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June 20, 2024 46 mins

The founders of the United States knew the Constitution wasn't perfect, and so they baked in a process for revising their original document. Today, the first few amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights -- but, as returning guest AJ Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Constitutionally" reveals, there have been tons of other proposed amendments that didn't make the cut. Tune in to learn more in the second part of this special two-part episode.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Ridiculous Histories, a production of iHeartRadio. Welcome back to the

show Ridiculous Historians. Thank you, as always so much for
tuning in. That's our super producer, mister Max Williams, Ben Bullen.
Noel Brown is part two, very special series for us.

Speaker 2 (00:44):
Noel, it's right we are joined once again, already in
progress with aj Bahamas Jacobs, the author of the Year
of Living. Constitutionally, I think we should just jump right in.

Speaker 1 (00:54):
So this vagary we're talking about cruel and unusual punished
is an excellent example. It leads us to the current
ongoing debate about things like the death penalty, things like
mandatory sentencing. But it also I think you're talking about
these vague qualifications of things. Like you said, these are

big pages, but they are four big pages. They are
not eight thousand pages listed in depth. The stuff these
guys were trying to go for. They purposely made the
amendment process really difficult. And you also found another unsung

hero for amendments. And I think you know, I don't
know about everybody listening here, but usually if you're most Americans,
when you think of amendments, you just think of the
Bill of Rights. You're like yeah, the they made the
first document and then they fixed it exactly.

Speaker 3 (02:03):
Yeah, the first ten are definitely the stars, although in
my book I get into the fascinating history of those
that we might not even have time to talk about.
But they were very differently conceived back then. But here's
what's interesting is when Madison was the one who came
up with that list of ten.

Speaker 1 (02:23):
Basically, so he's like, Madison is our Moses.

Speaker 3 (02:28):
Yeah, I would think so. I mean, he's often called
the father of the Constitution. But originally there was twelve,
so there were twelve instead of ten, but two didn't
get through. One of the two was actually quite interesting.
It was that there should be more congress people or

at the time, congressmen. So if that one had passed,
it would be a different mathematical formula and we would
have six thousand people in Congress, like we'd have to
hold it in Madison Square, So that would be interest
So that would never pass. But then there was another
one that never passed because it didn't get enough states.
You need three quarters of the states to say yes,

and they only got like there were thirteen states and
they only got like six of them. I guess seven maybe,
So they needed a couple more, and that one was
it was relatively tame. It wasn't that controversial. It said,
Congress cannot give itself a raise immediately. I can't say, oh,
we should be paid five million dollars a year starting now.

It had to be you could pay get a raise
for the next Congress. So that was a little less corrupt.

Speaker 2 (03:40):
The idea being that you would not necessarily be re elected,
or that you'd be like benefiting by somebody else and
not yourself immediately directly right.

Speaker 3 (03:49):
Exactly, so that never back in seventeen nineties, it was
not passed, but it never died fully. It was sort
of a zombie amendment. And there was this young man
who is a University of Texas student in nineteen eighty
two who wrote a paper for his policy class saying,

you know what, this is still alive. If we get
three quarters of the current states to vote for this
could be the next amendment, the twenty seventh Amendment. His
teacher said, you're an idiot and gave him a wow.
I can't remember a C or an F, but she
was like, terrible idea. So out of spite he said,

as soon as he got that grade he said, I
am going to make this an amendment to the US Constitution.
And he went on a ten year journey. He wrote
hundreds of letters to state congress people, and he finally

got he got mained the state of Maine to pass it,
and then he got enough that was whatever it was,
thirty seven other states and it became the twenty seventh Amendment.

Speaker 1 (05:02):
To the Constitution.

Speaker 3 (05:03):
So he, out of spite did something wonderful. And Greg
Greg Watson, I talked to him, and he's a great character.
By the way. He reminded me several times he is
looking for a job. So if you want someone with tenacity, yeah.

Speaker 4 (05:18):
Boy, yeah, he will researcher.

Speaker 3 (05:21):
Yeah. So anyway, I loved that story, but he himself
is worried that his will be the last amendment for
a long, long long time.

Speaker 2 (05:30):
How did that that, you know, him being able to
make that happen. How did that not lead to like
a book deal or like some bigger, higher profile situation
for this Greg fellow.

Speaker 3 (05:41):
Great point, maybe that's his job.

Speaker 4 (05:44):
I just wonder.

Speaker 2 (05:45):
I'm surprised I haven't heard of him or it wasn't
a bigger news story.

Speaker 4 (05:48):
That's that's kind of a big deal.

Speaker 3 (05:50):
You know what, that is a perfect like Netflix like
sort of like unfrosted or whatever the Jerry sin will want.
Oh my god, you're right right, So.

