In a society that claims to enjoy the right of free speech it sure seems like there is very little free speech going on. Wherever you are, and under whatever circumstances you might find yourself, there always seems to be someone, or some group, that seeks to set standards as to what is, and what isn’t, acceptable speech. As a quick example, Facebook has set certain community standards by which they can block access to your account if you violate them. While I’m all for maintaining a certain level of decency, when those standards are used to stifle the free discussion of ideas that others find offensive, or uncomfortable, that’s pure censorship and IS NOT free speech. But I’m not here to talk about how Facebook stifles free speech, or the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is using it as a funnel to collect and transmit data on its users to the government; I’m here to discuss something entirely different.
As I’ve implied in past articles, I believe that the more knowledge one obtains on the history of their country, and the specifics regarding how our system of government came into existence, the smaller the circle of equally knowledgeable people will be.
While everyone may not do it, I believe that most Americans believe that everyone above the age of 18 should be allowed to vote. People believe that the ability to participate in choosing your rulers is one of the leading characteristics of a free country. In response to that all I can do is to quote George Carlin, who once said, “The next time they give you all that civic bullshit about voting, keep in mind that Hitler was elected in a full, free democratic election.”
As far as voting goes, Theodore Roosevelt once said, “A vote is life a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” Then of course there is this, written by Noah Webster, “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.”
I once heard it said that voting no more makes a man free than stepping into a church makes a man a ‘good’ Christian. What good does voting do when every candidate on the ballot has either pledged their loyalty to a political party, the system itself, or various special interests who flood their campaign coffers with funds, rather than the interests and well being of those constituents who vote for them?
Voting doesn’t make America free, the ability to live your life without government telling you what you can and cannot do makes America free; and from what I see, there isn’t much freedom left in this country. In the realm of political debate it is perfectly acceptable to argue against the position of the ‘other’ political party, but one steps over an invisible line of what is considered acceptable when they question the system itself. You can say that the Democrats or the Republicans are evil, but if you say that government itself is evil, you’ve crossed a line and people begin looking at you as if you’ve lost your marbles.
In the Anti-Federalist essay Brutus 1, Robert Yates wrote, “It is here taken for granted, that all agree in this, that whatever government we adopt, it ought to be a free one; that it should be so framed as to secure the liberty of the citizens of America, and such an one as to admit of a full, fair, and equal representation of the people.” That, more than anything else I’ve read, defines a free government. Therefore, no government that benefits one class or segment of society, at the expense of another can be considered truly free.
If our government is truly based upon free principles, why does it require the threat of coercive force to ensure that the governed obey most of the laws it enacts? Isn’t it a leading principle, as found in the Declaration of Independence, that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed? How, if you’d be so kind to explain, can you call our system a government by consent when you can be fined, jailed, or shot if you do not consent to its authority?
I hate to come across as sounding insulting, but I often wonder if people’s minds have not atrophied for lack of use; I wonder if they have not been so conditioned to simply accept things as they are without ever actually thinking of how they might become if the people would just assert their just authority to restrict government to only those things which benefit the country as a whole, while leaving the people free to live their lives as they pleased.
I frequently wonder why they call it common sense when it is very UNCOMMON for people to have much of it. Regardless of that fact, in 1776 Thomas Paine published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense in which he states, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
I think everyone, including myself, will admit the need for some kind of government to serve certain purposes. The problem arises when a majority of the people believe those purposes extend to restricting the freedom of those whose beliefs or ideologies they disagree with. How can you say we have a government by consent of the people when there is a portion of society that does not consent to the laws being passed?
I have heard, from a reliable source that for a long time the history books used in educating the youth of America overlooked the fact that there was any kind of formal opposition to the ratification of the Constitution. I suppose they wanted people to think that it was a smooth and painless transition from a Confederation to a Consolidated Empire; therefore they chose to ignore the fact that there was a serious and dedicated movement to prevent the Constitution from being ratified.
As I stated a few moments ago, there is a line one crosses when they begin questioning the validity of the system itself, but among those who have crossed that line there is another line that causes people to come under the righteous indignation of many who believe that all America needs to become great again is to return to its original constitutional form of government. That line is when one questions the integrity of those who wrote the constitution, or question the supposed greatness of the document itself.
