“A nation that is ignorant of its past is a nation that is ripe
for deception and manipulation. Therefore, it is not what
happened, but rather what people believe happened which
determine the present actions of a nation.”
(From the film Warriors of Honor)
The above quote explains, in a few short words, the importance of knowing the history of your country, and how its system of government, came into existence. You may not care about these things, but if you do not know the events which led to the establishment of America as a free and independent nation, the process which led to the establishment of our system of government, and more importantly, the beliefs held by those who participated in these events, then how can you honestly make the claim that you are informed as it pertains to how our government is supposed to function today?
What if, during the time you passed through the public school system, the history you were taught was not completely accurate? What if certain facts were withheld from you, while other things you were taught were outright lies? If any of your current opinions and beliefs happen to be based upon this ‘so-called’ education you received, isn’t it conceivable that your opinions are flawed? Wouldn’t you want to know the truth, or are you content to go on believing that you are in full possession of the facts?
It has been my experience that people today simply do not care what happened in the past; or are at least content to continue believing whatever they have been told happened. This attitude is not something new; a recent occurrence; it is something that has been going on for quite some time now.
Recently I just re-read a book by Richard Taylor, son of former president Zachary Taylor. The second to last paragraph in that book states, “The story of the six centuries of sturdy effort by which our English forefathers wrought out their liberties is unknown, certainly unappreciated. Even the struggles of our grandfathers are forgotten, and the names of Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jay, Marshall, Madison, and Story awaken no fresher memories in our minds, no deeper emotions in our hearts, than do those of Solon, Leonidas, and Pericles. But respect for the memories and deeds of our ancestors is security for the present, seed-corn for the future; and in the language of Burke, “Those will not look forward to their posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.””
You are well within your rights to say that you don’t care about the study of our nation’s past. But you are not within your rights to then make the claim that you are making informed decisions when you go to the polls and choose who will fill the various seats of power within our government. If the decisions you make at the voting booth are not based upon the beliefs and principles held by those who participated in this country’s history, then what are they based upon? Are your current beliefs and opinions based upon the opinions of our nation’s Founders, or are they simply you repeating the political party talking points and rhetoric you have been exposed to?
I wonder how many have given any thought to the fact that from the time the Pilgrims disembarked the Mayflower in 1620 to the time the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence, America did not have a system of government, nor a country for that matter, to call her own? That was over a century and a half that America was considered a Colony, or group of Colonies, subject to the jurisdiction of a government they had no say in choosing representatives to.
What events led our Founders to expose themselves to the peril of telling their government that it no longer held any authority over them? More importantly, what were the beliefs which led them to believe they even had the right to do that? These things did not simply just happen; there were reasons why they happened, and to understand what is happening today you must also understand what happened back then.
Prior to 1789 the government of the United States, as we know it today, did not exist. That is a fact of historical record that, I think, both sides of the political spectrum can agree with. Prior to the ratification of our Constitution our government consisted of a Congress which held its authority by virtue of the Articles of Confederation; one of the clauses of which required that before any law passed by the Congress could go into effect a unanimous vote of the State Legislatures was required.
Under the system established by these Articles of Confederation, who do you think held the most power; the Congress, or the States themselves? If a single negative vote by one State could derail any law passed by the Congress, I would have to say that the States held more power than the Congress.
Yet this is how it should be, as each State was, for all intents and purposes, a nation unto itself. A confederation, of which we were prior to the adoption of the Constitution, is a loose alliance of entities who band together for the common good of all. To prevent the tyranny of a majority from imposing their will upon a minority, it made sense that for any law to go into effect, all the States must first agree to it.
Some saw this as an immense evil which prevented government from being able to…well, govern. Among those who felt this limitation upon the centralized government was James Madison. In 1786 a convention was held in Annapolis, Maryland, in an effort to get delegates from the States together in one place to propose amendments which would strengthen the government created by the Articles of Confederation. Only five states sent delegates, so not much was accomplished. However, it was agreed that the following year, 1787, delegates would once again be dispatched to attend a convention in Philadelphia under the guise of proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation.
I am not psychic, nor can I channel the spirits of those who have passed and read their thoughts; yet evidence suggests that Madison had grander designs for this Philadelphia convention than those declared to the States. Instead of proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which was all the delegates had the authority to do, Madison’s plan was to scrap the Articles of Confederation and replace them with an entirely new document; a Constitution.
