The U.S. Post Office: “One of the most civilizing influences in history.”

The U.S. Post Office: “One of the most civilizing influences in history.” – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, July 26, 1775, the Continental Congress appoints Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. The Post Office has been called, “one of the most civilizing influences in history.” Let’s find out how.

In the late 1600’s, a New York Governor started a monthly postal service between New York and Boston. The Parliament extended the British post office to America in 1710 with its headquarters in New York. The route went as far north as Maine and as far south as Williamsburg, Virginia.

One historian describes how the process worked in the 1730’s.

“In ordinary weather a post-rider would receive the Philadelphia mail at the Susquehannah River on Saturday evening, be at Annapolis on Monday, reach the Potomac on Tuesday night, on Wednesday arrive at New Post, near Fredericksburg, and by Saturday evening at Williamsburg, whence, once a month, the mail went still farther south, to Edenton, N.C. Thus a letter was just a week in transit between Philadelphia and the capital of Virginia.”

One of the most famous Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, became Postmaster-General of the colonies. Franklin was a member of that famous “Senate of Sages” who gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to write our Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 of that document reads,

“The Congress shall have power to…To establish post offices and post roads… “

James Madison wrote about this provision in Federalist #42:

“The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.”

Madison was right! It certainly became a great public convenience and increased intercourse between the States. The post rider was a popular figure, sometimes even an eccentric. While riding he’d reach into his saddlebag and try to read the letters, or he’d be “knitting socks or whittling some article out of his stick.” The people began writing letters to their local newspapers, and, as a result, more newspapers sprung up all over the country making their way into every home. This made a huge impact on social culture.

In 1792 the postage rate was six cents for up to thirty miles; the rate gradually increased after that reaching to about twenty-five cents to anything beyond 450 miles.

During the first five years after our current Constitution went into effect (1789) the Congress made temporary provisions for the Post Office and Post Roads. But it was on this day, May 8, 1794, an act of Congress continued the Post Office indefinitely.

One nineteenth century writer praised this great provision saying,

“No one of the executive departments contributes more to the comfort and convenience of the people than that of the post office. With its network of postal routes binding together the entire country, its thousands of post offices, and its army of officials engaged in collecting and distributing letters, papers, and periodicals, it is indispensable to the business interests of the people, and a civilizing influence of inestimable value.”

On May 8, 1794, the U.S. Post Office is permanently established, becoming one of the most civilizing influences in history.

Presidential Pardons and Reprieves: The Conscience of the Nation

Presidential Pardons and Reprieves: The Conscience of the Nation – By Daniel Sheridan

There was a political T.V. show that aired in the early 2000s called, “The West Wing.” Actor Martin Sheen plays President Bartlett. One of the episodes dealt with the matter of pardons. As President Bartlett is contemplating pardons he says to his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry:

“The benign prerogative, that’s what Hamilton called them.”

McGarry replies: “Benign? It’s a bag of lit dynamite.”

That’s both funny and true. There’s always controversy when a President offers Pardons or Reprieves. Usually at the end of an administration tempers flare over the President’s use of this power. At the end of a recent administration the President used his pardoning power in a popular case, a move which inspired many partisan responses. Some praised the President saying,

“It’s about time!” “Justice is finally served.” “This is a good sign.”

Others lashed out in anger,

“He’s a traitor!” “Only a few more days and he’s gone.” “A travesty of justice.”

Sentiments like that are why the fictional Leo McGarry called this prerogative a “bag of lit dynamite.”

A good friend of mine expressed her frustration over this issue in a Facebook post:

“I never understood the reason that the president has the right to pardon or lessen the time served by criminals. Somebody please explain why this makes any sense. How can a judge who hears the entire case, a jury who convicts a criminal, and a law that is in place for penalty be overturned by somebody a week before their term ends? I really don’t get it.”

She’s frustrated. But she’s also asking questions. That’s where we need to start, asking the right questions. What is this Constitutional power all about? That’s where I want to offer my services. I’m not going to offer opinions on specific cases which certain Presidents have acted on. What I will do is explain what I understand to be the original intent of this Presidential power. First we must have a common understanding of the Constitutional provision as originally intended. Then, after acquiring such knowledge, it’s up to each individual citizen to make up his or her mind, after considering all the facts, regarding his or her opinion of a President’s action in a particular case. It’s ok if citizens disagree regarding a President’s pardon or reprieve of so-and so; but let’s at least agree on what the Presidential power is about. Plus, I think if we understand the historical circumstances which led to this Constitutional provision, our hearts will soften, we’ll tone down the viciousness of our criticisms, and it might even bring us closer together as a people.

