thumbnail of This Constitution; No. 1; The Federal City
Hide -
<v Narrator 1>[opening theme music] This Constitution, funded in part by a grant from the National <v Narrator 1>Endowment for the Humanities, is a presentation of the International University <v Narrator 1>Consortium and Project 87. <v Narrator 2>[music plays] On September 18th, 1793, Brother George Washington, <v Narrator 2>the president of the United States and the worshipful master of the Masons, <v Narrator 2>led a solemn march from the banks of the Potomac to the site of the capital,
<v Narrator 2>with music playing, drums beating and spectators rejoicing. <v Narrator 2>Then the president laid the southeast corner stone of the capital of the United States <v Narrator 2>of America. And it was anointed with corn and wine and oil. <v Narrator 2>The right worshipful Grand Master Joseph Clark delivered an ingenious oration. <v Joseph Clark>Not alone nature, but providence hath mocked their intention to make <v Joseph Clark>this seat the super excellent emporium for politics, commerce, <v Joseph Clark>industry and arts. A city will if not superior to any <v Joseph Clark>in all the world. <v Narrator 3>Thus, was the federal city born. <v Narrator 3>In ancient Greece and Rome, the founding of a city was always a formal religious event. <v Narrator 3>Steeped as they were in the images that they were founding a new Rome, the Sons of the <v Narrator 3>Enlightenment laid the cornerstone of their great temple of democracy with due care.
<v Narrator 3>But their Rome was to be a new Rome. <v Narrator 3>A Rome built on reason and natural law. <v Narrator 3>A Rome based on a written social contract called the Constitution. <v Narrator 3>Its authors well understood that their experiment signified a new order <v Narrator 3>for the ages. For this contract was sealed not with a God or <v Narrator 3>an ancestral king, but with a new authority: the people. <v Narrator 3>And it's only binding force was to be a rule of law. <v Man 1>It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide whether <v Man 1>men are really capable of establishing government from reflection and choice, <v Man 1>or whether they are forever destined to depend on accident and force. <v Man 1>The establishment of a constitution by the consent of a whole people <v Man 1>is a prodigy to the completion of which I look forward with trembling <v Man 1>anxiety. <v Narrator 3>The city of Washington and the District of Columbia is our country's first statement
<v Narrator 3>of itself. The first embodiment of the dreams and aspirations <v Narrator 3>of its founders. Thomas Jefferson wrote- <v Thomas Jefferson>Social meaning, not everyday activity, should determine the form of a public <v Thomas Jefferson>building. <v Narrator 3>And the federal city is a living expression of the principles of constitutionalism. <v Narrator 3>In the geometry of its streets, the very structure of our government is laid out for all <v Narrator 3>to see. Our effort to define and limit government is revealed <v Narrator 3>in the deliberate boundary we ?set? to the federal district. <v Narrator 3>And the competing tension in the Constitution between power <v Narrator 3>and liberty, between having both a strong government and a free people <v Narrator 3>is reflected here, in a city built as a symbol of government strength, <v Narrator 3>in a nation dedicated to an ordered liberty. <v Narrator 3>But the Constitution needed authority to carry it off. <v Narrator 3>In 1790, when Congress passed the Residents Act, establishing a separate
<v Narrator 3>federal district, it helped legitimize federal power and strengthen Article <v Narrator 3>6, which asserts the constitution shall be the supreme law <v Narrator 3>of the land. Most Americans were suspicious of federal power, <v Narrator 3>but equally did they fear the anarchy of revolution. <v Narrator 3>The Federalist stated it this way- <v Man 1>In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, <v Man 1>the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to <v Man 1>control the governed and ?in? <v Man 1>the next place to oblige it to control itself. <v Narrator 3>The Constitution reflects this twofold task. <v Narrator 3>In the preamble, the government is enjoined to establish justice, <v Narrator 3>ensure tranquility, provide for the defense, <v Narrator 3>promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty. <v Narrator 3>Yet just as clearly in the Bill of Rights, the government is prohibited from infringing
<v Narrator 3>on the freedom of its citizens. <v Narrator 3>And it is this tension between authority and liberty, between establishing <v Narrator 3>a legitimate legal power while protecting the rights of the individual that gives <v Narrator 3>the Constitution its enduring life. <v Narrator 3>For years, Congress had moved from town to town arguing over where to locate <v Narrator 3>the federal capital. <v Narrator 3>It was finally settled by a legislative compromise between the north and south. <v Narrator 3>The North got the federal government to assume its war debts and the South got the <v Narrator 3>national capital located on the Potomac near the Port of Georgetown. <v Narrator 3>To avoid any taint of sectionalism, Congress gave complete charge of the federal <v Narrator 3>city to George Washington and the three commissioners he was to appoint. <v Narrator 3>So the president became the spokesman for the nation as they set out to build a new city <v Narrator 3>in the wilderness, a new city for a new sovereign.
<v Narrator 3>In 1791, Washington asked Pierre Charles L'Enfant <v Narrator 3>to design the city. <v Narrator 3>The French engineers set to work immediately, studying maps of European cities <v Narrator 3>and conducting a minute survey of the land. <v Narrator 3>But he bridled when Washington sent him a sketch, which Jefferson had drawn. <v Pierre Charles L'Enfant>[in a french accent] ?Such a plan can only do on level ground?. ?inaudible? <v Pierre Charles L'Enfant>must be ?defective?. Such regular plans, indeed, however reasonable they <v Pierre Charles L'Enfant>appear on paper, must become at last tiresome and insipid. <v Narrator 3>But Jefferson's grid iron and streets, with its imposition of an ideal forum on natural <v Narrator 3>geography, epitomized the principles of the enlightened and distinguished the ideal <v Narrator 3>American city of his patrons. <v Narrator 3>The geometric precision of Philadelphia, Williamsburg or Savannah revived <v Narrator 3>a scheme of urban design not used since ancient Rome. <v Narrator 3>Its pragmatism provided better organization, public health and safety from fire.
