The People ratified the Constitution only because George Washington would be the First President
George Washington did not want to be president. After winning the American Revolutionary War his place in history was set. If the first government following the Constitutional Convention failed he didn’t want history to remember him for that. Also, Washington was an old man. Most Washington men were already dead at his age. Something he was very conscious of. And he wanted to live out his remaining days, however few he had, at Mount Vernon. With Martha. But America’s Cincinnatus would, reluctantly, answer the call of duty again.
The new Constitution was not very popular. The old patriots of 1776 hated it. With a passion. While Washington, Alexander Hamilton and others who served in the Continental Army were generally for it. Because they saw how the weak Continental Congress had almost lost the war. Starving the Continental Army of the supplies they needed. Unable even to provide it with shoes and clothing during the long cold winters at Valley Forge and Morristown. And then there was the inflation. Worthless Continental paper dollars that forced the Army to take what they needed to survive. Giving the people they took from IOUs for the Continental Congress to honor later.
With the British defeated the Americans lost the common enemy that held the states together. And they were soon back to looking after their own interests. Charging tariffs to other states. Even sending militias to fight over disputed land. The nation was falling apart before it even became a nation. The Philadelphia Convention addressed these problems. And over a long, hot, humid and horsefly invested convention they wrote a new Constitution. Few loved it. But understood that it was probably the best they would ever get. Ratifying it was another brutal battle. And all throughout this process people reluctantly got on board. Basically because of one thing. The first president would be someone that all the people could trust with such great powers. The man who gave up power when he could have been king. George Washington. So Cincinnatus laid down his plow once more. And went to serve his nation. Again.
The most Important Precedent Washington set was not Exceeding the Limits of the Constitution
This is how it used to be. When our politicians were men of the enlightenment. Disinterested men who went out of their way NOT to profit from the offices they held. Men who would rather have been back home. But reluctantly served. Because the nation needed the best leaders during that formidable time. That’s why Washington served a second term. Not because he wanted to. But if he didn’t Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton would have paralyzed the government with their constant fighting and seething hatred of each other. So Washington stayed on. Father to these children that couldn’t get along. And father to a nation.
Washington was never happier than when he left office. This man who could have been king. Sacrificing all of his wants and desires. And putting the nation first. This old man that was cheating death. Living beyond his years. Who was used to giving orders in the army and having subordinates dutifully following them. He hated the political process. The deal making. The special interests. Those things modern politicians live for. Because it is the pathway to wealth and power. Which is why people serve today. Who do not understand the meaning of selfless disinterest. For they’re in it for number one. And when they leave office they want to have more wealth than they know what to do with it.
Whereas Washington kept true to the Constitution. And didn’t make arguments about it being a living document. Or questioned the intent of the Founding Fathers. For he was one of them. He was there in Philadelphia in 1787. He sat in the chair with that sun on it. The one Benjamin Franklin studied for so long while sitting in that stuffy hall. Wondering if the sun was rising. Or setting. After they signed the Constitution Franklin was certain the sun was rising for the new nation. A nation of laws. Where no man was above the law. And the supreme law of the land was there in the Constitution. Washington was the first president. Setting the precedent for all that would follow. And the most important precedent was not exceeding the limits of the Constitution. For he knew a strong central government was necessary for the nation to have any hopes of surviving. But he feared that once anyone exceeded the limits of the Constitution the whole experiment in self-government would come crashing down.
Life is so Good in an Aristocracy that Politicians will do Anything it takes to Win Reelection
What Thomas Jefferson feared most was consolidation. Fears of a strong central government turning independent states into federal districts of the new government. With growing powers to administer these lands from afar. Turning the people living on these lands once again into subjects of a distant ruling power. Who are there to serve. To be obedient. And revere this distant power. Giving the duly elected president king-like powers. Who would further consolidate his power. This was Jefferson’s fear. A fear Alexander Hamilton did not share. Because he assumed all men in the government would be disinterested men of the enlightenment. Like the Founding Fathers were. But Jefferson knew you could not trust men to refrain from using power given to them. So it was best not to give them that power in the first place.
Today you can see all of Jefferson’s fears come to pass. A federal government larger and more powerful than even Alexander Hamilton could have imagined. And a new fourth branch of government. The IRS. Powerful. And fearsome. Which appears to be helping the current administration to suppress the political opposition. By harassing anyone espousing Jeffersonian principles. Limited government. States’ rights. Constitutional limits. Etc. Which are also Tea Party principles. That set of principles that launched a great grassroots movement that helped the Republicans win back the House of Representatives in 2010. Something the Democrats were very conscious of. And have since pilloried the Tea Party with every invective under the sun. To delegitimize the Tea Party. To prevent another 2010 from happening again.
President Obama is the most liberal president to ever occupy the White House. And he won reelection. Which isn’t easy for a liberal to do on a national stage. Because only about 21% of the people call themselves liberal. While 35% call themselves moderate. And 40% call themselves conservative (see Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S. posted 1/12/2012 on Gallup). So liberals are in the minority. Yet they hold majority power. Which begs the question. How do they win elections when the majority opposes their ideology? Well, you don’t do it by acting like George Washington. You know, with integrity. But, instead, with rascality. You don’t exactly tell the truth. You make a lot of promises. Even if you have no intention of keeping them. And you use the awesome power of your office to attack your political enemies. For it’s a different mindset today. Whereas the Founding Fathers were trying to destroy an aristocracy today’s politicians are trying to build and maintain one. And life is so good in an aristocracy that once you get in you never want to leave. Which is why politicians will do anything it takes to win reelection. Anything. And if they were honest you’d hear them say so. “Damn the truth, promises and the Constitution. I’m trying to get reelected.” But they’re not honest. So you will never hear them say this. You’ll just have to see it in their deeds. And how unlike the Founding Fathers they are.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, American Revolutionary War, aristocracy, Cincinnatus, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Continental Army, Continental Congress, Enlightenment, Founding Fathers, George Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Philadelphia, politicians, Revolutionary War, Tea Party, Thomas Jefferson, Washington
The Father of the Constitution nudged the Father of the Country out of Retirement
The Confederation Congress did not work as well as some had hoped. Despite having won their independence from Great Britain there was still no feeling of national unity. Sectional interests prevailed over national interests. Greatly affecting the ability of the national government to function. Negating the benefits of union. And offering little respect for the young nation on the world stage. The new nation simply was not taken seriously at home. Or abroad. Prompting a meeting of states delegates in Annapolis in 1786. Twelve delegates from five states showed up. The states just didn’t care enough. The convention adjourned after only three days. But not before Alexander Hamilton put a plan together for another convention in Philadelphia for the following year.
The states were happy with the way things were. They did not want to give up any of their powers to a new central authority. But the problem was that the states were fighting against each other. Trying to protect their own economic interests and their own trade. Some could extend this behavior out into the future. And they did not like what they saw. States with similar interests would form regional alliances. And these alliances would ally themselves with some of the European powers who were also on the North American continent. The northern states (having industry and commerce) would join together and ally with the industrial and commerce powerhouse Great Britain. The agrarian southern states would join together and ally with Great Britain’s eternal enemy. France. And the western territories dependent on the Mississippi River to get their agricultural goods to marker would ally with the European power in control of the Mississippi River. Spain. Who were both eternal enemies of Great Britain. And the centuries of warfare on the European continent would just extend to North America. Some saw this as the American future if they didn’t unite and put the nation’s interests ahead of sectional interests.