Here we go.

First, the power is granted to the President to grant pardons and reprieves for Federal crimes alone. The Constitution reads,

“The President shall…have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Reprieves are usually granted when new evidence or testimony is brought to light that was unknown during the defendant’s trial, information which could have affected the outcome. The President can grant a reprieve so this new evidence can be examined.

The pardon is a little different. It’s not about declaring a person innocent; it’s about the nature of the sentence in relation to the crime. The sentence might have been too harsh; the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Maybe there are certain circumstances that should be taken into consideration in relation to the crime.

The pardoning power is referred to as “the conscience of the nation.” The President, when offering reprieves or pardons, is acting in mercy on behalf of the American people when a true sense of justice calls for intervention.

The Constitutional clause wasn’t intended to weaken the sense of the rule of law; it actually strengthens it by avoiding the extremes of harsh and cruel punishments. The clause demonstrates that we are far from perfect knowledge in matters of justice. It requires that we learn from our mistakes and correct them. This provision is a confession that our laws aren’t perfect, they therefore at times need to be revised, unlike the laws of the ancient Medes and Persians which couldn’t be altered. Alexander Hamilton says this,

“Humanity and good policy conspire to dictate, that the benign prerogative of pardoning should be as little as possible fettered or embarrassed. The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel…” (Federalist #84)

In other words, criminal codes throughout history have been too harsh, therefore the pardon and reprieve powers are meant to eliminate cruelty and promote true justice. The Founders were acknowledging that even in their own day some of their judicial practices were barbaric and the people needed protection from them! What an honest confession!

This Constitutional provision also applies to cases where the accused suffers injustice because he or she didn’t have access to competent legal help. Incompetent or corrupt lawyers may merit the accused the Benign Prerogative.

It also applies to cases where an unpopular defendant has been convicted in the court of public opinion before the trial even begins. The public sentiment influences the outcome of the trial and the facts of the case are overruled by blind hatred. One of the sad features of human nature is that people will condemn a person they don’t like regardless of the facts and evidence. Personal animosity, which bends facts to its will, is enthroned as the highest law from which there is no appeal, facts and evidence are derided. The Benign Prerogative intervenes in such cases after tempers are cooled thus sparing the nation from making shipwreck of conscience.

The opposite of this can happen too. If the accused is popular, his or her fans will overlook or even justify the crimes of their hero. In either case, justice isn’t served.

James Iredell of North Carolina said,

“Another power that he has is to grant pardons, except in cases of impeachment. I believe it is the sense of a great part of America, that this power should be exercised by their governors…It is the genius of a republican government that the laws should be rigidly executed, without the influence of favor or ill-will–that, when a man commits a crime, however powerful he or his friends may be, yet he should be punished for it; and, on the other hand, though he should be universally hated by his country, his real guilt alone, as to the particular charge, is to operate against him. This strict and scrupulous observance of justice is proper in all governments; but it is particularly indispensable in a republican one, because, in such a government, the law is superior to every man, and no man is superior to another. But, though this general principle be unquestionable, surely there is no gentleman…who is not aware that there ought to be exceptions to it; because there may be many instances where, though a man offends against the letter of the law, yet peculiar circumstances in his case may entitle him to mercy…This power, however, only refers to offences against the United States, and not against particular states.”

That’s the “Benign Prerogative,” my fellow Americans. Mercy and truth meet together. It’s the “Conscience of the Nation,” which is based on mercy, humanity, even justice, and good policy.

Aren’t you proud that this beautiful principle is in our U.S. Constitution? The U.S. Constitution. Read it. Know it. Share it. Get your Pocket Constitutions at www.FreedomFactor.org.

Opinion Polls, An Electoral College Dispute, Accusations Of Corruption, And Ultimate Vindication

Opinion Polls, An Electoral College Dispute, Accusations Of Corruption, And Ultimate Vindication – By Daniel Sheridan

—Opinion Polls

On this day, July 24, 1824, what is believed to be the first-ever Presidential poll is conducted by a Pennsylvania newspaper.

