The Law of the Land

MAURY MAVERICK, the India-rubber man who was bounced out of Congress last November only to bounce up again as Lord Mayor of his home town of San Antonio, Texas, has written a book about the Constitution. It is a swell book, done in an idiom that eschews all the high-class verbalizations (including the word "eschews") of lawyers, economists, professors, diplomats and contributors to the liberal weeklies. Mr. Maverick doesn't care a hoot, a fig or a whoop whether you call the electrical-manufacturing industry an oligopoly or a gollywopoly: as he says, all he is interested in is ''preserving and extending true democracy," which he has defined as "being able to talk, pray and think as you please, and eat regular." But if Americans are to think as they please, Mr. Maverick considers it their bounden duty not to parrot the mumbo-jumbo about the Constitution which emanates from the noble Manhattan firm of Galbraith, de Nerfsdorp, Swing and Flywheel. The members of this firm are quite within their constitutional rights in collecting all they can in nice, fat fees from most of the corporations listed in Berle and Means. Mr. Maverick would not deprive them of their dinner money, but he is fearful that lesser Americans won't eat regular if they continue to believe that the Fourteenth Amendment really makes a corporation into a "person."

Mr. Maverick's own substitute for the collected speeches of George Wharton Pepper is extremely original in conception. Since no constitution has ever sprung full-blown out of the assembled heads of Founding Joves, Maury Maverick treats such things as Magna Carta, the colonial charters, the Declaration of Independence and other documents as part of the living constitutional heritage of the American people. His book is divided into two parts, the first of which describes, with commentary, the documents in the case. The Declaration of American Rights (October 14, 1774), the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms (July 6, 1775), the writings of Tom Paine, the Federalist papers—yea, even the Confederate Constitution—are all considered relevant to the broad story of the Constitution and the twenty-odd amendments thereto. And when he is through telling the story, Mr. Maverick begins all over again. But for this second part of his book he prints the documents themselves; and if the section bores anyone, Mr. Maverick says "Blame your forefathers and not me."

Mr. Maverick notes that our forebears, in their quaint but intelligent way, habitually referred to the Constitution as the "law of the land." Quick to take his cue, Mr. Maverick observes that land is necessary if there is to be any law at all—or people to enact laws. Because of the basic importance of the land, Mr. Maverick is all for a national view of the Constitution; dust storms and floods, as he says, do not confine themselves within the boundaries laid down in the legal doctrine of states' rights. Indeed, Mr. Maverick considers Owen Roberts' AAA decision an attempt to revive the Confederate Constitution. Needless to say, Mr. Maverick finds plenty of justification in the words of the Founding Fathers themselves for the national view of the great document of 1787; warrant to legislate for the general welfare means just what it says—the right to override state boundaries if the general welfare demands such action.

A good deal of Maverick's detail will probably come as revelation even to those who keep up with literature about the Constitution. Most of us have forgotten (if we ever knew) that Alexander Hamilton once wrote in The Federalist: "A legislature . . . cannot reverse a determination [of the Supreme Court] once made in a particular case; though it may prescribe a new rule for future cases." In other words, Congress could on Hamilton's own say-so have blotted out the effects of the Schechter decision on the NRA simply by prescribing a new rule for future cases. Again, most of us assume in our innocence that the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the basic liberties of American citizens from infringement by states, counties and municipalities as well as federal officers. Maury Maverick points out that this is simply not true: we still need legislation to extend federal protection to citizens against persecution at the hands of state and city officers and mobs. The Fourteenth Amendment was supposed to extend the scope of the Bill of Rights, but the Supreme Court perverted the plain language of this amendment until it came to apply to corporations rather than citizens.

Because of its detailed clarification of constitutional language, "In Blood and Ink" is required reading for everyone, including New Republic subscribers. One cannot say as much, however, for Mr. Maverick's programmatic proposals. Although these are set forth in a tough-guy, out-of-the-lower-left-hand-corner-of-your-trap lingo, they will be easily spotted as identical with what The New Republic has been advocating these many months. Everything that Mr. Maverick calls for is good and necessary; but commending the Maverick proposals in these pages is coals to Newcastle, or pecans to Jack Garner. Does a New Republic subscriber need to be told in Maverick monosyllables that labor organization is desirable, or that basic industries should pursue an integrated price-and-wage policy designed to expand production? Does a New Republic subscriber need to be warned that Frank Hague is a menace?

Mr. Maverick is not, of course, trying to duplicate the work of reaching New Republic readers. His book is published in cloth binding under the imprint of the Starling Press; but it is also published in a cheap paper edition by Starling's parent organization. Modern Age Books. The plain duty of a reviewer interested in Mr. Maverick's—or The New Republic's—philosophy is to spread it among the heathen, not among the converted. But here is a way that it can be done: let readers of this review regard it as "throw-away" literature, let them rip it out and give it to their neighbor the next time he starts to say something nasty about "that man in the White House." Let it be advertised abroad that here is a book which explains how a perverted, distorted, unconstitutional interpretation of the plain language of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment has robbed the average man in America, not of abstract liberty, but of actual, concrete purchasing power. Mr. Maverick's book should be read by the millions—and it is incumbent on all who believe that liberalism makes better belly-sense than Toryism to spread word of it abroad. If liberals merely content themselves with recommending Maverick to liberals, they will be guilty of class or group navel-gazing. And they will not only deserve, they will also get, the scorn of the India-rubber man of San Antonio.

John Chamberlain, The New Republic, July 26, 1939