The attitude of the Governors in their conferences is one of concentration on State and Interstate problems which are outside of the domain and Constitutional rights of the Federal Government to solve.
Continuing The U.S. National Association of Governors Began,
with a selection from The House of Governors (1907) and from The Craftsman by William G. Jordan published in October, 1910. This selection is presented in 3.5 installments, each one 5 minutes long.
Previously in The U.S. National Association of Governors Began.
Place: Washington D.C.
The House of Governors, in its attitude toward the Federal Government, is one of right and dignified non-interference. It will not use its influence with the Government, memorialize Congress, or pass resolutions on national matters. What the Governors do or say individually is, of course, their right and privilege, but as a body it took its stand squarely and positively at its first conference which met in Washington in January of this year as one of “securing greater uniformity of State action and better State Government.” Governor Hughes expressed it in these words: “We are here in our own right as State Executives; we are not here to accelerate or to develop opinion with regard to matters which have been committed to Federal power.” The States in their relation to the Federal Government have all needed representation in their Senators and Congressmen.
The attitude of the Governors in their conferences is one of concentration on State and Interstate problems which are outside of the domain and Constitutional rights of the Federal Government to solve. There can be no interference when each confines itself to its own duties. In keeping the time of the nation the Federal Government represents the hour-hand, the States, united, the minute-hand. There will be correct time only as each hand confines itself strictly to its own business, neither attempting to jog the other, but working in accord with the natural harmony wrapped up in the mechanism.
We need today to draw the sharpest clear-cut line of demarcation between Federal and State powers. This is in no spirit of antagonism, but in the truest harmony for the best interests of both. It means an illumination which will show that the “twilight zone,” so called, does not exist. This dark continent of legislation belongs absolutely to the States and to the people in the unmistakable terms of the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution or prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States, respectively, and to the people.” This buffer territory of legislation, the domain of needed uniform laws, belongs to the States and through the House of Governors they may enter in and possess their own. The Federal Government and the States are parts of one great organization, each having its specific duties, powers, and responsibilities, and between them should be no conflict, no inharmony.
Let the Federal Government, through Congress, make laws up to the very maximum of its rights and duties under the Constitution; let the States, taking up their neglected duties and privileges, relieve the Government of those cares and responsibilities forced upon it by the inactivity of the States and which it should never have had to assume. With the burden thus equitably readjusted, with the dignity of the two powers of Government working out their individual problems in the harmony of a fuller understanding, let us face the results. If it then seem, in the light of changed conditions from those of the time of the writing of the Constitution, that certain control now held by the States can not properly be exercised by them, that in final decision of the best wisdom of the people this power should be vested in the Federal Government, let the States not churlishly hold on to the casket of a dead right, but surrender the living body of a responsibility and a duty to the power best able to be its guardian. There are few, if any, of their neglected powers of legislation that the States and the people acting in cooperation, through the House of Governors, will not be able to handle.
Some of the subjects upon which free discussion tending toward uniform laws seems desirable are: marriage and divorce, rights of married women, corporations and trusts, insurance, child labor, capital punishment, direct primaries, convict labor and labor in general, prison reforms, automobile regulations, contracts, banking, conveyancing, inheritance tax, income tax, mortgages, initiative, referendum and recall, election reforms, tax adjustment, and similar topics. In great questions, like Conservation, the Federal Government has distinct problems it must carry out alone; there are some problems that must be solved by the States alone, some that may require to be worked out in cooperation. But the greatest part of the needed conservation is that which belongs to the States, and which they can manage better, more thoroughly, more judiciously, with stronger appeal to State pride, upbuilding, and prosperity, with less conflict and clearer recognition of local needs and conditions and harmony with them than can the Federal Government. Four-fifths of the timber standing in the country to-day is owned, not by the States or the Government, but by private interests.
The House of Governors will not seek uniformity merely for the sake of uniformity. There are many questions whereon uniform laws would be unnecessary, and others where it would be not only unwise, but inconceivably foolish. Many States have purely individual problems that do not concern the other States and do not come in conflict with them, but even in these the Governors may gain an occasional incidental sidelight of illumination from the informal discussion in a conference that may make thinking clearer and action wiser. The spirit that should inspire the States is the fullest freedom in purely State problems and the largest unity in laws that affect important questions in Interstate relations.
While uniform law is an important element in the thought of the Conference it is far from being the only one. The frank, easy interchange of view, opinion, and experience brings the Governors closely together in the fine fellowship of a common purpose and a common ideal. They are broadened, stimulated, and inspired to a keener, clearer vision on a wider outlook. The most significant, vital, and inspiring phases of these conferences, those which really count for most, and are the strongest guaranties of the permanence and power of this movement, must, however, remain intangible. This fact was manifest in every moment of that first Conference last January.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history