<v Narrator 3>But L'Enfant had grown up in the closed medieval circles of the city of Paris <v Narrator 3>and he had studied art in the Baroque plan of Versailles, the ultimate expression of the <v Narrator 3>absolute power of the monarch. <v Narrator 3>He wanted to make something both wholly new, yet firmly rooted in the <v Narrator 3>precedents of the past. <v Narrator 3>On August 19, 1791, he presented Washington with his first <v Narrator 3>plan. <v Narrator 3>Here, the baroque arcs and vistas of Versailles are firmly <v Narrator 3>anchored in the gridiron of a Philadelphia. <v Narrator 3>The aspirations of power was strained by law, by reason, and logic. <v Narrator 3>The expression of a nation which wanted to be both powerful and free. <v Narrator 3>Unconsciously or not. L'Enfant's plan is a skeleton of the Constitution. <v Narrator 3>It repeats the organizational principles and even the ambiguities of the constitutional <v Narrator 3>plan of government. There is no one dominant center as at Versailles. <v Narrator 3>There are 16.
<v Narrator 3>One for each state and three for the federal government. <v Narrator 3>The pragmatic logic of the planner distributed several centers to balance growth, <v Narrator 3>just as the Constitution distributes authority among the three branches to balance <v Narrator 3>power. The first branch of government is housed in a single building. <v Narrator 3>The capital sits on the highest point in the city. <v Narrator 3>The executive mansion sits lower down, but has an expansive view of the surrounding <v Narrator 3>states. Around it are clustered the various departments of state. <v Narrator 3>Completing a triangle between them, L'Enfant proposed to place the monument to George <v Narrator 3>Washington, voted by Congress. <v Narrator 3>Connecting these points and other centers of the city- <v Pierre Charles L'Enfant>[french accent] Lines are avenues of communication have been devised to connect the <v Pierre Charles L'Enfant>separate and most distant object with the principal and to <v Pierre Charles L'Enfant>preserve through the ?inaudible? a reciprocity of sight at the same time. <v Narrator 3>The checks and balances of the Constitution are here in fact. <v Narrator 3>Each branch has a separate sphere of power, yet all share a
<v Narrator 3>view of each other. But the judiciary was removed from the main flow of communication as <v Narrator 3>if to recognize its unique character in the power structure. <v Narrator 3>For only the justices are not subject to election. <v Narrator 3>The government's accessibility to the people is underlined by Pennsylvania Avenue, <v Narrator 3>which unites the executive and the legislative and then goes straight to the edge <v Narrator 3>of the city to tie them to the rest of the nation. <v Narrator 3>But other than a canal L'Enfant made no provision for commercial development <v Narrator 3>or for defense. <v Narrator 3>Clearly then, the city was designed to exist only at the behest of the people <v Narrator 3>who chartered it. A people still suspicious of powerful government and <v Narrator 3>more comfortable with government at a distance and out of sight. <v Narrator 3>Like the framers of the Constitution, L'Enfant would not see the results of his vision.
<v Narrator 3>Less than a year after he had presented his plan, he was dismissed for he would <v Narrator 3>not compromise his vision of what the city should be. <v Narrator 3>The utter failure of the land sale scheme to finance the capital made the federal <v Narrator 3>city totally dependent on a penny pinching Congress. <v Narrator 3>When they arrived in 1800 to take up permanent residents, only one wing of the <v Narrator 3>capital was finished. The White House was finished but unplastered and there <v Narrator 3>was no building for the Supreme Court. <v Narrator 3>Rather than meet in the basement of the Senate, the court adjourned to a boarding house <v Narrator 3>across the street. <v Man 3>We want nothing here but houses, cellars, kitchens, well-informed men, <v Man 3>amiable women and other little trifles to make our city perfect. <v Man 3>In short, it is the best city in the world for a future residence.
<v Narrator 3>The main core of L'Enfant City had been established and it influenced the growth <v Narrator 3>of government just as surely as acts of Congress. <v Narrator 3>For years, the mile and a half journey between the White House and the capital was so <v Narrator 3>arduous that the two branches were, in fact, separate. <v Narrator 3>Members of the Congress having no homes to live in, stayed together in boarding houses, <v Narrator 3>which rapidly developed political affiliations and greatly influenced the growth of <v Narrator 3>the caucus system. <v Narrator 3>The federal city would have to wait another century for any centralized planning to <v Narrator 3>resume, for the government was far more concerned with learning how to work by the rules <v Narrator 3>it had set down for itself. <v Narrator 3>And if government by compromise and consensus was proving difficult, architecture <v Narrator 3>and city planning by the same means would prove more so. <v Narrator 3>Nowhere is this more evident than in the story of the United States capital. <v Man 4>We consult no oracle, but the Constitution. <v Man 4>We have built no temple but the capital.
<v Narrator 3>It had been a style worthy of the first temple dedicated to the sovereignty <v Narrator 3>of the people. Embellishing with Athenian taste, the course <v Narrator 3>of a nation looking far beyond the range of Athenian destinies. <v Man 5>It may be relied on that it is the progress of that building. <v Man 5>That is to inspire or depress public confidence. <v Narrator 3>It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the capital to early Americans. <v Narrator 3>In an early letter to L'Enfant, Thomas Jefferson wrote- <v Thomas Jefferson>Whenever it is proposed to prepare plans for a capital, I should <v Thomas Jefferson>prefer the adoption of one of the models of antiquity which you've had the approbation <v Thomas Jefferson>of thousands of years. <v Narrator 3>Jefferson's love affair with Roman architecture left its stamp on the nation.
