American Civics

Representative government in America began this week — 399 years ago

If you were at Jamestown—the tiny English settlement on the banks of the James River in Virginia—399 years ago this week, you probably would have been aware that something unusual was happening. Over in the rough-hewn, thatch-roofed church building, 22 duly elected settlers, six councilors, and their newly arrived governor, all white males, were braving the intense summer heat to attend the first meeting of the “general Assemblie.” A new English charter a year earlier had authorized formation of this first representative assembly in the dozen-year-old colony, and the new governor, Sir George Yeardley, had seen to the charter’s implementation. It was the beginning of representative democracy in America, the forerunner of our Congress, state legislatures, and other representative bodies. Planted in Virginia a year before the Mayflower arrived from England, representative government would take root firmly, blossom in 13 largely self-governing colonies, and after independence grow into the great tree of American liberty, inspiring similar plantings in much of the world. It hardly seemed like a monumental event at the time. The burgesses met for less than a week, dealt with practical concerns like setting a tobacco price floor, relations with the Indians, and some criminal cases, and then departed one man down. Mr. Shelley of Smyths Hundred grew ill and passed way from the heat. Governor Yeardley and others also fell sick but survived. Representative government is frustrating today, but at least the survival rate has improved. Next year will mark the 400th anniversary of this hugely important, if rudimentary and tragedy-laced, beginning. It will present an opportunity to reflect on how far representative democracy has come and how far it still has to go. In addition to ceremonial events, the 2019 “American Evolution” Commemoration will feature highly substantive dialogues on the challenges confronting representative democracies today.

To learn more, click on the text above.

US Citizenship Test – Could You Pass?

An important part of the application process for becoming a US citizen is passing a civics test, covering important U.S. history and government topics. There are 100 civics questions on the naturalization test. During the interview process, applicants are asked up to 10 questions and must be able to answer at least 6 questions correctly. Here is a sampling of what may be asked. How would you do? Click here and find out!

Video: Americans Don’t Know Who Washington D.C. Was Named After

If you thought that Mark Dice couldn’t top his previous videos in exposing the American public’s alarming lack of knowledge about their own country’s history, then think again – numerous beachgoers in San Diego don’t know who Washington D.C. is named after. Asked “who is our nation’s capital named after,” one African American woman responded, “Erm, OK, umm, see why you gotta ask me something like that, can I Google it?” The woman desperately searches in vain for the answer before giving up. When Dice asks the same question of another two women, one of them responds, “You have to tell us,” before admitting, “I have no idea.” Another blonde woman does actually know the answer – George Washington – but then admits that she is not sure. “I don’t really care,” she adds. A man with a surfboard states, “I’m gonna have to go with….yeah I don’t know,” before an older man gets the answer right before telling Dice that millennials are “not gonna have a clue”. Easily the most cringeworthy exchange is between Dice and a man wearing an “I (heart) DC” t-shirt. “Our nation’s capital is named after who?” asks Dice. “I don’t know, I just woke up,” responds the man, adding that he doesn’t remember where he bought his shirt. The man struggles to remember that the city is named after Washington, but then cannot recall his first name, lamenting, “It’s not coming….I’m just out of it.” “Our nation’s capital is Washington D.C. and I don’t know who it’s named after,” states another man. “Some president, I don’t know, is it you?” his girlfriend asks Dice. An older lady then tells Dice that Washington D.C. is named after “Lincoln”. Perhaps the most depressing scene comes at the end of the video when a couple on vacation from Italy immediately know the answer and then express their amazement that many Americans are completely unaware as to who their first president was or that Washington D.C. is named after him.

To see this mind-numbing video, click on the text above.  But, a word of caution..  You may lose an IQ point or two..  This is what happens when American civics aren’t taught in our public schools.

Supreme Court: “Eight Is Enough (for Now)”

To hear some on the left tell it, the Supreme Court would be hamstrung if it had to function for a year or more without a ninth justice. What to do in the event of a 4-4 tie? This would not have been viewed as a problem, however, by America’s Founders, who created a Court with an even number of justices—six. In fact, Marbury v. Madison, arguably the most important case in the Court’s 226-year history, was decided by a six-justice Court. The Constitution, of course, leaves it up to Congress to decide how many justices will serve on the Supreme Court. In 1789, Congress passed, and President Washington signed, the Judiciary Act. That law determined that the number of Supreme Court justices should be six. The Congress of that day was full of men who had been at Independence Hall two years earlier and had participated in the writing of the Constitution, so they presumably knew what they were doing. With a six-justice Court, a 3-3 opinion simply meant the Court wouldn’t overturn a lower federal court ruling but instead would let it stand (or wouldn’t alter the status quo in a case taken up by the Court as a matter of original jurisdiction). One effect of a six-person Court was that it took two-thirds of the Court (4 votes to 2) to declare unconstitutional a law duly passed by Congress or a state legislature. With a nine-person Court, 5-4 rulings are commonplace: In modern times, the trajectory of the nation has changed repeatedly on the personal whims of an Anthony Kennedy or a Sandra Day O’Connor. An even-numbered Court seems to be more conducive to judicial restraint. From February 1790, when the Court first convened in the original capital of New York City, until March 1807 (when Thomas Todd became an associate justice on the John Marshall Court after having been nominated by Thomas Jefferson), Congress didn’t change the number of justices. Marbury v. Madison was a unanimous decision by the six justices in 1803. So much for not being able to get anything done with an even number. Indeed, when Congress increased the number of justices to seven in 1807, it doesn’t seem that moving to an odd number had anything to do with it. In The Supreme Court in United States History, Charles Warren writes that the addition of a seventh justice was a function of an era when Supreme Court justices had to “ride circuit,” serving on federal circuit courts. The need for an extra justice was “impelled by the increase of business and population in the Western Districts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, and by the necessity of bringing into the Court some lawyer versed in the peculiar land laws of those States.” The left would likely respond by saying that what worked in the Founding era wouldn’t work today, but the truth is that the Court worked far better in 1790 or 1806 than it did in 1973 or 2015. Judicial review is meant only to void acts that violate, as Alexander Hamilton put it, the “manifest tenor” (obvious meaning) of the Constitution. Justices are supposed to adhere to the clear-violation standard, which holds that an act must be unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt for the Court to be justified in voiding it. Justice Antonin Scalia adhered to the clear-violation standard of constitutional review. Returning to an even number of justices, if only for a year, would offer an additional level of protection against those justices who are inclined to eschew the clear-violation standard and impose their own wills. With an even number of justices, overturning the actions of the other, more representative branches of government would require at least a two-vote margin. Not only will the Court survive just fine with an even number of justices for the next year or so, it may even do the Court some good.

Fascinating!  Thanks to Jeffrey H. Anderson for this American civics lesson, and giving us a little perspective.   🙂

Starnes: Supreme Court Justice Judge Judy?

There’s really no way to sugarcoat this, moms and dads – your recent college graduate may be dumber than dirt. A recent survey showed that nearly ten percent of recent college graduates say that television star Judith Sheindlin is on the Supreme Court. Yes, friends – our best and brightest seem to think that Judge Judy sits on the highest court in the land. Parents your child’s B.A. may in fact be a bunch of B.S. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni said their survey uncovered a “crisis in American civic education.” The ACTA describes itself as an independent organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities. Their findings reveal “that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage.” That could explain why an avowed socialist like Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money. In it’s reporting on the study US magazine reports that students could not identify the father of the U.S. Constitution or name one of our First Amendment Rights. And that could explain a why a frightening number of college students support curbing free speech. Last November Pew Research Center released a survey that showed 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 believe the government should be able to ban any speech that is offensive to minority groups. For what it’s worth, kids – the “Right to Bear Arms” has nothing to do with limbs or opposable thumbs. And that brings us to the nearly ten percent of American college kids who think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court – holding forth with Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas and the one that always falls asleep during President Obama’s speeches. I suspect some of the young people surveyed have probably been defendants in Judge Judy’s television courtroom. She said something during one recent episode that relates to our current topic of discussion. “I’m older – smarter,” she told one of the simpletons. “If you live to be a hundred twenty you’re not gonna be as smart as I am in one finger.” To be honest with you – that’s really not a bad idea – appointing Judge Judy to the highest court in the land. It seems to me they could use a good dose of commons sense in that court room. It should really not be that much of a surprise that our taxpayer-funded universities and colleges are churning out boatloads of ignoramuses. They’ve been too busy coping with micro-aggressions and finding safe spaces and making up new genders. Sigh. We’ve gone from the Greatest Generation to the stupidest. Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is “God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values.” Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

As usual…  Todd Starnes knocks it out of the park.  This explains why Bernie and Hillary are as popular with college kids as they are…  Unreal..

Tom Cotton’s Letter to Iran Gets the Constitution Right

Time for a primer on international agreements, thanks to the controversy over Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran. Joined by almost all Republican senators, the missive warned Tehran that any nuclear deal with President Obama would not last unless it went to Congress for approval: We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time. As a description of American constitutional law, Senator Cotton has it exactly right. It was as if he were just informing Iran about the text of the Constitution.

An excellent analysis, and mini lesson in American civics, by law professor John Yoo..

Opinion: Protect families and God-given rights from tyranny

America’s crises today are as dire as those the colonists faced in 1775 and Nazi-era evil. In 1775 there were 2.5 million people living in British American colonies who were nearly equally divided. One-third actively fought for independence; one-third were loyalists who supported King George; one-third were apathetic and uninvolved. Of the one-third who actively supported independence, only 85 percent, or approximately 63,000, were able-boded men. Their opposition was formidable: 40,000 British soldiers, 75,000 loyalists and 75,000 apathetic, uninvolved neighbors. Those fighting for independence were the minority. They faced greater dangers than those of the Civil War era. During the Civil War, Americans generally supported the side where they lived: the North or South. Yet, in 1775 the patriots, loyalists, and apathetic lived next door to each other — even in the same home or family. A single street in any town was the battleground for civil war with spies as neighbors. Fighting the enemy literally meant hand-to-hand combat and firing at close range mostly on one’s own property. Their struggle was insurmountable. Boston was occupied and a do-nothing unresolved delegation in Philadelphia would not act, fearful of upsetting King George. The colonial 1775 delegation was no different than what Winston Churchill said of Stanley Baldwin’s 1936 government: “a strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.” And George Washington would have none of it. Washington commissioned six ships, creating what became America’s first navy, known as “Washington’s Secret Navy.” And Washington pointed to the wisdom offered by the previous century’s political philosopher, John Locke. Everyone at the time would have understood Washington’s “Appeal to Heaven.” Locke wrote:”… where the body of the people is deprived of their right; or is under the exercise of a power without right, and have no appeal on earth, then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven.”

An outstanding lesson in American civics, and how it applies today, by Bethany Blankley!!!  Our freedoms are under assault.  As usual, click on the text to read “the rest of the story.”      🙂