In 1774 the First Continental Congress convened in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia after Parliament enacted the Intolerable, or Coercive, Acts as they are sometimes known. These Acts were passed after the King got word of the Boston Tea Party, and of the four of them, the Massachusetts Governing Act was probably the most egregious. The Massachusetts Governing Act basically dissolved the charter that had established the Colony and placed the Colonists directly under British rule; taking away their right to govern their own internal affairs.
This First Continental Congress consisted of delegates from 12 of the 13 Colonies; Georgia did not send anyone to represent them. There was no talk of independence at this time, although the sentiment may have existed in the minds of some who attended. All they really sought to do was come up with measures that would restore peaceful relations between themselves and their government across the pond in Great Britain.
The most notable things they did were to implement a boycott of British manufactured goods and send the King a petition asking for a redress of grievances and the repealing of the Intolerable Acts. I would hope that y’all know that things did not go back to normal; they got worse.
The following March Patrick Henry would deliver his famous speech where he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Yet how many of you have read that entire speech; for it contains some valuable insight into the reason Patrick Henry was so staunchly opposed to reconciliation with Great Britain.
For instance, Henry states, “Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! ”
One could very well say the same thing today in regards to our current government; but I get ahead of myself.
Then there was that little incident at Lexington and Concord; when the King’s law enforcers, the Redcoats, sought to confiscate the arms stockpiled near the town of Boston. Call them what you will, but the Colonists recognized that for what it was; their government taking away their only means of resisting its authority; and they fired upon those who were sent to take that ability away.
It may very well be that Lexington and Concord is why the 2nd Amendment was added to the constitution; so that the people would never be denied the right to have the arms necessary to topple a tyrannical government; or at least, resist the enforcement of laws that violated the rights of the individual citizens. It is probably also why Jefferson included the following in the Virginia State Constitution, “No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.”
It was clear to the Colonists that the petitions adopted by the First Continental Congress had done little to lessen the Crown’s hostility towards her Colonies; so a Second Continental Congress was convened; and this time there was open discussion of dissolving the political bonds which had tied the Colonies to Great Britain. The crowning achievements of the Second Continental Congress were the vote in support of the Lee Resolution and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.
The Lee Resolution is so named because it was read to the Congress by Richard Henry Lee, after receiving instructions from the Virginia Convention authorizing him to support the move towards independence. This was key, in that Richard Henry Lee, although he may have favored the move towards independence, could not act upon it; he was a delegate acting only on the authority granted him by his Colonial Government back in Virginia; and open support for independence without consent by his government in Virginia was to momentous a decision to make on his own without their consent and approval.
Although y’all may not know the particulars of what happened next, I would hope that you at least know that they wrote and adopted a formal Declaration of Independence, and that they fought, and won, a war in support of the principles outlined in it.
This Continental Congress acted as the de facto government for the 13 Colonies during the revolution; and one of the lesser known things they did was, they wrote and submitted to the Colonies a formal declaration that would establish a de jure system of government for themselves.
Now de facto and de jure are subjects I will discuss a bit later; so I need to make sure you’re clear on what they mean. Without going into a lengthy legal discussion, de facto means something that is true in fact, but not in accordance with the law, while de jure means it is true in both fact, and in accordance to the law.
So the Second Continental Congress was the de facto government for the 13 Colonies during the Revolution, and it became the de jure government after the Colonial Governments had ratified the Articles of Confederation. Whether it was a good or bad system is beside the point; what is important is that it was a government that was to operate on behalf of the States; not the people, and that it derived its power and authority from the States, not the people.
In 1786 a convention was held in Annapolis, Maryland, in which it was hoped that they could do something to remedy the deficiencies of the Congress established by the Articles of Confederation; primarily in regards to its inability to regulate commerce and raise revenue; i.e. the power to tax. However, not enough delegates showed up for this convention, but it was agreed that a more general convention be called for the following spring; giving the States plenty of time to choose delegates to represent them.
