Friday, February 14, 2020

Shakespeare Explains Democrats

[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

 “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death [substitute all recent Democrat initiatives]. Out, out, brief candle.
Life’s [substitute Presidential Debates and Primaries] but a walking shadow, a poor player [substitute Democrat presidential candidates]
That struts and frets his [her] hour upon the stage [substitute Election Day],
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” [Shakespeare: McBeth, Act V, Scene 5]

Presented with apologies to William Shakespeare. These classic verses just echoed in my mind as I watched the Democrat debates. Then, I watched the Iowa Democrat primaries unfold. As all of the world – literally – watched the primary results on television, I’m sure most of us stared at them in disbelief that anything as important as this could go so wrong. And my fellow newscasters and bloggers are absolutely correct when they point out the people responsible for this debacle want to run the country – good luck!

Without belaboring the point, truly this was a proxy of things to come. How these candidates can be supported by people who hold themselves out to be journalists – can say with a straight face the Democrats could do better than President Trump is amazing. When you look at all of his accomplishments in the face of what he and his family has had to endure, it presents an insurmountable venture for the Democrat candidates to even describe, much less try to argue, that they will do better.

As a taxpayer I am beyond disgusted to think of the millions of dollars that the House of Representatives has spent trying to impeach President Trump and otherwise completely destroy our country. They have done nothing productive. It is too bad that our tax laws do not allow us to designate which representatives can be paid or not paid – although the Democrats are so ravenous in their attempts to destroy this President that I doubt it would make any difference whether they were paid or not!

And even more amazing is that the message they have presented is so far from the American dream as to make it even more confusing and idiotic why they are even running. You don’t have to be driven by the almighty dollar to sort through the rubble they wish to push on us. As the statistic shows over 90% of Americans are satisfied with their current personal life status .

Good grief! Besides the unbelievable economic statistics concerning rising wages, declining unemployment, booming retirement portfolios, etc. – what part of this calculus don’t these candidates understand? How can they continue to lie to the American people and expect us to take them seriously and vote for them in November? They get up on stage for the debates and look each other in the eye and tell lies in a manner such as to outdo their opponents – that is, they try to one best them. 

The words of William Shakespeare are so applicable when he says “…It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” The only thing more discouraging than watching these candidates enjoying themselves bloviating on national television is the fact that I have to watch it for eight more months – oh dear. "Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest" [Shakespeare: King Lear, Act I, Scene 4]. Sorry William, but thou speaketh so eloquently!

Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

GAO’s Ukraine Smear

[Published on Newsmax]

The anti-Trump chorus is breathlessly declaring the January 16, Government Accountability Office (GAO) report asserts “Trump broke the law” regarding Ukraine aid. 

That is not what the report states and that is not what happened.

The GAO serves a vital oversight function for the Federal Government.  Annually, GAO reports on waste, fraud, and mismanagement identify billions of dollars in potential savings. The Agency studiously avoids politics by outlining procedural and legal compliance issues.

GAO Report B-331564 is different, as it is incomplete on facts while overstating the Trump Administration’s noncompliance with a controversial law.

The report never admits that the Ukraine Aid in question was, in fact, released on September 11, prior to the deadline of September 30, 2019.

This omission is fundamental to the entire Ukraine matter and undermines GAO’s credibility.

The GAO report centers on the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). This was passed as part of Congress reining-in President Richard Nixon.  Nixon had impounded funds for many programs and agencies to counter Congressional spending sprees.  His actions continued a long-standing practice, going back to Thomas Jefferson, of Presidents exercising fiscal discipline to thwart Congressional overspending.

The Congress took advantage of Nixon’s ebbing power by pushing through the ICA and other legislation to open the spending flood gates.  Discretionary spending has ballooned out of control ever since.

Presidents, Republican and Democrat, have attempted to restore the balance in budgeting and spending policy.  The GAO’s Ukraine report cites numerous court cases where Clinton and other Presidents have sought court assistance to set limits and clarify processes.

All funds were released prior to the Congressional deadline.  The delay in releasing Ukraine funds never crossed these legal lines. 

In fact, the delays fully complied with the law authorizing the funds (PL 115-232), as it explicitly stated that, “In order to obligate more than fifty percent of the amount appropriated, DOD was also required to certify to Congress that Ukraine had taken ‘substantial actions’ on defense institutional reforms’”.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued numerous “apportionment schedules” with footnotes explaining the delay in releasing the funds was to “allow for an interagency process to determine best use of such funds”.  Each memo consistently stated that, “this brief pause in obligations will not preclude DOD’s timely execution of the final policy direction.”

