Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Franklin Endorses the Constitution

Monday Sepr. 17, 1787. In Convention (6th and Chestnut, Philadelphia).

The Engrossed Constitution being read, Docr. Franklin rose with a Speech in his hand, which he had reduced to writing for his own conveniency, and which Mr. Wilson read in the words following:

Mr. President,

{Bust of Benjamin Franklin}
Bust of Benjamin Franklin

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said, "I don't know how it happens, Sister, but I meet with no body but myself, that's always in the right"- "Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison."

{Signing of the Constitution}
Signing of the Constitution

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an Assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its error, I sacrifice to the public good--I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad-- Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die--If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people and for the sake of our posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress and confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility--and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

He then moved that the Constitution be signed.
President's Chair

When the last members were signing it, Doctor Franklin looking towards the President's Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have, said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issues, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.


Charles the Second, by the grace of [God] King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defend[er] of the Faith & Co. To all to whom these presents shall come, greeting.

Whereas our truste[d] and well beloved subject William Penn Esquire, sonne and heire of Sir William Penn, deceased, out of a comendable desire to enlarge our English Empire and promote such usefull comodities as may be of benefit to us and our dominions, as also to reduce the Savage Natives by Gentle and just manners to the Love of civill Society and Christian Religion, hath humbly besought leave of us to transport an ample Colony unto a certaine Country hereinafter described in the parte of America not yet cultivated and planted. And hath likewise humbly besought our Royall Ma[jes]tie to give, grant, and confirme all the said Country with certaine priviledges and Jurisdicions requisite for the good govern­ment and safety of the said Country and Colony, to him and his heires for ever. Know yee therefore that wee, favoring the petition and good purpose of the said William Penn, and haveing regard to the memory and merits of his late Father in diverse services and particularly to his conduct, courage, and dircctione {discretion} under our dearest Brother James, Duke of Yorke, in that signall Battle and Victorie fought and obtained against the Dutch Fleet comanded by [illegible word deleted] {The}2 Heer Van Obdam in the yeare 1653. In consideration thereof of our speciall grace, certaine knowledge, and meere motion have given and granted and by this our present Charter for us our heires and successors, doe give and grant unto the said William Penn his heires and Assignes

All that Tract or part of Land of {in}4 America with all the Islands therein contained as the same is bounded on the East by Delaware River from Twelve miles distance Northwards of Newcastle Towne unto the Three and Fortieth degree of Northerne Latitude, If the said River doth extend soe farr northwards. But if the said River shall not extend soe farr northward. then by the said River soe farr as it doth extend, and from the Head of the said River, the Eastern-bounds are to be determined by a Meridian Line to bee drawne from the head of the said River unto the said Three and Fortieth degree; The said Lands {to} extend westward Five degrees in longi­tude to be computed from the said Eastern bounds, and the said Lands to be bounded on the north by the begining of the Three and Fortieth degree of northerne Latitude and on the South by a Circle drawne of {at}5 12 miles distance from Newcastle northwards6 and westwards, unto the begining of the Fortieth degree of northerne Latitude, and then by a streight line westwards to the limit of Longitude above mentioned7

Wee doe alsoe give and grant unto the said William Penn his heires and Assignes The free and undisturbed use and continuance in and passage into and out of all and singular Ports, Harbours, Bayes, Waters, Rivers, Isles and Inletts belonging unto and {or} leading to and from the Country or Islands aforesaid And all the Soyle, Lands, Feilds, woods, underwoods, mountaines, hills, Fenns, Isles , Lakes, Rivers, Waters, Rivuletts, Bayes, and Inletts scituate or being within or belonging unto the Limitts and bounds aforesaid together with the fishing of all sorts of Fish, whales {sturgeons} and all Royall and other Fishes in the Sea, Bayes, Inletts, waters, or Rivers within the premisses and the Fish therein taken And alsoe all veines Mines and Quarries as well discovered, as not discovered, of gold, silver ,gemms and other {pretious} stones and all other whatsoever bee it of stones, mettalls, or of any other thing or matter whatsoever found or to be found within the Country Isles or limitts aforesaid

