In Honor of Ben Franklin

In 1773 Benjamin Franklin published an essay in The Public Advertiser; a local newspaper run by Henry Sampson Woodfall. Franklin’s essay was a work of satire and a companion piece to another he had written; An Edict by the King of Prussia. Taken together, the two works were designed to show the fallacy of the Crowns views towards the English Colonies in America.

Three years after Ben Franklin published the piece I speak of, America declared its independence from Great Britain. Seven years later a treaty of peace was signed, relinquishing all claims to the Colonies held by the Crown; recognizing each of them as free and independent States. That was 1783 and the America of 2017 would be unrecognizable to those who fought for and obtained their independence in 1776.

Much has changed in the 234 years of our nation’s existence; technologies have advanced making everything from the simple task of writing letters to the cooking of our food much easier. But it is not only technology which has changed; our attitudes and beliefs have changed as well. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again; if any of our Founding Fathers were alive today, and running for political office, there isn’t a snowballs chance in hell they could win an election. Think about that for a few minutes, would you? If the people who fought for our independence, then later went on to establish our system of government couldn’t get elected in today’s political climate, what does that say about the views and beliefs held by those who do the voting in America today?

Our Founders lived in an era that didn’t have the comfort and endless options for entertainment that we enjoy today. One of the differences was in the way in which they communicated with each other; they didn’t have cell phones, e-mail, and Facebook in which they could just tap out a quick message to others; they had to resort to writing letters the old fashioned way, with quill pens and paper.

One of the most prolific of the letter writers was Thomas Jefferson; writing hundreds, if not thousands of letters; sharing his ideas on politics and governance. In one such letter to Spencer Roane, Jefferson stated the following, “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.” (March 9, 1821)

I have lived for just over half a century now; and during my short lifetime I have watched as principles became corrupted, or ignored. I can only imagine what the Founders of our nation would think if they could see America today. If you ask me, I think it would break their hearts to see the widespread corruption of the principles they left for us to adhere to. I think if they could see what has become of this country they would, to a one, be saying, “What are we wasting our time for if this is what is to become of the country whose independence we are fighting for?”

It is with that in mind that I write the following piece, based upon Franklin’s Rules by Which a Great Empire May be Reduced to a Small One. Franklin’s essay may have been written in the spirit of satire, which Franklin was a master of; while I may use satire, mine will be based more upon the key things I believe have led to our current situation and status.

An Open Letter to the People of the United States:

America is a great and mighty nation; just ask most people and they will readily tell you so. They will tell you it is the greatest nation on the planet due to the freedom that it offers those who come here and choose to make America their home. Our elected leaders tell us that America is great; that is why we must strive to install democracies in all that lands of the world that have not achieved our own wisdom and understanding. It seems to matter little that the average person does not know that America itself is not a democracy; it is, or it at least it was a Republic. Our President, every year, stands before Congress and tells us that the state of our nation is STRONG; never once mentioning that we are so far in debt that we will never see daylight again.

But hey, maybe that’s why Ronald Reagan was considered such a good president; because he made Americans feel so good about themselves and their country. Maybe it has become the job of politicians to keep the illusion going; to keep people from seeing their true status as serfs whose labor, taxes, and property are owned by their government. As von Goethe once said, “None are so hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” I think there is a great deal of truth in that statement.

In 1822 James Madison wrote the following in a letter to W.T. Barry, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

But what good is knowledge if it is not based upon fact? If one truly wanted to alter, or change the course of a nation, the easiest way would be to slowly change what people believed their country was all about; revise or replace its core principles and beliefs. It would then be an easy task to enslave those who were, in fact, the true masters of a country; thus fulfilling Goethe’s warning.

Most people hate studying history; I know I did in school. I couldn’t see the need to memorize names and dates of certain events; I could not see how that would benefit me in later years. In a way, I was right; history is not simply the memorization of names and dates, it is the recorded story of the events themselves; who participated in them, where they took place and so much more. However, the history we are taught was written by other men; some of whom were not even alive when the events they write about transpired. Therefore, history is subject to revision by people who hold certain prejudices and want to portray it in a manner which leans towards their views.