One part of the foreign military financing (FMF) earmarked for Ukraine was delayed only six days.

The GAO Ukraine report, clearly states that:

The President may temporarily withhold funds from obligation—but not beyond the end of the fiscal year in which the President transmits the special message—by proposing a “deferral.”  2 U.S.C. § 684”

At no point in the Ukraine Report does the GAO find that OMB or the President triggered a deferral or impoundment.  Therefore, there was no violation of the Impoundment Control Act (ICA).

However, the GAO pours through countless memos from the OMB, as well as OMB responses to GAO questions.  Unfortunately, OMB’s responses dug avoidable holes into which the Trump Administration fell by raising needless challenges to the ICA.

OMB engaged in a battle it did not need to fight.  This triggered GAO having to recount the ICA battles from other Administrations and pointing out the flaws in OMB’s arguments.  OMB responded by not responding.  As the GAO-OMB dialogue dissipated, political rhetoric seeped-in.

The GAO stepped over their line by asserting there may be “potential impoundments” where none exist.  You either impound or you don’t.  There is no “potential”. The GAO ascribes “policy reasons” for the delay of funds without providing any evidence. 

Finally, to carve out its own place in the Impeachment, the GAO violated decades of its own professional code of conduct by declaring, “We consider a reluctance to provide a fulsome response to have constitutional significance”.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a dedicated Never-Trumper, requested the GAO Ukraine report on October 30, 2019.  He kept demanding GAO provide a report sooner versus later in a letter dated December 23, 2019.  The GAO admits that its report is a work in progress and states it is waiting on additional information from the State Department and OMB. 

Unfortunately, Thomas Armstrong, GAO General Counsel, was willing to risk the agency’s reputation as the gold standard of oversight, by prematurely releasing an incomplete and flawed report, immediately relegating it to just another politically charged smear.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


[Also Published on Newsmax]

Leftists have launched their final assault on America.

Their goal is to obliterate America’s memory and sow the seeds for future generations to revile and reject everything that is good and noble in our country.

They intend to fundamentally change America’s historical narrative away from events and circumstances that made our country the world’s beacon of hope for freedom and representative government.  They strive to replace well-documented reality with a false narrative of America being the scourge of the world, based on its enslaving and stealing from everyone to enrich and aggrandize the white ruling elite.

Their plan is called the “1619 Project”, an alternative history curriculum for American elementary and secondary students.  It was announced in July 2019 with a series of front-page stories in the New York Times, and other major newspapers, explaining its content and the need to:

“reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

The 1619 premise is, “our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written”.  Everything that happened in American history flows from the “original sin” of slavery.  Every concept, document, and institution that shapes and guides America was designed to promote slavery and therefore must all be eradicated to atone for centuries of racial oppression.

1619 proponents declare that we must “make amends” for America’s crimes against humanity by eliminating monuments, the Electoral College, the Senate, appointed Supreme Court justices, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, federalism, capitalism, and all vestiges of white history and culture.  The 1619 Project is partnering with those who deem the American Flag, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem as offensive vestiges of racism, slavery, and white privilege.

We could ignore the 1619 Project if it was just the ravings of a coddled leftist professor in some Ivy League sinecure.  It is not.

The New York Times leads an array of news media, academia, think tanks, and public officials who see the 1619 Project as the final solution for turning America against itself.  Once they indoctrinate the current generation of elementary and secondary school students with hatred for America, drowning out dissenting voices with charges of racism and white privilege, they will have free rein to establish a permanent socialist state.

The 1619 Project was embraced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she led members of the Congressional Black Caucus to Ghana during the August Recess.  They wanted the 1619 narrative of the first African slaves arriving at Jamestown to upstage commemorating the first session of an elected government at Jamestown.

To succeed, the 1619 Project must ignore mountains of facts, and fabricate a mountain of lies.

The centerpiece of the 1619 Project is that slavery was a uniquely American crime, infecting everything and everybody it touched to the present day.

The capture and enslavement of defeated foes is as old as humankind.  Slavery was integral to establishing regional dominance for the Egyptian Pharaohs, Muslim Emirs, Roman Emperors, and countless other rulers.  The Western Hemisphere’s great civilizations of the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs enslaved their subjugated people for labor and ritual sacrifice. African rulers trading their slaves to Europeans was born from new sailing technology and the need for forced labor.

