The First Amendment. Still the finest statement of human and humane decency

Malcolm Redfellow

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The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
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.
That, to me, remains one of the bases of "liberalism" anywhere in the modern, democratic, free world.

Today, out of prejudice and spite, the President of the United States closed the ports and airports of America to decent folk, allegedly on grounds of national origin, but explicitly on a basis of religion.

Even the most conservative of US Supreme Courts could not accept that diktat. But, it's all part of the great electoral game, huh?

For the record, let me recall that James Madison, later the fourth President, was the drafter of the Bill of Rights. His first draft was superb:
The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or in any pretext, infringed.
I look forward to Originalists and ultra-conservatives — nay, even alt-right loons — arguing with that.
 


Congalltee

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I'm quite partial to this expression and it has yet to be fully utilised:

"The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past."

[The reference to children of the nation is not obviously to minors]

Which was diluted by:
Article 40

All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.
This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.
Titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the State.
No title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government.
The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.
The State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen.
 

statsman

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The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

That, to me, remains one of the bases of "liberalism" anywhere in the modern, democratic, free world.

Today, out of prejudice and spite, the President of the United States closed the ports and airports of America to decent folk, allegedly on grounds of national origin, but explicitly on a basis of religion.

Even the most conservative of US Supreme Courts could not accept that diktat. But, it's all part of the great electoral game, huh?

For the record, let me recall that James Madison, later the fourth President, was the drafter of the Bill of Rights. His first draft was superb:


I look forward to Originalists and ultra-conservatives — nay, even alt-right loons — arguing with that.
Madison owned about 100 slaves when he died, and was the proposet of the Three-fifths compromise. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Liberals all, to a point.
 

Ceartgoleor

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The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

That, to me, remains one of the bases of "liberalism" anywhere in the modern, democratic, free world.

Today, out of prejudice and spite, the President of the United States closed the ports and airports of America to decent folk, allegedly on grounds of national origin, but explicitly on a basis of religion.

Even the most conservative of US Supreme Courts could not accept that diktat. But, it's all part of the great electoral game, huh?

For the record, let me recall that James Madison, later the fourth President, was the drafter of the Bill of Rights. His first draft was superb:


I look forward to Originalists and ultra-conservatives — nay, even alt-right loons — arguing with that.

Your last line perhaps best describes your type of 'Liberalism'.
 

statsman

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This is, I believe, a far superior expression of the concept:

'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.'
 

west'sawake

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This is, I believe, a far superior expression of the concept:

'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.'
The sisterhood might not agree with you.
 

GDPR

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I like what Kurt Vonnegut had to say about the 1st.

The First Amendment reads more like a dream than a law, and no other nation, so far as I know, has been crazy enough to include such a dream among its fundamental legal documents. I defend it because it has been so successful for two centuries in preserving our freedom and increasing our vitality, knowing that all arguments in support of it are certain to sound absurd.
 

statsman

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I like what Kurt Vonnegut had to say about the 1st.

The First Amendment reads more like a dream than a law, and no other nation, so far as I know, has been crazy enough to include such a dream among its fundamental legal documents. I defend it because it has been so successful for two centuries in preserving our freedom and increasing our vitality, knowing that all arguments in support of it are certain to sound absurd.
Fortunately, Kurt didn't live to see the Tangerine Bollix in the White House.
 

GDPR

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Fortunately, Kurt didn't live to see the Tangerine Bollix in the White House.

He also said there is no freedom so profoundly tragic because there is no end to the sheer
garbage some people will come out with ...
 

Dame_Enda

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I also like the First Amendment except the lack of safeguards in cases of defamation and slander.

When Scalia was on the SC immigration cases tended to break down 5-4 in favour of restrictions. Its important Trump gets his man/woman on the SC. Otherwise its likely the court will refuse to rule on the law because they are deadlocked 4-4. So in practice a Federal court will probably decide whether or not to uphold the executive orders.

The Immigration and Nationality Act 1952 allows the president to ban suspected subversives from entering. (Parts of the bill have been repealed since but not that part).
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Madison owned about 100 slaves when he died, and was the proposet of the Three-fifths compromise. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Liberals all, to a point.
True. Madison was a third-generation slave-owner. What you have spotted is a distinction between "slave-owner" and racist. Now there's a historical nuance which goes far beyond the comprehension of, and doesn't work with undergraduate history students.

