Which Former Presidents Are Role Models For Mitt?

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Some of the DC establishment media are becoming “nervous Nellies” over current polling data. They are concerned that Mitt Romney does not generate enough enthusiasm, and he needs to show more charisma and passion like some of our great Presidents of the past. We should yawn over this kind of navel gazing, and remember that this year’s election is ALL about Obama and his record. Mitt Romney has never been and never will be passionate and charismatic. Let me suggest three previous Presidents who can serve as excellent role models. Two of them were 19th century Democrats, and the third was an early 20th century Republican. None of them have their face carved into Mount Rushmore, and yet they each served our Constitutional Republic well by respecting the limited powers of the federal government.

Long before Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto there were people known as “control freaks.” While the Founders would not have used that phrase, they were well aware of this human condition – which is why they included checks and balances on power in the US Constitution. For the first 150 years this miracle in Philadelphia had held up well, and not so much for the last 77 years.

The first two examples are how to say NO to the control freaks. The opposition argues that the Republicans don’t have any good ideas, and all they do is say NO. For this reason I provide the third example of how the government can work to protect the solvency of the federal government by reducing federal debt and by reducing federal spending. The enablers of control freak statists in the education establishment write the history books that neglect these former Presidents or only refer to them in passing with respect to scandals within their administration. This is unfortunate, and I hope you find the following informative.

Veto Message
May 3, 1854

To the Senate of the United States:

The bill entitled “An act making a grant of public lands to the several States for the benefit of indigent insane persons,” which was presented to me on the 27th ultimo, has been maturely considered, and is returned to the Senate, the House in which it originated, with a statement of the objections which have required me to withhold from it my approval.

In the performance of this duty, prescribed by the Constitution, I have been compelled to resist the deep sympathies of my own heart in favor of the humane purpose sought to be accomplished and to overcome the reluctance with which I dissent from the conclusions of the two Houses of Congress, and present my own opinions in opposition to the action of a coordinate branch of the Government which possesses so fully my confidence and respect.

The bill provides in substance:

First. That 10,000,000 acres of land be granted to the several States, to be apportioned among them in the compound ratio of the geographical area and representation of said States in the House of Representatives.

Second. That wherever there are public lands in a State subject to sale at the regular price of private entry, the proportion of said 10,000,000 acres falling to such State shall be selected from such lands within it, and that to the States in which there are no such public lands land scrip shall be issued to the amount of their distributive shares, respectively, said scrip not to be entered by said States, but to be sold by them and subject to entry by their assignees: Provided , That none of it shall be sold at less than $1 per acre, under penalty of forfeiture of the same to the United States.

Third. That the expenses of the management and superintendence of said lands and of the moneys received therefrom shall be paid by the States to which they may belong out of the treasury of said States.

Fourth. That the gross proceeds of the sales of such lands or land scrip so granted shall be invested by the several States in safe stocks, to constitute a perpetual fund, the principal of which shall remain forever undiminished, and the interest to be appropriated to the maintenance of the indigent insane within the several States.

Fifth. That annual returns of lands or scrip sold shall be made by the States to the Secretary of the Interior, and the whole grant be subject to certain conditions and limitations prescribed in the bill, to be assented to by legislative acts of said States.

This bill therefore proposes that the Federal Government shall make provision to the amount of the value of 10,000,000 acres of land for an eleemosynary object within the several States, to be administered by the political authority of the same; and it presents at the threshold the question whether any such act on the part of the Federal Government is warranted and sanctioned by the Constitution, the provisions and principles of which are to be protected and sustained as a first and paramount duty.