<v Narrator 3>It was he and the architect he brought to Washington, Benjamin Latrobe, who established <v Narrator 3>the classical model which dominates Washington today. <v Narrator 3>But the original design for our nation's capital was not Latrobe's. <v Narrator 3>It was the result of a democratic competition in 1792. <v Narrator 3>In November, four months after the deadline, a design was submitted by Dr. William <v Narrator 3>Thornton of the West Indies. <v Narrator 3>Dr. Thornton's design was immediately accepted. <v Narrator 3>But unfortunately, Dr. Thornton was no architect. <v Narrator 3>Three architects and many mistakes later, Benjamin Latrobe took on the job. <v Narrator 3>He would remain until 1817, all the while chafing when Congress interfered <v Narrator 3>with what he considered professional decisions. <v Narrator 3>But for all that, the capital he'd built inspired awe and gratitude in all <v Narrator 3>who saw it. One of the most endearing results of his collaboration with Jefferson
<v Narrator 3>are the tobacco and Indian corn capitals of the columns in the Senate wing. <v Narrator 3>Latrobe wrote to Jefferson- <v Benjamin Latrobe>These capitals obtained me more applause from the members <v Benjamin Latrobe>of Congress than all the works of magnitude. <v Narrator 3>And rightly so. For these capitals called the capitals of the American order, <v Narrator 3>incorporate elements essential to the economy in a classical design, truly <v Narrator 3>embracing the simple agrarian values present in the Constitution. <v Narrator 3>In a deeper sense, the beauty of the capital was in its function. <v Narrator 3>For in the floor plan of the building itself is a blueprint for the workings of a <v Narrator 3>democratic government. <v Narrator 3>The architectural antecedents for two houses joined by a central court are many. <v Narrator 3>Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Annapolis, Boston. <v Narrator 3>As they wrote their constitution based on an experience <v Narrator 3>of self-government, so the Americans designed their Congress House based on real
<v Narrator 3>precedents. The Senate chamber represents the interests of the states. <v Narrator 3>The House of Representatives, the interests of the people and between <v Narrator 3>them is the rotunda, initially intended as a common <v Narrator 3>meeting ground, but rarely used as such. <v Narrator 3>Instead, it is here that we have placed our icons. <v Narrator 3>Here where we have painted our myths and ?beatified? <v Narrator 3>our heroes. <v Narrator 3>And above it rises the dome, reaching toward heaven and the immutable <v Narrator 3>principles of natural law. <v Narrator 3>The law, which recognizes the natural rights of man. <v Narrator 3>Rights that cannot be repealed. <v Narrator 3>Rights derived from the divine legislator of the universe.
<v Narrator 3>The first dome was constructed by Charles Bullfinch. <v Narrator 3>In 1851, the growing Congress decided to extend the capital and <v Narrator 3>build a higher steel dome. <v Narrator 3>The extensions were completed by 1859. <v Narrator 3>But the dome languished. <v Narrator 3>Henry Adams wrote- <v Henry Adams>[music changes] As in 1800, so in 1850 and 1860, the same <v Henry Adams>?rude? colony camped in the same forest with the same unfinished Greek temples <v Henry Adams>for workrooms, slews for roads. <v Henry Adams>The government had an air of incompleteness about it that went far to support <v Henry Adams>the right of secession in theory, as in fact. <v Narrator 3>Lincoln spoke of secession at his first inaugural. <v Abraham Lincoln>I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, <v Abraham Lincoln>the union of these states is perpetual. <v Abraham Lincoln>Perpetuity is implied in the fundamental law of all national governments. <v Abraham Lincoln>Plainly, the central idea of secession is anarchy.
<v Narrator 3>[drumming] [symbols crashing] When the war did come, the army suspended work on the dome, <v Narrator 3>but Lincoln ordered it to continue. <v Abraham Lincoln>If the people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend <v Abraham Lincoln>the union to go on. <v Narrator 3>The civil war was the ultimate failure of the system of compromise and consensus. <v Narrator 3>Yet it is within this context that Lincoln completed the great temple. <v Narrator 3>On January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation took <v Narrator 3>effect. On July 3rd, the North won the Battle of Gettysburg. <v Narrator 3>And on December 6th, thousands gathered to see the statue of armed freedom <v Narrator 3>hoisted to the pinnacle of the dome. <v Narrator 3>When the goddess stood complete, a flag was unfurled over her head <v Narrator 3>and a 35 gun salute roared back from the fort surrounding the city. <v Narrator 3>Finally, the great temple of democracy was complete and the stage was set for a <v Narrator 3>monumental city to surround it.
<v Narrator 3>The civil war had torn the country apart. <v Narrator 3>And when it was over, the population of the District of Columbia had nearly doubled. <v Narrator 3>The passage of the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing every citizen due process <v Narrator 3>under law and giving Congress the right to enforce it with appropriate legislation, <v Narrator 3>signified the ascendance of a national uniform conception of liberty and a new <v Narrator 3>attitude toward federal authority. <v Narrator 3>In 1893, many Americans saw planning on a grand scale for <v Narrator 3>the first time at the Great Columbian Exposition in Chicago. <v Narrator 3>[music plays] The country was caught up in the reform spirit of the progressive movement <v Narrator 3>and the ideal of the city beautiful, had replaced the agrarian ideals of Jefferson's day.
<v Narrator 3>The United States was now becoming a world power whose foreign policy was moving <v Narrator 3>toward imperial expansion. <v Narrator 3>Most Americans agreed when Frederick Olmstead claimed- <v Frederick Olmstead>Washington must now reflect the grandeur, ?our? <v Frederick Olmstead>dignified magnificence, which should mark the seat of government of a great <v Frederick Olmstead>and intensely active people. <v Narrator 3>In 1901, the ?McMillan? Commission under the direction of Frederick Olmstead was formed <v Narrator 3>to redesign the nation's capital. <v Narrator 3>Its members represented the talents responsible for the Colombian exposition and as well <v Narrator 3>a revival of classic forms in architecture called Beaux-Arts. <v Narrator 3>They unveiled an elaborate and unified design for the capital city, which they called a <v Narrator 3>revival of L'Enfant's plan. <v Narrator 3>L'Enfant would have not recognized the city they were proposing, but at least it was <v Narrator 3>a unified plan.