And him the said of the countryes7 aforesaid and of all other the premisses saveing alwayes {to us our heirs and successors}8 the Faith and allegiance of the said William Penn his heires and Assignes and of all other {the proprietaries tenants and}9 the inhabitants that are or shall be within the Territories and precincts aforesaid, and {saving alsoe every unto us our Heirs and successors the soveraignty of the aforsd country}10 the sovcrcigncty Dominion thereof due unto us our heires and suc­cessors To have, hold, possesse, and enjoy the said Tract of Land, Coun­try, Isles, Inletts and other the premisses unto the said William Penn his heires and Assignes To the only proper use and behoofe of the said William Penn his heires & Assignes forever To be holden of us our heires and successors Kings of England as of our Castle of Wind­sor in our County of Windsor Berks in Free and comon Soccage by fealty only for all Services and not in Capite or by Knights Service11 Yeilding and paying therefore to us our heires and successors Two Beavere skins to be delivered {at our said Castle of Windsor} on the First day of January in everie year if demanded And alsoe the Fifth part of all gold and silver Oar which shall from time to time happen to be found within the limitts aforesaid {clear of al charges}12 And of our further grace certaine knowledge and meere motion wee have thought fit to erect, and wee doe hereby erect, the {afore}said Country and Islands into a province and Segniory13 and doe call it Pennsilvania and soe from henceforth wee will have it called Pennsilvania14 And forasmuch as wee have hereby made and ordained the aforesaid Wil­liam Penn his heires and Assignes the true and absolute Proprietaries of all the Lands and dominions aforesaid Know yee {therefore} that wee reposeing speciall trust and confidence in the fidelitie, wisdome, Justice and provident circumspection of the said William Penn for us, our heires and successors, Doe grant free, full, and absolute power by virtue of these presents to him and his heires and to his and their Deputies and Leiutenants for the good and happy government of the said Countryes to ordaine, make, enact, and under his and their seals, to publish any Laws whatsoever for the raiseing of money for the publick uses of the said Province or for any other end appertaining either unto the publick state, peace, or safety of the said Country, or unto the private utility of particular persons according unto their best discretions, by and with the advise, assent, and approbation of the Freemen of the said Countryes, or the greater part of them or of their Delegates or Deputies, whome for the enacting of the said Laws when and as often as need shall require {x}15 Wee will that the said William Penn and his heires shall assemble in such sort and forme as to him and them shall seeme best and the same Lawes duely to execute unto and upon all people within the said countryes and limitts thereof {x x}16 And wee doe likewise give and grant unto the said William Penn and his heires and to his and their Deputies and Leiutennts full power17 and authority to appoint and establish any Judges and Jus­tices, Magistrates, and officers whatsoever for what Causes soever for the probates of wills and for the granting of Administrations within the precincts aforesaid and with what power soever and in such forme as {to} the said William Penn or his heires shall seeme most convenient Alsoe to remit, release, pardon, and abolish, whether before Judgment or after all Crimes and offences whatsoever committed within the said Country against the said Laws Treason and willfull and malicious murders onely excepted18 and in those cases to grant repreives untill our pleasured may bee knowne therein and to doe all and everie other thing and things which unto the compleat establishment of Justice unto Courts and Tribunalls formes of Judicature and manner of proceedings doe belong Altho in these presents expresse mention be not made thereof And by Judges by them delegated to award proc-esse hold please7 and determine in all the said Courts and Tribunalls all actions, suits, and causes whatsoever as well Criminall as Civill per-sonall reall and mixt which Laws soe as aforesaid to be published Our pleasure is and so wee enjoyne, require, and command shall be most absolute and available in Law and that all the Leige people {and subjects} of us our heires and Successors doe observe and keepe the same unavoidably19 in those parts soe farr as they concerne them under the paine therein expressed {or to be expressed} Provided. Neverthelesse that the said Laws be consonant to reason and bee not repugnant or contrarie but as neare as conveniently may bee agreeable to the Laws, Statutes, and rights of this our Kingdome of England And saveing and reserveing to us our heires and successors the re­ceiving, hearing, and determining of the appeale & appeales of all or any person or persons of in or belonging to the Territories aforesaid or touching any Judgment to be there made or given And forasmuch as in the government of soe great a Country sudden accidents doe often happen whereunto it will be necessary to apply a Remedy before the Freeholders of the said Province or their Delegates or Deputies can be assembled to the makeing of laws neither will it bee convenient that instantly upon everie such emergent occasion soe great a multi­tude should be called together Therefore for the better government of the said Country wee will and ordaine and by these presents for us, our heires, and Successrs Doe grant unto the said William Penn and his heires by themselves or by their magistrates and Officers in that behalf duely to bee ordained as aforesaid to make and constitute fit and wholsome ordinances from time to time within the said Country to be kept and observed as well for the preservation of the peace as for the better government of the people there inhabiting and pub-lickly to notifie the same to all persons whome the same doth or any way may concerne Which ordinances our will and pleasure is shall be kept {observed} inviolably within the said Province under paines therein to be expressed {[illegible deletion]} Soe as the said ordinances be consonant to reason and bee not repugnant nor contrarie but soe farr as conveniently may bee agreeable with the Laws of our King-dome of England and soe as the said Ordinances be not extended in am sort to bind, charge, or take away the right or interest of any person or persons of or in20 their Life members2' Freehold goods or Chatties22 And our further Will and pleasure is that the [illegible deletion] Laws for regulateing and governing of propertie within the said province as well for the descent and enjoyment of Lands as likewise for the enjoyment and possession {succession} of goods and Chatties and likewise as to the treasone and {to} Felonies shall be and continue the same as they shall bee for the time being by the generall course of the Law in our Kingdome of England untill the said Laws shall bee altered by the said William Penn his heires or Assignes and by the Freemen of the said Province their Delegates or Deputies or the greater part of them23 {x x x And to the end the said William Penn or his24 Heirs, or other the Planters, Owners, or Inhabitants of the said Province, may not at any time hereafter, by misconstruction of the Powers aforesaid, through inadvertancy or design, depart from that faith & due allegiance wch bv the Laws of this Our Realm of England, they & all Our subjects in Our Dominions & Territoryes always owe to Us, our Heirs, & Successors, by colour of any Extent or Largeness of [illegible deletion] {Powers} hereby given or pretended to be given Or by force or colour of any Laws hereafter to be made in the said Province {by virtue of any such Powers} Our further Will & Pleasure is, That a Transcript or Duplicate of all Laws, wch shall be so as aforesaid made &: pub­lished, within the said Province, shall within 5. years after the making thereof be transmitted & delivered to the Privy Councill for the time being of Us, Our Heirs & Successors. And if any of the said Laws, within the Space of 6. months, after that they shall be so transmitted &.- delivered be declared by Us, Our Heirs, or Successors, in Our or their Privy Councill, inconsistent wth the Sovereignety or lawful Pre­rogative of Us, Our Heirs, or Successors, or contrary to the Faith & Allegiance due by the Legal Governm1 of this Realm from the said Wm Penn, or his Heirs, or of the Planters or of the Planters, & Inhabitants of the said Province, And that thereupon any of the said Laws shall be adjudged & declared to be voyd by Us, Our Heirs, or Successors, by order of their, or Our Privy Councill, or by our or their Signet & Sign Manuel, that, {under our or their Privy Seal that} then, & from thenceforth, such Laws concerning wch such Judgement & Declaration shall be made, shall become voyd, & otherwayes the said Laws so transmitted shall remain 8c stand in full force, according to the true intent 8c meaning thereof.}25 Furthermore that this new Collony may the more happyly increase by the multitude of people resorting thither Therefore wee for us our heires and successors Do give and grant by these presents power License and libertie unto all the Leigh people and subjects both pres­ent and fur the future for26 us our heires and successors Excepting those who shall bee specially forbidden to transport themselves and Familyes unto the said Country with such convenient shipping as by the Laws of this our Kingdome of England they ought to use and27 with fiting provisions paying onely the customes therefore due and there to settle themselves dwell and inhabite and plant for there public and their owne private advantage.28 And furthermore that our subjects may be the rather encouraged to undertake this expedition with the ready and chearfull mindes Know yee that wee of our especiall grace certaine knowledge and meere motion doe give and grant by vertue of these presents aswell unto the said William Penn and his heires As to all others who shall from time to time29 repaire {un}to the said Country with a purpose to inhabite there or to trade with the natives of there said Country full License to lade and freight in any ports whatsoever of us our heires and Successors {[illegible deletion]}30 {according to the Laws cstab made or to be made within our kingdome of England}31 and unto32 the said Country by them their Servants or33 Assignes to transport all and singular their goods wares34 and merchandizes As likewise all sorts of graine whatsoever and all other things whatsoever necessary for Food or cloathing not prohibited by the Laws ef and Statutes of our King-domes and Dominions to be carryed out of the said Kingdoms without any let or molestation of us our heires and successors {or} of any the officers of us our heires and successors (saveing alwayes to us our heires and successors the legall impositions customes and other duties and payments for the said wares and merchandize by any Law or statute due or to be due to us our heires and successors)35 {and pro­vided also that nothing}36 And wee do further for us our heires and Successors give and grant unto the said William Penn his heires and Assignes Free and absolute power to divide the said Country and Islands into Townes hundreds and Countyes and to erect and incor­porate Townes into Burroughs and Burroughs into Cityes and to make and constitute Faires and Marketts therein with all other con­venient Priviledges and Immunities according to the Meritt of the Inhabitants and the Fitness of the places to doe all and every other thing and things touching the premisses which to him or them shall seeme meet and requisite37 Albeit they be such as of their owne nature [in the margin: Quare] might otherwise require a more Especiall Comandment and warrant then in these presents is expressed.38 Wee will alsoe and by these presents For us our heires and Successors Wee doe give and Grant Lyscence by this our Charter Unto the said William Penn his heires and Assignes and to all the Inhabitants and dwellers in the province aforesaid both present and to come to import or unlade by themselves or their Servants Factors or Assignes all merchandizes and Goods whatsoever that shall arise of the Fruits and Comodities of the said Province either by Land or Sea into any of the ports of us our heires & successors in our Kingdome of England and not into any other Countrey whatsoever And we give him Full power to dispose of the said Goods in the said Ports And if need be within One Veare next after the Unladeing of the same to Lade the said merchandizes and Goods againe into the same or other shipps and to export the same into any other Countreyes either of our Dominions or Foreigne according to Law Provided {alwayes} that they pay such Customes and Impositions subsidies and duties For the same to us our heires and successors as The rest of our subjects of our Kingdome of England {for the time being} shalbe bound to pay39 And doe Ob­serve the Acts of Navigation and other lawes in that behalf made And furthermore of our more ample and speciall Grace Certaine Knowledge and meere motion Wee doe for us our heires and succes­sors Grant Unto the said William Penn his heires and Assignes Full and absolute power and Authority to make erect and Constitute within the said Province & the Isles and Isletts aforesaid {such} and soe many Sea Ports Harbours Creekes Havens Keyes and other places For discharge & unladeing of Goods and Merchandizes40 out of the Shipps Boates and Other Vessells and ladeing them41 and in such and soe many places and with such rights Jurisdictions Liberties and Prive-lidges Unto the said Ports belonging as to him or them shall seeme most expedient And that all and singuler the shipps Boates and other Vessells which shall come For Merchandize and Trade unto the said Province or out of the same shall depart shalbe laden or Unladen only at such ports as shall be soe erected and constituted by the said William Penn his heires or42 Assignes any use Custome or other thing to the ontrary notwithstanding43 Provided that the said William Penn and his heires and the Leiftennants & Governors for the time being shall admitt and receive in and about {all} such Ports havens Creekes and keyes all Officers and their deputies who shall from time to time be appointed For that Purpose by the Farmers or Comissioners of our Customes For the time being44 And Wee do further appoint and Ordayne And by these prsents for Us our heires and Successors Wee do grant unto the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes that he the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes may from time to time for ever have and enjoy the Customes and subsidies in the Ports Harbours and other Creekes and places aforesayd within the Province aforesaid payable or due for Merchandizes and Wares there to be laded and unladed the said Customes and Subsidies to be reasonably assessed (upon any occasion) by themselves and the People there as aforesaid to be Assembled to whom We give power by these presents for us our heires and successors upon just cause and in a due propor­tion to assesse and impose the same Saveing unto Us Our heires and Successors such impositions and Customes {as} by Act of Parliament are and shall be appointed45 And it is Our further Will and pleasure that the sayd William Penn his heires Successors46 and assignes shall from time to time Constitute and appoint an Attorney or Agent to reside in or neare Our City of London who shall make knowne the place where he shall dwell or may be found unto the Clerkes of Our Privie Councell for the time being or one of them and shall be ready to appeare in any of Our Courts at Westminster to answer for any misdemeanors that shall be committed or by any wilfull default or neglect permitted by the said William Penn his heires47 or assignes against the {our} Laws of {Trade or} Navigacon {or otherwise against the true intent of these presents.}48 and after it shall be ascertained in any of Our said Courts what damages Wee or our {heires or} Succes­sors shall have susteyned by such default or neglect the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes shall pay the same within one yeare after such taxation and demand thereof for {from} such Attorney Or in case there shall be noe such Attorney by the space of One yeare {after such taxation}19 or {in case}50 such Attorney shall not make payment of such damages within the space of a yeare51 {& answer such other forfeitures and penalties {within the sayd time} as by the Acts of Parliament in England are or shall be provided}52 according to the true intent and meaneing of these presents Then it shall be lawfull for Us Our heires and Successors to seise and resume the government of the sayd Province or Countrey and the same to retaine until pay­ment shall be made thereof But Notwithstanding any such Seisure or resumption of the Government Nothing concerning the propriety or ownershipp of any Lands tenements or other hereditaments or goods or chattells of any the Adventurers Planters or Owners {other then the respective offenders}53 there shall be any way affected or molested thereby Provided alwayes and Our Will and pleasure is that neither the sayd William Penn nor his heires nor any other the Inhabitants of the said Province shall at any time hereafter trade or {have or}54 maintaine any commerce to or {correspondance}55 with any other King Prince or state in Europe {or their or with any of their subjects}56 who shall then be in Warr against Us Our heires or Successors Nor shall the sayd William Penn or his heires or any other the Inhabitants of the said Province make Warr or do any act of hostility against any other King Prince or state in Europe {or any of their subjects}57 who shall then be in League or amity with us Our heires or Succes­sors:58 {x x x} {x x x And because in so remote a Country, & situate [illegible deletion] {near so59} many barbarous Nations, the Incursions as well of the Savages themselves, as of other Enemies, Pirates & Robbers, may probably be feared: Therefore we have given, & for Us, Our Heirs & Successors doe give Power by these Presents unto the sakl Lord Baltcmorc, said {W. Penn,} his Heirs, & Assigns, by themselves, or their Captains, or other their officers, to leavy, muster, & traine, all sorts of Men, of what Condition, or wheresoever born in the said Province of Mary-land {Pennsilvania},60 for the time being, & to make war, & pursue the Enemyes & Robbers aforesaid, aswell by Sea, as by ind, yea, even wthout the Limits of the said Province, & (by God's assistance) to vanquish & take them, & being taken, to putt them to death by the Law of War, or to save them at their Pleasure, & to doe all & every61 other thing wch unto the charge & office of a Captain (ienerall of an army belongeth, or hath accustomed to belong, as fully & freely as any Captain General of an Army hath ever had the same.}62 But that it shall and may be lawfull to and for the sayd William Penn & his heircs by themselves or their officers to make Warr and pursue the Indians and other Enemies in or ncare the sayd Province aswell by Land as by Sea And to doe every other thing which belongeth to the office of a Captain Generall of an Army—x x x—And because it may happen that some of the People and Inhabitants of the said Province may not in their private opinions be able to conforme to the publick exercize of Religion according to the Liturgy Form'd & Cer­emonies of the Church of England or take or subscribe the Oaths fe Articles made and Established in this Nation in that bchalfe; And for that the same by reason of the remote distances of those places will (as Wee hope) be noe breach of the Unity and Uniformity Estab­lished in [missing folio] Licentiousness nor to the civill injury Nor outward disturbance of others Any Law, Statute, or Clause contained or to be contained, usage, or Custome of Our Realme of England to the contrary thereof, in anv wise Notwithstanding63 And furthermore of Our speciall grace and of Our ertaine knowledge and meere motion {Wee} have given and granted and by these presents for Us Our heires and Successors doe give and grant unto the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes full and absolute power, license and authority that hee the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes from time to time hereafter for ever at his or their Will or pleasure may assigne alien grant, devise or En-feoffe of the premisses soe many and such parts and parcells to him or them that shall be willing to purchase the same as they shall think fin To have and to hold to them the sayd person or persons willing to like or purchase their heires and assignes in Fee-Simple or Fee-Tayle or lor terme of life64 or lives or yeares To be held of the said William Penn his heires and assignes as of the sayd Seigniory of Windsor65 by such services Customes and rents as shall seeme fitt to the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes And not immediately of Us Our heires and Successors And to the same person or persons and to all and every of them Wee do give and grant by these presents for Us Our heires and Successors lycense authority and power that such person or persons may take the premisses or any parcell thereof of the afore­said William Penn his heires or assignes and the same hold to them­selves their heires and assignes in what estate of Inheritance soever in Fee Simple or in Fee-Tayle or otherwise as to them the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes shall seeme expedient The Statute made in the Parliament of Edward sonn of King Henry late King of Eng­land Our Predecessor commonly called the Statute Quia Emptores Terrarum lately published in Our Kingdome of England in any Wise Notwithstanding66 And by these presents Wee give and grant License unto the sayd William Penn and his heires likewise to all and every such person and persons to whom the said William Penn or his heires shall at any time hereafter grant any estate of Inheritance as aforesaid to Erect any parcells of land within the Province aforesayd into Man­nors by and with the License to67 be first had and obteyned for that purpose under the hand and Seale of the sayd William Penn or his heires and in every of the sayd Mannors to have and to hold a Court-Baron with all things whatsoever which to a Court Baron do belong and to have and to hold view of franckpledge (for the conservation of the peace and the better government of those parts) by themselves or their Stewards or by the Lords for the time being of other Mannors to be deputed when they shall be Erected and in the same to use all things belonging to view of Franck-pledge68 And Wee doe further grant license and authority that every such person and persons who shall Erect any such Mannor or Mannors as aforesayd shall or may grant all or any part of the {his} said lands to any person or persons in Fee-Simple or any other estate of Inheritance to be held of the sayd Mannors respectively soe as noe further tenures shall be created but that upon all further and other Alienations thereafter to m bee made the said Lands so aliened shall be held of the same Lord and his heires of whom the Alienor did then before hold and by the like Rents and services which were before due and Accustomed69 And further Our pleasure is and by these presents for Us Our heires and Successors Wee do Covenant and grant to and with the sayd William Penn and his heires and assignes That Wee Our heires and Successors shall at no time hereafter set or make or cause to be sett any Imposition, Custome, or other Taxation. Rate or Contribution whatsoever in and upon the Dwellers and Inhabitants of the aforesaid Province for their Lands, tenements, goods or Chattells within the sayd Province or in and upon any goods or Merchandize within the sayd Province or to be laden or unladen within the Ports or harbours of the sayd Province unless the same be with the consent of the Proprietary or chiefe Governor & {&}70 Assembly or by Act of Parliament in England And Our pleasure is and for us Our heires and Successors Wee charge and Command that this Our Declaration shall from hence forward from time to time be received and allowed71 in all our Courts and before ail the judges of Us Our heires and Successors for a sufficient and lawfull discharge payment and Acquittance Commanding all and sin­gular [illegible deletion] {the} Officers and Ministers of Us Our heires and Successors and enjoyning them upon pain of Our high displea­sure that they doe not presume at any time to attempt any thing to the contrary of the premisses or that they doe in any sort withstand the same but that they be at all times aydeing and assisting as is fitting unto the sayd William Penn and his heires and to the Inhabitants and Merchants of the Province aforesayd their Servants, Ministers, Factors and assignes in the full use and fruition of the benefitt of this Our Charter72 And Our further pleasure73 is and Wee doe hereby for Us Our heires & Successors charge and require that if any of the Inhab­itants of the said Province to the number of twenty shall at any time hereafter be desirous and shall by any Writing or by any person Deputed for them signify such their desire to the Bishop of London tor the time being74 that any Preacher {or Preachers to be approved of by the said Bishop}75 may be sent unto them for their Instruction to be approved of by the sayd Bishop That then such Preacher {or Preachers}76 shall and may be and reside within the sayd Province without any denyall or Molestation whatsoever77 And if perchance hereafter it should happen any doubts or questions should arise con­cerning the true sense and meaneing of any Word Clause or Sentence tntained in this Our present Charter Wee will Ordaine and Com­mand that at all times and in all things such interpretation be made thereof and allowed in any of Our Courts whatsoever as shall be adjudged most advantageous and favourable unto the sayd William Penn his heires and assignes Provided alwayes that no interpretation be admitted thereof by which the Allegiance due unto Us Our heires and Successors may suffer any prejudice or diminution78 Although express mention be not made in these presents of the true yearely value or certainty of the premisses or of any part thereof or of other guifts and grants made by Us Our heires and79 Predecessors unto the sayd William Penn or any Statute Act Ordinance Provision Procla­mation or restraint heretofore had made published ordeyned or pro­vided or any other thing cause or matter whatsoever to the contrary thereof in any wise Notwithstanding

