I may be unique in my beliefs, but I believe that the extent to which a person truly loves their country is directly proportional to the extent to which they know its history. I have often been called a radical, a political extremist because my political views do not mesh with those held by the majority of the people living in this country. But you know what, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest; and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, in a nation comprised of people who are woefully ignorant regarding the history of their own country, and the process by which their current system of government came into existence, being radical only means that I am expressing views based upon study and reflection rather than what I was spoon fed in history class and by the news media. So in that regard, I consider it a compliment to be considered radical.
Secondly, most people assume that I hate my country because I’m always pointing out the things I see wrong with it. They couldn’t be further from the truth! I would die for my country; but my country is not my government, and my government is so corrupt, so oppressive that I wouldn’t piss on it if it caught fire; I’d just let it burn. Believing that I hate my country because I oppose my government shows a lack of understanding of what it means to be patriotic – at least that is how I feel about it. As H.L. Mencken said, “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”
Finally, one of my favorite Founders was considered quite radical for his steadfast devotion to liberty and his opposition to his existing government. On May 30, 1765 this Founder addressed the delegates of the Virginia House of Burgesses, proposing a series of resolutions to deal with the crisis between the King and his Colonies. This young man then said, “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third…” at which point cries of treason were heard from the crowd for his obvious reference to assassinated leaders. This young man paused a moment, then said, “…may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.” That same young man would later go on to utter the famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death.” His name was Patrick Henry.
Unlike Thomas Jefferson, who was an eloquent writer, Patrick Henry was a passionate speaker who spoke from the heart with a voice like thunder; always proclaiming and defending one thing – LIBERTY. That is why, on June 5, 1788, this same Patrick Henry rose up in the Virginia Ratifying debates and said, “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings-give us that precious jewel, and you may take every thing else.” Henry had some very real and very serious concerns that the proposed Constitution was dangerous to liberty. Unfortunately, although his concerns were well founded, his voice fell on mostly deaf ears and the Constitution was ratified by the State of Virginia.
Not only was liberty’s greatest champion, he was also a staunch defender of State’s Rights; and he feared this new system of government posed a grave danger to the authority of the States. To understand how the proposed system of government under discussion would forever fundamentally alter things in America one must first understand how they were prior to the adoption of the Constitution.
In 1776 the Colonies were bound together under the central authority of their King, George III. Aside from that, they were each uniquely different from each other; each with their own commerce, legislative bodies, and often their own distinct religious beliefs. So when the delegates of the Continental Congress met to discuss the growing crisis between King and Colonies, they acted on behalf of their country; which for them was their home State. At that point in our history there was no United States of America.
In May, 1776, the Virginia convention instructed Virginia’s delegates to the Continental Congress to introduce a resolution declaring, not only their independence from the Crown, but the independence of all 13 Colonies. Therefore, on June 7th Richard Henry Lee proposed the following resolution to the Continental Congress, “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
Mr. Lee’s resolution did not say that we should become a free and independent country, it said that we should become free and independant States…plural. Yet the resolution could not be voted upon by the delegates until they had received word from their State Legislatures as to which position to take on the matter; although Massachusetts had been pushing for independence for quite some time; having been at the forefront of the uprising against the authority of King George III.
At the conclusion of the war for independence, delegates from both sides met in Paris to discuss terms of peace. The resulting treaty between Great Britain and the former Colonies states, “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.” Again we see a reference to the fact that each State was free and independant from the others.
That is how it was up until the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 offered their proposal for an entirely new system of government; one which Patrick Henry, as well as many other notable Founders, opposed.
Thomas Jefferson is known as the author of our Declaration of Independence, but it was the resolution introduced by Richard Henry Lee that put independence on the table for discussion. Therefore, I find it interesting that this same Richard Henry Lee had some serious questions about the proposed Constitution. One of his concerns was the sense of urgency the authors of this Constitution seem to have for its adoption. In a letter to George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, Lee wrote, “In this state of things I availed myself of the Right to amend, & moved the Amendments copy of which I send herewith & called the ayes & nays to fix them on the journal. This greatly alarmed the Majority & vexed them extremely–for the plan is, to push the business on with great dispatch, & with as little opposition as possible: that it may be adopted before it has stood the test of Reflection & due examination.”
