A Few Thoughts on Historical Items (Including the Constitution)

I had the opportunity to mull over some books of a historical nature.  I found them to be very interesting and possibly of some importance.  I like to learn strange historical facts, and I found a good source in a book “Topics in American History” which was published when I was five years old.  I used other books too, but this one just kind of stood out.  Let us look at the formation of the Constitution first.  Everyone says that the Constitution would be better understood if everyone could meet the framers of it and ask them questions on thorny issues.  Well, that has already been done.  James Madison was a young delegate to the formation of the Constitution, and he delivered  his notes to the people at the Constitutional Convention.

What does that have to do with what the Constitutional fathers  put into the mix?  He wrote all of the arguments in his journal, so we know what everyone said.  Suffice it to say that he kept arduous notes, with quotes from everyone, except the leader of the Convention, George Washington.  Washington was reticient.  He had little to say, probably because he did not want to be the person who framed the actual document.  Other than that, delegates were free to espouse their ideas.  And Madison wrote down exactly what they said.  So we have the written arguments that the Forefathers made on behalf of themselves and their states.

In the beginning, there was no call for a Constitution.  People were sent to Philadelphia to fix the Articles of Confederation.  No one wanted, although many saw the need for a document, to frame a Constitution.  They just wanted to fix the existing plan.  But, it became evident that this was going to be larger than that, it was going to unite the states, who saw themselves as individual nations.  Massachusetts had slavery for instance until 1802.  Each state had their own money, and there was no plan to rescind that.  They just printed their own money and gave it value.  If another state did not agree with their sense of its value they just ignored the difference or fought it out.  New Hampshire money probably was not as valuable as Massachusetts money.  Just my educated guess, but that is probably the fact.  The more established states had bigger purses.

Thus, there was a need to work over some differences, although some delegates left when they came to the conclusion that this was a convention that would make the Articles of Confederation obsolete.  Not everyone agreed, and no one had cast a vote to make a Constitution.  It is that which defined the entire meeting.  The delegates agreed with their need for a Constitution.  The people did not.

So what is our Constitution?  Well, to me, it is a series of votes on the efforts of man (and women) to solidify their place in the history of their own kind.  I often carry a copy of the Constitution because we are at a crisis point in our democracy.  If I hear an argument or point made that seems especially foreign to me, I look for the answer in the Constitution and its Amendments.  The answer is often difficult to find, but the document is cloudy enough to allow you to find a passage that seems to be geared towards an answer.  Now, back to the original book mentioned earlier.  The author describes the make up of the Electoral College.  The Electoral College is there for a purpose: the original founders thought that the great majority of the voters would be uneducated and probably unable to read or write.  They did not want these types to have something to do with electing a poorly educated man who could share his thoughts, and possibly be able to read himself, but who  can ignite a fire under the average person, who may or may not be educated.

The other reason was that the largest states could control the Presidency.  They would have the population to dictate the type of government that would take over.  The smaller states would be able, through the Electoral College, to have a say in the election that would not have been possible under a vote based on population.  Actually, the forefathers had a point.  In Jefferson’s first election to the Presidency, the average voter voted for Aaron Burr.  The vote was tied in the Electoral College and decided by the House of Representatives.  Of course, Jefferson won with enemy votes stirred up by Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton could not run for the presidency himself because the Constitution clearly stated that the President had to be a person born in the United States.  Hamilton had not been born here but he garnered the votes to swing the election to Jefferson.  Aaron Burr would become one of two Vice Presidents to openly kill a man, Hamilton became Burr’s victim.

Aaron Burr lost, but he became the Vice President because that was how the Constitution was written.  An Amendment was needed, passed during Jefferson’s term, that stated that the second-place finisher would not become the Vice President.  Aaron Burr and John Adams had  both been second-place finishers.  John Adams became President, but Aaron Burr did not and even tried to take part of the Louisiana Purchase and form a nation out of it with himself as leader.  That one did not work for Burr either.

So the Electoral College, passed because the majority of Americans could not read or write, works like this:  It is the indirect election of Presidents.  Few, but two in most of our lifetimes, have become President by winning the Electoral College.  They are George W. Bush and Donald Trump.  The author of the book states that this is one of the undemocratic features of the original Constitution.  It allows for the indirect election of a President.  There was also the indirect election of United States Senators, using the same logic about the uneducated not being important enough to vote for the Senator.  For the first one hundred years or more, the Senator was chosen by a vote of the State Legislature.

Other areas of concern included slavery.  But that is another story.  The Electoral College is equal to its number of votes in the Congress.  If New York, as an example, has 47 Congressmen and 2 Senators, then they have 49 votes in the Electoral College.  It is not a law that a member of the Electoral College must vote for the person who won their state but it is expected that the Electoral College will do just that.  They will vote for the person who won in their state’s presidential balloting.  Sometimes one or two people may choose not to vote for a winner, or a loser, but usually it comes out that way.

