Friday, March 28, 2008

15th Amendment to the US Constitution March 30, 1870

Guest commentary by Tom Watkins:

What a difference 138 years make. On March 30, 1870, 83 years after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted. Fast forward 138 years and it is possible that an African American may become the 44th President of the United States. How time flies when you are being denied.
The irony of the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution during 1869 is that it was enacted along party lines. But not as the racial politics break down in the 21st century, with the Democratic Party capturing the majority of the Black vote. No, in 1869 Republicans primarily supported the amendment and Democrats mostly opposed it. What a difference 138 years make.
If it were not for the Black vote in 1868, the Republican presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant would have lost the popular vote. To put it succinctly, without the Black vote General Grant might have lost the election. The Republicans were not going to leave future elections to chance - they were going to give the former slaves the right to vote as a means of maintaining their control. They were the Karl Rove's of their day - doing whatever was necessary in order to hold on to power.
While there was some idealism and sense of justice from Democrats and Republicans for equal rights that prompted this amendment, it was equally, if not more so, done as a counterweight against a Democratic Party that was making electoral gains across the South. Many believe that the main impetus behind the 15th Amendment was the Republican goal to entrench its political power in both the North and the South. Black votes would help accomplish that end.
Let's remember that passing laws are only part of any battle. While the 15th Amendment was passed, there were still tremendous efforts to deny Black people the right to vote in this country for nearly another hundred years. There were efforts of voter intimidation, poll taxes, the establishment of grandfather clauses, (i.e., you could vote if your grandfather did), property ownership clauses and literacy tests to try to circumvent the law and prevent the "Negro" the right to vote, thereby disenfranchising Blacks.
Republicans regarded the 15th Amendment as the crowning achievement of Reconstruction after the Civil War.
Today we can see the result of providing all the tools that our founding fathers called for when they wrote the Constitution of the United States of America that was adopted on September 17, 1787.
The Founding Fathers were far from perfect. They were unable to find an acceptable compromise on the issue of slavery which divided the Colonies and was thwarting an agreement on the remainder of the Constitution. Accordingly, they made the decision to keep the status quo, leaving people enslaved and kicking the tough issue down the road for future generations to solve. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 178 years after the adoption of the Constitution, before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.
Today an African American, Sen. Senator Barack Obama is poised to become our next President. We have reason to stand tall as Americans as we continue to act out our forefathers' dream - of a country where all men and women are created equal.
It has taken many years, a Civil War, countless struggles, sacrifices, lost lives, political machinations and the Constitution being amended seventeen times, besides the ten included in the Bill of Rights, to get to this point today.
Today, Sen. Obama is the exclamation point on a great experiment of self government: the United States of America.
Regardless of your political affiliation or what happens on election day, it is a proud day for us all. We have come along way. As Sen. Obama likes to remind us, "Yes We Can."
This Col. is part one of a two part series. It provides a snapshot of how Sen. Barack Obama is poised to become the next President of the United States of America. Come back to this same space next week and read about how the 19th Amendment has helped women and how Sen. Clinton is standing on the shoulders of women who fought for the right to vote and may be poised to leap to the Presidency.

Don’t forget to visit my website to order a copy of America’s Survival Guide (

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Busy Couple of Weeks

In the last two weeks I have spoken to the Bloomfield Women’s Republican Club and the Mt. Clemens Public Library. The Bloomfield event is airing on local cable. I also just taped a show of Practical Law with Henry Gorbein. I also was interviewed on WMUZ 103.5 and appeared on WDIV-TV. I also discussed efiling at the Oakland County Bar Association’s Symposium on efiling. Throw in seeing theatre productions of Junglebook and Jesus Christ Superstar, and WJR’s St Patrick’s Day Party, and I’ve had a very eventful two week period.

Most important, Happy Easter!

Don’t forget to visit my website to order a copy of America’s Survival Guide (

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ides of March

March 15 is the Ides of March. Most famously, it is the day on which Julius Caesar was slain in the Roman Senate by a leading Senators. Leading the conspirators was Brutus - a friend of Ceasar - who determined that assassinating Caesar was the only way to prevent Caesar from subverting the republic into an empire. In the end, Brutus was correct. Only it wasn't Julius Caesar who became the first emperor - it was Augustus Caesar - after a bloody civil war that claimed the lives of the leaders of the republican faction - including Brutus (at his own hands).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gender equality and Saudi Arabia

Although some are quick to criticize the state of gender equality in America, they seldom speak out about the appalling status of women in other nations. As but one example, as a kingdom (yes, it still has a king) ruled under Islamic law, Saudi Arabia deprives its women of basic legal rights. Women cannot vote. They are barred from many professions. They must ride in the back of public buses. A women’s testimony is only worth one half of a man’s testimony. Criminal sexual conduct cases against women require women to produce four witnesses. Women cannot drive – in fact, they can not even be in a car with a male who is not a relative. They cannot appear before a judge without a male representative, or travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian. Women must not show their faces in public or they will oppressed by the police. And there is more.

Although not perfect, America has made tremendous strides in gender equality, and appears ready to elect a woman as President (if the right candidate). Our progress has been made because of our belief in the First Principle of equality. With more hard work, we can continue to make progress on this important journey.

For more on the First Principle of equality and gender, visit:

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mr. Adams and the Boston Massacre

238 years ago today, British troops fired into an angry mob and slaughtered five colonists in Boston. American patriots soon referred to the incident as “The Boston Massacre.”

Although America did not declare independence until over six years later, the incident served as one of critical incidents toward the drive to independence. The good people of Boston would commemorate the anniversary of the incident through various gatherings, speeches, etc. The orators on such occasions enlivened the spirits of the colonists to maintain their liberties and freedoms in the face of British oppression.

In a paradoxical manner, the Boston Massacre also revealed the inner strength of America’s commitment to our First Principles. A leading revolutionary figure and future President of the United States – John Adams – defended the British captain and soldiers at trial. Although he was concerned about his law practice, reputation, and safety, he felt the rule of law and justice required a fair trial and able defense. The captain, and 6 of 8 soldiers were acquitted.

Adams’s service was a tribute to liberty, the rule of law, and justice – and something that is almost unimaginable today – the risking of a prominent politician’s reputation to do the right thing. Adams recalled his defense as “one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.” As usual, he was right.

For more on American history and our First Principles, visit: