Alfred Emanuel Smith (1873 – 1944) was an American politician who served four terms as Governor of New York and was the Democrat Party’s candidate for president in 1928. Smith grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan and resided in that neighborhood for his entire life and though he remained personally incorrupt, as with many other New York City politicians, he was linked to the notorious Tammany Hall machine. Smith served in the New York State Assembly from 1904 to 1915 and held the position of Speaker in 1913 as well as serving as Sheriff of New York County in 1916-17. Smith was first elected governor in 1918 but lost a bid for re-election in 1920. However, he was re-elected to that position in 1922, 1924 and again in 1926.
Smith was the first Roman Catholic to be nominated for president of the United States by a major party. His 1928 presidential candidacy mobilized both Catholic and anti-Catholic voters and many Protestants, including German Lutherans and Southern Baptists who feared that his actions would be dictated by the Pope if he were elected. Smith was also against Prohibition and as Governor had repealed New York’s own prohibition law. In the election of 1928, incumbent Republican Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, aided by prosperity, the absence of involvement in the European war, and anti-Catholic bigotry defeated Smith in a landslide.
In 1932, Smith again sought the Democratic nomination but was defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, former ally and successor as Governor of New York. Smith then entered into the area of commerce in New York City, becoming involved in the construction and promotion of the iconic Empire State Building. He also became an increasingly vocal opponent of Roosevelt’s New Deal, as we can see in his speech.
Al Smith died on October 4th, 1944 of a heart attack at the age of 70 after being personally devastated by the death of his wife from cancer five months earlier, on May 4th of that year. He is interred at Calvary Cemetery in New York City. The unknowingly prophetic speech below was delivered to The American Liberty League Dinner in Washington, D. C on January 25th, 1936.
“The Facts in the Case”
At the outset of my remarks let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not a candidate for any nomination by any party at any time, and what is more I do not intend to even lift my right hand to secure any nomination from any party at any time. Further than that I have no axe to grind. There is nothing personal in this whole performance so far as I am concerned. I have no feeling against any man, woman or child in the United States . . .
I was born in the Democratic Party and I expect to die in it. I was attracted to it in my youth because I was led to believe that no man owned it, and furthermore that no group of men owned it, but, on the other hand, that it belonged to all the plain people in the United States.
I must make a confession. It is not easy for me to stand up here tonight and talk to the American people against the Democratic Administration. This is not easy. It hurts me. But I can call upon innumerable witnesses to testify to the fact that during my whole public life I put patriotism above partisanship. And when I see danger – I say “danger,” that is, “Stop, look, and listen” to the fundamental principles upon which this Government of ours was organized – it is difficult for me to refrain from speaking up.
Now, what are these dangers that I see? The first is the arraignment of class against class. It has been freely predicted that if we were ever to have civil strife again in this country, it would come from the appeal to passion and prejudices that comes from the demagogues that would incite one class of our people against the other.
Anyone with any knowledge of the period between the Mexican and the Civil War knows that there was an ongoing assault against the people and the section of the South arising from the organs of power – especially what we now call “the media” – against the Southern people by the rest of the Republic. So successful was that propaganda campaign that many of the Founding Fathers including Presidents Washington and Jefferson, were victims of assaults as to their characters. Indeed, Jefferson was called by one New England newspaper, America’s first “black” president – not because he owned slaves, but because Southerners were accused of having too amicable a relationship with blacks and that, in turn, nullified their Caucasian racial roots!
As this cultural, social, political and economic division intensified through the addition of new States along with the inability of the South to expand geographically because of the decision not to permit slavery into the new territories – a decision originally embraced by the South! – that section soon found itself in the position of a permanent political minority not protected by the Constitution the signatory States were assured would not permit any State to profit at the expense of a fellow State by virtue of any political majority in the Congress.
The Civil War arose through an assault by political and economic demagogues using the South as a means to increase both power and wealth. Smith believed that he was speaking to a new situation at that point in the country’s history, but a better education in America’s past would have informed him that this was not the first time this card had been played and the result was bloody chaos and the end of the Founders’ Republic. But back to Mr. Smith:
In my time I have met some good and bad industrialists. I have met some good and bad financiers, but I have also met some good and bad laborers, and this I know, that permanent prosperity is dependent upon both capital and labor alike.
And I also know that there can be no permanent prosperity in this country until industry is able to employ labor, and there certainly can be no permanent recovery upon any governmental theory of soak the rich or soak the poor.
