the townsfolk to new homes on the bluff. "I'd say we've got a real good chance for a growing Mayor Lester Fitch said. "My personal opinion'is that the government Ls doing us a great job." A dozen new houses are al- ready in various stages of construction. Many streets are completed, forming a pattern of residential cul-de-sacs and commercial avenues. Resistance to the move was at first strong, especially when townspeople discovered the U.S. army corps of engi- neers was not offering the prices they had hoped. One of the former objectors, bank owner Don Farber, said both the engineers and the townspeople have grown more understanding after months of negotiating. Maharishi U. Professor at Coe Today James Meade, Ph.D., professor of literature at Maharishi International university in Fairfield, will speak today at 4 p.m. in Cherry auditorium on the Coo college campus. His subject will be "Spon- lani'ily in Poelry: The Fun- damentals of Progress as Ihe Fundamentals of Dr. Mcade is a pioneer in the field of relating the science of crea- tive Intelligence, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to Ihe great literature of Ihe world. His lecture is in connection niih WnrW Plan ITS.A., an annual week established liv James Meade the International Meditation society. Dr. Meade is a graduate of Hamilton college and North- western university. His lecture is open free to Ihc public. "It was very tense last said Farber, whose bank is one of the three larg- est businesses in town. "But the attitude has changed. The corps is more agreeable and cooperative and maybe we understand Iheir problems more." Farber said he had made a counter-offer to the engineers on his bank building and was negotiating. "I hope to settle it without taking it to he said. Editor Bill Schwartzer of the Niobrara Tribune said he settled with the engineers on his plant. "I hung in there and got what I paid for he said. "The engineers weren't trying to rob us. They were offering a fair market price." Schwartzer said the "at- mostphere began changing within a week after (hey began paying for homes." Enthusiasm has continued to grow as residents buy land on the new site and find that relocation benefits, on top of the price they received for their old homes, pretty well pay for the new homes, Schwartzer said. Relocation benefits for homeowners run as high as While homeowners appear lo be coming out well in most cases, Schwartzer said, the relocation benefits for busi- nesses do not match those for homes. However, business men arc eligible for 6 percent loans from the Small Business ad- ministration. Schwartzer and Fitch agreed the prospect of operat- ing from a completely new town is appealing to the busi- ness men. They said they knew of none who planned to close shop or move away. "We may have eight or nine new businesses coming Schwartzer said. "We have had lots of inquir- ies from young persons who had moved away in the past few Fitch said. "They think they'd' like to move back In the new town." The mayor said conversa- tions with townspeople indi- cated 85 percent planned to relocate on the bluff. "That's more than we had he said. Not all the residents have bought the offer. Michael May, who operates the Mis- souri river ferry cast of town, said he bought a lot across the river in Running Water, S.D., and planned to move his house on the ferry. Mrs. Hazella May, Mi- chael's mother, who operates a bar with her husband. Glen, said, "We just think we should have more mon- ey. When you have lo lose you can't understand it. But you don't really want to fight 'em, I mean not really." Some older residents, such as 70-ish Helen Liska, argued Ihc government should not have the aulhority to force them to move. "I do not believe that I should be shouldered with re- sponsibilities thai are not of my own she said. Bui Ihe growing feeling of the majority appeared to be that the new lown opens up opportunities that never would have developed ,il the old townsite. Post-revolutionary America found itself preoccupied with politics and constitutional government. This gathering of early American government leaders is entitled "Learning the Science of Politics and is made available by the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. found a tradition in it: a par- adoxical American tradition- of-the-new. The young nation's messianic motto, for example, placed on the obverse of the Great Seal, was adopted from Vergil's Eclogues: "Novus Ordo new order of the ages is born. Thinking about such mat- ters induced in some a certain introspective self-conscious- ness, and raised intriguing questions about the national identity. By the time of Jeffer- son's presidency, a surprising degree of consensus had been reached concerning the fun- damentals of the new and di- vine science of politics. But the quest for America's char- acter and destiny was quite another an open- ended quesl, at tnat. Courses, by Newspaper was developed by UCSD Extension and funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with a supple- mentary grant from the Exxon Education Foundation. Next: Making a Prosperous Protestant Nation, 1789-1815 by Michael Kammcn, pro- fessor of American history, Cornell university. SUBURBAN LUMBER'S APPLIANCE DEPT. WITH ANY-MAJOR APPLIANCE PURCHASE! No exposed burners or elements Continuous cleaning oven. Smooth top surface heats evenly and cleans easily. Reg. FIRST IN ELECTRONIC COOKING Our Best To You! Our service personnel are factory fully qualified. OVEN Reg. NOW Model No. 56-2343 LUMBER 2951 WILLIAMS BLVD. SW NEXT DOOR..TO STAGE 4   

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