The 1619 Project ignores the fact that only 9.7 percent of the Atlantic slave trade involved England’s American colonies.  90.3 percent of African slaves were shipped to South America and the Caribbean.

The 1619 Project ignores that while 12 million West Africans were shipped by Europeans to the Americas, over 17 million East Africans were shipped by Arabs into the Middle East.  The 1619 Project ignores that the American colonies began banning slave importation in 1778, during the Revolutionary War, leading to a formal ban for the entire United States in 1794.  England did not ban slavery in its colonies until 1807.  Conversely, the Arab slave trade in East Africa was not eradicated until England destroyed the last slave forts in Zanzibar in 1909.  Slavery remains active, if officially banned, in much of the Arab world today.

The year 1619 is important, not because slaves arrived in the new world, but because for the first time in the Western Hemisphere, a free people elected representatives to govern and be held accountable at subsequent elections.  This was the first step to America becoming the most exceptional civic culture in world history.

Americans must do all they can to stop the 1619 Project and stand-up for the greatest nation on earth, before it’s too late.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


[Published on NewsMax]

The surreal world of the Trump Impeachment Inquiry is assailing those who respect the will of the voters.  Those defying this fundamental principle of American democracy are being lauded.

It is perverse to allow opponents of voter-mandated change to remain in policy positions.

Trump’s predicament was completely avoidable.  All he had to do was be as assertive with government personnel as he was with his company’s hiring and firing.  

It is doubtful that Trump left legacy executives in place when he acquired hotels, golf courses, and casinos.  Trump brought in his own team.  They assessed the management and service team members, to align them with Trump’s corporate culture and branding.  Those who displayed loyalty and competence remained, all others were replaced.  This happened quickly.  Once the Trump logo was unfurled, Trump’s operational culture and customer service experience had to exist. 

It is, therefore, disappointing that Trump approached the Executive Branch with such hesitancy.

Like any large vessel, the federal “ship of state” has a command bridge from where the captain leads the ship.  A new President quickly realizes that, while his bridge, the Oval Office, affords a wonderful view, its steering wheel and control levers must be hooked-up to run the ship.  Control of the engine room is fundamental to moving in the intended direction. The ship’s crew must follow the captain’s decisions.  It is the same in the Executive Branch.  People equal policy.

The Executive Branch is far more complex than any ship or corporation.  The outgoing party leaves behind cadres of guerrilla fighters to frustrate, hinder, and destroy the new President’s agenda.  This preserves the old and enables defeating the new.  

Cabinet Departments and agencies each have unique cultures that shape those serving in the career service.  Depending on the party in power, some agencies will be more friendly or hostile than others.  

Careerists can be just as political as political appointees.  Their politics is about preserving power, funding, turf, prestige, and policy.  Those aligned with the previous Administration will have benefited from rapid advancement.  Those less enthusiastic, will have been relegated to dark recesses, well away from critical policy paths.

An incoming Administration uses its network of friendly Congressional offices, policy organizations, and media outlets to map out its allies and enemies within the Executive Branch.  This is what Transitions are for.

Trump was ill-served from the start.  He ignored the advice and offers of help from Ronald Reagan alumni, who ran the last fully successful Republican transition.  Instead, Trump turned to Governor Christie.  Christie turned to his friends in the Romney, Bush, and Ford circles.  They recommended that the Boston Consulting Group, the epicenter of Bush operatives, run the Trump Transition.  The rest, sadly, is history.  

It could have been so different.  

Starting in 1978, Reagan’s inner circle worked closely with the vast network of conservative groups: The Heritage Foundation, Kingston, Stanton, Library Court, Chesapeake Society, Federalist Society, Monday Club, Conservative Caucus, American Legislative Exchange Council, Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, and the Eagle Forum.   

This conservative network placed key operatives into Reagan’s national campaign and transition.  They identified over 17,000 positions that affected Executive Branch operations.  A separate team identified the key positions in each cabinet department and major agency that had to be under Reagan’s control in the first week of his presidency.

On January 21, 1981, Reagan’s personnel team immediately removed every Carter political appointee.  They were walked out the door, identification badge taken, files sealed, and their security clearance terminated.  In one instance, a Carter political appointee at ACTION was physically prevented from signing the nearly one million dollars of leftist grants sitting on his desk.  The Carter era ended completely and instantaneously.

