Monthly Archives: January 2017

Surrender of Germany (1945)

Surrender of Germany (1945)

Surrender of Germany (1945)

The unconditional surrender of the German Third Reich was signed in the early morning hours of Monday, May 7, 1945 at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) at Reims in northeastern France. Present were representatives of the four Allied Powers—France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States—and the three Germany officers delegated by German President Karl Doenitz—Gen. Alfred Jodl, who had alone been authorized to sign the surrender document; Maj. Wilhelm Oxenius, an aide to Jodl; and Adm. Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, one of the German chief negotiators. Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, SHAEF chief of staff, led the Allied delegation as the representative of General Eisenhower, who had refused to meet with the Germans until the surrender had been accomplished. Other American officers present were Maj. Gen. Harold R. Bull and Gen. Carl Spaatz.

After the signing of the Reims accord, Soviet chief of staff Gen. Alexei Antonov expressed concern to SHAEF that the continued fighting in the east between Germany and the Soviet Union made the Reims surrender look like a separate peace. The Soviet command wanted the Act of Military Surrender, with certain additions and alternations, to be signed at Berlin. To the Soviets, the documents signed at Berlin on May 8, 1945, represented the official, legal surrender of the Third Reich. The Berlin document had few significant changes from the one signed a day earlier at Reims.

For more information, see Milestone Documents in the National Archives, “Germany Surrenders” (Washington: National Archives

Trust Fund Board, 1989), pp. 5–6, 8–9.




Transcript of Surrender of Germany (1945)

Only this text in English is authoritative


We the undersigned, acting by authority of the German High Command, hereby surrender unconditionally to the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command all forces on land, sea and in the air who are at this date under German control.

The German High Command will at once issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorties and to all forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European time on 8 May and to remain in the positions occupied at that time. No ship, vessel, or aircraft is to be scuttled, or any damage done to their hull, machinery or equipment.

The German High Command will at once issue to the appropriate commander, and ensure the carrying out of any further orders issued by the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and by the Soviet High Command.

This act of military surrender is without prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument of surrender imposed by, or on behalf of the United Nations and applicable to GERMANY and the German armed forces as a whole.

In the event of the German High Command or any of the forces under their control failing to act in accordance with this Act of Surrender, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and the Soviet High Command will take such punitive or other action as they deem appropriate.

Signed at RHEIMS at 0241 on the 7th day of May, 1945. France
On behalf of the German High Command.



On behalf of the Supreme Commander,
Allied Expeditionary Force.

On behalf of the Soviet High Command

Major General, French Army


South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification December 10, 1832

South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification


On December 10, 1832, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation to the people of South Carolina that disputed a states’ right to nullify a federal law. Jackson’s proclamation was written in response to an ordinance issued by a South Carolina convention that declared that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 “are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State.” Led by John C. Calhoun, Jackson’s vice president at the time, the nullifiers felt that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 favored Northern-manufacturing interests at the expense of Southern farmers. After Jackson issued his proclamation, Congress passed the Force Act that authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted the tariff acts. In 1833, Henry Clay helped broker a compromise bill with Calhoun that slowly lowered tariffs over the next decade. The Compromise Tariff of 1833 was eventually accepted by South Carolina and ended the nullification crisis.

South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, November 24, 1832.
An ordinance to nullify certain acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws laying duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities.
Whereas the Congress of the United States by various acts, purporting to be acts laying duties and imposts on foreign imports, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufactures and the giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and oppression of other classes and individuals, and by wholly exempting from taxation certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those intended to be protected, bath exceeded its just powers under the constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and bath violated the true meaning and intent of the constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burdens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the confederacy: And whereas the said Congress, exceeding its just power to impose taxes and collect revenue for the purpose of effecting and accomplishing the specific objects and purposes which the constitution of the United States authorizes it to effect and accomplish, hath raised and collected unnecessary revenue for objects unauthorized by the constitution.

We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the several acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities, and now having actual operation and effect within the United States, and, more especially, an act entitled “An act in alteration of the several acts imposing duties on imports,” approved on the nineteenth day of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight and also an act entitled “An act to alter and amend the several acts imposing duties on imports,” approved on the fourteenth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens; and all promises, contracts, and obligations, made or entered into, or to be made or entered into, with purpose to secure the duties imposed by said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void.

And it is further ordained, that it shall not be lawful for any of the constituted authorities, whether of this State or of the United States, to enforce the payment of duties imposed by the said acts within the limits of this State; but it shall be the duty of the legislature to adopt such measures and pass such acts as may be necessary to give full effect to this ordinance, and to prevent the enforcement and arrest the operation of the said acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States within the limits of this State, from and after the first day of February next, and the duties of all other constituted authorities, and of all persons residing or being within the limits of this State, and they are hereby required and enjoined to obey and give effect to this ordinance, and such acts and measures of the legislature as may be passed or adopted in obedience thereto.

And it is further ordained, that in no case of law or equity, decided in the courts of this State, wherein shall be drawn in question the authority of this ordinance, or the validity of such act or acts of the legislature as may be passed for the purpose of giving effect thereto, or the validity of the aforesaid acts of Congress, imposing duties, shall any appeal be taken or allowed to the Supreme Court of the United States, nor shall any copy of the record be permitted or allowed for that purpose; and if any such appeal shall be attempted to be taken, the courts of this State shall proceed to execute and enforce their judgments according to the laws and usages of the State, without reference to such attempted appeal, and the person or persons attempting to take such appeal may be dealt with as for a contempt of the court.

And it is further ordained, that all persons now holding any office of honor, profit, or trust, civil or military, under this State (members of the legislature excepted), shall, within such time, and in such manner as the legislature shall prescribe, take an oath well and truly to obey, execute, and enforce this ordinance, and such act or acts of the legislature as may be passed in pursuance thereof, according to the true intent and meaning of the same, and on the neglect or omission of any such person or persons so to do, his or their office or offices shall be forthwith vacated, and shall be filled up as if such person or persons were dead or had resigned; and no person hereafter elected to any office of honor, profit, or trust, civil or military (members of the legislature excepted), shall, until the legislature shall otherwise provide and direct, enter on the execution of his office, or be he any respect competent to discharge the duties thereof until he shall, in like manner, have taken a similar oath; and no juror shall be impaneled in any of the courts of this State, in any cause in which shall be in question this ordinance, or any act of the legislature passed in pursuance thereof, unless he shall first, in addition to the usual oath, have taken an oath that he will well and truly obey, execute, and enforce this ordinance, and such act or acts of the legislature as may be passed to carry the same into operation and effect, according to the true intent and meaning thereof.

And we, the people of South Carolina, to the end that it may be fully understood by the government of the United States, and the people of the co-States, that we are determined to maintain this our ordinance and declaration, at every hazard, do further declare that we will not submit to the application of force on the part of the federal government, to reduce this State to obedience, but that we will consider the passage, by Congress, of any act authorizing the employment of a military or naval force against the State of South Carolina, her constitutional authorities or citizens; or any act abolishing or closing the ports of this State, or any of them, or otherwise obstructing the free ingress and egress of vessels to and from the said ports, or any other act on the part of the federal government, to coerce the State, shut up her ports, destroy or harass her commerce or to enforce the acts hereby declared to be null and void, otherwise than through the civil tribunals of the country, as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union; and that the people of this State will henceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other States; and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate government, and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do.

Done in convention at Columbia, the twenty-fourth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, and in the fifty-seventh year of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States of America.


Social Security Act Amendments (1965)

Social Security Act Amendments (1965)

Social Security Act Amendments (1965)

In 1965, the passage of the Social Security Act Amendments, popularly known as Medicare, resulted in a basic program of hospital insurance for persons aged 65 and older, and a supplementary medical insurance program to aid the elderly in paying doctor bills and other health care bills. It was funded by a tax on the earnings of employees, matched by contributions by employers, and was well received. In the first three years of the program, nearly 20 million beneficiaries enrolled in it.

