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No. 92 "The American Form of Government - Let Us Preserve It" Speech of The Hon. Albert C. Ritchie, Former Governor of Maryland before the Ohio State Bar Association, January 18, 1936. American Liberty League. 400dpi TIFF G4 page images Digital Library Services, University of Kentucky Libraries Lexington, Kentucky Am_Lib_Leag_92 These pages may freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. No. 92 "The American Form of Government - Let Us Preserve It" Speech of The Hon. Albert C. Ritchie, Former Governor of Maryland before the Ohio State Bar Association, January 18, 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. 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Pamphlets Available â˜… Copies of the following pamphlets and other League literature may be obtained upon application to the League's national headquarters: Statement of Principles and Purposes American Liberty League Its Platform The Bonus Inflation The Thirty Hour Week Bill The Holding Company Bill Price Control The TV A Amendments The Supreme Court and the New Deal The Revised AAA Amendments The President's Tax Program Expanding Bureaucracy Lawmaking by Executive Order New Deal Laws in Federal Courts Consumers and the AAA Dangerous Experimentation Economic Planning Mistaken But Not New Work Relief The AAA and Our Form of Government Alternatives to the American Form of Government A Program for Congress The 1937 Budget Professors and the New Deal The National Labor Relations Act Summary of Conclusions from report of the National Latvyers Committee Straws Which Tell How to Meet the Issue Speech by W. E. Borah The Test of Citizenship Speech by Dean Carl W. Ackerman "Breathing Spells" Speech by Jouett Shouse The Duty of the Lawyer in the Present Crisis Speech by James M. Beck The Constitution and the Supreme Court Speech by Borden Burr The Economic Necessity in the Southern States for a Return to the Constitution Speech by Forney Johnston Our Growing National Debt and Inflation Speech by Dr. E. W. Kemmerer Inflation is Bad Business Speech by Dr. Neil Carothers The Real Significance of the Constitutional Issue Speech by R. E. Desvernine Arousing Class Prejudices Speech by Jouett Shouse The Fallacies and Dangers of the Townsend Plan-^SpeecA by Dr. W. E. Spahr What of 1936?^Speecfc by James P. Warburg Americanism at the Crossroads Speech by R. E. Desvernine The Constitution and the New Deal Speech by James M. Carson The American Constitution Whose Heritage? Speech by Frederick H. Stinchfield â˜… AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… The American Form of Government Let Us Preserve It â˜… â˜… â˜… Speech of THE HON. ALBERT C. RITCHIE Former Governor of Maryland before the Ohio State Bar Association at Toledo, Ohio January 18, 1936 V? AMERICAN LIBERTY LEAGUE National Headquarters NATIONAL PRESS BUILDING WASHINGTON, D. C. â˜… â˜… Document No. 92 The American Form of Government Let Us Preserve It â˜… I AM grateful for the opportunity of attending this annual meeting of the Ohio State Bar Association. You assemble at a time when the kind of Government we call American has need for the experience, the understanding and, I believe, the protection of the American lawyer. It was largely his efforts that brought Colonial America through the travails of oppression and war to independence and freedom. Out of the disorganization and the clash of class against class which followed, it was the American lawyer principally who moulded a Nation. It was largely his leadership that developed this Nation, adapted it to the ever-changing times and their needs, and made ours a Government of laws and not of men. The American lawyer cannot ignore his heritage of governmental as well as juristic leadership. He cannot content himself with the ministration of justice only. He is more than guardian in the temple of justice. By every right of tradition and actuality, he is guardian, too, of the foundations of the American Government. And there is need for him now to assert that guardianship. ThE term "New Deal" embraces, I suppose, the whole series of Federal measures and policies whose objectives are the promotion and maintenance of economic recovery on all fronts, and the fulfillment by the Government of its social responsibilities to the people. To these objectives all of us subscribe, but in a field so wide and so vital it is not surprising that opinion of conscientious people as to methods should differ. Indeed, the surprising, the amazing thing, is that many of those in high authority in Washington should so constantly denounce the motives of almost anyone who publicly questions the Government's ways for accomplishing the ends all of us want. I think the time is here now when anyone, who is honest about it, has the right to disagree with much that comes out of Washington these days, and still be a good American. Certainly, he can still be a good lawyer. In THE beginning, the controversial measures of the New Deal were declared to be emergency measures only, experimental in their nature. The people as a whole accepted them as such, in the hope that they would lead us out of the emergency, back into normal times again. Every nation must at times be the laboratory of experiment and of trial and error for governmental ills. Extraordinary measures must often be resorted to in extraordinary crises, and the very general feeling certainly was to try these "New Deal" policies out, and see if they would succeed where other efforts had not. But now the experimental period is about over. Unmistakable signs of business and economic recovery are at hand. The emergency is passing, and normal times, in many respects not the old normal times, but the times which are going to be normal for the future, are shaping ahead. And now the country is being asked to accept the New Deal, not as a temporary and curative thing any longer, but as the permanent and all-time policy of the American Government. X HERE is no need to decide this momentous question in surroundings of fear or panic. We are not in a panic now, and there is nothing to fear, except making the wrong decision and going in the wrong direction. The people can decide the question coolly and with level heads, and they owe it to our own and to future generations to do just that. What we should do is calmly and dispassionately take the New Deal apart, examine it, and see what the effect of adopting it in its various parts will in all probability be. When we do that we find that some parts of it are good, and in accord with American institutions. We find that other parts are or probably are in accord with the institutions of our country, but are unwise or being unwisely administered. As to these we should substitute wisdom for the lack of wisdom. And then we find still other parts which are so directly contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, as to violate the fundamental principles on which the American form of Government rests. These, I submit, should be abandoned, because I believe nothing has happened in this emergency which would justify us in scrapping