It can not be questioned that if Congress has power to make provision for the indigent insane without the limits of this District it has the same power to provide for the indigent who are not insane, and thus to transfer to the Federal Government the charge of all the poor in all the States. It has the same power to provide hospitals and other local establishments for the care and cure of every species of human infirmity, and thus to assume all that duty of either public philanthropy, or public necessity to the dependent, the orphan, the sick, or the needy which is now discharged by the States themselves or by corporate institutions or private endowments existing under the legislation of the States. The whole field of public beneficence is thrown open to the care and culture of the Federal Government. Generous impulses no longer encounter the limitations and control of our imperious fundamental law; for however worthy may be the present object in itself, it is only one of a class. It is not exclusively worthy of benevolent regard. Whatever considerations dictate sympathy for this particular object apply in like manner, if not in the same degree, to idiocy, to physical disease, to extreme destitution. If Congress may and ought to provide for any one of these objects, it may and ought to provide for them all. And if it be done in this case, what answer shall be given when Congress shall be called upon, as it doubtless will be, to pursue a similar course of legislation in the others? It will obviously be vain to reply that the object is worthy, but that the application has taken a wrong direction. The power will have been deliberately assumed, the general obligation will by this act have been acknowledged, and the question of means and expediency will alone be left for consideration. The decision upon the principle in any one case determines it for the whole class. The question presented, therefore, clearly is upon the constitutionality and propriety of the Federal Government assuming to enter into a novel and vast field of legislation, namely, that of providing for the care and support of all those among the people of the United States who by any form of calamity become fit objects of public philanthropy.

I readily and, I trust, feelingly acknowledge the duty incumbent on us all as men and citizens, and as among the highest and holiest of our duties, to provide for those who, in the mysterious order of Providence, are subject to want and to disease of body or mind; but I can not find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States. To do so would, in my judgment, be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive of the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded. And if it were admissible to contemplate the exercise of this power for any object whatever, I can not avoid the belief that it would in the end be prejudicial rather than beneficial in the noble offices of charity to have the charge of them transferred from the States to the Federal Government. Are we not too prone to forget that the Federal Union is the creature of the States, not they of the Federal Union? We were the inhabitants of colonies distinct in local government one from the other before the Revolution. By that Revolution the colonies each became an independent State. They achieved that independence and secured its recognition by the agency of a consulting body, which, from being an assembly of the ministers of distinct sovereignties instructed to agree to no form of government which did not leave the domestic concerns of each State to itself, was appropriately denominated a Congress. When having tried the experiment of the Confederation, they resolved to change that for the present Federal Union, and thus to confer on the Federal Government more ample authority, they scrupulously measured such of the functions of their cherished sovereignty as they chose to delegate to the General Government. With this aim and to this end the fathers of the Republic framed the Constitution, in and by which the independent and sovereign States united themselves for certain specified objects and purposes, and for those only, leaving all powers not therein set forth as conferred on one or another of the three great departments–the legislative, the executive, and the judicial–indubitably with the States. And when the people of the several States had in their State conventions, and thus alone, given effect and force to the Constitution, not content that any doubt should in future arise as to the scope and character of this act, they ingrafted thereon the explicit declaration that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.” Can it be controverted that the great mass of the business of Government–that involved in the social relations, the internal arrangements of the body politic, the mental and moral culture of men, the development of local resources of wealth, the punishment of crimes in general, the preservation of order, the relief of the needy or otherwise unfortunate members of society–did in practice remain with the States; that none of these objects of local concern are by the Constitution expressly or impliedly prohibited to the States, and that none of them are by any express language of the Constitution transferred to the United States? Can it be claimed that any of these functions of local administration and legislation are vested in the Federal Government by any implication? I have never found anything in the Constitution which is susceptible of such a construction. No one of the enumerated powers touches the subject or has even a remote analogy to it. The powers conferred upon the United States have reference to federal relations, or to the means of accomplishing or executing things of federal relation. So also of the same character are the powers taken away from the States by enumeration. In either case the powers granted and the powers restricted were so granted or so restricted only where it was requisite for the maintenance of peace and harmony between the States or for the purpose of protecting their common interests and defending their common sovereignty against aggression from abroad or insurrection at home.