Speaker 1 (06:00):
Let's do it twenty we just call it twenty seven.

Speaker 2 (06:03):
Can he gets a meeting with this Greg, let's let's
the three of us option this question.

Speaker 4 (06:07):
I'm not I'm kind of not joking, you know, people,
I'm not either.

Speaker 2 (06:11):
Maybe we cut this part out so we.

Speaker 1 (06:15):
Got to keep it in. This great idea and good hustle, Greg,
especially considering what you told us earlier, ajuh that the
attrition rate for let's call the amendment pitches he is
so high. And Noel, I think you're right on the
idea here of following Greg's story. And all I ask is,

I'll say fifteen percent. Okay, twelve, we'll call it thirteen.
How about you got twenty All right, terrible, let me go, I.

Speaker 3 (06:54):
Say we all have twenty seven percent combined.

Speaker 1 (06:58):
Oh my gosh, yeah, okay, no one sweat the math
if you're writing this down, stop So so there there
is a great deal. I think of real world contemporaneous context.
When we look at any document, we must realize the

time in which that document was written. My favorite dumb
joke about the founding Fathers is, of course, the right
to bear arms. There were many more bears at the time.
We don't know the fashion of the day.

Speaker 4 (07:33):
It was coming. It was never it was inevitable that
it was holy. But a goodie, thank you.

Speaker 1 (07:40):
Yeah, be careful with that joke. It's an antique.

Speaker 2 (07:45):
I just it conjures such a delightful image, the right
to bear arms. You know, it's like I'm gonna wear
these bare sleeve arms part of the costume, but only
the arms, and then menace people are you know?

Speaker 1 (07:56):
You can't tell me. So America being a very a
very strange and ambitious experiment which continues today, very young country.
In the Grand Scheme, it also granted rights that would

technically be considered crimes.

Speaker 3 (08:21):
Well, yes, we all know the right to free speech,
the right to bear arms, as you said, but there
are other rights in the constitution that are surprising because,
as you say, they were very contemporarying, they were very
of their time.

Speaker 2 (08:37):
They and their loves, which the right to bear arms
is too. I love to get a little bit more
into that in a minute, but just continue.

Speaker 3 (08:44):
And yeah, so some of the languages is almost eternal
like equality and equal protection liberty. But then you get
to a part like section in Article one, Section eight,
Congress can give private citizens they right to be a pirate,
basically illegally government sanctioned pirate.

Speaker 2 (09:08):
Yes, it gives it an air of legitimacy. Right, I'm
not a pirate, I'm a privateer.

Speaker 3 (09:14):
Right, and the privateers would would object to be calling
being called a pirate. But it's a very similar idea.
It's basically, if you have a fishing boat, government, the
government could say, all right, you can put a bunch
of muskets on your fishing boat, go out and confront
enemy ships, capture them, seize their booty whatever that was.

That could be guns, it could be sherry.

Speaker 4 (09:38):
They had a lot of little pinch just give a
little pants good one.

Speaker 1 (09:44):
Next, can I get a can I get a little
like quiet storm moment here? Because I picture Ben Franklin
coming in and saying, let him get the booty.

Speaker 2 (09:54):
You know, he was a booty snatcher, was a naughty
dirgy dog, Miss liberty. But but aj this is a
product of a wartime, right, right, I mean they were
they were basically allowing themselves to create a seafaring militia.

Speaker 4 (10:12):
Right, that's it.

Speaker 3 (10:12):
And yes, I think that they are unsung heroes of
our country because they were huge. The privateers were huge
in the revolution. We did not have much of a navy.
America had a very meager navy, so they outsourced it.
So they said, here, you fisher people and whalers, you
go out and capture the British ships. And they did.

They caught almost two thousand British ships and without that
we probably would not have won the war. And what
is fascinating to me is you don't hear a lot
about them. You know, they're not a lot of statues
of privateers and.

Speaker 2 (10:50):
The famous one like who were some big names. They
were basically the blackwater of the day.

Speaker 4 (10:56):

Speaker 1 (10:56):
They were a mercenary army, exactly mercenary navy.

Speaker 3 (10:59):
And they had well that's the thing. They had a
mixed motive, so they were patriots, but they also had
the profit motive. But but people are complicated, so I
think even though they were also out for themselves, we
still should be thankful, or else we might not have
a country. And there is another I talked to a
good the expert, Eric J. Dolan, a great historian on privateers.

He told me a lot about them. But yeah, so
there are I say, let's put up some statues of privateers.

Speaker 1 (11:31):
Why not. Yeah to the earlier question, are there statues?