<v Narrator 3>They wanted to create a formal mall. <v Narrator 3>They called for a memorial to Lincoln and the pantheon to national heroes on the newly <v Narrator 3>reclaimed Potomac Flats. <v Narrator 3>They proposed to develop Pennsylvania Avenue in Lafayette Park. <v Narrator 3>Almost every proposal was met with outrage by one faction or another. <v Narrator 3>But it was realized to a great extent. <v Narrator 3>For the McMillan Plan, unlike L'Enfant's, was in the service of a world power government <v Narrator 3>caught up in the enthusiasm of the progressive movement. <v Narrator 3>A government that would soon pass an income tax amendment. <v Narrator 3>The story of the 20th century is the story of growth of the federal city in fact, <v Narrator 3>rather than in rhetoric and most of that growth has been in the federal bureaucracy. <v Narrator 3>The ratio of federal employees to the population in 1800 had been 1 in <v Narrator 3>2000. In 1900, it was 1 in 240. <v Narrator 3>By 1970, it would be 1 in 69.
<v Narrator 3>In 1926, the Public Buildings Act took control of federal <v Narrator 3>building from Congress and gave it to the Treasury Department along with 700 million <v Narrator 3>dollars. The first result was the Federal Triangle. <v Narrator 3>Public reaction to the massive office buildings was mixed. <v Narrator 3>The Public Building Commission underlined- <v Man 6>The need for a great single architectural composition to place Washington <v Man 6>in the forefront of the architecturally beautiful cities of the world and set an example <v Man 6>for the country as a whole in the matter of planning. <v Narrator 3>But now the critics of classicism as an appropriate forum for modern federalism <v Narrator 3>began to be heard. <v Man 6>Washington has deliberately set out to transform itself from the seat of <v Man 6>a democracy eh to the Rome of an empire. <v Narrator 3>The conflict in architecture paralleled the constitutional crisis brewing between <v Narrator 3>the executive and judicial branches. <v Narrator 3>FDR was convinced that it was the constitutional duty of the government to intervene
<v Narrator 3>in the depression for the welfare of the country. <v Narrator 3>And he was prepared to limit the court's right of judicial review should it interfere <v Narrator 3>with his new deal. <v Narrator 3>Ironically, at this point, the judiciary finally acquired the separate building reserved <v Narrator 3>for it in the original L'Enfant plan. <v Narrator 3>Up until the 30s, they've met in chambers in the capital. <v Narrator 3>It had taken a former president as Chief Justice, William Howard Taft, to get it done. <v Narrator 3>And at a time when classicism was being scorned, the great temple of justice <v Narrator 3>he had built makes no apologies for itself. <v Narrator 3>At the laying of the cornerstone, Charles Evans Hughes said- <v Charles Evans Hughes>The republic endures. And this is a symbol of its faith. <v Narrator 3>The same year the Supreme Court finally acquired its own building, it took a stand <v Narrator 3>against the New Deal and invalidated a provision of the National Industrial Recovery Act. <v Narrator 3>Although it would later modify that position.
<v Narrator 3>The judiciary was now finally visible to all as a national power, and <v Narrator 3>the court began to assume its modern role as the defender of individual liberty in the <v Narrator 3>face of growing government power. <v Narrator 3>The decline of classicism continued into the 40s. <v Narrator 3>After the war, modernism was embraced as the dominant style, reflecting <v Narrator 3>clearly how the role of government in our private lives was changing. <v Narrator 3>Each active presidency, Kennedy's, Johnson's, Nixon's, was followed <v Narrator 3>by a spurt of growth not only in the federal city but in federal buildings across the <v Narrator 3>nation. The plan for the year 2000 shows the arms of Washington's <v Narrator 3>spiraling out far beyond its original boundaries, ever more integrated <v Narrator 3>in the lives of the citizens it serves. <v Narrator 3>Would L'Enfant approve of his city today?
<v Narrator 3>Would the framers approve of the way the prologue of the Constitution has been fulfilled? <v Narrator 3>Overwhelming as this 20th century city might seem to someone from the 18th century, and <v Narrator 3>as incredible as the government's involvement in our lives might seem to a son of the <v Narrator 3>enlightened, the tension between power and liberty has not been lost. <v Narrator 3>We are still governed by compromise and consensus. <v Narrator 3>The great mall has been used not in princely entertainments, but as a place <v Narrator 3>where the people may come both to celebrate their country and to influence its policy. <v Narrator 3>The massive buildings are not palaces for solitary princes, but agencies <v Narrator 3>that dispense aid to dependent children. <v Narrator 3>When Thomas Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Purchase, he wrote- <v Thomas Jefferson>I stretched the Constitution until it cracked. <v Thomas Jefferson>Today, we have stretched the Constitution to provide for the needs of a modern society. <v Thomas Jefferson>It has not cracked, nor has its intention changed.
