Sunday, March 05, 2017

Today -100: March 5, 1917: Of helpless and contemptible governments


Woodrow Wilson is inaugurated for his second term, the oath administered by the chief justice in the President’s Room in the Capitol, in front of a couple of Wilson’s friends, his wife, the Cabinet, and “such public officials as happened to be in the room transacting official business when the hour of noon arrived.” Actually, it was 12:04, so the country was without a president for 4 minutes, if it had but known it.

The Senate fails to pass Wilson’s Armed Ship Bill before the 64th Congress’s session expires. 11 senators (5 D’s, 6 R’s) filibuster the bill to death. 75 senators sign a manifesto saying they would have voted for it. Robert La Follette has a long speech he’d like to filibuster with, but the other side conspires to use the rules to prevent him speaking, just to be dickish. He is not best pleased. Other bills and nominations got lost thanks to the filibuster.

Pres. Wilson, says “A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible.” He demands that the Senate change its rules to prevent filibusters, and then he’ll call a special session.

Until recently, the White House had been saying that, while it would prefer to have Congress’s consent, the president has the inherent power under the Constitution to order the Navy to put cannon (and sailors) on private commercial vessels. However, they’re now discovered an 1819 law which says merchant ships may be armed but may not shoot at ships of countries with which the United States is not at war. So what were the cannon for? Pirates, of course.

The Chinese cabinet decides to join the US in breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany. Pres. Li Yuan-Hung refuses, saying that that power is his and his alone. So the prime minister and Cabinet resign. And leave Peking.


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