Speaker 3 (11:34):
You know, it's a good question. I don't know of
any personally. Maybe there are a couple of random ones,
but they're certainly not. There's not like a memorial like
Jefferson or Lincoln memoirs.

Speaker 1 (11:47):
There's there's no like Tomb of the Unknown Pirate. Oh geez.

Speaker 2 (11:53):
So that language is still in though, right, Well, how
does that translate to the modern day?

Speaker 3 (11:59):
Well, as part of my book. So my book was
sort of a few things. It was a crash course
in the Constitution, which I needed and I hopefully can
make entertaining for readers. But also I tried to express
my rights, like I said, carrying a musket, and I
was like, this isn't the constitution. Uh, there hasn't been

a privateer licensed since eighteen fifteen, but it's still in there.

Speaker 1 (12:25):
So I be the change.

Speaker 4 (12:26):
Yeah. Yeah, I went.

Speaker 3 (12:28):
I met with a congressman wrote Conna from California, and
I presented him with my application for a letter of
marked and reprisal as it's called and at first he
was like, great, let's make this happen, and then he
was then he was like wait, wait, what is this again?

Speaker 4 (12:44):
Sorry? Oh jeez, he.

Speaker 3 (12:46):
Didn't really realize what he was agreeing to.

Speaker 4 (12:49):
And then he's got tell us about our law makers.
Oh gosh.

Speaker 1 (12:53):
She went back and he went back and.

Speaker 4 (12:54):
He did read it.

Speaker 1 (12:57):
Yeah, a little article one section.

Speaker 2 (13:01):
He just stopped at this point or what like he
goes to you gave you the slow fade or was
there like an actual moment of denied.

Speaker 3 (13:09):
No, it's still in it. It's still open, according to
I mean he is. I actually am a big fan
because he hooks.

Speaker 1 (13:17):
If you are listening now, please we're gonna have AJ
say the name of this congress person again. Please write
to this congress person join our petition. Yes, demand uh,
demand uh the respect for Article one section eight of
the Constitution such that we can get a letter of

mark and reprisal for AJ Bahamas Jacobs Congress again.

Speaker 3 (13:45):
Roe Conna from Silicon Valley, California. Lovely man, and I
think he he could have kicked me out. I met
him at a hotel restaurant and he but but he
did lot. I explained the concept of my book and
he's a constitutional fan, so he thought it was interesting
and he said he would bring it up with Congress,

and he said he's having trouble getting traction. I'd say
that my most my biggest success is his assistant emails
me as Captain Jacobs. So I have been promoted, right,
that's something right?

Speaker 1 (14:21):
Okay, So we're we're added to the legend and we
are cooking live. This is this is actual stuff that
could happen.

Speaker 3 (14:29):
We're gonna make it happen.

Speaker 1 (14:31):
Question, and this may be to tangential if one were
to secure a letter of mark and reprisal, does this
also grant impunity to the crew? Like if if I
join you, if if Max and Noel, if we all

go jolly Roger and I guess do we get a pas?

Speaker 3 (15:00):
Oh? Yeah, please join join me. I have I borrow
my friend who has a waterski boat said he would
lend it to me and we can go wherever we want,
Taiwan straight you name it, and yes you would be. Uh.
It's granted to the entire ship, So whoever is on
the ship is considered a patriot as well. So yeah,

I'm in like signed up.

Speaker 1 (15:25):
This so like a great idea. I see absolutely no
problem with any of this.

Speaker 2 (15:30):
Yeah, no, potential international incidents are brewing whatsoever.

Speaker 3 (15:35):
I don't see it either.

Speaker 1 (15:37):
I also do in ridiculous history cinematic universe. I'm now
picturing a thing where we operate as a pirate crew
at the Taiwan like in Taiwan in the Pacific Theater,
and we think the whole thing is about potato chips,
and so I'm in visioning this sort of dude wears

my car.

Speaker 4 (16:05):

Speaker 1 (16:07):
I see you're on board.

Speaker 2 (16:09):
H I love it speaking of a dude wears my
car situation. You know, the founding fathers were quite fond
of vices, were they not. They loved their smoke, their drink,
you know, their cavorting. In fact, I believe a party
thrown for George Washington in Philadelphia in the last few

weeks of the Constitutional Convention. You procured a bar tab,
an official document, a historical bar tab for this event,
and it was quite the to do.

Speaker 3 (16:52):
Oh yeah, no, this was impressive. And they were not teetotalers.
They were day drinkers, night drinkers, morning drinks. And yes,
you mentioned this bar tab, which is like fourteen frat
parties combined. So this is for fifty five people. George
Washington was the was the guest of honor, and they

drank fifty four bottles of Madeira, which is their favorite.