those American institutions which constitute the heart of American Government. We have lived and prospered under the American government through peace and war, through prosperity and depression, for nearly one hundred and fifty years. I believe we can keep on doing this more happily, more contentedly and more effectively under the kind of government which has served us so well, and whose fundamentals are so peculiarly American, than we could ever do under some other kind of government which would not be American in its principles at all. In this company of lawyers, it is upon this latter aspect only of the New Deal that I ask your indulgence for a brief discussion. The political problem of the ages has always been how to reconcile the powers of government with the liberties of the individual. Through the centuries government in the end generally crushed liberty. There was no power superior to government to whom the people could appeal for the preservation of their freedom. The freedom of the individual depended on the benevolence or the favor of those who were in authority, and those in authority, with nothing to check them, usually reverted to despotism, intolerance and tyranny. After a while, the people generally arose, overthrew the prevailing government and set up their own. Then in the process of time the same thing happened over again. The founders of the American Republic knew all about this trend of history. They knew about it more intimately, too, from the actual experience of the colonies with England. They had seen the English Parliament, in which the colonies were not represented, impose upon the colonies almost every conceivable form of regulation and control over their colonial trade and markets and over their domestic affairs as well, all to the benefit and profit of English trade and English merchants. England regulated what commodities the colonists were allowed to produce or to consume; what they could import or export. Overseas colonial trade was generally confined to British made and British manned ships and to British ports, or at least gave preference to them. Everything was ordained for the benefit of the special interests in England and of England, and England also maintained what was known as the Board of Trade and Plantation, wherein economic authority over the colonies was largely vested. All these grievances and many others were recited in the Declaration of Independence. History was repeating itself. Once more governmental usurpation, with nothing to check it, was at its old job of crushing liberty again. In order to save themselves from "absolute despotism," the colonies had to declare their independence, and their right "to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness," and "to provide new guards for their future security." Now the principles on which this "new government" was to be founded, these "new guards" for the future security of the people, were, when the war was won and after our brief experience with the Articles of Confederation, embodied in the Constitution of the United States. This document sought to solve the age old struggle between government and liberty, to which I have referred. Its aim was to do this by limiting the things which government could do. Liberty was no longer to depend upon the grace or favor of government. Liberty was to have rights of its own which government could not transcend or deny. To accomplish this a new force was brought into play. A form of government was set up whose governing powers were not unchecked, and whose authority was not supreme, but was granted and denned, circumscribed and limited by the people themselves, speaking through their written organic law. In order "to effect their safety and happiness," and "to provide new guards for their future security," the people in adopting the organic law the Constitution through their representatives, endeavored to make impossible a repetition of the grievances and abuses recited in the Declaration of Independence, which had made them unsafe, unhappy and insecure for so long. So the new Government the American form of government sprang from the heart and the experiences, the strength and the ideals of the long years of a colonial people struggling to become a Nation. It represents the way in which they felt they could preserve for all time their liberty and their freedom against despotic power. That is what they had suffered from. That is what they wanted to guard against. The American form of government, therefore, comprises certain underlying governmental principles which were intended to accomplish these high purposes, and to guard for all time the liberties of the people against the growth or the revival of any autocratic power which might endanger or destroy them. These underlying governmental principles are: 1. The American dual system of States and Nation, whereby the Federal Government can only do such things as are expressly or by fair and proper implication delegated to it, every-6 thing else being reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. 2. The separation of the powers of government into three departments, Legislative, Executive and Judicial, which are separate and distinct from each other, with no one of them authorized to exercise the functions of either of the other two. There are, of course, other constitutional provisions and guarantees of great and characteristically American importance, such as those protecting property and contracts and due process of law, and many other rights and privileges of the people, but I believe it may fairly be said that the two above mentioned are governmental cornerstones, completely essential to what we know and what is known as the American form of government. We cannot have unity in national affairs unless the people of the States are free to settle for themselves their domestic affairs. Our people and our conditions are too diversified to admit of any other principle. Local conditions vary in the different States. National conditions are common to all. If the people of the States are allowed to settle their home affairs in their own ways at home, then they will be much more likely to act together on things which concern them all. The strength of the National Government is a composite strength. It is subserved by keeping the States strong and alive to their true self-governing functions, and by preserving the liberties of their people. We cannot do this by stripping the States or their people of their own rights and freedom, and letting the central government decide for all. That was tried in National Prohibition, and it simply would not work. Nor can liberty be secure unless the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Departments of government are kept distinct. If they are permitted to be merged, then we are back again to the old order where the people had no control 7 or check upon government in the exercise of its powers. Under the American system, each Department acts as a check or restraint upon the others. But if, for example, Congress passes its legislative powers over to the Executive, one great check