The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 almost didn’t happen. For there was as much interest in it as there was in the Annapolis Convention in 1786. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, made the meeting in Philadelphia a reality. By his persuasive efforts with his neighbor. George Washington. Father of our Country. Then in retirement at Mount Vernon with no interest to reenter public life after resigning his commission following the Revolutionary War. He could have been king then but declined the numerous offers to make him so. Happy that they won their independence he just wanted to live out his years on his farm. Like Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. Who left his plough to become dictator of the Roman Republic. To defend the Roman Republic. He defeated the enemy. Resigned his dictatorship. And returned to his plough. Earning a cherished place in our history books. Something Washington had just done. Only taking some 8 years instead of 16 days like Cincinnatus. His place in history had come with a far greater price. And he did not want to risk losing what he had earned after paying so dearly for it. But Madison knew that it would take Washington’s presence to get the other states to send their delegates. So Madison was persistent. The Father of the Constitution nudged the Father of the Country out of retirement. And made the retired general do the last thing he wanted to do. Return to public life. As he was already an old man who outlived the average lifespan of Washington men.
Madison didn’t believe a Bill of Rights would Stop a Majority from Imposing their Will on the Minority
It took four long, miserable months to produce the new constitution. It was a hot and insufferable summer. And they kept the windows of Independence Hall closed to block out the city noise. And prevent anyone from hearing the debates. So the delegates could speak freely. And after those four long months the delegates signed the new document. Not all of them. Some hated it and refused to sign it or support it. And would actively fight against it during the ratification process. As they did not like to see so much power going to a new federal government. Especially as there was no bill of rights included to help protect the people from this new government. The document they produced was based on the Virginia Plan. Which was drafted by James Madison. Which is why we call him the Father of the Constitution. So Virginia was instrumental in producing the new constitution. And the delegates finally agreed to it because of another Virginian. George Washington. Making Virginian ratification of the new constitution conditional for other states to ratify it. So all eyes were on Virginia. For without Virginia all their efforts in Philadelphia would be for naught. Because if Virginia did not join the union under the new Constitution that meant George Washington would be ineligible to be president.
Of course getting Virginia to ratify was another story. Because George Washington and James Madison were not the only Virginians in politics. There was also George Mason. Who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776). Which Thomas Jefferson may have borrowed from when writing the Declaration of Independence. And Mason also wrote the Virginia State Constitution (1776). Mason opposed granting the new federal government so much power and refused to sign the Constitution in Philadelphia. And then there was Patrick Henry. Perhaps the greatest Patriot orator. And of “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” fame. Which he shouted out during the Stamp Act (1765) debates. He was also Virginia’s first governor under the new state constitution. Mason and Henry were Patriots of the 1776 school. The kind that hated distant central powers. Whether they were in London. Or in New York. Mason wanted a bill of rights. Henry, too. As well as amendments transferring a lot of power from the federal government back to the states. Or, better yet, no federal constitution at all. Which Henry would work towards by leading a fierce ratification opposition.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of the new constitution as many saw was the lack of a bill of rights. This was a contentious issue during the convention. It was the reason why Mason refused to sign it. As there was nothing to check the powers of the new government and protect the people’s liberties. So why did they not include a bill of rights? Because it was not necessary. According to Madison. Who fought against it. Because the new federal government was a government of limited powers. It wasn’t like the state governments. The new federal government only did those things the states didn’t do. Or shouldn’t do. Like treat with other nations. Provide a common defense. Regulate interstate trade. Things that expanded beyond a state’s borders. And what powers it had were enumerated. Limited. It did not repeal individual rights protected by state constitutions. And had no authority over those rights. Whatever rights a person enjoyed in their state were untouchable by the new federal government. Therefore, a bill of rights was not necessary. Which actually protected rights greater than listing them. For whatever rights they forgot to list the federal government would assume were fair to abuse. Finally, Madison didn’t believe a bill of rights would stop a majority from imposing their will on the minority. A tyranny of the majority. Something he saw firsthand as a young man returning from college. Where the state of Virginia harassed and imprisoned Baptist ministers for holding Baptist services in Anglican Virginia. Something he didn’t forget. Nor did the Baptists.
If James Madison were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
Patrick tried hard to prevent the ratification of the constitution in Virginia. But failed. When it came time for the Virginian legislature to elect their federal senators Henry campaigned hard against Madison and saw him defeated. When it came to the federal House elections Henry drew the new Congressional districts that made Madison campaign in a district full of people that mostly disagreed with him. Which it took a change of his position on adding a bill of rights to the Constitution to overcome. His position gradually changed from opposed to being lukewarm to being a strong supporter. In part due to some correspondence with Thomas Jefferson then serving in France. And the Baptists’ concerns over rights of conscience. Something Madison had longed believed in. Believing religious liberty was essential to a free people. As the Constitution stood there were no safeguards specifically against the oppression like that the Anglicans imposed on the Baptists earlier. What the Baptists wanted was a bill of rights.
Madison promised, if elected, to introduce an amendment to the Constitution addressing their concerns. In fact, a bill of rights would be the first Constitutional amendment. And he would introduce it and fight for it until it was ratified. Based on this promise the Baptists threw their support behind Madison. Got him elected to the House of Representatives. And Madison delivered on his promise. Championing a bill of rights through Congress. The Father of the Constitution also became the Father of the Bill of Rights. And then it was a knockdown drag-out fight in the Virginian legislature to get the new Bill of Rights ratified. Where the opposition to ratification was led by none other than Patrick Henry. But he would lose that fight, too. And the nation would have a federal government with limited, enumerated powers. With individual liberties protected by a bill of rights. Providing a federal government powerful enough to do the things it needed to do like treat with other nations, provide a common defense, regulate interstate trade, etc. Those things that expanded beyond a state’s borders. And in the following decade we would be prosperous because of it.
None of this could have happened without Virginia’s ratification of the Constitution. Which opened the door for George Washington to be our first president. And helped New York ratify the Constitution. With the ratification in Virginia. And the letter writing campaign in support of ratification. Which appeared in newspapers. Articles written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (mostly) and John Jay. Now published as the Federalists Papers. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Madison and Hamilton the nation had a new form of government. But Madison and Hamilton would soon part ways once Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury. And took great liberties with the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution. Expanding the power and scope of the federal government far beyond what Madison had ever envisioned. Which moved Madison into closer company with George Mason and Patrick Henry. Desperately trying to hold onto states’ rights and oppose the expansion of the federal government. Like he would oppose the great overreach of the federal government today. The transfer of power from the states to the federal government. And the expansion of suffrage to include those who don’t own property or pay taxes. Leading to mob rule at times. Populism. And a tyranny of the majority.
Madison suffered ill health most of his life. Stomach disorders and dysentery. Brought on by the pressures of public service. If he were alive today he probably wouldn’t remain alive long. Seeing what has happened to his Constitution would probably kill him. If he had the chance to vote today he would vote for the party that championed limited government. The party that would stop the growth of the federal government. And reduce its size. The party that governed for all people and not the will of the populist mob. The party that did NOT govern through class warfare but through sound principles. If James Madison were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Tags: 1787, 2012 election, 2012 Endorsements, Alexander Hamilton, Baptists, Bill of Rights, Cincinnatus, Constitutional Convention, enumerated powers, father of the Constitution, Father of the Country, federal government, George Mason, George Washington, Hamilton, Henry, James Madison, limited government, limited powers, Madison, Mason, Mob rule, national interests, Patrick Henry, Philadelphia, ratification, sectional interests, state governments, Thomas Jefferson, tyranny of the majority, union, Virginia, Washington
The People trusted no One Man with Great Power except, of course, George Washington
America had a new constitution. It wasn’t easy. For the American states covered a lot of geography. And ideology. These were a very different people. Who had only joined together in union to resist their common enemy. Great Britain. But now that common enemy was no more. What now? These delegates who worked behind closed doors for 4 months in some of the hottest and most humid weather had done the best they could. It was less a triumph of solidarity than the recognition that this was the best anyone was going to do considering how vast and disparate the people were. So now it was up to the states to ratify it. But would they?
Good question. For there was a lot of opposition to transferring power, any power, from the states to a new central authority. They had just cut the ties to one king. And they didn’t do this just to submit to another king. Of course, America would have no king. For they would simply call their new executive president. But it was still one man. And many feared that this one man given some power may take more power. So whoever the first president was had to be one of impeccable character and integrity. A true Patriot. One whose Revolutionary credentials were beyond questioning. Someone who was in the struggle for independence from the beginning and never wavered in the cause. Someone the people universally loved. And respected. Of course that could be but one man. George Washington.
