Wednesday, April 4

X Marks the Law

By Grant Davies

On this day (+1) in 1792, George Washington - a guy accustomed to being the first to do things - became the first U.S. President to tell the U.S. Congress to shove it. The act is politely called a veto, but the message is the same. Unfortunately, it's a lost art.

It seems that a group of congressmen from the northern states had decided to try to stack the political deck against their southern neighbors by passing a new law that would increase the number of representatives the north enjoyed in the lower chamber. Washington, who was from Virginia, was sure this was a poor idea, particularly for Virginia.

The vote on the bill had been split right down the geographical line. But the real problem wasn't political, it was philosophical. Washington's tiny cabinet was split on many things, and philosophy was one of them. But they had their heads screwed on straight back then, and one of them, a certain Tom Jefferson, pointed out to George that among all the other problems, the law was unconstitutional because the number of representatives was fixed at a certain number in that still relevant document.

In the end, George told the congress to shove it where the constitution don't shine. They did, and it never saw the light of day again. It was a crappy law even before they shoved it.

Jefferson went on to suggest the apportionment system. The congress and the President agreed that it was a good plan, and it took the place of the vetoed bill. Washington signed it and it's the system we have today.

Recent Presidents should have taken a page from Washington's book, but they didn't. Instead, they propose unconstitutional things themselves and only veto laws that aren't passed by their own parties.

Maybe "we the people" should tell them to shove it.

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