Speaker 2 (17:20):
Booze fortified wine from so basically like Mad Dog twenty
or whatever that is, hobo.

Speaker 3 (17:28):
Wine, hobo. But that was just the start. Sixty bottles
of claret, eight bottles of whiskey, twenty two bottles of porter,
eight bottles of hard tider, twelve bottles of beer only
twelve beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

Speaker 4 (17:42):
So that's the kicker there.

Speaker 2 (17:43):
See, at first I was like there, yeah, honestly a
little bit light for fifty five, but then you get
to that seven the bowls of alcoholic punch, which contained
all the booze.

Speaker 4 (17:52):
They didn't even give you the tab for the booze
that went into the punch. That's just to catch all
of it.

Speaker 2 (17:57):
And we know that George Washington's recipe for egg nog
is just booze in a little egg, yolk and cream.
It's like ten different kinds. Do you have a sense
of what might have gone into the alcoholic punch? A
lot of rum probably, I don't know if that's also remember.

Speaker 1 (18:12):
Also going back to the idea of vague language. How
big are those bottles?

Speaker 3 (18:17):
Great point, great point.

Speaker 1 (18:18):
Yeah they could be cute back room champagne bottles or whatever.

Speaker 3 (18:22):
Yeah, well they We do have Martha Washington's rum punch
recipe which I made. I made and I handed out
on election day because that was part of election day
at the time. It was very festive, a lot of
rum punch and a lot of cake. So I tried
to bring back the cake more than the rum punch.
I feel we need cake. And so yes, it has

orange and lemons, juice and rum, dark and light rum,
and I can't remember what else, but yeah, it's it's hefty.

Speaker 4 (18:55):
Oh yeah.

Speaker 2 (18:55):
A couple of historical punches. There's a famous one from
around our neck of the woods called the chat Them
Artillery punch out of Savannah, Georgia, which was a very
important obviously port city.

Speaker 4 (19:07):
So that's the.

Speaker 2 (19:07):
Drink that you can get there in Savannah, which has
been around the colonial era southern cocktail staple, and it
was let's see, the Chatham Artillery, which was formed in
Georgia in seventeen eighty six. So that's you know, roughly
in the same universe. But then you've got a recipe
for George Washington's punch, which is one quart strong brewed

English breakfast tea sweetened, one gallon good quality bourbon gallon
one gallon sherry, one quarte sweet vermouth, one pint best
quality Jamaican rum, one pint yellow or green chartreuse, four
bottles of champagne or more to taste, twelve lemons, each
cut into four wedges. One quart Marischino cherries without stems

but with their juice.

Speaker 4 (19:55):
Combine the first six ingredients.

Speaker 2 (19:56):
When it is time to serve the punch, add the
champagne as much as you wish, Add lemon, wedges and
cherries to the punch, and serve. The punch is much
improved if allowed to stand for at least one week
before serving, so the fruit really gets soaked up. And
this is from something called the Academy of Domestic Pursuits website,
which appears to be historical recipes and things.

Speaker 1 (20:18):
I love the idea of trial and error in that recipe,
in all these recipes right that. I love the idea
that someone put the stems in with the cherries such
that it has to be specified, and someone like drank
this and said.

Speaker 4 (20:37):
What's with all these stems?

Speaker 1 (20:40):
The you know, like you go into we see the
I would say, we see the constitution or the attempt
to embark upon experiments like rule of law. We see
that in microcosm. If you go to, for instance, public
business and there's an oddly specific so you know, we

were used to no shirt, no shoes, no service, things
like that. But you walk in and you see something
that says no inebriated lamas, and you know something happened.

Speaker 3 (21:15):
Something happened. Fascinating. Well, I was just gonna say I
love that. I mean, I think the fact that you
made a bigger figured out a bigger point about America
from this crazy Maraschino cherry, I think is brilliant and true.
They were very into experimenting, and not just in like Booze.

They the American government was considered an experiment. This was
the American experiment. Ben Franklin. He loved experiment and they
loved changing their minds. So that is one thing. They
had a lot of flaws, as we know, but one
virtue that I do love is that they were willing
to change their mind. Ben Franklin said, the older he

gets the less certain he is of his own opinions.
I thought that was nice. He said that I feel
that way me too, I really do.

Speaker 2 (22:09):
Some people think it's the opposite, and we certainly know
people that the older they get, the more obstinate they get.
But I find the older that I get, the more
I'm willing to broaden my thinking great and to know
the things that I don't know and be very aware
of that.

Speaker 4 (22:24):
I always say this, and I'll say it again.

