Tag Archives: Constitution of 1787

Confederate Monuments to the Memory of Slavery or Defense of Liberty?—the Debate Rages on in New Orleans

Last Thursday, the New Orleans City Council Voted 6-1 to take down four Confederate Monuments. [And may God-Bless Councilwoman Stacy Head, the sole dissenter, an White Uptown New Orleanian I had the privilege of meeting once at a special event at the Prytania Theatre in 2013]. The monuments in question were namely,
(1)    an equestrian statue of Confederate General Pierre-Gustav Toutant Beauregard, a lifetime French Creole who was born and died in New Orleans;
(2)  a standing statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who died in New Orleans after presiding over the founding of the first museum to the memory of the nation over which he presided for four years, as statesman and orator;
(3)   a truly monumental column crowned by a bronze standing statue of General Robert Edward Lee (forever facing North, never turning his back on the enemy); Robert E. Lee was a close kinsman of George Washington from Virginia who was and still is widely revered as one of the great heroes of all American history; and
(4)    finally, a much smaller obelisk moment to the memory of those who dies in a much-too-little-known post-war Urban Battle seven years into Reconstruction, called “the Battle of Liberty Place”, where White citizens of Louisiana overthrew the hateful occupation government imposed on them after the surrender of the Confederacy.

Polls following this vote show that more than 90% of the actively interested public oppose the removal of these statues.  But the debate rages on.  Those on the side of removal, sponsored by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, call their opponents hateful racist reactionaries who support monuments to traitors.  They accuse us of  irrational adherence to a culture of hate and to the “Memory of the Lost Cause”…

Listening, at several meetings of the New Orleans City Council, and reading online, the only wildly irrational hatred and hateful speech I hear in this debate comes from people on Mitch Landrieu-pro-Removal side of the fence.  Just this morning, a fellow named Michael Dominici posted on “Save our Circle in New Orleans on Facebook: “Slavery was an American Holocaust.” Let’s start there.  I challenged him to explain what on earth he could possibly mean by that choice of words.

You think that slaves were destined to murder or sacrifice? Well, not in the USA or anywhere in the New World, but in Africa only, where slaves were kept like cattle as food reserves for cannibalism. Many slaves who told their stories later in life said that they expected to be eaten when they arrived at the end of their slave-ship journey. That was based on African experience and tradition, nothing else. So please check and restudy your history carefully.
 
The origins of the slave trade were that first Arab and European slave traders saw the slaughter of human beings on the “dark continent” and decided that Africa’s food reserves could be better used as labor reserves than chopped up and eaten.
 
So that’s point number one: slavery may not have been a great life, but it WAS life for slaves instead of death in the cannibal stew pots or having gotten too old to be eaten and just executed.
 
Second point: Africans sold the African slaves to Anglo-American white slavers up until 1808, but never to Confederates. By the time the Confederate States of America came into being, the international slave trade had been abolished everywhere in the world EXCEPT in Africa. And many, many African-Americans in the South actively supported the Confederate States of America both as soldiers and, in the state of Louisiana, as Planters who financially backed the CSA. Like it or not, that’s just reality: there WERE African American (Mulatto, Quadroon, Octaroon) southern planters who owned slaves and supported the Confederacy “as if their life depended on it” because in a sense, it did.
 
Third point: “Confederate” is a constitutional term whose definition reflects a constitutional argument. Many of us today (who do not and would never approve of slavery) still hold to the Confederate States side of the Constitutional argument. Look at the writings of Donnie Kennedy and his brother James, of Thomas DiLorenzo, Mike Maharrey and of a not specifically “Southern” but in fact Los Angeles-based group called “The Tenth Amendment Center”.
 
Fourth point: ironically, the reason many of us do favor Jefferson Davis’ constitutionalism is that we feel that all free people lost a great deal of Freedom in the War of 1861-5 AND IN THE 150 years since, so that we Americans and our society as a whole is more slave-like now than ever before.
 
Fifth point: want statistical proof? More black people, and many more white people, are now in prison or on probation today than were ever slaves in the South, and why? Maybe you think Alex Jones is a nut, maybe you like him, but the fact remains that nobody ever called the USA a “Prison Planet” in the early 19th century. Alexander de Tocqueville called slavery America’s “peculiar institution” precisely because this was the freest land on earth—back then, but now it’s more controlled and under constant state surveillance than any dictatorship in the world, prior to 1950, ever had the technological capacity to achieve. We are living in a slave society today, and we look back with some substantial envy on the States which were free enough, and technologically self-sufficient enough, to secede in 1860-1861.
 
