Friday, February 27, 2004

The Great Deliberative Body

An excerpt from the third book in Robert Caro's phenomenal LBJ series, Master of the Senate:
“The use of the Senate,” Madison said, “is to consist in its proceeding with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” It should, he said, be “an anchor against popular fluctuations.” He drew for parallels on classical history, which, he said, “informs us of no long-lived republic which had not a Senate.” In two of the three “long-lived” republics of antiquity, Sparta and Rome, and probably in the third—Carthage (about whose governmental institutions less was known)—senators served for life. “These examples . . . when compared with the fugitive and turbulent existence of other ancient republics, [are] very instructive proofs of the necessity of some institution that will blend stability with liberty.” Thomas Jefferson had been in Paris during the Convention, serving as minister to France. When he returned, he asked George Washington over breakfast why the President had agreed to a two-house Congress. According to a story that may be apocryphal, Washington replied with his own question: “Why did you pour your tea into that saucer?” And when Jefferson answered, “To cool it,” Washington said, “Just so. We pour House legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The resolution providing for a two-house Congress was agreed to by the Constitutional Convention with almost no debate or dissent.

And to ensure that the Senate could protect the people against themselves, the Framers armored the Senate against the people.

...The Senate had been created to be independent, to stand against the tyranny of presidential power and the tides of public opinion.

Should it come down to it, I would hope that the Senate will do its job and put this silliness behind us.

And as far as the Fourteenth Amendment is concerned, it doesn't look like the states have a right to amend their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriages either.
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

1 comment:

  1. Um, as to the fourteenth amendment... Amending the constitution would constitute due process of law. The amendment would be plenty legal. Of course, it won't pass both the House and the Senate, so it isn't much of an issue anyway.