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No. 121 "An American Philosophy" Speech of Jouett Shouse before the American-Whig Cliosophic Societies of Princeton University, April 30, 1936. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_121 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 121 "An American Philosophy" Speech of Jouett Shouse before the American-Whig Cliosophic Societies of Princeton University, April 30, 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 LIBERTY LEAGUE â˜… 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 "be no change by usurpation; for this * * * is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed." 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(121) â˜… â˜… AN AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY * â˜… * Speech of JOUETT SHOUSE President of the American Liberty League before the American-Whig Cliosophic Societies of Princeton University, at Princeton, New Jersey April 30, 1936 AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Document No. 121 An American Philosophy â˜… YoUR SOCIETIES have honored me with the opportunity to address you this evening on certain aspects of the philosophy of popular government. The time chosen for such a discussion is peculiarly appropriate. We meet here on an anniversary of the day when our own Republic was born. It was on April 30, 1789, that George Washington took the oath of office as first President of the United States. Our adventure in government was then undertaken, on untried seas and with the Constitution as the only chart to show the way. It was on that day, one hundred and forty-seven years ago, that a free people, recently emerged from a revolutionary war, put into operation a design for popular rule whose just powers were to be derived from the consent of the governed. The Government then inaugurated was founded upon traditional American ideals. The Constitution provided for a social and economic structure in a political framework in which individual freedom and individual enterprise could live. Under this system citizens were to work out their own social and economic salvation in their own way, with only such restrictions as might be necessary imposed only in the manner set out in the Constitution. A DUAL GOVERNMENT was formed to carry out these purposes. Certain definite powers were delegated to the national Government, while all powers not so delegated were reserved to the States and to the people. The powers of the Federal Government were divided between the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial branches. This division established a system of checks and balances between the Legislature and the Executive. To the Supreme Court was given the duty of judging and determining all cases of law and ecmity arising under the Con- stitution. The Judiciary thus was intended to function as a check upon both the other branches. That was very briefly the restricted, constitutional, democratic form of government conceived by the founding fathers. The wisdom of their arrangement has been demonstrated by the measure of the nation's growth in wealth and power and by the degree to which our citizens have been enabled to enjoy those liberties and privileges so definitely guaranteed by the Constitution. A. FORTUNATE FACTOR in our national career has been the sturdy resistance Americans always have set up against proposals of expedients, temporary or otherwise, that would throw out of gear that carefully contrived and amply proved machinery of government. We have come a long way since Washington stood, with hand on the Bible, on the balcony overlooking Broad and WaU Streets. We have grown modern. Thirty-five new States have been added to the thirteen of Washington's time. Our population has grown far beyond the dreams of those who saw the inauguration in 1789. Life has taken on new complexities. Industry has experienced an unforeseen transformation. Five times the Nation has sent its sons into wars. There have been bank panics, depressions, bitter sectional disputes. From all these tests the Constitution has emerged triumphant and unscathed. Shall we now listen to those who would cut and fashion that basic law to fit some new conception of government, hastily arrived at, and liable to change with any recurring temptation to try yet other expedients? We no longer wear powdered wigs and flourish snuff boxes, they tell us, then why cling to the old styles in government? The people will know how to answer that question. The issue is secure in their hands. Faithful adherence to proved policies has come honestly to Americans of this generation. They have inherited a steadfastness of purpose from the men who won our liberties. Even the most casual study of our early history reveals that the fathers meant what they said, said what they meant, and then went forthwith to translate their words into deeds. Fifty-five of their courageous leaders signed a Declaration of Independence containing a defiance and a creed of freedom. They pledged themselves to support those principles with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Six months later, in fulfillment of that pledge, they were fighting at Trenton, Princeton and Morristown. The EVENTS leading up to the inauguration of a new Government were not disjointed and accidental. They all were parts of a pattern. The Constitution eventually was what it was because the fathers planned it that way. They knew not the precise form the charter would take, but there never was a doubt as to its fundamentals. When Washington with his ill-clad soldiers came to take the Princeton road he was clearing a thoroughfare leading straight from the Declaration of Independence to a Constitution which would reassert and make effective the principles of Seventy-Six. Washington disclaimed any attributes of statesmanship, but he had common sense lifted to heights of genius. He knew what he wanted. He knew what his countrymen wanted. When his officers would have made him king, he spurned the crown, but not as Caesar did, with reservations. He meant what he said. That may explain to philosophers why his little Battle of Princeton, fought for a principle, will be remembered in history long after Austerlitz and Marengo are forgotten. The courts of Europe acclaimed him, after Princeton, as a military genius, hut the people of Europe thrilled at the significance of his campaign. After the revolution, the spirit of the Declaration was infused into the Constitution. The old evils of tyranny should never again encroach upon government as set up in America. The Constitution was so written and so intended that not even the Government thus created could 4 jeopardize established justice or the blessings of liberty. The FIGHT for these essentials did not end when