Sixth point: the 13th Amendment at least indirectly inspired an explosion in American prison populations. Again, look carefully at the statistics. Prior to the 13th Amendment, which established that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude could exist EXCEPT as a punishment for crime, there was almost no such thing as a “prison population” in the USA…. now the prison population of the USA is more than twice what the original TOTAL population of the United States was at the time of the first census 1790, 14 years after independence.
 
Seventh: the other cause for the explosion of American prison populations is the criminalization of so much of the country’s commercial and general economic and scientific, even food producing and consuming, activity by Federal laws and policies spread to the states. There was hardly such a thing as “Economic Regulation” on the Federal level in 1860, unless you count Andrew Jackson abolishing the Bank of the United States in the early 1830s.
 
The centralized planning of agriculture, industry, and the social-economy generally which began during the “Civil War” in the North under Abraham Lincoln’s administration, and was brutally imposed on the South during Reconstruction and afterwards, was and remains exactly what people of a “Confederate” mindset hated and feared then and still hate and fear today: the loss of economic freedom (and thus all meaningful freedom) to a tyrannical Federal government.

HURRAY FOR PELICAN STATE CIVIL RIGHTS—LOUISIANA LEADS THE WAY (in civil rights, possibly for the first time EVER—but this will be controversial)(hot off the presses)

What is more important to the definition of what it means to be an American: the Constitution as it was written in 1787-1792 (to include the First Ten Amendments) or the regulatory power of the state to arrest as many people as possible and throw them in jail on slim evidence of real wrongdoing to keep the (few) left outside “safe”—and more importantly, to support the power elite’s establishment?

A Louisiana Judge picked up on arguments in a brief Herbert Paul Bethel recently submitted up in Fresno County, California (last October) and handed down an opinion affirming THAT THERE IS NO RATIONAL BASIS TO DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS, even as regards individuals released from penal custody after conviction of a “felony.”  THE SECOND AMENDMENT THUS JUST WON A MAJOR VICTORY in the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court from the Honorable Judge Darryl Derbigny, who basically picked up on several key points in Bethel’s Brief:

(1)   Once people convicted of a crime have served their time, there is no rational basis to deny them ANY further exercise of their full civil rights.  This proposition is politically uncontroversial when it comes to the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but many other rights of people convicted of “felonies” are curtailed, most notably the right to keep and bear arms.  

(2)   Judge Darryl Derbigny has now ruled, exactly as Herbert Paul Bethel argued in Fresno County, California last fall, that the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in MacDonald v. City of Chicago REQUIRES that Second Amendment Rights be given equal dignity with the First, Fourth, and Fifth, at the very least.

(2)    The voters of Louisiana last Fall overwhelmingly endorsed a gun rights amendment to the Louisiana Constitution which enshrined the MacDonald v. Chicago holdings in State Law—but in so doing LOUISIANA LEADS THE WAY FOR THE REST OF THE NATION TO RECOGNIZE THAT THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS IS IN FACT FUNCTIONALLY AS WELL AS STRUCTURALLY EQUAL TO ALL OTHER RIGHTS SECURED BY THE BILL OF RIGHTS.

(3)     Louisiana Revised Statute 14;95.1, as of today, March 23, 2013, is a DEAD LETTER on the Louisiana Law Books.  No free adult person may now be denied the right to keep and bear arms in this state—HURRAY FOR THE PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA!  HURRAY FOR JUDGE DARRYL DERBIGNY!  

I will be writing much more about this, but wanted to alert readers to the major groundswell that this decision may precipitate.   It is almost unique in the History of Louisiana that this State has ever taken the lead in the PROTECTION of Civil Rights, and it certainly happens that the Civil Rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are among the most sacred to all Conservative, Traditional Americans.