The next thing that I view as being dangerous to our national well-being is government by bureaucracy instead of what we have been taught to look for, government by law. [my emphasis-vp] Just let me quote something from the President’s message to Congress*: “In thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of public power. In the hands of a people’s government this power is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets of an economic autocracy such power would provide shackles for the liberties of the people.” [*Quote from President Roosevelt’s Annual Message to Congress, January 3, 1936-vp]
Now, I interpret that to mean: If you are going to have an autocrat, take me, but be very careful about the other fellow. There is a complete answer to that, and it rises in the minds of the great rank and file, and that answer is just this: We will never in this country tolerate any law that provides shackles for our people. We don’t want autocrats, either in or out of office; we wouldn’t even take a good one.
The next danger apparent to me is the vast building up of new bureaus of government, draining the resources of our people into a common pool and redistributing them, not by any process of law, but by the whim of a bureaucratic autocracy. [my emphasis-vp]
Well now, what am I here for? I am here not to find fault. Anybody can do that. I am here to make suggestions. What would I have my party do? I would have them re-establish and re-declare the principles that they put forth in that 1932 platform . . . . No Administration in the history of the country came into power with a more simple, a more clear, or a more inescapable mandate than did the party that was inaugurated on the Fourth of March in 1933. And listen, no candidate in the history of the country ever pledged himself more unequivocally to his party platform than did the President who was inaugurated on that day. Well, here we are. Millions and millions of Democrats just like myself, all over the country, still believe in that platform. And what we want to know is why it wasn’t carried out. [my emphasis-vp] And listen, there is only one man in the United States of America that can answer that question . . .
Let’s take a look at that platform, and let’s see what happened to it. Here is how it started out:
“We believe that a party platform is a covenant with the people, to be faithfully kept by the party when entrusted with power, and that the people are entitled to know in plain words the terms of contract to which they are asked to subscribe. The Democratic Party solemnly promises by appropriate action to put into effect the principles, policies and reforms herein advocated and to eradicate the political methods and practices herein condemned.”
My friends, these are what we call fighting words. At the time that the platform went through the air and over the wire, the people of the United States were in the lowest possible depths of despair, and the Democratic platform looked to them like the star of hope; it looked like the rising sun in the East to the mariner on the bridge of a ship after a terrible night. But what happened to it?
First plank: “We advocate immediate and drastic reduction of governmental expenditures by abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagance to accomplish a saving of not less than 25 per cent in the cost of the Federal Government.”
Well, now, what is the fact? No offices were consolidated, no bureaus were eliminated, but on the other hand, the alphabet was exhausted in the creation of new departments. And – this is sad news for the taxpayer – the cost, the ordinary cost, what we refer to as housekeeping cost, over and above all emergencies – that ordinary housekeeping cost of government is greater today than it has ever been in any time in the history of the republic. [my emphasis-vp]
Another plank: “We favor maintenance of the national credit by a Federal budget annually balanced on the basis of accurate Executive estimates within revenue.”
How can you balance a budget if you insist upon spending more money than you take in? Even the increased revenue won’t go to balance the budget, because it is hocked before you receive it. What is worse than that[?] . . . [W]e have borrowed so that we have reached a new high peak of Federal indebtedness for all time. . . . [T]he sin of it is that we have the indebtedness and at the end of three years we are just where we started. Unemployment and the farm problem we still have with us.
Here Smith begins to address matters that can be directly traced to the victory of the Federal Government in the so-called “Civil War.” With the triumph of a “national government” and its “democracy” over the Sovereign States and the Founders’ Republic, all of the “laws” and “regulations” put into place by that central power are given a legitimacy that, in law, they do not possess but for which there is no longer any recourse – such as nullification – that existed prior to Appomattox. And Smith continues:
Now here is something that I want to say to the rank and file. There are three classes of people in this country; there are the poor and the rich, and in between the two is what has often been referred to as the great backbone of America, that is the plain fellow [a/k/a the “middle class” vp]. That is the fellow that makes from one hundred dollars a month up to the man that draws down five or six thousand dollars a year. They are the great army. Forget the rich; they can’t pay this debt. If you took everything they have away from them, they couldn’t pay it; there ain’t enough of them, and furthermore they ain’t got enough.
