The values of the Framers of the Constitution must be applied in any case construing the Constitution. Inferences from the text and history of the Constitution should be given great weight in discerning the original understanding and in determining the intentions of those who ratified the constitution. Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 547 (1969)
Why a Part 2 you ask? Well it’s simple, I was asked to write a Part 2 because I was told I did not do enough to explain who we were in Part 1.
I guess it all boils down to what our values are today, as compared to say a hundred, or two hundred years ago. Our values form our belief system, or vice versa, and it is the mixture of the two which guide us in our decisions and throughout our lives for that matter. Therefore when we vote for candidates to represent us in office we typically choose the candidate who most closely resembles, or reflects, the values we hold as individuals. Not that this is a bad thing; it all depends upon how virtuous and ethical our own values are. If ours are corrupt and immoral then we will choose candidates who are corrupt and immoral. It is that simple.
Samuel Adams is probably one of my favorite Founding Fathers. Sure I admire Jefferson more for his knowledge and thoughts on rights and liberty, but Adams is more like me, a trouble maker and a rabble rouser. Even before the Declaration of Independence was written Adams was stirring the shit, so to speak. In an essay published in the Public Advertiser in 1749 Adams penned the following, “[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
Then thirty years later Adams would write the following in a letter to Elbridge Gerry, “If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.”
There, in a nutshell, is all that is wrong in America today. One the one side we have a people who have no understanding, and no desire to learn, the principles upon which this great nation was founded. Therefore their beliefs are formed by what they are told by charlatans and crooks who seek to rule over them. As Patrick Henry once said, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience are incompatible with freedom.”
Then on the other hand due to our inattention to the affairs of our government and our corrupted state of morals we choose the very category of men that Adams warned us about. These men are not public servants, they are not statesmen, they are seekers of power, glory, and personal wealth. Daniel Webster once said, “There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
That is not how our system was designed. Under our system the people were sovereign, that is, the supreme power in this country, not the government. Government was to be our servant, not our master. This has been reaffirmed numerous times in court rulings but the simplest, and shortest quote to prove so comes from a 1935 ruling in the case of Perry v United States. In the court’s ruling they clearly stated, “In the United States, sovereignty resides in the people who act through the organs established by the Constitution…”
If our government gets out of hand, abuses its powers, it is because we allow it to. Sometimes we even ask that it do things that it isn’t supposed to do because we want it to do so to take care of us, make us safer and more secure, and often to simply protect us from ourselves. In 1950 Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson ruled, “It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error.” (American Communications Association v. Douds)
It basically boils down to this; if we are corrupted in values, our government will be corrupt as well. If we don’t care about what the Constitution or Bill of Rights says, neither will our government. Since we elect the people to represent us, and since we are supposed to be a check upon them to ensure they do not overstep their power and authority, if they do so, WE ARE TO BLAME!
Our nation was once great. It still is a far sight better than many of the nations of the world in regards to individual liberty, economic status, and a whole slew of other things…but it was also a lot better than it is now. So what were the values, the beliefs, and the ethics that made us great, and how have they changed causing us to be where we are today?
Well for one thing, we were far more self-reliant than we are today. Our Founders would be sorely disappointed with us today if they could see how reliant we are upon government to do all the things we ask it to do for us. How many programs exist which do such a wide range of things, all the way from providing for our retirement; our medical needs, caring for the poor or handicapped; and providing subsidies for businesses and individuals? None of this would have pleased the Founders as they were firmly against government taking money from the Treasury and spending it on acts of benevolence on the citizenry. Presidents throughout the ages have vetoed bills which did just that because they could find no justification for them in the Constitution.
James Madison did it twice, Grover Cleveland did it, Calvin Coolidge did it, and James Garfield even went so far as to say, “It is no part of the functions of the National Government to find employment for the people, and if we were to appropriate a hundred millions for his purpose, we should only be taxing 40 millions of people to keep a few thousand employed.”
Yet today we not only allow it, we expect it. We expect government to provide us with Medicare, Social Security, and a whole slew of other ‘entitlements’ all of which our Founders would have found repulsive. It was not the American way to subsist on the backs of and off money taken from those who had.
