As I look back across the history of America, I ironically find enlightening the words of a New York Anti-Federalist who wrote under the pseudonym John DeWitt. An Anti-Federalist was one who opposed the ratification of the US Constitution, because as they argued, the Constitution gave too much power to a central government, which it would ultimately abuse. An Anti-Federalist instead wanted to have a decentralized government with the most legislative power residing in local governments that were closest to the people.
In October 1787 John DeWitt contrasted American society to that of Europe with comments to this effect:
“Whoever attentively examines the history of America, and examines it against other nations, will find its commencement, its growth, and its present situation without precedent.”
The American culture must ever prove a source of pleasure to the philosopher, who compares around the globe, current nations and the rise and fall of nations that have come and are now gone. In that the philosopher loves his fellow man, he must admire and approve of America even more when he compares that other cultures laid their foundations in the blood and slaughter of three, four, and sometimes, ten successive generations. The result of these passions was despotic tyranny and every misery known to human nature.
America stands completely organized as a nation without any of these misfortunes. – On the contrary, from the first settlement of the country, everyone understood the necessity of civil associations, founded upon equality, consent, and proportionate justice. – They concentrated on providing education, and brought the benefits of science within the reach of the impoverished. – Up until now we have established society and advanced in all respects resembling a family, without partial affections, or even domestic bickering: And if we consider our society as an individual, instead of an undue proportion of violent passions and bad habits, we must acknowledge her as possessed of reason, genius and virtue. – I put forward these few observations because there are too many narrow minded people among us, who live in the practice of blasting the reputation of their own country. – “They hold it as a maxim that virtues cannot grow in their own soil.” – They will appreciate the ideas of a man, they know nothing about, because he is an exotic; while they are sure to depreciate the ideas much more brilliant in their neighbors, because they are acquainted with and know them.
The exotic man to which John DeWitt was referring was most likely Alexander Hamilton, who was a major proponent of the Constitution, author of many of the Federalist Papers which argued for the ratification of the US Constitution, and an advocate for duplicating European institutions and practices in America. In John DeWitt’s day the crisis they faced was the nation tending towards anarchy because the Articles of Confederation did not provide the Continental Congress with necessary powers to adequately govern the nation. Conversely, John DeWitt and other Anti-Federalists were gravely concerned the proposed constitution provided too many powers to a central government, which would ultimately usurp the rights of the people and the States by violating life, liberty, and private property.
Over Two-Hundred years later, their concerns have become our reality and the crisis we now face is a nation tending towards tyranny, because the national government has repetitively overstepped the bounds set up by our founders in the Constitution. It is with this in mind I bring to you these following observations of fundamental Constitutional concepts and the errors we have made as a society by deviating from them.
Most all of my life I have heard nearly every politician and news commentator in America refer to the United States as a democracy, yet our founders were quite clear that they created us as a republic, they even guaranteed to every State in the Union a republican form of government in Article IV Section 4 of the Constitution. Our founders understood a mere democracy is not a good thing; it is a mobocracy or tyranny of the majority, just because the majority agrees with something does not mean it is right or righteous. Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner, so I hope everyone can understand mere democracies will always devolve into violating individual rights in the name of majority rule. But, if you are among those who believe voting money out of someone else’s pocket is morally sound then you need to acknowledge it is impossible to violate someone else’s life, liberty, or property without ultimately violating your own.
To be fair, many of these politicians and news commentators meant a representative democracy, which is another description for a republic, and is far removed from a mere democracy, but it is too easy to get the two confused and unwise to refer to our nation simply as a democracy.
The republic our founders gave us, on the other hand, is different from most other republics that have ever existed, because it is a constitutional republic, the definition of which is a nation governed by constitutional law, upheld by representatives of that law, who are elected by the people. In other words, we do not elect people to go to Washington to do the will of 51% of their constituents. We elect them to uphold the supreme law of the land, embodied in our Constitution, for which they take an oath to uphold.
Although, our government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, even the overwhelming desire of the governed does not provide our legislators and other elected and appointed officials the authority to violate unalienable rights or to exercise powers not authorized to them in the Constitution; in these cases they must practice unpopular restraint and uphold the law as they have taken an oath to do.
Our Constitution is applicable to industrial, service, and agrarian societies alike and it is a timeless document just as relevant today as it was when the people and the States first adopted it, because it was written to restrain greed, jealousy and other defects in human nature that have not changed in 6,000 years of human history.
