Equal Rights Party (Loco-Focos)

The immediate cause of all the mischief of misrule is, that the men and women acting as the representatives of the people have a private and sinister interest, producing a constant sacrifice of the interest of the people. William Leggett

Location: United States

In my damned beloved universe I would like to be a lonely weed, but not a delicate Narcissus kissing his own mug in the mirror. I would like to be any of God’s creatures right down to the last mangy hyena--but never a tyrant or even the cat of a tyrant. I would not like to be in the elite, nor, of course, in the cowardly herd, nor be a guard dog of that herd, nor a shepherd, sheltered by that herd. And I would like happiness, but not at the expense of the unhappy, and I would like freedom, but not at the expense of the unfree. Yevgenii Yevtushenko

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

We Must Prepare to Assume Once Again the Full Responsibilities of Self-Government

Some snapshots from the early American republic:

Monday, July 29, 1793. A jury acquitted Gideon Henfield of charges that he violated the law of nations by serving aboard a French privateer. (For full accounts of Henfield’s case, see Stewart Jay, Most Humble Servants: The Advisory Role of Early Judges 127-28, 138-42 (1997); William R. Casto, The Supreme Court in the Early Republic 130-36 (1995); Stephen B.Presser, The Original Misunderstanding 68-76 (1991)). The facts of Henfield’s case were uncontested, and his defense turned on a point of law. Henfield argued that it was unconstitutional to prosecute him because his actions were not proscribed by any existing statute or law of the United States. The court—consisting of Supreme Court Justices James Wilson and James Iredell and District Court Judge Richard Peters—instructed jurors that Henfield’s defense was legally frivolous. It was the “joint and unanimous opinion of the court,” Wilson told them, that Henfield’s acts might be culpable as common law offenses against the United States. (Petit Jury Charge, in United States v. Henfield, 11 F. Cas. 1099, 1119-20 (C.C.D. Pa. 1793)(No. 6360)). The jury disagreed, and its verdict triggered celebrations throughout the nation. John Marshall reports that Henfield’s acquittal was greeted with “extravagant marks of joy and exultation” by a public that doubted the administration’s position. (2 John Marshall, The Life of Washington 273-74 (1807)). Bonfires were lit and feasts held in cities and towns from Maine to Georgia. In Charleston, South Carolina, a “number of respectable citizens” followed an evening of “great hilarity and harmony” by toasting “[t]he patriotic jury of Philadelphia who acquitted Gideon Henfield, and supported the rights of man. (Three cheers.)” (Republican Society of South Carolina, Toasts Drunk on a French Victory, Aug. 29, 1793, quoted in The Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790-1800: A Documentary Sourcebook of Constitutions, Declarations, Addresses, Resolutions, and Toasts 380 (Philip S. Foner ed. 1976). The National Gazette praised Henfield’s jury for upholding the Constitution against a court and an administration whose views had been corrupted by “motives of policy”:

When the seven bishops (good and celebrated men) were tried for petitioning James the Second, a similar difference of opinion arose between the bench and the jury, the people then as the people now exulted in the verdict of acquittal; and our posterity will, probably, venerate this as we venerate that jury, for adding to the security of the rights and liberties of mankind. (National Gazette, August 3, 1793, quoted in Richard Buel, Jr., Securing the Revolution: Ideology in American Politics, 1789-1815, at 25 (1972)).

The above paragraphs are from Larry D. Kramer “The People Themselves Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review” (Oxford, 2004), pp. 3-4.

The Equal Rights Party asks: Why are we allowing non-elected monarchies make decisions on our behalf without accountability or responsibility? Where was the spirit of Henfield in the recent Kelo decision where the Supreme Court allowed a city government take the homes of poor people for "public use" against their wishes. How can you call "public use" the allowing of a private developer to take over the property of others for his own enrichment at the expense of the people who were not powerful enough to stop him and his political yes-persons who live in his pocket?



As Kramer states:

To control the Supreme Court, we must first law claim to the Constitution ourselves. This means publicly repudiating Justices who say that they, not we, possess ultimate authority to say what the Constitution means. It means publicly reprimanding politicians who insist that "as Americans" we should submissively yield to whatever the Supreme Court decides.