In a letter sent to George Washington prior to the convention, Madison outlined his plans for an entirely new system of government; a plan which Washington wholeheartedly supported. Why else would the delegates, once they arrived in Philadelphia, be sworn to secrecy? Could it be that Madison did not want the State Legislatures to get wind of his plans and recall their delegates? Did you know that Rhode Island was not represented in that convention; as they refused to send a single delegate? Did you know that Patrick Henry turned down an invitation to attend because he “smelled a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward monarchy”?
Did you know that three men; Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts along with Edmund Randolph and George Mason of Virginia refused to sign the finished document? Did you know that John Lansing and Robert Yates of New York left the convention early, stating that the delegates had exceeded the authority given them by their respective States?
This division over those who supported the finished document and those who didn’t carried over into the following year, when the States themselves took up the debate over whether to accept or reject it. It was also the leading cause which led to Madison agreeing to include a Bill of Rights if the States would only accept the Constitution first. Even so, there were still those, among them Patrick Henry, who refused to support ratification; believing the document would produce a system of government which proved fatal to the authority of the States and the liberty of all.
Yet in the end, after, an often bitter, war of words, the Constitution was ratified and the system of government it outlines went into effect. This constitution has been in effect now for almost 230 years; yet I think there are those alive today who simply cannot grasp certain basic facts regarding it.
First and foremost is that the Constitution is not a basic guideline or a list of suggestions; it is a law which binds both the government as to what it can and cannot do, and it binds the people from asking their government to do things which are not among the specific powers listed within it.
Secondly, the government created by this Constitution derives its authority from the consent of the people, and when the people decide that the government created by that document has overstepped its authority, that authority can be recalled; and there isn’t a thing the government can do to stop them from exercising that fundamental right.
Thirdly, nowhere in the Constitution, nor in the Preamble, does it declare that the Union this government was meant to serve must be perpetual. The Preamble does state that the Constitution was designed to form a more perfect Union, but it does not make any mention of the fact that it gives the government the authority to deny the States or the people the authority to dismantle the government it creates if it every became tyrannical. You may argue that because the full title of the document which the Constitution replaced was The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, then the Union remained perpetual under the Constitution.
I would argue back that since the Constitution was written exceeding the authority given the delegates by the State Legislatures, and because it was ratified by means not found in the Articles of Confederation, but within the Constitution itself, that the Articles of Confederation should not be considered when discussing the question of whether we must be forced to forever live under an institution which was given life by an act of the people.
In 1863, at the scene of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech in which he said “…these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Upon first glance that sounds both noble and eloquent; but if one were to examine the precise wording one might come to the true reason Lincoln fought his little war against the South; the audacity of those who would question the authority of the government itself.
Just as in 1788 when Patrick Henry questioned the intent of the Constitution by questioning the phrase “We the people” rather than “We the States…” Lincoln’s use of the words, “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Lincoln fought his little war because, had he allowed the South to leave in peace, the government, of which he was at the head of, would have withered and died without the revenue which was borne by the South which was derived by the tariffs the government imposed upon the South. Had Lincoln allowed the South to leave, he would have been forced to find other means of supporting the government; possibly by imposing taxes upon the Northern business interests, which formed the base from which the Republican party derived its support. That simply was not going to happen, so Lincoln used the bayonet and cannon as a means to get the South to remain in the Union; forever altering the balance of power between the government and those it was designed to represent; not be master over.
Yet today we are taught the Civil War was a righteous war which was fought to put an end to the evil institution which was slavery; that the North fought to free the slaves and the South fought so that they could keep them. Rarely does the discussion turn to the question of whether the government created by a solemn act of the people has the authority to demand that those it governs forever remain under its authority. Rarely is it mentioned that the entire premise contained within our Declaration of Independence is the idea “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
We are not taught that the Civil War was fought, not over the issue of slavery, but over the question of whether a State, or a group of States had the right to leave a voluntary Union which was detrimental, or harmful to them. Nor are we taught that the government created by the Constitution was given only limited authority from the true sovereigns of this country, the people, and that any act which exceeds the limitations placed upon it is not just simply unconstitutional, but criminal; as the Constitution is not just an outline for a system of government, but a law.