In Witnesse whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patents, Witness Ourselfe at Westm1 the 4th day of March, In the three and Thirtieth yeare of Our Reigne, 1680/180 Pigott81

Note: Footnotes, edits and insertions from Richard P. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn, "The Papers of William Penn", U. of PA Press, 1982

Clarifying punctuation and emphasis by George Ross Fisher

Political Parties, Absent and Unmentionable

{King George III}
King George III

BECAUSE America had recently revolted to rid itself of King George III, the Constitutional framers of 1787 sought to construct a government forever free from one-man rule. Inefficiency could be accepted but central dictatorial power, never. It is unrealistic however to expect a wind-up toy to keep working forever, and our Constitution creates the same worry. After two centuries, some chinks have appeared.

{Founding Fathers}
Founding Fathers

Political parties existed in 18th Century England and Europe, but the American founding fathers seem not to have worried about them much. Within ten years of Constitutional ratification, however, Thomas Jefferson had created a really partisan party which naturally provoked the creation of its partisan opposite. James Madison was slowly won over to the idea this was inevitable, but George Washington never budged. Although they were once firm friends, when Madison's partisan position became clear to him, Washington essentially never spoke to him again. Andrew Jackson, with the guidance of Martin van Buren carried the partisan idea much further toward its modern characteristics, but it was the two Roosevelts who most fully tested the U.S. Supreme Court's tolerance for concentrating new powers in the Presidency, and Obama who recognized that the quickest way to strengthen the Presidency was to weaken the Legislative branch.

Dramatic episodes of this history are not central to present concerns, which focuses more on the largely unnoticed accumulations of small changes which bring us to our present position. Wars and economic crises induced several presidents, nearly as many Republicans as Democrats, to encourage migrations of power advantage which never quite returned to baseline after each crisis. Primary among these migrations was the erosion of the original assumption of perfect equality among individual members of Congress. A new member of Congress today may tell his constituents he will represent them ably, but when he arrives for work he is figuratively given an office in the basement, and allowed to sit on empty packing cases. This is not accidental; the slights are intentional warnings from the true masters of power to bumptious new egotists, they will get nothing in their new environment unless they earn it. Not a bad idea? This schoolyard bullying is a very bad idea. If your elected representative is less powerful, you are less powerful.

{Houses of Congress}
Houses of Congress

Partisan politics begins with vote-swapping, evolves into a system of concentrating the votes of the members into the hands of party leaders, and ultimately creates the potential for declaring betrayal if the member votes his own mind in defiance of the leader. The rules of the "body" are adopted within moments of the first opening gavel, but they took centuries to evolve and will only significantly change direction on those few occasions when newcomers overpower the old timers, and only then if some rebel among the old timers takes the considerable trouble to help organize them. In the vast majority of cases, after adoption the opportunity to change the rules is then effectively lost for two years. Even the Senate, with six-year staggered terms, has argued that it is a "continuing body" and need not reconsider its rules except in the face of a serious uprising on some particular point. Both houses of Congress place great weight on seniority, for the very good purpose of training unfamiliar newcomers in obscure topics, and for the very bad purpose of concentrating power in "safe" districts where party leaders are able to exercise iron control of the nominating process. Those invisible bosses back home in the district, able to control nominations in safe districts, are the real powers in Congress. They indirectly control the offices and chairmanships which accumulate seniority in Congress; anyone who desires to control Congress must control the local political bosses, few of whom ever stand for election to any office if they can avoid it. In most states, the number of safe districts is a function of controlling the gerrymandering process, which takes place every ten years after a census. Therefore, in most states it is possible to predict the politics of the whole state for a decade, by merely knowing the outcome of the redistricting. The rules for selecting members of the redistricting committee in the state legislatures are quite arcane and almost unbelievably subtle. An inquiring newsman who tries to compile a fifty-state table of the redistricting rules would spend several months doing it, and miss the essential points in a significant number of cases. The newspapers who attempt to pry out the facts of gerrymandering are easily gulled into the misleading belief that a good district is one which is round and compact, leading to a front-page picture showing all districts to be the same physical size. In fact, a good district is one where both parties have a reasonable chance to win, depending for a change, on the quality of their nominee.

So that's how the "Will of Congress" is supposed to work; but the process recently has been far less commendable, and in fact calls into dispute the whole idea of balance of power between the three branches of government. We here concentrate on the Health Reform Bill ("Obamacare") and the Financial Reform Bill ("Dodd-Frank"), which send the same procedural message even though they differ widely in their central topic. At the moment, neither of these important pieces of legislation has been fully subject to judicial review, so the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet encumbered itself with stare decisis of its own creation.

{hree  branches of government}
Three branches of government

In both cases, bills of several thousand pages each were first written by persons who if not unknown, are largely unidentified. It is thus not yet possible to determine whether the authors were affiliated with the Executive Branch or the Legislative one; it is not even possible to be sure they were either elected or appointed to their positions. From all appearances, however, they met and organized their work fairly exclusively within the oversight of the Executive Branch. Some weighty members of the majority party in Congress must have had some involvement, but it seems a near certainty that no members of the minority party were included, and even comparatively few members of highly contested districts, the so-called "Blue Dogs" of the majority party. It seems safe to conjecture that a substantial number either represent special interest affiliates, or else party faithful from safe districts with seniority. The construction of the massive legislation was conducted in such secrecy that even the sympathetic members of the press were excluded, and it would not be surprising to learn that no person alive had read the whole bill carefully before it was "sent" to Congress. It's fair to surmise that no member of Congress except a few limited members of the power elite of the majority party were allowed to read more than scattered fragments of the pending legislation in time to make meaningful changes.