Debate over the program actually began two decades earlier when President Harry S. Truman sent a message to Congress asking for legislation establishing a national health insurance plan. At that time, vocal opponents warned of the dangers of “socialized medicine.” By the end of the Truman’s administration, he had backed off from a plan of universal coverage, but administrators in the Social Security system and others began to focus on the idea of a program aimed at insuring Social Security beneficiaries whose numbers and needs were growing.

The 1950 census showed that the aged population in the United States had grown from 3 million in 1900 to 12 million in 1950. Two-thirds of older Americans had incomes of less than $1,000 annually, and only one in eight had health insurance. Between 1950 and 1963, the aged population grew from about 12 million to 17.5 million, or from 8.1 to 9.4 percent of the U.S. population. At the same time, the cost of hospital care was rising at a rate of about 6.7 percent a year, several times the annual increase in the cost of living, and health care costs were rapidly outpacing growth in the incomes of older Americans.

Private insurers had long considered this illness-prone population a “bad risk.” A broad debate about the need for a social insurance program to provide older Americans with reliable health care coverage started within the Social Security Administration and in Congress. Public hearings were held, and the House of Representatives considered several proposals, but the debate did not intensify until 1960, when it became clear that private insurers were becoming increasingly incapable of providing comprehensive, affordable health care coverage to the rapidly growing population of older adults. Between 1960 and 1965, the health coverage debate was a front burner issue in Congress, with dozens of proposals introduced and testimonies given by representatives of major organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and the AFL-CIO.

After Congress passed the legislation in the summer of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson decided to sign the bill with former President Truman at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO, in order to recognize Truman’s early effort to establish a national health insurance program. On July 30, 1965, Air Force One departed for Missouri with the President; Mrs. Johnson; George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO; Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Anthony Celebrezze; Governor John Connally of Texas; 13 U.S. Senators; and 19 U.S. Representatives. President Johnson and his party were met by President and Mrs. Truman at the Truman Library in Independence. They visited for some time before moving on to the platform in the auditorium of the library for the bill signing. After some brief remarks, President Johnson signed into law the Medicare Social Security Amendments. Johnson gave the first souvenir pen to Mrs. Truman and the next to President Truman and then the remainder of the pens to guests on the platform.





Transcript of Social Security Act Amendments (1965)


To provide a hospital insurance program for the aged under the Social Security Act with a supplementary medical benefits program and an extended program of medical assistance, to increase benefits under the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance System, to improve the Federal-State public assistance programs, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act, with the following table of contents, may be cited as the “Social Security Amendments of 1965”.


SEC. 100. Short title.

SEC. 101. Entitlement to hospital Insurance benefits.
SEC. 102. Hospital insurance benefits and supplementary medical Insurance benefits.

SEC. 1801. Prohibition against any Federal interference.
SEC. 1802. Free choice by patient guaranteed.
SEC. 1808. Option to Individuals to obtain other health insurance protection.

SEC. 1811. Description of program.
SEC. 1812. Scope of benefits.
SEC. 1818. Deductibles and coinsurance.
SEC. 1814. Conditions of and limitations on payment for services.
(a) Requirement of requests and certifications.
(b) Reasonable cost of services.
(c) No payments to Federal providers of services.
(d) Payments for emergency hospital services.
(e) Payment for Inpatient hospital services prior to notification of noneligibility.
(f) Payment for certain emergency hospital services furnished outside the United States.
SEC. 1815. Payment to providers of services
SEC. 1816. Use of public agencies or private organizations to facilitate payment to providers of services.
SEC. 1817. Federal hospital insurance trust fund.

SEC. 1831. Establishment of supplementary medical insurance program for the aged.
SEC. 1832. Scope of benefits.
SEC. 1838. Payment of benefits.
SEC. 1834. Limitation on home health services.
SEC. 1885. Procedure for payment of claims of providers of services.
SEC. 1886. Eligible individuals.
SEC. 1887. Enrollment periods.
SEC. 1888. Coverage period.
SEC. 1889. Amounts of premiums.
SEC. 1840. Payment of premiums.
SEC. 1841. Federal supplementary medical insurance trust fund.
SEC. 1842. Use of carriers for administration of benefits.
SEC. 1848. State agreements for coverage of eligible individuals who are receiving money payments under public assistance programs.
SEC. 1844. Appropriations to cover Government contributions and contingency reserve.


SEC. 100. This title may be cited as the “Health Insurance for the Aged Act”.



SEC. 101. Title II of the Social Security Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new section:


“SEC. 226. (a) Every individual who—
” (1) has attained the age of 65, and
” (2) is entitled to monthly insurance benefits under section 202 or is a qualified railroad retirement beneficiary, shall be entitled to hospital insurance benefits under part A of title XVIII for each month for which he meets the condition specified in paragraph (2), beginning with the first month after June 1966 for which he meets the conditions specified in paragraphs (1) and (2).
“(b) For purposes of subsection (a)—
“(1) entitlement of an individual to hospital insurance benefits for a month shall consist of entitlement to have payment made under, and subject to the limitations in, part A of title XVIII on his behalf for inpatient hospital services, post-hospital extended care services, post-hospital home health services, and outpatient hospital diagnostic services (as such terms are defined in part C of title XVIII) furnished him in the United States (or outside the United States in the case of inpatient hospital services furnished under the conditions described in section 1814(f) ) during such months except that (A) no such payment may be made for post-hospital extended care services furnished before January 1967, and (B) no such payment may be made for post- hospital extended care services or post-hospital home health services unless the discharge from the hospital required to qualify such services for payment under part A of title XVIII occurred after June 30, 1966, or on or after the first day of the month in which he attains age 65, whichever is later; and
“(2) an individual shall be deemed entitled to monthly insurance benefits under section 202, or to be a qualified railroad retirement beneficiary, for the month in which he died if he would have been entitled to such benefits, or would have been a qualified railroad retirement beneficiary , for such month had he died in the next month.

” (c) For purposes of this section, the term ‘qualified railroad retirement beneficiary’ means an individual whose name has been certified to the Secretary by the Railroad Retirement Board under section 21of the Railroad Retirement Act of 1937. An individual shall cease to be a qualified railroad retirement beneficiary at the close of the month preceding the month which is certified by the…


Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930

Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930

Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930\

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of June 1930 raised U.S. tariffs to historically high levels. The original intention behind the legislation was to increase the protection afforded domestic farmers against foreign agricultural imports. Massive expansion in the agricultural production sector outside of Europe during World War I led, with the postwar recovery of European producers, to massive agricultural overproduction during the 1920s. This in turn led to declining farm prices during the second half of the decade. During the 1928 election campaign, Republican Presidential candidate Herbert Hoover pledged to help the beleaguered farmer by, among other things, raising tariff levels on agricultural products. But once the tariff schedule revision process got started, it proved impossible to stop. Calls for increased protection flooded in from industrial sector special interest groups and soon a bill meant to provide relief for farmers became a means to raise tariffs in all sectors of the economy. When the dust had settled, Congress had agreed to tariff levels that exceeded the already high rates established by the 1922 Fordney-McCumber Act and represented among the most protectionist tariffs in U.S. history.

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was more a consequence of the onset of the Great Depression than an initial cause. But while the tariff might not have caused the Depression, it certainly did not make it any better. It provoked a storm of foreign retaliatory measures and came to stand as a symbol of the ‘beggar-thy-neighbor’ policies (policies designed to improve one’s own lot at the expense of that of others) of the 1930s. Such policies contributed to a drastic decline in international trade. For example, U.S. imports from Europe declined from a 1929 high of $1,334 million to just $390 million in 1932, while U.S. exports to Europe fell from $2,341 million in 1929 to $784 million in 1932. Overall, world trade declined by some 66% between 1929 and 1934. More generally, Smoot-Hawley did nothing to foster trust and cooperation among nations in either the political or economic realm during a perilous era in international relations.