One of the conditions the authors of the Constitution imposed upon the States was that it be adopted en toto; meaning all or nothing. No discussion as to amending the document to better preserve the State sovereignty, or to fundamentally alter the power structure of the government being proposed was permitted; the States would have to accept or reject the plan as it stood.
While I can understand that to a certain extent; after all it took months of debate and compromise to produce the final document, and they feared that any alteration of that document would result in some of the States rejecting it outright. At the same time, they were pushing hard that it be ratified quickly by the requisite number of States, and in some instances the supporters of this proposed Constitution sought to impede any serious discussion on its faults.
Writing under the pseudonym of Federal Farmer, Melancton Smith stated, “If we remain cool and temperate, we are in no immediate danger of any commotions; we are in a state of perfect peace, and in no danger of invasions; the state governments are in the full exercise of their powers; and our governments answer all present exigencies, except the regulation of trade, securing credit, in some cases, and providing for the interest, in some instances, of the public debts; and whether we adopt a change, three or nine months hence, can make but little odds with the private circumstances of individuals; their happiness and prosperity, after all, depend principally upon their own exertions.”
Even James Madison, who supported a quick ratification, had this to say, “Were the plan of the convention adverse to the public happiness, my voice would be, Reject the plan. Were the Union itself inconsistent with the public happiness, it would be, Abolish the Union. In like manner, as far as the sovereignty of the States cannot be reconciled to the happiness of the people, the voice of every good citizen must be, Let the former be sacrificed to the latter.” (Source: Federalist 45)
The question is, did this proposed Constitution sacrifice the sovereignty of the States for the overall welfare of the Union, or did the States retain their sovereignty under this new plan of government? Well, according to Madison it would seem they did, as later in Federalist 45 Madison states, “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.”
Delaware ratified the Constitution without giving it a second thought; almost as if they wanted to be the first to accept this new system of government regardless of how poorly it was constructed. The next State to hold their ratification assembly was Pennsylvania. I could write extensively about the subterfuge and underhanded means by which the supporters of the Constitution in Pennsylvania went about ensuring that it was ratified in their State, but maybe that’s fodder for a future commentary. Let it suffice to say that there was a very fervent minority who opposed its ratification, and after their assembly had voted in favor of its ratification they wrote a lengthy dissent which stated, “Whilst the gilded chains were forging in the secret conclave, the meaner instruments of despotism without, were busily employed in alarming the fears of the people with dangers which did not exist, and exciting their hopes of greater advantages from the expected plan than even the best government on earth could produce….”
New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina and New Hampshire then voted in favor of adopting the system of government outlined in the Constitution. Next to hold their ratification assembly was Virginia; Patrick Henry’s home.
On June 5, 1788 Patrick Henry arose and gave a speech outlining his opposition to the Constitution; a speech that lasted almost all day. I wonder how many people today could give even a ten minutes speech regarding the intricacies of our Constitution, let alone a speech that lasted hours. Yet Henry spoke with no notes, no cue cards; he spoke from memory and from the heart – and his plea was that Virginia not adopt this new system of government because it would threaten both Virginia’s sovereignty and the liberty of the people.
After addressing the chairman the first words out of Patrick Henry’s mouth concerned his fear that this new system of government would consolidate the States under one strong central authority. Henry’s exact words were, “I rose yesterday to ask a question which arose in my own mind. When I asked that question, I thought the meaning of my interrogation was obvious: 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.”
This same concern was echoed by Richard Henry Lee in his Federal Farmer essays, “This consolidation of the states has been the object of several men in this country for some time past. Whether such a change can ever be effected in any manner; whether it can be effected without convulsions and civil wars; whether such a change will not totally destroy the liberties of this country — time only can determine.”
In his Federal Farmer essays Lee discusses three ways by which such a consolidation may occur, but it is the third of these ways which I will focus my attention upon, “We may consolidate the states as to certain national objects, and leave them severally distinct independent republics, as to internal police generally. Let the general government consist of an executive, a judiciary, and balanced legislature, and its powers extend exclusively to all foreign concerns, causes arising on the seas to commerce, imports, armies, navies, Indian affairs, peace and war, and to a few internal concerns of the community; to the coin, post-offices, weights and measures, a general plan for the militia, to naturalization, and, perhaps to bankruptcies, leaving the internal police of the community, in other respects, exclusively to the state governments.”
