In 1821 Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Spencer Roane in which he said, “Time indeed changes manners and notions and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible.”
I have often wondered how the people of this country would react to a political debate between someone like Thomas Jefferson and any of the leading political figures from either the Republican or Democratic parties. Although I can pretty much guess the outcome, it would be interesting to see just how small a percentage of Americans who would support Jefferson’s views on the purposes for which government was established and the nature of their rights.
Since our Founders affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence two hundred forty one years have passed. Over the course of that short span of human existence the beliefs and principles of the people of this country have shifted dramatically from one of a people who cherished, and would die defending their liberty, to a people who willingly accept, and even ask for our government to enact laws which restrict it.
It is this shift in the core beliefs of we as a people which Jefferson referred to as a gangrene to which all good citizens must be on the watch for. Whenever there is a political discussion, or debate, the subjects being discussed are always the issues; health care, immigration reform, job creation, the war on terror, and a whole litany of others. How many times have you heard any political candidate mention that they will seek to repeal any of the government programs which restrict your liberty? More importantly, would you vote for a candidate who campaigned upon that promise, and that promise alone?
Liberty has many definitions, but among them is the ability to fully exercise all your rights without interference by others. Any serious student of American History would know that liberty was the driving force which caused our Founders to seek their independence from Great Britain, and which led some of them to demand that a Bill of Rights be included in our Constitution to protect certain unalienable rights. Liberty was of such importance that it led Patrick Henry to declare, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Liberty was of such importance to Mr. Henry that he preferred death to the alternative. How many Americans alive today could say the same, and actually mean it?
Yet those who participated in establishing our Republic felt that liberty ought to be the end for which government was instituted. In 1791 James Wilson, (signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), wrote, “Government … should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.”
Do you understand those words? If your government does not seek to expand your ability to freely exercise your natural rights, then it is NOT legitimate! It does not matter that the candidate you voted for is in any particular office within that government; if government as an entity does anything which restricts your liberty, then government as a whole is illegitimate.
When the American people go to the polls to cast their votes, they are voting based upon how they feel about the issues, and how a particular candidate aligns with their own personal views on those issues. Unfortunately they are disregarding the most important issue of all; is the candidate they vote for going to enlarge, or restrict their liberty.
All these issues that people base their votes upon pale in significance in comparison to whether government will secure or restrict what remains of their liberty. On June 5, 1788 Patrick Henry said something, that if every American took to heart when they voted, America would not have half the problems it does today, “You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government.”
But the sad truth is that most Americans do not want liberty. They do not want liberty because liberty comes with a cost; the cost of responsibility for your own actions. Of all the core beliefs that guided our Founders in establishing our Republic, the idea of self-reliance, self-determination is at the root of them all. Liberty, if it is anything at all, is the ability to make your own way in life without imposing upon others the burden of subsidizing you when you do not achieve success.
Throughout our history great men have spoken of how self reliance is a vital characteristic of a truly free people. In his first Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson told the people, “A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
If that isn’t clear enough, then perhaps this quote from Jefferson’s letter to M.L. Hommande in 1787 will clarify things, “The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.”
In a letter written on March 5, 1792, James Madison stated, “The class of citizens who provide at once their own food and their own raiment, may be viewed as the most truly independent and happy. They are more: they are the best basis of public liberty, and the strongest bulwark of public safety. It follows, that the greater the proportion of this class to the whole society, the more free, the more independent, and the more happy must be the society itself.”
Therefore, the reverse must also be true; the more people rely upon government for some, or all of their needs, the less free they become. The old saying the you don’t bite the hand that feeds you rings so true in that regard; people are less likely to resist governmental intrusion upon their liberty if they are dependent upon government subsidies for their existence.
Yet there are those among society who believe it is the responsibility of society, and therefore of government, to provide for the needs of all those less fortunate. How many government programs have been instituted which hand out money to those in need? How many government programs have been instituted which do things which are the responsibility of the people to provide for themselves?
People call me heartless and cruel because I say it is no part of government’s authority to provide these things for people; but that is not the case. One of the greatest gifts one can bestow upon another is freedom; but freedom entails accepting responsibility for your own survival. The more one becomes reliant, or dependent upon government funds, the less free they are.
In 1766 Benjamin Franklin wrote, “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. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.” (Source: On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, 29 November 1766)
How often do we blame society for all the ills which people suffer today? It was the parents fault, it was societies fault, and therefore people deserve a helping hand, a government handout, to make up for all the things they were deprived of in life.