This is why we call George Washington the Father of our Country. For without him there would have been no country. For the people trusted no one man with great power. But they trusted Washington. And respected him. Would even have made him king they trusted him so. So because Washington was available to be the first president the delegates in Philadelphia signed the new Constitution. For all their sectional differences this was one area where everyone agreed. They were willing to risk having this new central government because they trusted it in the hands of this one man. George Washington.
When Patrick Henry and George Mason opposed the new Constitution it was Doubtful Virginia would Vote for Ratification
Of course they weren’t just going to hand the presidency to Washington. But the electors in the Electoral College simply weren’t going to have a better candidate to vote for. Washington didn’t want the job. He just wanted to enjoy retirement on his farm before he died. And based on the longevity of Washington men he was already living on borrowed time. But he would serve. Again. Because he fought too long and too hard to see the new nation collapse before it could even become a nation. And he had no illusions about how horrible the job would be. It was one thing giving orders in the Continental Army where people did what he told them. But it was another dealing with Congress during the war. Who couldn’t accomplish anything for the spirit of liberty. As the states tended to look more after their own interests than the army fighting for their liberty. Leaving his army barefoot, half naked and starving during the winter at Valley Forge. And through most of the war.
So, no, being the president wasn’t going to give him the peace and serenity he could find under his vine and fig tree at home. It would just put him closer to the partisan bickering. But he was willing to sacrifice his own wants and desires yet again. To serve the people. But would the people want him? For it wasn’t up to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention. All they could do was make their case to the people. Then let the people decide if they wanted this new government. And perhaps the most critical state was Virginia. Which not only gave us George Washington. But George Mason. Patrick Henry. Thomas Jefferson. And James Madison.
Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” He was a great orator whose speeches could awe listeners. He dripped Patriotism (even refused to attend the Philadelphia Convention as he feared it would lead to monarchy). So did George Mason. His Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) no doubt inspired his fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, who studied the same philosophers as Mason did. So when Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence you could read some Virginia Declaration of Rights in it. So his Revolutionary credentials were solid. So when Henry and Mason opposed the new Constitution (Mason was a delegate at the convention but refused to sign it) it cast doubt over whether Virginia would ratify the new Constitution.
George Mason and Patrick Henry joined James Madison in fighting for Ratification of the Bill of Rights
Mason supported republican government. But he didn’t trust a large republican government. Not without a bill of rights. Which is why he refused to sign the Constitution at the convention. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, argued against any bill of rights. For he did not think it was needed. For the Constitution enumerated the powers of the federal government. Citing specifically what it could do. And whatever wasn’t specifically enumerated they couldn’t do. Madison feared if they included a bill of rights that it could backfire on them later. For someone would argue that the Constitution stated the government can’t do A, B and C. But it didn’t say anything about D. So clearly the federal government can do D because it wasn’t included in the list of things it couldn’t do. Madison saw that if you listed some rights you must list all rights. Which changes the Constitution from forbidding the federal government from doing anything not enumerated to something that allows the government do whatever it wants as long as it is not listed in a bill of rights.
For some, though, a bill of rights was conditional for ratification. George Mason simply wouldn’t vote for ratification unless the Constitution included a bill of rights. Even Thomas Jefferson wrote Madison from Europe urging him to include a bill of rights. The tide of Virginian opinion appeared to be against him on the issue. And Madison needed Virginia. For if Virginia didn’t ratify the chances were slim for ratification in other states. Which did not bode well for the country. Because of how vast and disparate the people were. The northern states weren’t like the southern states. And neither was like the western territory. If there was no union the north would probably form a confederation. And being a maritime region they’d probably seek out closer ties to Great Britain and their Royal Navy. With some of the bloodiest fighting in the south perpetrated by the British and their Loyalist allies this would probably align the southern states to Britain’s eternal enemy. France. With two of Europe’s greatest powers entrenched in the east the western territories would probably align with that other European power. Spain. Who controlled the mouth of the Mississippi River. The gateway to the world for western agriculture. Turning America into another Europe. Wars and all.
Madison worked tirelessly for ratification. Working with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on a series of articles published in newspapers making the case for ratification. Later bound together into the Federalist Papers. And then changing his stand on a bill of rights. Promising to include a bill of rights as the first order of business for the new federal congress. This brought George Mason around. He even helped Madison on the bill of rights. Which helped tip Virginia towards ratification despite a fierce opposition led by Patrick Henry. But after ratification he, too, helped Madison pass the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights. Which Madison delivered during the first Congress as promised. And then worked tirelessly for its ratification.
Tags: Bill of Rights, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, enumerated powers, federal government, George Mason, George Washington, Henry, James Madison, Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Patrick Henry, Patriot, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Convention, president, ratification, republican government, revolutionary credentials, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, Virginia Declaration of Rights, Washington
Funny thing about the Americans is that they just didn’t Like Paying Taxes
United we stood. For awhile. Until we defeated the British at Yorktown. And negotiated the Treaty of Paris where Great Britain recognized our independence from the British Crown. But people grew weary of the war. On both sides of the Atlantic. And those in the once united states (small ‘u’ and small ‘s’) were eager to retreat to their states. And forget about the Continental Congress. The Continental Army. And everything to do with the confederation. Threatening to undo everything they fought for. Because of their sectional interests.
Shays Rebellion nearly pushed the country into anarchy. It was the tipping point. They had to do something. Because if they weren’t united they would surely fall. They owed Europe a fortune that they had no hope of repaying. Funny thing about the Americans. They just didn’t like paying taxes. Making it difficult to repay their debts. The Europeans gave them little respect. France tried to sell them out during the peace talks to rebalance the balance of power in their favor. Spain wanted to keep them east of the Mississippi River. And off of the Mississippi. Even refused them passage through the Port of New Orleans. Britain didn’t evacuate their western forts. The Barbary pirates were capturing American shipping in the Mediterranean and selling their crews into slavery. And Catherine the Great of Russia wouldn’t even meet the American ambassador. So the Americans were the Rodney Dangerfield of nations. They got no respect.
In 1787 delegates gathered in Philadelphia. To revise the Articles of Confederation to address these problems. Some enthusiastically. Some begrudgingly. While one state refused to attend. Rhode Island. For they were quite happy with the way things were. As the smallest sate in the union they had the power to kill almost any legislation that didn’t benefit Rhode Island. For some legislation the vote had to be unanimous. And they enjoyed charging other states tariffs for their goods unloaded in Rhode Island ports. Things were so nice in Rhode Island that they didn’t need much taxation. Because they had other states funding their needs. Thanks to those tariffs. Of course, this did little to benefit the union. While imposing taxes on their neighbors in the union. Sort of like taxation without representation. Funny thing about Americans, though. They didn’t like paying taxes.
Montesquieu said a Republican Government must Separate Power into Three Branches
Thomas Jefferson was in Europe in 1787. John Adams, too. But just about every other “demi-god” (as Jefferson called those at that gathering) was in Philadelphia in 1787. America’s patriarch Benjamin Franklin. The indispensable George Washington. The financially savvy Alexander Hamilton. The studious James Madison. The Framers of the Constitution. Highly principled men. Well read men. Prosperous men. Who were familiar with world history. And read the great enlightenment philosophers. Like John Locke. Who especially influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence. With his inalienable rights. Consent of the governed. And property rights.
As they gathered in Philadelphia to revise the Articles it became clear that they needed something more. A new constitution. A stronger federal government. With the power to tax so they could raise money. For without money the union could not solve any of its problems. So they set upon writing a new constitution for a new government. A republican government of republican states. As they began to frame this constitution they drew on the work of a French philosopher. Charles de Montesquieu. Who championed republican government. The ideal government. A government of the people who ruled at the consent of the governed. With built-in safeguards to protect the people’s inalienable rights. The key requirement being the separation of powers.