Some American Conservatives may be traumatized by this decision, because too many American Conservatives (I hate to say this, but it’s true) are unreflective hypocrites: they pledge their love of freedom, but they also love “security” and so (many, not all) “moderate” and “mainstream” Republicans (basically includes just about every single Republican in the Senate except Rand Paul and just about every single Republican in the House now that his Dad Ron has retired) would rather keep the prisons full, whether they are full of REAL criminals or not, and make “ex-cons” into permanent second-class citizens with regard to their lifelong disabilities in certain fields of life (most notably gun ownership). 

On a pure “rational basis” standard, I suspect that felons who have served their time may be MORE in need of firearms for LEGITIMATE purposes of self-defense than the average American.  Herbert Paul Bethel’s entire story in Fresno being a case in point….

What bothers me most is that so many Conservatives in this Country do not realize how unjust America’s laws have become, how ALL AMERICANS are potential “felons” within the meaning of a totally over-written, overbroad and vague set of criminal codes.  And so many Americans who have yet to have a major brush with the law support the mass incarceration of their fellow citizens WITHOUT REGARD for the fact that too great a percentage of America’s HUGE incarcerated population have committed at best “commercial” crimes such as drug smuggling or sales, and that the constitutionality of regulating such things is, at best, “open to question” (some would say there is no constitutional basis for the “War on Drugs” whatsoever—and I am one of THOSE….)

In this connexion: STRIKE GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL from your list of Republicans you might consider supporting because he immediately spoke out AGAINST Judge Derbigny’s decision (and was lukewarm about the Constitutional initiative last year).  

Monday, September 17, 2012, was “Constitution Day”—the Day in 1787 the Constitutional Convention Closed and the Constitution was Signed by the Members—but Wednesday, September 19, 2012, is international “Talk Like a Pirate Day”—Saint Matthew’s Day and the Autumnal Equinox Coming up….

I confess I did nothing particularly appropriate to celebrate Constitution Day and I really should have, except that even thinking about the Constitution these days is kind of discouraging (nobody in the Government’s Executive, Judicial or Legislative branches seems to—so why should I?).   I cannot even think of anything particularly appropriate to do for International Talk Like a Pirate Day except I talked to my friend Daria in Trzcianka, Poland and she indicated a desire to be Pirate Queen in a sea of shoes…. but also commented that she’s afraid of storms so she might not have done so well in the Hurricane ridden Caribbean…. On the whole, thinking about the lives of Pirate Lassies such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read, I don’t think they really had such glamorous lives.   There was a 16th Century Irish Piratess Gráinne Ní Mháille who was Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille clan and a pirate in 16th century Ireland. She is an important figure in Irish folklore, and a historical figure in 16th century Irish history, and is sometimes known as “The Sea Queen Of Connaught”.  Gráinne lived an unusually long and legendary life for a piratess, as did her Islamic contemporary Moroccan Sayyida al Hurra who married the King of Morocco…. But as for me I’ll live and die a Pirate King in the spirit of W.S. Gilbert’s & Arthur Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance…. Back in High School in Hollywood I sang the role of the Modern Major General Stanley, and in College I played Frederick—who was bound by a poorly drafted contract of apprenticeship to serve the eponymous pirates of Penzance not until his 21st year but until his 21st BIRTHDAY, and since he was born on February 29, this meant (in his case) that his 21st birthday would not take place until 1940….meaning he must have been born I think in 1856….“Oh is there not one maiden breast, that does not feel the moral beauty, of making worldly interest, subordinate to sense of duty…..”  Pirates of Penzance, of course, is famous for many things, not least of which was the Pirates’ March which I never got to sing screaming on stage although my grandfather apparently did: “WITH CAT-LIKE TREAT, UPON OUR PRAY WE STEAL, IN SILENCE DREAD OUR CAUTIOUS WAY WE FEEL, NO SOUND AT ALL, WE NEVER SPEAK A WORD, A FLIES FOOT-FALL WOULD BE DISTINCTLY HEARD—COME FRIENDS WHO PLOUGH THE SEA, TRUCE TO NAVIGATION, TAKE ANOTHER STATION, LET’s VARY PIRACY, with a little BURGLARY.”

It might be appropriate to note that the Autumnal Equinox is coming on Saturday and that September 21 is Saint Matthew’s Day.  Since Saint Matthew is somehow (I really don’t know how) the Patron Saint of Bankers (possibly because he was originally a tax collector in Capernaum), this week should be designated, as a whole, to commemorate “the piratical boarding, capture and take-over of the US Constitution of 1787 by International Bankers, the most successful pirates of all times.”  