Over the next sixty days, Ambassadors were recalled, White House detailees were reassigned. Every management and supervisory careerist who had been hired or promoted during the previous year was reviewed, and those not truly there on their merits, were removed.

American voters soundly rejected Carter and wanted the Reagan Revolution.  They got it.

Reagan loyalists, as temporary appointees, entered every cabinet department and agency to enforce policy, review contracts, and terminate anyone or any entity that were there to promote Carter policy.  Every legal action, regulation, negotiation, and grant was stopped until assessed based upon Reagan policy.  Overwhelming numbers of fulltime Reagan loyalists rapidly implemented his revolution.

By May 1981, Reagan was in full command of the Executive Branch.  Core management teams in every department and agency moved deeper into the bureaucracy.  Wave after wave of management and personnel changes occurred, paving the way for the Reagan Era to flourish.

Thorough planning and expert implementation by solid loyalists resulted in no leaks and no sabotage. 

Reagan had a sign on his desk “It CAN be done”.  

It was.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Democrats Concede 2020 Presidential Election

[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

“Dewey Defeats Truman” was the banner headline on the Chicago Daily Tribune November 3, 1948. I am guessing that the above headline probably seemed as strange. But it’s true! The Democrat Party has all but overtly given up the 2020 presidential election.

Let’s examine the facts and see why this conclusion is probable. First the candidates. Joe Biden will be out of the race in the very near future. It is only a matter of time before all of his problems sink him. Between his gaffes and other issues while he was the Vice President, his son, Hunter, will probably provide the ignominious ending to a political career that should’ve ended years ago. 

And Bernie? Beyond his advanced age, he is like a mediocre boxer entering the ring with one arm tied behind his back. People will not ignore the fact that he has health issues – including “chest pains” – even before he assumes the position of President! “He has continued to raise substantial amounts of money [however] from his dedicated supporters — on Tuesday, his campaign celebrated an impressive third-quarter fund-raising haul of $25.3 million — and has remained among the top three contenders in the primary. But he has been unable to expand his base beyond those enthusiasts. In recent weeks, he shook up his staff in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two nominating states, in an effort to jump-start his candidacy as Ms. Warren passed him in some polls….

“In recent weeks, he has struggled with hoarseness, which forced him to cancel several events last month, but he then returned to the campaign trail. In March, he hit his head on the edge of a glass shower door, requiring seven stitches.”

Elizabeth Warren seems to be getting traction. But every time she opens her mouth to deliver some sort of pithy anecdote, a falsehood rolls out of her mouth. “Elizabeth Warren is telling a lie about herself. Again. The media are covering for her. Again.

“It is by now well established that Elizabeth Warren is a serial liar. She lied about her parents having to elope because of racism against her mother, who was white. She lied about being the first nursing mother to take the bar exam in New Jersey (which doesn’t keep such records). She lied about being a “single mom” when she met her second and present husband (she was still married, and had not yet filed for divorce). She lied about the death of Michael Brown, which was not a murder. Only recently, after more than 30 years, has she stopped lying about being a Cherokee and a woman of color.

“Lately Warren has been telling a story about how a boss supposedly fired her from a teaching gig after discerning at a glance that she was pregnant. Her own previous telling was otherwise: She walked away from that job.”

I’m only presenting the top three candidates because after that – there is no hope. All of the other candidates have already demonstrated they would not be able to handle the duties of President of the United States – and the American voters understand that. Do not believe the polls because the media have skewed all possible angles of this election to accentuate the positives of any Democrat candidate to make them a better candidate than President Trump. The problem is that the extreme right and the extreme left get most of the headlines because the media reports on them as if they represent all of the moderates who may simply lean slightly to the left or slightly to the right. This means that elections are won in the middle and currently not enough Democrats recognize it. If you are a registered Democrat and you always have been, but you are considering voting for Trump – well, that really sums up the trouble that party is in now. Also, don’t forget about the silent majority.

Going beyond the candidate will be the problem of the platform that any Democrat candidate will have to support (one or more of the following): Socialism (in general), Laxer Abortion Laws and Infanticide, Raise Income Taxes, Increase Social Security Payouts, Open Borders, Defund Military, Confiscate Guns, Eliminate Usage of Fossil Fuels, Defend/Support Illegal Aliens, Suppress Free Speech, Reparations for Slavery, Abolish Electoral College, Free College/Forgive College Loan Debt, Universal Child Care, Ban Fracking/Offshore Drilling, Increase the Estate Tax, Implement a Wealth Tax, Raise Minimum Wage, Rejoin Iran Nuclear Deal, Support DC and Puerto Rico Statehoods, Contraceptive Mandate, Increase Funding of  Planned Parenthood, Repeal Hyde Amendment, End Capital Punishment, Never Implement Voter ID, Pack the Supreme Court, Housing Give-away, Medicare for All, Weaken the Economy, and the Green New Deal. Most Americans don't want any these changes – especially once they understand them and how they will be financed.

