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92 minutes | 5 months ago
Episode 64: Van Buren II and Tyler Too [Part 2]
Picking up with Martin Van Buren in Jackson’s cabinet, Jay and Luke trace the Little Magicians rise to the vice presidency, his political knife fighting with John C. Calhoun, and his successful introduction of the party convention system. His presidency, bedeviled by the Panic of 1837 at home and trouble abroad with Britain and Mexico, gave rise to the hotly contested election of 1840 that saw the Whigs get organized and the ticket of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler take the White House. We move quickly through Tyler’s presidency (after Harrison’s death thanks to an inaugural address given in freezing rain) and see Van Buren aim for and nearly win the Democratic Party nomination in 1844. We look at his work forming the Free Soil Party, his increasing hostility to slavery, and his failure to defeat the rise of the slaveocracy within the Democratic Party. In the end, Van Buren remains one of the most consequential figures of his age, and deserves far more attention from the history books than he has received.
51 minutes | 6 months ago
Episode 63: Martin Van Buren: The Red Fox of Kinderhook [Part 1]
Martin Van Buren, nicknamed the Red Fox of Kinderhook and the Little Magician, was the first American president born after American independence, the first raised in a home where English was not the primary language, and the first true political organizer. A political genius, who created the model of the nineteenth-century political machine, Van Buren is sadly consigned to the second or third tier of American presidencies. Jay and Luke push back against his undue relegation in this episode, the first of two covering Van Buren. They discuss his unique cultural background, his rise through the ranks of Jeffersonian politics, his creation of what became known as the Albany Regency, and his controversial efforts on behalf of James Crawford’s unsuccessful candidacy in 1824. That election saw Van Buren cast out of the center of political life with the return of DeWitt Clinton to the New York governorship and John Quincy Adams’s presidency. Yet in four short years, Van Buren managed to organize the Jacksonian resurgence, as well as his own political revival in New York. We end the episode with Van Buren elected governor of New York and called by Jackson to join his cabinet as Secretary of State.
95 minutes | 6 months ago
Episode 62: One-Term Wonders: John Quincy Adams, the Last Jeffersonian?
Like his father in so many ways, JQA was a man of immense talents, a statesman of vast achievements, a brilliant political mind, and — like his father — a one-term president. JQA may, still, be the most qualified person ever to reach the presidency. And yet from the outset, his presidency was a failure. His political angling to get the presidency, the so-called “Corrupt Bargain” between Adams and fourth-place finisher Henry Clay, pitched Adams into the presidency via the House of Representatives. Even though this conformed to the formal constitutional method of selection, it offended the political sensibilities of most Americans and limited Adams’s effectiveness. Jay and Luke trace Adams’s policy priorities, his role in advancing what became the American System, and how his administration paved the way for the Jacksonian era.
92 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 61: The Decline, Fall, and Peculiar Afterlife of Federalism [The Federalists, Part 3]
The Adams administration saw the rapid, shocking collapse of Federalism as an organized force in American political life. The regnant faction that had forced through ratification, secured America’s diplomatic position, and stabilized the public credit, disappeared utterly from the national stage. How did this happen? And if Federalist policies were so essential to American success, where did they go? Jay and Luke trace the ideological and personal divisions within Federalism, which led to its political weakening, the passage and deployment of the Sedition Act, and its complete collapse in the election of 1800. However, they also show how events and John Marshall conspired to preserve a species of Low Federalist ideology that, in the end, Jefferson’s Republicans incorporated into their agenda and made their own.
87 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 60: The Federalist Agenda: Foreign and Domestic Policy [The Federalists, Part 2]
Foreign policy became a key divide between Federalists and the emerging Jeffersonian Republicans, all the more so as Britain and France escalated a rolling series of continental wars. At the same time, domestic polarization around Hamilton’s plan of public finance and its successor policies, contributed to a roiling base of political support for Jefferson’s growing opposition. Despite Washington’s unanimous reelection to the presidency, the divisions between Federalists and Republicans that would eventually doom the former were already at work.
70 minutes | 8 months ago
Episode 59: The Age of Federalism [The Federalists, Part 1]
Welcome to our three-episode miniseries on Federalism. We’re taking a deep dive into America’s first political party, which governed for the first twelve years under the Constitution, then collapsed entirely. Who were the Federalists? What did they believe? Why were they so dominant and then so completely destroyed? Our first episode takes a big picture look at their ideas, their coalition, the policy challenges they faced, and some of the novel solutions they developed for facing them. We look at Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Marshall, and other lesser-known Federalists and try to understand American politics at the end of the 18th century.
46 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 58: Alexander Hamilton on Impeachment
No Founding Father thought more deeply about the presidency than Alexander Hamilton. He was an enthusiastic supporter of a strong chief executive and believed the president had a central and vital role to play in American government, both at home and abroad. Hamilton was also a realist when it came to the nature of politics and, unlike some of his contemporaries, did not shy away from the fact that politics can be a rough business. As a result, Hamilton jumped at the chance to define what impeaching the president would mean in The Federalist. We are still working within the parameters of the impeachment system as he understood it. This talk explains what Hamilton thought and how his ideas can shed light on the recent impeachment. This talk was given at the Down Town Association in New York City, with support from the St. Andrew’s Society, the First Families of New York, and the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society.