There is no use talking about the poor; they will never pay it, because they have nothing. This debt is going to be paid by that great big middle class that we refer to as the backbone and the rank and file, and the sin of it is they ain’t going to know that they are paying it. It is going to come to them in the form of indirect and hidden taxation. It will come to them in the cost of living, in the cost of clothing, in the cost of every activity that they enter into, and because it is not a direct tax, they won’t think they’re paying, but, take it from me, they are going to pay it. [my emphasis-vp]
And here again, we see the direct result of power residing centrally. The power to tax without any power to reject that power by the People and their States is total power in the hands of a government that does not need to answer to those same People and their States. Elections are held up as a means of rejecting government actions, but as elections are in the end determined not by the People but by the parties who present to the People those candidates who will occupy the offices that create the legislation involved, the entire concept of “choice” becomes one in name only. And Smith continues:
Another plank: “We advocate the extension of Federal credit to the States to provide unemployment relief where the diminishing resources of the State make it impossible for them to provide for their needs.”
That was pretty plain. That was a recognition in the national convention of the rights of the States. But how is it interpreted? The Federal Government took over most of the relief problems, some of them useful and most of them useless. They started out to prime the pump for industry in order to absorb the ranks of the unemployed, and at the end of three years their affirmative policy is absolutely nothing better than the negative policy of the Administration that preceded them.
“We favor unemployment and old age insurance under State laws.” Now let me make myself perfectly clear so that no demagogue or no crack-pot in the next week or so will be able to say anything about my attitude on this kind of legislation. I am in favor of it. And I take my hat off to no man in the United States on the question of legislation beneficial to the poor, the weak, the sick, or the afflicted, or women and children. Because why? I started out a quarter of a century ago when I had very few followers in my State, and during that period I advocated, fought for, introduced as a legislator, and finally as Governor for eight long years, signed more progressive legislation in the interest of the men, women and children than any man in the State of New York. And the sin of this whole thing, and the part of it that worries me and gives me concern, is that this haphazard, hurry-up passage of legislation is never going to accomplish the purposes for which it was designed. And bear this in mind, follow the platform – “under state laws!”
The second paragraph above regarding the “national convention of the rights of the States” is, of course nonsense. The Civil War was waged to remove “states rights” as previously understood under the Constitution with the States – North and South – becoming “counties” under the central government. Such “rights” as they retained were minimal and could be removed by that same government without recourse to any other or higher authority. Nothing has made the evil of this situation more plain than in the most well-intentioned efforts to address the various needs of the people. This could not be a “one size fits all” response given the different costs of living and means of living in individual states and the “cure” in one state does not and cannot affect the existing circumstances in other states. And Smith continues:
. . . Another one: “We promise the removal of Government from all fields of private enterprise except where necessary to develop public works and national resources in the common interest.”
The NRA, [Established by the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933, the National Recovery Administration sought to coordinate the activities of labor, industry and government through voluntary codes to reduce what the Roosevelt administration thought was inefficient competition. The Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional in 1935] a vast octopus set up by government, that wound its arms around all the business of the country, paralyzed big business, and choked little business to death. Did you read in the papers a short time ago where somebody said that business was going to get a breathing spell? What is the meaning of that? And where did that expression arise? I’ll tell you where it comes from. It comes from the prize ring. When the aggressor is punching the head off the other fellow he suddenly takes compassion on him and he gives him a breathing spell before he delivers the knockout wallop.
One major cause of the American Civil War was the dabbling by the “federal government” in the economy of the Republic. Of course, that “dabbling” was always to the benefit of the people, commerce and States outside of the South. The matter had been addressed long before the war as can be seen in this statement by Missouri Senator Thomas Benton in 1828:
“Before the (American) revolution [the South] was the seat of wealth … Wealth has fled from the South, and settled in regions north of the Potomac: and this in the face of the fact, that the South, … has exported produce, since the Revolution, to the value of eight hundred millions of dollars; and the North has exported comparatively nothing. Such an export would indicate unparalleled wealth, but what is the fact? … Under Federal legislation, the exports of the South have been the basis of the Federal revenue …Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, may be said to defray three-fourths of the annual expense of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum, annually furnished by them, nothing or next to nothing is returned to them, in the shape of Government expenditures. That expenditure flows…northwardly, in one uniform, uninterrupted, and perennial stream. This is the reason why wealth disappears from the South and rises up in the North. Federal legislation does all this!”
The Constitution – to which Smith pays such homage later on in his speech – did not protect the South though it certainly did not openly permit one State or group of States to profit from legislation designed to take advantage of other States. This alone should have prevented tariffs from simply transposing wealth from one group of States to another and to especially utilize federal legislation to enrich individual people and commercial interests at the expense of those who had no legitimate duty to do so. To understand that the most sanguineous war in the history of this country to date was based upon the robbery of a group of States by fellow States under the auspices of the federal government is a greater crime than the war itself. And Smith continues:
Here is another one: “We condemn the open and covert resistance of administrative officials to every effort made by congressional committees to curtail the extravagant expenditures of Government and improvident subsidies granted to private interests.”
