The next referendum to decide whether to hold a New York State Constitutional Convention will be held on November 7, 2017. During the last two referenda in 1997 and 1977 (they are held every 20 years) voters declined to hold such a convention. In fact the last time a convention to revise the New York State Constitution was held was almost 50 years ago in 1967, and despite the hard work of its delegates, voters rejected the revised Constitution in its entirety.
Although amendments to the New York State Constitution occur with some regularity (including several last November), the last time the Constitution was changed through the Convention process was in 1938, almost eighty years ago.
Nevertheless, the history of Constitutional Conventions in New York State is not as bleak as this recent history would suggest. In fact, three New York State Constitutional Conventions — those of 1777, 1821 and 1938 — helped shape the State’s political history. Continue reading
Did you know that when James Madison originally proposed the Bill of Rights, it consisted of 36 amendments and that the House of Representatives did not want to consider or debate Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution?
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the Bill of Rights and its ratification with Carol Berkin, author of The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties (Simon and Schuster, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/062
If you had only six years to enjoy retirement what would you do?
Would you improve your plantation? Build canals? Or work behind-the-scenes to unite your country by framing a new central government?
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore George Washington’s brief retirement from public service with Edward Larson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History and author of The Return of George Washington, 1783-1789 (William Morrow, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/061
Recently the Treasury Department has announced its intent to place a prominent woman of historical importance on the U.S. currency. There is no one who is more deserving of this honor than Frances Perkins, a New York woman, who was probably the most significant and important female government official of the 20th century.
As Secretary of Labor throughout President Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms and the first woman ever to hold a cabinet position, Frances Perkins designed most of the New Deal Social Welfare and Labor Policies, such as social security, the minimum wage, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and protections for unions, and reshaped America. Continue reading
Shifting alliances can make strange bedfellows and surprising adversaries. The push to integrate the New York City Plumbers Union as the Civil Rights Act was cobbled together 50 years ago shows how our perceptions and expectations can change with time.
Not long before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, construction began on what is now the Hunt’s Point Food Distribution Center, the largest food distribution complex in the world. Full integration of the union workers at Hunts Point, supported by many, might have derailed or undermined this important legislation. Continue reading
As Benjamin Franklin stated in 1789, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Given the certainty of taxes it seems important that we understand how the United States’ fiscal system developed.
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the development of the early American fiscal system with Max Edling, Professor of History at King’s College, London and author of A Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867 (University of Chicago Press, 2014). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/057
Yale history professor Joanne B. Freeman, a specialist in the politics and political culture of the revolutionary and early national periods, will present a talk exploring the gritty realities of nasty politics of that period, and what it suggests about America’s founding. Continue reading
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 200th birthday dawned on November 12, 2015, my birthday. I used the occasion to drive the eight hours round-trip to Seneca Falls, NY to sit among the crowd of about 200 people at Wesleyan Chapel, the restored site of the legendary 1848 women’s rights convention.
The program sponsored by the Women’s Rights National Historic Park on November 14 was one of two programs in New York State designed to bring attention to this historic figure. The large turnout at Cooper Union in New York City for Stanton’s birthday on November 12 was another indication of the increased interest and honor being paid to New York’s historic women in the first wave of the movement that started in the Finger Lakes region. Continue reading
Throughout history, symbols have been used to identify and authenticate documents and governmental organizations. Symbols preceded literacy and as a result, today our municipal symbols contain few words. Unfortunately, the explanation of the symbols is tucked away in a file cabinet or lost altogether. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features David Pietrusza of Glenville, N.Y. who has written numerous books, including a trilogy of volumes (1920, 1960, and 1948) on American Presidential electoral history. Pietrusza’s newest book is 1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR – Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal and Unlikely Destiny (Lyons Press, 2015). You can Listen to the podcast here. Continue reading