Congress: Has it always been this way??

My Dear Friends and Family,

“So what is she talking about, now?”

So glad you asked. And if you thought you’d get a direct answer…fuggetaboutit!

Most know I am the 7th of 8 siblings. Of the 8 only 4 remain. The three youngest (oh, to be called youngest at 90, 88, 85) and the oldest brother of the whole clan… 101 years young with all his marbles intact.  Periodically, we check in with each other. 

A sample check in:

Sally-Jane:  Hi, Raymond, how are you?

Raymond:  Still here.

Sally-Jane:  This is a good thing.

Raymond:  It’ll do until something better comes along.

Sally-Jane:  That’s why you are still here. There is nothing better.

Raymond:  I’ll take your word for it.

Sally-Jane:  So what are you reading?

Raymond: For Liberty and Glory by James R. Gaines.  It’s about Washington, Lafayette and their Revolutions.  I am really enjoying it.

Sally-Jane:  Oh, yes, I read about it. I’d like to read it.

Raymond:  Well, I’ll send it to you when I finish it. 

Sally-Jane:  Great!

Raymond:  On second thought you better get your own copy.  At the rate I read, maybe you’ll get it before I die, maybe you won’t. 

I got my own copy. Reading it provoked the above question, “Congress. Has it always been thus?”

The Continental Congress in July of 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the former colonies of Great Britain to be independent sovereign states, declaring war on Great Britain . 

There were no political parties at the 1776 Congress. There were just 13 SOVEREIGN STATES… maybe like 13 political parties.  How were  the representatives of Massachusetts going to agree with representatives of New York, no less with representatives of South Carolina; issues of culture, geography, climate, to put self interest before common interest.  All issues combined to make their individual State legislatures vastly more important than any central government.  

Indeed, the first several Congresses after the Second Continental Congress, which was the Congress of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War were all Unicameral, That is, no political parties… just sovereign states, each one pulling in their own direction to fulfill their duties as representatives of their States.  Most representatives of the original 13 states wanted a weak Central Government allowing them to deal directly with their own local issues as they saw fit. There were only a few who thought a strong Central Government would be much better for the nascent nation; better for issues of economics and foreign intervention. There is strength in numbers. Even I, who needs all my fingers and toes to count, know that 13 against 1 or 2 has a better chance of succeeding. Let’s face it, if all 13 didn’t agree to sign the Declaration of Independence which was a declaration of war against Great Britain, we would all be having tea with milk, fish and chips in an old newspaper, and singing God Save The Queen instead of God Bless America. I realize for some this would not be a bad thing.  I am totally aware how this country is bonkers over British Royalty.  Diana is more celebrated today than she was over twenty years ago. For that matter so is Victoria, Elizabeth I, and dare I even mention the Royal Soap Opera for all time, Downton Abbey.  But I digress…so what else is new?

OK back to Congress. The divide in the United States that I find so disturbing today had its beginning in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia 1787. The Constitution was a plan developed for a stronger federal government with three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.

From that moment, this country has always been divided between States Righters and Federalists.  A really interesting not so side fact is that prior to Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency, all Senators were appointed by the Governors and Legislatures of the individual states. Under Wilson’s term in 1913, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed the words, “chosen by the legislatures thereof” to “elected by the people, thereof”.  Make of that what you will. Personally, I think it was supposed to open the Senatorial selections away from State Politics (aka legislature) to the State’s population. However, if the state’s population is as divided as the legislature… what’s the difference?

I’m sorry, my dear friends. I get carried away by the history involved in birthing this country and in doing so lose my way.  Get to the point, already, for goodness sake. 

In reading this book about the struggle George Washington had in winning the  American Revolution, I see that the albatross around his neck was the Second Continental Congress. They signed the Declaration of Independence, which was a very brave and courageous thing to do, and then ignored most of the requests and pleas and beggings of George Washington to fortify and supply the Army that was fighting for Independence. This Congress did everything in its power to focus on their own and their state’s individual needs and ignore the battles for Liberty and Freedom that were going on all around them. (brilliantly depicted in the movie 1776)

OK here’s the question for you to answer… is it in the nature of the beast (aka Congress and humans)  wherein self and local issues will always outweigh the common good and as the world turns, is it harder for the individual of good purpose to make a difference, no less get elected?  And the biggest question of all, HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY?  Whatcha think?   

Hey guys, before you think… I have an important recommendation for you.  For the most wonderful and powerful depiction of this Second Continental Congress please see the movie musical 1776. It is brilliant and written with historic accuracy.  I promise you. You will love it.

As a matter of fact, it is in that movie the seeds of my question about the ultimate fate of Congress is first planted.  

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

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