Founders DID NOT envision:
Medicare, Medicaid, The Ag Department, the Helium Dept, The CBO, The OMB, SSA, SSB and Bureau of BS almost anything that has 3 or 4 Alphabet soup characters in it.
Founders DID NOT envision:
Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia of course all those countries existed, with lots of Muslim residents at the time of the founding THIS would probably be a newsflash if it appeared on the Fox News Channel right now or on the air during certain talk radio shows.
So what DID they envision and more importantly, does it matter?
We hear lots about the Founding Fathers these days and at the same time we hear almost nothing FROM the Founding Fathers. The mythology that passes for history will be passed around as works of fiction in the future. It’s so bad George Washington swearing he would not lie and chopping cherry trees down just might appear in a new book by a former Vice President’s wife.
What amazes me is how the Founders are used to justify everything under the global warming sun: from bailouts, to having God on our money and in our politics. To Jefferson, playing Rambo & singlehandedly taking out the Barbary Pirates only after flipping off the Congress when it came time to ask their permission. If we could ask them what their vision for the young republic was I think the answer would shock people and totally upset their apple carts which is why that question is never seriously considered. Let’s give it a go shall we?
Confucius said that “The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.”
- Blessed new confederations in 1st inaugural
- Wished well of new territories/states that might form out of Louisiana and NOT join the union
- Knew northerners were plotting secession in 1803 and said nothing was wrong with it
- Thought the union would end after the MO compromise–Said he “heard the Knell of the Union”
Jefferson to John Taylor on 28 May, 1816, congratulating him on smacking down John Adams and what makes good government-his vision:
You have successfully and completely pulverized Mr. Adams’ system of orders, and his opening the mantle of republicanism to every government of laws, whether consistent or not with natural right. Indeed, it must be acknowledged, that the term republic is of very vague application in every language. Witness the self-styled republics of Holland, Switzerland, Genoa, Venice, Poland. Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say, purely and simply, it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority; and that every other government is more or less republican, in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of the direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township.
Next Jefferson explained his thoughts on what he felt were the most important features of our government, the sovereign states. Now lest you think TJ was satisfied with the present state of affairs–and this should inspire you–here’s what he wrote about THEIR/HIS governments.
The purest republican feature in the government of our own State, is the House of Representatives. The Senate is equally so the first year, less the second, and so on. The Executive still less, because not chosen by the people directly. The Judiciary seriously anti-republican, because for life; and the national arm wielded, as you observe, by military leaders, irresponsible but to themselves. Add to this the vicious constitution of our county courts (to whom the justice, the executive administration, the taxation, police, the military appointments of the county, and nearly all our daily concerns are confided), self-appointed, self-continued, holding their authorities for life, and with an impossibility of breaking in on the perpetual succession of any faction once possessed of the bench. They are in truth, the executive, the judiciary, and the military of their respective counties, and the sum of the counties makes the State. And add, also, that one half of our brethren who fight and pay taxes, are excluded, like Helots, from the rights of representation, as if society were instituted for the soil and not for the men inhabiting it; or one half of these could dispose of the rights and the will of the other half, without their consent.
What constitutes a State?
Not high-raised battlements, or labor’d mound,
Thick wall, or moated gate;
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crown’d;
No: men, high minded men;
Men, who their duties know;
But know their rights; and knowing, dare maintain.
These constitute a State.
Now what did TJ think about the FEDERAL government–you might want to sit down for this one.
In the General Government, the House of Representatives is mainly republican; the Senate scarcely so at all, as not elected by the people directly, and so long secured even against those who do elect them; the Executive more republican than the Senate, from its shorter term, its election by the people, in practice, (for they vote for A only on an assurance that he will vote for B,) and because, in practice also, a principle of rotation seems to be in a course of establishment; the judiciary independent of the nation, their coercion by impeachment being found nugatory.
