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No. 120 "Shall We Have Constitutional Liberty Or Dictatorship?" Speech of Hon. James A. Reed, Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League before the Lawyers' Association of Kansas City, April 14, 1936.
No. 120 "Shall We Have Constitutional Liberty Or Dictatorship?" Speech of Hon. James A. Reed, Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League before the Lawyers' Association of Kansas City, April 14, 1936. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_120 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 120 "Shall We Have Constitutional Liberty Or Dictatorship?" Speech of Hon. James A. Reed, Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League before the Lawyers' Association of Kansas City, April 14, 1936. American Liberty League. American Liberty League. Washington, D.C. 1936. This electronic text file was created by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). No corrections have been made to the OCR-ed text and no editing has been done to the content of the original document. Encoding has been done through an automated process using the recommendations for Level 1 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Digital page images are linked to the text file. JOIN THE AMERICAN URERTY LEAGUE The American Liberty League is organized to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States and to gather and disseminate information that (1) will teach the necessity of respect for the rights of persons and property as fundamental to every successful form of government and (2) will teach the duty of government to encourage and protect individual and group initiative and enterprise, to foster the right to work, earn, save, and acquire property, and to preserve the ownership and lawful use of property when acquired. The League believes in the doctrine expressed by George Washington in his Farewell Address that while the people may amend the Constitution to meet conditions arising in a changing world, there must "he no change by usurpation; for this * * * is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.** Since the League is wholly dependent upon the contributions of its members for financial support it hopes that you will become a contributing member. However, if you cannot contribute it will welcome your support as a non-contributing member. Enrollment; Blank American Liberty League National Press Building Washington, D. C. i desire to be enrolled as a member of the American Liberty League. Signature Name ................................. Street .................................. Town .................................. County .......................... State. Enclosed find my contribution of $....... to help support the activities of the League. SHALL WE HAVE CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY OR DICTATORSHIP? â˜… â˜… â˜… Speech of HON. JAMES A. REED Member of the National Lawyers Committee of the American Liberty League before the Lawyers* Association of Kansas City April 14, 1936 AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. (120) Document No. 120 Shall We Have Constitutional Liberty or Dictatorship? â˜… ToNIGHT, Ladies and Gentlemen, my appeal is made to the men and women of America, who consider their duty to Flag and country as more sacred than allegiance to any political party. Ours is the only country in which the liberties and rights of all citizens are declared safeguarded and preserved against the encroachments of power and the oppressions of rulers. That is done by the Constitution. Destroy the Constitution and liberty is dead. When liberty is imperiled he who counts his personal loss or gain, does not deserve the name of patriot. If the men of '76 had been of such miserable mettle, there would have been neither Lexington, nor Bunker Hill, nor Concord, nor Yorktown. And we, their descendants, would still be under the thraUdom of European masters. Such is not the creed and faith of the true American. People of America, this is your country. It is the home of 130 million men and women. It belongs then to you. Neither the country nor you belong to the individual who happens to be President, or to the little coterie of Congressmen or bureaucrats, who for a brief hour strut upon the stage of time, soon to be forgotten, save for the evil that may live after them. You sent them to Washington to perform certain strictly limited duties prescribed in the Constitution. And you required them to solemnly swear that they would uphold and defend that Constitution, and faithfuUy demean themselves in office. If they have failed to keep that oath, then they stand forsworn before the throne of Almighty God. What is the Constitution? Why Was It Enacted? let me ANSWER the last question first. From the fall of Rome in the fifth century stretched a night of a thousand years. The last vestiges of liberty were obliterated. Everywhere tyrants ruled with merciless cruelty. These monsters pretended that they were appointed by Almighty God to rule over the masses of men. They proclaimed the infamous doctrine that the people were so debased as to possess neither the right nor ability to order their own lives, and were so ignorant as to be incapable of thinking rightly on any subject secular or religious, and hence should not be permitted to utter their thoughts, to meet in peaceable assemblage, to worship God according to the faith of their souls, to follow avocations of their choice, and that their property, such as they were permitted to hold, should be subject to the will of their overlords. THAT WAS THE AGE of paternalism at its best, and at its worst. For, in all its varied phases, its best is its worst. Paternalism, ancient and modern, ends in abasement and slavery. For its fundamental dogma is that one man or a group of men shall exercise authority over the spiritual and physical life of all other men. A people so governed is, to the extent of its subjugation, enslaved. Paternalism was, and is, the keystone in the arch of every despotism which has existed in the past, or which now exists. That kind of government can only be imposed by force. Government by force is despotism, regardless of the mask it wears or the name it bears. The paternalistic governments of the past ruled by force. Paternalistic governments of the present rule by force. In the past they imposed their decrees by fire and sword, by scaffold, rack and thumb-screw, by collar, wheel and chain. Myriads of victims were thrown into loathsome prisons to rot and die without charge or trial. Innumerable multitudes were herded into armies and sent to cruel death to satisfy the ambition, greed and lust of paternalistic masters. 3 It WAS BECAUSE of oppressions suffered under that identical form of government the Colonies rebelled. By that rebellion they repudiated forever the false philosophy that power springs from above, and that the people should be, in their individual lives, avocations and thoughts, controlled by those holding office. Against that age-old heresy they hurled the denunciation of the Declaration of Independence. They asserted that all men are created free and equal; all are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that all power springs from the people. And in substance that those who hold office are but the agents and servants of the people. Our fathers sealed that covenant with their blood on every battlefield from Lexington to the hour when the flag of tyranny on the battlements of Yorktown was hauled down, never to wave again above the soil of free America. Thus, for the first time in the history of the world, was established the doctrine that all human beings are born with certain inalienable rights, and that government is a mere instrumentality in the conservation and perpetuation of those rights. Then it was that the American citizen, of all men in the world, could proudly boast: "I carry my sovereignty under my own hat." Such, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the background of the Federal Constitution. It was to preserve these liberties and forever bar the impositions, oppressions or usurpations of those who should be placed in office that our fathers ordained and established the Federal Constitution. They had in mind the lessons of the past. They knew that in all history no man had for any length of time been possessed of arbitrary power who did not become an oppressor. They renounced all ideas of a king, a nobility, a titled or privileged class. They established a form of government which, for the limitations it placed upon arbitrary power and the safeguards it threw about the liberty of the citizen, finds no parallel in any document, ancient or modern. 4 FlRST OF ALL they, the people of the United States, adopted a Constitution, and specifically provided that it and the treaties made thereunder should forever be the supreme law of the land, unless and until changed by the people themselves in the manner and form they therein provided. Second: They granted to the Federal Government only certain designated and limited powers. Third: They reposed in the states all powers not so expressly granted or by the Constitution forbidden to the states. Thus was created a dual government, i.e., a Federal government exercising a limited jurisdiction and authority, and state governments retaining and possessing all general powers and authority. The only authority granted to Congress was to pass statute laws pursuant to the authority of the Constitution, and subject to its restrictions and limitations. BEYOND THAT neither Congress nor President, nor any public official, has the right to step the fraction of a hair's breadth. The moment that is done the law of the people is invaded and subordinated to the will of a Congress, guilty of usurpation, the violation of the most sacred of trusts, and the falsification of the most solemn oath. To guard against such usurpations and all attempts at arbitrary power, they divided the Federal Government into three coordinate branches, each independent of the other, namely, the Legislative, the Judicial and the Executive. The legislative power was lodged in two Houses, each a check upon the other, and both subject to the check of the veto. On the other hand Congress could check the power of the President by refusing to pass or by repealing laws. Indeed, the House of Representatives alone can completely paralyze the arm of the President by refusing to originate revenue bills. 