Montesquieu said a republican government must separate power into three branches. The legislature, the executive and the judiciary. A nation of laws requires a legislature to write the laws. Because the laws must respect the inalienable rights of the people the people must elect the legislature from the general population. So the legislature’s interests are the people’s interest. However, if the legislature was also the executive they could easily write laws that represented their interests instead of the people. Elevating the legislature into a dictatorship. If the legislature was also the judiciary they could interpret law to favor their interests instead of the people. Elevating the legislature into a dictatorship. Likewise if the executive could write and interpret law the executive could elevate into a dictatorship. Ditto for the judiciary if they could write the law they were interpreting. So the separation of powers is the greatest protection the people have against a government’s oppression.
If a Power wasn’t Delegated to the New Federal Government it Remained with the States
During the Constitutional Convention they debated long and they debated hard. The Federalists were in favor of a stronger central government. The anti-Federalists were not. The Federalists included those who served in the Army and the Congress. The anti-Federalists were those who didn’t serve ‘nationally’ and favored states’ rights. In general. So one side wanted to increase the power of the central government while the other side wanted no central government. For their fear was that a new federal government would consolidate power and subordinate the states to its rule. As if the last war never happened. And the states would still bow to a distant central power. Only this time to one on this side of the Atlantic.
So the balance they struck was a two-house (i.e., bicameral) legislature. A House of Representatives. And a Senate. The people in each state elected a number of representatives proportional to their state’s population. So a large state had a large representation in the House. So that house represented the will of the people. To prevent the tyranny of the minority. So a small privileged class couldn’t rule as they pleased. Whereas the Senate prevented the tyranny of the majority. By giving each state two senators. So small states had the same say as big states. Together they represented both the majority and the minority. Further, states’ legislatures chose their senators (changed later by Constitutional amendment). Providing the states a check on federal legislation.
To round things out there was an executive they called the president. And a judiciary. Providing the separation of powers per Montesquieu. They further limited the central government’s powers by enumerating their powers. The new federal government could only do what the Constitution said it could do. Treat with foreign powers. Coin a national currency. Declare war. Etc. If a power wasn’t delegated to the new federal government it remained with the states. To give the new federal government some power. Including the power to tax. While leaving most powers with the states. Striking a compromise between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists.
Tags: 1787, anti-Federalists, Articles of Confederation, central government, Charles de Montesquieu, consent of the governed, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, dictatorship, enumerated powers, executive, federal government, Federalists, Framers, House of Representatives, inalienable rights, Jefferson, John Locke, judiciary, legislature, Locke, Montesquieu, Philadelphia, republican government, Rhode Island, rights, Senate, separation of powers, states' rights, tariffs, taxation, taxes
After Winning their Independence from Great Britain the Common Enemy was no more Leaving them Little Reason to Unite
The South lost the American Civil War for a few reasons. Perhaps the greatest was the North’s industrial superiority. Her industry could make whatever they needed to wage war. While the South suffered behind the Union’s blockade. Unable to trade their cotton for the means to wage war. And then there was the fact that the North was united. While the states’ rights issue that they were fighting for prevented the South from being united. The southern states (whose governments were dominated by the planter elite) did not like the federal government in Washington (except when they forced northern states to return southern slaves). And as it turned out the states didn’t like the federal government in Richmond any better. They fought Jefferson Davis from consolidating his power. They put the states’ interests ahead of the national interest. Such as winning a war to secure their states’ rights. And any supplies a state had they wouldn’t share them with another state. Even if they had a warehouse full of surplus shoes while troops from another states fought barefoot.
So the North won the American Civil War because they were united. They had an advanced economy based on free market capitalism and free labor. And they were wealthy. Basically because of the prior two statements. But it wasn’t always like this. The United States of America is a large country. Even before it was a country. When it was only a confederation of sovereign states. With independent republican governments. Still it covered great tracts of land. Allowing the states to keep to themselves. Much like it would be some 75 years later in the South.
After winning their independence from Great Britain the common enemy was no more. And they had little reason to unite. Which they didn’t. For the several states included a lot of disparate people. Who agreed on little with the people beyond their state’s borders. Which was one of the criticisms of republican government (i.e., an elected representative government). And one held by perhaps the greatest influence on the Framers of the Constitution. French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu. Who believed that the larger the geographic size the more dissimilar the people’s interest. And therefore making republican government more difficult. As it was too difficult to arrive at a consensus with such a large electorate. Which James Madison disagreed with, making this a heated topic during the Constitutional Convention and the ratification process. But before that convention it would appear to be incontrovertible. The United States were anything but united.
The Americans defeated one Distant Central Power and were none too keen on Answering to a New Central Power
The first American identity appeared in the Continental Army. Where soldiers came from different states and fought together as Americans. General Washington fostered this spirit. Forbidding any anti-Catholic displays. One thing that all the Protestant American colonists enjoyed. No matter which state they came from. But to fight the British Empire they needed a large army drawn from all the states. And to get the French Canadians living in British Canada to join them they needed to embrace religious freedom. Even for Catholics. Which was even more important if they had any chance of getting support from the most likely foreign power. The eternal enemy of Britain. Catholic France. Washington, as well as those who served in the Continental Army, understood the success of their cause required less infighting and more uniting. That it was imperative to set aside their sectional interests. Only then could the new nation join the world of nations. Strong and independent. And avoid the European nations pulling them into their intrigues.
But of course that wasn’t going to happen. After the war no one called themselves American. Except for a few. Like Washington. And some other veterans of the Continental Army. No. The country people belonged to was their state. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, called Virginia his country. As did most if not all of the Patriots of ’76. The war was over. They defeated the distant central power. And they were none too keen on a new central power to answer to. Even if it was on their side of the Atlantic. To these Revolutionary Patriots the Continental Congress was just another foreign legislature trying to infringe on their sovereignty.
The national congress had no power. Delegates didn’t always show up leaving the congress without a quorum. Which didn’t matter much as they couldn’t pass anything when they had a quorum. For any legislation they wanted to pass into law required a unanimous vote of all thirteen states. Which rarely happened. They couldn’t levy taxes. Which meant they couldn’t fund an army or navy to protect their states from foreign aggressors. Or protect their international trade on the high seas. Which was a problem as the British no longer provided these services. And they couldn’t repay any of their debts. Their prewar debt owed to a lot of British creditors (which they had to repay according to the treaty that ended the war and gave them their independence). Or their war debt. States owed other states. And the Congress owed foreign creditors in Europe. Especially their war-time ally. France. Who they owed a fortune to. The states charged duties and tariffs on interstate commerce. They made their own treaties with the Indians. Some states defaulted on the debt they owed to out of state creditors. States even fought each other over land. The Untied States were anything but united. And it showed.
The Delegates of the Continental Congress agreed to meet in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation
Europe watched the Americans with amusement and contempt. The Americans didn’t get much respect from Catherine the Great, tsarina of Russia. The ruler of the world’s largest country viewed the Americans as a bit uppity and not worthy to join the European courts. Besides, she was more interested in expanding her powers into Turkey. And into Poland. Who caught some of that spirit of liberty from the Americans. That Catherine wanted to squelch. Making her less of an America fan. But it wasn’t only Russia. The Barbary pirates were targeting American shipping in the Mediterranean. Selling their crews to the slave markets of North Africa. Western settlers using the Mississippi River to ship their produce were denied passage through the Port of New Orleans by Spain. The British refused to vacate their forts in the Northwest. Even worked with the Indians to cause some mischief in the borderlands. Why did the Europeans do these things? Because they could. For the Americans could not stop them.