Speaker 2 (22:26):
Self awareness, I think is one of the most important
qualities of any human person, you know, because once you
lose that objectivity, I just don't have any time for you.
It's just you're no fun to talk to. And I
really just I kind of feel like, why bother?

Speaker 3 (22:41):
You are very Franklin esque. I love well, he said.
Right after he said that, he told a little joke.
He liked the jests, so he told a little like
parable and he said, this was at the convention, and
he said, there's this French lady who said to her sister,
it's so strange, why is it that I'm the only
person I've ever met who is correct on every single issue?

And that this is Yeah, it's a good one, and
it's that whole thing.

Speaker 2 (23:09):
Yeah, it's that whole thing about like it must be
everybody else's problem.

Speaker 4 (23:13):
I can't be, you know, And that's that's great. I
love that.

Speaker 1 (23:16):
One thing I think also, one thing I think would
be incredibly informative to people is that, look, the most
boring folks to talk to are people who only talk
about themselves, right, And the problem is that most people's
favorite subject is themselves. In any language, the favorite word

is whatever equates to me. And the founding fathers were
despite their gross imperfections, they were trying to think of
or to imagine other people and building consensus. And I
was fascinated with the year of living constitutionally a j

I genuinely did not know the idea of coup presidency.
I had no idea that might have been a think.

Speaker 3 (24:07):
I loved learning that too, and what it came about
because they were very nervous about having another tyrant or
a king. So during the start of the Constitutional Convention,
everyone agreed, maybe we should have these three branches, the judicial, legislation, executive,

but how do we set them up? So this guy,
James Wilson stands up from Pennsylvania. He says, I think
we should have a single president. We should have one
guy at the top. And several of the delegates said,
are you jesting. That's insane, that's a terrible idea. We

just fought a war to get rid of a monarch,
and now you want to install what they call the
fetus of monarchy. One president, They said, is the fetus
of monarchy.

Speaker 4 (24:57):
The fetus of monarchy.

Speaker 3 (24:58):
Oh, it's going to just grow, go and grow into
a little baby and be born and then turn into
a teenager. And and so they.

Speaker 2 (25:05):
Said, no, we need we're talking back to you.

Speaker 3 (25:09):
So we need more than one president. We need three,
a group of three presidents so that they can consult
and make a decision. Ben Franklin mentioned twelve presidents. What
about twelve presidents? And it was actually a debate for weeks,
and in the end the single president won because they
they convinced the other side it would be too much infighting.

Speaker 1 (25:31):
But it was not.

Speaker 3 (25:32):
It was seven states said single president, three states said no.
Three or more presidents so two. If two states had
voted differently, if like whatever, it's ten people had voted
a different way, we might have Biden Trump rfks Junior
like hanging out in the oval office, which I don't

think is a great idea, so that would be quite
a sitcom. But I do like their basic idea of
constraining the presidency because they saw that this might become
a problem. And I would say the fetus, the fetus
is a toddler at least, and I'm not talking about
I'm talking about both Democrat and Republican presidents. Absolutely so

much more powerful then. And just to give you one statistic,
George Washington issued eight executive orders. Obama and Trump both
issued over two hundred and fifty executive orders, so they
both It is so much more powerful this one person
than it was meant to be by the founding fathers.

Speaker 2 (26:39):
But again, just a matter of decorum. It's just a
matter of like flexing that power or choosing to be restrained,
you know, as maybe the founding fathers would have would
have hoped, you know that the folks in that position
would have would have done right, exercise a little self control,
exactly exactly, so true.

Speaker 1 (26:58):
And it's weird too because the Constitution is pretty anti
aristocracy in its founding right. So the idea, I love
this concept of authoritarian power growing the fetus as you said,
growing to a teenager and then becoming a dictatorship, right,

removing the rights of the people of the concept of democracy.
Can tell us a little bit about why you think
the Constitution has a bad vibe against monarchs. That's a
very softball question under sort of lob and that when underhanded.

Speaker 3 (27:41):
Well they did though they hated they did them nobility,
they hated royalty. I mean, they had just fought a
war to get rid of them. And so there is
a clause in the Constitution that says government cannot bestow
titles of nobility. There will never be a Duke of
New Jersey or an Earl of Arkansas.

Speaker 1 (28:04):
And more than dang it, we're gonna have to We're
gonna have to keep doing this show. If Earl of
Arkansas is.