5 THE FRAMERS of the Constitution never dreamed of a Congress which would crawl like spaniels to the heel of the Executive. The sole authority of the President in legislation was confined to the recommendation of measures, and to approval or veto thereof. The enforcement of laws was reposed in the Executive. But he possesses no power to pass any law, issue any decree or to dictate the laws of Congress. Lest, notwithstanding these safeguards, Congress or the Executive might go beyond their constitutional authority and invade the rights of the people there secured, the Supreme Court was created. The jurisdiction of that Court is largely concerned with questions involving the invasion of the rights of citizens as reserved in the Constitution. The Supreme Court, therefore, is the high court of the people. Its principal business is to guard against invasion of the people's law (the Constitution). And the Court has performed that solemn duty with a devotion and precision which challenges the admiration of every intelligent student of jurisprudence. Attacks, therefore, upon the Supreme Court are attacks upon the tribunal which has shielded and protected the people under their supreme law and preserved them from the undermining or overthrow of the liberties they consecrated and consolidated in the greatest instrument ever devised by man. For ALMOST one hundred and fifty years we have lived under the form of government thus established. In that period of time we have builded the greatest nation that has ever existed upon earth. The masses of the people have been more happy and more contented than any other people who have ever lived. They have had more of the comforts, necessities and luxuries of life than were enjoyed by the aristocracy of two centuries ago. They have swept from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Churches of religion, seminaries of learning, schools and eleemosynary institutions are established in every city and in thousands of villages. We have been triumphant in war, and successful in peace. AU this has been accomplished because in the main each individual has been permitted to work out his own destiny, to garner the fruits of his own industry, and give full flight to the wings of his genius. The darkest day in American history is resplendent with glory and happiness compared with conditions ordinarily existing in any other nation of earth. YOU ASK NOW, why I have spent so much time in discussing paternalism the tyranny and outrages that inevitably follow. I can hear you exclaim, "What has that to do with America?" I answer: The calamity is already upon us. It came like a thief in the night, and has spread with the silence and rapidity of a malignant cancer. If it be not speedily cut out, it will soon reach and destroy the heart of American liberty. The protestations of those who advocate these poisonous doctrines have been falsehoods their schemes as foolish, as wild, as contradictory as the fantastic visions of a disordered brain. They wear the cloak of the Democratic Party. But beneath that honest robe are concealed the red garments of Bolshevism, Communism, Socialism and Fascism. EXAMINE THE RECORD: The Democratic Convention adopted a platform fully in accord with American traditions, and in every respect consistent with the Constitution. The candidate for President in the presence of that great Convention declared that he endorsed the platform 100 per cent. Upon that platform and pledge he and every Democratic Congressman was elected. They all solemnly swore they would support the Constitution and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We had inherited some grave difficulties which had their origin during the previous administration. Almost immediately we were informed that there was a great "necessity" for the immediate passage of laws, which we were solemnly told would be merely temporary in 7 their character, and that they would be repealed the moment the necessity passed. That bait was generally swallowed by the people. We are now told that these policies are to be made permanent, despite their unconstitutionality. It would have been well had we listened to the warning of the great William Pitt, uttered more than 150 years ago: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves." UNDER THE PLEA of necessity a law, concocted by brain-trusters, some of whom were better known in Russia than in the United States, was rushed through practically without debate. That singular and unprecedented law directed the representatives of all the various industries of the United States, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, to, in their respective crafts and callings, meet and by a majority of those present adopt rules and regulations for the conduct of the various businesses with which they were associated. So broad was the sweep of the law as to practically embrace all production and distribution. It affected, as either producers or consumers, every citizen of the United States. It exempted the groups from the Anti-Trust laws permitted them to fix prices, hours of labor and wages. It gave, to the agreements made in secret by these individuals who had never been elected to any office, the force of law, and provided that any citizen violating such regulations should be guilty of a crime and punished by a fine and/or imprisonment. Hundreds of these groups met and in secret sessions concocted a set of regulations and rules which under the law became binding upon all persons engaged in that particular line of business with or without their consent. They were an exceedingly busy lot of gentlemen. The American Bar Association has reported that "the n.R.A. agency alone issued more than ten thousand pages of pronouncements intended to have the force and effect of law; that in one year of time they issued regulations and alleged laws exceeding the volumes of all the Federal Statutes passed during the life of the Republic." Because of the drastic provisions of these so-called laws and the threat of prosecution and imprisonment, tens of thousands of industries and hundreds of thousands of citizens submitted to the imperious dictates imposed upon them by the agents of our paternalistic and kindly government, who were sent out to spy upon every industry and every place of