On the other hand:
  • his biographer, Paul Jennings, had been his life-long valet (and also in slavery). He was literate to a remarkable degree. His memoir recorded that Madison was one of the best men who ever lived.
  • Madison approvingly observed a fellow landowner, who just happened to be "Black" (modern terminology) running a two-and-a-half thousand acre property, with six hired hands, with “industry & good management”.
  • Madison was familiar with, regularly dined with, and hosted at Montpelier, a certain Christopher McPherson. McPherson was one of Madison's channels for regular exchange of letters and documents with the likes of Jefferson. McPherson was a free "Black".
  • As President, Madison's personal secretary consistently remained Edward Coles. This was despite Coles arguing repeatedly with Madison that slavery went against the ethics of "natural rights".
  • In 1816 Jesse Torrey subjected Madison to a torrent of abuse on the topic of slavery. Torrey then felt he had exploited Madison's hospitality; and wrote a letter of apology. Madison replied that no apology was necessary.
  • When Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, — yes "Lafayette" himself — came a-visiting, Madison had another earful. Madison heard him without denial.
  • Harriet Martineau, a famous early abolitionist (and straight-speaking Norfolk girl), came to see the declining Madison, shortly before his death. She recorded that "he talked more on the subject of slavery than on any other, acknowledging, without limitations or hesitation, all the evils with which it has ever been charged.”
I'm not claiming Madison would fulfil recent standards (and those of opinionated undergraduates); but to deplore him as the worst kind of salve-master is wrong. He was a traditionalist, a stuck-in-the-mud Virginian landowner (and therefore slave-owner) of his time. Scottish mine-owners were not greatly advanced. His slaves had their Sunday day-of-respite. Had he been a better "economist", as others — now lauded as more "liberal" — were, he would have recognised more cost-efficient ways of wage-slavery.

Immediately after his death, his widow, the unsinkable Dolley Madison, rid the Montpelier estate of all its slaves. She, though, was a Quaker. It contributed significantly to the ruin of Montpelier, and her own near-destitution.
 

statsman

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True. Madison was a third-generation slave-owner. What you have spotted is a distinction between "slave-owner" and racist. Now there's a historical nuance which goes far beyond the comprehension of, and doesn't work with undergraduate history students.

On the other hand:
  • his biographer, Paul Jennings, had been his life-long valet (and also in slavery). He was literate to a remarkable degree. His memoir recorded that Madison was one of the best men who ever lived.
  • Madison approvingly observed a fellow landowner, who just happened to be "Black" (modern terminology) running a two-and-a-half thousand acre property, with six hired hands, with “industry & good management”.
  • Madison was familiar with, regularly dined with, and hosted at Montpelier, a certain Christopher McPherson. McPherson was one of Madison's channels for regular exchange of letters and documents with the likes of Jefferson. McPherson was a free "Black".
  • As President, Madison's personal secretary consistently remained Edward Coles. This was despite Coles arguing repeatedly with Madison that slavery went against the ethics of "natural rights".
  • In 1816 Jesse Torrey subjected Madison to a torrent of abuse on the topic of slavery. Torrey then felt he had exploited Madison's hospitality; and wrote a letter of apology. Madison replied that no apology was necessary.
  • When Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, — yes "Lafayette" himself — came a-visiting, Madison had another earful. Madison heard him without denial.
  • Harriet Martineau, a famous early abolitionist (and straight-speaking Norfolk girl), came to see the declining Madison, shortly before his death. She recorded that "he talked more on the subject of slavery than on any other, acknowledging, without limitations or hesitation, all the evils with which it has ever been charged.”
I'm not claiming Madison would fulfil recent standards (and those of opinionated undergraduates); but to deplore him as the worst kind of salve-master is wrong. He was a traditionalist, a stuck-in-the-mud Virginian landowner (and therefore slave-owner) of his time. Scottish mine-owners were not greatly advanced. His slaves had their Sunday day-of-respite. Had he been a better "economist", as others — now lauded as more "liberal" — were, he would have recognised more cost-efficient ways of wage-slavery.

Immediately after his death, his widow, the unsinkable Dolley Madison, rid the state of all the slaves. She, though, was a Quaker. It contributed significantly to the ruin of Montpelier, and her own near-destitution.
You cannot belive in human dignity and own slaves. To claim, as Madison and the others did, that you can and do is rank hypocrisy.
 

The Sentinel

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The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

That, to me, remains one of the bases of "liberalism" anywhere in the modern, democratic, free world.

Today, out of prejudice and spite, the President of the United States closed the ports and airports of America to decent folk, allegedly on grounds of national origin, but explicitly on a basis of religion.

Even the most conservative of US Supreme Courts could not accept that diktat. But, it's all part of the great electoral game, huh?

For the record, let me recall that James Madison, later the fourth President, was the drafter of the Bill of Rights. His first draft was superb:


I look forward to Originalists and ultra-conservatives — nay, even alt-right loons — arguing with that.
It is a pity it is so badly written.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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I'm quite partial to this expression and it has yet to be fully utilised:

"The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past."
"Happiness and prosperity", indeed. Hmmm ...

I'd equally suggest the somewhat-verbose Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922 wasn't too dusty: try Articles 5 to 11 as a fair crack at a statement of what and who we are. Simply transcribing the US Bill of Rights would have saved a lot of verbiage, though.
 


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