Speaker 3 (28:11):
Out, I'm sorry to ruin your career aspirations. So, yeah,
that was And what I love too is they purged
the language. They tried to purge the English language of
this aristocratic and monarchical tinge. So they had King's College,
they changed it to Columbia College, So that's why it's

called Columbia King's. There was a King Street in many cities.
They changed it to Congress Street King's The King's Minuet
Dance was now called the Congress Minuet Dance, and I
love that, and I think we've backslid a little. I
think it's so weird. And I love my wife. I
love her to pieces, but she's obsessed with the British

monarchy and buys the people magazines about you know what is.

Speaker 2 (29:00):
Well, it's a soap opera playing out, you know, in
the public eye.

Speaker 4 (29:03):
I think it's a I kind of get it.

Speaker 2 (29:05):
I it's also sure it's so toothless though too right,
like I mean, well, I will say that I do
think it's very odd that they're just this landed gentry
that forever are living off of the backs of like
the taxpayers over there, and they just the amount of
property that is owned under the British crown, the manners
and all of this ostentatious living is beyond absurd.

Speaker 4 (29:27):
But I get it as sort of like.

Speaker 2 (29:28):
A real life reality show, kind of like you know
that level of right, You're right it is.

Speaker 4 (29:35):
I think what the obsession is, you know.

Speaker 3 (29:37):
Absolutely, and but what about this fact? What about I
during my year, I said, we got to capture some
of that early American anti monarchy fever, because look around
our pop culture, like Disney with all their princes and
princesses kings. Let's make it the Disney instead of the

Disney king them the Disney Republic. Let's bring back. Yeah,
they did not respond to my brilliant idea when I
sent them a letter.

Speaker 4 (30:09):
You filled out that comment card at Disney World.

Speaker 3 (30:11):
Hey, hey, they haven't responded yet, Thank you, Ben. I
love the optimism, a very good American characteristic.

Speaker 1 (30:19):
Of course, America is a very much as we said,
hold my Beer country, I mean, just the voting we did.
We did a couple of episodes a while back about
the practice of cooping, which was, you know, essentially press.

Speaker 2 (30:35):
Gangging people, rounding people up and forcibly intoxicating them and
then essentially holding them hostage and forcing them to the
polls to vote for whomever you know you want.

Speaker 3 (30:48):
Yeah, no, you're absolutely right. Yeah, we don't want to
go back to nineteenth and eighteenth century voting because, yeah,
you had cooping, you also had voting by voice, so
you would they didn't do the secret.

Speaker 4 (31:01):
That was what you just waled.

Speaker 1 (31:03):
You just walked into a room and said, yeah.

Speaker 3 (31:06):
That's exactly right, and as actually I tried to do
that for my book. I said, I walked in last
November and I said, I want to vote for Kathy
Hochel for governor. And they freaked out, the election workers.

Speaker 4 (31:20):
Like, sh you can't say that.

Speaker 3 (31:21):
You can't, I said, but this is the way they
did it in the seventeen hundred. Well that was a
while ago, so I wasn't able to do that, but
as I did mention, there's one part of eighteenth century
voting that I do love, and that is the idea
of it as this festival, this all inspiring rite that

they had never had. So they were really at least
the privileged few, the white males who could vote. So
huge asterisk there, but it was election day was like
a festival, and so I did try to as part
of my book, I brought back this election cake and

I had people all over the country. I went on Facebook,
which I know is not eighteenth century, but it is
one of the older platforms. That was so I felt,
you know, maybe, and I got people, one hundreds of
people in all fifty states to bake these election cakes
and bring them to the polls to remind people that

democracy is sweep that was our catchphrase, no pun left
and behind.

Speaker 2 (32:28):
Like you say, I have one of those pins on
my back exactly.

Speaker 1 (32:40):
And so we are reaching the beginning. I won't see
the end. That's an American. We're reaching the beginning of
our exploration of the history and how this country got
to hear. One of the questions that everybody's going to
want to know, we were talking about this off air

AJ the Electoral College. It's confusing to explain to people
who are not in the United States, and you know,
full disclosure, it's kind of confusing to be an American
attempting to understand this.

Speaker 3 (33:15):
Oh yeah, no, it is a It is a bizarre system.
And just to back up, part of the reason why
it came about is because the founders had a very
They were very mixed about this idea of democracy, so
that they on the one hand, the Constitution was like this,

as one professor says, the big bang of democracy. It
was the first time in thousands of years people could
elect their own leader. On the other hand, the founders
were very skeptical of the rabble of the hoyploy of
the mobs. One of the most famous toasts of the
era was freedom from kings as well as mobs, and

not the mafia mobs. They weren't talking about them. Yeah,
they were talking about sort of the uneducated masses, and
they were elitists. They did not like that. So in
addition to having some democracy and people voting, they also
built in these mechanisms that were anti democratic, that were

anti that were anti counter majoritarian is the fancy word.