To make matters worse the Americans were drifting towards civil war. The northern provinces were talking about leaving the confederation and forming their own. The North feared the South would do the same. Even aligning itself more with Europe than the American states. Meanwhile the economy was tanking. Trade was down. People were out of work. Farmers were unable to pay their debts. Even losing their farms. In western Massachusetts Daniel Shays gathered together disgruntled veterans and rebelled. Again. Only this time it wasn’t against the British. It was against the legal authorities in Massachusetts. Shays Rebellion spread to other states. And grew violent. Massachusetts asked the Continental Congress for help. And the Congress asked the states for $530,000 to raise an army to put down the rebellion. Twelve of the thirteen states said “no.”
With no other choice Massachusetts went to rich people for funding. Used it to raise a militia of some 4,400 men. In time and after some bloody fighting they put down this rebellion. But some of the rebels continued a guerilla war. Making many in the new United States live in fear. Washington, despondent of what was happening to the republic he had fought for so long to secure, pleaded, “Let us look to our national character and to things beyond the present moment.” And so they did. The delegates of the Continental Congress agreed to meet in Philadelphia in 1787. To revise the Articles of Confederation. To reign in the chaos. To get their finances in order. And to gain the respect of the world of nations. But to do that would require s stronger central government. And that is exactly what emerged from Philadelphia. So they did what the Confederates did not do nearly 75 years later. Which is the reason why they lost the American Civil War. Because of an ideal. States’ rights. That was so absolute that it weakened the Confederacy to the point she could not survive. Something the Miracle of Philadelphia prevented in 1787. Which left the states sovereign. And the new federal government only governed that which extended beyond the states’ borders. And it worked well. For some 75 years. When it hit a road bump.
Tags: 1787, American, American Civil War, American identity, Barbary pirates, Britain, British, British Empire, central power, Civil War, Constitutional Convention, Continental Army, Continental Congress, creditors, debt, distant central power, federal government, France, General Washington, Great Britain, interstate commerce, Massachusetts, Miracle of Philadelphia, North, Philadelphia, republican government, Russia, Shays Rebellion, South, Spain, states' rights, Washington
The Declaration of Independence declared that Government should be By the People, Of the People and For the People
Tearing down the old order is one thing. Building a new one is something completely different. For there’s been a lot of tearing down throughout history. And rarely does peace and prosperity spontaneously follow. Which is something that no doubt weighed heavily on the minds of those who voted on July 2, 1776, to declare formerly their independence from Great Britain. What, exactly, were they to do next? The most powerful navy and army in the world no longer protected them. Instead, they were now the enemy of the most powerful navy and army in the world. Which meant they couldn’t protect themselves. Their international trade on the high seas. Or even protect their own people from each other. For if the British constitutional protections no longer applied to them, what did? Anything? Or would anarchy rule?
The Americans declared independence because they were not getting equal treatment under British law. Much of which they liked. The execution of it is what they had a problem with. That and the built-in privileges for some. And, of course, the established state religion. Which made many of them come to the colonies to escape in the first place. So there was a lot in British law they could use. And some that could do with a little tweaking. Which is something they could do now that they were starting from scratch.
They had just renounced the royal authority in their states. Which left these states without a formal framework of law. And the opportunity to make new law. Based on the principles in the Declaration of Independence. That government should be by the people, of the people and for the people. So when the Continental Congress adjourned after committing their high treason (declaring their independence) the delegates went home. Back to their states. To begin the building process of the new order.
The Vehicle for Peaceful Change of Government was and is the Constitutional Convention
Virginia was first. George Mason drafted their new constitution. And included a Bill of Rights. George Mason was a leading mind of the day. And produced a document that served as a template for other states. As well as other countries. It did away with privilege. And the state established Anglican religion. Among other reforms. In Massachusetts the process was a little different.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He voted for independence. And supported the violent revolution that followed. For he believed when a government harms the people that these people have a right and a duty to abolish that government. But that didn’t mean a violent revolution whenever the people disagreed with government policy. Because that would lead to anarchy. And this was an issue that weighed heavily on the brilliant mind of John Adams. Who created the procedure of overthrowing a government without suffering through a period of anarchy. The vehicle for this peaceful change of government was the constitutional convention. Which provided the framework for the states to develop their constitutions.
The Massachusetts House appointed a committee to draft their constitution. When they finished their draft they submitted it to a constitutional convention made up of elected state delegates. Who approved it and sent it to the towns for approval. They rejected it. For it lacked a bill of rights. Among other required features. So they started the process again. They called another constitution convention. This one included John Adams. Who had just returned from France. He took an active part of the deliberations. And the drafting of the second constitution. They then submitted this constitution to the towns for approval. The towns approved it. And the state of Massachusetts had a new government. New Hampshire followed this process. As did the other states. But it just wasn’t in the American states. Nations throughout the world have adopted this process ever since.
The Founding Fathers gave their People Great Power and hoped their Religious Institutions would help them act with Great responsibility
Most colonies disestablished the Anglican Church. Including the taxes that supported it. And the oaths of Anglican faith required for public office. But that didn’t mean the states wouldn’t establish their own religions. Or force the support of it through taxation. Which is what Massachusetts did. Either for the preferred Congregational Church. Or any other Christian religion. As long as everyone attended church. For as the Massachusetts Bill of Rights states, “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality…”
Of course the Quakers and Baptists in Massachusetts objected to paying taxes for what they saw as a violation of conscience. In Virginia the Anglican Church of England was still supported by the state. Supported by taxation. And the state penalized dissenters. Particularly the Baptists (something James Madison remembered well when later working for the passage of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution). In direct violation of their own Virginian Bill of Rights. The Virginian Assembly would subsequently pass an act exempting all dissenters from taxation and abuse. Thomas Jefferson would take this a step farther with his Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom in 1786. A piece of legislation that he was particularly proud of. Even included it on his gravestone.
With great power comes great responsibility. The Founding Fathers gave their people great power. Representative government. And a means to overthrow that government. The constitutional convention. That they hoped their religious institutions would protect. And help their people act with great responsibility.
Tags: Adams, American, anarchy, Anglican, Anglican Church, Baptists, Bill of Rights, British law, Church of England, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, Continental Congress, Declaration of Independence, George Mason, Great Britain, independence, Jefferson, John Adams, Massachusetts, privileges, Religion, taxation, taxes, Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom
The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (1787) was about Money and Unity at the National Level
Once upon a time in America federal taxes were small. As was federal spending. The Constitution called for little. The only big ticket items being an army and a navy. To protect the new nation. But Americans didn’t like paying taxes then any more than they do now. There wasn’t even a federal income tax until the 16th Amendment (1913). So even maintaining an army and a navy was difficult. Which led to a lot of problems. For a nation that couldn’t protect herself got pushed around in the rough and tumble world. And the U.S. took its share of swirlies and wedgies in her infancy. Figuratively, of course.
Just as kings needed money to maintain their kingdoms, the Americans needed money to maintain their new nation. Which was the point of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (1787). It was about the money. And unity. Which the new nation (that just gained its independence from Britain) had little of. So we got a new constitution. And a new nation. And the federal taxing and spending began. Which was small at first. Too small for Alexander Hamilton. But far too much for Thomas Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson thought any federal spending above zero was too much. And when he was president he slashed government spending. To the point that it hurt the safety of the United States. But he also bought the Louisiana Territory. And used the Navy and the Marine Corps to protect American interests abroad. These two items alone required enormous amounts of federal spending. And borrowing. Another thing Jefferson was dead set against. And we’re talking sums of money that not even Alexander Hamilton had proposed. Yet here was Jefferson, the limited-government president, spending and borrowing unlimited funds. Being more Hamilton than Hamilton himself.
Of course, things change. Even for Jefferson. The Louisiana Purchase was a deal that no president should have passed up. Thankfully, Jefferson took that opportunity to more than double the size of the United States. Without a war. Unlike Napoleon who was conquering Europe. But he was burning through money. And he needed money more than he needed the Louisiana Territory. Hence the Louisiana Purchase. Which turned out to be quite the bargain in the long run for the U.S. And the antimilitary Jefferson flexed America’s might by teaching the Barbary pirates a lesson. By deploying the U.S. Navy and Marines to the Shores of Tripoli. The first U.S. victory on foreign soil. Giving the U.S. respect. And a cessation of those swirlies and wedgies.