Let me give you a quick example. Up until recently our Founders were put upon pedestals and held the lofty position of heroes from the past that fought for America’s independence. That is what we were taught, and it is what we believed all our lives. The British, on the other hand, were considered the ‘bad guys’ the ones who sought to tyrannize and oppress the Colonists. Again, this is what we were taught.

But if you think about it, the Colonies were British possessions, and therefore the Crown had the obligation to protect them from other nations; such as France and Spain. Shouldn’t the Colonists share in the burden of paying for that protection? Why then the violent reaction to the Stamp Act; which was the first major act performed by Parliament which culminated in the American Revolution?

You see, any true study of history requires that you put aside all you have been taught and see things from both perspectives. In history there is always two sides to a story, maybe more. There was the Colonists vs. the Redcoats in our Revolution; there was the North vs. the South in the Civil War; and there were the Federalists vs. the Anti-Federalists in the contest to ratify our Constitution. To know what really occurred you need to learn what motivated both sides and what thoughts they had on the cause they fought for.

Therefore, if you control what history people are taught, you control what they believe their country stands for. You may as well have taken a page out of Orwell and establish the Ministry of Truth; where history is whatever the government tells us it is.

I find history to be fascinating; it is full of little tidbits of information that make the hours spent studying it worth every second. For instance; did you know that the longest Inaugural Address ever given was by William Henry Harrison; clocking in at one hour and forty five minutes? Did you know that within a month Harrison died from pneumonia because he delivered his Inaugural Address without wearing a hat or a coat in the middle of a snowstorm?

Did you know that after being shot in the chest by a would-be assassin, Theodore Roosevelt delivered a 90 minute speech before he allowed himself to be taken to the hospital to have the bullet removed?

Did you know that Robert E. Lee freed his slaves before the start of the Civil War, but that Ulysses S. Grant did not free his until he was forced to by the ratification of the 13th Amendment?

Did you know that Rhode Island played no role in forming our Constitution; as the State Legislature refused to send delegates to the convention?

Did you know that two New York delegates, Robert Yates and John Lansing left the constitutional convention in July, leaving Alexander Hamilton alone as the sole representative from the State of New York? Did you know that John Lansing disappeared off the face of the Earth, never to be seen again?

I didn’t learn these facts in school; I learned them because I dug into the history of this country with a passion. I constantly hear from some that they don’t have the time to spend studying history and politics like I do. Rubbish; it’s a matter of what is important to you. If you cared you would make the time. If you don’t care then you can wallow in ignorance and be easily lied to and manipulated like the puppets you are; it’s that simple.

Another way in which a nation can be brought to its knees is by taking from the people their belief that they are responsible for providing for all their needs; their self-sufficiency and self-reliance. If you can convince them that their needs are the obligation of government, or society, you create a cycle of dependence which is difficult, if not impossible to break.

This is something I have witnessed happen over the course of my own lifetime. When I was growing up it was shameful for a breadwinner to seek government assistance of any kind; it was a mark of failure on their part to admit that they needed help from the government to feed their family. Now look at all the benefits that are available, and readily availed of by families who have forgotten what it means to be self-reliant.

Our kids are taught in schools that they are special, that they deserve a living; and that if they don’t achieve it on their own, then society owes it to them. How different that is from when I was growing up and we were taught that the key to success was hard work. Hard work was rewarded by pay increases, or promotions; now in many instances, pay increases are the same across the board no matter how hard you work; and promotions are available based upon seniority, not job performance.

And it is not only work ethics which have suffered under this ideology; it is the belief that what is ours is our responsibility to protect. Look at how people answer the question of what they would do if an intruder broke into their home to see that we have created a society where most believe it is the duty of government; i.e. law enforcement to provide protection for us and our possessions. Those who take that responsibility upon themselves are looked upon with scorn for ‘taking the law into their own hands.’ Not only that, in many instances the law has been written which makes it a crime, under certain circumstances, to use deadly force to protect what is rightfully yours. How can that be if we are truly free and among our freedoms is the right to protect what belongs to us?