. . . [A]s to subsidies, why, never at any time in the history of this or any other country were there so many subsidies granted to private groups, and on such a huge scale. The fact of the matter is that most of the cases now pending before the United States Supreme Court revolve around the point whether or not it is proper for Congress to tax all the people to pay subsidies to a particular group.
Here is another one: “We condemn the extravagance of the Farm Board, its disastrous action which made the Government a speculator of farm products, and the unsound policy of restricting agricultural products to the demand of domestic markets.”
What about the restriction of our agricultural products and the demands of the market? Why, the fact about that is that we shut out entirely the farm market, and by plowing under corn and wheat and the destruction of foodstuffs, food from foreign countries has been pouring into our American markets – food that should have been purchased by us from our own farmers. In other words, while some of the countries of the Old World were attempting to drive the wolf of hunger from the doormat, the United States flew in the face of God’s bounty and destroyed its own foodstuffs. There can be no question about that.
Smith goes on to further identify the very sort of actions by the central government to rob from both the States and individual Americans in order to fulfill some sort of “plan” that had been determined by men not elected to office often for their own benefit whether economic or ideological. And it never ends. In these times that might indeed conclude this war against “America,” our “federal government” is again attempting to bribe or force American farmers to destroy their crops. Since we are already facing supply chain woes and empty store shelves, of what possible good to the people would such a crime produce? None for the people, but a great deal, I would say, for our elite rulers. And Smith continues:
Now I could go on indefinitely with some of the other planks. They are unimportant, and the radio time will not permit it. But just let me sum up this way:
Regulation of the Stock Exchange and the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment*, [*this Amendment was ratified January 16, 1919 and banned “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States . . . for beverage purposes.” It was repealed by the 21st amendment, ratified December 5, 1933] plus one or two minor planks of the platform that in no way touch the daily life of our people, have been carried out, but the balance of the platform was thrown in the wastebasket. About that there can be no question.
Of course, what Smith complained of here has been standard procedure for the federal government – with a very few exceptions! – since the Civil War! Politicians were elected on the “platforms” they promised to implement only to ignore those promises with their installation into office. And interestingly enough, the party out of power seldom made any effort to force compliance of their own promises by the victors! In this way, both parties knew that whoever was elected, promises made to the electorate were pretty much a dead issue!
At this point, Smith complains about the socialist nature of the Roosevelt administration. Although he was indeed a “progressive,” Al Smith was a tried-and-true patriotic American as he makes clear at the end of his address:
Let’s see how it was carried out. Make a test for yourself. Just get the platform of the Democratic Party, and get the platform of the Socialist Party, and lay them down on your dining room table, side by side, and get a heavy lead pencil and scratch out the word “Democrat,” and scratch out the word “Socialist,” and let the two platforms lay there. Then study the record of the present Administration up to date. After you have done that, make your mind up to pick up the platform that more nearly squares with the record, and you will put your hand on the Socialist platform. You couldn’t touch the Democratic. And, incidentally, let me say, that it is not the first time in recorded history, that a group of men have stolen the livery of the church to do the work of the devil.
If you study this whole situation, you will find that that is at the bottom of all our troubles. This country was organized on the principles of representative democracy, and you can’t mix Socialism or Communism with that. They are like oil and water; they refuse to mix. And incidentally, let me say to you, that is the reason why the United States Supreme Court is working overtime throwing the alphabet out of the window three letters at a time. [Smith alludes to the acronyms by which the new agencies created by the Roosevelt administration were known.-vp]
Smith has identified the problem and now he goes on to make clear what happened and who was responsible above and beyond the Party’s Standard Bearer and what “good Democrats” had to do about it:
Now I am going to let you in on something else. How do you suppose all this happened? Here is the way it happened: The young Brain Trusters [The “Brains Trust” was the name commonly given to Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisers during the 1932 campaign and the early years of the New Deal.-vp] caught the Socialists in swimming and they ran away with their clothes. It is all right with me. It is all right with me if they want to disguise themselves as Norman Thomas [Norman Thomas (1884–1968) was a Presbyterian minister who was the Socialist Party of America candidate for President six times beginning in 1928.-vp] or Karl Marx, or Lenin, or any of the rest of that bunch, but what I won’t stand for is to let them march under the banner of Jefferson, Jackson, or Cleveland. [Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) a leading Democratic politician and the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.-vp] What is worrying me is where does that leave us millions of Democrats? My mind is now fixed upon the Convention in June, in Philadelphia. The committee on resolutions is about to report, and the preamble to the platform is: “We, the representatives of the Democratic Party in Convention assembled, heartily endorse the Democratic Administration.” What happens to the disciples of Jefferson and Jackson and Cleveland when that resolution is read out? Why, for us it is a washout. There is only one of two things we can do. We can either take on the mantle of hypocrisy or we can take a walk, and we will probably do the latter.