The Smoot-Hawley tariff represents the high-water mark of U.S. protectionism in the twentieth century. Thereafter, beginning with the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, American commercial policy generally emphasized trade liberalization over protectionism. The United States generally assumed the mantle of champion of freer international trade, as evidenced by its support for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

When the causes of the Great Depression are debated, at the top of the list is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. [Half of my sources listed it as “Hawley-Smoot,” but we’ll go with the former.] In light of President Bush’s recent misguided steel tariff policy, a discussion of Smoot-Hawley (hereinafter, S-H) may provide us with a lesson or two, though as a free-trader myself, I have to admit my own mind was made up long ago.

In looking at the reasons behind the adoption of S-H, it’s important to remember that the history of commerce in America was always one of high tariffs. It’s a gross generalization, but as a young nation the interests of the business community seemed to be best served by protecting our burgeoning industries, like in agriculture and textiles, to name two, and our politicians were only too happy to comply by passing all manner of legislation towards that end.

Following World War I, however, U.S. business was particularly fearful that America would be flooded with the products of cheap European labor. Parts of Europe had been destroyed, nations had huge debts, and unemployment was rampant, thus, it’s easy to see how costs could be lower than in the United States.

The cry for protectionism was far and wide, but President Woodrow Wilson vetoed strict tariff legislation in March 1921, weeks before he relinquished the presidency to Warren G. Harding, saying in part:

“If ever there was a time when Americans had anything to fear from foreign competition, that time has passed. If we wish to have Europe settle her debts, governmental or commercial, we must be prepared to buy from her.”

Alas, Harding came in and enacted the Emergency Tariff Act of May 1921, which supported agricultural interests in particular, while that was followed by the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Act of 1922. Signed into law on September 19, 1922, this latter legislation established the highest rates in history, with tariffs on some products of up to 400%. One Republican senator labeled Fordney “protection run perfectly mad.”

Fordney-McCumber precipitated a huge trade war, yet prosperity in America continued throughout the decade of the 1920s. As we’ve discussed in some other “Wall Street History” articles, though, by the end of this period, much of the prosperity resulted from growth on Wall Street and industrial America, while the farmers were suffering due to a worldwide glut of product.

But when it came time for the presidential election of 1928, Republicans looked at the overall economic climate across the country and reached the conclusion that high tariffs worked, so it was a major proponent of the party platform. Many Democrats supported tariffs as well, as the shape of commerce in the South changed to one less reliant on agriculture.

So after President Herbert Hoover took office in March 1929, Congress immediately set to work on a new tariff regime. This is an important point, because you have to picture that this legislation was winding it’s way through committee long before eventual passage in June 1930. In other words, it is a fair statement to say that the prospects for Smoot-Hawley had something to do with the October 1929 market crash itself.

Granted, this is highly debatable, but as Robert Shiller points out, on Monday, October 28, the New York Times ran a front-page story on possible passage of Smoot-Hawley, while on Tuesday the 29th, the day of the Crash, other national papers had picked up on the issue. Shiller acknowledges, however, that the Times ran various stories on Smoot-Hawley, both pro and con, and it would be ludicrous to pin the blame on it for the market turmoil that fall. Regardless, the point is that S-H was in the news for a long time.

As for Hoover, he was determined to raise tariffs and by June 1930, when a delegation of bishops and bankers paid him a visit to ask for more public works projects amidst a tumbling economy, the President told them, “Gentlemen, you have come sixty days too late. The Depression is over.” On June 16, he then issued a statement through the newspapers that he would be signing a bill, in an attempt to aid those businesses damaged by the downturn.

From David M. Kennedy’s “Freedom From Fear.”

“Hoover went along with his party’s plan for tariff revision because he wanted two things: higher duties on certain agricultural imports, as part of his program to aid farmers, and a strengthened Tariff Commission, with power to adjust import duties by 50 percent. This ‘flexible tariff,’ said Hoover, would ‘get the tariff out of Congressional logrolling’ and thus be a large step toward reducing ‘excessive and privileged protection.’ As for tariffs on manufactured goods, they should be revised upward only where ‘there has been a substantial slackening of activity in an industry during the past few years, and a consequent decrease of employment due to insurmountable competition.'”

Arkansas Democratic Senator Robinson had the following comment on President Hoover’s signal of approval.

“I express the hope, but not with great confidence, that the Executive’s dream of a scientific tariff, uninfluenced by political considerations, may be realized through the efforts of the Tariff Commission as approved by the Executive. The promise by the President that complaints from foreign countries that duties have been fixed unduly high will be remedied by the Tariff Commission is likely to unsettle conditions and disturb the peace of mind of those who believe they have won a victory in the passage of the bill.

“The complaints from foreign countries involve many rates, and if the commission is to open the whole question of the tariff upon applications inspired by foreign governments or peoples, it is difficult to see how the anxiety and uncertainty which has embarrassed business during the last fifteen months can be escaped or terminated.” [Source: Richard Oulahan / NY Times?6/16/30]

[The above should be familiar to those following today’s debate on steel tariffs, as complaints from various foreign governments have forced President Bush to back off; infuriating even more interests in the U.S. than before.]

Influential journalist Walter Lippman weighed in on Smoot- Hawley.

“(The President has) surrendered everything for nothing. He gave up the leadership of his party. He let his personal authority be flouted. He accepted a wretched and mischievous product of stupidity and greed.”

Lippman, who had supported Hoover in the 1928 election, now said, “He has the peculiarly modern, in fact, the contemporary American, faith in the power of the human mind and will, acting through organization, to accomplish results,” but “the unreasonableness of mankind is not accounted for in Mr. Hoover’s philosophy?In the realm of reason he is an unusually bold man; in the realm of unreason he is, for a statesman, an exceptionally thin-skinned and easily bewildered man.” [Source: Kennedy, “Freedom From Fear”]

And how did the stock market respond initially to passage of the tariff act?

Sat., June 14?Dow Jones 244
Mon., June 16?Dow 230
Tues., June 17?Dow 228
Wed., June 18?Dow 218
Thurs., June 19?Dow 228?yes, no change.

[By June 24, the market did fall to 211, but by July 18 the Dow was back to 240, so the immediate impact was negligible. Of course we were still on our way to a Dow Jones of a mere 41 by July 1932.]

The business reality of Smoot-Hawley was far worse. 1,028 economists had earlier petitioned President Hoover to veto the bill, but with enactment, tariffs hit all-time levels on some 70 agricultural products and 900 manufactured items. The economists had warned that S-H would raise prices to consumers, damage export trade, hurt farmers, promote inefficiency and promote foreign reprisals. As to the issue of increased prices, you saw in a piece I did two weeks ago that consumer prices actually collapsed in the years 1930-32, a point that we will come back to.

As for foreign reprisals, nations were outraged. Historian Richard Hofstadter called the tariff act, “a virtual declaration of economic war on the rest of the world.” Within two years, 25 countries had retaliated and U.S. foreign trade took a huge hit. America had exported $5.24 billion in goods in 1929 and by 1932, the total was just $1.6 billion.

But while it is plain to see how Smoot-Hawley contributed to the spread of the Depression to Europe, some argue that the Act itself really had little to do with the continent’s problems, compared to the issues created by the post-World War I Treaty of Versailles. Certainly, had he lived, Woodrow Wilson may have agreed with this line of thinking.

Additionally, the May 1931 collapse of Austria’s leading bank, Creditanstalt (WSH Feb. ’02), was a death knell for the entire European financial system, the cause of which had far more to do with the rise of the Nazis in parliamentary elections in September 1930 and massive speculation, not Smoot-Hawley. And, as I alluded to above, while tariffs often lead to higher prices, the issue worldwide between 1930 and 1932 was deflation, not inflation.