<v Thomas Jefferson>And so long as it remains our only oracle, neither can the societies. <v Thomas Jefferson>[music plays]
<v Narrator 1>The preceding program was funded in part by a grant from the National <v Narrator 1>Endowment for the Humanities. [program ends]
<v Narrator 1>[intro theme plays] This Constitution, funded in part by a grant from the National <v Narrator 1>Endowment for the Humanities, is a presentation of the International University <v Narrator 1>Consortium and Project '87. <v Narrator 1>[music plays] <v Narrator 4>At the center of the American experiment in constitutionalism is a unique idea. <v Narrator 4>That is that the power to rule can be divided between central and local governments <v Narrator 4>without destroying their effectiveness. <v Narrator 4>This notion of a divided sovereignty of a national government strong enough to
<v Narrator 4>defend the people and state governments strong enough to protect their welfare <v Narrator 4>was so new the framers didn't have a name for it. <v Narrator 4>So they gave an old word new meaning and called <v Narrator 4>it federalism. <v Narrator 4>It began as a strict division of power between two coequal authorities, <v Narrator 4>the states and the national government, a system which came to be called <v Narrator 4>dual federalism. <v Narrator 4>Today, that division of power has become a sharing of power. <v Narrator 4>A sharing dominated by the federal government and called co-operative <v Narrator 4>federalism. <v Narrator 4>But the centralization of power in Washington was not inevitable. <v Narrator 4>It was the result of a constant and often dramatic struggle. <v Narrator 4>For the framers left the exact relationship of the central and local governments <v Narrator 4>ambiguous [birds chirping]. <v Narrator 4>The establishment of which one was supreme was left to hard fought elections,
<v Narrator 4>court decisions and legislative battles. <v Narrator 4>And when these failed, tragically, a civil war. <v Narrator 4>Every state played a part in this struggle. <v Narrator 4>But perhaps none more dramatically than the sovereign state of South Carolina. <v Narrator 4>[music plays] In the beginning, <v Narrator 4>South Carolina was one of the central government's strongest supporters. <v Narrator 4>With the Port of Charleston second only to Philadelphia, with a proud history of <v Narrator 4>leadership in the revolution, and an established and rich society, <v Narrator 4>South Carolina had no fear of a strong national government. <v Narrator 4>Indeed, she wanted one. <v Narrator 4>Charles Pinckney was a young planter from Charleston. <v Narrator 4>As a delegate to Congress under the Articles of Confederation, he was one of the first to <v Narrator 4>call for a convention to revise the articles. <v Charles Pinckney>Congress must be invested with greater powers or the federal government
<v Charles Pinckney>must fall. <v Narrator 4>Under the federalism described by the Articles, most of the powers of government <v Narrator 4>had been reserved to the states. <v Narrator 4>When the convention was finally called, Pinckney wrote out his own revision to present. <v Narrator 4>[writing sounds] <v Charles Pinckney>A confederation between free and independent states is hereby <v Charles Pinckney>solemnly made, uniting them under one general superintending <v Charles Pinckney>government for their common benefit and for their defense. <v Narrator 4>Pinckney and his fellow delegates represented Charleston's established mercantile <v Narrator 4>interests. [seagull chirping] They wanted the federal government to be strong enough to <v Narrator 4>establish an effective financial and commercial policy. <v Narrator 4>Most of the other states had similar priorities. <v Narrator 4>So from its conception in Philadelphia, federalism was not only a legalistic <v Narrator 4>doctrine but a pragmatic system which affected the economic welfare of the <v Narrator 4>people. <v Narrator 4>Just what constituted that welfare was to lead to considerable disagreement among states
<v Narrator 4>far more diverse than they are today. [water rushing] Most <v Narrator 4>of the delegates were strong in their support of states rights as well. <v Narrator 4>For the states were considered necessary partners in making federalism work. <v Narrator 4>Pinckney spoke for many when he said- <v Charles Pinckney>The general government cannot effectively exist without reserving to the states <v Charles Pinckney>possession of their local rights. <v Charles Pinckney>[birds chirping] They are the instruments upon which the union must depend for the <v Charles Pinckney>support and execution of their powers. <v Narrator 4>It was also thought that the partnership of state and federal governments would allow the <v Narrator 4>national government to leave to the states issues too divisive to handle nationally. <v Narrator 4>This did not turn out to be true. <v Narrator 4>A case in point was slavery. [bugs chirping] [machines whirring] The
<v Narrator 4>convention debates on the subject were heated. <v Narrator 4>John Rutledge, the senior statesman of South Carolina, laid out the southern position <v Narrator 4>in no uncertain terms. <v John Rutledge>Religion and humanity have nothing to do with this question. <v John Rutledge>The true question is whether the southern states shall or shall <v John Rutledge>not be parties to the union. <v Narrator 4>The South and the North compromised finally. <v Narrator 4>The South kept the power to import slaves until 1808, but agreed to pay import <v Narrator 4>duties on them. <v Narrator 4>Such economic compromises between the two sections would return to haunt the South. <v Narrator 4>In many ways, the aristocrats of Charleston in the low country dug their own graves.
<v Narrator 4>There was some talk of putting the state's rivers and cascades to work and establishing a <v Narrator 4>textile industry to compete with New England's, but the propertied class never pursued <v Narrator 4>it. <v Narrator 4>Their commitment to the land, to agriculture and to an aristocratic <v Narrator 4>life dependent on slavery destined them to being outsiders <v Narrator 4>in the growing industrial economy. <v Narrator 4>By 1819, South Carolina's depleted soil couldn't compete with the rich <v Narrator 4>black loam of the new southern states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. <v Narrator 4>[horses running] The Panic of 1819, combined with the increasingly <v Narrator 4>bitter national fight over slavery, pushed South Carolina from being a strong <v Narrator 4>supporter of the central government to an adamant defender of states rights. <v Narrator 4>In the meantime, she'd sent her favorite son to Washington. <v Narrator 4>[music plays] John C. Calhoun served his country as congressman, senator, secretary <v Narrator 4>of state and war, and self proposed candidate for president.
<v Narrator 4>But he also wrote the South Carolina Exposition in Protest, a polemic advancing <v Narrator 4>the theory that a state could nullify a law of Congress if it found that law <v Narrator 4>to be unconstitutional. <v Narrator 4>The question arose over tariffs. <v Narrator 4>The main source of revenue for the national government. <v Narrator 4>There were also protectionist measures from northern manufacturing. <v Narrator 4>But for South Carolina and her sister cotton states, tariffs simply meant paying <v Narrator 4>more for the European goods they needed. <v Narrator 4>In 1828, a tariff was passed by the Congress, which came to be known <v Narrator 4>as the tariff of abominations. <v Narrator 4>Calhoun's South Carolina Exposition declared it was unconstitutional. <v Narrator 4>Calhoun derived his thesis from Thomas Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions. <v Narrator 4>He maintained the federal union was one of sovereign states. <v Narrator 4>The people of any state had the right to nullify an unconstitutional law until <v Narrator 4>Congress either revoked a law or amended the Constitution to permit it.
