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Join the conversation! There are now 21 comments on “What were they thinking? pg 15
    • Hamilton certainly did powder his hair, sometimes very heavily, when wearing it in the martial clubbed style described in a previous comment.

      But contemporaries also describe him occasionally (and, I presume, pointedly) simply tying his unpowdered chestnut hair back very loosely.

      Or was his hair auburn, or strawberry blonde, or reddish brown, or… descriptions vary.

      I’d love to read a monograph on what class/social/style message was sent by various men’s hairstyles back in those days, but I haven’t found one, and any speculation on my part would be an extreme instance of bullshitting.

  1. It’s amazing how often people who can’t articulate what they want, can tell you how it is different from your suggestion.

  2. Gregory T. Bogosian says

    So basically, Hamilton was so far outside the Overton window, that he accidentally united everyone else against him, thereby achieving consensus.

  3. While I would say Hamilton is my least liked founder, he did have some good ideas, such as the Federal government assuming States’ debt. I would say his downfall was wanting the US to too quickly become another European style nation with all sections of governance inferior to central government. While a large chunk of the unique “United States are” rather than “United States is” mostly died out during the Civil War, States are still free to make their own laws on most issues.

    And Hamilton’s new musical while entertaining, leaves out information or lies about several historical events.

  4. mikecody0318 says

    “States are still free to make their own laws on most issues.”

    Would that were the case. Voter qualifications, election districts, marriage, drug laws, police departments, even speed limits are all areas the Federales have told the States “Daddy knows best” on. About the only thing the States seem to have the right to do on their own is take more of the citizen’s money in taxes, and even that is subordinated to the Federal tax laws.

    • Not quite. Your argument is somewhat inaccurate and oversimplified.

      First, voter qualifications except being eighteen are subject to state laws. Several states have different laws concerning the voting rights of felons.

      Election districts are explicitly the domain of the states, as stated in the Constitution. In most cases, the state legislature is responsible for drawing districts for federal, state, and local races. The feds have nothing much to do with it, unless you’re referring to the occassional federal court decision overturning blatant gerrymandering.

      Marriage is regulated, iirc, at the federal level for tax purposes, the same as the states. The SCOTUS has since ruled that states can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in granting marriages as a part of the 14th amendment, which I assume is what you’re referring to. Despite this limitation, the states still apply their own dates for when one can marry, with and without guardian consent.

      Drug laws, from what I can tell, are a concurrent power, and the feds have done a decent job of not prosecuting marijuana growers in states where growing recreational marijuana is legal, although that seems to be changing now.

      The Justice Department is only empowered to conduct investigations into violations of federal law, or can help state departments with their own investigations if they want federal help, especially if a crime web crosses state lines. The states have very broad law enforcement capabilities, especially compared to other countries, and the vast majority of all enforcement is carried out at the local and state level.

      Speed limits, interestingly enough, are not within federal jurisdiction, but are state purview. Rather, what Congress has done is state that, unless certain speed limits are enforced by the states, they don’t get any highway funding. However, this is no longer true: There is no current federal highway limit, as can be evidenced if you do a cross-country drive, with limits varying from 60 to 75 depending on the state.

      You’re also missing where states have very near exclusive control over education, among several activities that the feds can’t conduct directly.

      Your statement rings rather false, when looking at the picture. The states are still very much sovereign entities, and you can even avoid some firearms regulations by producing your weapons within the state (which makes them not subject to the Commerce Clause).

      • With regard to “avoid the Commerce Clause”, two points:
        The Commerce clause *shouldn’t* be abused such. Yes, that’s a personal opinion with no backing.
        Wickard v. Filburn – By avoiding interstate commerce, the Federal argues, you are inherently affecting it, and therefore subject to their jurisdiction under the Commerce Clause.

        As for “producing your weapons within the state”, you seem to be saying Glocks for Georgia and Berettas for Tennessee, Smith And Wesson for Mass and Winchester for Connecticut. Does that sound like it meshes with “shall not be abridged”?

        • Not necessarily; I’m not a firearms afficionado myself. I read in this one book (appropriately titled “Divided We Fall”) that the feds couldn’t regulate firearms produced and sold within a state, although it appears that I am wrong on that count.

          I don’t know. I personally read the 2nd Amendment as only permitting soldiers and police to carry guns, although obviously the SCOTUS has said otherwise. I also think that the 2nd Amendment is probably as outdated as the 3rd, as, realistically, even full automatics aren’t going to really help you in overthrowing a government with tanks, jets, drones, and, God forbid, nukes.

      • What it comes down to, in my opinion, it that the Federales let the States have some control over these areas, as long as they don’t do anything the Feds think is too wrong. Kind of like letting your kids have their own bank account, but keeping guardianship over it so they can’t spend it foolishly.

        How many Not Guilty verdicts have the Feds jumped on with civil rights violation charges?

        How many police departments have the Feds investigated when the local governments have cleared them?

        And how is a lunch counter subject to Federal control if it wants to decide on its customer base?