At this point in his address, Smith steps away from the Party platform and now begins to look to what he believes can help “fix” what he has proved to be happening in the country. And here, at last, is the crux of the matter, for Smith goes back to two documents, the Declaration of Independence – not a legal document but a piece (an excellent piece!) of pro-American propaganda intended to sway the feelings of European governments to the support of the American revolution – and the Constitution in which the writer has placed all his confidence:
Now leave the platform alone for a little while. What about this attack that has been made upon the fundamental institutions of this country? Who threatens them, and did we have any warning of this threat? Why, you don’t have to study party platforms. You don’t have to read books. You don’t have to listen to professors of economics. You will find the whole thing incorporated in the greatest declarations of political principles that ever came from the hands of man, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Always have in your minds that the Constitution and the first ten amendments to it were drafted by refugees and by sons of refugees, by men with bitter memories of European oppression and hardship, by men who brought to this country and handed down to their descendants an abiding fear of arbitrary centralized government and autocracy. And, listen, all the bitterness and all the hatred of the Old World was distilled in our Constitution into the purest democracy that the world has ever known.
And here, Al Smith, an intelligent, learned and just man, proves his ignorance of history. Oh, it isn’t his fault, because the facts had been buried from the time of Fort Sumter and buried even deeper after Appomattox. He indeed speaks of the original Constitution, a document that was even then far more dangerous than all but the most “aware” patriots such as Patrick Henry understood, but is seemingly unaware that that document had been quite destroyed in its original intentions, however good, by Lincoln and Lincoln’s war. It is most easy to see Smith’s ignorance in his last statement in which he identifies the United States as a democracy. We know that is not true with Franklin’s response to the lady who asked what the Constitutional Convention had given We the People. “A Republic, madame, if you can keep it!” said Dr. Franklin! Sadly, we couldn’t and we did wind up with a democracy, a form of government one step removed from the tyranny we have become.
Smith admits to the ability of “the people” through their “representatives” to “amend” the Constitution, but aside from the 18th Amendment, he forgets the great damage done by other amendments at least one of which was never legally ratified – the Fourteenth. The first Amendment after the Civil War was the Thirteenth Amendment ending chattel slavery. Now, there had been another Thirteenth Amendment proposed before the war – the Corwin Amendment – that would have placed chattel slavery into the Constitution in perpetuity! Newly elected President Abraham Lincoln before he was inaugurated worked tirelessly with Republican governors to have the Amendment ratified in the belief that its protection of slavery would entice the Cotton States back into the Union. Obviously, it was never ratified, neither do most historians believe that it would have overturned the secession of those States and the war that followed!
The Fourteenth Amendment supposedly protected the former slaves from being discriminated against among other issues. However, the determination was so broad that not only did the States of the former Confederacy refuse to ratify it, but there were several other States that also refused. However, the Radical Congress simply threw out the Southern delegates who had voted for the Thirteenth Amendment and made of the South military districts to be ruled by the United States army. As well, the Fourteenth Amendment was simply declared “ratified” though to this day it has never been legally made a part of the Constitution.
The Fifteenth Amendment giving the newly freed Negro the right to vote was ratified simply because there were no longer any Southern States to refuse to do so. The idea was to make the South “Republican” virtually eternally as Negroes could not move North given the “color codes” that existed in most Northern States. It wasn’t until the labor shortage occasioned by World War I that blacks began to move North in any numbers.
As he finishes his points, Smith makes plain that he is defining the Constitution as it originally was understood. Still, as a man who had seen all of the evils regarding the might of the “federal government” extended everywhere and over everything, one does not quite understand how he can blithely go on to mention “States rights” as if that concept – including “home rule” – had survived that Second Revolutionary War originally identified as a Civil War by Abraham Lincoln! This could not be made more clear by his statement in the second paragraph below that the Federal Government was “. . .strictly limited in its power. . .” Actually, as Smith soon found out, there were no limitations on federal power unless the central government willingly accepted them – usually in an election year!
There are just three principles, and in the interest of brevity, I will read them. I can read them quicker than talk them.
“First, a Federal Government, strictly limited in its power, with all other powers except those expressly mentioned reserved to the States and to the people, so as to insure state’s rights, guarantee home rule, and preserve freedom of individual initiative and local control.”