<v Narrator 4>If Congress did amend the Constitution, the aggrieved state could still choose <v Narrator 4>to secede. <v Narrator 4>The theory of nullification asserted supremacy of the states. <v Narrator 4>In 1830, it was debated by Robert Haine and Daniel Webster on the floor of the <v Narrator 4>Senate. Vice president Calhoun, whose authorship of the <v Narrator 4>pamphlet was still a secret, moderated from his chair. <v Narrator 4>[gavel banging] <v Robert Haine>Constitution being a compact between sovereign states, each <v Robert Haine>of the parties has a right to judge as to its violation. <v Daniel Webster>The Constitution itself refutes that proposition. <v Daniel Webster>It declares that it is ordained and established by the people <v Daniel Webster>of the United States. <v Robert Haine>The creatin' power is in the states. <v Robert Haine>In the case of a difference of opinion between the parties to the compact, resort <v Robert Haine>must be made 'til they are common and superior. <v Robert Haine>Three fourths of the states.
<v Daniel Webster>The people undertook to form a general government, not a league <v Daniel Webster>nor a compact, but our constitution, a popular government <v Daniel Webster>directly responsible to the people themselves. <v Narrator 4>[chatter] At this point, our federal system was so new that the question of who had the <v Narrator 4>final authority on the Constitution was still a legitimate one. <v Narrator 4>The South Carolinians waited to hear what Andrew Jackson had to say about their theory. <v Narrator 4>They didn't have long to wait. <v Andrew Jackson>Their object is disunion. <v Andrew Jackson>Let us not be deceived by names. <v Andrew Jackson>Disunion by armed force is treason. <v Andrew Jackson>Later in debate with Calhoun, Webster asserted the union's supremacy. <v Daniel Webster>The truth is that the people of the United States are one people. <v Daniel Webster>A state could secede from the union, but only by right of revolution, <v Daniel Webster>not as a constitutional right.
<v Daniel Webster>Nullification is no right at all. <v Narrator 4>[birds chirping] [music plays] Calhoun was seeking a way for the South to remain in the <v Narrator 4>Union. Secession was clearly a last resort. <v Narrator 4>But the secession movement brewing in South Carolina used Calhoun's theory of <v Narrator 4>nullification to justify secession as a constitutional right, not <v Narrator 4>a revolutionary act. <v Narrator 4>Despite the fact that the Southern protest got the tariff modified, the nullification <v Narrator 4>crisis brought the potential conflict inherent in federalism to a head. <v Narrator 4>It lit a spark that eventually led to Fort Sumter. <v Man 7>It is time to calculate the value of the Union. <v Man 8>The Union is due to us. <v Man 8>Our honor and liberty are due. <v Man 9>South Carolina will defend the institution of slavery at any and every
<v Man 9>sacrifice of their political relations with the federal government and the northern <v Man 9>states. <v Narrator 4>On December 20th, 1860, South Carolina <v Narrator 4>became the first state to secede from the Union. <v Narrator 4>Four months later, the bombardment of Fort Sumter began. <v Narrator 4>[gunshots] Charleston was where the war was born, and she paid dearly <v Narrator 4>for the honor. <v Man 10>A city of ruins, of vacant houses, of widowed women,
<v Man 10>of rotten wars and weed wild gardens. <v Man 10>Of acres of pitiful and ?voiceful? <v Man 10>barrenness. <v Narrator 4>71,000 men had gone to war. <v Narrator 4>13,000 never came home. [bell tolling] Those who did found burned plantations and ruined <v Narrator 4>fields, the land worth less than half of what it had been. <v Narrator 4>Before the war, the per capita income of Charleston had been two and a half times that of <v Narrator 4>the rest of the country. It would never be that again. <v Man 10>It is difficult for those who are away to understand the utter pecuniary prostration <v Man 10>in which the war has left this part of the country. <v Man 10>The issues of every bank and of the government prove without value or effect, and <v Man 10>the people instead of currency find pieces of waste paper. <v Narrator 4>Reconstruction brought unity, but not healing to the Union.
<v Narrator 4>In South Carolina, the legislative rule of scalawags, carpetbaggers and newly <v Narrator 4>freed blacks was not accepted by the white population. <v Narrator 4>When it ended, Jim Crow emerged to reestablish the status quo. <v Narrator 4>Dispirited and having no resources with which to rebuild, Charleston and South <v Narrator 4>Carolina seemed to stand still. <v Narrator 4>But in the north, Washington was experiencing a period of centralization. <v Narrator 4>The bureaucracy grew. And for the first time, Congress began exercising <v Narrator 4>a national regulatory power. <v Narrator 4>[horses galloping] [city bustling] In the 20s, while the rest of the economy was booming, <v Narrator 4>Charleston and South Carolina were severely depressed. <v Narrator 4>The boll weevil all but destroyed the cotton crop. <v Narrator 4>The new textile mills up country paid their workers 40 percent of what workers in the
<v Narrator 4>north were paid and Charleston had been cut off as a port when the railroads <v Narrator 4>were reorganized at the turn of the century. <v Narrator 4>Franklin Roosevelt began visiting Warm Springs, Georgia, in the 20s and <v Narrator 4>was shocked at conditions in the South. <v Narrator 4>Later as president, he wrote that the South was the nation's number one economic problem. <v Narrator 4>Because the country was interdependent, the South's difficulties meant economic problems <v Narrator 4>for the entire nation. FDR asserted the urgent need to take a centralized <v Narrator 4>view of the national economy. <v FDR>[scratchy audio recording] This nation is asking for action and action now. <v FDR>[applause] Our greatest <v FDR>primary task is to put people to work. <v FDR>[applause] It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government <v FDR>itself [applause]. <v Narrator 4>To combat the emergency, FDR's New Deal inaugurated a transformation
<v Narrator 4>of American life. <v Narrator 4>The increased federal regulation of business. <v Narrator 4>[footsteps on gravel] The establishment of regional planning. <v Narrator 4>The federalization of labor policy. The <v Narrator 4>management of agriculture. <v Narrator 4>And the expansion of the welfare system were combined with a Keynesian fiscal policy <v Narrator 4>and a modern tax structure to create what we now call cooperative federalism, <v Narrator 4>a system in which the states were important but the federal government was dominant. <v Narrator 4>[music plays]In upcountry South <v Narrator 4>Carolina, the New Deal meant unions and better wages at the mills. <v Narrator 4>For the farmers, it meant quotas, guaranteed prices and diversified crops. <v Narrator 4>In Charleston, the New Deal meant the WPA. <v Narrator 4>The Works Project Administration <v Narrator 4>rebuilt the Dock Street Theater and Fort Sumter and encouraged historical restorations.