Finally, “According to 
Moody’s Analytics, Trump is headed toward another four years in the White House. And, if the numbers are right, it won’t even be close….

Under the current Moody’s Analytics baseline economic outlook, which does not forecast any recession, the 2020 election looks like Trump’s to lose,” the authors wrote. “Democrats can still win if they are able to turn out the vote at record levels, but, under normal turnout conditions, the president is projected to win.”

Granted the “Moody’s Analytics” is a pocketbook analysis: If the economy is strong, Trump Wins; if it is a recession, Trump may lose. But as the article points out, it has only been incorrect once since 1980 – and that was with Trump! 

So, what is a Democrat to do? Wait and see. Between now and February 2020 there may be some last-minute changes – like Hillary Clinton joining the fray and running for President. Another possibility: Michelle Obama. While she has professed no interest in running for President, there are many people who have encouraged her and believe she could win.

Other people believe Trump would shred her. I personally believe that she will reenter politics at some point. Right now, I think that the Democrat Party is trying to groom her for a Presidential run in 2024.

The bottom line: The Democrat party does not have a viable candidate – and they know it! I believe President Trump will be reelected – and there will be no need for a recount!

Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Friday, September 27, 2019

A Fire Bell in the Night: The Story of Maine Statehood (Part 2)

Guest Essayist: Jeffrey Hollingsworth

[Part of Constituting America’s 90 Day Study of State & Local Government]

The Maine Event: The Crisis and Its Outcome

The young United States was expanding, and by 1819 had grown to 21 states from the original 13 with more territories lining up to get in thanks to the Louisiana Purchase. But this raised serious political problems. The thorny slavery issue darkened much of American political discourse and policy in the early post-independence years. A precarious balance of power in Congress between slave-holding and free states prevailed until December 1819, when pro-slavery Alabama was admitted to the Union as the 22nd state.

Missouri, carved from the Louisiana Purchase, came knocking next seeking statehood but its application ignited an enormous constitutional crisis which quickly involved Maine. In November 1818, the Missouri territorial legislature passed legislation requesting statehood and transmitted it to the U.S. Congress in December. What should have been a no-brainer for admission became bogged down in controversy over the precarious balance between slave and free states. Missouri intended to permit slavery, which prompted free-state legislators to attach “killer” amendments to the Missouri statehood bill that stalled it. Chaos and uproar ensued in Washington.
Along came Maine, where separation sentiment was growing. Many previous efforts to permit Maine to break away died in the Massachusetts General Court (legislature). But the times were catching up. Seeking to eliminate its Revolutionary War debt to the U.S. government, Massachusetts found easy money by selling off vast swaths of public land in Maine and by granting generous acreages to war veterans. Thousands of pioneer families left the crowded Bay State and trekked to the Maine wilderness seeking elbow room and new opportunities. In less than 30 years, the population more than tripled, from 91,000 in 1791 to 300,000 by 1820.
As Maine grew, so did discontent with its political and economic dependence on Massachusetts. Prosperous coastal merchants, eager to govern themselves, were the first to complain. But with continued population growth outside the old coastal towns, frustration spread to fishermen and inland farmers and woodsmen, who had little in common with the governing gentry. By 1800, they were spearheading the quest for statehood, citing a long list of economic and political grievances. The War of 1812 was the final nail in the coffin, even for the merchant class.
At last, in the summer of 1819, Mainers voted so overwhelmingly–nearly ¾ of the electorate– for statehood that Massachusetts could no longer turn a blind eye. The legislature reluctantly adopted a statehood bill for Maine in late 1819, but with one proviso: if statehood was not approved by Congress and signed by the President by March 4, 1820, Maine would remain tethered to Massachusetts.
The Maine statehood bill came up in Congress in December of 1819, mere weeks after Missouri’s bid. Maine’s application offered the possibility of a compromise. To maintain the free-state/slave-state balance, Congressional leaders pushed the two requests for statehood as a package — one new slave and one new free state. Maine suddenly found itself in the midst of a firestorm of controversy.
Abolitionists all over the Union erupted. They were firmly opposed to the admission of any new slave states. Pro-slavery interests were equally as upset. Many Mainers, most of them ardent abolitionists, were torn. To prevent the spread of slavery, they found themselves calling for the defeat of the very bill that would have granted them long-sought statehood. The most distinguished Maine native in the country was Rufus King. Born and raised in Scarborough, scion of a wealthy family, he had a noteworthy political career. A Signer of the U.S. Constitution, he was twice the Federalist Party candidate for President and was a U.S. Senator from New York at the time of the Maine-Missouri imbroglio. With a heavy heart, he opposed the Maine statehood measure because, as he correctly foresaw, the “compromise” didn’t settle the slavery issue, but merely postponed a final day of reckoning. Meanwhile, his half-brother, William King, principal author of Maine’s constitution, was elected Maine’s first Governor.
At the last minute, the bill for Maine statehood passed Congress; on March 3, 1820, and signed into law, taking effect on March 15. Maine became our 23rd state. Missouri joined the Union as a slave state in 1821. The so-called Missouri Compromise had severely tested several key articles and amendments in the U.S. Constitution during tense, angry debates. In a long letter on April 22, 1820, to his friend and political associate John Holmes, who became one of Maine’s first two U.S. Senators, the aging Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“… this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence.”