The next step was probably more carefully managed. No matter who wrote it or what it said, a majority of the relevant committees of both houses of Congress had to sign their names as responsible for approving it. Because of the relatively new phenomenon of live national televising of committee procedure, the nation was treated to the sight of congressmen of both parties howling that they were only given a single day to read several thousand pages of previously secret material -- before being forced to sign approval of it by application of unmentioned pressures enabled by the rules of "the body". When party members in contested districts protested that they would be dis-elected for doing so, it does not take much imagination to surmise that they were offered various appointive offices within the bureaucracy as a consolation. As it turned out, the legislation was only passed narrowly on a straight-party vote, so there can be a considerable possibility of its likely failure if the corruptions of politics had been set aside, with members voting on the merits. Nevertheless, since this degree of political hammering did result in a straight-party vote, it leaves the minority party free to overturn the legislation when it can. The prospect of preventing an overturn in succeeding congresses seems to be premised on "fixing" flaws in the legislation through the issuance of regulations before elections can open the way to overturn of the underlying authorization. Legislative overturn, however, is very likely to encounter filibuster in the Senate, which presently requires 40 votes. Even that conventional pathway is booby-trapped in the case of the Dodd-Frank Law. The Economist magazine of London assigned a reporter to read the entire act, and relates that almost every page of it mandates that the Executive Branch ("The Secretary shall") must take rather vague instructions to write regulations five or ten times as long as the Congressional authorization, giving the specifics of the law. The prospect looms of vast numbers of regulations with the force of law but written by the executive branch, emerging long after the Supreme Court considers the central points, years after the authorizing congressmen have had a chance to read it, and well after the public has rendered final judgement with a presidential election. The underlying principle of this legislation is the hope that it will later seem too disruptive to change a law, even though most of it was never considered by the public or its representatives.

{Bill become a Law}
Bill become a Law

The "regulatory process" takes place entirely within the Executive branch. Congress passes what it terms "enabling" legislation, containing language to the effect that the Cabinet Secretary shall investigate as needed, decide as needed, and implement as needed, such regulations as shall be needed to carry out the "Will" of Congress. Since the regulations for two-thousand page bills will almost certainly run to twenty thousand pages of regulations with the force of law, the enabling committee of Congress will be confronted with an impossible task of oversight, and thus will offer few objections. The Appropriations Committees of Congress, on the other hand, are charged with reviewing every government program every year, and have the power to throttle what they disapprove of, by the simple mechanism of cutting off the program's funds. Members of the coveted Appropriations Committees are appointed by seniority, come from safe districts, and are attracted to the work by the associated ability to bestow plums on their home districts. By the nature of their appointment process, unworried by the folks back home but entirely beholden to the party bosses, they have the latitude to throttle anything the leadership of their party wants to throttle badly enough. The outcome of such take-no-prisoners warfare is not likely to improve the welfare of the nation, and therefore it is rare that partisan politics are allowed to go so far.

The three branches of government have become unbalanced. These bills were almost entirely written outside of the Legislative branch, and the ensuing regulations will be written in the Executive branch. The founding fathers certainly never envisioned that sweeping modification will be made in the medical industry and the financial industry, against the wishes of these industries, and in any event without convincing proof that the public is in favor. This is what is fundamentally wrong about taking such important decisions out of the hands of Congress; it threatens to put the public at odds with its government.

{Justice George Sutherland}
Justice George Sutherland

There is no need to go further than this, harsher words will only inflame the reaction further than necessary to justify a pull-back. And yet, the Supreme Court would do us a mercy if it doused these flames; the Supreme Court needs a legal pretext. May we suggest that Justice George Sutherland, who sat on the court seventy years ago, may have sensed the direction of things, short of using a particular word. Justice Sutherland recognized that although it is impractical to waver from the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse, it is entirely possible for a person of ordinary understanding to read a law in its entirety and still be confused as to its intent. He thus created a legal principle that a law may be void if it is too vague to be understood. In particular, a common criminal may be even less able to make a serious analysis. Therefore, at least in criminal cases, a law may well be void for vagueness. In this case, we are not speaking of criminals as defendants, or civil cases of alleged damage of one party by a defendant. Here, it is the law itself which gives offense by its vagueness, and Congress which created the vagueness is the defendant. Since we have just gone to considerable length to describe the manner in which Congress is possibly the main victim, this situation may be one of the few remaining ones where a Court of Equity is needed. That is, an obvious wrong needs to be corrected, but no statute seems to cover the matter. The Supreme Court might give some thought to convening itself as a special Court of Equity, on the special point of whether this legislation is void for vagueness.

We indicated earlier that one word was missing in this bill of particulars. That would be needed, to expand the charge to void for intentional vagueness, an assessment which is unflinchingly direct. It suggests that somewhere in at least this year's contentious processes, either the Executive Branch or the officers of the congressional majority party , or both, intended to achieve the latitude of imprecision, that is, to do as it pleased. Anyone who supposes the general run of congressmen voluntarily surrendered such latitude in the Health and Finance legislation, has not been watching much television. Given the present vast quantity of annually proposed legislation, roughly 25,000 bills each session, the passage of a small amount of vague legislation might only justify voiding individual laws, whereas an undue amount of it might additionally justify a reprimand. However, engineering laws which are deliberately vague, might rise to the level of impeachment.

Franklin Teaches Investing to Boston and Philadelphia

{Benjamin Franklin}
Benjamin Franklin

CODICIL: I, Benjamin Franklin, in the foregoing or annexed last will and testament named, having further considered the same, do think proper to make and publish the following codicil or addition thereto.

It having long been a fixed political opinion of mine, that in a democratical state there ought to be no offices of profit, for the reasons I had given in an article of my drawing in our constitution, it was my intention when I accepted the office of President, to devote the appointed salary to some public uses. Accordingly, I had already, before I made my will in July last, given large sums of it to colleges, schools, building of churches, etc.; and in that will I bequeathed two thousand pounds more to the State for the purpose of making the Schuylkill navigable. But understanding since that such a work, and that the project is not likely to be undertaken for many years to come, and having entertained another idea, that I hope may be more extensively useful, I do hereby revoke and annul that bequest, and direct that the certificates I have for what remains due to me of that salary be sold, towards raising the sum of two thousand pounds sterling, to be disposed of as I am now about to order.

It has been an opinion, that he who receives an estate from his ancestors is under some kind of obligation to transmit the same to their posterity. This obligation does not lie on me, who never inherited a shilling from any ancestor or relation. I shall, however, if it is not diminished by some accident before my death, leave a considerable estate among my descendants and relations. The above observation is made as merely as some apology to my family for making bequests that do not appear to have any immediate relation to their advantage.

I was born in Boston, New England, and owe my first instructions in literature to the free grammar schools established there. I have, therefore, already considered these schools in my will. But I am also under obligations to the State of Massachusetts for having, unasked, appointed me formerly their agent in England, with a handsome salary, which continued some years; and although I accidentally lost in their service, by transmitting Governor Hutchinson's letters, much more that the amount of what they gave me, I do not think that ought in the least to diminish my gratitude.

I have considered that, among artisans, good apprentices are most likely to make good citizens, and, having myself been bred to a manual art, printing, in my native town, and afterwards assisted to set up my business in Philadelphia by kind loans of money from two friends there, which was the foundation of my fortune, and all the utility in life that may be ascribed to me, I wish to be useful even after my death, if possible, in forming and advancing other young men, that may be serviceable to their country in both these towns. To this end, I devote two thousand pounds sterling, of which I give one thousand thereof to the inhabitants of the town of Boston, in Massachusetts, and the other thousand to the inhabitants of the city of Philadelphia, in trust, to and for the uses, intents, and purposes herein after mentioned and declared.

The said sum of one thousand pounds sterling, if accepted by the inhabitants of the town of Boston, shall be managed under the direction of the selectmen, united with the ministers of the oldest Episcopalians, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches in that town, who are to let out the sum upon interest, at five per cent, per annum, to such young married artificers, under the age of twenty-five years, as have served an apprenticeship in the said town, and faithfully fulfilled the duties required in their indentures, so as to obtain a good moral character from at least two respectable citizens, who are willing to become their sureties, in a bond with the applicants, for the repayment of the moneys so lent, with interest, according to the terms hereinafter prescribed; all which bonds are to be taken for Spanish milled dollars, or the value thereof in current gold coin; and the managers shall keep a bound book or books, wherein shall be entered the names of those who shall apply for and receive the benefits of this institution, and of their sureties, together with the sums lent, the dates, and other necessary and proper records respecting the business and concerns of this institution. And as these loans are intended to assist young married artificers in setting up their business, they are to be proportioned by the discretion of the managers, so as not to exceed sixty pounds sterling to one person, nor to be less than fifteen pounds; and if the number of appliers so entitled should be so large as that the sum will not suffice to afford to each as much as might otherwise not be improper, the proportion to each shall be diminished so as to afford to every one some assistance. These aids may, therefore, be small at first, but, as the capital increases by the accumulated interest, they will be more ample. And in order to serve as many as possible in their turn, as well as to make the repayment of the principal borrowed more easy, each borrower shall be obliged to pay, with the yearly interest, one tenth part of the principal and interest, so paid in, shall be again let out to fresh borrowers.

And, as it is presumed that there will always be found in Boston virtuous and benevolent citizens, willing to bestow a part of their time in doing good to the rising generation, by superintending and managing this institution gratis, it is hoped that no part of the money will at any time be dead, or be diverted to other purposes, but be continually augmenting by the interest; in which case there may, in time, be more that the occasions in Boston shall require, and then some may be spared to the neighbouring or other towns in the said State of Massachusetts, who may desire to have it; such towns engaging to pay punctually the interest and the portions of the principal, annually, to the inhabitants of the town of Boston.

If this plan is executed, and succeeds as projected without interruption for one hundred years, the sum will then be one hundred and thirty-one thousand pounds; of which I would have the managers of the donation to the town of Boston then lay out, at their discretion, one hundred thousand pounds in public works, which may be judged of most general utility to the inhabitants, such as fortifications, bridges, aqueducts, public buildings, baths, pavements, or whatever may make living in the town more convenient to its people, and render it more agreeable to strangers resorting thither for health or a temporary residence. The remaining thirty-one thousand pounds I would have continued to be let out on interest, in the manner above directed, for another hundred years, as I hope it will have been found that the institution has had a good effect on the conduct of youth, and been of service to many worthy characters and useful citizens. At the end of this second term, if no unfortunate accident has prevented the operation, the sum will be four millions and sixty one thousand pounds sterling, of which I leave one million sixty one thousand pounds to the disposition of the inhabitants of the town of Boston, and three millions to the disposition of the government of the state, not presuming to carry my views farther.

All the directions herein given, respecting the disposition and management of the donation to the inhabitants of Boston, I would have observed respecting that to the inhabitants of Philadelphia, only, as Philadelphia is incorporated, I request the corporation of that city to undertake the management agreeably to the said directions; and I do hereby vest them with full and ample powers for that purpose. And, having considered that the covering a ground plot with buildings and pavements, which carry off most of the rain and prevent its soaking into the Earth and renewing and purifying the Springs, whence the water of wells must gradually grow worse, and in time be unfit for use, as I find has happened in all old cities, I recommend that at the end of the first hundred years, if not done before, the corporation of the city Employ a part of the hundred thousand pounds in bringing, by pipes, the water of Wissahickon Creek into the town, so as to supply the inhabitants, which I apprehend may be done without great difficulty, the level of the creek being much above that of the city, and may be made higher by a dam. I also recommend making the Schuylkill completely navigable. At the end of the second hundred years, I would have the disposition of the four million and sixty one thousand pounds divided between the inhabitants of the city of Philadelphia and the government of Pennsylvania, in the same manner as herein directed with respect to that of the inhabitants of Boston and the government of Massachusetts.