Yet Theodore Roosevelt once said, “If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others. He must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow man a responsibility which is not theirs.”
How many times have you heard the saying that the rich should pay more in taxes? Where is the incentive to achieve success, obtain riches, if in so doing the government is going to take a larger percentage of your earnings than they do from someone making minimum wage? When our Founders wrote the Constitution they declared that all direct taxes, (of which category an income tax falls under), must be apportioned; that is divided equally amongst the States, or the people. How can you say that making the rich pay more for the support of their government is in accordance with what our Founders believed?
Again, if that is not sufficient to prove my point, maybe this quote from a letter by Jefferson to Joseph Milligan will clarify things, “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers 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 everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
It is an honorable trait that one should feel sympathy and charity for those in need. But it is not the function of government to provide those things. George Washington once said, “Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.”
As a young member of the House of Representatives, James Madison stated, “The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
If that isn’t clear enough, maybe something former President Grover Cleveland said will be, “It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government. It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens.”
I have often wondered how those today who have this whole entitlement mentality would have fared had they been among those who disembarked the Mayflower in 1620; or been among the mass migration of immigrants to the U.S. in the 1920’s who passed through the Ellis Island facility.
I know what I’m about to say will piss some off, but I would be remiss in my duty to tell the whole truth if I didn’t say it. It is true that immigration is what made America into the country it is today; after all, weren’t the first settlers to Plymouth immigrants from England? But there is a vast difference between the early immigrants who came to this country and many of those who come here today. Those who came after the establishment of the Plymouth Colony came for the freedom that living here offered; and which they would later fight to defend.
Of those who came to the U.S. in the mass migration of people who passed through Ellis Island, most came with nothing but the desire for a chance to achieve success based upon their wit and their desire to work hard to achieve it. Many, upon arriving, bent down and kissed the ground under their feet as a sign of their devotion to this country, and the severing of ties with their native lands.
Of those who come here today, how many do you think truly love America? How many do you think would rather die than to hold their hands out and ask for assistance from the land that has so graciously accepted them into her bosom? You may not like it, but America is under no obligation to allow anyone to come to this country; the right to emigrate here is a privilege, not a right; and as a privilege it should be earned by your loyalty and devotion to American values and beliefs.
In 1917 Theodore Roosevelt stated, “From the melting pot of life in this free land all men and woman of all nations who come hither emerge as Americans and nothing else. They must have renounced completely and without reserve all allegiance to the land from which they or their forefathers came. And it is a binding duty on every citizen of this country in every important crisis to act solidly with all his fellow Americans, having regard only to the honor and interest of America, treating every other nation purely on its conduct in that crisis, without reference to his ancestral predilections or antipathies. If he does not act, he is false to the teachings and lives of Washington and Lincoln; he is not entitled to any part or lot in our country and he should be sent out of it.”
Yeah, I know with today’s politically correct multicultural society, that is considered offensive. But that right there is part of the problem, as Jefferson said in the earlier quote I provided, we have undergone a corruption of principles; and the things our Founders believed no longer apply today.
How else can you explain the fact that a Circuit Court Judge, (Richard Posner), who holds his position as an appointment by the president of the United States, would say, “I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation. Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21st century…Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights … do not speak to today.” This guy holds his position because of the provisions within the Constitution; yet he has the nerve to say that it no longer applies today?
But is he not but a reflection of the overall sentiments of most Americans? How high a percentage of the people living in America today do you think have actually read the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Among those that have, how many do you think have taken the time to research them to the extent some of us have?
Yet these same people vote, and go around saying that they are making ‘informed decisions’? They have the audacity to say that their beliefs reflect American values and that the values held by a bunch of old dead guys from 200 years ago no longer apply.
As historian Charles Austin Beard lamented, “You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.”
Oh America, what has become of your people?
Almost a year after the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife in which he said, “Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
From the lack of intelligent responses to my articles to the continued voting for candidates that repeatedly ignore their oaths of office and violate the Constitution, it is painfully clear to me that very few people in this country give a rats ass about the Constitutional limitations that document places upon government; nor do they care about the fact that the liberty which the government was designed to secure has all but been stripped away from them.
Unless that changes, unless there is a drastic turnaround in the way people think about government, then this country, and the freedom it was established to secure, is doomed.