Cornwallis was outgeneraled on the Delaware. It did not end at Yorktown, or with Washington's initial oath of office. Each succeeding President has been called upon to give his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. In facing constitutional questions today we are not fencing with academics. We are confronting conditions. I have spoken here of anniversaries. If there are any who believe that there is no longer need of keeping our sentries on the frontiers of human rights and liberties, let them give attention to another anniversary. It was on January 3, 1777, that Washington lifted the hearts of his countrymen by his success at Princeton. One hundred and fifty-nine years from that day, on January 3, 1936, a President of the United States personally delivered to Congress his annual message on the state of the Union. So that millions might hear he spoke into a radio microphone. This is what he said: "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. Give them their way and they will take the course of every autocracy of the past power for themselves, enslavement for the public." The implications in that assertion will be better understood by an examination of recent history. In THE DEPTHS of the current depression the Executive asked for emergency powers, and these were granted by Congress, much as would have been done under war conditions. At first the people acquiesced in what was proposed as only a temporary brushing aside of Constitutional guarantees. When the emergency 5 continued, however, and extra-Constitutional powers granted to the Executive threatened not only to become permanent, but to widen in scope, there came from every side challenges of the National Industrial Recovery Act and of other legislation rushed through Congress on the same emergency plea, without thorough inquiry as to its economic soundness and in alarming disregard of the question as to its constitutionality. We had moved so swiftly into a situation threatening to the integrity of the established Government that for a while there was a nationwide feeling of helplessness. It was at this juncture that the wisely contrived balance of power between the three branches of Government began to reassert itself. It was as if the Constitution had arisen to defend its own. In the charter it was written, "The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution." Business enterprises and individual citizens had appealed to the judicial power in behalf of their guaranteed rights. Within one year decisions of the United States Supreme Court invalidated five major Acts of Congress. It is impossible here to attempt even a meager review of those decisions. But merely to mention a few of the outstanding points will indicate how far Congress and the Executive had moved into dangerous waters. The Supreme Court found that Congress illegally had surrendered its law-making powers to the Executive. There had been invasions of the rights of the States. The Constitutional guarantees of the rights of property had been violated. In one case it was held that the Executive had violated an Act of Congress in discharging an officer of the Government for purely personal reasons. The Securities and Exchange Commission, a branch of the Executive Department, was held to have transgressed the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in attempting to compel a citizen to subject himself to an unlawful inquisition. In addition to all these sub- versions of true constitutional government, it was held in another Federal Court and the decision has not been appealed that an investigating committee of the United States Senate had engaged in an unlawful search and seizure of thousands of private telegrams. In the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia was delivered a stern warning against further assistance in such searches and seizures by the Federal Communications Commission, a branch of the Executive Department of Government. these ASSERTIONS of the power of the judicial branch to interpret the Constitution, and thus act as a check upon the Legislative and Executive branches, were met with outspoken protest from the President, members of his Cabinet and members of both houses of Congress. It was contended that the Supreme Court should not have the power of invalidating acts of Congress. Some Administration leaders insisted that such invalidations should be effective only by a unanimous decision. Others proposed that a Supreme Court invalidation should require concurrence by more than a two-thirds majority of the Court members. Not only have speeches been made in public forums and on the floors of both houses of Congress in support of these contentions, but more than half a hundred bills and resolutions have been introduced to bring them to a legislative test. In that connection there is reassurance in the opinion read by Chief Justice Hughes last Monday. The case at issue was that of the St. Joseph Stockyards Company which had protested some years ago against a reduction in rates as ordered by the then Secretary of Agriculture. The lawsuit, however, is of minor interest as compared with the opinion it brought forth with general relation to the powers and the duties of the Supreme Court. Mr. Justice Hughes declared that the power of review of the findings by the legislative branch, or its agent, was necessary "to the end that the Constitution as the supreme law of the land may be maintained." He said the ratemaking power of Congress is limited by the constitutional prohibitions against taking property without due process of law and without just compensation. I read from the text of his opinion: "When the Legislature acts directly," he said, "its action is subject to judicial scrutiny and determination in order to prevent the transgression of these limits of power. The legislature cannot preclude that scrutiny or determination by any declaration or legislative finding. Legislative declaration or finding is necessarily subject to independent judicial review upon the facts and the law by courts of competent jurisdiction to the end that the Constitution as the supreme law of the land may be maintained. Nor can the Legislature escape the constitutional limitation by authorizing its agent to make findings that the agent has kept within that limitation. "Legislative agencies, with varying qualifications, work in a field peculiarly exposed to political demands. Some may be expert and impartial, others subservient. It is not difficult for them to observe the requirements of law in giving a hearing and receiving evidence. But to say that their findings of fact may be conclusive where constitutional rights of liberty and property are involved, although the evidence clearly establishes that the findings are wrong and constitutional