I must thank Barbaratzin for reminding me of International “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, which Tracy DeMerc., a/k/a “Peachy Ashy Passion” of Stafford, Virginia used to always celebrate…. 

The Autumnal Equinox doesn’t mean much in California—although the weather is cooling off a tiny little bit from a normally warm summer in LA, which ended with a bang of several really hot days last weekend….

But, especially since it comes a mere six weeks, “40 days and 40 nights” before All Saints’ Day, Saint Matthews’ day ought to mean something to us, in that his Gospel was given the honor of going first at the Council of Nicea, so a few thoughts about the old reformed tax-collector (“Publicans” ranked in the Bible slightly lower than Harlots, who at least fulfilled some necessary and pleasant social functions in the Bible) are surely in order here….

Saint Matthew (מַתִּתְיָהוּ Mattityahu or מתי Mattay “Gift of YHWH”; Greek: Ματθαῖος, Matthaios) was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus and one of the four Evangelists.   Saint Matthew was the (named, but hardly authenticated) author of the first Canonical Gospel in the order for accepted scripture adopted in the Highly Politicized Convocation called by Emperor Constantine and his mother Helen at Nicea. This has been the constant tradition of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (of which even such Schismatics as us Anglicans/Episcopalians claim to be part of in our slightly hypocritical recitation of the “Nicene” Creed) and is confirmed by the Gospel text itself.   “Matthew” was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting in the tax collectors (“Publicans”, often and predictably but not appropriately confused with “Republicans”) place at Capernaum.  Before Matthews’ conversion he was a publican, i.e., a tax collector by profession (in other words, everyone hated him so there was nothing left to him to do but to become a Christian).   Matthew is sometimes thought to be identified with the “Levi” of the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  The “Levites” of course were originally supposed to be the Judaic descendants of Aaron and the only legitimate “Priesthood” of Ancient Israel….

Matthews’ actually documented apostolic activity was restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. There are mythic traditions that point him towards Ethiopia as his field of labor, although Egypt and Ethiopia seem to claim “Saint Mark”; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia.  Nothing is even known nor even documented as a good mythology regarding whether Matthew “Levi” died a natural death or received a crown of martyrdom.  For all we really know he might have just written his Gospel, added the impossibly long series of quasi-historical “Begats” at the beginning, and then and consequently croaked.

St. Matthew’s Gospel was written to fill a “market niche demand” from his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the Jews, especially those in the process of evolving into Christians, Matthew’s Gospel served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to the evils of Pharisaic Judaism; for the unbelieving Jew and the Gentiles, Matthews’ introductory text, with a fuller description than any other of Christ’s ancestry, the role of his Mother Mary, and his childhood, and was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, as Lord of all, in Whom all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom embracing all people had been fulfilled in a spiritual as well as a physical or carnal way: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” His Gospel, then, answered the question put by the disciples of St. John the Baptist, “Are You He Who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Writing for his countrymen of Palestine (these definitely to be confused with modern “Palestinians” as well as the inhabitants of Palestine in East Texas), St. Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic, the “Hebrew tongue” mentioned in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, although no text exists of this original rescension. Soon after Christ’s death, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, Matthew made his departure for other lands, or perhaps for another and better world entirely.

One tradition places the composition of the Gospel of Matthew either between the time of this departure and the Council of Jerusalem, i.e., between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later. Definitely, however, Matthew’s Gospel, depicting Jerusalem with its altar and temple as still standing, without any reference to the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecy of a second destruction, shows that it was written before the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 AD, and this internal evidence confirms the early traditions.

Stained glass depiction of St. Matthew at St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Biblical Documentation:

Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in Mt 9:9 and Mt 10:3 as a former tax collector from Capernaum who was called into the circle of the Twelve by Jesus. Matthew is also named among the number of the Twelve, but without identification of his background, in Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15 and Acts 1:13. He (apparently) is called Levi, son of Alpheus, in Mk 2:14 and Lk 5:27. He may have collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas.  Matthew was “called” by Jesus of Nazareth to be one of the Twelve Disciples.  In all relevant texts which mention him, Matthew was one of the witnesses of Jesus final trial before Pontius Pilate, His Resurrection and Ascension.