In both “Wall Street History” and my “Week in Review” column, from time to time I use the phrase that “bad government can cause depressions.” I’m referring to Smoot-Hawley, primarily, but while this particular act was undoubtedly a major contributor to the economic upheavals of the 1930s, to place all blame solely on its passage wouldn’t be accurate. Nonetheless, it did play a major role in the Depression and should act as a lesson to those who argue for indiscriminate tariffs of any kind, without examining that which history teaches us.

Sherman Silver Purchase Act- 1878

Sherman Silver Purchase Act- 1878

Sherman Silver Purchase Act- 1878
An act directing the purchase of silver bullion and the issue of Treasury notes thereon, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted . . ., That the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby directed to purchase, from time to time, silver bullion to the aggregate amount of four million five hundred thousand ounces, or so much thereof as may be offered in each month, at the market price thereof, not exceeding one dollar for three hundred and seventy-one and twenty-five hundredths grains of pure silver, and to issue in payment for such purchases of silver bullion Treasury notes of the United States to be prepared by the Secretary of the Treasury, in such form and of such denominations, not less than one dollar nor more than one thousand dollars, as he may prescribe.
SEC. 2. That the Treasury notes issued in accordance with the provisions of this act shall be redeemable on demand, in coin, at the Treasury of the United States, or at the office of any assistant treasurer of the United States, and when so redeemed may be reissued; but no greater or less amount of such notes shall be outstanding at any time than the cost of the silver bullion and the standard silver dollars coined therefrom, then held in the Treasury purchased by such notes; and such Treasury notes shall be a legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private, except where otherwise expressly stipulated in the contract, and shall be receivable for customs, taxes, and all public dues, and when so received may be reissued; and such notes, when held by any national banking association, may be counted as a part of its lawful reserve. That upon demand of the holder of any of the Treasury notes herein provided for the Secretary of the Treasury shall, under such regulations as he may prescribe, redeem such notes in gold or silver coin, at his discretion, it being the established policy of the United States to maintain th two metals on a parity with each other upon the present legal ratio, or such ratio as may be provided by law.
SEC. 3. That the Secretary of the Treasury shall each month coin two million ounces of the silver bullion purchased under the provisions of this act into standard silver dollars until . . . [July I, 189I] . . ., and after that time he shall coin of the silver bullion purchased under the provisions of this act as much as may be necessary to provide for the redemption of the Treasury notes herein provided for, and any gain or seigniorage arising from such coinage shall be accounted for and paid into the Treasury.

* * * * * * * *

SEC. 5. That so much of the act of . . . [February 28, I878] . . ., entitled “An act to authorize the coinage of the standard silver dollar and to restore its legal tender character,” as requires the monthly purchase and coinage of the same into silver dollars of not less than two million dollars, nor more than four million dollars’ worth of silver bullion, is hereby repealed.

Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)

Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)

Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was the first measure passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts. It was named for Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who was a chairman of the Senate finance committee and the Secretary of the Treasury under President Hayes. Several states had passed similar laws, but they were limited to intrastate businesses. The Sherman Antitrust Act was based on the constitutional power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. (For more background, see previous milestone documents: the Constitution, Gibbons v. Ogden, and the Interstate Commerce Act.) The Sherman Anti-Trust Act passed the Senate by a vote of 51–1 on April 8, 1890, and the House by a unanimous vote of 242–0 on June 20, 1890. President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill into law on July 2, 1890.

A trust was an arrangement by which stockholders in several companies transferred their shares to a single set of trustees. In exchange, the stockholders received a certificate entitling them to a specified share of the consolidated earnings of the jointly managed companies. The trusts came to dominate a number of major industries, destroying competition. For example, on January 2, 1882, the Standard Oil Trust was formed. Attorney Samuel Dodd of Standard Oil first had the idea of a trust. A board of trustees was set up, and all the Standard properties were placed in its hands. Every stockholder received 20 trust certificates for each share of Standard Oil stock. All the profits of the component companies were sent to the nine trustees, who determined the dividends. The nine trustees elected the directors and officers of all the component companies. This allowed the Standard Oil to function as a monopoly since the nine trustees ran all the component companies.

The Sherman Act authorized the Federal Government to institute proceedings against trusts in order to dissolve them. Any combination “in the form of trust or otherwise that was in restraint of trade or commerce among the several states, or with foreign nations” was declared illegal. Persons forming such combinations were subject to fines of $5,000 and a year in jail. Individuals and companies suffering losses because of trusts were permitted to sue in Federal court for triple damages. The Sherman Act was designed to restore competition but was loosely worded and failed to define such critical terms as “trust,” “combination,” “conspiracy,” and “monopoly.” Five years later, the Supreme Court dismantled the Sherman Act in United States v. E. C. Knight Company (1895). The Court ruled that the American Sugar Refining Company, one of the other defendants in the case, had not violated the law even though the company controlled about 98 percent of all sugar refining in the United States. The Court opinion reasoned that the company’s control of manufacture did not constitute a control of trade.

The Court’s ruling in E. C. Knight seemed to end any government regulation of trusts. In spite of this, during President Theodore Roosevelt’s “trust busting” campaigns at the turn of the century, the Sherman Act was used with considerable success. In 1904 the Court upheld the government’s suit to dissolve the Northern Securities Company in State of Minnesota v. Northern Securities Company. By 1911, President Taft had used the act against the Standard Oil Company and the American Tobacco Company. In the late 1990s, in another effort to ensure a competitive free market system, the Federal Government used the Sherman Act, then over 100 years old, against the giant Microsoft computer software company.




Transcript of Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)

Fifty-first Congress of the United States of America, At the First Session,

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Monday, the second day of December, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine.

An act to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
Sec. 1. Every contract, combination in the form of trust or other- wise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, at the discretion of the court.

Sec. 2. Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof; shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Sec. 3. Every contract, combination in form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce in any Territory of the United States or of the District of Columbia, or in restraint of trade or commerce between any such Territory and another, or between any such Territory or Territories and any State or States or the District of Columbia, or with foreign nations, or between the District of Columbia and any State or States or foreign nations, is hereby declared illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

Sec. 4. The several circuit courts of the United States are hereby invested with jurisdiction to prevent and restrain violations of this act; and it shall be the duty of the several district attorneys of the United States, in their respective districts, under the direction of the Attorney-General, to institute proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violations. Such proceedings may be by way of petition setting forth the case and praying that such violation shall be enjoined or otherwise prohibited. When the parties complained of shall have been duly notified of such petition the court shall proceed, as soon as may be, to the hearing and determination of the case; and pending such petition and before final decree, the court may at any time make such temporary restraining order or prohibition as shall be deemed just in the premises.

Sec. 5. Whenever it shall appear to the court before which any proceeding under section four of this act may be pending, that the ends of justice require that other parties should be brought before the court, the court may cause them to be summoned, whether they reside in the district in which the court is held or not; and subpoenas to that end may be served in any district by the marshal thereof.

Sec. 6. Any property owned under any contract or by any combination, or pursuant to any conspiracy (and being the subject thereof) mentioned in section one of this act, and being in the course of transportation from one State to another, or to a foreign country, shall be- forfeited to the United States, and may be seized and condemned by like proceedings as those provided by law for the forfeiture, seizure, and condemnation of property imported into the United States contrary to law.

Sec. 7. Any person who shall be injured in his business or property by any other person or corporation by reason of anything forbidden or declared to be unlawful by this act, may sue therefor in any circuit court of the United States in the district in which the defendant resides or is found, without. respect to the amount in controversy, and shall recover three fold the damages by him sustained, and the costs of suit, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.

Sec. 8. That the word “person,” or ” persons,” wherever used in this act shall be deemed to include corporations and associations existing under or authorized by the laws of either the United States, the laws of any of the Territories, the laws of any State, or the laws of any foreign country.