rights have been invaded, is to place those rights at the mercy of administrative officials and seriously to impair the security inherent in our judicial safeguards. "That prospect, with our multiplication of administrative agencies, is not to be lightly regarded. It is said that we can retain judicial authority to examine the weight of evidence when the question concerns the right of personal liberty. But if this be so, it is not because we are privileged to perform our judicial duty in that case and for reasons of convenience to disregard it in others. The principle applies when rights either of person or of property are protected by constitutional restrictions. Under our system there is no warrant for the view that the judicial power of a competent court can be circumscribed by any legislative arrangement designed to give effect to administrative action going beyond the limits of constitutional authority." IN THE LIGHT of that judgment and of recent acts which made such a pronouncement necessary, it is difficult to see how any considered philosophy of American Government can 8 follow proposals so to restrict the judicial powers as to destroy them. To do this would be to destroy that basic American concept that there shall be a balance of powers between the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of the Government. Without that balance we certainly again would face the evils inherent in any system where powers are unduly centralized. Without the reviewing and determining power of the Judiciary, Congress would have unfettered license to pass laws, regardless of constitutional restrictions. With a Congress inclined to surrender its powers to the Executive we then would see all governmental powers placed in the hands of one man. The Executive could make laws, although, as the Supreme Court has said, his powers under the Constitution are restricted to the administrative function. Equally important is this question: What of the citizen whose rights are transgressed by loose legislation? He might point to the particular clause or article in the Constitution which clearly guarantees the rights invaded. But with impotent courts the citizen would then be in the position of having a right without a remedy. His traditional immunities would become mere make-believes. ALWAYS THE PEOPLE of the United States but they alone have the right to amend their Constitution. There have arisen conditions in the past which made amendments desirable, and such changes in the charter have been accomplished in the manner set forth in the Constitution itself. A sharp distinction must be drawn, however, between amendments which merely accommodate the Constitution to changing economic or social conditions and amendments which propose to so change our system of government that its original purposes and ideals would be destroyed. To destroy the balance of powers would be to destroy the Constitution and establish a new form of government, as foreign to the purposes of the original 9 Constitution as it would be possible to conceive. We have heard in recent responsible utterances frequent hints of a return to the program of that Recovery Act which the courts destroyed. We have heard new proposals of price fixing and control of wages and hours. It is with deep concern that we note in these suggestions no mention of a constitutional amendment to make them legal powers of the Federal Government. It is hardly conceivable that any attempt is to be made to restore methods of Federal control that already have been condemned. But if such a restoration is contemplated it is within our right to demand that those plans be embodied in a definitely written amendment to the Constitution and that, in the usual course, the amendment shall be submitted to the people. They alone must choose. Whatever our sympathy with high social objectives that are prohibited to the Federal Government by the Constitution, let us not be unmindful of two important considerations. First. Under our dual system the states are empowered to deal with all matters that relate to the lives and habits of the people. And certainly this is wise. In a country so vast, with interests so diverse, it is impossible to administer from Washington a multiplicity of laws that contemplate a regimentation of the activities and the lives of the American people, even were such a procedure desirable. Witness prohibition. Second. The Constitution was written for the protection of the masses of the people. When constitutional rights are evaded or disregarded, that protection is destroyed. The maintenance of the Constitution, therefore, is a living, vital issue to every citizen, no matter how humble. The opportunities which America affords and no other nation has compared with her; the freedom which America offers and no other people have been permitted to enjoy such freedom , these are due solely to the wisdom of the form of government we set up and de-10 veloped under the Constitution. If one becomes momentarily irritated at its restrictions, let him pause to remember the benefits it confers. You can not have the one without the other. You can not create a huge concentrated Federal power unless you destroy important rights of local self-government. This is not to suggest that there may not be legislation for unemployment insurance, for old age pensions, for the various items that are embraced in the title of social security. With these objectives I have entire sympathy. It is to suggest that under the Constitution provisions of this character come within the province of the various states rather than of the Federal government. And if any change is to be made in existing procedure the American people must be given the opportunity to weigh aU the equations involved and to express themselves upon the question. Again I emphasize that the right to change constitutional provisions resides in the people and in them alone. the AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE, of which I have the honor to be president, has for the last twenty months been disseminating, in every proper way, information and argument in support of that American philosophy of which I have been speaking here. It is our conviction that an informed public opinion is the best regulator of social and economic tendencies. It is comforting to know that not in many generations has there been so active and widespread interest in the Constitution as is displayed by citizens today. Vast numbers are discovering that the old charter is something more than a dusty document, preserved in the museum of history. They are beginning to realize that it is a living force, holding within it our destinies as a nation and as individual citizens. It is our strength today in a weary land. May it protect and guide us for many tomorrows. ll