And the final way in which a country can be destroyed from within is to deprive it of any sense of morality. When a people aren’t taught that there is good and evil, right and wrong, then anything is acceptable.

Now I know this will offend some, but the best way to instill a sense of morality in the people of a nation is through an adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ. I know that our Constitution declares that no religious test be required for those seeking office; but that does not mean that our country wasn’t founded by men of strong religious beliefs; it was. Throughout the writings of those men who participated in our country’s battle for independence and the establishment of its system of government there are numerous references to their belief in God and how providence played a strong role in America becoming the free and independent nation it did.

In a 1792 letter, George Washington states, “I am sure that never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them.”

In his Defense of the Constitutions of Government in the United States, John Adams writes, “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”

In his Summary View of the Rights of British America, Thomas Jefferson writes, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

I know that today people believe in this impenetrable wall of separation between church and state, but they misunderstand Jefferson’s intent when he used those words in a letter to the Danbury Baptists. Jefferson was promising them that the government would not seek to hinder them from worshiping as they saw fit.

The First Amendment guarantees us the right to worship when and how we see fit. It does not prohibit us from having religious discussion or prayer in schools; it only seeks to prevent the government from establishing a national religion that all must adhere to; while leaving the people free to choose how they will worship, or whether they will worship at all.

Pay very close attention to the following, for in his Kentucky Resolutions Jefferson states, “One of the amendments to the Constitution… expressly declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,’ thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.”

Did you get that; if you deny a person, or group the right to freely exercise their religion, you are denying them their freedom of speech. This whole idea that a person can have their rights taken from them simply because exercising them offends someone else is rubbish. Freedom of speech means freedom to say whatever I want as long as I don’t bring harm to another by my words. I am offended daily by the language I hear some people use but I can’t censor their speech simply because I don’t like what they say. Nor can they censor anyone else’s speech simply because religious discussion is offensive to them.

This is another area where change has occurred gradually over time. In fact, going back 170 some odd years, the Supreme Court held, “Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a divine revelation in [schools] – its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained and its glorious principles morality inculcated? … Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?” (Source: Vidal v. Girard’s Educators, 1844)

If you take away a nation’s morality then there is no respect for life or the law. Look at how many shootings we have today compared to when I was born in 1958. Look at how babies are viewed as disposable with abortion on demand. Look at how what we use to call queer is now accepted as normal behavior and any talk of how it violates God’s law is considered a hate crime.

But religion today is like politics, something we do once a week to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. If you compare religion to politics you’ll see we go to the polls and vote for candidates without knowing the first thing about the system of government we are electing them to, just as we go to church and listen to the words of a pastor, sing a few hymns, and then feel our obligation to God is fulfilled for the week without knowing what the Bible really tells us is our obligation to God if we wish to enter into His Kingdom.

I have heard all the arguments that say science has proven the Bible to be fiction, that there is no God. But you see, it doesn’t matter if that’s what you believe today, our Founder did believe in God and built a system that, for it to work, required that we adhere to the same fundamental beliefs they did. As Noah Webster once said, “No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

These are the three things I believe can bring down any nation; you first deprive the people of a knowledge of their country’s history, then you create in them a dependency upon the services government provides; and finally you take away their sense of morality. If you accomplish these three things any nation will crumble from within; without a shot ever being fired; and I see all three in existence in America today. That is why it won’t matter who you vote for, nothing is going to change until the people of this country return to the values and beliefs of the men who established it all those years ago.

I know I did not even come close to doing honor to the memory and words of Ben Franklin, but nonetheless this is dedicated more to him and his words than it is to the people today who will read and ignore it. At least he would have understood what I was trying to accomplish.

Neal Ross
Anno Domini 2017

About Br'er Rabbit

I'm just one person out of millions of others. The only thing different about me is that I don't walk around with my head up my ass.
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