Like the venerable Rufus King, Jefferson perceived that the Missouri Compromise represented “a reprieve only, not a final sentence.”  That “final sentence” would come through all-out war 40 years later.

Maine’s Constitution
The Maine Constitution is the fourth-oldest operating state constitution in the country. The 210 delegates to the statehood convention in October 1819 unanimously adopted the proposed state constitution, which is modeled closely on the U.S. Constitution. Notable contents:
·          Article I contains 24 sections, the longest of which (Section 3) painstakingly spells out provisions regarding religious liberty.

·          Thomas Jefferson authored Sections 1 and 2 of Article VIII addressing education.

·          Article I, Section 6-A is one of the earliest official codifications in the U.S. of non-discrimination against all persons without exception.

·          Article I, Section 16 is among the most explicit defenses of the right to keep and bear arms ever written: “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.”

·          Article II, Section 1 specifically grants Native Americans “residing on tribal reservations and otherwise qualified” the right to vote in all elections.

In 2015, controversy erupted when a Maliseet Tribe delegate to the Maine Legislature sought to overturn a 19th Century ban on printing the text of Article X, Section 5, which defines the state’s obligations to Native American tribes via carryover provisions from Massachusetts.

The Constitution of Maine is updated as necessary by the Revisor of Statutes upon ratification of amendments by the voters of the state. The Constitution of Maine is subject to recodification every 10 years by its own terms (Article X, Section 6). The last recodification was in 2013.

Additional Maine History

·          Printed flat maps show Maine as extremely high north. In truth, seven U.S. states extend farther north in whole or part than Maine. True globes confirm that Maine is much more easterly than northerly. Portland is the closest key seaport to Europe by a factor of hundreds of miles, as is Bangor International Airport (a former B-52 bomber base) for air traffic. The easternmost point in the U.S. is, oddly enough, West Quoddy Head in Lubec, Maine.

·          The legendary political axiom “As Maine goes, so goes the nation” stems from the fact that Maine once held its general elections in September rather than November, on the sensible reasoning that snow could be flying by then. In September 1840, Maine elected a Whig Party governor. That November, Whig candidate William Henry Harrison was elected President. That launched the saying of Maine as a political bellwether, which held true roughly 70% of the time up through the late 1920s. Maine amended its constitution in 1957 to conform to the rest of the country and held elections in November effective in 1960.

·          The baseball term signifying the batting order–“At bat, on deck, and in the hole”—originated in Belfast, Maine, in 1872. It was confirmed personally by Paul Dickson, author of the authoritative, widely cited Dickson Baseball Dictionary, based on his original research in Belfast in 1987. A 1938 Sporting News feature published recollections of an aged member of the Belfast Pastimes, who played a traveling Boston pro team on August 7, 1872, in Belfast. Team scorekeepers back then would shout the batting order each inning. Boston’s man simply bellowed the names. But the Belfast man announced “Smith at bat, Jones on deck (or ‘on the deck’), and Doe in the hold,” reflecting Belfast’s maritime roots, the hold being the below-deck storage area on a commercial vessel. The Bostonians took a fancy to the designation and popularized it. Over time, “hold” slurred into “hole.”