Early life

Matthew was a first century Galilean (presumably born in Galilee, which was not part of Judea or the Roman Iudaea province) and the son of Alpheus. During the Roman occupation (which began in 63 BC with the conquest of Pompey), Matthew collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. His tax office was located in Capernaum. Jews who became rich in such a fashion were despised and considered outcasts. However, as a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek, and possibly even in Latin.

It was in this setting, near what is today Almagor, that Jesus called Matthew to be one of the Twelve Disciples. After his call, Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast. On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17)

Matthew’s Ministry

When Matthew is mentioned in the New Testament, he is sometimes found paired with Thomas. The New Testament records that as a disciple, he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10-14) (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem.  The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Matthew may also be mentioned in the Talmud.

Later Church fathers such as Ireneaus and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew, for 15 years, preached the Gospel in Hebrew to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries. Ancient writers are not agreed as to what these other countries are.  The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr, but as noted above, no substantial stories exist, either as history or even as mythology.

Matthew’s Gospel

St. Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt

Although the first of the Synoptic Gospels is technically anonymous, traditionally the Gospel of Matthew was held to be written by the apostle.  As a government official in Capernaum, in “Galilee of the Gentiles”, a tax-collector would probably have been literate in both Greek and Aramaic.  Greek was the language used in the market-place.  As noted above, no Aramaic text of “Matthew” exists, though some early church fathers recorded that Matthew originally wrote in “Hebrew”, but still regarded the Greek text as canonical.

Many scholars today, such as Raymond E. Brown, believe that “canonical Matt[hew] was originally written in Greek by a non-eyewitness whose name is unknown to us and who depended on sources like Mark and Q”, a theory known as Markan priority. However some scholars, notably Craig Blomberg, disagree variously on these points.  The more traditional interpretation of theSynoptic Gospels posits a Matthean priority, most notably in the Augustinian hypothesis after one of the earliest and most notable proponents Saint Augustine of Hippo. This position once held with veritable consensus in the Medieval church has since waned, but still has several proponents.

Non-canonical or Apocryphal Gospels

In the third century Jewish-Christian Gospels attributed to Matthew were used by Jewish-Christian groups such as the Nazarenes and Ebionites. Fragments of these gospels survive in quotations by Jerome, Epiphanius and others. Most academic study follows the distinction of Gospel of the Nazarenes (26 fragments), Gospel of the Ebionites (7 fragments), and Gospel of the Hebrews (7 fragments) found in Schneemelcher’s New Testament Apocrypha. Critical commentators generally regard these texts as having been composed in Greek and related to Greek Matthew.   A minority of commentators consider them to be fragments of a lost Aramaic or Hebrew language original.

The Infancy Gospel of Matthew is a seventh century compilation of three other texts: the Protevangelium of James, the Flight into Egypt and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Origen said the first Gospel was written by Matthew.   This Gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek, but the Greek copy was lost. The Hebrew original was kept at the Library of Caesarea. The Nazarene Community transcribed a copy for Jerome which he used in his work. Matthew’s Gospel was called the Gospel according to the Hebrews or sometimes the Gospel of the Apostles and it was once believed that it was the original to the Greek Matthew found in the Bible. However this has been challenged by modern biblical scholars such as Bart Ehrman and James R. Edwards.

Jerome relates that Matthew was supposed by the Nazarenes to have composed their Gospel of the Hebrews though Irenaeus and Epiphanius of Salamis consider this simply a revised version canonical Gospel. This Gospel has been partially preserved in the writings of the Church Fathers, said to have been written by Matthew.  Epiphanius does not make his own the claim about a Gospel of the Hebrews written by Matthew, a claim that he merely attributes to the heretical Ebionites.

In Islam

St. Matthew writing the Gospel with an angel holding the volume, anIslamic miniature by Kesu Das for the Mughal

The Quran speaks of Jesus’s disciples but does not mention their names, instead referring to them as “helpers to the work of God”.  Muslim exegesis and Qur’an commentary, however, names them and includes Matthew amongst the disciples. Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew, with Andrew, were the two disciples who went to Ethiopia to preach the message of God.

Commemoration

Medieval relief of Saint Matthew in the Church of Ják, Hungary (XIII century).