In reclaiming the Constitution, we reclaim the Constitution's legacy as, in Franklin D. Roosevelt words, "a layman's instrument of government" and not "a lawyer's contract." (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address on Constitution Day, Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 1937, in 6 The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt 359, 362-63 (Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., 1941)). Above all, it means insisting that the Supreme Court is our servant and not our master: a servant whose seriousness and knowledge deserves much deference, but who is ultimately supposed to yeild to our judgments about what the Constitution means and not the reverse. The Supreme Court is not the highest authority in the land on constitutional law. We are.

Kramer, pp. 247-48.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Draft Platform of Equal Rights Party

True functions of good government

- Protect safety and property of the People

Equal rights for all persons regardless of circumstances and socio-economic status

- Free choice. It is not government’s business to tell people how they ought to live behind their closed doors

End electoral monarchies. Remove all "representatives" from political office

- Term limits for "representatives" and other "public servants"

Abolish all laws that do not protect the safety and property of peoples, excepting those laws necessary to advance commercial enterprises

No more wars except for self-defense

- No wars for oil and other business reasons/business interests

- Bring US military forces back to the United States

End unfettered regulation

Protect peoples’ right to labor—no more exportation of jobs to foreign nations

All grants of monopolies, or exclusive or partial privileges to any person, or body of persons, impairs the equal rights of the people, and is in direct violation of the first principle of a free government

I do not consider myself an oracle of truth. The Equal Rights Party encourages everyone's views and inputs; everyone has an equal voice. Gonzalo Vergara

Fundamental Principles of Equal Rights Party

• The fundamental principle of all governments is the protection of person and property from domestic and foreign enemies; in other words, to defend the weak against the strong.

• The functions of Government, when confined to their proper sphere of action, are therefore restricted to the making of general laws, uniform and universal in their operation, for these purposes, and for no other.

•The sum of a good government, as described by that illustrious champion of democracy, Thomas Jefferson, is all we aim at—"a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain people from injuring one another; shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement; and shall not take from the mouth of labour the bread it has earned."


Loco-Focos is a name given in derision to the members of a faction that split off from the Democratic party in New York in 1835. Tension had been growing between radical Democrats, who believed that Andrew Jackson's war against the national bank should be extended to state banks and other monopolies, and the regular Tammany Democrats in New York City. When the Tammany leaders expelled (Sept., 1835) William Leggett, the radical editor of the New York Evening Post, from the party, the radicals decided to act. At a Tammany Hall meeting held on Oct. 29, 1835, to ratify the Tammany nominations, the revolt began. The antibank men voted down the chairman selected by the organization; before the meeting could be reorganized, the gas was turned off and the hall plunged in darkness. The reformers, however, continued their work by the light of candles and of self-igniting “locofoco” matches, from which their nickname derived. In Jan., 1836, this group organized a new party, called the Friends of Equal Rights or the Equal Rights party.

By the glint of my computer screen, I again call upon all people who believe in the doctrine, from beginning to end, of equal rights—equal human rights to liberty and property. Today's electoral monarchies (who keep getting reelected with monies donated by their masters to which they are beholden) do not support equal rights, because such rights impair their privileged position. As a result, we THE PEOPLE are the less for it; Katrina has visibly demonstrated the chasm between the monarchs and the People.

True Functions of Government

New York Evening Post, November 21, 1834. Title added by Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. in editing A Collection of the Political Writings of William Leggett (1840).

The fundamental principle of all governments is the protection of person and property from domestic and foreign enemies; in other words, to defend the weak against the strong. By establishing the social feeling in a community, it was intended to counteract that selfish feeling, which, in its proper exercise, is the parent of all worldly good, and, in its excesses, the root of all evil. The functions of Government, when confined to their proper sphere of action, are therefore restricted to the making of general laws, uniform and universal in their operation, for these purposes, and for no other.

Governments have no right to interfere with the pursuits of individuals, as guarantied by those general laws, by offering encouragements and granting privileges to any particular class of industry, or any select bodies of men, inasmuch as all classes of industry and all men are equally important to the general welfare, and equally entitled to protection.

Whenever a Government assumes the power of discriminating between the different classes of the community, it becomes, in effect, the arbiter of their prosperity, and exercises a power not contemplated by any intelligent people in delegating their sovereignty to their rulers. It then becomes the great regulator of the profits of every species of industry, and reduces men from a dependence on their own exertions, to a dependence on the caprices of their Government. Governments possess no delegated right to tamper with individual industry a single hair's-breadth beyond what is essential to protect the rights of person and property.