Our Constitution is a compromise in a contract that our founders negotiated on how we as a society would interact both domestically and internationally into perpetuity. When our founders applied the words and clauses to parchment that became our Constitution they did so with intended meaning to each of those words and clauses and when the individual citizens and State legislators debated adopting the Constitution they did so under the same definitions as our founders. It is a common legal maxim that all contracts are to be construed according to the meaning of the parties at the time of making them. For anyone today, to interpret the Constitution contrary to its original intent is to change the Constitution by circumventing the constitutionally mandated amendment process from Article V of the Constitution. Changing the Constitution in this manner is done for the benefit of one group of people and to the detriment of another without three fourths of the States agreeing to the change. This of course is by any form of reasoning unconstitutional and in violation of Article III Section 1 of the Constitution in that it is not only contrary to good behavior, but outright illegal.
Sadly, this has happened many times over our history and to prove how far we have come from the original intent I will read the ten planks of Communism from the Communist Manifesto. The Communist Manifesto represents the antithesis of who our founders were and for what they stood. It is therefore, the exact opposite of the policies that made our nation the most prosperous nation in the history of the world in the shortest amount of time the world has ever encountered.
To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a socialist if you believe in:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.
Ironically, we have instituted every one of these ten planks into our nation in one form or another. Individually or collectively, these ideas may sound good, but each one of them violates individual liberty and they are wrong for similar reasons that involuntary servitude is wrong, because it unjustly forces people to do that which they would otherwise not choose to do. These ideas are also doomed to failure like involuntary servitude because, forced labor costs more in real economic terms and cannot compete with free market labor and sooner or later justice is restored. Quantitatively, there is no substitute for enjoying the entire fruit of one’s own labor to motivate someone to work harder.
Today, when we have discussions about reversing or restraining even one of these ten planks we hear many people say it is a violation of their rights. So let us all understand a right is not a right if someone else has to pay for even a fraction of it, and a so called right is not unalienable if it is granted by a government. If the government granted it, then the government can take it away.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which included property rights, both physical and intellectual, are unalienable rights, because they are granted by God, yet, we have allowed our government to violate each one of these to secure socialist ideals and it is no wonder our prosperity has dissipated with them.
I also hear many people speak of social justice, but there will not be any justice at all if unalienable rights are violated to achieve it.
Definitively, it is unjust to have law without liberty, because it is tyrannous to have an overbearing government dictating how we must live our lives. Equivalently, it is impossible to have liberty without law, because if everyone is allowed to do what is right in their own eyes they will justify in their own minds violating someone else’s liberty. This is why freedom must be balanced with restraint.
It is only under negative law, which enumerates the finite things we cannot do, and everything else we are at liberty to do that we can have unity with diversity and freedom and justice for all.
Yet, liberty under law only works if we as a nation are self-governing, such that we understand the law that ensures everyone’s liberty and comport ourselves accordingly to insure we preserve it. This is because; the more self- government each of us has the less external- government all of us need.
Our founders wrote the Constitution as negative law in which the people delegated certain powers to the national government and only those specific powers is our national government allowed to exercise, approximately twenty to the Congress, exactly eight to the President, and four to the Supreme Court. The 10th Amendment makes it clear, our Constitution is an express powers document, meaning only the delegated powers listed in the Constitution are authorized for our government to employ.
“In every human society, there is an essay continually tending to confer on one part of the height of power and happiness, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery. The intent of good laws is to oppose this effort, and to diffuse their influence universally and equally.” “It is this that our Constitution has attempted to do, because constitutions are not so necessary to regulate the conduct of good rulers as to restrain that of bad ones” and that is why clearly defined limits to power are exceedingly vital.
With all my accolades for our founders and our Constitution I want to make sure you understand I am not venerating any of them to perfection, our founders were fallen men just like every other human who has ever existed except for one, and the documents they created are not without error as no non-God inspired manmade document will ever be. But our founders were great and so are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Our founders were great; because they established freedom from tyranny while remaining under lawful authority and went on to create something that was greater than they were as individuals, which has lasted longer than any constitution in the history of the world.
But let us be clear, our founders were not great because they were white Europeans; they were great because of what they believed and how they applied it to every aspect of their lives. Therefore, skin color and ethnicity are not determinants of greatness, but what one believes is, because thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are played out in our actions and have real consequences. As a man thinks in his heart so is he, accordingly every aspect of our lives is a direct result of what we believe, both individually and collectively.
Let us, therefore, all drink from the fountain of truth from where our founders obtained their wisdom, and apply it to our lives, our families, our communities, our counties, our States, and ultimately our nation. Let us take responsibility for our problems and stop looking for the government to fix them. Let us hold our national government to the limited powers we delegated to them and retain for ourselves among other rights, the right to succeed and the right to fail. We are the final check and balance to our system of government and we are therefore the root cause of any problems with it, because politicians are only a reflection of the majority of their voting constituents and in due course we get the politicians we deserve. We, the people, are also the solution to any problems we face, so love God above all else and love your neighbor as you love yourself, go out and treat others as you would want to be treated, regard your enemies with justice and adorn them with kindness while holding them accountable for their actions, and together we can restore what has been lost.