Ben Franklin is known for his many short concise comments often found in his Almanac. Two of Franklin’s comments bear your consideration. First Franklin once wrote, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” And secondly, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
Thomas Jefferson was an avid reader. Of the many books he had amongst his possessions was Destutt de Tracy’s Treatise on Political Economy. One of the passages he paid particular heed to was “To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association,―the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it.”
Our nation existed for nearly a century and a half before government began taking it upon itself to provide all these so-called entitlements for the people. Yet we thrived. Sure there was poverty but it was the general belief that it was not the purpose of government to ease the suffering of those in need. That may sound cruel and inhuman, as many would claim today, but that’s the way it was. Charity was an individual choice, not something we were forced to participate in by government mandate. This is one of the values/beliefs that have changed over time.
Another one is our right to self-defense. Our founders believed fervently in our right to defend ourselves, our property, and our liberty. If any of these came under attack it was considered and individual right to defend them, up to and including using deadly force…i.e. killing the offender.
Hell, back at the time our nation was founded duels often took place when two men had a disagreement, or when one felt his honor had been violated by another. The most famous of these duels took place between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Hamilton had defamed Burr’s character and Burr sought a duel to settle it once and for all. Too bad this duel hadn’t taken place years earlier and Hamilton had been killed before he became Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington. But the point is that even though dueling was at the time being outlawed, it was still considered an individual right to defend one’s life, property, and rights…with force and violence if necessary.
Yet today legislators across the land pass laws saying when, where, and under what circumstances we may carry, and use firearms for our protection. Instead of, and this goes back to self-reliance, seeking to defend ourselves we have come to rely upon policemen to do that for us. And in so doing we have surrendered an elemental right, the right of self-defense and self-preservation. Again, our Founders would be repulsed.
And finally, and this will offend more people than everything else I’ve said up to this point, we have abandoned God. All the time I see these bumper stickers which say God Bless America. Why should He? Honestly, why should He when we’ve abandoned Him?
Look at us, how morally corrupt we are in so many things. Let me ask you something. How can anyone who is Christian be a Democrat and support a candidate which supports abortion? I’m not saying government should even get involved in the issue of abortion, that isn’t among the powers delegated it. What I’m asking is how could anyone who calls themselves a Christian support someone who openly campaigns saying that they support abortion?
Now don’t all you Republicans get all exited that I’m slamming Democrats, your not guiltless either. How can any Christian support a Republican which supports legislation which violates any of our rights? Our Declaration of Independence states that our rights are a gift from our Creator. If they are, then how can you claim to be Christian and support anyone who would limit those rights?
I know, some are saying why did Neal have to bring religion into this, America isn’t a Christian nation. I beg to differ.
Our Founders were all, in their own ways, devout men. George Washington once warned, “The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
Years later President Warren G. Harding would say, “It is my conviction that the fundamental trouble with the people of the United States is that they have gotten too far away from Almighty God.”
I can hear it now, what about the separation of church and state? Do you even know what that means? It does not mean that religion is not allowed in public places or in schools, it simply means that government cannot require you to attend, or support any specific denomination, but that you are free to worship as you please.
In his Memorial and Remonstrance, James Madison wrote, ” Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.”
You say we are not a Christian nation? In 1892 the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. In the case of Church of the Holy Trinity vs U.S. the court ruled, “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian…this is a Christian nation.”
You say our religious beliefs, our old fashioned American values offend you. Tough! As recently as 1989 the Supreme Court upheld our right to say as we please. In the case of Texas vs Johnson the court ruled, “If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”
That, my friends, is what freedom of speech is all about. However, it works both ways. As Christians we cannot demand that government censor lyrics or movies that we find offensive any more than atheists can demand that we not be allowed to pray, (of our own volition), in school.
These are just a few of the values and beliefs I was speaking of. We have forsaken them, and forgotten who and what we are as a people. I could go on and discuss immigration, our never ending wars to police the world. But these are a few of them to give you an idea of how far we have strayed from the America that was established so many years ago by wise men.
There is one more quote I would like to leave you. This one comes from Daniel Webster, who said, “There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence. I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men and become the instruments of their own undoing.”
Our Constitution has not changed, aside from the few amendments which have been added to it over the years. Our desire to understand it has. Our laziness and desire for entertainment and self gratification have led us to where we are today. Our lack of virtue and an adherence to good moral principles have led us to where we are today.
So if you want to blame someone for what is wrong in America today, I suggest you find the closest mirror.