On April 30, 1789 New York Chancellor Robert Livingston administered the very first oath of office taken by a U.S. President; George Washington. It was on this day that our federal government first began operations as a fully functioning system of government. Prior to that day our country had never had a President of the United States. Sure, we’d had people who held the position of president of Congress, but never President of the United States. And, if you’re interested in trivia, did you know that Washington was sworn in as President nine days after John Adams had been sworn in as Vice-President.
On July 28, 1795, during his second term as President, Washington addressed the Boston Selectmen where he said, “But the Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.” I wonder, if it were possible to administer some sort of truth serum to those who currently hold positions within our government, would they be able to say the same; or would they say something along the lines of, “The Constitution is old and outdated and I don’t care what limits it imposes upon my power.”
During the period immediately preceding the ratification of the Constitution a great battle of words took place between those who supported it, and those who opposed it. On the side of supporting it, (after all the Constitution was primarily HIS baby), James Madison said, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” (Source: Federalist 51There is a lot to be learned from those words if one would only stop and ponder them instead of just skimming over them. Take that first sentence for instance, where it says that government is a reflection of human nature. If government is bad, whose fault is it? We elect those people, they are accountable to us for their actions. If government is bad it reflects on the character of those who elect the people to fill the various seats of power within it.
Lexicographer Noah Webster stated it thusly, “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, ‘just men who will rule in the fear of God.’ The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded. If [our] government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws.”
If I were to go out into the general public and conduct a survey, asking the people I meet what they thought were the functions of government, how do you think most people would answer? I’m betting that most would answer with a laundry list of things government is supposed to do for the people; primarily based upon the platforms of the two primary political parties in America.
I’m also betting that less than 1% of the people would recite any of the particular powers granted each branch by the very document which established this system of government. Who has abandoned the Constitution; those we elect or those who do the electing? How many people do you know who can tell you what each section within our nation’s Constitution discusses? How many do you know who can recite more than half the rights protected by the Bill of Rights?
Yet these same people believe themselves to be informed, believe themselves to be entitled to the right of voting for people who then go on to make laws which carry the force of law and which I am obliged to obey; while clearly overstepping the limits placed upon the power given them?
The laws passed by the government created by the Constitution were never intended to directly affect the lives of the people living within the United States. The purpose of the federal government was to regulate the interaction between States in such matters as commerce, while providing for the defense of the Union as a whole.
James Madison stated that concept as follows, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” (Source: Federalist 45)
Just the other day the company I worked for posted a letter stating a new policy regarding when and where company provided smocks can be worn while at work. This new policy was in response to guidelines established by the Food & Drug Administration and found in 21 CFR 117.10 of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Where, if I may be so bold to ask, does it say in the Constitution that the federal government has the authority to impose itself in the production, distribution, and safety of food products in this country?
During that great war of words which preceded the ratification of our Constitution, James Madison declared the following to the assembly of Virginians gathered together to consider ratification, “[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.” (June 6, 1788)
So, if the powers given our government are enumerated; which means written in a list one by one, then I repeat my question; where does the Constitution give government the authority to impose itself in the production, distribution, and safety of food products in this country?
This is just one instance of where our government has overstepped its legitimate authority and enacted rules which the public are bound to obey. What about all the other agencies which enact volumes of rules and regulations the people are obliged to follow or face the consequences?
Our government has an army of people whose only job appears to be to write rules and regulations which allow the government to micromanage our lives; and at the same time the authority to punish those who violate the mountains of rules and regulations they enact.
Now I would like for you to read three quotations; all from Thomas Jefferson, before I continue.
When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated. (Source: letter to Charles Hammond, 1821)
The concentrating [of powers] in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. (Source: Notes on the State of Virginia)
Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrators) too plainly proves a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery. (Source: A Summary View of the Rights of British America)
Having read those words, what one word would you use to describe the government we have today? I can’t speak for you, but were you to ask me that same question I would answer either with tyrannical or despotic.
If I could just get people to think about something Lysander Spooner once said, it would make it much easier for people to understand everything else I’ve been saying. Spooner is quoted as saying, “A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.”
Just this morning I saw this ridiculous meme on Facebook which showed how many days in office past presidents had served before their approval ratings dropped below 35%. What good is an approval rating if the things the public expect government to do are out of alignment with the things government was enacted to do?
On June 5, 1788 Patrick Henry said something that wouldn’t go over too well if a politician said it 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.”
All this leads me to wonder what would happen if our Founding Fathers were to suddenly become resurrected and see what has become of the Republic they established. Would they participate in choosing from among the crop of career politicians and criminals which we have to choose from every election cycle? On the flip side, would any American living today vote for any of them were they to run for President?
If the answer to those questions are no, then maybe the problem is not our government, maybe the problem is us and what we expect out of government. Could it be that people like Barack Obama and Donald Trump are not the problem; that the problem is a voting populace who would vote for candidates like them? Could it be because we have forgotten, or don’t care, what the Constitution says are those specific powers given government that it has become this huge monster that devours our liberty?
And yet people keep turning back to the system, to the same quality and caliber of candidates to fix what’s wrong without even understanding what, in fact, is wrong? If you want my honest opinion, the voting public is living proof that Einstein was right, that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
Our Founders predicted that this day would come, that the people would eventually lose all sense of liberty or understanding of the reasons they established this government in the first place. In a speech read to the Philadelphia Convention, Ben Franklin stated the following in regards to the Constitution, “I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
In a letter to Spencer Roane, Thomas Jefferson warned, “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.”
Our government is not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem. The problem is that we don’t know why our government was established; the limits placed upon it; and the nature of what it means to be free men and women. We vote based upon our beliefs and then we grant our approval of our government based upon those beliefs. But if those beliefs are flawed from the get go, then it follows that the reason we either support or oppose the actions of government are flawed as well.
If we truly want to make America great again we need to return to the principles upon which it was founded; not take another step down the pathway that leads to servitude. We need to turn around and look to restore that burning desire for liberty and self-sufficiency; that is if it isn’t so far in our rear view mirrors that we can no longer see it.
But as long as I continue to hear people tell me that the Constitution no longer applies to today’s modern world, or that my views are ‘skewed’, then I hold out little hope that things are going to improve in this country. But, as long as I live and breathe I will continue to make my voice heard; even if no one else is paying attention to it. For tis better to continue to fight for liberty lost than to surrender to slavery. At least that is how I see it. I can’t speak for you, but I can leave you with one final quote from Sam Adams, (which I’m sure you’ve read before), “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.”