business and to threaten, to coerce and prosecute Nothing done by Stalin, by Mussolini, by Hitler, was more drastic, more brutal and more destructive of liberty. This N.R.A. law was in every line and paragraph violative of the Constitution, as were also the squirming brood of legislative serpents to which it speedily gave birth. I have stated all this was done under the claim of necessity. There was no such necessity. THE NEW DEALERS recently had a Jackson Day banquet. They lauded "Old Hickory" as the patron saint of Liberty, modestly assumed credit for his virtues, and tore from his grave his sacred shroud and wrapped it around the deformed carcass of the New Deal. Listen to his last message to the American people: "The legitimate authority of the Constitution is abundantly sufficient for all the purposes for which it was created, . . . there can be no justification for claiming anything beyond them. Every attempt to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly opposed, . . . and if . . . supposed advantages or temporary circumstances shall ever be permitted to justify the assumption of a power not given by the Constitution, the general government will before long absorb all the powers of legislation, . . . every friend of our free institutions should be always prepared to maintain unimpaired and in full vigor the rights and sovereignty of the states and to confine the action of the general government strictly to the sphere of its appropriate duties." At THAT dinner Mr. Roosevelt rather intimated that the mantle of Elijah had fallen upon the shoulders of Elisha, and that he was Elisha. Compare Old Hickory's statement with the declaration of Franklin d. Roosevelt that the Constitution belongs to the "horse and buggy age," that is to say, it is an obsolete and dead thing. If so, when he took the oath of office, he swore to sustain a corpse. Compare Jackson's statement with the advice given by the President to Congress in substance this: "Pass these bills, and pay no attention to the Constitution." That was the meaning of what he said. Compare the provisions of the n.r.a. bill, which was the creation of the brain-trust-ers, with Mr. Roosevelt's statement on March 2, 1930, when Governor of New York, in which he denounced "the doctrine of regulation and legislation by master minds" and declared that men undertaking to legislate for the people must be "almost godlike in their ability," and further, "to bring about a government by oligarchy masquerading as democracy, it is fundamentally essential that all authority and control be in a centralized national government. . . . The sovereignty of the states must be destroyed . . . We are safe from such dangers just so long as the individual home rule of the states is preserved and fought for . . ." Evidently Mr. Roosevelt now conceives he has found these men of "godlike ability" in the persons of Tugwell, Mordecai Ezekiel, Ickes and Wallace. Compare that statement with Mr. Roosevelt's latest message: "In thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of public power. In the hands of a people's government this power is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets of an economic autocracy such power would provide shackles for the liberties of the people." 10 That is a flat admission that the present administration has assumed a power by the exercise of which shackles can be placed upon the liberties of the people. How many cruelties, outrages and wrongs were perpetrated under this and kindred laws, the world will never know. How many there were who submitted without protest, will never be recorded. Attend to a few of the most glaring that have come to light. An HONEST MAN was thrown in jail for having hired men at a price satisfactory to them to assist in repairing automobile batteries. A poor woman, earning her bread by in her own house decorating tin cans to be used as flower pots, was threatened with fine and imprisonment, and compelled to desist. A citizen was arrested, fined or imprisoned for shipping his own oil. A poor tailor was arrested and imprisoned for pressing a vest for five cents less than the price fixed by a group of other pressers. A man was fined or imprisoned for selling milk to starving babies for a price less than that fixed by a group of milk dealers. A citizen was arrested, fined or imprisoned for selling chickens in violation of a price fixed by other chicken dealers. The obligation of contracts was annulled and the creditor denied the right to recover the money he had loaned to the debtor. THE N.R.A. worked out a diabolical scheme which compelled retailers to boycott manufacturers or wholesalers who had not placed over their doors the insignia of the blue buzzard rampant. A swarm of spies, sneaks and informers were turned loose upon the Nation and authorized to thrust themselves into the business of private concerns and command obedience to a commercial dictator upon pain of fine and imprisonment. II These acts occurred in thousands of instances. The entire business and commercial world stood trembling beneath the club of a master threatening to "crack down" on them, if they dared disobey. Government agents have recently ransacked the private papers and records of the citizen, seized tens of thousands of private papers and telegrams in open defiance of the express provisions of the Constitution. what SANE MAN three years ago would have dreamed that a Secretary of Agriculture would seek to make meat plenty for the hungry by slaughtering and throwing into soap vats or rivers the bodies of five million suckling pigs, and undertake