Occupy Charlotte, circa 1840s

Does this sound familiar?

The most odious feature in this system is that it robs the MANY, imperceptibly, to enrich the FEW;–It clothes a few wealthy individuals with power not only to control the wages of the laboring man, but also at their pleasure to inflate or depress the commerce and business of the whole country–exciting a spirit of extravagance, which it terminates in pecuniary ruin and too often the moral degradation of its victims. This system must be thoroughly reformed, before we can hope to see settled prosperity smile alike upon all our citizens.

It’s not from a modern Occupy movement or from some 1960s radical group, but from the first issue of the Mecklenburg Jeffersonian, published in Charlotte in 1841. Issues of the Jeffersonian from the 1840s are now online as part of the North Carolina Newspapers collection on DigitalNC.org.

The Jeffersonian was a Democratic paper, printing long excerpts of speeches from prominent politicians such as James K. Polk and John Calhoun, but also including the usual fascinating array of advertisements and announcements.

Sen. Bailey gives a filibuster tutorial

“Senate rules forbade members from speaking more than twice per day on a given piece of legislation, but a senator was free to offer as many amendments to the bill as he wished and could then  speak twice on each amendment. ….

[Preparing to filibuster FDR’s plan to ‘pack’ the Supreme Court, Senator Edward Burke of Nebraska] procured a stack of official amendment blanks and charged a group of young American Bar Association lawyers with the task of filling them in. After a day and half the lawyers had drafted no more than 15 amendments, each of which substantially altered the court bill.

“Exasperated, the men paid a visit to Senator [Josiah] Bailey, who laughed out loud at their paltry output. Reaching for a copy of the bill, he told one of the lawyers to take dictation. Bailey pointed to the provision that set a limit of 15 judges, and instructed the lawyers to replace ’15’ with ’14’. Then ’13’. Then ’12’. And so on through the various sections of the bill. Having received this lesson in legislative hair-splitting, the lawyers produced 125 neatly amendments by the next morning — enough to permit 250 speeches.”

— From “Supreme Power: Franklin D. Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court” by Jeff Shesol (2010)