That is simple enough. The difference between the state constitutions and the Federal Constitution is that in the state you can do anything you want to do provided it is not prohibited by the Constitution. But in the Federal Government, according to that document, you can do only that which that Constitution tells you that you can do. What is the trouble? Congress has overstepped its powers. It went beyond that constitutional limitation, and it has enacted laws that not only violate that, but violate the home rule and the State’s rights principle. And who says that? Do I say it? Not at all. That was said by the United States Supreme Court in the last ten or twelve days. [*Smith here refers to the Butler decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided U.S. v. Butler, struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 as unconstitutional. The Court held that Congress, through this program, was using constitutional means — taxing and spending — for an unconstitutional purpose — regulating agricultural production. Regulation of agricultural production was viewed as unconstitutional in Butler because the Supreme Court reasoned that it was a power delegated exclusively to the states, and thus it was in violation of the Tenth Amendment.-vp]
At that point in time, the Supreme Court still held some of its constitutional values, though certainly, as I noted earlier, not all. And, of course, this was the reason that Roosevelt and his commie minions moved to “pack the Court” with fellow “progressives” when decisions like Butler were handed down. Neither was that concept ever abandoned by the Left as we saw only recently during the illegitimate Biden presidency.
Again, Smith goes on to point out what was (supposedly) the original intentions of that document with regard to the duties of the three branches of government. Here, however, he obviously recognizes what actually happens when a larger plan is put into place that requires a different response from the branches. The High Court had failed the Left, but Congress was a willing accomplice according to Smith:
Secondly, a government, with three independent branches; Congress to make the laws, the Executive to execute them, the Supreme Court, and so forth. You know that. In the name of Heaven, where is the independence of Congress? Why, they just laid right down. They are flatter on the Congressional floor than the rug on the table here. They surrendered all of their powers to the Executive, and that is the reason why you read in the newspapers references to Congress as the rubber-stamp Congress. We all know that the most important bills were drafted by the brain-trusters and sent over to Congress and passed by Congress without consideration, without debate and without meaning any offense at all to my Democratic brethren in Congress, I think I can safely say, without ninety per cent of them knowing what was in the bills, what was the meaning of the list that came over. And beside certain bills was “must.”
What does that mean? Speaking for the rank and file of American people, we don’t want any executive to tell Congress what it must do, and we don’t want any Congress or the Executive jointly or severally to tell the United States Supreme Court what it must do. And, on the other hand, we don’t want the United States Supreme Court to tell either of them what they must do. What we want, and what we insist upon, and what we are going to have, is the absolute preservation of this balance of power which is the keystone, the arch upon which the whole theory of democratic government has got to rest, and when you rattle it, you rattle the whole structure.
The third one is methods of amending the Constitution. Of course, when our forefathers wrote the Constitution of the United States it couldn’t be possible that they had it in their minds that it was going to be all right for all time to come. So they said, “Now, we will provide a manner and method of amending it.” That is set forth in the document itself, and during our national life we amended it many times. We amended it once by mistake, and we corrected it. [A reference to the 18th amendment, also known as Prohibition.-vp] What did we do? We took the amendment out. Fine! That is the way we want to do it, by recourse to the people. But we don’t want an Administration that takes a shot at it in the dark, and that ducks away from it and dodges away from it and tries to put something over in contradiction of it upon any theory that there is going to be a great public howl in favor of it, and it is possible that the United States Supreme Court may be intimidated into a friendly opinion with respect to it. [Consider the present issue in the High Court. What would Al Smith have thought of that, I wonder?-vp] But I have held all during my public life that Almighty God is with this country and He didn’t give us that kind of Supreme Court. [We’ll see. . .vp]
Earlier, I have pointed out what happened to the “amendment” process after the Civil War. Of course, by the time Lincoln had finished with the Constitution, such outright violations were not even a matter of interest or concern. Let’s look at what the 16th President – supposedly the ‘greatest of all’ our political leaders – did to America’s “founding document” here immortalized by Al Smith:
We get a good example of Lincoln’s viewpoint in his first inaugural address, an address in which he promises “civil war” if the already seceded Cotton States do not return immediately into the Union despite their constitutional right to leave! And in his threat, one sees the basis of it: not the Constitution, but the government! – the very “limited” agency Mr. Smith declares impotent to do those things President Roosevelt is inaugurating. This claim is hardly justified when President Lincoln did far worse things only to be exalted as a great patriot and leader!
“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. . . You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it”
Notice two things: Lincoln speaks of taking an oath to defend the government. But actually, the oath found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states as follows:
“…I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Nowhere does the word “government” appear in that oath! Lincoln swore to uphold the Constitution, not the “government! And as we shall learn later, he entered his office already prepared to sacrifice the Constitution for his idea of protecting the government.
