A bit of history you may not be aware of. On June 21, 1788 New Hampshire ratified the proposed Constitution, meeting the requirement that nine States ratify it for it to go into effect. It would be 1790 before the thirteenth, and final State, Rhode Island finally voted to ratify the Constitution, making the decision to adopt the government it proposes unanimous.
Prior to these events we did not have a government such as the one we are all familiar with, nor did we have a national capital where all that power resided. What we had was a confederation of 13 sovereign and independent States joined loosely together for the common good of all. Our nation’s first constitution, known as the Articles of Confederation, had established a Congress to serve the purpose of passing whatever laws were felt to be in the nation’s best interests. For any law proposed by this Congress to go into effect the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous vote in favor of that law from all thirteen State Legislatures.
When the delegates to the convention which produced our Constitution arrived in the city of Philadelphia, they came with the instructions to propose amendments to strengthen the Articles of Confederation, not create an entirely new system of government. Once they began deliberations it quickly became clear that James Madison had other plans; and Robert Yates and John Lansing were among the few who felt that the convention was overstepping its authority; so they left and returned to New York.
Once they had completed deliberations and produced a finished document they still had to present it to the Congress. Once the finalized document was presented to the Congress it was fully within their power to discard it as the delegates had overstepped their authority. Yet they sent it on to the States for their consideration; leaving to the people the choice of either retaining the government established by the Articles of Confederation or adopting the government proposed by the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention.
For the next year a heated debate amongst the people of this country ensued; with some supporting ratification of the proposed Constitution and others opposing its ratification. Among the reasons many opposed the proposed Constitution were the facts that it essentially transformed the United States from a Confederation into a single nation under a centralized federal authority; thus depriving the States of their sovereignty; the fact that the proposed Constitution contained no Bill of Rights to protect the rights of the people, and finally there was fear that the form of government it outlined would eventually lead to tyranny and despotism.
It’s obvious which side won out in the debate; as we wouldn’t have the government we do now if they had lost. I think the more pertinent question should be; which side was correct in their arguments in support of their position; those who supported ratification, or those who opposed it? I think if one were to read any of the writings produced by the so-called Anti-Federalists that they would see that many, if not most of the things they feared would happen, have happened.
Nonetheless, at midday on April 30, 1789, George Washington stood on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City to take the oath of office and deliver his comments regarding being the first president chosen under this newly adopted Constitution. It is interesting to note that Washington did not seek out the presidency; in fact he felt he was not qualified to hold the position which the nation had called him to fill. His opening comments of that first Inaugural Address support this belief, “Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the fourteenth day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years: a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my Country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens, a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with dispondence, one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”
It’s interesting to note that 12 years later Thomas Jefferson would echo those sentiments by saying, “Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire.”
Getting back to Washington’s Inaugural Address there is one thing he said which I’d like to draw your attention to; that being the following statement, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Although Washington may have been called upon by the people to fill the position of the Executive, I honestly think that by his words he believed that the people of this country were charged with a much more sacred and solemn responsibility; that being the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty.
There is a phrase that I do not hear used much these days, but one which was practiced by the very act of the people of this country choosing what type government it shall have; that being self-determination. Self-determination is defined as the process by which a country determines its own statehood and forms its own allegiances and government.
As government entails power, and power requires that a portion of the sovereignty of those establishing government be surrendered, the act of establishing a government is not one which should be taken lightly, or done for transient and inconsequential reasons. It therefore behooves all Americans to ponder the following question; what was the purpose our government was established to serve? Washington’s comments from his Inaugural Address should be sufficient to answer that question for you: to preserve the sacred fire of liberty.
Our system of government was established as one in which the people were essentially self-governing. Although we are not a democracy where the people themselves gather together to enact laws, we are, or we were anyway, a Republic in which we elect people to pass laws on our behalf. However, our government was never intended to be one of unlimited and arbitrary power; our government was given specific authority to act for specific purposes; and when government acts in a manner that oversteps its legitimately delegated authority, it becomes tyrannical. This statement is true whether the best interests of the people are used as justification for the passage of these laws, or if they are passed to intentionally destroy the liberty which government was established to secure.
Most people I know today can’t tell me who their current representative in Congress is, so it comes as no surprise that many do not know the name Daniel Webster. Webster was an early American politician who served in both the House and the Senate representing the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts respectively. Why I mention him is the fact that Webster once said, “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions.”