Approved, July 2, 1890.


Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (1944)

Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (1944)


Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (1944)

While World War II was still being fought, the Department of Labor estimated that, after the war, 15 million men and women who had been serving in the armed services would be unemployed. To reduce the possibility of postwar depression brought on by widespread unemployment, the National Resources Planning Board, a White House agency, studied postwar manpower needs as early as 1942 and in June 1943 recommended a series of programs for education and training. The American Legion designed the main features of what became the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act and pushed it through Congress. The bill unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-day invasion of Normandy.

American Legion publicist Jack Cejnar called it “the GI Bill of Rights,” as it offered Federal aid to help veterans adjust to civilian life in the areas of hospitalization, purchase of homes and businesses, and especially, education. This act provided tuition, subsistence, books and supplies, equipment, and counseling services for veterans to continue their education in school or college. Within the following 7 years, approximately 8 million veterans received educational benefits. Under the act, approximately 2,300,000 attended colleges and universities, 3,500,000 received school training, and 3,400,000 received on-the-job training. The number of degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities more than doubled between 1940 and 1950, and the percentage of Americans with bachelor degrees, or advanced degrees, rose from 4.6 percent in 1945 to 25 percent a half-century later.

By 1956, when it expired, the education-and-training portion of the GI Bill had disbursed $14.5 billion to veterans—but the Veterans Administration estimated the increase in Federal income taxes alone would pay for the cost of the bill several times over. By 1955, 4.3 million home loans had been granted, with a total face value of $33 billion.

In addition, veterans were responsible for buying 20 percent of all new homes built after the war. The results rippled through the rest of the economy; there would be no new depression—just unparalleled prosperity for a generation. The GI Bill has been extended several times. Nearly 2.3 million veterans participated in the program during the Korean War era and more than 8 million during the Vietnam era.




Transcript of Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (1944)

To provide Federal Government aid for the readjustment in civilian life of returning World War II veterans.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Repre8entatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944”.


SEC. 100. The Veterans’ Administration is hereby declared to be an essential war agency and entitled, second only to the War and Navy Departments, to priorities in personnel, equipment, supplies, and material under any laws, Executive orders, and regulations pertaining to priorities, and in appointments of personnel from civil-service registers the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs is hereby granted the same authority and discretion as the War and Navy Departments and the United States Public Health Service: Provided, That the provisions of this section as to priorities for materials shall apply to any State institution to be built for the care or hospitalization of veterans.

SEC. 101. The Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs and the Federal Board of Hospitalization are hereby authorized and directed to expedite and complete the construction of additional hospital facilities for war veterans, and to enter into agreements and contracts for the use by or transfer to the Veterans’ Administration of suitable Army and Navy hospitals after termination of hostilities in the present war or after such institutions are no longer needed by the armed services; and the Administrator of Veterans Affairs is hereby authorized and directed to establish necessary regional offices, sub- offices, branch offices, contact units, or other subordinate offices in centers of population where there is no Veterans’ Administration facility, or where such a facility is not readily available or accessible : Provided, That there is hereby authorized to be appropriated the sum of $500,000,000 for the construction of additional hospital facilities.

SEC. 102. The Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs and the Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy are hereby granted authority to enter into agreements and contracts for the mutual use or exchange of use of hospital and domiciliary facilities, and such supplies, equipment, and material as may be needed to operate properly such facilities, or for the transfer, without reimbursement of appropriations, of facilities, supplies, equipment, or material necessary and proper for authorized care for veterans, except that at no time shall the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs enter into any agreement which will result in a permanent reduction of Veterans’ Administration hospital and domiciliary beds below the number now established or approved, plus the estimated number required to meet the load of eligibles under laws administered by the Veterans’ Administration, or in any way subordinate or transfer the operation of the Veterans’ Administration to any other agency of the Government.

Nothing in the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, as amended, or any other Act, shall be construed to prevent the transfer or detail of any commissioned, appointed or enlisted personnel from the armed forces to the Veterans Administration subject to agreements between the Secretary of War or the Secretary of the Navy and the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs: Provided, That no such detail shall be made or extend beyond six months after the termination of the war.

SEC.103. The Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs shall have authority to place officials and employees designated by him in such Army and Navy installations as may be deemed advisable for the purpose of adjudicating disability claims of, and giving aid and advice to, members of the Army and Navy who are about to be discharged or released from active service.

SEC. 104. No person shall be discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces until his certificate of discharge or release from active duty and final pay, or a substantial portion thereof, are ready for delivery to him or to his next of kin or legal representative; and no person shall be discharged or released from active service on account of disability until and unless he has executed a claim for compensation, pension, or hospitalization, to be filed with the Veterans’ Administration or has signed a statement that he has had explained to him the right to file such claim: Provided, That this section shall not preclude immediate transfer to a veterans’ facility for necessary hospital care, nor preclude the discharge of any person who refuses to sign such claim or statement: And provided further, That refusal or failure to file a claim shall be without prejudice to any right the veteran may subsequently assert.

Any person entitled to a prosthetic appliance shall be entitled, in addition, to necessary fitting and training, including institutional training, in the use of such appliance, whether in a Service or a Veterans’ Administration hospital, or by out-patient treatment, including such service under contract.

SEC. 105. No person in the armed forces shall be required to sign a statement of any nature relating to the origin, incurrence, or aggravation of any disease or injury he may have, and any such statement against his own interest signed at any time, shall be null and void and of no force and effect.

Senate Resolution 301: Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954)

Senate Resolution 301: Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954)

Senate Resolution 301: Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954)

The early years of the Cold War saw the United States facing a hostile Soviet Union, the “loss” of China to communism, and war in Korea. In this politically charged atmosphere, fears of Communist influence over American institutions spread easily. On February 9, 1950, Joseph McCarthy, a Republican Senator from Wisconsin, claimed that he had a list of 205 State Department employees who were Communists. While he offered little proof, the claims gained the Senator great notoriety. In June, Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine and six fellow Republicans issued a “Declaration of Conscience” asserting that because of McCarthy’s tactics, the Senate had been “debased to the level of a forum for hate and character assassination.” However, McCarthy took advantage of the Cold War atmosphere of fear and suspicion and with strong support in the opinion polls, McCarthy’s attacks and interventions in senatorial elections brought defeat to some of his party’s Democratic opponents.

After Republicans took control of the White House and Congress in 1953, McCarthy was named chairman of the Committee on Government Operations and its Subcommittee on Investigations. From these posts he continued to accuse Government agencies of being “soft” on communism, but he was now attacking a Republican administration. In 1954 McCarthy’s investigation of security threats in the U.S. Army was televised. McCarthy’s bullying of witnesses turned public opinion against the Senator. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure him, describing his behavior as “contrary to senatorial traditions.”

Republican Senators Ralph Flanders of Vermont, Arthur Watkins of Utah, and Margaret Chase Smith of Maine led the efforts to discipline McCarthy. Flanders introduced two separate resolutions against McCarthy, one removing McCarthy from his chairmanships and the other calling for his censure. The censure resolution moved forward with debate beginning July 30, 1954. The full Senate took up the resolution on November 5. This copy of the resolution catches the debate on November 9 as the Senate refined the wording of its resolution. The substance of the first count, charging McCarthy with failure to cooperate with a Senate subcommittee, remained unchanged in the final resolution. The second count was dropped for a condemnation of McCarthy’s attacks on the very members of the committee that considered his censure.




Transcript of Senate Resolution 301: Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954)

Resolved, That the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in clearing up matters referred to that subcommittee which concerned his conduct as a Senator and affected the honor of the Senate and, instead, repeatedly abused the subcommittee and its members who were trying to carry out assigned duties, thereby obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate, and that this conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, is contrary to senatorial traditions and is hereby condemned.

