June 21st, 2003


History lesson

I'm in the middle of reading A People's History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons, and this morning I ran across a passage that I found very intriguing, given recent events in Texas:

First, although the Federalists controlled the one-house state legislature, the Antifederalist bloc -- mostly from the western and rural areas -- held more than a third of the sixty-nine seats. If the Federalists could not muster a quorum of forty-six members, their opponents could block a vote to send the Constitution to a state convention....

The Federalists solved the first problem with strong-arm tactics. When the roll call in the legislative session, called to propose a ratification convention, turned up only forty-four members, the Pennsylvania Assembly sent its sergeant at arms to round up at least two of the Antifederalist members, who had boycotted the meeting to prevent a vote they knew they would lose. Surrounded by a self-appointed posse, the sergeant canvassed the taverns and lodging houses near the State House and finally located two of the boycotters, James M'Calmont and Jacob Miley.... Federalist members held M'Calmont and Miley in their seats while the Assembly -- with its press gang quorum -- voted forty-six to twenty-three to hold elections for a ratification convention.

I don't mean to imply that what the Republicans were trying to do in Texas -- and what Governor Rick Perry is calling a special session of the legislature to try again to do -- is in any way equivalent to ratifying the Constitution, but a surprising number of people seemed shocked that the Democratic legislators would flee the state to prevent a quorum, or that the Republicans would send the state police to hunt for them. But they were just following in the footsteps of the founding fathers.

But enough history! Harry Potter awaits!

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