Friday, January 13, 2006

Interesting article about the Constitution

An interesting article regarding the early history of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the context of Conservative "strict constructionists" who say the Constitution somehow has to be interpreted as the Framers intended. The article makes clear that the Framers disagreed about much of it even after ratification, and engaged in political dirty tricksing over the Bill of Rights' interpretation that look familiar even today.

For a particularly enlightening and relevant discussion, scroll down to the section on the Sedition Act:

The bill was debated during heightened tensions with the French over a diplomatic dispute, and there was some concern that it might lead to war, and the Federalists used the crisis for maximum political advantage. Unfortunately, while some Federalists were arguing about the dangers of foreign agents, others were citing political statements by Republicans as the types of statements that should be punished under the Sedition Act.

The Republican’s worst fears were realized soon after the act was passed. The Federalist government of John Adams began to prosecute political opponents under the Sedition Act. A number of prominent administration critics were successfully prosecuted, among them was Republican Congressman Matthew Lyon whose crime was ridiculing President John Adams for engaging in needless pomp and ceremony. Another was Thomas Cooper who was prosecuted for writing articles stating that Adams had violated the Constitution by maintaining an army and a navy during peace time, and had interfered with the judiciary in an extradition case.

As you can see, history is now repeating itself with the Patriot Act and the NSA spying scandal.


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