41 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 57: George Mason [The Virginians, Part 7]
In this final episode of the Virginians miniseries, Jay and Luke discuss George Mason, the godfather of Virginia republicanism. Mason was instrumental in writing the Virginia Constitution in 1776. He was the primary author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, upon which James Madison relied heavily for writing the Bill of Rights. Yet though Mason was a constructive participant at the Constitutional Convention, he eventually opposed the Constitution in strident and bitter terms because he thought it a bad deal for Virginia. Mason thus represents the competing instincts of the Founding Era — embodying a broadminded nationalism but also parochial prejudices.
57 minutes | 9 months ago
Episode 56: Patrick Henry [The Virginians, Part 6]
In this episode of the Virginians miniseries, Jay and Look look at the life of Patrick Henry. Perhaps the greatest orator in the history of the United States of America, Henry was an essential part of the “revolutionary vanguard” in the 1760s and 1770s, men who were committed to the project of revolution long before the rest of the country embraced the idea.
68 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 55: John Marshall [The Virginians, Part 5]
In this episode, Jay and Luke discuss John Marshall, perhaps the least appreciated of all the Founding Fathers. A delegate to the Virginia ratifying convention in 1788, Marshall also served briefly as secretary of State before becoming chief justice in 1801. As the head of the Supreme Court, Marshall would secure a legacy for the Federalists long after the party disappeared.
77 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 54: James Monroe [The Virginians, Part 4]
In this episode, Jay and Luke discuss the life and times of James Monroe. A junior partner in the “Virginia Dynasty,” Monroe was the fourth Virginian to be president of the United States — and the only Anti-Federalist ever to rise to the top office. Less an intellectual force than Jefferson or Madison, Monroe is still worth examining, as his career illustrates the evolution of politics in the United States between the 1780s and 1820s.
86 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 53: James Madison [The Virginians, Part 3]
In this episode, Jay and Luke discuss James Madison, often hailed as the Father of the Constitution. Madison’s life remains a bit of a puzzle, as he transitioned from being a strong Federalist in the 1780s to a leading Republican in the 1790s. Jay and Luke try to make sense of this by outlining Madison’s strong commitment to enduring republican principles.
89 minutes | 10 months ago
Episode 52: Thomas Jefferson [The Virginians, Part 2]
In this episode, Jay and Luke examine Thomas Jefferson, one of the most puzzling of the Founders. Simultaneously the rhetorician of American equality and a lover of the trappings of aristocracy, Jefferson remains a hard man to pin down. Jay and Luke trace his career from the Declaration of Independence through his founding of the University of Virginia, and try to understand how he aspired to create what he called “an Empire of Liberty.”
71 minutes | a year ago
Episode 51: George Washington [The Virginians, Part 1]
In this episode, Jay and Luke look at the life and political career of George Washington, with a particular emphasis on how his experience during the Revolutionary War created in him a strong belief in the need for a strong national government. As president, Washington’s prudence and fairness were essential to securing the constitutional experiment in republican government.
97 minutes | a year ago
Episode 50: Money, Money, Money
Jay and Luke dig through the twisted, confusing, and occasionally sordid history of campaign finance to tell you where we are, how we got here, and why McCain-Feingold was a terrible law. From Martin Van Buren to Citizens United, get the full picture with this episode of Constitutionally Speaking.
63 minutes | a year ago
Episode 49: How Did We Get Here, Primarily Speaking?
Description: Jay and Luke have a look at how we wound up with the unusual primary system we have today. Ever since John Adams, America’s constitutional system for selecting the president has created tensions and frustrations. Indeed, it’s not too much to say that America has never had a particularly good method for choosing the president. What did the Framers miss about parties and factions that created this problem? How have attempts to fix it only made it worse? From Martin Van Buren to George McGovern, this wide-ranging episode covers a lot of history with a relevance to today.
60 minutes | a year ago
Episode 48: The Unimpeachable Return
Jay and Luke are back, this time discussing the future structure of this very podcast and giving a deep explanation of impeachment.
83 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 47: Just How Elastic Is the Elastic Clause?
Jay and Luke dive headfirst into the Louisiana Purchase to explore the battle over the Elastic Clause. Jeffersonians opposed several of Hamilton’s policies — from the Bank of the United States to using bounties for industrial protection — on the grounds that they went beyond the enumerated powers of Congress. And they had a point. Many of Hamilton’s measures measures exceeded what the ratifying conventions had had in mind when they approved the Constitution. Yet once the Jeffersonians came into power, they embraced the same Hamiltonian view of the Elastic Clause. They came to accept the Second Bank and deployed tariffs as a form of industrial protection. But the clearest Jeffersonian embrace of a Hamiltonian Elastic Clause was the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson forthrightly acknowledged he had exceeded his presidential powers in approving the purchase, and rightly sought ex post facto indemnification from Congress. However, that indemnification itself was, in the eyes of many, a violation of the enumerated powers of Congress. Were the Jeffersonians mugged by reality, or turning Federalist tools to their own ends? The guys debate that and more in this week’s episode.
78 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 46: Who Reviews: Marbury v. Madison and the Marshall Court
In this episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke discuss the origins of judicial review. The Constitution itself does not contain any explicit instructions on how to resolve questions about the meaning of the text, or whether legislation is compatible with it. Early on in the republic, this was not a power originally vested in the court; instead, the president took this task upon himself. It was thanks to the political ingenuity of chief justice John Marshall that the court claimed this power — in what turned out to be the greatest triumph for Federalism.
69 minutes | 2 years ago
Episode 45: The Revolution of 1800
In this episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke discuss the election of 1800. This contest, pitting Thomas Jefferson against John Adams, is not simply important because it was the first time power transferred from one party to another. It also marked the first time a party organization was integral in bringing about a victory for a candidate.
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