In the exercise of this power of intermeddling with the private pursuits and individual occupations of the citizen, a Government may at pleasure elevate one class and depress another; it may one day legislate exclusively for the farmer, the next for the mechanic, and the third for the manufacturer, who all thus become the mere puppets of legislative cobbling and tinkering, instead of independent citizens, relying on their own resources for their prosperity. It assumes the functions which belong alone to an overruling Providence, and affects to become the universal dispenser of good and evil.

This power of regulating—of increasing or diminishing the profits of labour and the value of property of all kinds and degrees, by direct legislation, in a great measure destroys the essential object of all civil compacts, which, as we said before, is to make the social a counterpoise to the selfish feeling. By thus operating directly on the latter, by offering one class a bounty and another a discouragement, they involve the selfish feeling in every struggle of party for the ascendancy, and give to the force of political rivalry all the bitterest excitement of personal interests conflicting with each other. Why is it that parties now exhibit excitement aggravated to a degree dangerous to the existence of the Union and to the peace of society? Is it not that by frequent exercises of partial legislation, almost every man's personal interests have become deeply involved in the result of the contest? In common times, the strife of parties is the mere struggle of ambitious leaders for power; now they are deadly contests of the whole mass of the people, whose pecuniary interests are implicated in the event, because the Government has usurped and exercised the power of legislating on their private affairs. The selfish feeling has been so strongly called into action by this abuse of authority as almost to overpower the social feeling, which it should be the object of a good Government to foster by every means in its power.

No nation, knowingly and voluntarily, with its eyes open, ever delegated to its Government this enormous power, which places at its disposal the property, the industry, and the fruits of the industry, of the whole people. As a general rule, the prosperity of rational men depends on themselves. Their talents and their virtues shape their fortunes. They are therefore the best judges of their own affairs, and should be permitted to seek their own happiness in their own way, untrammelled by the capricious interference of legislative bungling, so long as they do not violate the equal rights of others, nor transgress the general laws for the security of person and property.

But modern refinements have introduced new principles in the science of Government. Our own Government, most especially, has assumed and exercised an authority over the people, not unlike that of weak and vacillating parents over their children, and with about the same degree of impartiality. One child becomes a favourite because he has made a fortune, and another because he has failed in the pursuit of that object; one because of its beauty, and another because of its deformity. Our Government has thus exercised the right of dispensing favours to one or another class of citizens at will; of directing its patronage first here and then there; of bestowing one day and taking back the next; of giving to the few and denying to the many; of investing wealth with new and exclusive privileges, and distributing, as it were at random, and with a capricious policy, in unequal portions, what it ought not to bestow, or what, if given away, should be equally the portion of all.

A government administered on such a system of policy may be called a Government of Equal Rights, but it is in its nature and essence a disguised despotism. It is the capricious dispenser of good and evil, without any restraint, except its own sovereign will. It holds in its hand the distribution of the goods of this world, and is consequently the uncontrolled master of the people.
Such was not the object of the Government of the United States, nor such the powers delegated to it by the people. The object was beyond doubt to protect the weak against the strong, by giving them an equal voice and equal rights in the state; not to make one portion stronger, the other weaker at pleasure, by crippling one or more classes of the community, or making them tributary to one alone. This is too great a power to entrust to Government. It was never given away by the people, and is not a right, but a usurpation.

Experience will show that this power has always been exercised under the influence and for the exclusive benefit of wealth. It was never wielded in behalf of the community. Whenever an exception is made to the general law of the land, founded on the principle of equal rights, it will always be found to be in favour of wealth. These immunities are never bestowed on the poor. They have no claim to a dispensation of exclusive benefits, and their only business is to "take care of the rich that the rich may take care of the poor."

Thus it will be seen that the sole reliance of the labouring classes, who constitute a vast majority of every people on the earth, is the great principle of Equal Rights; that their only safeguard against oppression is a system of legislation which leaves all to the free exercise of their talents and industry, within the limits of the GENERAL LAW, and which, on no pretence of public good, bestows on any particular class of industry, or any particular body of men, rights or privileges not equally enjoyed by the great aggregate of the body politic.

Time will remedy the departures which have already been made from this sound republican system, if the people but jealously watch and indignantly frown on any future attempts to invade their equal rights, or appropriate to the few what belongs to all alike. To quote, in conclusion, the language of the great man, with whose admirable sentiment we commenced these remarks, "it is time to pause in our career—if we cannot at once, in justice to the interests vested under improvident legislation, make our government what it ought to be, we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, and against any prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many."