It is my desire that this institution should take place and begin to operate within one year after my decease, for which purpose due notice should be publickly given previous to the expiration of that year, that those for whose benefit this establishment is intended may make their respective applications. And I hereby direct my executors, the survivors or survivor of them, within six months after my decease, to pay over the sum of two thousand pounds sterling to such persons as shall be duly appointed by the Selectmen of Boston and the corporation of Philadelphia, to receive and take charge of their respective sums, of one thousand pounds each, for the purposes aforesaid.

Considering the accidents to which all human affairs and projects are subject in such a length of time, I have, perhaps, too much flattered myself with a vain fancy that these dispositions, if carried into execution, will be continued without interruption and have the effects proposed. I hope, however, that if the inhabitants of the two cities should not think fit to undertake the execution, they will, at least, accept the offer of these donations as a mark of my good will, a token of my gratitude, and a testimony of my earnest desire to be useful to them after my departure.

I wish, indeed, that they may both undertake to endeavour the execution of the project, because I think that, though unforeseen difficulties may arise, expedients will be found to remove them, and the scheme be found practicable. If one of them accepts the money, with the conditions, and the other refuses, my will then is, that both Sums be given to the inhabitants of the city accepting the whole, to be applied to the same purposes, and under the same regulations directed for the separate parts; and, if both refuse, the money of course remains in the mass of my Estate, and is to be disposed of therewith according to my will made the Seventeenth day of July, 1788.


And lastly, it is my desire that this, my present codicil, be annexed to, and considered as part of, my last will and testament to all intents and purposes.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this twenty-third day of June, Anno Domini one thousand Seven hundred and eighty nine.

B. Franklin.

Sad Aftermath

Extracted from a printed Report of the Committee of Legacies and Trusts, made in the Common Council of Philadelphia April 27th, 1837, by Mr. John Thomason, chairman of the Committee.

"From official returns, it appears, that up to the 1st of January, 1837, the fund has been borrowed by one hundred and ninety-three individuals, in sums mostly of $ 260 each. At that date, the fund was in the hands of one hundred and twelve beneficiaries, of whom nineteen have paid neither principal nor interest, although the accounts of some of them have been open for a period of thirty-four years. Ninety other persons stand indebted in sums from $ 21 to $ 292; and three, having borrowed within the year, were not, at the last-mentioned date, liable to any demand by the trustees. Of these one hundred and nine cases of non-compliance with the terms of the will, fifty-eight bonds may be subject to a plea of the statute of limitation, and the rest are still valid. In this condition of the fund, it becomes difficult to estimate its present value. Should all the debts be recovered, the amount of the fund would be $ 23,627.09; but, from the length of time elapsed since the date of many of those bonds, such a result is hopeless; and even this latter sum, large as it is, is below the amount it would have attained at this time had the intentions of the testator been fully carried out. The original bequest of $4,444.44, at compound interest for forty-five years, would be $ 39,833.29 ; and, although the immediate conversion of interest into principal, as the former becomes due, is not always practicable, yet it is believed, that, with careful management, the fund would, at this time, have lacked but little of that amount. How far the fund falls short, may be partly judged from the actual receipts on account of this legacy for the last ten years. During that time the sum of $ 16,191.92 has been paid in. As this period included the term for lending out, and receiving back with interest, the whole fund, the receipts within that term may be taken as a safe approximation to its real value; to which must be added the sum to be obtained through the enforcing of payment, by legal process, from such securities as may be good at this late day. Had the fund been placed at simple interest, it would have amounted to the last-mentioned sum by this time.

"Had the requirements of the will been, in former years, fully complied with, the operation of the fund, at this day, would be sensibly felt by the mechanics of Philadelphia. Passing from one borrower to another, and increasing in a compound ratio, its effect would be to stimulate useful industry, which, without such capital, would have remained unproductive. It would have increased the number of those who do business on their own stock. It would be a standing lesson on the immutable connexion between capital and productive industry, thus constantly inciting to economy and prudence. It would have become the reward of every faithful apprentice, who could look forward to a participation in its benefit. It is deeply to be regretted, that this state of things, which had so captivated the imagination of Franklin that he devoted a portion of his hard-earned wealth to realize it for the mechanics of Philadelphia, should, in the emphatic language of his will, prove 'a vain fancy. ' "

By this statement it would seem, that there had been at some time a remarkable want of fidelity in administering the trust, especially in allowing so large a number of bonds to become worthless by the statute of limitation, and neglecting to make seasonable- demands upon the sureties.

Appended to the same report is a letter from Mr. William Minot, treasurer of the Franklin Fund in Boston, dated December 23d, 1836, which contains the following state, of the fund in that city.

"The whole number of loans from this Fund," Mr. Minot says, " from May, 1791, to the present time, has been 255, in sums varying from 70 to $ 266 up to the year 1800, since which time they have usually been 200.

"From July, 1811, to the present time, the number of loans has been 91, of which 50, at least have been repaid (in whole or in part) by sureties, and on four of these are balances which cannot be collected, both principals and sureties being insolvent.

"Dr. Franklin's donation was Pound 1,000 sterling. The present value of the Fund, is as follows;

"Estimate of 13 bonds, considered good, 1,428.68 "Amount deposited, on interest, in the office of the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, 22,739.00 Cash in the hands of the Treasurer 158.15


"It is apparent, from these facts, that the benevolent intentions of the donor have not been realized, and that, in the present condition of our country, it is not advantageous to married mechanics, under the age of twenty four years, to borrow money to be repaid in easy instalments, at a low rate of interest; and the improvidence of early marriages, among that class of men, may fairly be inferred.

"The great number of instances, in which sureties have been obliged to pay the loans, has rendered it not so easy, as formerly, for applicants to obtain the required security. This is proved by the small number of loans from the fund, averaging for the last five years, not more than one a year.

"Until within the last twenty years, no great care was taken in accumulating the fund. It is now carefully attended to; and money not required for actual use is placed in the Life Insurance Company, where it increases at the rate of about five an d one third per cent a year.

"The loans are made at the rate of five per cent, but, on instalments past due, six per cent is charged, from the time they were payable, and the bonds of delinquents are put in suit after reasonable notice. Two sureties, at least, are required on each bond."

According to the treasurer's return on the lot of January, 1840, the amount of the fund in Boston was at that time as follows.

Deposited in the Life Insurance office, 26,595.64

Bonds for Loans 1,846.35 $28,441.99

Net Neutrality and Vertical Integration
Late Hour Calls

My fancy new cell phone has an annoying habit of ringing a bell every time an e-mail arrives, which is a little puzzling when it rings in the middle of the night. The email program displays time of arrival, so after a while I took the trouble to see who was emailing me at 4 AM. It seems to be spam, and other commercial programs, but it is also an occasional letter with a large attachment, which had been sent several hours earlier. At this, a light began to go on in my head.

I had been told the internet measures the size of files, and puts big ones at the end of the queue. That seemed to explain the occasional delayed transmission of ultra-large emails at times of heavy internet traffic. And it brings up the issue of net neutrality. If the traffic in large files grows enough, it might eventually clog the wires and bring things to a halt. The internet providers would have to spend money to build additional capacity, and it only seems fair to charge the big users more for the costs they have created. That would seem a reasonable technological argument for allowing the networks to impose differential pricing, and for overturning the idea of net neutrality.

{Comcast and NBC}
Comcast and NBC

Unfortunately, it might or might not be a sincere argument for resisting net neutrality, since there are major commercial issues at stake as well. For example, Comcast is trying to purchase NBC; its motives are clarified by remembering that a few years ago it tried to purchase Walt Disney. In both cases, a common carrier would be acquiring a "content provider", and thus acquiring a competitive advantage over competitive internet network providers who lack a captive source of content. A strong temptation would exist to slant the internet charges to the disadvantage of other competitors, thus providing a motive to get involved in insincere arguments about net neutrality. What we seem to have here is a familiar antitrust legal doctrine of "vertical integration". For years, vertical integration was prohibited, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that prohibition a few years ago, in the case of State Oil v. Kahn. Lewis van Dusen and I had been in the audience of the State Oil arguments, because of our interest in the implications of vertical integration for the medical profession (doctors versus hospitals, for example).

{Curtis Publishing}
Curtis Publishing

Although the example of Curtis Publishing was not introduced into the arguments of State Oil versus Kahn, it was much in my mind and might well have been used effectively to demonstrate the vulnerability of any corporation which attempts to become vertically integrated by purchasing its suppliers and/or distributors. Curtis Publishing, a few blocks from my office, had been a successful magazine publisher, so successful that it had enough profits to buy Canadian forests to use for paper pulp in its magazines. The outcome was the bankruptcy of the profitable magazine company when the paper pulp business fell on hard times. No antitrust action to prohibit vertical integration was necessary; the dismal fate of Curtis and similar integrators stood as an effective restraint on anyone else who was tempted to get into the vertical integration business. That may be a little hard to follow, and it took the Supreme Court many years to get to that point. But the fact remains that vertical integration is no longer illegal, because it is effectively restrained by recognition of its dangers.

So, if we are getting into the insincere argument business, it is time for someone to put his arm around the shoulders of Comcast. Let's whisper that avoidance of the net neutrality dispute is kindly advice, offered solely for Comcast's own good.

{Comcast Center}
Comcast Center

And, having gone this far in poking into other people's business, there might be some value in giving some advice to the antitrust lawyers. This sort of case can take years, even decades, to evolve through the legal system. And while its resolution will be phrased in legal terms, I'm not so sure that's sincere, either. It takes me back to the IBM case, where one of the junior lawyers was courting one of my daughters. This young fellow sat for months in front of a microphone at a deposition, doing nothing but read documents into the record. Although he was handsomely paid, the lawyer finally got so sick of the boring futility of dictating a mountain of transcript no one would ever read, into a microphone in an empty room, that he quit. And in the opinion of observers on the courthouse steps, the case was finally determined by the Judge's decision that the patent infringement business was trivial compared with the fact that IBM was mass-producing the greatest innovation of the century -- and the patent-infringement people were just getting in the road.

That may or may not have been the case, but it raises the question of whether antitrust law is wisely based when it considers, not the welfare of competitors, but the strength and vitality of competition itself. What might thus be considered paramount, and perhaps occasionally is so, is the economic welfare of the nation. At present, the newspapers regard this issue as a fight between Netflix and Comcast, and so are now free to devote news attention to other matters. I don't think so. I believe it directly challenges the operation of the Law, which contends that vertical integration eventually takes care of itself. To me, that is only true if circumstances give us enough time to wait it out. In the long run, as Maynard Keynes quipped, we are all dead.