The results of the poll showed Andrew Jackson with 365 votes to John Quincy Adams’s 169. During that election Jackson would live up to expectations by overwhelmingly taking the popular vote, however, Adams won the Electoral College.

—The First Electoral College Dispute

Over 355-thousand people voted in the election of 1824. In those days elections took weeks to complete. There were four candidates for President in 1824: Adams, Henry Clay of Kentucky, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, and William Henry Crawford of Georgia. None of these received a majority of the electoral votes so the decision fell to the House of Representatives (as provided in the Constitution https://freedomfactor.org/read-the-us-constitution/). They chose John Quincy Adams, on this day, February 9, 1825, as the 6th President of the United States.

The Electoral College was put in place by the Founders because they didn’t think the common person would know enough about a candidate to directly elect him, so they devised a system where the people’s choice would be filtered through certain men who had the confidence of the people. These men make up the Electoral College. However, if this system didn’t produce a winner, the Constitution mandates that the vote goes to the House of Representatives. As a result, the people would now be TWICE removed from the process.

—Accusations of Corruption

John Quincy Adams was elected in this manner. However, the whole thing looked fishy to many. It was said that the political elites in the House chose the President! Under the circumstances, only looking on the surface, one can understand how people came to the conclusion something dishonest was going on. Here’s why:

Henry Clay is the Speaker of the House. Clay hated Jackson because Jackson once accused Clay’s fellow Kentuckians of being cowardly during the battle of New Orleans. Now Clay, as Speaker, controls Jackson’s fate. Clay successfully swayed enough members of the House to cast their vote for Adams. After the election Adams chose Clay as Secretary of State. These moves enraged Jackson. He accused Adams and Clay of making a “corrupt bargain” and the Jackson men were angry. Adams had a tumultuous four years in office as a result of the manner in which he won the election.

— Ultimate Vindication

I think to properly judge John Quincy Adams we must consider his subsequent career. There’s no proof of a “corrupt bargain.” Partisan political insinuation isn’t proof.  However, an accused man’s subsequent behavior speaks volumes, as we shall see.

Adams had big plans as President. He wanted to explore the west and implement a type of “new deal.” Adams wanted the Federal Government to build new stone roads and canals to connect the states. During his administration, in 1825, the Erie Canal opened. The following year the first railroad of the United States was completed. President Adams also wanted to create a National University, a National Astronomical Observatory, and promote scientific advancements.

Congress, however, wouldn’t cooperate. They shot the President’s plans down saying they were unconstitutional. But it seems personal motives guided some Congressmen, not Constitutional principles. Adams was un-popular because of the circumstances surrounding his election and the Jacksonians despised him. Adams lost re-election.

Some think that once a person serves as President any other job is “beneath” him. John Quincy Adams didn’t think so. Two years later he returned to Congress where he remained for the next sixteen years. There John Quincy Adams took the lead in the fight against slavery and was outspoken against secret societies. Even in his advanced age he was so skillful and energetic in debate people started calling him, “the old man eloquent.” His fame as the champion of popular rights only increased with every year.

John Quincy Adams fought for these rights to his dying day, literally! He suffered a stroke while on the house floor and lingered in and out of consciousness for two more days. His last words were,

“This is the last of earth; I am content.”

Does this sound to you like a man who made corrupt bargains? Time has been on John Quincy’s side. Some of his contemporaries didn’t like him, mostly because of partisan politics. However, his character has been vindicated by his career; his ideas and plans, though shot down by his contemporaries, were promoted by future Americans and are lauded by many to this day.

“Roll, years of promise, rapidly roll round, till not a slave shall on this earth be found.” John Quincy Adams

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

 

Baseball’s First “All-Star” Game

Baseball’s First “All-Star” Game – By Daniel Sheridan

It’s our game . . . it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws . . .” – Walt Whitman

The game of baseball started taking shape in the 1840s when a volunteer firefighter and bank clerk named Alexander Joy Cartwright together with some of his buddies formed the New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club. Cartwright invented the rules which made the game what we know it to be today; the diamond shape field, foul lines, and other features.

On June 19th, 1846, the Knickerbockers played a group of Cricket Players for what is considered by many to be the first Baseball game in history. The Knickerbockers were clobbered 23-1. The game took off after this. Men from all sorts of trades formed teams.