the difficult task of establishing birth control among all the sows who grunt, and gambol and grow in the millions of American hog lots? Or, that we would adopt the idiotic slogan: "When you are broke, spend yourself into prosperity"? Or, that Congress would pass a law to send a man to jail for raising potatoes in his own patch, and to fine and imprison a woman for buying potatoes not stamped and certified by the Secretary of Agriculture? A man who could have believed that would have been taken before a commission of lunacy. All of these acts, and there are thousands more, were to be imposed by force the Washington locusts were busy. At THE TIME the Supreme Court decided the Schechter case, more than 379 cases had been instituted which were then dismissed. At that time there were pending 1,897 suits to enjoin the collection of an unjust processing tax. How many suits the Government had in contemplation probably will never be disclosed to the public, but, if the Supreme Court had not defended the Constitution and the rights of the people thereunder, literally tens of thousands of actions would have been brought and 12 the big club would have been cracked down upon the heads and fortunes of the American people. WHO COULD HAVE IMAGINED that we should in this country have adopted the theory of taking the money and property from those who own it, and redistributing it through the process of taxation? Who could have imagined that our national debt would be piled mountain high? That in the prosecution of these wild schemes we would be imposing a burden of taxation upon the people amounting to more than is spent for all the food consumed by our 130-million population, or that we would not only mortgage the generation living, but the shadowy hosts who will hereafter pass this Bank of Time? Who could have imagined that the United States would repudiate its own obligations specifically payable in gold, or that the Government would by threat of imprisonment compel every citizen to yield up his money and take in return a piece of paper worth fifty-nine cents on the dollar? Who could have believed that a member of the Cabinet would dare to charge that the Supreme Court had "perpetrated the greatest steal in history" because the Court said to that Cabinet official, "You cannot rob one class of our people for the benefit of another class." In ILLUSTRATION of the fact that paternalism is akin to slavery and produces innumerable outrages, I have taken your time to catalog a mere fraction of what has occurred. But that demonstration was made wholly unnecessary by the speech we heard last night over the radio. For a time I thought it was good old Dr. Town-send intoning his two hundred dollar a month pension scheme. A little later I learned it was the President. The central thought of his address was that no human being should be permitted to work until eighteen years of age, or after the age of sixty-five. 13 That is the power he seeks and desires. He would take from the fathers and mothers of the land the control of their children until eighteen years of age, and take that control into his own or his satellites' hands. That is Russian Bolshevism at its worst. He would deny to men sixty-five years of age the right to work for a living and, unless independent, would make them paupers and charges upon the public. He asked: "What would result?" I answer: Tens of millions of American citizens would be denied the God-given right to work. Many thousands of families being deprived of their assistance would be impoverished the country would be deprived of an immense portion of its productive capacity. Millions of boys would be transformed into loafers and become the habitues of pool halls, race tracks and other places where the indolent congregate. A widowed mother permitting her son or daughter to assist her with her labor could be sent to jail. A farmer could be fined and imprisoned for allowing his big seventeen-year-old boy, who under the law had been compelled to loaf all day, to unharness the mules or milk a cow. erty to tyranny, has been more rapid than similar revolutions in Russia, in Germany, and in Italy. Between that crimson flood and the liberties of the American people, standing on guard as did Horatius, Lartius and Herminius at the bridge, are the nine venerable Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. How long will Nature spare them, and if it does happily so keep them with us, how long wiU it be until the present Administration, if continued in power, will pack the Supreme Court with additional judges, all of them New Dealers? That, I assert, is in contemplation; that, I assert, has been threatened. I CALL UPON AMERICAN CITIZENS to awaken to the dangers of this hour and to employ the Constitutional weapons placed in their hands the ballots of freemen. In such a crisis political alignments sink into insignificance. Only friends of constitutional liberty should be placed on guard. Cannot you now understand that Roosevelt desires to pass laws utterly destructive of liberty, and do you not know from past experience that these laws will be enforced by atrocious penalties? Louis XIV never went so far. Neither Mussolini nor Hitler, nor Stalin of Russia, have gone so far. I refuse to qualify for the lunatic asylum by approving a suggestion which might well have originated in a mind diseased. "If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch." I'm going to look after the eyesight of my leader. Our march away from Constitutional Government and toward the swamps and morasses of Communism, Bolshevism and Fascism, from lib-