This option, Lee felt, would be the only one which would ensure the freedom and happiness of the people; so I suggest you go back and re-read that passage as many times as necessary to understand the sphere of authority between the State and federal authorities – for it is strikingly similar to the way Madison described it in Federalist 45.
Yet Patrick Henry was not convinced, he felt that this new system of government would lead to the eventual annihilation of State sovereignty, and with the power of taxation and of federal marshals, the liberty of the people would be in danger under this proposed system.
Henry warned his fellow delegates that they should not concern themselves with establishing a mighty economic power, that liberty ought to be the sole purpose for which governments are established, “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.”
Now where did I hear those sentiments before? Oh, that’s right Thomas Jefferson said the same thing when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
Then, on both June 5th and June 7th, Henry listed numerous examples of how the people would be unable to restrain government from violating their dearest rights and their liberty.
-Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force: Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. (June 5th)
-But we are told that we need not fear; because those in power, being our Representatives, will not abuse the power we put in their hands: I am not well versed in history, but I will submit to your recollection, whether liberty has been destroyed most often by the licentiousness of the people, or by the tyranny of rulers? I imagine, sir, you will find the balance on the side of tyranny. (June 5th)
-My great objection to this Government is, that it does not leave us the means of defending our rights, or of waging war against tyrants. (June 5th)
-The Honorable Gentleman who presides, told us, that to prevent abuses in our Government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people. Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical; no longer democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? (June 5th)
-A standing army we shall have also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny: And how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your Mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment? (June 5th)
– In this scheme of energetic Government, the people will find two sets of tax-gatherers — the State and the Federal Sheriffs. This it seems to me will produce such dreadful oppression, as the people cannot possibly bear: The Federal Sheriff may commit what oppression, make what distresses he pleases, and ruin you with impunity: For how are you to tie his hands? Have you any sufficiently decided means of preventing him from sucking your blood by speculations, commissions and fees? (June 7th)
-Shew me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty? I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt. (June 7th)
-Where is the responsibility — that leading principle in the British government? In that government a punishment, certain and inevitable, is provided: But in this, there is no real actual punishment for the grossest maladministration. They may go without punishment, though they commit the most outrageous violation on our immunities. That paper may tell me they will be punished. I ask, by what law? They must make the law — for there is no existing law to do it. What — will they make a law to punish themselves? This, Sir, is my great objection to the Constitution, that there is no true responsibility — and that the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves. (June 7th)
Now you tell me if I’m NOT wrong. Our government enacts laws that exceed the specific powers delegated to it by the Constitution. The government has, at its disposal, a multitude of federal sheriffs, (BATF, FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, Secret Service, US Marshals) as well as local law enforcement who uphold, not the Constitution, but the laws passed by government.
They can impose their coercive will upon us, but what agency do we have that we can go to with our claim that our elected representatives are violating their oaths of office to support and defend the Constitution? Which agency has the authority to arrest, try, and convict those criminals who violate that oath? Where is our justice when the law our ancestors wrote which tells government what powers it has and what rights it cannot touch are broken or violated?
As Patrick Henry said, “Where is the responsibility?”
You say I’m a radical; that’s because you have been educated by your masters and conditioned to accept an ever increasing number of laws that destroy your liberty and take away your rights. Yet you falsely believe you are free simply because you are allowed to go to the polls every couple of years and pick which corrupt son of a bitch will be your master.
You see, Patrick Henry understood human nature; he knew that they often chose measures based upon the false sense of hope those proposing those measures promised. But Henry also said, “…it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”
So call me a radical if you want; call me a rebel or whatever name makes you feel good about your choice to support tyrants, I’ll gladly accept whatever names you call me if it means that I have chosen to know the whole truth and have chosen not to participate in choosing from among a long list of corrupt son of a bitches to be my master.
You see, that’s what distinguishes people like me from the rest of y’all; we recognize that we are not free and have chosen not to participate in choosing our masters. You, on the other hand, falsely believe you are free and willingly – even gleefully – participate in choosing who will be your master. And as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”