Keynesian Stimulus Spending may lessen the Severity of Economic Recessions
These things cost money. And the lion’s share of the federal budget was defense spending. Per the Constitution. For that was one of the main things the several states could not do well. Maintain an army and a navy. Because they needed unity. One army. And one navy. To protect one nation. So the states and their people could pursue happiness without foreign aggressors molesting them. So this is how federal spending began. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at fiscal policy today.
Fiscal policy is the collection of policies that government uses to tax and spend. But it’s more than just defense spending these days. Federal spending had grown to include things from business subsidies to Social Security to Medicare to food stamps to welfare to income redistribution to farm subsidies. And everything else you can possibly imagine under the sun. None of which was included in the Constitution. Because neither Jefferson nor Hamilton would have agreed to these expenditures. But it doesn’t end with this spending.
Fiscal policy also ‘manages’ the economy. Or tries to. By trying to maintain ‘full employment’. Which means they adjust tax and spend policies so that anyone who wants a full time job can have one. Based on Keynesian economics. And the business cycle. The business cycle is the cyclic economic transitions between economic expansions and contractions. The inflationary and recessionary boom-bust cycles. No one likes recessions. Because people lose their jobs. And have to get by on less money. So Keynesian economists say to lessen the severity of recessions the government can take action to stimulate economic activity. They can cut taxes. Because when people pay less in taxes they have more disposable income to spend on economic activity. Which they say will keep people from losing their jobs. And create new jobs. Or the government can spend money. Picking up the slack from consumers who aren’t spending money. Thus saving and/or creating jobs. Which stimulus depends on the political party in office. In general, Republicans favor tax cuts. And Democrats favor spending.
All Keynesian Stimulus Spending is Deficit Spending
But it’s not as simple as that. Because during recessions tax revenues fall. When people earn less they pay less in taxes. Far less. Especially if an interruption in their income puts them into a lower tax bracket. And if you run through all of your unemployment benefits, it will. So there’s more to economic stimulus than meets the eye. For to stimulate a government must borrow money. Or print money. Because all stimulus spending is deficit spending.
Keynesians say this deficit spending is not a problem. Because once the stimulus turns the economy around there will be plenty of new tax revenues to pay back the money they borrowed. But that rarely happens with a tax and spend government. Because they like to spend. As is evident by the ever increasing federal debt. And when they get more tax revenue they spend that tax revenue. On anything and everything you can possibly imagine under the sun. Often times cutting defense spending to help pay for all that other spending. Despite defense spending being one of the few things enumerated in the Constitution.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, America, army, business cycle, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, defense spending, deficit spending, economic activity, Economics, federal, federal spending, federal taxes, fiscal policy, government spending, Hamilton, Jefferson, jobs, Keynesian, Keynesian economics, Louisiana Purchase, Louisiana Territory, Marines, money, nation, navy, Philadelphia, recessions, spending, stimulus, stimulus spending, tax, Tax and spend, tax revenues, taxes, taxing and spending, Thomas Jefferson, United States, unity
The Founding Fathers’ Experiment in Self-Government
Benjamin Franklin said when the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Because people tend to be greedy. And lazy. And they don’t understand public finance. Especially the uneducated ones. And there were a lot of uneducated people during our founding. The Founding Fathers worried about this. Because governments past have always exploited the uneducated for personal gain. Kings and lords would give the poor some alms to make them feel good about their lives of unending toil and suffering on the feudal estates. Should you not be lucky enough to have been born with the ‘right’ last name. The new United States of America was going to change that. Here it wouldn’t matter who your father was. Here, no one would be better than you.
But only if this experiment in self-government succeeded. So they were very careful when they wrote the Constitution. And the type of government for the new nation would not be a democracy. Instead, they chose a representative republic. For the Founding Fathers all feared democracies. Which when you come down to it is nothing more than mob rule. If the mob is racists they’ll pass racist laws. If the mob is sexist, they’ll pass sexist laws. And if the mob is greedy and lazy, they’ll vote themselves money from the federal treasury. This is the risk of democracy. All you need is a majority. And whatever you want is yours. No matter how destructive it is to the country.
That’s why the Founding Fathers did NOT give us a democracy. We have intermediaries between the mob and the actual law-making. We call these people our representatives. At the founding, these were the best of the best. Well educated and/or experienced. Men of great honor and integrity. Imbued with a selfless sense of duty. These men went out of their way NOT to prosper from their government service. Really. It’s nothing at all like today where government service is nothing more than a ticket to a fat pension and early retirement. Back then such a thought was anathema to the Founding Fathers. Which is very evident by the type of government they created.
Indirect Elections temper the Populist Tendencies
The Constitutional Convention was a hot, miserable, long summer in Philadelphia. There was little agreement. No one liked the final product much. But most agreed it was the best that they could do. Even then the U.S. was big. Lots of different people trying to make the final product favor their state more than the others. And few were in favor of giving the new central government much power. They all feared that this new central power would consolidate its power. And regulate the states to fiefdoms in a new kingdom. Just like in the Old World. So they took as many opportunities to restrict federal power. And minimize the influence of the populist mob.
The new federal government was a limited government. It was only to do the things the states couldn’t do well. Maintain an army and navy. Treat with other nations. Those things that needed a singular national identity. Everything else was to remain with the states. And to make sure the states would not lose their sovereignty, the states’ legislators would choose their federal senators. The House of Representatives would have direct elections. Being the closest to true democracy, the House risked being influenced by the mob. The Senate, then, would be wise and prudent to temper the populist tendencies of the House. To keep the House from doing something stupid. Like voting the people the treasury. (Of course, the states lost a lot their sovereignty when we changed this by amendment to a popular vote like the House.)
The president was to be elected indirectly, too. Like the senators. The Founders were worried that the office of the president could be easily corrupted. So they put great restrictions on its powers. And made it as difficult as possible for any one group or interest to ‘cheat’ and get their man into office. Hence the indirect election. Again, to protect their sovereignty, this fell to the states. State legislatures would choose electors who would then vote for president. (With quite a few close elections, there have been calls to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a pure popular vote. Of course, it is usually the loser in a close election who wants this change. If the same thing happens in a subsequent close election where they win they are quite happy with the Electoral College.)
Talented People create things to trade
The reason the Founders wanted so many people between the voters and the actual law-making is to keep people from voting irresponsibly. The federal budget is pretty big. And people see that it is big. They figure that because they pay taxes, there’s no reason why they can’t have stuff from the federal government. In a true democracy, the people could vote to cut taxes and increase spending. They could vote themselves a monthly stipend to live on and quit their jobs. An uneducated mob can easily do this. Who wouldn’t want to get a paycheck for doing nothing AND pay less in taxes? It’s very attractive. If I ran for office on such a platform a lot of people would probably vote for me. But there’s a problem with such generosity. You see, government can’t give money to people unless they take money from other people first.
There appears to be a popular misconception about public finance. Many believe that government has a stash of cash that they can give out whenever they please. And that this stash of cash has mystical power. That it’s endless. And when they give it away more just magically appears. But the government has no money. The public treasury isn’t filled with the government’s money. It’s filled with our money. That’s our tax dollars in there. Or it’s borrowed money. Borrowed money that costs interest. Paid with our tax dollars. Or it’s printed money. Money created out of nothing. Which makes our money worth less. Which makes everything we buy more expensive. We call this inflation. You just can’t print money. Because it just dilutes the purchasing power of the money already in circulation. It’s like a bartender selling you whisky from a bottle that’s one part water and 4 parts whisky. It not only tastes bad. But you’ll have to pay more to get the same buzz from an honest bartender.
