The Grand Experiment In Self-Governance Has Failed

The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

George Washington spoke those words shortly after being sworn in as our nation’s first president under the newly ratified constitution. I have often wondered, if Washington, Jefferson, Madison, or even Patrick Henry were alive today, what message would they have for the American people? I wonder would Washington turn to the others and say, “Well boys, it looks like this experiment of ours failed miserably.” I wonder, would Patrick Henry turn to the others and say, “I told you this would happen if you ratified that constitution of yours.”

The funny thing about it is, it began failing during the Washington administration. Not only that, but I believe it was doomed for failure, if not possibly designed with no possible outcome other than failure. I think there were too many loopholes inserted into the constitution that allowed for government to expand its power and deprive us of the liberty it was supposedly designed to protect. Then there was the fact that there was no means of punishing those who did abuse their power; no penalties attached to violating the constitution as there are with most other laws. Now whether this was intentional or simply a flaw in the system is anybody’s guess; but I’m inclined to think it was intentional.

You may have heard of Thomas Paine and his pamphlet Common Sense which brought the subject of independence to the forefront in public discussions prior to the Revolution. But did you know that in 1796 Paine sent Washington a scathing letter of condemnation, stating, “This is the ground upon America now stands, All her rights of commerce and navigation are to begin anew, and that the loss of character to begin with. If there is sense enough left in the heart to call a blush into the cheek, the Washington Administration must be ashamed to appear. And as to you, Sir, treacherous in private friendship (for so you have been to me, and that in the day of danger) and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposters; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.”

Patrick Henry foresaw the destruction of the principles America had fought for in the Revolution and Paine saw that this process had already begun under Washington’s administration, and condemned Washington for allowing that process to begin. Today people are so used to this monstrosity we call our government that they wouldn’t recognize, or accept for that matter, a truly constitutional limited form of government. Yet our government is evil; there is no other word to describe it. If you truly believe, as did Jefferson, that our rights and our liberty are gifts to us from our Creator, then any institution that seeks to restrict or deprive us of them is evil.

To understand how our system has failed you must understand how our country was set up prior to this system being implemented; and you MUST understand the concept of sovereignty. Let me begin by discussing sovereignty. Sovereignty, simply defined, is the supreme and absolute political authority in a society. In America that supreme or absolute political authority resided in the people–or at least it used to.

In 1793 the Supreme Court heard the case of Chisholm v. Georgia, a case in which a lawyer, Alexander Chisholm attempted to sue the State of Georgia, with the case being heard in the Supreme Court. The SCOTUS ruled in favor of Chisholm, the plaintiff; although their decision was later overturned by the ratification of the 11th Amendment. But it is not the outcome of the case that is of germane to the current discussion, it is something that was said by the Justices in their rulings, ” …at the Revolution, the sovereignty devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects…with none to govern but themselves; the citizens of America are equal as fellow citizens, and as joint tenants in the sovereignty.”

If you were to look at the hierarchy of political authority in America at that point in our nation’s history it would look like a triangle or a pyramid, with the base being we the people. The base of any triangle or pyramid is always the widest point, signifying that we the people have the MOST political authority. The further up the triangle you go the political authority diminishes, or gets narrower in its sphere of operation. This is due to a concept explained by John Locke in his Second Treatise, “Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being, or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth; yet: First, It is not, nor can possibly be absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people: for it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person, or assembly, which is legislator; it can be no more than those persons had in a state of nature before they entered into society, and gave up to the community: for no body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself; and no body has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another.”

I hope I have made that clear enough so that I can move on to the state our nation was in prior to the ratification of the constitution. At that point in America history we were not the United States; a single entity; a nation; at least not per se. Rather, we were 13 sovereign and independent States united together in a confederacy; a loose alliance of sovereign nations for the purpose of providing for the mutual benefit and defense of all. This can be affirmed by simply reading the text of the Treaty of Paris, 1783, which officially ended the American Revolution, “His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States…”

Think of it this way, Africa is not a country, it is a continent consisting of many sovereign and independent countries; such as Libya, Sudan, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Chad, just to name a few. America, at least in 1783 was the same, and not even a complete continent as far as that goes, as it did not consist of all the land which comprised the American continent. But what did exist as America consisted of 13 independent sovereign nations; each with their own culture, their own religious beliefs, their own economies, and their own system of government. The fact that they had united together into a confederation to fight a common enemy had not changed that in the slightest degree.

Then along comes this thing called a constitution, establishing a more perfect union. Now I can see, as all political authority is derived from the people, why the drafters of our constitution would want it ratified by the people, but how did this affect the relationship between the three entities; the people, their State Governments, and the central government the constitution was establishing?

In his arguments against ratification of the constitution Patrick Henry brought this point to the attention of his fellow delegates when he said, “The fate of this question and of America may depend on this: Have they said, we, the States? Have they made a proposal of a compact between states? If they had, this would be a confederation: It is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, Sir, on that poor little thing-the expression, We, the people, instead of the States, of America.”

If the central government, or federal government as we call it today, were to solely have authority over the interaction between, and the defense of the States, then why did not its ratification depend upon the acceptance of the representatives of the people in the various State Legislatures? However, if the authority which was to be granted to this new system of government was to extend to the lives and liberties of the people themselves, then yes, I can see why it would need to be accepted by them directly.

When examining this question we must not look at it from the perspective of the powers our government wields today; rather we must look at it from the perspective of how the relationship between the federal and State authority was explained to those who made the decision to adopt the government proposed by this constitution. As the driving force behind the convention which produced the constitution, and one of the authors of the essays which were written to convince the people to accept the form of government they had produced, James Madison is quoted as saying, “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)

How anyone can say that what Madison explained even remotely resembles the balance of power between the federal government and the States is beyond me. So, either we have allowed our government to exceed the powers given it, Madison lied when he promised that the authority of the States would remain intact against federal intrusion, or we were sold a lemon in the form of a constitution with so many flaws inside it that all but guaranteed the failure of the system of government it produced.

Our system of government began to stray from that vital principle of State and individual sovereignty from the moment George Washington assembled his Cabinet and began spewing forth legislation. Driven primarily by his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, Washington forsook the preservation of our liberty and sought to establish a mighty American empire with a European form of banking and commerce which favored the wealthy. This was another fear of Patrick Henry’s and he expressed it to the Virginia delegates of the ratifying assembly as follows, “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.”

Conservative columnist George Will once wrote, “There is an elegant memorial in Washington to Jefferson, but none to Hamilton. However, if you seek Hamilton’s monument, look around. You are living in it. We honor Jefferson, but live in Hamilton’s country, a mighty industrial nation with a strong central government.” But it is not just Hamilton who is to blame, the Supreme Court itself that is to blame for expanding the power and authority of the federal government far beyond what was promised to the people. Jefferson had some scathing words of condemnation for the SCOTUS, saying, “The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone.” (Source: letter to Thomas Ritchie, 1820)

Let me ask you something. As a free and independent person, let’s say you and some friends or colleagues decided to form a club. Let’s say you formed this club and paid dues towards its maintenance; elected members to manage it and pass its bylaws. Would you therefore be bound for all eternity to this club should you ever disagree with the direction it was taking?

Why then would sovereign and independent States be forever bound to a Union that they felt was invading their sovereignty, or which was harmful to their best interests? Does the Declaration of Independence not say that “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” If the Constitution was ratified by the consent of the individuals within each State, acting in their sovereign capacity, then does it not seem logical that if the government created by the constitution became destructive of the purposes for which it was established that the people of the States could revoke their consent and resume their status as independent nations?

Why then did we have a Civil War? Oh, that’s right, to free the slaves. But slavery, as evil as it was as an institution, was perfectly legal under the Constitution; and therefore without a Constitutional Amendment abolishing it, there was nothing the Northern States, or the government for that matter could do to stop it. You see, there’s something else Washington said that you need, and I mean REALLY need to understand; that being, “If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

The 13th Amendment did abolish slavery; but it was not ratified until 1865. The Civil War broke out in 1861; so what again was the cause for which the North invaded the South if it was not to use military force to compel the Southern States into adherence to the Union against their will?

Yes slavery was wrong; it was and is an evil practice; but did not the government use force to create slaves of the entire South by forcing them to remain in a Union that they felt was destructive of the ends for which it was established? Has this same government not made slaves of us all by the laws it has passed in our ‘best interests’, and I say that with a large amount of sarcasm.

Yet the concern of most voters today is not whether or not the government is adhering to the limits imposed upon it, or whether or not it is safeguarding their liberty; rather it is whether Republicans or Democrats are the ones violating the constitution and infringing upon our rights.

James Madison once wrote that knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who wish to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. Yet people today go to the voting booth unarmed with the knowledge of how our system of government was supposed to work. Not only are they unarmed, they reject the knowledge when anyone tries to present it to them; proving that Van Loon was right when he said, “Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.”

George Orwell once said that “In a time of universal deceit–telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” How is it that a people who claim to love the truth, love liberty, sit back and reject evidence which clearly proves they have no love for either? Historian Charles Austin Beard also wrote, “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 struggle for independence.”

This grand experiment, of which Washington spoke of in his Inaugural Address has been a dismal failure for one reason only; it relied too heavily on the desire and willingness of the people to preserve it in its purest form.

There is not a soul alive today who can say that they have lived when their government has been respectful of the limits imposed upon its authority, and cared one whit about preserving our liberty…not one! This government is all we know, and we are accustomed to its transgressions; nay, we take them in stride as business as usual. It is only through extensive study can one come to the truth; that truth being that the great American experiment in self governance has failed, and that by supporting this government through the election of people to it is to accept your status as a slave to it.

They say that the truth will set you free, but you have to be willing to go out and find it, and have to be willing to accept it when you do find it; otherwise you may as well not care about the truth in the first place. However, I have found the pursuit of the truth to be akin to peeling away the layers of an onion. You peel one layer away only to find another one awaiting you. And like peeling onions; which make some cry, seeking the truth often produces uncomfortable feelings; or cognitive dissonance when the truth threatens all you believe in.

But if the truth matters, if the future of this country matter to you, then I beseech you to start that journey for yourself; stop relying on others, such as me, to provide you with the facts. I have never asked that you accept what I say without verifying it for yourself. To do so is to admit that I am thinking for you, filling your head with thoughts. Is that the nature of a free man/woman; to let others do their thinking for them?

If you really want freedom you must begin by breaking free of the lies which bind you in slavery to a government that no longer gives a damn about your rights and your liberty. That is the first truth you must accept; and after that it all becomes much easier. But as the old saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It is my sincere hope that you start that journey for yourselves.

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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