Speaker 1 (34:27):
Counter but geor ary. Yeah, that's my first time hearing
this word.

Speaker 3 (34:31):
I love that it makes me sound smarter than I am.
But yeah, So the Senate is an example of that
because there are only two senators per state, which meant
that the small states have more power so that the
majority cannot just take over. And the other another big
one was the electoral college. And part of the reason

there are several reasons that they wanted it, but part
of it was the electoral college. Were these actual men,
they were electors, So they were these educated men from
each state who would actually do the voting. They would
take what the people said, consider it, and then they
were the ones who voted. And part of the reason

they wanted that was because they were afraid that the
uneducated masses might vote for a demagogue, might vote for
someone who just flattered them and said, I'm going to
give you whatever you want.

Speaker 4 (35:31):
Jeez, that sounds.

Speaker 3 (35:35):
And well, that's what's interesting is that they built this
to stop a demagogue. Because the idea was, say the
uneducated masses voted for this demagogue. These electors, these sophisticated
gentlemen would come in and say, Okay, no, no, we
don't want that. We really want this guy who's not

going to become a tyrant, and they would overturn the
popular election and they would elect the proper person. But
what has happened now is the electors cannot just choose
to vote, and I mean there has been controversy where
they've tried to vote their own and even the most

radical people are saying, no, no, you've got to vote
whatever the state says. But what this means is that
we've had people who've lost the popular vote but who
won the electoral vote. And so instead of doing what
it was meant to do, which was stop this demogogue,

it's actually enabled demagogues. So it is something that I
would love to see changed. And it's very hard, as
we talked about, so hard to change the constitution. But
one interesting idea is this, there's a lot that's not
in the constitution that we assume is in the constitution,

and we assume that if a president wins Pennsylvania, he
gets all of the electoral votes. That's not in the constitution.
The states are allowed to divide the electoral votes however
they want. Two states have a different system. Nebraska and
Maine split the electoral vote. So if a candidate wins

some part of the state and the other candidate wins
the other, they split. So say they have eight votes,
I can't remember what it is, they can give five
to one candidate and three to another. So if all
fifty states did something similar, wow, that would be a
way to circumvent the electoral college. And I am a
fan of that. I think that is it's time because

this idea of the purpose that it was created for,
it is not serving that purpose at all.

Speaker 2 (37:58):
Here here hazah, And what is it the thing about
mobs as well as kings, Yeah, kings, kings as well
as mobs.

Speaker 4 (38:09):
Well, that's super.

Speaker 2 (38:10):
Educational on my end because I've always struggled with even
like how the electoral college came about and what function
does it serve? You know, in our modern day, and
I answered that I think perfectly it doesn't serve much
of one.

Speaker 1 (38:25):
And also again going back to the idea of this
these United States, as they used to say, going back
to the idea of this ambitious, imperfect experiment we continues today.
We call it ridiculous history. But indeed, as we are

learning with the electoral College here, it might be ridiculous present.
You know what I mean at this point, because history
is always closer than it appears in.

Speaker 4 (38:56):
The rear view mirror.

Speaker 1 (38:59):
A j one last question, as we wrap up our
time together, what do you think would have most surprised
the founding fathers? Like, what thing that we don't not policy,
but right, what thing, regular day to day twenty twenty

four life thing. What do you think would have just
baffled them the most?

Speaker 3 (39:24):
Well, there's so much, I mean just I mean the Internet.
I think Ben Franklin would have loved the Internet.

Speaker 2 (39:31):
He would have had a ball.

Speaker 3 (39:33):
And yeah, aside from other things like you know, people
walking around with literal bare arms, which would have shocked them,
and bare legs and bare midriffs. I don't think they
would have been.

Speaker 4 (39:44):
Pleased with that.

Speaker 3 (39:45):
But on is more serious now, I do think that
they had this very serious idea of virtue, and as
we've talked about with the asterisk, they had a lot
of flaws and were hypocrites in many ways, but they
also tried to think about the greater good. The general

welfare is the phrase in the Constitution. So you have
this list of rights, but you also had an implied
list of responsibilities. They just never wrote them down. But
I think if they had known that we would be
so obsessed with our own individual rights, they probably would
have done a bill of responsibilities or bill of obligations.

It was just implied that you were part of the community.
So whether that's the bucket brigade, so if you there's
a fire, everyone gets out there and does the buckets,
or every male of a certain age was in the militia.
And I don't want the militia to come back necessarily,
but the idea is you would sacrifice your time. Every

three months, you would go and train to protect your
state and country. I think they would be in favor
of something like, you know, maybe it's a month doing
teaching in America or whatever. So that to me, I
think they would be shocked by the lack of focus
on the greater good and self sacrifice, and and so

I love that. I will say one of my favorite
I read Ben Franklin's autobiography, which I love, and it
has his day. He goes through his day and he
starts his day.