Do Computers Thrive on Lead Poisoning?

{Get the Lead Out}
Get the Lead Out

At a local outlet of a well-known chain of computer stores, the geek told me that small computer towers don't last as long as big-box desktops, perhaps only three years compared with the old five-year lifespan. And that's because they get hotter. Which is because they run faster than they used to, and also because a federal regulation prohibiting the use of lead in soldering joints makes the wiring wear out sooner. By the time he was done explaining things to me, I was ready to run out and join the local political Tea Party. Because I don't think it's very likely that toddler children will be eating my solder very soon, or even ever. And indeed, I have trouble imagining any children anywhere in the world ever nibbling on computer innards, even once. Maybe the concern is that the heat will vaporize the lead, and little children crawling on the floor will inhale lead vapor, getting lead poisoning that way. While that may be somewhat more plausible than eating computer parts, or eating vegetables grown in the neighborhood of trash disposal, or breathing the air full of lead fumes -- it doesn't really seem very plausible at all.

It is generally reckoned that 835 million computers world-wide were manufactured in 2010. If they cost an average of $500 apiece, and lasted 40% less long than if they used lead solder, the world would end up buying 300 million additional computers per year, conservatively spending $1.5 billion more dollars a year to do so. Are the dangers of lead poisoning so threatening that such a cost is justified on a hypothetical basis? The people who do the soldering are possibly at somewhat greater risk, but you could buy a lot of masks and air purifiers for the extra cost for computers alone. Can this possibly be true?

Is it possible that the geek in the computer store is just selling warranty insurance, or more expensive computers when he passes on this news? Is it possible that the makers of fumes ventilators are promoting their products in this way? How about the plaintiff trial lawyers. Are they calculating that frenzied citizens will wander into jury duty and be concerned to punish the evil makers of computers with gigantic penalties, of which the lawyers will get 40%? Or the makers of cool computer boxes are competing indirectly with the evil makers of hot computer boxes?

This article ends with a comment section. Those who can offer references to the facts in this case, are urged to send them in. Something in this story doesn't stand the light of day, and perhaps a way can be found to shine a little light of day on the facts.

Adrift With The Living Constitution

{Senator Joe Setak}
Senator Joe Sestak

Former Congressman Joe Sestak visited the Franklin Inn Club recently, describing his experiences with the Tea Party movement. Since Senator Patrick Toomey, the man who defeated him in the 2010 election, is mostly a Libertarian, and Senator Arlen Specter who also lost has switched parties twice, all three candidates in the Pennsylvania senatorial election displayed major independence from party dominance, although in different ways. Ordinarily, gerrymandering and political machine politics result in a great many "safe" seats, where a representative or a Senator has more to fear from rivals in his own party than from his opposition in the other party; this year, things seem to be changing in our area. Pennsylvania is somehow in the vanguard of a major national shift in party politics, although it is unclear whether a third party is about to emerge, or whether the nature of the two party system is about to change in some other way.

For his part, Joe Sestak (formerly D. Representative from Delaware County) had won the Democratic senatorial nomination against the wishes of the party leaders, who had previously promised the nomination to incumbent Senator Specter in reward for Specter's switching from the Republican to Democratic party. For Vice-Admiral Sestak, USN (ret.) it naturally stings a little that he won the nomination without leadership support, but still came reasonably close to winning the general election without much enthusiasm within his party. He clearly believes he would have beaten Toomey if the party leaders had supported him. It rather looks as though the Democratic party leadership would rather lose the election to the Republicans than lose control of nominations, which are their real source of power. Controlling nominations is largely a process of persuading unwelcome contenders to drop out of the contest. Sestak is therefore making a large number of thank-you visits after the election, and clearly has his ears open for signs of what the wandering electorate might think of his future candidacy.
Senator Patrick Toomey

America clearly prefers a two-party system to both the dictatorial tendencies of a one-party system, as well as to European multi-party arrangements, such as run-offs or coalitions. A two-party system blunts the edges of extreme partisanship, eventually moving toward moderate candidates in the middle, in order to win a winner-take-all election. Therefore, our winner-take-all rules are the enforcement mechanism for a two-party system. Our deals and bargains are made in advance of the election, where the public can express an opinion. In multi-party systems the deals are made after the election where the public can't see what's going on, and such arrangements are historically unstable, sometimes resulting in a victory by a minority fringe with violently unpopular policies. In our system, a new third-party mainly serves as a mechanism for breaking up one of the major parties, to reformulate it as a two-party system with different composition. Proportional representation is defended by European politicians as something which promotes "fairness". Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to find anything in politics anywhere which is sincerely devoted to fairness.

Going far back in history one of the great theorists of legislative politics was the Roman Senator Pliny the Younger, who wrote books in Latin about how to manipulate a voting system. For him, parties were only temporary working arrangements about individual issues, a situation where he recommended "insincere voting" as a method for winning a vote even if you lacked a majority in favor of it. Over the centuries, other forms of party coalitions have emerged in nations attempting to make democracy workable. Indeed, a "republic" itself can be seen as a mechanism devised for retaining popular control in an electorate grown too large for the chaos and unworkability of pure town hall democracy. A republic is a democracy which has been somewhat modified to make it workable. Our founding fathers knew this from personal experience, and never really considered pure democracy even in the Eighteenth century.

{Senator Specter}
Senator Specter

The two main actors in shaping the American Republic were George Washington and James Madison. Madison was young, scholarly and largely unknown; Washington was old, famous, and insecure about his lack of academic political education. Both of them knew very well that if Washington really wanted something he was going to have it; what mainly restrained him was fear of looking foolish. But he hated partisanship and conniving, partly as a result of having been the victim of General Mifflin and the Conway Cabal. Washington hated political parties and anything resembling them; Madison was young and uncertain, and briefly surrendered the point. It took about two years of real-life governing for Madison to conclude that political parties were absolutely essential to getting something accomplished. In this he experienced for the first time those unwelcome "pressures from the home state", with Thomas Jefferson determined to thwart Alexander Hamilton, and Patrick Henry thundering and denouncing any hesitation in going for the jugular vein of opponents. Madison was deeply concerned with making his new nation a success, and eventually joined Jefferson in the Virginia policy of opposing banks, cities and manufacturing. When Washington saw that Madison was committed to this course, he never spoke to him again. For Washington, honesty was always the best policy, and personal honor is never regained once it is lost. The compromise of 1790 was particularly vexing to their relationship, when Washington's honor and personal finances were used as bargaining chips for moving the nation's capital opposite Mount Vernon on the Potomac River, in return for placating Hamilton and Robert Morris with the assumption of state revolutionary war debts.

Henry Clay 1811

Legislative partisan politics took a violent turn in 1811, when 34-year old Henry Clay was elected to his first term as member of the House of Representatives. The Senate was less prestigious than the House in those days, and Clay had spent his time as a senator studying the landscape of the House, before he made his big move upward. Up until that moment, the role of Speaker was that of mediator and administrator of the rules, partisanship was considered a shameful thing in a Speaker. Young Clay was elected Speaker on the first day of the first session after he moved to the House as a member. Seniority was brushed aside, and this newcomer took over. It takes only a moment's reflection to surmise that a lot of politics had taken place before the House convened. Not only that, but Clay immediately added the power of the Speaker to appoint committee chairmen, to the invisible powers of majority leader. The office of majority leader had not yet been created, but it was not long in emerging that anyone who could assemble enough votes for Speaker was also able to make highly partisan choices for Committee Chairs. Eventually, the seniority system was imposed in part as a reaction to perceived abuses of Speaker power. It is worth a digression to reflect on the role of any seniority system, which as it is clearly seen in labor-management industrial relations, serves to deprive management of promotion power, usually substituting seniority for selection by merit. In the case of the Speaker, the seniority system catapults the power of the Speaker over that of every member of his caucus. To rise in a seniority system for committee chairmen, a member must first be appointed to a desirable committee -- by the Speaker, or by his instructed favorites on the appointment committee. It puts in the hands of the Speaker or his agents the power to humiliate a member by ignoring his seniority; the other members know immediately what that means. To understand the power of this threat, reflect on Woodrow Wilson's famous observation that "Congress in committee, is Congress at work."

Soon after Henry Clay made his dramatic moves, Martin van Buren extended the idea of partisan party politics to the actual election of Congressmen. Much of the whoopla and deceptiveness of subsequent campaigns was invented by Andrew Jackson's vice president. And that included their own deal, in which van Buren worked for Jackson's election in return for a promise that he would be the successor President. After that came the election of 1848, in which William Henry Harrison was elected as a man born in a log cabin. When, in fact he had been born in one of the largest mansions in Virginia. That had been approximately George Washington's residence description, too, but it is hard to see Old Stone Face lowering himself to accept any office unless it was offered unanimously.

Compare that with the campaign financing episode which created the urban political machine. The Philadelphia traction king Wm. L. Elkins was narrowly concerned with building street car lines along with his business associate P.A.B. Widener; Widener had been a city politician before he got into street cars. One or the other of these two approached the Mayor of Philadelphia with the complaint that it interfered with building street car lines to have to bribe every bartender on every street corner. So he made a proposal. It wasn't the money that bothered him, because he could just raise trolley fares to cover it, it was the protracted delays. So, how would it be if the trolley company just delivered a big lump-sum bribe to the mayor. That would give enormous political power to the party boss through the power to distribute or withhold the boodle to party workers. And it would save the trolley company lots of time, while not costing any more than the "retail graft" system. Since then, just about every urban political machine in the country has been largely financed through the macing of utilities.

The downward trend of serial modifications to the Philadelphia Constitution of 1787, should be clear enough without further illustration. If the Tea Parties aren't mad about it, they should be. More likely, however, they are mainly mad about the modern pinacle of sly tinkerings, plainly displayed on TV during the enactment of the Obama Health Bill. The point was repeated for emphasis in the Dodd-Frank financial bill, in case it is ever claimed to have been accidental. In both cases, 2000 page bills were prepared out of sight, and thrust before the Congress with orders to enact them in four hours. If that's representative government, perhaps we ought to go back to having a King.