There are a great many people in this country, both those who have studied the constitution and those who are ignorant as to what it says, who believe the document was inspired by God, and that to question it amounts to blasphemy. I can understand that to a certain extent; ten years ago I probably would have been among those who defended the constitution with every ounce of my being. However, knowledge changes a person; or at least it does if that person has any integrity.
If you take away all the fanfare and patriotic baggage that goes along with it, the Constitution is nothing more than words written upon a piece of old parchment. I think far too many people worship the Constitution as if it were handed down directly from God, as were the Ten Commandments when God carved them into stone tablets for Moses to deliver to the people.
If you had lived in the year 1787 you wouldn’t view the Constitution the same way you view it today. Back then it was simply a written proposal by the members of a convention held in Philadelphia for a proposed system of government. Before it was ratified by the States it held absolutely no authority, and had it been rejected instead of adopted, it would have found its way into the trash heap of history.
I think it’s kind of funny how people flock to the National Archives to gaze upon the original document when they have not read a single word in it; all while they gaze in reverent awe at its magnificence. It’s a sad testimony against our public school system that people know very little, if anything at all, about the intense debate that went on over whether to adopt or reject the proposed Constitution.
When you build a structure of any kind, if you want it to last for any amount of time you need to build it upon a firm and solid foundation. The same goes when establishing a system of government that is supposed to be secured to protect and defend the liberty of those it will govern. The foundation for our system of government is not the Constitution itself, it is the Declaration of Independence; which established the principles upon which ANY system of government should be built upon.
Those principles are as follows: 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, — 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.
Now let me ask you something. Let’s say that some group of men today got together and decided that our current form of government was no longer suitable for the needs of this country, so they wrote a plan for an entirely new form of government. Once they completed their plan they submitted it to the people for their consideration. Now let’s say that 60% of the people supported this new system of government and voted in favor of adopting it. What about the 40% who did not support it, what about their rights, what about whole principle of government by consent?
If you truly believe in a system that is designed to promote and sustain freedom, then how can you claim to support a system that uses force to compel obedience to it; or one in which a portion of society does not consent to its authority? Try to work your way out of that Gordian Knot if you can.
Now my question was directed to the people living today; at least those of them who may be reading this. But my intent was to get people to think about those who were alive during the debate over whether to adopt or reject the proposed system of government outlined by the Constitution. There were those, and there were a great many respectable men among them, who opposed the plan of government outlined in the Constitution. I could go on page after page with quotes from these men, stating their concerns over the proposed plan of government outlined in the Constitution, but for the sake of brevity I will submit just a few of them for your perusal.
Samuel Bryan of Pennsylvania, writing under the pseudonym of Centinel, wrote, “I trust, shall make it appear to the meanest capacity, that it has none of the essential requisites of a free government; that it is neither founded on those balancing restraining powers, recommended by Mr. Adams and attempted in the British constitution, or possessed of that responsibility to its constituents, which, in my opinion, is the only effectual security for the liberties and happiness of the people; but on the contrary, that it is a most daring attempt to establish a despotic aristocracy among freemen, that the world has ever witnessed.”
Amos Singletary, of Massachusetts, had this to say about the Constitution, “Mr. President, I should not have troubled the Convention again, if some gentleman had not called upon them that were on the stage in the beginning of our troubles in the year 1775. I was one of them – I have had the honour to be a member of the court all the time, Mr. President, and I say, that if anybody had proposed such a Constitution as this, in that day, it would have been thrown away at once – it would not have been looked at. We contended with Great Britain – some said for a three-penny duty on tea, but it was not that – it was because they claimed a right to tax us and bind us in all cases whatsoever. And does not this Constitution do the same?”
The esteemed Patrick Henry, that stalwart defender of liberty, spoke the following words in opposition to it, “Mr. Chairman, the public mind, as well as my own, is extremely uneasy at the proposed change of government. Give me leave to form one of the number of those who wish to be thoroughly acquainted with the reasons of this perilous and uneasy situation, and why we are brought hither to decide on this great national question. I consider myself as the servant of the people of this commonwealth, as a sentinel over their rights, liberty, and happiness. I represent their feelings when I say that they are exceedingly uneasy at being brought from that state of full security, which they enjoyed, to the present delusive appearance of things. A year ago, the minds of our citizens were at perfect repose. Before the meeting of the late federal Convention at Philadelphia, a general peace and a universal tranquillity prevailed in this country; but, since that period, they are exceedingly uneasy and disquieted. When I wished for an appointment to this Convention, my mind was extremely agitated for the situation of public affairs. I conceived the republic to be in extreme danger. If our situation be thus uneasy, whence has arisen this fearful jeopardy? It arises from this fatal system.”