The game became so popular that a December 1858 issue of The New York Mercury declared Baseball to be, “The National Past-Time.”

There were over 50 clubs in the New York area alone by 1858. Special trains took people to and from the games. A rivalry developed between the Brooklyn and New York teams. Leaders of Brooklyn teams challenged the New Yorkers to a game. Then each city chose their best players to play in what would become the first all-star game.

It took place on this day, July 20th, 1858. Over four thousand people attended. It was also the first game with a cover charge, 50-cents! New York won 22-18.

After the All-Star Game, Baseball only got bigger. Not even the Civil War could slow its progress as soldiers played it on battle fields between enemy engagements. After the war, peaceful parks throughout the country were scenes of great games.

The history of baseball mirrors the history and spirit of the United States in many ways:

“Baseball has the qualities and narratives America has: Competition, spirit, joking, intellectualism, labor unions, management, gimmicks, promotion, fools, heroes, segregation, de-segregation, crooks, pride, unity of town and country, etc… It’s America!”

“One of the most appealing things about Baseball is that it highlights the individual like no other game does. Each individual has his specific place on the field; each individual has his turn at bat. In other sports you can go continually to your best guy. Babe Ruth still only batted once every nine times. So it’s the individual within the context of the group. And the individual is highlighted, but in the end his performance means nothing outside the group, outside the community.” — Both quotes from the Documentary, Baseball, by Ken Burns.

Baseball is America!

 

 

Champollion and the Rosetta Stone

Champollion and the Rosetta Stone – By Daniel Sheridan

On this day, July 19, 1899, a discovery is made which helps a non-establishment scholar push the frontier of human knowledge further back in time thus opening to the human race a new field of study documenting the advancement of civilization.

The ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphics, a script of pictures and symbols. They used two methods of writing. In one they carved their writings on stone monuments. The other method of writing was the common way, on papyrus, a paper from the papyrus plant. Egyptians used this paper to record business transactions and affairs of state as well as for personal writings. Papyrus is the origin of our word “paper.” Isn’t exciting to realize how connected we are with ancient history?

The common people were doing so much writing they simplified their hieroglyphics into a cursive or hieratic writing, similar to how we write today. Later, they developed an even simpler writing similar to our short-hand, called demotic. The Egyptians went from hieroglyphics, to hieratic, to demotic writing styles.

For many years the only thing scholars knew about Egypt was what they read in the Bible. Nobody could figure out how to read Egyptian inscriptions to find out more. The mystery was finally unlocked in the nineteenth century by an unlikely source. Here’s the story:

Napoleon came to Egypt in the 1790’s. The Great Pyramid in Giza, which was built thousands of years earlier, was the tallest building in the world. Then, on this day, July 19th 1799, Napoleon’s soldiers discovered what we know as the Rosetta Stone, in Rosetta, Egypt. This slab of rock contained parallel writings in Egyptian hieroglyphics, demotic, and Greek.

Scholars began working to uncover the meaning of the ancient hieroglyphics, however, they were frustrated in their task. While they were spinning their wheels, a young man was growing up in France who would give these proud establishment scholars a run for their money.

Let’s take an excursion here and give a little background on our hero which will help us better appreciate his accomplishments. Champollion was from a poor family who couldn’t afford providing him with a classy education. But Champollion had an exceptional mind; we might even call him a child prodigy. His brother, recognizing Champollion’s potential, encouraged him to develop his talents, which he did. By age thirteen he spoke six ancient languages! Thanks big bro! Now back to the story.

Champollion was fascinated with ancient Egypt and was obsessed with learning the meaning of the hieroglyphics. He worked tirelessly on the project. One day Champollion was granted access to a text that was carved on a recently discovered obelisk. The inscription was written in hieroglyphic style. At the base of the slab there was Greek writing saying the inscription was about Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Champollion logically concluded that those two names must therefore be found somewhere in the Egyptian text on the obelisk. So by carefully comparing the two languages he was able to decipher twelve letters in the Egyptian alphabet. But this text by itself couldn’t unlock the mystery of the ancient hieroglyphics. More comparison must be done.

At this time scholars weren’t too sure what Egyptian hieroglyphs actually were. Most thought they were silent symbols. Since symbols can’t be spoken the scholars concluded we’d never know the meaning of the Ancient Egyptian writings.