        As to education, from Brown v Topeka on to No Child Left Behind and its successors, the Feds have put their finger in that pie.

        If the States were truly sovereign entities, the lines of authority would be much more clearly drawn, as the Founders intended (in my opinion, even I am not old enough to have asked them in person).

        • That was sort of the point. States have some, undefined powers, while the feds have clearly defined powers and can overrule the states to make sure we’re still all one country. If every state got to do whatever it wanted, then the USA would cease to exist.

          It’s simply the feds having federal charges that they bring in state court, versus state authorities bringing charges in state courts. Since southern juries were known for nullifying the law in trials over lynch mobs (and just about any other case where it was white-on-black violence) I fail to see how it’s so horrible for the feds to interfere.

          The police department is a part of the local government. The local government has a conflict of interest in investigating their own department, since doing so would make the government itself look bad for not containing the violence. Hence, the DOJ will investigate police in cities with bad race relations, either because of what I said before or because the police have shown no intention of cleaning up their act. The feds still can’t send out the FBI on the beat, but they can put their finger in the pie to stop violations of constitutional rights, which is what most of these cases are centered on.

          It’s subject to “federal control” (inaccurate; what you’re referring to presumably is your right to file suit in federal court for civil rights violations) because we passed legislation to make it illegal to not serve someone or otherwise conduct business with them because of how they looked or who they were. Basically, the states weren’t enforcing equality, so the feds did it for them.

          The first I assume was a SCOTUS case, which can’t really be classified as gov’t involvement, imho, because the courts aren’t really an agent of government, unless you’re overly cynical about it.

          As to NCLB, the government CAN provide funding and aid to the states, and does so on a regular basis. NCLB just imposed certain requirements on what schools had to do to get federal funds, and pulled those funds if the schools didn’t reach the targets set by the feds to receive funding.

          The Founders were explicitly attempting to avoid full sovereignty for the states, since the previous Articles of Confederation made any union between the states a complete joke. The goal of the Constitution was to give the Feds some teeth so that they could actually carry out a unified national agenda, primary of which, of course, was the ability to call up the armed forces and make international decisions as one entity, as well as the power to fund that. It also made the states a single economic bloc, by getting rid of state trade barriers that favored local industry, among some other things that are fairly obvious (single currency, etc.)

          I guess my point isn’t so much that your comparison to a parent controlling the kid’s bank account is wrong, but rather that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that the states have more control than you give them credit for.

  5. Temeraire says

    It is, however.

    Voter qualifications are generally state purview. While they are all required to let those above the age of 18 vote, they can still determine which felons can get voting rights, and have authority to establish voter ID laws and regulations for how votes are counted and when recounts can occur.

    Election districts are explicitly state purview, as established in the Constitution. Each state, usually guided by its legislature, has exclusive authority on how to draw districts for federal, state, and local elections. Since Baker v. Carr, the states have to draw them so that each district reasonably represents the same number of people. The state legislatures still get away with ludicrously gerrymandered districts, and so far the federal courts have been very reluctant to strike down gerrymandering, although that might be changing.

    Marriage is generally still state authority. They can no longer deny you a marriage license for being a same-sex couple, as SCOTUS found it to violate the 14th amendment, but states can individually determine what the laws are for the age of marriage. While not directly related to marriage, they can also regulate cohabitation to some extent, and also set statutory rape and age of consent laws.

    Drug laws are, to my knowledge, a concurrent power shared by both levels of government, and the feds have moved to nonenforcement of federal law when it conflicts with state law. Leading into this, the feds are a very small piece of the nation’s total law enforcement, and the overwhelming majority of law enforcement is carried out by state and local agencies.

    Speed limits, in fact, are not a federal power.

    The federal government withheld federal highway funds from states that didn’t enforce a specific speed limit (originally 55 mph and later 65 mph) for a while, but we haven’t had a national speed limit since 1995, which would underscore your point. Specifically, the states could refuse to lower the limit, they just wouldn’t get federal money for highways if they refused. A similar situation occurs with the enforcement of certain education and other regulations.

    Your argument rings false in the face of all this state autonomy and nonuniformity.

    • If a state is covered under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it has to get pre-approval from the federal government before making changes to its voting laws. Also, several voter ID laws have been challenged and some overturned in federal court. If the federal government can do these things, then states don’t really have the power to make their own laws. It can only do what the federal government allows them to do.

      • Actually, they no longer have to. Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013 ruled the “special provisions” of the VRA unconstitutional in that decision, although for technical reasons.

        The original basis of the law was that the DOJ could, for certain states known to have a history of racial discrimination when it came to voting, veto certain election laws made by the states. My understanding is that it wasn’t actually a pre-approval.

        Again, the same point applies, both to your first and your second statements: As the states are not protecting your constitutional right to vote, the feds will do it instead. This has been an ongoing trend since the Civil Rights Movement.

        The states do have power to make their own laws, but it can only do them within the bounds of the US Constitution, which the federal government enforces.

  6. Temeraire says

    Sorry, double post!

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