Patrick Dollard, of South Carolina, may very well have predicted the Civil War in voicing the following concerns regarding the Constitution, “My constituents are highly alarmed at the large and rapid strides which this new government has taken towards despotism. They say it is big with political mischiefs, and pregnant with a greater variety of woes to the good people of the southern states, especially South-Carolina, than all the plagues supposed to issue from the poisonous box of Pandora. They say it is particularly calculated for the meridian of despotic-aristocracy―that it evidently tends to promote the ambitious views of a few able and designing men, and enslave the rest; that it carries with it the appearance of an old phrase formerly made use of in despotic reigns, and especially by archbishop Laud in the reign of Charles the 1rst, that is “non resistance.” They say they will resist against it―that they will not accept of it unless compelled by force of arms, which this new constitution plainly threatens; and then, they say, your standing army, like Turkish Janizaries enforcing despotic laws, must ram it down their throats with points of bayonets.”
And finally, returning to the writings of Robert Yates, under the pseudonym of Brutus, we read, “In despotic governments, as well as in all the monarchies of Europe, standing armies are kept up to execute the commands of the prince or the magistrate, and are employed for this purpose when occasion requires: But they have always proved the destruction of liberty, and [are] abhorrent to the spirit of a free republic. … A free republic will never keep a standing army to execute its laws. It must depend upon the support of its citizens. But when a government is to receive its support from the aid of the citizens, it must be so constructed as to have the confidence, respect, and affection of the people.”
Yates was not the only one who feared the idea of a standing army, on June 5, 1788 Patrick Henry also voiced his concern over them, “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?”
You see, standing armies do not serve the people, they serve their employer…GOVERNMENT. Standing armies exist only to follow the orders and enforce the will of those who hold political power. Yet don’t we hold the true political power in this country, or have you forgotten that simple fact?
I think people today don’t understand what a standing army is; I think they believe it to be confined to an armed and trained military. While that certainly may be part of a standing army, I believe a standing army also consists of anyone whose job it is to enforce the laws enacted by government; be they local law enforcement or be they federal employees, such as agents of the FBI, DEA or BATF…just to name a few.
Now explain something to me, if you can. If America truly is a free country, and if we actually have a government by consent of the governed, why do we need a standing army to enforce the laws that government enacts? Do you even know what consent means? One of the definitions for consent is something that one willingly agrees to. So, if we have government by consent, why do we need this massive standing army to ensure we obey it?
I think people have forgotten the role they hold, and the role government was supposed to play. We are the masters, or employers, and government is our servant, or employee. If you hire someone and consent to pay them to perform certain tasks for you, then they turn around and stare performing those tasks poorly, or start doing things they were not authorized to do, do you not have the right to fire them, to terminate your consent for their services?
Why should government be any less accountable to those who consented to its existence? Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence 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.”
Yet we all know how that turned out when the 11 States of the Confederacy attempted to exercise that right; Abraham Lincoln raised a 75,000 man army and invaded them; leading to a 4 year long war that cost the lives of way over 1/2 million people and led to the utter destruction of our constitutional republic.
There is no getting out from under the control of a tyrannical or despotic government; not when so many of the people don’t care one way or the other what that government is doing, and the rest confine their debates within the two party paradigm. Not until the same spirit that led our Founders to rise up against British rule will America ever stand the chance of becoming truly free. Until that happens, those of us who do love liberty and freedom will remain trapped within a system which we do not consent to.
Yet even though I am trapped under a system I do not consent to, the spirit that led Patrick Henry to declare, “Give me liberty or give me death” still courses through my veins. As long as my mind still functions, my heart still beats, and my lungs still take in oxygen, I will be free in spirit, and I will be a virus to the system that enslaves us; spreading the seeds of liberty and discord to all those who have open minds and are willing to listen.
As Thomas Paine said in his Crisis Letters, “…though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.” Me, and my fellow patriot writers and friends, are proof of that; that even though the majority of the people consent to a system that enslaves them, there will always be those who are ready and willing to, as Mel Gibson did when the executioners blade descended upon his neck, proclaim FREEDOM!!!!