I shall not discuss at length the question of power sometimes claimed for the General Government under the clause of the eighth section of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States,” because if it has not already been settled upon sound reason and authority it never will be. I take the received and just construction of that article, as if written to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises in order to pay the debts and in order to provide for the common defense and general welfare. It is not a substantive general power to provide for the welfare of the United States, but is a limitation on the grant of power to raise money by taxes, duties, and imposts. If it were otherwise, all the rest of the Constitution, consisting of carefully enumerated and cautiously guarded grants of specific powers, would have been useless, if not delusive. It would be impossible in that view to escape from the conclusion that these were inserted only to mislead for the present, and, instead of enlightening and defining the pathway of the future, to involve its action in the mazes of doubtful construction. Such a conclusion the character of the men who framed that sacred instrument will never permit us to form. Indeed, to suppose it susceptible of any other construction would be to consign all the rights of the States and of the people of the States to the mere discretion of Congress, and thus to clothe the Federal Government with authority to control the sovereign States, by which they would have been dwarfed into provinces or departments and all sovereignty vested in an absolute consolidated central power, against which the spirit of liberty has so often and in so many countries struggled in vain. In my judgment you can not by tributes to humanity make any adequate compensation for the wrong you would inflict by removing the sources of power and political action from those who are to be thereby affected. If the time shall ever arrive when, for an object appealing, however strongly, to our sympathies, the dignity of the States shall bow to the dictation of Congress by conforming their legislation thereto, when the power and majesty and honor of those who created shall become subordinate to the thing of their creation, I but feebly utter my apprehensions when I express my firm conviction that we shall see “the beginning of the end.”

Fortunately, we are not left in doubt as to the purpose of the Constitution any more than as to its express language, for although the history of its formation, as recorded in the Madison Papers, shows that the Federal Government in its present form emerged from the conflict of opposing influences which have continued to divide statesmen from that day to this, yet the rule of clearly defined powers and of strict construction presided over the actual conclusion and subsequent adoption of the Constitution. President Madison, in the Federalist, says:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. Its (the General Government’s) jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.

In the same spirit President Jefferson invokes “the support of the State governments in all their rights as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies;” and President Jackson said that our true strength and wisdom are not promoted by invasions of the rights and powers of the several States, but that, on the contrary, they consist “not in binding the States more closely to the center, but in leaving each more unobstructed in its proper orbit.”

The framers of the Constitution, in refusing to confer on the Federal Government any jurisdiction over these purely local objects, in my judgment manifested a wise forecast and broad comprehension of the true interests of these objects themselves. It is clear that public charities within the States can be efficiently administered only by their authority. The bill before me concedes this, for it does not commit the funds it provides to the administration of any other authority.

I can not but repeat what I have before expressed, that if the several States, many of which have already laid the foundation of munificent establishments of local beneficence, and nearly all of which are proceeding to establish them, shall be led to suppose, as, should this bill become a law, they will be, that Congress is to make provision for such objects, the fountains of charity will be dried up at home, and the several States, instead of bestowing their own means on the social wants of their own people, may themselves, through the strong temptation which appeals to states as to individuals, become humble suppliants for the bounty of the Federal Government, reversing their true relations to this Union.

Having stated my views of the limitation of the powers conferred by the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, I deem it proper to call attention to the third section of the fourth article and to the provisions of the sixth article bearing directly upon the question under consideration, which, instead of aiding the claim to power exercised in this case, tend, it is believed, strongly to illustrate and explain positions which, even without such support, I can not regard as questionable. The third section of the fourth article of the Constitution is in the following terms:

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States or of any particular State.

The sixth article is as follows, to wit, that–

All debts contracted and engagements entered into before the adoption of this Constitution shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution as under the Confederation.

It is not to be denied that Congress, while administering the public lands as a proprietor within the principle distinctly announced in my annual message, may sometimes have failed to distinguish accurately between objects which are and which are not within its constitutional powers.

After the most careful examination I find but two examples in the acts of Congress which furnish any precedent for the present bill, and those examples will, in my opinion, serve rather as a warning than as an inducement to tread in the same path.

The first is the act of March 3, 1819, granting a township of land to the Connecticut asylum for the education of the deaf and dumb; the second, that of April 5, 1826, making a similar grant of land to the Kentucky asylum for teaching the deaf and dumb–the first more than thirty years after the adoption of the Constitution and the second more than a quarter of a century ago. These acts were unimportant as to the amount appropriated, and so far as I can ascertain were passed on two grounds: First, that the object was a charitable one, and, secondly, that it was national. To say that it was a charitable object is only to say that it was an object of expenditure proper for the competent authority; but it no more tended to show that it was a proper object of expenditure by the United States than is any other purely local object appealing to the best sympathies of the human heart in any of the States. And the suggestion that a school for the mental culture of the deaf and dumb in Connecticut or Kentucky is a national object only shows how loosely this expression has been used when the purpose was to procure appropriations by Congress. It is not perceived how a school of this character is otherwise national than is any establishment of religious or moral instruction. All the pursuits of industry, everything which promotes the material or intellectual well-being of the race, every ear of corn or boll of cotton which grows, is national in the same sense, for each one of these things goes to swell the aggregate of national prosperity and happiness of the United States; but it confounds all meaning of language to say that these things are “national,” as equivalent to” Federal,” so as to come within any of the classes of appropriation for which Congress is authorized by the Constitution to legislate.