<v Narrator 4>It refurbished schools and began construction of the Santee-Cooper Hydroelectrical <v Narrator 4>Plant. <v Narrator 4>It improved the shipbuilding facilities at the Navy Yard. <v Narrator 4>By 1936, Senator Burns reported that the state had received 242 <v Narrator 4>million dollars from various New Deal agencies and only paid back 10 million dollars <v Narrator 4>in taxes. <v Narrator 4>But by this time, many of the state's leaders had begun to turn against the New Deal. <v Narrator 4>The money was not free. Regulation and a sense of dependance came with it. <v Man 11>There has been a continuous decrease of state powers <v Man 11>because the states have not used 'em and the people want a government. <v Man 11>[music playing] <v FDR>It is not a case of a dream coming true. <v Narrator 4>The New Deal did much to help South Carolina survive the Depression. <v Narrator 4>But true economic recovery was to come from a different source, a <v Narrator 4>source in Charleston. [music plays] The Navy first located their base
<v Narrator 4>in Charleston in 1902. <v Narrator 4>By 1941, it was the largest industry in the area and the third largest <v Narrator 4>in the state. The 139 million dollars the Navy spent that year <v Narrator 4>in South Carolina not only built destroyers, it built hospitals, <v Narrator 4>schools and housing for base personnel. <v Narrator 4>On the base itself, thousands of WPA workers became workers <v Narrator 4>for the National Defense. Riveters, machinists, carpenters and mechanics. <v Narrator 4>Wartime Charleston boomed. <v Narrator 4>The growth of the naval base did not end with the war. <v Narrator 4>In 1964, it provided a third of the region's personal income. <v Narrator 4>Like other cities around the country, San Diego, Corpus Christi and Norfolk, Charleston <v Narrator 4>welcomed a permanent federal presence. <v Narrator 4>[shouting] In the 60s, however, the federal government expanded its role in the economy <v Narrator 4>and consequently in the daily lives of its citizens.
<v Man 12>?inaudible? [scratchy audio] racial tension in Charleston. There's been a case of <v Man 12>demonstrators against police. There has not been- <v Narrator 4>[shouting] Initially, the impulse came from the civil rights movement. <v Narrator 4>Not only did the federal government have to intervene to enforce the civil rights law, <v Narrator 4>but the law mandated federal involvement in education, housing and employment: <v Narrator 4>areas traditionally left to the states. <v Narrator 4>In South Carolina, the response to the civil rights intervention was bitter. <v Bryan Dorn>They have no confidence that the people at the local level can handle their schools. Can develop <v Bryan Dorn>theirr businesses without regulation, red tape, ?blanks? <v Bryan Dorn>to fill out. <v Strom Thurmond>The national government has no powers. It has no powers ?now? <v Strom Thurmond>except those that have been given to it by the state. <v Narrator 4>[shouting] Because many Southerners continually invoked the rights of the states <v Narrator 4>as a defense, state's rights became linked in the minds of many Americans with <v Narrator 4>white supremacy and racism. <v Narrator 4>At the same time, the federal government developed a new attitude to the states.
<v Narrator 4>National leaders viewed them as inefficient and inadequate to the tasks of modern <v Narrator 4>government. From Johnson through Nixon, the centralization went even further. <v Man 13>This administration declares unconditional war on poverty in America. <v Narrator 4>[music plays] The states became convenient conduits for programs designed, funded and <v Narrator 4>regulated from Washington. <v Narrator 4>Did federalism die along with state autonomy? <v Narrator 4>Some say yes. <v Narrator 4>The warning signals that come as early as 1939 when a leading liberal said <v Narrator 4>that the epic of federalism was over. <v Narrator 4>That it was inefficient and could not provide the necessary standards of uniformity. <v Narrator 4>By 1969, it was proclaimed- <v Man 14>The United States has evolved into a highly centralized, integrated community. <v Man 14>It no longer possesses federal characteristics.
<v Narrator 4>Many question whether this development was good. <v Man 15>Do we want a federalism in which the national government's powers are almost <v Man 15>unrestricted? Its ascendancy over the states indubitable? <v Man 15>It's important that we take careful stock of the constitutional values <v Man 15>that have been vitiated, as well as those which have been elevated to a new place. <v Narrator 4>Faced by massive deficits and a weakening welfare system, the Reagan White <v Narrator 4>House told the states that they must provide for themselves or do without. <v Ronald Reagan>The federal government has at great cost, been attempting to perform tasks that are <v Ronald Reagan>not its proper function. <v Ronald Reagan>So we're restoring the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which says the federal <v Ronald Reagan>government will do only those things called for in the Constitution <v Ronald Reagan>and all others shall remain with the states or the people. <v Narrator 4>The problem is, once having intervened, once having set up the expectation <v Narrator 4>that it will be responsible for certain things, how does the national government give
<v Narrator 4>back these functions to the states which have neither the tax base nor the resources <v Narrator 4>to provide what the people have come to expect? <v Narrator 4>Joe Riley has been the mayor of Charleston for 10 years and he's convinced <v Narrator 4>that the federal state partnership must continue. <v Joe Riley>Cities have a uh national role. <v Joe Riley>We don't just provide services for the people that live <v Joe Riley>in our cities. Nor are cities self-contained. <v Joe Riley>The central city does something for everyone in the metropolitan <v Joe Riley>area. It may be two, three, four, five times as large as a central city. <v Joe Riley>The federal programs have been wisely a way of tapping that <v Joe Riley>federal tax base and sharing it some with the city. <v Narrator 4>[tools operating] Such a project is Charleston Place, an elegant hotel and convention <v Narrator 4>center designed to revitalize the old downtown of Charleston.