is gone, and when the Executive exercises those powers and legislates, then we have legislation or taxation without popular representation, and this admits of the very kind of dictatorship which the American form of government sought to prevent. X DO not mean that during the history of our government the line between National and State powers has always been clearly denned or that it has always been observed. It has not, of course. The conflict between the two has manifested itself at many times and in many ways, and indeed in many sections. In the earlier days there were the Kentucky Resolutions, the Hartford Convention, Calhoun's Ordinance of Nullification, the right of Secession, Federal Expansion after the Civil War, and so on. Indeed, all through our constitutional history there has been a constant and recurring struggle between centralization and decentralization; between the efforts of the National Government to extend its functions and the efforts of the States to hold theirs; and in that struggle it must be confessed that the National Government has won out to a considerable degree. Neither do I mean that the lines separating the three Departments of Government have been consistently maintained. They have not, of course, although it is only recently that the consequences of obliterating them are beginning to receive alarmed attention. Previously the subject was treated in a more or less legalistic way, without much consideration to what it really means to the American Government. What I do mean, however, in these respects, is that the two doctrines adverted to are the constitutional rocks on which American liberties depend. They were evolved out of the experiences of the past in order to prevent for- ever a return of the autocracy of the past. They were the two great bulwarks adopted to preserve our liberties against the despotism which had prevailed without them and which, it was believed, was impossible of recurrence with them. They are the heart and the spirit of the American form of Government. So long as we retain them unshaken in their substance and in their essence, our form of government will remain American, notwithstanding many other changes which have been or might be made. But abolish or seriously impair these two fundamentals, and you have done something revolutionary to America. You have knocked the props from under the American form of government. You have a kind of government which is American no more. It may be Fascism or Communism or Socialism or Collectivism or something else, but it will not and cannot be American. Today we find this American form of government challenged in these two respects which constitute its inherent and fundamental Americanism. We find the New Deal embodying measures and policies which, unless abandoned or stopped, will in the end so regiment, control and nationalize our economic life as to destroy the dual system of our government, the preservation of State integrity, and the separation of governmental powers. If these measures and policies are adopted, then the kind of government which is American will exist no more. In its place we will have a centralized government, freed from the barriers erected to guard liberty against autocracy. Perhaps it may work for a while, or appear to work, but because these barriers of freedom are gone, it will not be American. I HAVE tried to confine myself to the underlying principles of American government, and so perhaps I need not prolong this discussion by undertaking to specify the precise measures I have in mind. We all know them and two have already been pronounced unconstitutional the NRA and the AAA. Others are now before the Supreme Court, and their fate can properly be left to the judgment of that high tribunal. Of course, I do not suggest that this strain of un-Americanism runs through all of the New Deal measures and policies by any means. I have already made this statement earlier in my remarks. Some, like the lending agencies, such as the RFC and the HOLC, which are paid back what they lend, have in great part saved industry and banking and the people's homes, and do not seem to me at all subversive of our form of government. Other measures, like relief to the unemployed and care for the old, the afflicted and the otherwise handicapped, are social responsibilities of the Government, many of them too long delayed in fulfillment; and as to these the problems relate principally to the amounts to be expended, and to the limitations, terms and conditions thereof. Other measures again involve spending for public works and purposes, and these too are not contrary to the American fundamentals of government, although we should recognize that no nation has ever yet spent its way back to recovery, and that we cannot too long spend more than we take in, because when we do taxes and public debt at last become unbearable, and then pay day and the crash face us. These things, however, and other related matters, are not within the scope of these remarks, because I am undertaking only to speak to lawyers about the foundation principles and objectives of the American government, and of the dangers which beset them. If some of us do not consider them dangers, and feel content to scrap the liberty-assuring government we know as American, for some other kind of government which is something else, then the Constitution provides the way for Congress, the States and the people to consider amending it, and that direct way, and not in-10 direction, should be followed, with everyone free to express his or her convictions, first through our representatives in Congress, and then at the polls. But let us always remember that the great danger of bad times is bad remedies and bad laws. After all, we builded a majestic system of government in these United States. Through the long, long years of a splendid and fruitful past we have lived under policies which have afforded the people of our country more of the necessities, the conveniences and the comforts of life than have ever been enjoyed by the people of any land on earth. In no small measure this has been due to the ideals and practices of self-reliance, self-help, self-initiative and hard work which, under the guarantees and structure of the American Government, have animated our people from the beginning. The experiences of the world may have taught other peoples other things in other ways, hut they have taught us what things we can do well and effectually under our government, and by the toll of blood they taught us what was necessary to preserve our liberties and our freedom. So let our national plans and policies rest, as they have always done, upon the rocks of liberty which underly our form of Government, and not upon shifting sands or upon theories which the American Government and American experience outlaw. Thus will we preserve all that is best in our governmental order, and thus, in these times of stress and trial, we will banish uncertainty, and restore confidence in American governmental methods and policies, the kind of confidence which begets American courage to conquer and to go ahead. 11