Sec 2. The Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, in writing to the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Censure Charges (Mr. Watkins) after the Select Committee had issued its report and before the report was presented to the Senate charging three members of the Select Committee with “deliberate deception” and “fraud” for failure to disqualify themselves; in stating to the press on November 4, 1954, that the special Senate session that was to begin November 8, 1954, was a “lynch-party”; in repeatedly describing this special Senate session as a “lynch bee” in a nationwide television and radio show on November 7, 1954; in stating to the public press on November 13, 1954, that the chairman of the Select Committee (Mr. Watkins) was guilty of “the most unusual, most cowardly things I’ve ever heard of” and stating further: “I expected he would be afraid to answer the questions, but didn’t think he’d be stupid enough to make a public statement”; and in characterizing the said committee as the “unwitting handmaiden,” “involuntary agent” and “attorneys-in-fact” of the Communist Party and in charging that the said committee in writing its report “imitated Communist methods — that it distorted, misrepresented, and omitted in its effort to manufacture a plausible rationalization” in support of its recommendations to the Senate, which characterizations and charges were contained in a statement released to the press and inserted in the Congressional Record of November 10, 1954, acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity; and such conduct is hereby condemned.


Selective Service Act of 1917

Selective Service Act of 1917

Selective Service Act of 1917

The Selective Service Act of 1917 (P.L. 65-12, 40 Stat. 76) was the first act mandating American military service since the Civil War. In April 1917, before the act’s passage, there were only 110,000 servicemen who could be deployed if America joined the war then raging in Europe. An army of this size would have been destroyed within months considering the brutal trench warfare employed during the Great War. All told, there were 116,516 American casualties in World War I—more than were in the service at the time war was declared.

President Woodrow Wilson, who had avoided American entry in the war for about three years, initially wanted to use only volunteers to augment the forces needed to fight and win the war. In his address before Congress calling for a declaration of war, Wilson stated:

Our object now … is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up amongst the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth insure the observance of those principles.

However, three weeks after war was declared, only 32,000 Americans had volunteered for service. Wilson realized that this was not enough military strength to win the war, so he called for a draft, which was decried by many members of his own party. Progressive Democrats, who usually sided with the president, asserted that a draft would destroy “democracy at home while fighting for it abroad.” Republicans attacked Wilson on the draft issue to take political advantage of the Democrat’s wartime leadership.

The World War I Draft

Wilson, however, would not lose on the issue of the draft. With the aid of Newton Baker, his secretary of war, Wilson brought about passage of the act, which allowed him to raise all branches of the armed forces to a level that could compete with the Axis powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. All males aged twenty-one to thirty were required to register at local polling stations. The age limits were later changed to include all men from ages eighteen to forty-five. The drafts carried out during World War I led to the successful registration of almost 24 million American men. Because of a concerted effort to invoke a sense of patriotism in all Americans, the U.S. enlisted many to fight against the Axis powers. Less than 350,000 men “dodged” the World War I draft.

The 1917 act also contained a significant change from the Civil War draft: replacements could not be hired to fight in a person’s place. Section 3 stated:

No person liable to military service shall hereafter be permitted or allowed to furnish a substitute for such service; nor shall any substitute be received, enlisted, or enrolled in the military service of the United States; and no such person shall be permitted to escape such service or to be discharged therefrom prior to the expiration of his term of service by the payment of money or any other valuable thing whatsoever as consideration for his release from military service or liability thereto.

This provision meant that wealthy people could not buy their way out of service. It was designed to ensure that all Americans fought in the war, not just the poor who could not buy their way out.

Black Servicemen

Black Americans, of whom nearly 2.3 million were drafted, made a special sacrifice for the war effort. Conditions in America during the 1910s were in direct opposition to the ideals of the Republic: equality in voting rights, education, and use of public accommodations would not come for many black Americans for almost another half-century. Yet blacks were called on to defend the rights of Europeans while their own rights as America’s citizen-soldiers were denied. This dichotomy was even the subject of a German propaganda campaign. However, many black Americans felt that their service would be rewarded with a concerted push for civil rights upon their return. W.E.B. DuBois, the famous black activist, spoke out in support of the war: “Let us, while the war lasts, forget our special grievances and close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our white fellow citizens … fighting for democracy. We make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly.”

Many black soldiers would not receive the honors they deserved back home, although some did in Europe. The French government awardedCroix de Guerre medals, high honors for bravery, to members of New York’s 396th Infantry, nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters. Sadly, though they made no ordinary sacrifice, many of the returning veterans were denied the basic opportunities and rights they fought for in Europe. Some were even subjected to lynching and mob brutality as they reentered the American workforce because white workers feared the black veterans would take their jobs.

Successful War Effort

American servicemen were supported by a patriotic push on the homefront. Wilson called for farmers, miners, housewives and other domestic workers to keep the nation’s armed forces well supplied by treating their everyday jobs as a part of the war effort. Because of the manpower the act brought into service, America and its allies emerged victorious from World War I.

Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists 1772

Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists

Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists 1772

Samuel Adams,

The Rights of the Colonists

The Report of the Committee of Correspondence
to the Boston Town Meeting, Nov. 20, 1772

Old South Leaflets no. 173 (Boston: Directors of the Old South Work, 1906) 7: 417-428.

I. Natural Rights of the Colonists as Men.

Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.

All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.

When men enter into society, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compact.

Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a social compact, necessarily ceded, remains.

All positive and civil laws should conform, as far as possible, to the law of natural reason and equity.

As neither reason requires nor religion permits the contrary, every man living in or out of a state of civil society has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience.

“Just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty,” in matters spiritual and temporal, is a thing that all men are clearly entitled to by the eternal and immutable laws of God and nature, [Page 418] as well as by the law of nations and all well-grounded municipal laws, which must have their foundation in the former.

In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practised, and, both by precept and example, inculcated on mankind. And it is now generally agreed among Christians that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society, is the chief characteristical mark of the Church. Insomuch that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are excluded from such toleration, are those who teach doctrines subversive of the civil government under which they live. The Roman Catholics or Papists are excluded by reason of such doctrines as these, that princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those that they call heretics may be destroyed without mercy; besides their recognizing the Pope in so absolute a manner, in subversion of government, by introducing, as far as possible into the states under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty, and property, that solecism in politics, imperium in imperio, leading directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war, and bloodshed.

The natural liberty of man, by entering into society, is abridged or restrained, so far only as is necessary for the great end of society, the best good of the whole.

In the state of nature every man is, under God, judge and sole judge of his own rights and of the injuries done him. By entering into society he agrees to an arbiter or indifferent judge between him and his neighbors; but he no more renounces his original right than by taking a cause out of the ordinary course of law, and leaving the decision to referees or indifferent arbitrators.

In the last case, he must pay the referees for time and trouble. He should also be willing to pay his just quota for the support of government, the law, and the constitution; the end of which is to furnish indifferent and impartial judges in all cases that may happen, whether civil, ecclesiastical, marine, or military.

[Page 419] The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.

In the state of nature men may, as the patriarchs did, employ hired servants for the defence of their lives, liberties, and property; and they should pay them reasonable wages. Government was instituted for the purposes of common defence, and those who hold the reins of government have an equitable, natural right to an honorable support from the same principle that ” the laborer is worthy of his hire.” But then the same community which they serve ought to be the assessors of their pay. Governors have no right to seek and take what they please; by this, instead of being content with the station assigned them, that of honorable servants of the society, they would soon become absolute masters, despots, and tyrants. Hence, as a private man has a right to say what wages he will give in his private affairs, so has a community to determine what they will give and grant of their substance for the administration of public affairs. And, in both cases, more are ready to offer their service at the proposed and stipulated price than are able and willing to perform their duty.

In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.


II. The Rights of the Colonists as Christians.

These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.