Champollion, however, disagreed. He believed the Egyptians developed a system of words and letters. The “smart guys” made fun of his suggestions insinuating that since the “recognized, qualified, scholars” disagreed with the young and inexperienced Champollion he should keep his mouth shut. Remember this very important fact: the scholars of the day mocked Champollion’s claim of an Egyptian alphabet. Sometimes the professionals can become stagnant. Though well meaning, they may be trapped in a status-quo loving system which is detrimental to progress in learning. But Champollion was of the conviction that the job of a Scientist is to question everything. Truth is the goal, not status-quo or tenure. Champollion was convinced the hieroglyphs made words, and if words, they must be spoken.

Operating under this working theory, Champollion studied the last known language spoken around the time the hieroglyphs were being used. This language was still spoken by Coptic Christians in Paris. Champollion reasoned that he might be able to match sounds of the Coptic to the hieroglyphs. He was relentless in the pursuit of the truth.

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone combined with his scientific research helped Champollion solve the mystery. After twenty years of labor he translated the Rosetta Stone and discovered the Egyptian alphabet. Champollion recovered a lost world!

 

Historian Will Durant sums it up beautifully,

“Never has any century been so interested in history as that which followed the voyage of young Champollion with young Napoleon to Egypt; Napoleon returned empty-handed, but Champollion came back with all Egypt, past and current, in his grasp. Every generation since has discovered new civilizations or cultures, and has pushed farther and farther back the frontier of man’s knowledge of his development. There are not many things finer in our murderous species than this noble curiosity, this restlessness and reckless passion to understand.”

Now Egyptian writings can be read thus opening to mankind a completely new field of historical study. This was made possible by the efforts of a non-establishment student who refused to submit to the arrogant pronouncements of the stagnant establishment.

 

The Black Edison

The Black Edison: The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, Free Men, and the Unleashing of Inventive Genius – By Daniel Sheridan

The Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery in the United States, the Fourteenth guarantees citizenship to those who were denied it because of their skin color, and the Fifteenth grants them the right to vote. African Americans were now free! And where there’s freedom, the inventive genius of the free man is allowed to thrive.

Granville Woods (April 23, 1856 – January 30, 1910) was an African American inventor. Although his formal schooling ended when he was ten he took his education into his own hands. Granville did such a good job self-educating he became a successful mechanical and electrical engineer with 50 patents to his name.

His achievements were so impressive the magazine, “The Colored American,” in its November 14, 1903 edition, called Granville, “The Black Edison.”

Granville is recognized as the first African American to become a mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. This is confirmed by the “Arizona Sentinel and Yuma Weekly Examiner” in its May 09, 1912, publication. It reads:

“INTERESTING STATISTICS OF THE COLORED RACE…From information just published it is learned that the negro population of the United States is now 10,000,000…The following historical information is interesting…First colored electrical inventor, Granville T. Woods.”

Woods directed much of his inventive genius towards increasing the efficiency as well as the safety of railroad cars. The Black Inventor Online Museum says,

“Woods developed the concept of a third rail which would allow a train to receive more electricity while also encountering less friction. This concept is still used on subway train platforms in major cities in the United States” (See link below).

It was on this day, July 17, 1888, Woods received a patent, US 386,282, for the “Tunnel Construction for Electric Railways.” The patent reads,

“Be it known that I, GRANVILLE T. WOODS, a citizen of the United States, residing at Cincinnati, Ohio, have invented new and useful Improvements in Tunnel Constructions for Electro-Motive Railways, of which the following is a specification…My invention relates to tunnels for carrying the conductor or conductors of electro-motive railways, its object being to produce an economical and efficient construction for carrying said conductors below the surface of the ground, in which position they may be reached and utilized by the traveling contacts upon the car or motor through a slot at the surface of the roadway…”

Notice how Granville calls himself, “A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES.” He could never have said that without the Fourteenth Amendment! Thank God “We the People” revised the error of our ways and Amended the U.S. Constitution. Without this amendment we would never have benefited from the inventive genius of free men like Granville!

The Fourteenth Amendment, concerning the Rights of Citizenship, ratified on July 9, 1868, reads in part:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The U.S. Constitution: Read it. Know it. Share it.