Then, Lincoln states unequivocally that any attempt at secession will result in civil war. Now, civil war is a war between two factions vying for control of a nation. But the States of the South wished only to leave the old union and create a new one more favorable to the needs of its people. For by 1860, the Southern States were in permanent economic and political subjugation and being reduced yearly into greater and greater poverty despite producing more economically than most of the rest of the Union combined. But whatever the reasons for secession—and they were many—Lincoln saw them as an attempt to, in his words, “destroy the government” and the destruction of the government—not the destruction of the Union, becomes the mantra throughout the war. And it is to prevent the destruction of the government that all of Lincoln’s actions address. He promises—and initiates—war for that purpose. Lincoln’s motives do not change or mitigate his actions—that is, to wage war in the name of the “government” upon the states of the South. And since the federal government is not a state but a creature of the Constitution which itself is a creation of the States and voted into existence by the States—upon some of whom Lincoln was now waging war—a more clear definition of treason cannot be found. And not only was Lincoln and his government guilty of treason, but so was every person, and every state in the Union that bore arms giving aid and comfort to his treason.
Lincoln refused those restraints which the Constitution placed around and upon his “government” because to his mind the federal—now national—government was the repository of all power and answerable to no one, certainly not the States. And this mindset was never seriously contested by members of the other two branches of government. Thus strengthened, Lincoln went forth to initiate, sustain and triumph in the most bloody and brutal war ever fought by the United States and in so doing, his constitutional crimes were many and grievous:
As President-elect, he planned and carried out a “false flag” action against the government of South Carolina and the newly constitutionally created Confederate States of America in direct violation of both the Constitution and the accord reached between outgoing President Buchanan and that State not to attempt to rearm and send troops and supplies to the federal fort in Charleston. His own Cabinet violently disagreed with the President’s intentions referable to Sumter, stating that his actions would be correctly seen as a declaration of war by the Confederacy. He also conspired with General of the Armies Winfield Scott to plan and put in motion the Anaconda Plan to blockade the ports of the South, something forbidden by law in a civil war but acceptable in a war between nations.
As President, he declared war on those States that had seceded from the Union. But the Constitution gives the power to declare war only to the Congress! Article I, Section 8 states that Congress is able:
“To declare War…; To raise and support Armies. . .; To provide and maintain a Navy; … according to the discipline prescribed by Congress…”
He suspended habeas corpus, another power relegated to Congress alone in Article I; Section 9 on the duties of the Legislative Branch. Habeas corpus can be suspended, but only by Congress. Needless to say, Congress was not consulted on the matter at any time but then, neither did they object.
He used the military to control the election of 1864, sending soldiers to vote where they did not reside and using them at the polls to intimidate voters, something that was facilitated by using colored ballots indicating the voter’s intentions before his vote was cast. Gen. Butler telegraphed Lincoln from New York City declaring that not one Democrat had voted there.
He established martial law in States within the Union and areas that were not in a war zone. He suspended civil rights to what he termed “military necessity” as was stated in a letter of August 9th, 1864.
He authorized the trial of civilians by military tribunals in areas that were not war zones; this practice was continued even after the war. Consider the trial of his assassins which was military in nature, though none being tried were in fact in the military or charged with acting as members of the military.
He gave his blessing to the waging of war contrary to those rules of war in place at that time in the “civilized world,” a strategy which intentionally targeted civilians and non-combatants and involved the destruction of the enemy’s way of life, his culture, his history and his identity; that is, what today we would call “cultural genocide” and it continues to today!
He created the State of West Virginia, from territory legally part of the State of Virginia contrary to the constitutional requirement of the approval of the State, from which territory is taken to make any new State.
Under Lincoln, the First Amendment of the Constitution virtually ceased to exist. Very briefly, the Amendment states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
And while the Amendment speaks to laws created by Congress, it is forbidden for the Government in, by and/or through any of its branches, to restrict religious observance, freedom of speech, freedom of the press or the right of peaceful assembly and petition. Yet all of the above were effectively suspended by Lincoln but apparently, Al Smith either didn’t know this history or had forgotten it. Whichever was the case, in the end, Lincoln was successful in “amending” the Founders’ document, but his success led to the creation of a new nation and a different government based upon his own understanding of both, the consequences of which, Mr. Smith was only beginning to understand.