The general result at which I have arrived is the necessary consequence of those views of the relative rights, powers, and duties of the States and of the Federal Government which I have long entertained and often expressed and in reference to which my convictions do but increase in force with time and experience.

I have thus discharged the unwelcome duty of respectfully stating my objections to this bill, with which I cheerfully submit the whole subject to the wisdom of Congress.


FRANKLIN PIERCE.

Veto of the Texas Seed Bill February 16, 1887

To the House of Representatives:

I return without my approval House bill number 10203, entitled “An Act to enable the Commissioner of Agriculture to make a special distribution of seeds in drought-stricken counties of Texas, and making an appropriation therefor.”

It is represented that a long-continued and extensive drought has existed in certain portions of the State of Texas, resulting in a failure of crops and consequent distress and destitution.

Though there has been some difference in statements concerning the extent of the people’s needs in the localities thus affected, there seems to be no doubt that there has existed a condition calling for relief; and I am willing to believe that, notwithstanding the aid already furnished, a donation of seed grain to the farmers located in this region, to enable them to put in new crops, would serve to avert a continuance or return of an unfortunate blight.

And yet I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan as proposed by this bill, to indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds for that purpose.

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

It is within my personal knowledge that individual aid has, to some extent, already been extended to the sufferers mentioned in this bill. The failure of the proposed appropriation of $10,000 additional, to meet their remaining wants, will not necessarily result in continued distress if the emergency is fully made known to the people of the country.

It is here suggested that the Commissioner of Agriculture is annually directed to expend a large sum of money for the purchase, propagation, and distribution of seeds and other things of this description, two-thirds of which are, upon the request of senators, representatives, and delegates in Congress, supplied to them for distribution among their constituents.

The appropriation of the current year for this purpose is $100,000, and it will probably be no less in the appropriation for the ensuing year. I understand that a large quantity of grain is furnished for such distribution, and it is supposed that this free apportionment among their neighbors is a privilege which may be waived by our senators and representatives.

If sufficient of them should request the Commissioner of Agriculture to send their shares of the grain thus allowed them, to the suffering farmers of Texas, they might be enabled to sow their crops; the constituents, for whom in theory this grain is intended, could well bear the temporary deprivation, and the donors would experience the satisfaction attending deeds of charity.


GROVER CLEVELAND

By late 1919, America was facing inflation in prices as measured by CPI of 20%. Between 1920 and 1921, unemployment doubled from 5.2 to 11.7%. During this same period, from their peak in June of 1920, prices declined by 15.8% on a year-over-year basis, a 50% greater deflation in prices than during ANY 12-month period during the Great Depression. So what was Harding’s proposal to deal with this mess? To understand how to get out of recession, Harding looked towards how we got into it in the first place.

America was coming out of World War I. Government was controlling huge swaths of the economy, as it had mobilized land, labor and capital towards war production and away from normal commerce as dictated by consumer demand. In addition to the mass of resources that needed to be reallocated according to market forces, the economy had been further distorted due to the policies of the Federal Reserve which had inflated the money supply by 71% from 1913-1919 (while the physical volume of business had only increased by 9.6%), and whose policies had led to an increase in prices of a staggering 234% between 1914 and 1920. Prices needed to readjust according to the reallocation of resources. In addition, not surprisingly, due to the costs of war, the federal budget had grown to $18.5bn. And if all this was not bad enough the 18th amendment prohibiting consumption of alcohol had been adopted.