<v Narrator 4>Using 18 million federal dollars as ?seed? <v Narrator 4>money, 55 million was generated from private investors. <v Narrator 4>But some question whether such development is worth the price. <v Thomas Hartnett>The federal government has built golf courses, hotels. <v Thomas Hartnett>We've built resorts. We've built marinas. We've built things all over the country and <v Thomas Hartnett>certainly you'd have to say they've been good for the economy, but they might have been <v Thomas Hartnett>good for the economy of that one locale at the expense this year <v Thomas Hartnett>of a 200 billion dollar deficit and at the collective expansive over a <v Thomas Hartnett>two trillion dollar national debt. <v Joe Riley>The federal partnership is essential if <v Joe Riley>cities are to are to survive and be strong. <v Joe Riley>It is important to understand that I haven't- no mayor <v Joe Riley>has asked the federal government to develop our consensus force, <v Joe Riley>make the difficult decisions for us, do any of our jobs for us. <v Joe Riley>We haven't shirked or shied away any responsibility.
<v Joe Riley>It is just in this very wealthy nation, to share <v Joe Riley>some of that national wealth and those resources with <v Joe Riley>the cities that are so important to our country. <v Thomas Hartnett>I think the federal government should be there to assist cities and towns and states in <v Thomas Hartnett>the event of uh national disasters or catastrophes. <v Thomas Hartnett>But I think that the federal government should, as the Constitution said, leave to those <v Thomas Hartnett>states, all of those things that uh they can do for themselves to do, and cities also. <v Thomas Hartnett>The only powers of the federal government have or supposed to have by the constitution <v Thomas Hartnett>are those given to it by the states, not asked from the states for, <v Thomas Hartnett>but given to it by the states. <v Thomas Hartnett>And that's probably the way it should be. <v Narrator 4>[gavel banging] It's not just political conservatives who are seeking to reactivate the <v Narrator 4>old federalism. In recent decisions, the courts have made rulings deliberately <v Narrator 4>to reassert state autonomy. <v Narrator 4>In the words of a liberal California justice: encouraging <v Narrator 4>the 50 states to experiment to retain their historic individuality,
<v Narrator 4>to seek innovative responses, may ultimately produce more of the answers <v Narrator 4>in the years ahead than relying on the federal government. <v Narrator 4>After a long period of consolidation, it would seem that we're shifting back <v Narrator 4>somewhat to notions that the framers might recognize. <v Narrator 4>Now it is the federal government that's perceived as bloated and, if not corrupt, <v Narrator 4>hopelessly entangled by its size. <v Narrator 4>[music plays] The states, on the other hand, have become much more dynamic in the last 10 <v Narrator 4>years. They compete with each other for corporate investment, develop <v Narrator 4>statewide and city economic plans. <v Narrator 4>State legislators now are professional politicians. <v Narrator 4>Governors and mayors of major cities manage enormous budgets and have formed <v Narrator 4>national associations with their counterparts in other states. <v Narrator 4>Adelaide Stevenson once said that if our people did not have the states, <v Narrator 4>they would create them rather than centralize all the power at one point where a
<v Narrator 4>congestion of authority would defeat democratic progress. <v Narrator 4>That was the original idea. <v Narrator 4>In order to save the economy in the Depression and to uphold a <v Narrator 4>national ideal of liberty, the federal government in the last 50 <v Narrator 4>years has taken on great power and responsibility. <v Narrator 4>Now, perhaps it's time for the states to take some back. <v Narrator 4>[music plays]
This Constitution
Episode Number
No. 1
The Federal City
Producing Organization
Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip-526-1z41r6p156).
Series Description
"The intent of the series was to focus on the Constitution as the embodiment of American values, ideas and institutions. Each program was selected to illustrate the historical roots and contemporary significance of a basic principle of the Constitution and constitutional government. The Constitution was created as an enduring document written for the needs of the past, present and future. In a similar way, the goal of the shows was to explore issues that are not simply debates of yesterday and today, but most likely of tomorrow, too. "Individual program descriptions: "THE FEDERAL CITY "The design of the city of Washington is an expression of the design of our constitutional government. Through an examination of the original design and developments in the urban plan and architectural style of Washington, this program explores the development of constitutional government and its symbolic reflection in the federal city. "SOUTH CAROLINA AND THE UNITED STATES "The concept of federalism is central to the principles of constitutional government. Yet this concept, like so many of the founding principles, has evolved over time. Nineteenth-century Charleston was defined by the laws, class and culture of South Carolina. The twentieth-century city is defined to a considerable extent by the programs and resources of the federal government. Using Charleston as a case study, this program examines the changing concept of federalism and its impact on local government. "THE RISE AND FALL OF PROHIBITION "The Temperance movement achieved its goal with the enactment of Prohibition in the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. But its repeal marked the political end of this social reform movement. This program examines the difficulty in achieving social reform through constitutional amendment."--1987 Peabody Awards entry form.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-f4e6d914d52 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 0:27:50
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “This Constitution; No. 1; The Federal City,” 1987-09-01, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “This Constitution; No. 1; The Federal City.” 1987-09-01. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: This Constitution; No. 1; The Federal City. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from