In 1866 the Supreme Court held that, “The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of men than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism.” (Source: Ex parte Milligan) Ironically, this ruling came after the Civil War, an act of aggression by the government of Abraham Lincoln against a segment of the Union which had only exercised the fundamental right enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
If government was established by the will of the people, and the people are those who hold the ultimate sovereignty in this nation, then how can an entity created by the people tell those it was designed to serve that they forfeit the right to dismantle it, or leave the Union when the government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established? It can only do so if it begins to consider itself our master, not our servant.
Our schools do not teach us of the true relationship between the government and the governed; nor do they teach us that the States have the authority to deny the authority of the federal government when its acts are found to be beyond the specific powers granted it by the Constitution; nor are we taught that we the people, as jurors, have the authority to refuse to convict a person of violating a law which was written which exceeds the specific powers given the federal government, or one which violates any of our unalienable rights.
Instead of being taught that our government was limited as to what it can and cannot do, we are taught that America has a democracy; a system of government our Founders despised. We are taught not to question authority, but to submit to it without question. We are also not taught the true nature of our rights; that they cannot be infringed upon without the grossest of violations against humanity itself. Instead we are taught that, if the public welfare demands it, the rights of the people are of secondary concern and therefore can, and should be, restricted or denied.
When one dares even suggest that the true repercussions of the Civil War was that it replaced the servitude of those held in slavery on the plantations of the South to a nation where all the people are held in servitude to a system of government with unlimited arbitrary authority, they get this “Are you out of your mind” look in return. Too many people still believe that this is the land of the free because they are free to do so much; like decide what to eat, what to watch on TV, where to go on vacation, etc etc. But try exercising your rights without a permit, try exercising your right to disobey a law which was written by a government without any constitutional authority and you will quickly find out how un-free you are.
The government we have today has a standing army, in the form of a barrage of alphabet soup acronym agencies whose sole job is to ensure the people obey the laws the government enacts. How else can you justify the existence of agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, (BATF), the Drug Enforcement Agency, (DEA), the Internal Revenue Service, (IRS), and many others? Their sole jobs are to enforce the governments will upon us.
Honestly, if that is most people’s idea of freedom, I’d hate to live in a world in which they finally admit that they were slaves.
Yet most Americans can’t get past the belief that there are distinct differences between the two political parties in this country; the Republicans and the Democrats. Sure on the surface, in regards to many superficial issues, the two parties have distinct and different views on what government should do, but underneath they both adhere to the same beliefs. Why is it that nary a law passed by one side is ever repealed entirely by the other? One look at what Trump attempted to do with the Affordable Care Act ought to be enough to convince you of this. Did Trump seek to repeal government run health care altogether? No, he wanted to remake it in his vision. It does not matter to him that the whole idea of government requiring that people obtain health insurance is unconstitutional, only that the program in place was instituted by him, not Obama.
Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, agencies which spy upon the American people have continued to grow, and in growing, become more intrusive upon our right to privacy. When have you heard either a Republican or a Democrat promise to downsize these agencies, or eliminate them altogether? If one were to run for office, would YOU vote for them?
The answer to that alone should provide you with all you need to know about what is wrong in America today.
Everything that is wrong in this country today can be traced back to one simple fact; there is a preponderance of ignorance and complacency in the people of this country. The people simply do not know, nor do they care, what the beliefs our Founders held regarding the whole plethora of issues; from what liberty means to the abuse of powers by government, to how the people can respond to such abuses.
It is just as Asimov said, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
As long as people are not taught the truth, and as long as when they are presented with the truth they continue to believe the lies they have been taught, nothing will change in America; no matter how many times you flip flop back and forth between Republican and Democratic candidates, or how many political outsiders you elect.
When I see people cheering a president’s bombing of a country which never threatened or attacked the United States for supposed violations of human rights, but then ignore the violations of their rights by their own government, I see no hope for our future.
As long as people view patriotism as being loyal to the government as long as it adheres to the political ideology of political parties, and not the principles held by those who established our system of government in the first place, I see no hope for the future of this country.
As long as I see people fight to protect the cocoon of lies which shield them from the truth, I see no hope for the future of this country.
The truth is out there, and the solutions to all our problems are right there along with it; but for them to be of any good the people have to first want to find the truth; then they have to have the courage to act upon it. But from the overall responses, or lack thereof, to the things I write, I hold out little hope that enough people care about the truth to bring about the necessary change to restore America to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
One final thought; if government is of the people, by the people and for the people, as Lincoln proclaimed, then whose fault is it if government is corrupt and does things which defeat the purposes for which it was established.
Sleep on that and get back to me with your answer….