[Page 420] By the act of the British Parliament, commonly called the Toleration Act, every subject in England, except Papists, &c., was restored to, and re-established in, his natural right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. And, by the charter of this Province, it is granted, ordained, and established (that is, declared as an original right) that there shall be liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God to all Christians, except Papists, inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within, such Province or Territory. Magna Charta itself is in substance but a constrained declaration or proclamation and promulgation in the name of the King, Lords, and Commons, of the sense the latter had of their original, inherent, indefeasible natural rights, as also those of free citizens equally perdurable with the other. That great author, that great jurist, and even that court writer, Mr. Justice Blackstone, holds that this recognition was justly obtained of King John, sword in hand. And peradventure it must be one day, sword in hand, again rescued and preserved from total destruction and oblivion.


III. The Rights of the Colonists as Subjects.

A commonwealth or state is a body politic, or civil society of men, united together to promote their mutual safety and prosperity by means of their union.

The absolute rights of Englishmen and all freemen, in or out of civil society, are principally personal security, personal liberty, and private property.

All persons born in the British American Colonies are, by the laws of God and nature and by the common law of England, exclusive of all charters from the Crown, well entitled, and by acts of the British Parliament are declared to be entitled, to all the natural, essential, inherent, and inseparable rights, liberties, and privileges of subjects born in Great Britain or within the realm. Among those rights are the following, which no man, or body of men, consistently with their own rights as men and citizens, or members of society, can for themselves give up or take away from others.

[Page 421] First, “The first fundamental, positive law of all common wealths or states is the establishing the legislative power. As the first fundamental natural law, also, which is to govern even the legislative power itself, is the preservation of the society.”

Secondly, The Legislative has no right to absolute, arbitrary power over the lives and fortunes of the people; nor can mortals assume a prerogative not only too high for men, but for angels, and therefore reserved for the exercise of the Deity alone.

“The Legislative cannot justly assume to itself a power to rule by extempore arbitrary decrees; but it is bound to see that justice is dispensed, and that the rights of the subjects be decided by promulgated, standing, and known laws, and authorized independent judges”; that is, independent, as far as possible, of Prince and people. “There should be one rule of justice for rich and poor, for the favorite at court, and the countryman at the plough.”

Thirdly, The supreme power cannot justly take from any man any part of his property, without his consent in person or by his representative.

These are some of the first principles of natural law and justice, and the great barriers of all free states and of the British Constitution in particular. It is utterly irreconcilable to these principles and to many other fundamental maxims of the common law, common sense, and reason that a British House of Commons should have a right at pleasure to give and grant the property of the Colonists. (That the Colonists are well entitled to all the essential rights, liberties, and privileges of men and freemen born in Britain is manifest not only from the Colony charters in general, but acts of the British Parliament.) The statute of the 13th of Geo. 2, C. 7, naturalizes even foreigners after seven years’ residence. The words of the Massachusetts charter are these: “And further, our will and pleasure is, and we do hereby for us, our heirs, and successors, grant, establish, and ordain, that all and every of the subjects of us, our heirs, and successors, which shall go to, and inhabit within our said Province or Territory, and every of their children, which shall happen to be born there or on the seas in going thither or returning from thence, shall have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects within any of the dominions [Page 422] of us, our heirs, and successors, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever as if they and every one of them were born within this our realm of England.”

Now what liberty can there be where property is taken away without consent? Can it be said with any color of truth and justice, that this continent of three thousand miles in length, and of a breadth as yet unexplored, in which, however, it is supposed there are five millions of people, has the least voice, vote, or influence in the British Parliament? Have they all together any more weight or power to return a single member to that House of Commons who have not inadvertently, but deliberately, assumed a power to dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties, than to choose an Emperor of China? Had the Colonists a right to return members to the British Parliament, it would only be hurtful; as, from their local situation and circumstances, it is impossible they should ever be truly and properly represented there. The inhabitants of this country, in all probability, in a few years, will be more numerous than those of Great Britain and Ireland together; yet it is absurdly expected by the promoters of the present measures that these, with their posterity to all generations, should be easy, while their property shall be disposed of by a House of Commons at three thousand miles’ distance from them, and who cannot be supposed to have the least care or concern for their real interest; who have not only no natural care for their interest, but must be in effect bribed against it, as every burden they lay on the Colonists is so much saved or gained to themselves. Hitherto, many of the Colonists have been free from quit rents; but if the breath of a British House of Commons can originate an act for taking away all our money, our lands will go next, or be subject to rack rents from haughty and relentless landlords, who will ride at ease, while we are trodden in the dirt. The Colonists have been branded with the odious names of traitors and rebels only for complaining of their grievances. How long such treatment will or ought to be borne, is submitted.


Benjamin Franklin’s Preface
to the English Edition of the Report

All accounts of the discontent so general in our colonies have of late years been industriously smothered and concealed here; it seeming to suit the views of the American minister [Lord Hillsborough], to have it understood that by his great abilities all faction was subdued, all opposition suppressed, and the whole country quieted. That the true state of affairs there may be known, and the true causes of that discontent well understood, the following piece (not the production of a private writer, but the unanimous act of a large American city), lately printed in New England, is republished here. This nation, and the other nations of Europe, may thereby learn, with more certainty, the grounds of a dissension that possibly may, sooner or later, have consequences interesting to them all.

The colonies had from their first settlement been governed with more ease than perhaps can be equalled by any instance in history of dominions so distant. Their affection and respect for this country, while they were treated with kindness, produced an almost implicit obedience to the instructions of the Prince, and even to acts of the British Parliament; though the right of binding them by a legislature in which they were unrepresented was never clearly understood. That respect and affection produced a partiality in favor of everything that was English; whence their preference of English modes and manufactures; their submission to restraints on the importation of foreign goods, which they had but little desire to use; and the monopoly we so long enjoyed of their commerce, to the great enriching of our merchants and artificers.

The mistaken policy of the Stamp Act first disturbed this happy situation; but the flame thereby raised was soon extinguished by its repeal, and the old harmony restored, with all its concomitant advantage to our commerce. The subsequent act of another administration, which, not content with an established exclusion of foreign manufactures, began to make our own merchandise dearer to the consumers there, by heavy duties, revived it again; and combinations were entered into throughout the continent to stop trading with Britain till those duties should be repealed. All were accordingly repealed but [Page 423] one, the duty on tea. This was reserved (professedly so) as a standing claim and exercise of the right assumed by Parliament of laying such duties.

The colonies, on this repeal, retracted their agreement, so far as related to all other goods, except that on which the duty was retained. This was trumpeted here by the minister for the colonies as a triumph; there it was considered only as a decent and equitable measure, showing a willingness to meet the mother country in every advance towards a reconciliation, and a disposition to a good understanding so prevalent that possibly they might soon have relaxed in the article of tea also. But the system of commissioners of customs, officers without end, with fleets and armies for collecting and enforcing those duties, being continued, and these acting with much indiscretion and rashness (giving great and unnecessary trouble and obstruction to business, commencing unjust and vexatious suits, and harassing commerce in all its branches, while that the minister kept the people in a constant state of irritation by instructions which appeared to have no other end than the gratifying his private resentments), occasioned a persevering adherence to their resolutions in that particular; and the event should be a lesson to ministers not to risk through pique the obstructing any one branch of trade; since the course and connection of general business may be thereby disturbed to a degree impossible to be foreseen or imagined. For it appears that the colonies finding their humble petitions to have this duty repealed were rejected and treated with contempt, and that the produce of the duty was applied to the rewarding with undeserved salaries and pensions every one of their enemies, the duty itself became more odious, and their resolution to share it more vigorous and obstinate.