The reason why printing money doesn’t work? Because it isn’t the money we want. It’s the things that money can buy that we want. Who sits in an empty room and enjoys looking at big piles of cash? No one. Take the cash out of your wallet or purse and see how long you can stare at it. Probably not long. Why? Because it’s boring. We don’t enjoy the cash. We enjoy the things in the room we trade that cash for. And this is key. We trade. We are traders. Always have been. And always will be. We started out bartering for things. You traded something you built (this is important) for something someone else built (equally important). Talented people who created things met to trade. And we still do this today. The money just makes it easier to trade. But this would not be possible if we all lived on a government stipend and nobody worked. Because if no one worked, there would be no things to buy. We would be sitting in an empty room staring at piles of useless money.
A Public Educational System that doesn’t Educate but Indoctrinates
The Founding Fathers understood all of this. And they framed the Constitution accordingly. They limited the powers of the federal government. Minimized the amount of actual democracy/mob rule. And minimized the amount of money in the federal treasury. For they were capitalists. They knew money left in the private sector stimulated local economies. People created useful things. Brought them to market. And traded these useful things for other useful things. That’s the way things were. It’s not how they are now. Politicians today are in politics for personal gain. They pander to the voters. Buy and sell favors. Enrich themselves in the process. And leave a swath of destruction in their wake. And how are they able to do this? Because the government has become more of a democracy than a representative republic.
Along the way the educational system failed. Probably starting in the Sixties. With the hippies in college. Who went on to teach in the Seventies. We spent less time on reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. And more on American white guilt for what happened to the Native Americans and a slave economy. We learned less about the Founding Fathers. And more about the people they wronged. We learned less about American culture and more about diversity and multiculturalism. We learned less about American Exceptionalism and more about American Imperialism. We learned less about Western Civilization and more about ‘enlightened’ oppressive socialism. We learned less about capitalism and more about the ‘fair’ redistribution of wealth. Let’s face it. Kids in school didn’t have a chance. Their teachers were no longer teaching how America got to be exceptional. They were teaching that America was anything but exceptional. That we were guilty of every crime and injustice you could think of. That America needed to change. And that they, the young, our future, could make that change happen.
So the dumbing down of America began. For those unable to escape the indoctrination of the new public education. And the growth of government took off. In fact, you can say that as society became ‘less American’ they became more dependent on government. Where once rugged individualists dominated the land their numbers are thinning. As slick politicians lure more people by the siren song of an easy life provided by government benefits. And these politicians find the lie easier to sell with a public educational system that doesn’t educate but indoctrinates. In fact, it’s quite an incestuous relationship. The politicians spend more and more money on education. The money goes to the teachers. The teachers belong to unions. The teachers’ unions support and donate to Democrat candidates. So some of that tax money spent on education goes right back to the politicians that just increased educational spending. And the teachers, eager to keep a good thing going, teach their students to become good Democrat voters. Instead of teaching them about the three Rs, the Founding Fathers, American culture, American Exceptionalism, Western Civilization and capitalism. As the standardized test scores show. And does their irresponsible voting.
A Rising Sun or a Setting Sun
America is fast approaching a crossroads. People have learned that they can vote themselves money. And have. Politicians are pandering to these people for personal gain. Offering to spend more and more money that we just don’t have. Bringing us closer and closer to the end of the republic.
Ben Franklin sat through that insufferable summer in Philadelphia. Swatted at the giant horseflies in the hall. He was old and his time was short. He sat quietly during much of the debates. Often staring at the sun carved into George Washington‘s chair. He wondered if it was a rising sun. Or a setting sun. He saw it as symbolic of their little experiment in self-government and the work they were doing in that hall. Was this already the end of their noble experiment? Or was it just the beginning? After the delegates voted to send the new Constitution to the states for ratification he breathed a sigh of relief. For it was a rising sun.
I guess that question is once again open to debate.
Tags: America, American exceptionalism, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, Big Government, capitalists, central government, central power, Constitution, Constitutional Convention, democracy, education, educational spending, educational system, Electoral College, federal budget, federal government, federal power, federal treasury, Founders, Founding Fathers, House of Representatives, indirect election, indoctrinates, limited government, Mob rule, money, Philadelphia, popular vote, populist mob, populist tendencies, president, printing money, public education, public finance, public treasury, representative republic, representatives, self-government, Senate, Senators, sovereignty, state legislatures, tax dollars, teachers, teachers' unions, trade, treasury, United States, voting, voting irresponsibly, Western Civilization
Your People Did Not Free the Slaves, Mr. President
From Mark Knoller, White House Correspondent, Radio, CBS News:
Obama says people are impatient but “now’s not the time to quit…it took time to free the slaves…ultimately we’ll make progress.”
We would have freed the slaves a whole lot sooner if it weren’t for people like him. Democrats.
The Southern States and Slavery – A Packaged Deal
Democrats descend from the southern planter elite. These slaveholders formed a small minority of the population. But they held the majority of political power. There was a north-south divide at the founding over slavery. Franklin, Adams, Hamilton and Washington were against slavery. Jefferson and Madison were for it. Rather, they were for the southern states. And that meant the planter elite (which they were part of). Which was for slavery.
Slavery was a taboo subject. You won’t find it in our founding documents. The North wanted to abolish slavery. But any discussion of the taboo subject and the South would walk. So they tabled the subject. To get the South to join the Union. And they didn’t speak about it to keep the South in the Union. (When I say the ‘South’, think the planter elite, the ruling minority power in the South. This elite few had the majority of slaves. Most southerners couldn’t afford slaves and worked their own small farms. The yeoman farmers Jefferson would wax philosophical about.)
The majority of slaves were in the south. They also were the majority of the southern population. This was a sticking point at the Constitutional Convention. The South wanted to count slaves in determining congressional representation. But you count citizens to determine your number of representatives. Not property. The northerners did not get to count their cattle in determining their number of representatives. So the South shouldn’t count their slaves. The South, of course, disagreed. For if they were to be a part of the Union, not simply a region ruled by the North, it was necessary to count their slaves. And if they couldn’t? No union. So they compromised. With the Three-Fifths Compromise. They would count a slave as 3/5 a citizen. It gave the South a greater representation in Congress than their citizenry allowed. But it ‘balanced’ the political power between the North and the South. And brought the southern states into the Union.
When the Democrats Did Not Like Immigration
After winning our independence, we got the Northwest Territories (the land north of the Ohio River) from the British. The northerners got their way with this northern land. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in this territory.
Then came the Louisiana Purchase. The North wanted to exclude slavery from all of this land. The South didn’t. That would tip the balance of power in favor of the North. So they compromised. With the Missouri Compromise of 1820. There would be some slavery in the new territory. But not above the bottom border of Missouri (the 36th parallel). Except in Missouri (a slave-state). Which they added at the same time with Maine (a free-state). To maintained the balance of power.
But the population continued to grow in the North. Those in the South could see the writing on the wall. The immigration into the northern states would tip the balance of power in the House to the North. So they focused on controlling the judiciary. The president (who nominated). And the Senate (which confirmed). What they couldn’t win by popular vote they’d simply legislate from the bench. And dirty, filthy party politics was born. The party machine. And the Democratic Party.
It Takes a Republican
Martin Van Buren created it. And, at the time, he had but one goal. To keep the issue of slavery from ever being an issue again. Which the Democrats did until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The North wanted to abolish slavery from the founding. But the planter elite, then the Democrats, fought them every step of the way. So they could maintain their power.
But it was more than just power. It was that elite status. That they were superior. It had gone beyond King Cotton. The south had manufacturing. Some of which was even more profitable than cotton. But manufacturing couldn’t give you what cotton could. An aristocratic planter elite that was so elite that it could own human life. This was Old World aristocracy alive and well in the New World.