The original score sheet from that game is on display at the Belfast Historical Society Museum.

·          Why is Maine often referred to as “Down East?” It’s a nautical term. In warm weather, prevailing winds in New England and Maritime Canada come out of the southwest, meaning ships headed there sailed downwind. Conversely, when en route to Boston, New York, or other lower locales, sailors dealt with upwinds. To this day, many Mainers speak of going “up to Boston.” The area known as Down East is most commonly the territory east of the Penobscot River and sometimes includes Canada’s Maritime provinces.

·          In mid-coast Maine, the town of Searsport, never home to more than 2,500 residents, once boasted 17 shipyards and in the 1870s was home to fully one-tenth of all American merchant sea captains.

·          The first international telephone call took place July 1, 1881, between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, and Calais, Maine, USA. For generations, Calais and St. Stephen have enjoyed close relations. One example stems from the War of 1812, when the British military supplied St. Stephen with a large supply of gunpowder for protection against the Yankee enemy in Calais. Instead, St. Stephen’s leaders donated much of it to Calais so it could enjoy a proper boom-and-bang Independence Day celebration.

Jeffrey Hollingsworth grew up in Belfast, Maine, and is a University of Maine alumnus. He is a past president of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., and principal founder of its charitable foundation. He is the author of Magnificent Mainers (Covered Bridge Press), a compendium of mini-biographies of 100 famous Maine natives. His articles have appeared in Honolulu and Down East magazines and in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Portland Press Herald, and other periodicals.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Fire Bell in the Night: The Story of Maine Statehood (Part 1)

Guest Essayist: Jeffrey Hollingsworth
[Part of Constituting America’s 90 Day Study of State & Local Government]

Barely 30 years after the contentious adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the experiment in self-government and democratic republicanism that enraptured de Tocqueville and other noted admirers of the new United States of America was at grave risk of collapse. Maine’s aspirations for statehood were at the heart of the hullabaloo. It was in a wrestling match with Missouri for admission to the Union. In fact, Members of Congress representing the District of Maine, as it was known—then belonging to Massachusetts—voted against legislation that would have admitted their home as a state even after longstanding agitation in Maine for statehood.

So why, when at long last statehood was within reach, did these officials and many of those they represented object to legislation that would unlock the door to statehood? Their reasons are at the heart of why we are “one nation, indivisible” and how small, remote Maine helped preserve the U. S. of A. at a grave hour in its early history.

Earliest Maine: How the Story Began
The first Mainers have been traced to approximately 3,000 BC. They’re known as the “Red Paint People” due to their liberal use of red ochre in pottery and burial rituals. Native American tribes still extant in Maine are the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet.

Why Maine is called “Maine” (the only one-syllable state) still isn’t clear. Some scholars say it was named after the French Province of Maine. Others suggest it’s from a maritime term for “the main” or mainland, to distinguish it from islands. Some sources claim Vikings visited Maine as early as 1000 AD, but the first recorded European was Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524. Others later included Capt. John Smith (yes, the John Smith) for England and Samuel de Champlain for France.

Champlain fostered an attempted permanent settlement in June 1604 on St. Croix Island off Robbinston, Maine, opposite Bayside, New Brunswick. The colony failed within a year, most settlers felled by “mal de la terre” (scurvy). It was home to the first known Christmas celebration in the New World. The island, though in U.S. waters, is an International Historic Site, the only one in North America, jointly administered by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Instead of Jamestown, Virginia, the Popham Colony in present-day Phippsburg, Maine, could’ve been the first permanent English settlement in the U.S.A. Sir George Popham and Sir Raleigh Gilbert led 120 English settlers to landfall at the mouth of the Kennebec River in August 1607. Other English settlers had reached today’s Jamestown in mid-May 1607. The Popham colonists started off strongly. They built the first commercial ship ever constructed in the New World, the pinnace Virginia of Sagadahock. This milestone was commemorated by a 1957 U.S. stamp officially recognizing the origin of shipbuilding in the U.S.  Shipbuilding has been a mainstay (no pun intended) of Maine’s economy over the succeeding four-plus centuries.

But the Popham Colony was doomed. After experiencing winter, half the surviving cold, hungry settlers grew disillusioned and fled back to England. Gilbert later received news of his father’s passing and needed to address vital family matters. He left for England, never to return.

