This series has five easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Three Evils the Governors Organization Addresses.
This series highlights the formation of the National Governor’s Association, named initially as “The House of Governors”. This body was formed to address sub-national issues of general concern. It also reminds us that there is a whole level of history below national history, that is local history. That level of history is, like the other levels, flexible as to area. State, region of country, city, county – all have histories. Lest we forget, the Governors by their association reminds us.
The selections are from:
- The House of Governors (1907) and from The Craftsman by William G. Jordan published in October, 1910.
- Letters to Colliers Weekly by The Governors published in 1910.
There’s 3.5 installments by William G. Jordan and 1.5 installments by The Governors.
William G. Jordan was the instigator of the House of Governors and its General Secretary.
Place: Washington D.C.
The conference of the Governors at Washington this month marks the beginning of a new epoch in the political history of the nation. It is the first meeting ever held of the State Executives as a body seeking, by their united influence, to secure uniform laws on vital subjects for the welfare of the entire country. It should not be confused with the Roosevelt conferences of May and December, 1908. It is in no sense a continuation of them. It is essentially different in aim, method, and basis, and is larger, broader, and more far-reaching in its possibilities.
The nation to-day is facing a grave crisis in its history. Vital problems affecting the welfare of the whole country, remaining unsolved through the years, have at last reached an acute stage where they demand solution. This solution must come now in some form–either in harmony with the Constitution or in defiance of it. The Federal Government has been and still is absolutely powerless to act because of constitutional limitation; the State governments have the sole power, but heretofore no way has been provided for them to exercise that power.
Senator Elihu Root points out fairly, squarely, and relentlessly the two great dangers confronting the Republic: the danger of the National Government breaking down in its effective machinery through the burdens that threaten to be cast upon it; and the danger that the local self-government of the States may, through disuse, become inefficient. The House of Governors plan seems to have in it possibilities of mastering both of these evils at one stroke.
There are three basic weaknesses in the American system of government as we know it to-day. There are three insidious evils that are creeping like a blood-poison through the body politic, threatening the very life of the Republic. They are killing the soul of self-government, though perhaps not its form; destroying its essence, though perhaps not its name.
These three evils, so intertwined as to be practically one, are: the growing centralization at Washington, the shifting, undignified, uncertain status of State rights, and the lack of uniform laws.
It was to propose a possible cure for these three evils that the writer sent in February, 1907, to President Roosevelt and to the Governors of the country a pamphlet on a new idea in American politics. It was the institution of a new House, a new representation of the people and of the States to secure uniform legislation on those questions wherein the Federal Governments could not act because of Constitutional limitation. The plan proposed, so simple that it would require no Constitutional amendment to put it into effect, was the organization of the House of Governors.
More than thirty Governors responded in cordial approval of the plan. Eight months later, October, 1907, President Roosevelt invited the State Executives to a conference at Washington in May, 1908. The writer pointed out at that time what seemed an intrinsic weakness of the convention, that it could have little practical result, because it would be, after all, only a conference, where the Federal Government, by its limitations, was powerless to carry the findings of the conference into effect, and the Governors, acting not as a co-operative body, but as individuals, would be equally powerless in effecting uniform legislation. It was a conference of conflicting powers.
The Governors were then urged to meet upon their own initiative, as a body of peers, working out by united State action those problems where United States action had for more than a century proved powerless. At the close of the Roosevelt conference the Governors, at an adjourned meeting, appointed a committee to arrange time and place for a session of the Governors in a body of their own, independently of the President. This movement differentiated the proposed meeting absolutely from that with the President in every fundamental. It essentially became more than a conference; it meant a deliberative body of the Governors uniting to initiate, to inspire, and to influence uniform laws. The committee then named, consisting of three members, later increased to five, set the dates January 18, 19, and 20, 1910, for the first session of the Governors as a separate body.
[The following by Jordan is from The Craftsman of October, 1910.]
When a new idea or a new institution confronts the world it must answer all challenges, show its credentials, specify its claims for usefulness, and prove its promise by its performance. As an idea the House of Governors has won the cordial approval of the American press and public; as an institution it must now justify this confidence. To grasp fully its powers and possibilities requires a clear, definite understanding of its spirit, scope, plan, and purpose, and its attitude toward the Federal Government.
The House of Governors is a union of the Governors of all the States, meeting annually in conference as a deliberative body (with no lawmaking power) for initiative, influence, and inspiration toward a better, higher, and more unified Statehood. Its organization will be simple and practical, avoiding red-tape, unnecessary formality, and elaborate rules and regulations. It will adopt the few fundamental expressions of its principles of action and the least number of rules that are absolutely essential to enunciate its plan and scope, to transmute its united wisdom into united action and to guarantee the coherence, continuity, and permanence of the organization despite the frequent changes in its membership due to the short terms of the Executives in many of the States.
The Governors begins here.
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