As our nation’s Founders designed their plan for a more perfect union, they understood that the success of a modern republic would require more than a political document like the Constitution. From their study of history, the Founders had learned of the pitfalls of republics before this one. They concluded that even the Constitution alone could not curb individual selfishness. They believed that virtues were necessary for sustaining the American experiment. Their fervent prayers were an integral part of the birth of our nation.
This Week in History
March 22, 1972 – Equal Rights Amendment Passed by Congress
“Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” That was the original text of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment that became known as the Equal Rights Amendment.
The controversial amendment was first presented in 1923. It became “feminist against feminist” according to historian Judith Sealander. Middle-class women generally were supportive. Those speaking for the working class were strongly opposed, arguing that employed women needed special protections regarding working conditions and hours.
In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. It seemed headed for quick approval until Phyllis Schafley mobilized conservative women in opposition, arguing that the ERA would disadvantage housewives. Congress set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. Through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. Five states rescinded their ratifications before the deadline.
Congress extended the deadline. Opposition grew over concerns that women would be subject to the draft and combat duty, along with other concerns.
The ERA eventually failed by three states to achieve ratification.
Presidential Quote of the Week
Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), 13th President of the United States
I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations to endow me with the requisite strength for the task and to avert from our country the evils apprehended from the heavy calamity which has befallen us. God knows I detest slavery. I have no hostility to foreigners…having witnessed their deplorable condition in the old country, God forbid I should add to their sufferings by refusing them an asylum in this.
– Millard Fillmore, from his acceptance of the Compromise of 1850 that averted the Civil War for another eleven years. His support of the Fugitive Slave Act caused the Whig Party to split in two and caused the downfall of his national political career.
Millard Fillmore was born in a log cabin in Moravia in the Finger Lakes region of New York in January 1800. He was one of nine children, and the eldest son. He was born just three weeks after George Washington’s death, thus being the first president to be born after the death of the nation’s first President, and also the first to be born in the 1800’s. He was descended from Scottish Presbyterians on his father’s side, and English dissenters on his mother’s, and became a Unitarian which he remained through his life.
Frontier conditions made his early education difficult, but he ultimately graduated from New Hope Academy, and began clerking for a local judge under whom he studied law. He was admitted to the bar at age 23, and joined a firm which would ultimately become a leading law firm in western New York State.
He served in the New York militia in both the Mexican War of 1846 and the American Civil War.
Fillmore served on the New York State Assembly, and became the 14th New York State Comptroller. He was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives and for a time served as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. At age 49 he was elected as the 12th Vice President of the United States, and ascended to the office of President in 1850 serving out the term of Zachary Taylor ending March, 4, 1853.
During his presidency, Fillmore appointed Brigham Young as the first Governor of the Utah Territory. He authorized sending Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open it to Western trade. Also during his term, California was admitted as a State.
Following his service, President Fillmore helped found the University of Buffalo where he served as Chancellor. He also spent some time traveling abroad and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford. He died in March 1874 of the after-effects of a stroke. He is buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.
He was married to Abigail Powers in 1826, who died in 1853. Five years later he married Caroline Carmichael McIntosh. He had two children.