You can read more about Granville Woods here: http://blackinventor.com/granville-woods/ 

 

A “Voice” From The Chicago Sewers Propels FDR To His Unprecedented Third Term

On this day, July 18, 1940, a “Voice” from the Chicago Sewers propels FDR to his unprecedented third term. By Daniel Sheridan

FDR came into office in 1932 amidst a depression. His first 100 days in office saw the implementation of his New Deal. FDR was re-elected in 1936. The economy was still struggling in 1939, however, despite New Deal policies. The mid-terms of 1938 were a disaster for the Democrats and the new Congress wasn’t interested in FDR’s reforms any longer.

Should FDR run for a third term? There were many things to consider.

A storm was brewing in Europe. Hitler was exercising full power in Germany. He was persecuting Jews and supporting a fascist uprising in Spain. In 1936 Hitler reclaimed the Rhineland from France then annexed Austria in 1938. Elsewhere Mussolini was attacking Ethiopia and Japan was on the warpath in China.

Americans believed foreign affairs were none of their business. They had no stomach for war having recently lost over 100,000 men in the Great War. But FDR realized we lived in a new world where isolationism wasn’t an option.

The Founders counseled that Americans shouldn’t become involved in entangling alliances with foreign nations. However, it can be argued that when they wrote that the only way America could be attacked was by row boat over a vast ocean. That was no longer the case. The world became a much smaller place because of modern war ships and planes. Another argument for involvement is the good neighbor argument. Do you help your neighbor when he’s in trouble? Now apply that on a national level. America’s neighbors were in trouble and they needed our help. FDR believed, as his hero Teddy Roosevelt did, that the U.S. needs to be involved on the International Stage.

FDR spoke out against fascism and the anti-war law-makers accused him of war-mongering. The American people didn’t seem to care because those problems were on the other side of the ocean.

Then in November of 1938 Jews throughout Germany were assaulted by Hitler’s soldiers. Homes and synagogues were burnt and many died. To add insult to injury the German Jews were required to pay an “atonement fine” (mockery) for the damages caused by the soldiers! Jewish persecution wasn’t limited to Germany.

FDR was horrified. He ordered that German and Austrian visas be extended so that people wouldn’t be forced to return to Nazi rule. This move was extremely unpopular with Americans. A Gallup poll in 1939 said that about 85-percent of both Catholics and Protestants opposed offering sanctuary to European refugees. What’s shocking is that 25-percent of American Jews were against offering asylum!

Eleanor Roosevelt was horrified at the indifference of the common American at the time. She said,

“What has happened to us in this country? If we study our own history we find that we have always been ready to receive the unfortunate from other countries. And though this may seem a generous gesture on our part, we have profited a-thousand-fold by what they have brought us.”

FDR debated about running for an unprecedented third term. Even though the Constitution says nothing about term limits, Presidents traditionally followed George Washington’s example of stepping down after two terms. There was no term-limit law in place; it was a practice in keeping with the American tradition of limited government. The world only knew about bloody monarchs who would kill to stay in power. But Americans had been showing the world something new; their Presidents weren’t monarchs. The mantle of power in America is peacefully and willingly relinquished.

So what should FDR do? The state of things at home and abroad convinced him to run. The world needed a leader in such perilous times. Then, on this day, July 18, 1940, FDR was nominated for a third term at the Democratic Party National Convention in Chicago.

The circumstances surrounding the nomination were surrounded with some exciting theatrics. FDR hadn’t publicly declared he was interested in re-nomination; he threw his hat into the ring subtly. FDR dictated a message by phone to a Senator which was read at the Convention. The message said FDR wasn’t really interested in running for a third term and delegates should vote for any candidate they wished. It was as if FDR was saying, tongue in cheek, “Maybe I’ll run. I’m not sure. I really don’t want to run. Well, it’s up to you guys, do what you want.”

To help pull off this subtle approach FDR’s supporters had a plan. After FDR’s message was read on the floor people sat in shocked silence. That silence was broken when a booming voice was heard over the sound system chanting, “We want Roosevelt!”

That voice came from Thomas Garry the Superintendent of Chicago’s Department of Sanitation who was acting under the orders of Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly. Other city workers were strategically placed around the hall to join in the chant. Soon everyone joined in. Thomas Garry’s chant came to be known as “The Voice from the Sewers” since he was the guy in charge of Chicago’s sewers.

Roosevelt was overwhelmingly nominated and eventually won a third, and then a fourth term.

As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”