Speaker 4 (41:25):

Speaker 3 (41:25):
I mean he doesn't mention the like, you know, the
flirting with married ladies.

Speaker 1 (41:30):
Yeah, but he talks about the air bath.

Speaker 3 (41:33):
He does he is a fan of which is basically
just standing naked around and he went there. Yeah he
thought that was fair. But all right, so I don't
I'm not a big air bath fan, but I would
say he says, you should start every day by asking
yourself what good shall I do today? And then at

the end of the day, what good have I tried
to do today? And I love that so much. I
wrote it with my little quill pen and put it
over my desk because it is so grounding. And I
don't not even from like a you know, holier than
thou Saint Lee point of view. Is just for my
own happiness, because I'll put something on Instagram and it

gets two likes, and I'll start to get angry. What
is the matter with people? Why are they such idiots
that they don't see the brilliance of this. And then
I'll look at my little singing and I'll say, all right, well,
is that really what I should be spending my time
obsessing about? No, Like, how can I make the world
just a tiny bit better? And that's better for my

psychological health? And so I am a fan of Ben
Franklin's point of view, and I think, yeah, the at
their best, the Founders have that all of them have
that same idea, how can we help others?

Speaker 2 (42:55):
Well, I can't think of a better way to wrap
this two part episode with you, age.

Speaker 4 (43:00):
I think that was just really poigning and sums up
kind of.

Speaker 2 (43:03):
A lot of the exploration that you had in your
book and questions that we had and the nature of
this crazy experiment that is the United States, sometimes for better,
sometimes for worse.

Speaker 4 (43:13):
But at the end of the.

Speaker 2 (43:13):
Day, we all still have to live here together and
try to do a little good and not be so
you know, up our own backsides, you know, in the
social media muck and meyer of it all. So I
think I'm gonna maybe not with my quill, but I'll
write that on a next card perhaps and stick it
over my desk too, because I think that's really great.
Can you tell folks where to find all of your

various literary pursuits on the Internet and elsewhere.

Speaker 3 (43:39):
Of course, And by the way, I thank you you
both and Max make good every day you are making
the world better. So thank you for your delightful podcast
and work. As for me, the book is called The
Year of Living. Constitutionally, I also have a podcast here

on the iHeart network called The Puzzler, And if you listen,
first go to Ben and Knowle's episodes because they are
by far the.

Speaker 4 (44:08):
Best, Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3 (44:11):
And then it was a lot of fun. And I'm
also because I am trying to keep like the founders,
trying to keep up with the times, I'm starting a
substack called experimental living. Experimental living, so that's a very
American idea as well.

Speaker 4 (44:29):

Speaker 1 (44:29):
Aj, we can't thank you enough. We're going to do
some attempts. As you know, we shot you out in
the show. You do have several hoterrifics. Don't tell the constitution,
but we do call you the Puzzler, we do call
you Bahamas. We are not going to explain the latter.

We are so excited to learn more about experimental living
and folks, if you are listening to Ridiculous History, if
you have any passing interest in the concept of America
and the Constitution hashtag no hyperbole there, please do check

out the book. It's one of the it's one of
the best, I would say, meditations upon where we are
as a country, how we got there, and where we
may go in the future. Big, big thanks, of course
to our super producer mister Max Williams Alex Williams, who
composed this bang in track that we're hearing right now,

and who else, who else?

Speaker 4 (45:34):
Who else?

Speaker 2 (45:35):
Ah geez that Eve's Jeff Coots and christopherrasciotis.

Speaker 4 (45:38):
Here in spirit.

Speaker 2 (45:39):
We already thanked you, Aj, but we thank you at
the end of every single episode.

Speaker 4 (45:42):
AJ Bahamas Jacob's the Puzzler.

Speaker 2 (45:45):
And his soon to perhaps have a face off Archie
Nemesis so that.

Speaker 4 (45:51):
You're unaware of.

Speaker 2 (45:52):
But as far as our law is concerned, Jonathan Strickland,
the quiz still.

Speaker 4 (45:58):
Quiz a quiz and puzzle off.

Speaker 2 (46:00):
Between you two, and it's gonna be a doozy. But yeah,
I just you know, thank you again, AG for hanging
with us. It's been a delight.

Speaker 3 (46:07):
Oh well, huzzah for history, and huzza for democracy and
thank you.

Speaker 4 (46:12):
We'll see you next time, folks.

Speaker 2 (46:20):
For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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