I know people don’t give it much thought, but the relationship between government and liberty is similar to the mechanics of a see-saw; when one side goes up the other goes down. Liberty is best achieved by a government with very limited power and authority, and conversely, liberty is destroyed when you give government too much power; or when government assumes too much power for itself.
For as long as I can remember I cannot recall a single election where the primary focus of the American voters was the preservation of their liberty…NOT ONE SINGLE TIME!!! The closest I’ve seen was when the Ron Paul phenomenon was taking place when he rekindled to love of liberty to a certain extent. But that was short lived, and the grassroots movement that sprung up around Ron Paul was quickly infiltrated by Republicans who sought to divert it from its true purpose, therefore furthering the Republican agenda.
You don’t have to be the ardent lover of liberty that I am to perform a simple experiment. The next time you listen to someone discuss politics, especially their reasons for supporting a particular candidate for office, listen to the specific reasons they give for supporting that candidate. I’ll bet that not one single time will you hear anyone say that they are voting for a candidate to restore the liberty we have lost to an oppressive government.
I remember way back in Elementary School having been, not only taught Patrick Henry’s give me liberty or give me death speech, but having to memorize it and repeat it in front of the class. I was just a young foolish kid at the time, but I think the constant repeating of those words over and over again, until I had them completely memorized, did something to me. I may not have known at the time, but I believe that the current love of liberty that I have today can trace its roots all the way back to that moment in time when I memorized Henry’s immortal words.
The thing is, Henry’s love of and support for the cause of liberty did not end with the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War. Henry’s devotion to the cause of liberty lived on, and he justified his opposition to the proposed Constitution because he felt that the government it proposed threatened that liberty.
Even as far back as 1788 Patrick Henry felt that the fire which had burned so brightly in the hearts of American Patriots was beginning to diminish, and that the people were willing to accept a government which might threaten the very liberty they had so recently fought to secure for themselves. In a speech given to the Virginia Ratification Assembly, Henry declared, “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else: But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an fellow: Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old fashioned: If so, I am contented to be so: I say, the time has been when every pore of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American…”
I think a great many Americans today only pay lip service to liberty. I don’t think most even understand what real liberty is, and wouldn’t like it if it was given to them. I think most prefer the comfort of a certain degree of servitude over the responsibility which liberty demands of those who want it. As Thomas Paine once said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
I hear so much talk from people about how it is okay to violate our rights, deprive us of the fruit of our labors, and pass all manner of laws which micro manage our lives as long as it is for the common good of the people. Yet in his Inaugural Address Thomas Jefferson declared that “The policy of the American government is to leave its citizens free, neither restraining them nor aiding them in their pursuits.”
That, my friends, is a government that is friendly to liberty; and it is a far cry from what we have today. Today we have all these people who profess to be patriots, yet by their actions and decisions they prove that they are not. A patriot would not remain silent while their government passes laws which violate their rights or oversteps its legitimate authority; and they most certainly would not support such measures.
I want y’all to read a quote my friend posted on Facebook this morning; it comes from historian Clyde Wilson, and states, “Patriotism is the wholesome, constructive love of one’s land and people. Nationalism is the unhealthy love of one’s government, accompanied by the aggressive desire to put down others―which becomes in deracinated modern men a substitute for religious faith. Patriotism is an appropriate, indeed necessary, sentiment for people who wish to preserve their freedom; nationalism is not.”
Mark Twain pretty much paraphrased those sentiments when he said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” Our government only deserves our support when it acts to serve the purposes for which it was established, and when it confines its acts to those specifically given it by the Constitution.
It does not matter one little bit that many of the things our government does comes as a result of the people asking government to do something about some problem this country faces; if the end result is that it deprives the people, or even a certain segment of the people of their rights, or their property, it is tyranny. As Jefferson also said, “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”
But nobody cares what a bunch of old dead guys thought about liberty anymore. People today would rather take the word of some Hollywood film star over the words of the men who actively participated in obtaining the liberty people foolishly believe they still enjoy. And they most certainly don’t care what some guy like me has to say on the matter.
But you know what, we don’t care what you think, nor do we need your help in defending what is rightfully ours. As Samuel Adams said, “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
Enjoy your slavery and I hope you choke on all the lies you’ve swallowed…