Matthew is recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic,Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican churches. (See Saint Matthew’s Church.) His feast day is celebrated on 21 September in the West and 16 November in the East. (For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 16 November currently falls on 29 November of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated by the Orthodox, together with the other Apostles, on 30 June (13 July), the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles. His relics are preserved in the Salerno Cathedral in Italy.

Like the other evangelists, Matthew is often depicted in Christian art with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7. The one that accompanies him is in the form of a winged man. The three paintings of Matthew by Caravaggio in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where he is depicted as called by Christ from his profession as gatherer, are among the landmarks of Western art.

If Restoring the Gold Standard is a Tease, it is a very smart tease—otherwise the Republicans really should endorse a Constitutional Amendment to emphasize the truth and restore some modicum of reality or “honest” to the government—at least to the point of admitting its lies….

I would actually support a straight constitutional restoration of gold AND silver as the sole media of legal tender in the United States—not just gold and not just silver.  Otherwise the Constitution should be amended in an effort to restore honesty and integrity to the government.  We could, for example, restore ancient Indo-European currency based on cattle (“fee” and “pecuniary” are just two of the words we have inherited from our cattle-exchanging ancestors), mix it with the ancient Aztec-Maya “Cacao” standard that operated for at least two thousand years before the Spanish conquest in Mexico, but the “credit” standard based on an empty Federal Reserve (empty of substance, but papered over full of lies) has got to stop!  It would almost redeem Romney—almost, if he would endorse a restoration of Constitutional Currency—or to amend the Constitution to authorize “fiat currency based on nothing, issued by a private bank in the name of the U.S. Treasury.”

The Original U.S. Constitution of 1787 states, in Article I, Section 10:

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.”

Article I, Section 8, Clause 5 stated [Congress shall have Power … ] To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, …;

Note that there is no such prohibition against Congress, or any delegated power to make anything legal tender. Congress was originally understood to have no power to make anything legal tender outside of federal territories, under Art. I Sec. 8 Cl. 17 and Art. IV Sec. 3 Cl. 2, but in 1868 a Supreme Court packed by Pres. Ulysses S. Grant, in the Legal Tender Cases, allowed Congress to make paper currency issued by the U.S. Treasury, backed by gold, legal tender on state territory, a precedent that remains controversial to this day, when courts allow paper currency not backed by anything to be considered “legal tender”.

Seventh Amendment

The only money amount in the Constitution or its amendments is in the Seventh Amendment regarding civil jury trials:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

In 1789 the “dollar” was a coin, the Spanish (Austrian-Bohemian-Habsburg-Imperial originated) taler, mostly those minted in Mexico City, Havana, Cartagena, or Lima, containing 371.25 grains of pure silver, or 416 grains of silver of standard (coin grade) purity.

A troy ounce, the standard measurement unit for precious metals, is 480 grains, so a “dollar” contains 0.7734 troy ounce of pure silver, and 20 such coins would weigh 17.3333 troy ounces and contain 15.46875 troy ounces of pure silver. One can use one of several historically analyzed currency converters to to find out what the current value of that amount of bulk silver would be in federal reserve notes. For example, on June 15, 2000, $20 dollars in Spanish Silver would have been worth about $87.71 in federal reserve notes, but the price is much higher now.  However, keep in mind that the world trading price for gold or silver is the bulk, wholesale price, for ingots, in minimum quantities of 400 troy ounces, and the trading is generally only a tranfer of title and not a physical delivery of the ingots, for which an additional transport charge may be made. As single coins it would have about twice that bulk value, so the constitutional threshold under the Eighth Amendment would (in 2000 again) have been closer to $176 in federal reserve notes. That would be the minimum “value in controversy” that would preserve the right to trial by jury in a civil case.

Since Congress has the power to set weights and measures, Congress could regulate the exchange rate between gold and silver and “the dollar” if Constitutional currency, or any mix of Constitutional and traditional substantive economic currency in cattle, sheep, cacao, or cowrie shells were ever to be restored.  But this week, the focus on on the sad Republicans.

Republicans tease with gold standard, but idea seen full of bugs

Reuters – 2 hrs 46 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. Republicans have all but guaranteed the backing of the “gold vote” this November by raising an idea that even the most bullish mainstream bullion boosters believe is unrealistic – a return to the gold standard.