If, then, the control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of its republicanism, and I confess I know no other measure, it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interests require. And this I ascribe, not to any want of republican dispositions in those who formed these constitutions, but to a submission of true principle to European authorities, to speculators on government, whose fears of the people have been inspired by the populace of their own great cities, and were unjustly entertained against the independent, the happy, and therefore orderly citizens of the United States. Much I apprehend that the golden moment is past for reforming these heresies.
Jefferson is telling Taylor that the corruption of the People was well underway and there was no way to put the Genie back in the bottle. Oh but there is: a new calling for a new politics not based on principles of liberty alone but based on the eternal principles of a good, moral, social order. In short ladies & gentlemen, a return of manners, humility and virtue.
- Opposed ratification-list reasons
- Major force behind the Bill of Rights using Article V
- Only came to endorse the Union at George Washington’s request
- Last Act was to oppose nullification because he thought it would lead to secession
- In a letter to Archibald Blair on 8 January, 1799
Henry gives us his vision for the future:
And, whilst I see the dangers that threaten ours from her [France’s] intrigues and her arms, I am not so much alarmed as at the apprehension of her destroying the great pillars of all government and of social life,—I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed. In vain may France show and vaunt her diplomatic skill, and brave troops: so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger. But believing, as I do, that these are in danger, that infidelity in its broadest sense, under the name of philosophy, is fast spreading, and that, under the patronage of French manners and principles, everything that ought to be dear to man is covertly but successfully assailed, I feel the value of those men amongst us, who hold out to the world the idea, that our continent is to exhibit an originality of character; and that, instead of that imitation and inferiority which the countries of the old world have been in the habit of exacting from the new, we shall maintain that high ground upon which nature has placed us, and that Europe will alike cease to rule us and give us modes of thinking.
Henry closes one of his final letters with a final thought, a call to something beyond politics, a call to us to be Christian Gentlemen, perfect our manners and always strive for virtue.
Tell Marshall I love him, because he felt and acted as a republican, as an American. … I am too old and infirm ever again to undertake public concerns. I live much retired, amidst a multiplicity of blessings from that Gracious Ruler of all things, to whom I owe unceasing acknowledgments for his unmerited goodness to me; and if I was permitted to add to the catalogue one other blessing, it should be, that my countrymen should learn wisdom and virtue, and in this their day to know the things that pertain to their peace.
Farewell. I am, dear Sir, yours,
And so in the grand scheme things ladies and gentlemen, the task at hand is not one of politics, it is not one of issues, it is one of character. Russell Kirk, the last great voice of the conservatism that was practiced before the War Team invaded and took over the movement once said that once upon a time there were but a few opportunities for conservatives but now there are millions of conservative opportunists. Some say the same things are happening in the Liberty movement and while that may be at least partially true, it doesn’t tell the full story. But it does throw up a cautionary flag and brings us back to our dialogue over character.
The great men of character known as the Founders had conferences just as we are having here today and we know their conferences by a few famous distinctions:
- The Second Continental Congress D O I
- The Confederation Congress–A O C
- The Federal Convention of 1787–The Constitution
- The VA Assembly of 1798–VA & KY Resolutions
- The Hartford Conventions
- The SC Convention of December 17, 1860–SC Secession
The point is these men met in conventions to DO things beyond air grievances over what was done TO them. It is time to get reacquainted with this political formality and blare the clarion call loud and clear for all to hear. Whether we call for an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution, or affix our names to the Montpelier Manifesto; Vermont’s call for a convention to consider altering their form of government, yes that means to secede.
In keeping with our theme of the Founders vision and their character I would like to close with another challenge: It is not enough to demand non-intervention and an end to wars, we must explain WHY these ends are desirable. For over a decade we have recited the mantra that we want Congress to Declare all of our wars. Fine. Would the intervention in Iraq be justified if Congress ok’d it?
So yes, our history and the Founders can guide and inspire our future but we must have their courage, their character and most important of all their virtue.
Thank you and God Bless.
Books related to this topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. This essay is an edited version of prepared remarks to the LPAC 2012 conference, 14 September, 2012 at the Westfields Marriott Center, Chantilly, VA and is reprinted with permission from The Mike Church Show.