Lacking leadership, the remaining colonists abandoned the settlement almost a year to the day after landing. Jamestown’s settlers hung on, though barely. Today, archeological excavations at both sites keep unlocking secrets about our country’s first English settlers.

Maine Grows
From Popham through the next 175 years, Maine ownership shifted from one royal grantee to another. The major promoter of Maine settlement was Sir Ferdinando Gorges, an English aristocrat later dubbed “The Father of English Colonization in North America,” though he never set foot in the New World. With Captain John Mason (a principal colonizer of New Hampshire), Gorges secured a patent from King James I in 1622 for vast territory in Maine. During  the next 50 years, disputes and squabbles over Gorges family holdings and competing land claims finally led Gorges’s grandson to sell all the property to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677.

Maine grew slowly but steadily, yet not without incident. Devastating hostilities with Native Americans erupted periodically, and colonial conflicts took their toll. France considered all the land up to the Kennebec River, which bisects Maine, to belong to New France. Its farthest outpost was the present-day town of Castine, which see-sawed between French and British control for decades. In 1674, during a war between France and The Netherlands, Dutch naval forces captured Castine and environs, part of a grandiose venture to establish Nova Hollandia (“New Holland”). Maine suffered further privations during the French & Indian War (1754-63). Then came America’s War for Independence.

Mainers were distinguished soldiers, sailors and commanders in the Revolutionary War, and Maine was the scene of several battles. The most notorious was the infamous bombardment and burning of Falmouth—now Portland—on Oct. 18, 1775. The British Navy launched a far-flung campaign to punish seaports aiding the rebel forces, and Portland fell into the dragnet.

The fierceness and merciless intensity of the assault was widely reported throughout all 13 colonies and helped inflame passions against Britain. It prompted the Second Continental Congress to pass legislation authorizing what John Adams wrote led to “the true origin of the American Navy.” Earlier, in the first naval battle of the Revolution, patriots in remote Machias swarmed and captured the British sloop HMS Margaretta in June 1775. The dead and wounded on both sides were carried to Burnham Tavern, where the plot to seize Margaretta was hatched. The tavern, a National Historic Site, still stands.

The worst American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor occurred near the mouth of the Penobscot River as vessels augmented by ground forces sought to oust the British from eastern Maine (“New Ireland,” as Britain had declared it). A 44-ship armada, reinforced by some 1,000 marines and a 100-man artillery contingent commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Revere, left Boston for Maine in late July 1779. The colonials were no match for the Royal Navy. Most American ships not blown out of the water either were scuttled or captured, then hauled upriver to Bangor and burned. The surviving colonials fled overland with few supplies or weaponry. The “Penobscot Expedition” is among the darkest episodes in U.S. military history.

Many Maine communities were occupied by British forces. It underscored the indifference and incapacity of Massachusetts toward defending the region. Maine took years to recover, and louder rumblings for statehood began. The crippling Embargo Act of 1807 made matters worse, since Maine’s economy relied heavily on seagoing commerce. Then, the War of 1812 put many Maine communities under British boot-heels yet again. Its easternmost city, Eastport, wouldn’t even be liberated until 1818, three years after the war ended. 

Two major (and other lesser) engagements occurred in Maine: the 1814 Battle of Hampden (near present-day Bangor), a humiliating U.S. defeat; and the electrifying clash between HMS Boxer and USS Enterprise on Sept. 5, 1813, just off Pemaquid Point near the mouth of the Kennebec River. The thunderous, furious, 30-minute slugfest, witnessed by scores of residents on shore and heard by many more, resulted in the capture of Boxer. It was a widely reported and celebrated boost for U.S. morale, memorialized by Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “My Lost Youth.” The remains of both ships’ slain commanders were ferried to Portland, then reverently buried side by side with full military honors.

The war convinced most Mainers that their area was a mere stepchild of Massachusetts and the state government was nonchalant about defending it. The earlier crippling attacks by the French and native tribes hadn’t been forgotten, either. Besides, travelling to distant Boston, the state capital, on official business was an arduous, time-consuming, risky and expensive venture. The push for statehood acquired new life.

Jeffrey Hollingsworth grew up in Belfast, Maine, and is a University of Maine alumnus. He is a past president of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., and principal founder of its charitable foundation. He is the author of Magnificent Mainers (Covered Bridge Press), a compendium of mini-biographies of 100 famous Maine natives. His articles have appeared in Honolulu and Down East magazines and in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Portland Press Herald, and other periodicals.