Gold prices would likely surge to $10,000 an ounce, the greenback’s credibility would vanish and global superpowers would risk a new trade war if Republicans were to restore the link between the U.S. dollar and gold that was severed 40 years ago.

But that isn’t stopping Republicans from considering the idea, who will call for a commission to look at restoring a fixed value for the dollar, according to a draft of the party platform to be adopted at theRepublican National Convention that begins on Monday in Tampa, Florida.

Gold has returned to the political discourse recently with the growing prominence of politicians like Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas who has said that he decided to enter politics on the day thatPresident Richard Nixon shut the “gold window” in 1971, and with the Tea Party, which helped Utah pass a law last year to make gold legal tender.

But their support won’t change the practical hurdles that would face such a wrenching shift in the currency system, one likely to have catastrophic effects on trade and growth.

To back the U.S. monetary based currently at around $2.56 trillion by the 262 million ounces of gold held by the United States government means bullion prices would soar as high as $10,000 an ounce, Capital Economics strategists said.

A sudden appreciation of the dollar’s value would crush the greenback’s credibility as the world’s reserve currency and severely undermine the international trade balance.

“It is hard to conceive of the circumstances under which no one would want to hold any dollars,” they said.

The World Gold Council, a trade group funded by gold mining companies to promote the many uses of bullion, including by investors, deems such a move “unlikely,” citing international disagreement over the converting price and the fact that annual growth in gold stock may not match the monetary base.

Even the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA), a group dedicated to exposing what its founders say is a conspiracy by Wall Street banks, the Federal Reserve and others to depress the price of goldand silver, doesn’t see it happening.

At best they’re hoping that the RNC will provoke an audit of U.S. holdings, proving GATA’S claim of a conspiracy.

“It really would be something for the Republican platform to call for a truly independent audit of the Fed and U.S. gold reserves,” said GATA’s chairman, Bill Murphy, a former Boston Patriots wide receiver who worked as a commodity broker on Wall Street before founding GATA in 1998.

CENBANKS STOCK UP

Despite widespread disbelief, a reintroduction of the gold standard has gained more support in recent years amid an intensifying debate over how to tackle U.S. debt levels and spending, and increased global anxiety over the stability of fiat currencies – a government-issued currency whose value is based on the issuer’s guarantee to pay the face amount on demand.

“The idea is that it forces the U.S. to live within its means,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist of broker-dealer Janney Montgomery Scott, which has around $54 billion in assets under management. “Think of it as a person with a debit card rather than a credit card. The debit card holder can only spend to what he or she has in the bank.”

Governments abroad are also renewing their interest in owning gold as part of their reserves due to economic uncertainty. World central banks as a group became net buyers in 2010 after two decades of net sales. Official-sector purchase is on track to rise to a record high this year, WGC said.

The world official sector currently held about 29,500 tonnes, or 17 percent of the world’s above-ground stocks. This compares to 19 percent held by investors and nearly half of the stocks made into gold jewelry.

REAGAN REDUX

The Republican proposal is reminiscent of a Gold Commission created by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, 10 years after President Richard Nixon broke the link between gold and the dollar during the 1971 oil crisis.

Reagan’s commission ultimately supported the status quo, saying “restoring the gold standard does not appear to be a fruitful method for dealing with the continuing problem of inflation.”

In 1973, the U.S. government raised the official dollar price of gold to $42.22 per ounce. A year later, Americans were permitted to own gold other than just jewelry.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office warned on Wednesday that massive government spending cuts and tax hikes due next year will cause even worse economic damage than previously thought if Washington fails to come up with a solution.

REAL POLITICAL MOTIVE

Instead of planning for a gold standard return, the Republicans are trying to placate supporters at next week’s RNC and to gain more firepower in the party’s promoting responsible U.S. fiscal and monetary policies in the upcoming federal elections in November, analysts said.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting suggests the U.S. central bank will adopt stimulus fairly soon unless economic conditions improve dramatically. Some expect Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke could use his speech at the central bank’s gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the end of this month to send a strong message to markets.

“Examining a return to the gold standard is one avenue to show the public and markets a level of seriousness about the U.S. dollar, monetary policy and the budget deficit,” said Jeffrey Wright, managing director of Global Hunter Securities.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)