Now Smith begins to bring up his party’s past in which certain “socialist” persons figured greatly. Alas, he did not know that Mr. Lincoln was himself very involved with the socialists and communists of his time. Indeed, Karl Marx very much favored Lincoln and wrote to – and about – the man. Lincoln had many of the “48ers” – failed socialist revolutionaries – in his government and military and his desire was to “centralize” and “control,” hardly aspects of the Founders’ Republic!
For the rest of his address, Smith rejects what he is seeing as socialist influence in the government and the country, never realizing – because it was never taught! – that what America had become was the direct result of a war that was seen by all Americans save those in the South as the validation of our own Revolution and the Founding documents! Fool that he was and fools that we are not to realize that the socialists won their war not in 1932 or 2020 but in 1865! But here are the final words of a good man who never realized what was killing the country and the party he loved:
Now this is pretty tough on me to have to go at my own party this way, but I submit that there is a limit to blind loyalty. As a young man in the Democratic Party, I witnessed the rise and fall of Bryan and Bryanism, [William Jennings Bryan, a Democratic congressman from Nebraska, unsuccessfully ran for president in 1896, 1900, and 1908. He and his supporters fought for the monetization of silver, leading him to be regarded by many, even in his own party, as a dangerous radical.-vp] and I know exactly what Bryan did to our party. I knew how long it took to build it after he got finished with it. But let me say this to the everlasting credit of Bryan and the men that followed him, they had the nerve and the courage and honesty to put into the platform just what their leaders stood for. And they further put the American people into a position of making an intelligent choice when they went to the polls.
Why, the fact of this whole thing is (I speak now not only of the executive but of the legislature at the same time) that they promised one set of things, they repudiated that promise, and they launched off on a program of action totally different. Well, in 25 years of experience I have known both parties to fail to carry out some of the planks in their platform, but this is the first time that I have known a party, upon such a huge scale, not only not to carry out the planks, but to do the directly opposite thing to what they promised.
Now, suggestions – and I make these as a Democrat anxious for the success of my party, and I make them in good faith. Here are my suggestions.
No. 1: I suggest to the members of my party on Capitol Hill here in Washington that they take their minds off the Tuesday that follows the first Monday in November. [Election day -vp] Just take your minds off it to the end that you may do the right thing and not the expedient thing.
Next, I suggest to them that they dig up the 1932 platform from the grave that they buried it in, read it over, and study it, breathe life into it, and follow it in legislative and executive action, to the end that they make good their promises to the American people when they put forth that platform, and the candidate that stood upon it, one hundred per cent. In short, make good.
Third, I would suggest to them that they stop compromising with the fundamental principles laid down by Jackson and Jefferson and Cleveland.
Fourth, stop attempting to alter the form and structure of our Government without recourse to the people themselves as provided in their own constitution. This country belongs to the people, and it doesn’t belong to any Administration.
Next, I suggest that they read their Oath of Office to support the Constitution of the United States. And I ask them to remember that they took that oath with their hands on the Holy Bible, thereby calling upon God Almighty Himself to witness their solemn promise. It is bad enough to disappoint us.
Sixth, I suggest that from this moment they resolve to make the Constitution again the civil bible of the United States and pay it the same civil respect and reverence that they would religiously pay the Holy Scripture, and I ask them to read from the Holy Scripture the Parable of the Prodigal Son and to follow his example. “Stop! Stop wasting your substance in a foreign land and come back to your Father’s house.”
Now, in conclusion let me give this solemn warning. There can be only one Capitol – Washington or Moscow. There can be only one atmosphere of government, the clear, pure, fresh air of free America, or the foul breath of Communistic Russia. There can be only one flag, the Stars and Stripes, or the Red Flag of the godless union of the Soviet. There can be only one National Anthem. The Star Spangled Banner or the Internationale. [A celebrated hymn of the socialist movement since the late 19th century, the Internationale became the first national anthem of the Soviet Union.-vp] There can be only one victor. If the Constitution wins, we win. But if the Constitution – Stop! Stop there! The Constitution can’t lose. The fact is, it has already won, but the news has not reached certain ears.
Sadly, Alfred Emanual Smith was wrong. The Constitution lost. It lost not under Roosevelt, but under Lincoln and it lost in a war fought not between nations, but between Sovereign States motivated not by ideology but by money. Yet, we rejoice to see such men as Al Smith even when they lose. It is nice to know even as the darkness closes over what was once great and glorious, that such men did exist and spoke out against that darkness.
What a well written article and chock full of well documented insight as to what the ‘ temp’ of that bygone era truly was. Another interesting personal note is that my Father was named Alfred after Alfred E. Smith, due to our shared Catholic faith. Keep up the great writings and Long live Dixieland!