Anyway, all the legislation and court cases that led up to the Civil War had one thing in common. All people trying to maintain the institution of slavery were Democrats. The big ones, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraskan Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott ruling of 1854 were all pushed/won by Democrats. The new Republican Party finally denied the Democrats. A Republican president (Abraham Lincoln) made slavery a moral issue in the Civil War with his Emancipation Proclamation (which didn’t free a single slave but it made it politically impossible for France or Great Britain to recognize the Confederacy or enter the war on her behalf). Four years of war and some 600,000 dead later, the North prevailed and the Union sounded the death knell for slavery in America. Then the Republican Congress passed and the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. The Republicans had, finally, abolished slavery.
Ignorance or Arrogance?
The Democrats can talk about Civil Rights Act of 1964. Well, a little. More Democrats voted against it than did Republicans. And a Democrat, segregationist and KKK Exalted Cyclops, Robert Byrd, filibustered for 14 hours during an 83-day Democrat filibuster. But a lot of Democrats did vote for the Civil Rights Act. So, yeah, they can talk about that. But they had absolutely nothing to do with the freeing of the slaves. They call slavery America’s original sin. But that’s not fair. It was only the planter elite and then the Democrat Party that practiced that sin. And they fought hard to keep their sinful ways.
A Democrat should not invoke the struggle to end slavery to help his cause. Especially a black Democrat. For to do so marks the height of ignorance. Or arrogance.
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DID THE FOUNDING Fathers found America as a Christian nation? No. Did they found a secular nation? Not exactly. Did they found a federal nation? Yes.
Federalism. What does it mean? It means the new federal government would have LIMITED powers. The new national government would do national things. Trade. National defense. Treat with other nations. In other words, those things that required a single national voice. The French didn’t want to treat with the individual states. They didn’t want one set of trade agreements for Virginia and another for North Carolina. Neither did Great Britain. Or the other European powers. No. If the United States of America wanted to be an independent nation, then they had to act as a single, unified nation. So they did.
The other things, the non-national things, they left to the states. And one of these things was religion. For when it came to religion, the new federal government did not interfere in the states’ religious business. Ergo the First Amendment. The ‘wall’ between church and state was to separate the new federal government from the states’ religious establishments. If a state discriminated against all but their established religion, that was fine and dandy for it was a moot point as far as the federal government was concerned. It just wasn’t their business.
Now, a truly secular government would intervene in such a case. The federal government would later, but at the founding, one of the preconditions for ratification of the Constitution was that it wouldn’t. And it didn’t. Interfere with a state’s religion.
WE ALL KNOW the story of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, coming to the New World from England to escape religious persecution. Probably not as familiar with the backstory. The English Civil War. Duke of Buckingham. King and Parliament. Queen and Parliament. The French. The Spanish. The Pope. The Kirk. The Ulster Uprising. Oliver Cromwell. And, of course, William Laud.
Here’s the short version of what happened. And some back-story to the back-story. The Protestant Reformation split the Catholic Church. Much fighting ensued. This split nations into essentially Catholic and Protestant camps (which broke down into further divisions). England was Protestant. Scotland was Presbyterian (a branch of Protestantism). Ireland was Catholic with a Protestant enclave in Ulster.
Mix them together, add a not great English king, who married a French Catholic, throw in a revised Church of England prayer book, bring back some Catholicism to the Protestant Church of England, dissolve Parliament, recall Parliament, try to dissolve it again and, well, you get civil war. Parliament wins the war. They behead the king.
The English Civil War is a little more complicated than this. But for our purposes, it’s the religious component that’s important. Everyone persecuted someone at one time. One group, the Puritans, were Protestants. Hardcore Protestants. Calvinists. They were about as anti-Catholic as you could get. Didn’t like any of the Catholics’ fancy vestments, icons, statues, pictures, altar rails, candlesticks, stained glass windows, etc. That church was corrupt. They had lost their way.
They didn’t believe in original sin or that you can buy your way into heaven. God chose your fate before you were born. If you were one of the elect, you passed your days in long church services and you read the Bible. If you didn’t do these things it was proof you weren’t one of the elect. And were damned. No matter what you did during your life. Cure cancer, it didn’t matter. You were damned.
They didn’t like Catholics and Catholics didn’t like them. And, as it turned out, the Protestant powers that be didn’t much care for them either. In England or on the Continent. They just couldn’t be un-Catholic enough to please the Puritans. Much bitterness ensued. Many left the Old World and settled in the New World. Like the Israelites fleeing Egypt, these Puritans came to the New World to establish that city on a hill of Mathew 5:14 fame (from the Sermon on the Mount. Given by Jesus Christ. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with it).
THEY CAME FROM England, Scotland, the Netherlands, France and settled in New England, New York and the far side of the Appalachians. A hard working people. They provided for themselves. Went to church. Read the Bible. All work and no play. At least, some would say.
They established the state-supported Congregational Church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Adams was born and raised a Calvinist and attended this state-supported church. When writing the new state’s constitution, the state support of the church was a contentious issue. Most felt that religion was an indispensible part of life. Others agreed but feared a religious majority would oppress a religious minority. The process would take 3 years to resolve.
Being in the heart of the rebellion, Abigail Adams, Founding Mother, and perhaps America’s first feminist, experienced much of the darker side of the struggle for independence. Soulmate of John Adams in every sense of the word, she was as religious as he. As the war dragged on with no end in sight, she feared it was God’s punishment for the sins of American slavery.
IN VIRGINIA, THE established church was the Anglican Church (i.e., the Church of England). As in Massachusetts, there was debate about an established majority religion oppressing a minority religion. For good reason. It did. Right in James Madison’s backyard. Baptists were harassed. And imprisoned. You needed a license to preach. Virginia and the established church made getting that license very difficult. If you were a Baptist.
America’s least religious Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Virginian Statute for Religious Freedom. The Virginian General Assembly passed it in 1786, two years before the states ratified the U.S. Constitution. To help get the Virginian Baptists on board for ratification, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, promised to add a Bill of Rights after ratification that would add similar rights and protection at the federal level that were enacted at the state level.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN MAY have been a Deist. He was, after all, the embodiment of the Enlightenment. Like Thomas Jefferson. They embraced reason over dogma. But Franklin believed religious faith was fundamental to civilized society. His personal beliefs boiled down to simply doing good deeds. Help others. And sometimes you need to remind some people to help others. And that’s why he liked religion. He spent much of his life helping his community (serving in the state militia, participating in the volunteer fire department, etc.). At an impasse at the Constitutional Convention, it was he who suggested they should pray.
GEORGE WASHINGTON MAY not have taken communion, but he added chaplains to his army units during the American Revolution. He believed the American cause was a divine one. He feared a lack of faith may determine battlefield outcomes. He led an integrated army of Protestants and Catholics. And Jews. And blacks. And others. He forbade anti-Catholic demonstrations which were very common in the former British colonies. When an Army went to Canada to attack the British, they were to respect the Catholic French Canadians and invite them to join their cause. He would even attend Catholic service on occasion. Like the army, the nation he would lead would be a melting pot. Tolerance and respect was the mantra. For all Americans.
SO, DID THE Founding Fathers found a Christian nation? No. Religious establishment was simply beyond the responsibility of the new federal government. Did Christians settle the original colonies? Yes. And they established Christian churches. And the states were worried that a new federal government would interfere with their religious business. Some wanted additional safeguards written in. So James Madison added the Bill of Rights after ratification. The First Amendment placed a wall between the federal government and the States’ religious establishments.
In time, the states extended the tolerance and respect of religious diversity prevalent in Washington’s army to their states. They disestablished their established churches. And, to their relief, religion flourished. Especially the different branches of Christianity. Yes, America became even more Christian, but it tolerated and respected other religions. New York even had a Jewish Temple 3 years after the British surrender at Yorktown. And even the Catholics were welcomed in the new nation.
DISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM INCREASED THE spread of Christianity. Like the economy, the freer it was the more it flourished. And with the great number of Christian religions that have since spread across the nation, it is unlikely that overt acts of Christianity would result in the establishment of one of these. Or the reestablishment of the Church of England.
So go ahead and display your Christmas Crèche or the Ten Commandments. Chances are good that it won’t beget antidisestablishmentarianism.
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