The Dutch, the Danes, and French took this opportunity thus offered them by our imprudence, and began to smuggle their teas into the plantation. At first this was something difficult; but at length, as all business is improved by practice, it became easy. A coast fifteen hundred miles in length could not in all parts be guarded, even by the whole navy of England; especially when their restraining authority was by all the inhabitants deemed unconstitutional, the smuggling of course considered as patriotism. The needy wretches, too, who, with small salaries, were trusted to watch the ports day and night, in all weathers, found it easier and more profitable not only to [Page 424] wink, but to sleep in their beds; the merchant’s pay being more generous than the King’s. Other India goods, also, which, by themselves, would not have made a smuggling voyage sufficiently profitable, accompanied tea to advantage; and it is feared the cheap French silks, formerly rejected, as not to the tastes of the colonies, may have found their way with the wares of India, and now established themselves in the popular use and opinion.

It is supposed that at least a million of Americans drink tea twice a day, which, at the first cost here, can scarce be reckoned at less than half a guinea a head per annum. This market, that in the five years which have run on since the act passed, would have paid two million five hundred thousand guineas for tea alone, into the coffers of the Company, we have wantonly lost to foreigners.

Meanwhile it is said the duties have so diminished that the whole remittance of the last year amounted to no more than the pitiful sum of eighty-five pounds, for the expense of some hundred thousands, in armed ships and soldiers, to support the officers. Hence the tea, and other India goods, which might have been sold in America, remain rotting in the Company’s warehouses; while those of foreign ports are known to be cleared by the American demand. Hence, in some degree, the Company’s inability to pay their bills; the sinking of their stock, by which millions of property have been annihilated; the lowering of their dividend, whereby so many must be distressed; the loss to government of the stipulated four hundred thousand pounds a year, which must make a proportionable reduction in our savings towards the discharge of our enormous debt; and hence, in part, the severe blow suffered by credit in general, to the ruin of many families; the stagnation of business in Spitalfields and Manchester, through want of vent for their goods; with other future evils, which, as they cannot, from the numerous and secret connections in general commerce, easily be foreseen, can hardly be avoided.


Editor’s Notes and Comments

Note from Wells, Life of Samuel Adams

[Page 425] Mr. Adams’s motion, creating the Committee of Correspondence, had specified three distinct duties to be performed, -to draw up a statement of the rights of the Colonists as men, as Christians, and as subjects; a declaration of the infringement and violation of those rights; and a letter to be sent to the several towns in the Province and to the world as the sense of the town. The drafting of the first was assigned to Samuel Adams, the second to Joseph Warren, and the last to Benjamin Church.

When the reports of the several committees were prepared, they were presented on the 20th of November to a town meeting at Faneuil Hall by James Otis, who now, as chairman, made his final appearance in public, –the wreck of one of the most brilliant men of genius that America has produced, but yet sustained by the care and sympathy of some friends and the tender reverence of the people, whose cause he had ever ardently and sincerely supported.

“Samuel Adams,” says Hutchinson, writing to a friend, ” had prepared a long report, but he let Otis appear in it”; and again, in another letter: “the Grand Incendiary of the Province prepared a long report for a committee appointed by the town, in which, after many principles inferring independence were laid down, many resolves followed, all of them tending to sedition and mutiny, and some of them expressly denying Parliamentary authority.”

The report created a powerful sensation, both in America and in England, where it was for some time attributed to Franklin, by whom it was republished. It is divided into the three subjects specified in the original motion. The first, in three subdivisions, considering the rights of the Colonists as men, as Christians, and as subjects, was from the pen of Samuel Adams; his original draft, together with the preparatory rough notes or headings, being in perfect preservation. It is important, not only as a platform upon which were afterwards built many of the celebrated state papers of the Revolution, but as the first fruits of the Committee of Correspondence.

The error of John Adams, when, fifty years afterwards, he attributed this pamphlet to James Otis, gave rise to some interesting letters from both Jefferson and Adams a few years before their death. John Adams, while questioning the credit due to Jefferson, as the author of the Declaration of Independence, had called that document a “recapitulation” of the Declaration of Rights by the Congress of 1774; and, again, writing to Mr. Pickering, he says: “As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it [the Declaration of Independence] but what had been hackneyed in Congress two years before. The substance of it is contained in the Declaration of Rights, and the Violations of those Rights, in the journals of Congress in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet voted and printed by the town of Boston before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams.” (John Adams’s Works, II. 514).

The fact that Otis was allowed to present the report as his final public act may have given John Adams this impression; for, at this time (1772), he himself took no part in public affairs, but devoted his time to professional pursuits. Otis, however, had nothing to do with preparing the paper, and, to the grief of his friends and his country, had long been incapable of any public service. Jefferson, adopting [Page 426] the “supposition” of John Adams as to the authorship of the “Rights of the Colonists,” wrote to Mr. Madison a year later that the “Otis pamphlet he never saw,” and upon this his biographer, continuing the subject in defence of Jefferson’s originality, refers repeatedly to the pamphlet in question as the production of Otis. (Randall’s Jefferson, I. 189.) There certainly is a similarity between the “Rights of the Colonists” in 1772 and the “Declaration of Rights” in 1774, and between them both and the Declaration of Independence; but, as all are founded on the time-honored principles of Locke, Hooker, Sydney, and Harrington, some of whom are duly quoted by Samuel Adams in his treatise, the disputes as to the originality are needless.

But John Adams’s memory failed him in relation to the Declaration of Rights made by the first Congress, as well as in attributing the pamphlet now under consideration to James Otis. He implies that there were two Declarations, the one of Rights, and the other of Violations, which is manifestly incorrect. It would seem, too, that any attempt to lessen the credit of Jefferson, by showing that the essence of the Declaration of Independence was contained in Samuel Adams’s pamphlet of 1772 and the Declaraton of Rights in 1774, must reflect upon whoever claims the authorship of the latter (since the sentiments are identical), unless it be conceded that Samuel Adams, as is more than probable, was largely engaged in composing the Declaration of Rights, and introduced into that paper the same principles he had advanced in 1772.

Here [in the paper of 1772] is embodied the whole philosophy of human rights, condensed from the doctrines of all time, and applied to the immediate circumstances of America. Upon this paper was based all that was written or spoken on human liberty in the Congress which declared independence; and the immortal instrument itself is, in many features, but a repetition of the principles here enunciated, and of Joseph Warren’s list of grievances, which followed the Rights of the Colonists in the report. -Wells, Life of Samuel Adams.

From the Editor Sparks.

[Page 427] The report was the boldest exposition of the American grievances which had hitherto been made public, and was drawn up with as much ability as freedom. Hutchinson says of this report of the committee, that, “although at its first appearance it was considered as their own work, yet they had little more to do than to make the necessary alterations in the arrangement of materials prepared for them by their great director in England, whose counsels they obeyed, and in whose wisdom and dexterity they had an implicit faith. Such principles in government were avowed as would be sufficient to justify the colonies in revolting, and forming an independent state; and such instances were given of the infringement of their rights by the exercise of Parliamentary authority as, upon like reasons, would justify an exception to the authority in all cases whatever; nevertheless, [Page 428] there was color for alleging that it was not ‘expressly’ denied in ‘every’ case. The whole frame of it, however, was calculated to strike the colonists with a sense of their just claim to independence, and to stimulate them to assert it.”

The person alluded to by Governor Hutchinson, as “the great director in England,” was Dr. Franklin, and it is insinuated that he was in effect the author of the report, but this is in no sense true; nor did he wholly approve the measures adopted at that meeting. He thought the affair was carried a little farther than the occasion required at the time, and was afraid that ill consequences would result. It was only the time and manner of bringing the subject forward, however, upon which he had any doubts. To the sentiments expressed in the report of the committee, and adopted by the inhabitants of the town, he fully assented. This is proved by his sending a copy of the proceedings to the press, as soon as he received it in London, with a prefatory notice written by himself. The pamphlet was entitled “The Votes and Proceedings of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, in Town Meeting assembled, according to Law. Published by Order of the Town.”-Sparks.