Speech accepting the Republican nomination, Chicago, June 12, 1920

Gross expansion of currency and credit have depreciated the dollar just as expansion and inflation have discredited the coins of the world. We inflated in haste, we must deflate in deliberation. We debased the dollar in reckless finance, we must restore in honesty. Deflation on the one hand and restoration of the 100-cent dollar on the other ought to have begun on the day after the armistice, but plans were lacking or courage failed. The unpreparedness for peace was little less costly than unpreparedness for war. We can promise no one remedy which will cure an ill of such wide proportions, but we do pledge that earnest and consistent attack which the party platform covenants. We will attempt intelligent and courageous deflation, and strike at government borrowing which enlarges the evil, and we will attack high cost of government with every energy and facility which attend Republican capacity. We promise that relief which will attend the halting of waste and extravagance, and the renewal of the practice of public economy, not alone because it will relieve tax burdens, but because it will be an example to stimulate thrift and economy in private life.


WARREN G. HARDING

President Warren G.Harding practiced what he preached. Regarding deflation, the Federal Reserve jacked up interest rates from 4.75% in January 1920 to 7% in June 1920, and held this rate through the aforementioned major drop in prices through May of 1921. Harding slashed the federal budget from $18.5bn in 1919 to $6.4bn in 1920 all the way down to $5.1bn in 1921. Meanwhile, the government actually ran surpluses during these years, allowing them to pay down the debt by $300mm from 1920-21. The Chief Economist of Chase National Bank of the era, Benjamin Anderson summed up Harding’s philosophy and his attack on the recession as follows:

The idea that a balanced budget with vast pump-priming government expenditure is a necessary means of getting out of a depression received no consideration at all. It was not regarded as the function of the government to provide money to make business activity. It was rather the business of the US Treasury to look after the solvency of the government, and the most important relief that the government felt that it could afford to business was to reduce as much as possible the amount of government expenditure, which had risen to great heights during the war; to reduce taxes – but not much; and to reduce public debt.

Nor did the government increase public employment with a view to taking up idle labor. There was a reduction in the army and navy in the course of these years, and there was a steady decline in the number of civilian employees of the federal government. This policy on the part of the government generated, of course, a great confidence in the credit of the government, and the strength of the gold dollar was taken for granted. The credit of the government and confidence in the currency are basic foundations for general business confidence. The relief to business through reduced taxes was extremely helpful.

According to Anderson, how did the recession end?

…we took our losses, we readjusted our financial structure, we endured our depression and in August 1921 we started up again. The rally in business production and employment that started in August 1921 was soundly based on a drastic cleaning up of credit weakness, a drastic reduction in the costs of production, and on the free play of private enterprise. It was not based on governmental policy designed to make business good.

BENJAMIN ANDERSON

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pilgrim
I am retired after 36 years of being a state of Indiana employee. I enjoy writing and reading conservative blogs.

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Mikedevinelaw
Editor
July 7, 2012 1:25 pm

A Harding that survives two terms would be nice.

bobmontgomery
July 7, 2012 4:11 pm

The constitutional logic contained in the Veto Message of Franklin Pierce is so captivating it takes the breath away, as does his examination of the taxing power and his foretelling that “If an object ever becomes so appealing to our sympathies” (Obama’s’the right thing to do’) that the States bow to the Congress, it will be the beginning of the end, and also his prescient certainty that state and local charitable efforts would dry up as a result of Federal action.  That is happening as we speak.

LadyImpactOhio
July 7, 2012 5:06 pm

I’ve been to Harding’s home and tomb in Marion. The tour guide spent more time talking about the rumors his wife poisoned him because of his affair than his fiscal policies. It’s been a long time but I was “taught” In high school Harding was one of the worst POTUS.
Thanks for bringing up his fiscal sense and the way he turned many things around.

Vbushmills
July 8, 2012 6:51 am

And when Harding died he was replaced by charismatic Cal, the last of the line until Reagan. That Cleveland was a Democrat proves that at that time what we now call partisan, right wing conservative principles was actually in all of Washington’s water.
That’s where we need to go back to.

You’re right on, Pilgrim.

Lady Penguin
Admin
July 8, 2012 8:10 am

“The credit of the government and confidence of the currency are basic foundations for general business confidence.”  About sums it up, pilgrim.  Without those first two items we have the malaise of business and thus the economy – conditions which are fairly apparent right now in this country.  It also why we never pulled out of the recession (no matter how they massage the numbers) and actually are in an overall depression.  Unfortunately, as long as we have the current occupant in the White House we have no hope of pulling out of this.  This administration, the Democrats (with the… Read more »