Fort Wilson: Philadelphia 1779
James Wilson

OCTOBER 4, 1779. The British had conquered then abandoned Philadelphia; order was still only partially restored. Joseph Reed was President of the Continental Congress, inflation ("Not worth a Continental") was rampant, and food shortages were at near-famine levels because of self-defeating price controls. In a world turned upside down, Charles Willson Peale the painter was leader of a radical group of admirers of Rousseau the French anarchist, called the Constitutionalist Party, leaning in the bloody direction actually followed by the French Revolution in 1789. Peale was quick to admit he had no clue what to do with his leadership position, and soon resigned it in favor of painting portraits of the wealthy. Others had deserted the occupied city, and many had not yet returned. The Quakers of the city hunkered down, more or less adhering to earlier instruction from the London Yearly Meeting to stay away from any politics involving war taxes. About two hundred militia roamed the city streets making trouble for anyone they could plausibly blame for the breakdown of civil order. Philadelphia was as close to anarchy as it would ever become; the focus of anger was against the pacifist Quakers, the rich merchants, and James Wilson the lawyer.
Fort Wilson

Wilson had enraged the radicals by defending Tories in court, much as John Adams got in trouble for defending British troops involved in the Boston Massacre; Ben Franklin advised Wilson to leave town. It is still possible to walk the full extent of the battle of Fort Wilson in a few minutes, and the tourist bureau has marked it out. Begin with the Quaker Meeting at Fourth and Arch. A few wandering militiamen caught Jonathan Drinker, Thomas Story, Buckridge Sims, and Matthew Johns emerging from the Quaker church, and rounded them up as prisoners. The Quakers were marched down the street for uncertain purposes when the militia encountered a group of prominent merchants emerging from the City Tavern. Unlike the meek Quakers, Robert Morris and John Cadwalader the leader of the City Troop ordered the militia to release the prisoners, behave themselves, and disperse; Timothy Matlack shouted orders. It was exactly the wrong stance to take, and about thirty prominent citizens were soon driven to retreat to the large brick house of James Wilson, at the corner of Third and Walnut, known forever afterward as Fort Wilson. Doors were barred, windows manned, and Fort Wilson was soon surrounded by an armed, shouting, mob. Lieutenant Robert Campbell leaned out a third story window, and was soon dropped dead by a lucky bullet. It remains in dispute whether or not he fired first. Crowbars were sought, the back door forced open, but the angry attackers scattered after fusillades from inside.
Joseph Reed

Down the street came President Reed on horseback, ordering the militia to disperse, with Timothy Matlack at his side; both men were well-known radicals, here switching sides to maintain law and order. The City Troop arrived, an order was given the cavalry to Assault Every Armed Man. The radicals were finally dispersed by this makeshift cavalry charge, cutting and slashing its way through the dazed militia. When it was over, five defenders were dead and about twenty wounded. Among the militia the casualties were heavier, but inaccurately reported. Robert Morris took James Wilson in hand and retreated to his mansion at Lemon Hill; Wilson was the founder of America's first law school. Among other defenders huddled in Fort Wilson were some of the future framers of the Constitution from Pennsylvania: General Thomas Mifflin, Wilson, Morris, George Clymer. Equally important was the deep impression left on radical leaders like Reed and Matlack, and Henry Laurens, who could see how close the whole war effort was to dissolution, for lack of firm contol. Inflation continued but the conter-productive price control system was abandoned and never revived; the patriots had a bad scare, and the heedless radicals forced to confront the potentially disastrous consequences of their own amateur performance when entrusted with the power and responsibility they had just been demanding. It was one of those rare moments in a nation's history when the way suddenly opens to previously unthinkable actions.

Timothy Matlack

The Battle of Fort Wilson was the only Revolutionary War battle fought within Philadelphia city limits; a revolution within a revolution, every participant was a Rebel patriot. Reed and Matlack were the two most visibly appalled by the whole uproar, forced by circumstances to attack the forces of their own political persuasion. But it seems very certain that Robert Morris and the other prosperous idealists were also left with an indelible conviction that even a confederation must maintain central command and discipline with an iron will, or all might be lost. A knowledgable French observer estimated that Robert Morris then owned assets worth eight million dollars, an almost unimaginable sum for the time. But he would lose every penny if effective political control could not be restored. A few days later in the October election, he and all the other Republican (conservative) officials lost their seats. It did not matter; Morris then knew what to do, and his opposition didn't.

Father of the Bureaucracy

{Robert Morris}
Robert Morris

UNDER the Articles of Confederation, America had a President who presided, but there was no executive branch for him to do anything administrative. The day to day business of the nation was conducted by committees of Congress, who mainly contracted out the actual work. Evidently, Robert Morris the businessman had observed this system with displeasure, because it only took him a few days to replace it with departmental employees, reporting to him. The affairs of the nation were evidently in such disarray that there is scarcely any recorded resistance to this astonishing re-arrangement, probably viewed as only one of a series of brisk actions by this foremost businessman of the nation, acting in an emergency and to some extent using his own money. Furthermore, the immediate administrative improvement was apparently so obvious to everyone that the system continued after Morris left office, and was absorbed into the 1787 Constitution without much recorded debate. Without dissent, as we say, the bureaucracy had been created. As the press of business steadily increased the bureaucracy, from a handful of employees to many millions of them, a fourth branch of government was created without any Constitutional mission statement, not one single word. Following directions set by early America's preeminent no-nonsense businessman, control of the bureaucracy was placed within the Executive branch, in time largely located within the District of Columbia, and governed by rules made by the Civil Service Commission. Sometimes this fourth and largest branch of government skirts dangerously close to encouraging insubordination to their politically appointed superiors.

For some reason, the State Department is particularly suspected of such "Yes, Minister" behavior. Increasingly, government subcontractors are relied upon ("privatization"), as growth of public sector work forces a return to the subcontractor approach of two centuries earlier; such subcontractors increasingly find the bureaucracy assumes the role of a second Board of Directors. And for the same reason as before: the work of the central government keeps increasing. At a state and local level, an uncomfortable amount of political funding can be traced to utilities and other corporations who have been awarded legal monopolies, uncomfortably like the mercantilism which our colonist ancestors had found so repugnant to deal with. In the 21st Century we are finally approaching the point where we can foresee the number of people working for some level of government becoming greater than the number of voting citizens, and therefore able to control their income and the nature of their work. When the bureaucracy begins to exert political election power over its elected superiors, elected politicians are almost certain to rebel at what they will surely see as going a step too far. However, on the topic of salary and work environment, they are likely to become allies. Public discontent is already echoed in the growing political movement to limit or shrink the size of government; it would be well to examine and pilot test alternative options, before this one gets us into trouble.

In retrospect, this was one of many features of creating the three branches of government where broader implications went unnoticed in 1787. The British government had three branches, King, Parliament and Judiciary. To create a government consisting of a President, a Congress, and a Judiciary did not then seem like much of a departure. However, the Revolution deposed the King and made the people sovereign. When the real implications of that breezy slogan had to be translated into legislative language serious implications emerged, unexpected then, and now hard to change.

Reconsidering All Our Laws

{Common Law}
Common Law

A KING who conquers a new country theoretically gains the chance to revise all its laws. However thousands of years of experience demonstrate that those who are good at wielding the sword seldom have much interest in, or aptitude for, devising a legal code. Napoleon seems to have been an exception, and Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle, but most conquerers have been illiterate in the law. Therefore, earlier conquerors merely extended their native laws into additional territory, or else left the whole business to a permanent priesthood of judges. In this way, an independent judiciary could survive unless, like Thomas a Becket or Thomas More, it grew stubborn about thwarting the wishes of the King. The concept of citizen rights more or less defined feasible limits to what the King was allowed to do. British law went still further, distinguishing between rights of the people and rights of the sovereign. It identified those few things even a King was not allowed to do, as well as those many things he alone must be able to do in order to govern. The latter were collectively called the King's Prerogative. Today, we would call it a job description.

{U.S. Codes}
U.S. Codes

Along those lines, the English Civil War had been fought, briefly transferring the power of Prerogative to Parliament, and incidentally clarifying some disadvantages of doing so. Americans, after fighting an eight-year Revolutionary War to be rid of a particular king, had developed a sentiment for eliminating all kings entirely. However, the memory of the English Civil War and subsequent abuses by the Cromwell Parliament restrained that impulse. The alternative idea grew of transferring sovereignty to the people, to be translated into action by their elected representatives in the Legislative branch. Although such sovereignty would be unlimited, the intermediate steps taken by the Legislature could be deliberately slowed down, and particularly worrisome actions might be tangled up in complicated steps of legal process by a vocal minority. Such a complicated system required an umpire, which Chief Justice John Marshall eventually positioned the Supreme Court to be. Conducting elections every two years was a simple way to allow the people to restrain its agents from misbehavior of a more general sort. Since George Washington was confidently expected to be the first President, it was left to him to devise protections against presidential abuse, since he had notoriously and repeatedly expressed his intense dislike of kings. In modern times this system of checks and balances has only been severely tested once, in 1937. Immediately after winning a landslide re-election in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt nevertheless was slapped down hard by public outcry forcing Congress to thwart his Supreme Court-packing scheme.

{Sir Francis Bacon}
Sir Francis Bacon

Such subtle, complicated ideas cannot be implemented by writing 6000 words on a piece of paper, and they certainly cannot withstand two hundred fifty years of subsequent nit-picking by dissenters, no matter how carefully crafted the 6000 words may have been. The complexity of the political system it describes would long ago have fallen apart without a million little accommodations and revisions, just as every other nation's constitution has done during that same period of time. And that fine-tuning process was made possible by starting with a more or less blank slate, with thousands of lawyers and legislators debating every particle of common law for more than a century. In 1787 it was decided to adopt English common law as a default position, and to invite a host of legislative bodies to debate and replace any part of it with a "statute". It was a laborious process. Measured by pages of law books, the volume of statutes only grew to equal the volume of common law by the time of the Civil War. The English common law was certainly a good place to start, having been created by Sir Francis Bacon two hundred years earlier as the legal equivalent of the Scientific Method; based on real, adversarily contested case decisions, a hypothesis was created, then tested, revised, and tested again. By actual count, one state legislature only enacted three statutes in the year before the Constitution was ratified; all its other activity was concerned with adjudicating disputes within the boundaries of existing common law. But when the Constitution suddenly rearranged the balances of power in 1787, almost every sentence of common law had to be regarded as potentially requiring modification to reflect the new Constitutional rearrangements. During the first half century there existed great enthusiasm for almost all of the new Constitution except those parts which affected slavery, the fine-tuning was almost universally intended to strengthen it or repair some oversight. If it failed in some way, adversaries were quick to point out the flaws. In short, every lawyer in the nation was involved to some degree for a century in the process of re-writing the English common law for American purposes, in American circumstances, for the grander purpose of strengthening the American commonwealth.