So, that is the story of the Electoral College, a Constitutional effort perhaps, but one that can fly in the face of the winner of the popular vote.

3 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on Historical Items (Including the Constitution)

  1. C R Krieger

    I am not sure Hamilton couldn’t have been President.
    Art 2, Clause 5, Section 1 reads:

    No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

    He was a US Citizen at the time of the Adoption of the Constitution.

    Regards — Cliff

  2. Jim Peters

    I was always under the impression that the Hamilton situation was that he had not lived long enough in the United States to be President and that he was excluded due to his famous birthplace. It never occurred to me that he did not want it. But maybe he didn’t. He was pretty busy as it was.

  3. BettyLeawn

    Icebergs breaking off Antarctica, even massive ones, do not typically concern glaciologists. But the impending birth of a new massive iceberg could be more than business as usual for the frozen continent.

    The Larsen C ice shelf, the fourth-largest in Antarctica, has attracted worldwide attention in the lead-up to calving an iceberg one-tenth of its area – or about half the area of greater Melbourne. It is still difficult to predict exactly when it will break free.

    But it’s not the size of the iceberg that should be getting attention. Icebergs calve all the time, including the occasional very large one, with nothing to worry about. Icebergs have only a tiny direct effect on sea level.

    The calving itself will simply be the birth of another big iceberg. But there is valid concern among scientists that the entire Larsen C ice shelf could become unstable, and eventually break up entirely, with knock-on effects that could take decades to play out.

    Ice shelves essentially act as corks in a bottle. Glaciers flow from land towards the sea, and their ice is eventually absorbed into the ice shelf. Removal of the ice shelf causes glaciers to flow faster, increasing the rate at which ice moves from the land into the sea. This has a much larger effect on sea level than iceberg calving does.

    While the prediction that Larsen C could become unstable is based partly on physics, it is also based on observations. Using aerial and satellite images, scientists have been able to track very similar ice shelves in the past, some of which have been seen to retreat and collapse.

    The death of an ice shelf

    The most dramatic ice shelf collapse observed so far is that of Larsen C’s neighbour to the north – the imaginatively named Larsen B. Over the course of just six weeks in 2002 the entire ice shelf splintered into dozens of icebergs. Almost immediately afterwards, the glaciers feeding into it sped up by two to six times. Those glaciers continue to flow faster to this day.

    In our new study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, we turn the clock back even further to look at the Wordie ice shelf, on the west coast of the southern Antarctic Peninsula, which began to retreat in the 1960s and eventually disappeared in January 2017.

    Over the past 20 years, observations have shown that the main glacier feeding into the Wordie ice shelf, the Fleming Glacier, has sped up and thinned. Compared with the glaciers feeding Larsen B and C, Fleming Glacier is massive: 80km long, 12km wide, and 600m thick at its front.

    We used historic aerial photographs from 1966 to create an elevation map of the Fleming Glacier, and compared it to elevation measurements from 2002 to 2015. Between 1966 and 2015 the Fleming Glacier thinned by at least 100m near the front. The thinning rate, which is the elevation change rate, rapidly increased: the thinning rate after 2008 is more than twice that during 2002 to 2008, and four times the average rates from 1966 to 2008.

    Ice flow speeds have also increased by more than 400m per year at the front since 2008. This is the largest speed change in recent years of any glacier in Antarctica. These changes all point to ice shelf collapse as the cause.

    We estimate the total glacier ice volume lost from all glaciers that feed the Wordie is 179 cubic kilometres since 1966, or 319 times the volume of Sydney Harbour. The weight of this ice moving off the land and into the ocean has caused the bedrock beneath the glaciers to lift by more than 50mm.

    Other research has suggested this lift could have acted to slow the glacier’s retreat, but it’s clear that the bedrock deformation has not stopped the ice movement speeding up. It seems the Fleming Glacier has a long way to go before it will return to a new stable state (in which snowfall feeding the glacier equals the ice flowing into the oceans).

    (Booklet printing, printing in China).

    Fifty years after the Wordie Ice Shelf began to collapse, the major feeding glaciers continue to thin and flow faster than before.

    We can’t yet predict the full consequences of the new iceberg calving from Larsen C. But if the ice shelf does begin to retreat or collapse, history tells us it is very possible that its glaciers will flow faster – making yet more sea level rise inevitable.

    Chen Zhao, PhD candidate of Antarctic Science, University of Tasmania; Christopher Watson, Senior Lecturer, Surveying and Spatial Sciences, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, and Matt King, Professor, Surveying & Spatial Sciences, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania

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