{Federal Registry}
Federal Registry

And everyone knows what happened next. The state legislatures who considered it normal to pass fewer than a dozen laws in a year, started passing fifteen hundred in a year, and kept it up for many years. Today, almost every state legislature considers more than a thousand bills, and passes two or three hundred. Since the colonial legislatures passed few laws and spent most of its time adjudicating disputes about existing law, the character of the law changed as it gradually gave up adjudicating, stopped being like a court. The tendency of early law was to state principles to guide the judges. In recent times, our over-lawyered system specifies all imaginable conditions and exceptions in excruciating detail, so that our laws tend less and less to speak of "reasonable amounts" and more and more to define drunken driving, for example, in milligrams per deciliter of the defendant's blood. We have better measuring devices, so we measure. But who can deny that a legislature accustomed to making judgments itself, will more confidently rely upon the good judgment of courts, than a legislature which spends its time going to committee meetings to consider the testimony of experts, often never visiting a courtroom?

Our lawyers, who once enlisted the efforts of the entire profession for a century into refining the English common law into the American statutory law, are to be encouraged to extend equal effort into the process of turning off the faucet. Or possibly, having done such a good job at this assignment, seek another line of work?

Corporations: Property, but also Immortal Persons

{Proprietor House}
Proprietor House

The Proprietorship of West Jersey is the oldest stockholder corporation in America. Devised by William Penn it has been doing business in Burlington, New Jersey since 1676. The Proprietorship of East Jersey may possibly have been created slightly earlier by William Penn, but recently dissolved itself, thus leaving a clear path for West Jersey to claim to be the oldest. For a hundred years before 1776, corporations were devised by the King through royal charters, and for a century after 1776 most state legislatures passed individual laws to create each corporation, one by one. Consequently, there were a great many variations in the powers and scope of older corporations, with heavy emphasis on the purpose to which the business was limited. Eventually, so many corporations were created that a body of law called the Uniform Law of Corporations simplified the task of incorporation for the legislatures. The Proprietorships of East and West Jersey would now probably be described as real estate investment trusts (REIT), but the Uniform laws now tend to diminish the emphasis on corporate purpose. It is now common to have a corporation proclaim the ability "to do whatever it is legal to do."
Lady Justice

Many voices have been raised in opposition to corporations, largely claiming unfairness for a large and established corporation to compete with newcomers, especially small newcomers striving for the same line of business. Because of its immortality, a stockholder corporation can achieve dominance no individual could hope for, while because of its multi-stockholder ownership, it can generally raise larger amounts of capital. Moreover, because of its size and durability a corporation can become more efficient and offer the public lower prices and higher quality. As much as anything else, a corporation can generally hire more employees and pay them higher wages; as even the unions admit, corporations create jobs, jobs, jobs. No doubt, state legislatures are attracted by the tax revenue derived from major corporations, but the quickest way to stimulate the economy has repeatedly been found to grow out of lowering corporation taxes. Since there is scarcely any purpose to creating a for-profit corporation unless it eventually pays its stockholders some kind of dividend, all corporation taxes have the handicap of double-taxation for a fixed amount of business. The Republic of Ireland recently lowered its corporate tax rate severely and triggered so much new corporate activity that it inflated and destabilized its whole economy. The result was a dangerous economic crisis, but politicians privately and world-wide silently derived only one real conclusion: lower your corporate taxes if you are looking to stimulate jobs, jobs, jobs.

The corporate model of business thus looks pretty safe, in spite of envious criticism, and is what most people mean when they speak of capitalism. The Constitution had the intention of extracting Interstate Commerce for the Federal Government and leaving the regulation of every other business to state legislatures. The Roosevelt Supreme Court-Packing dispute of 1936 twisted the meaning of Interstate Commerce to mean almost all commerce, but Congress wasted no time specifically exempting the "Business of Insurance" from federal regulation and returning it to the state legislatures in the 1945 McCarran-Fergusson Act. Although the matter remains one of some dispute, it is roughly correct to say that all commerce is federally regulated, except insurance. The corporation is nevertheless usually a creation of some legislature, and legislators have wide latitude in regulating them. To illustrate, in the early days of banking corporation, the Bank of Hartford was delayed in receiving incorporation by strong legislative suggestion that a closed stockholder list would result in refusal to incorporate them, whereas opening up the list to new stockholders might result in rapid approval. The implication was strong: the legislators wanted some cheap or free stock as a condition of incorporation. The following year, 250 banks were incorporated, and the year after that, over 400 more. Macing of incorporation applicants by politicians was sharpened to a fine point in Pennsylvania in the late 19th Century, when legislatures accorded monopoly status to public utility corporations, withholding it from competitors. It is now a textbook statement that the funding of substantially all municipal political machines is derived from voluntary contributions by utilities with politically granted monopolies, who are consequently indifferent to the retail prices of their products.
John Marshall

So there is still room for public concern and vigilance, and both the courts and the Constitution protect but restrain corporations. In the early 19th Century when public opinion was becoming firmer about incorporation, it was contended they should be treated as persons, possibly resembling real persons more closely by imposing a finite life span on their charters. Although corporation entities are still to some degree treated like individuals, the legal doctrine prevailed that they are in fact contracts between the state and the stockholders. The paradox is thus defended that although legislatures can create corporations, they cannot dissolve them! After all, a contract is an agreement between two parties, and it requires both parties to agree to dissolve the agreement. And then, the final uncertainty was removed by John Marshall. The U.S. Supreme Court in the Dartmouth College case applied Article I, section 10 of the Constitution. That section provides that state governments may not pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. The Supreme Court decision written by Marshall made it clear that this provision of Constitution eliminated any distinctiveness between a contract involving a state and a contract involving two citizens. There had been a growing feeling that private property was not to be disturbed by state power, and this linkage to Article 1 affirmed that point and finally settled matters. Shares of company stock were property, protected from state legislatures as belonging to the owner and not to the state in any sense. All the while that this quality of property was established, certain features of the corporation as a person endured. Most of the attention to this point arose after the Civil War, when the mixture of concepts ( a slave was a person who was also private property) more or less applied to the institution of slavery as well. More recently, potential muddles have been created by limiting campaign contributions of corporations, thus impairing their right to free speech in the role of a person. It even appears to be true that some of the 1886 precedents were created by an error of a court reporter. The dominant precedent in operation here, would appear to a layman as, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Additional centuries including a Civil War thus encrusted conditions and traditions onto the hybrid idea of a corporation which now allow it to stand on its own feet, more or less free at last.

The legal profession can certainly be congratulated for constructing two institutions which include the majority of working Americans -- the corporation and the civil service -- without the slightest mention of either one in the Constitution. Although everything seems to be reasonably comfortable, and no one is actively proposing substitutes, it is uncomfortable to hear so much dissension about original intent of the Framers, when so much of American Law traces its history to events and institutions which the Framers never imagined. Constitutional Law, both within and without original intent, will soon be dwarfed in effect by non-constitutional accretions to it. Sooner or later, the advocates of some undefined cause could find it in their interest to challenge the Judicial system for what has been allowed to happen. Expediency has triumphed. We started with nothing but the common law (defined as law created by judicial decision), and we are slowly returning to that condition under a different name, misleadingly called statutes.

Owen Roberts: A Switch in Time
Owen Roberts

To this day, no one knows quite what to make of Owen J. Roberts, founder of one of Philadelphia's largest law firms. He was Prosecutor of the Teapot Dome scandal, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Republican appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court. But then, he abruptly became the source of one of the most radical revisions of our system of government since the Declaration of Independence. Nothing in his prior career, and nothing afterward in his subsequent civic-minded retirement from the Court, seemed to suggest any radical turn of character had taken place. He has been compared with a famous baseball pitcher who threw right-handed or left-handed at will, unexpectedly, capriciously, who knows why.

The issue went far beyond one clause in the Constitution, but the commerce clause was the focus point. Under the limited and enumerated powers allowed to Congress by the Constitution was :

The Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.

That used to be called the interstate commerce clause until the Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Wickard v. Filburn. When linked with the Tenth Amendment, granting to the States the power to regulate everything not specifically granted to the Federal government, this clause in the Constitution was universally taken to mean that the States had control of commerce within their borders, while Congress would control interstate commerce. Wickard v. Filburn took all that power from the states and gave it to Congress, which henceforth would regulate commerce. John Marshall had certainly triumphed over the hated state legislatures, but the Supreme Court suddenly lost its power to overrule Congress, too. One side had won the old argument, by silencing the umpire. No wonder Franklin Roosevelt started annual celebrations called Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners.

To describe the background: The 1929 stock market crash was quickly followed by the economic Depression of the 1930s. Nothing of this magnitude had been seen before, and there was a stampede to try new and untested solutions. Even government action which actually worsened economic conditions was felt justified if it conveyed to the frightened public the image that its leaders were taking firm action. Since Socialism and Communism were among the solutions grasped for, many unfortunate actions were felt justified as a way to control the Bolshevik threat. Many of these New Deal actions were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, since they involved sweeping revisions in the way all commerce, internal to the States as well as interstate, was conducted.

The Depression and financial panic continued through the 1936 Presidential election, which Roosevelt won in a landslide. Immediately after the start of the new term, he announced a plan to increase the number of Justices on the Supreme Court, appointing new ones more to his liking. He was at pains to point out that seven of the nine life incumbents had been appointed by Republican Presidents. This was of course the restraint intended by the Constitutional Convention, and the idea of packing the Court with new appointees was exactly what Jefferson and Jackson had tried to do.

Franklin Roosevelt

In the meantime, the case of Filburn, a dairy farmer, came up. One of the New Deal agencies had assigned him a quota of 200 bushels of wheat he could grow on the side, as part of an effort to raise wheat prices by reducing supply. Filburn had raised 400 bushels, but consumed the extra wheat for his own personal use, hardly a matter of interstate commerce. The Court had repeatedly declared laws like this to exceed the interstate commerce limitation, and were thus unconstitutional for the Congress to enact.

Well, Owen Roberts changed his position, Filburn lost his case. Forever afterward, this change of position was referred to as the switch in time, that saved nine. Since that time, the Court has rarely had the courage to rule any action of Congress unconstitutional, even though it is true that Congress promptly and resoundingly rejected the court-packing proposal.

And furthermore, the power of the state legislatures has shriveled because all commerce (except insurance and real estate) is federally regulated, with a corresponding vast increase in the size of the Federal bureaucracy, as Congress relentlessly pushes to intervene in commerce among the several states, formerly known as the Interstate Commerce clause. Franklin Roosevelt had a certain right to gloat at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners.

A few weeks before he died, Owen Roberts had all his papers burned. Apparently we will never know whether the present outcome was the result he had in mind. Since he was later the author of Alfred Barnes' will, which strenuously sought to prevent the transfer of the Barnes art collection to Philadelphia County, anything written by a lawyer can apparently be reversed by other lawyers. One would have supposed that either the Original Intent would govern, or else the the opinion of the Supreme Court on what the Constitution means, would prevail. Franklin Roosevelt showed us there is a third possibility: the President can over-rule the Court by intimidating it.

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