The following spring delegates from 12 of the 13 States arrived in the city of Philadelphia, (Rhode Island refused to send any delegates), having been given specific instructions by those who sent them to come up with proposed amendments for the Articles of Confederation to strengthen the existing government.
Well we all know that’s not what they did. The first order of business was to lock the doors, hang curtains over the windows, and swear the delegates to secrecy so that no one outside the chambers would know what was happening inside. It’s quite possible that, had the States learned what they were doing behind closed doors, they would have recalled their delegates, stripped them of their delegated authority, and we would never have had a constitution.
Nevertheless, fifty-five men were sent to Philadelphia to act as representatives for their respective States; with some coming and going; and only 39 of the 55 signed the final document they produced. Of particular note is the fact that Alexander Hamilton made numerous trips to New York during the months the constitution was being debated in his absence, yet despite the orders to keep their deliberations secret Hamilton always was kept abreast of what was going on hundreds of miles away while he was in New York.
Anyways, before I continue, let’s do a quick recap. In the beginning we had 13 Colonies; each distinct and separate from the others, but all bound together under a common government. These Colonies then became tired of their government passing laws and imposing taxes that they felt violated their rights. They first, pleaded, petitioned, and ‘prostrated’ themselves before their government; asking that their rights be restored to them.
When it became apparent that their government would not listen to their petitions, they did what all free men have the right to do, they shook off the shackles that had bound them to that system of government, and ‘assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…’
Once they obtained that separate and equal station the Colonies transitioned into independent and sovereign States; and as such they established a central governing body to provide for the general welfare of each State, yet leaving the States free to regulate their own internal affairs as they saw fit.
Then along came 1787 and the delegates, acting on behalf of, and with the powers granted them by their respective States, who locked the doors, swore each other to secrecy, and then went about the business of subverting and abolishing the existing form of government. Sound about right? Now that that’s settled, shall we move on?
It must be made clear that the Congress and its founding document; The Articles of Confederation, was the de jure government at the time all this was going on; and that those men working in secret in Philadelphia were only given specific powers by their respective States. Therefore, anything they did, any efforts they undertook which exceeded the specific instructions granted them by their States, or which violated existing law, made their actions criminal, or at least, left what they did amounting to the proposal for a de facto government; for it was not established in accordance with existing law.
Before I go any further I feel I must explain the nature of delegates and delegated power. A delegate is someone who acts on behalf of another; usually someone in a position of superiority. Therefore, delegated power is that power which is given to a subordinate to exercise on behalf of their superior. If my boss tells me to organize a crew and clean up a mess at work, I cannot then take that crew and repaint the interior of the building; that would be exceeding my delegated authority. Therefore, when the States chose delegates to attend a convention to produce proposals to strengthen the Articles of Confederation, when they produced a document outlining an entirely new system of government, they too exceeded their delegated authority.
Not only did those who produced our constitution exceed their delegated authority, they elevated themselves to the position of masters when they told, both their States, and the existing government how they must proceed when deciding whether or not to adopt their proposal; which was in direct opposition to existing law; specifically Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation. Now if you will recall de facto means in accordance with fact, but not with law. So is our government today de facto, or is it de jure?
The Articles of Confederation declared that for any change or alterations to them be made, it must first be approved by the Congress established by the Articles of Confederation, then approved by a unanimous vote of all 13 State Legislatures. However, that is not how the constitution went into effect; it was given to the Congress, whereupon they were told to deliver it to the States, who would then call for general conventions, consisting of the people of each State; whereupon they would debate the pro’s and con’s and decide whether or not to adopt the proposed plan.
So not only did the drafters of the constitution exceed their delegated authority, they told the Congress and the States that they must ‘break the law’ when choosing whether or not to adopt their plan for a new system of government. On top of all that, they told the Congress that their proposal must be taken in toto; meaning as is, or in full. There was to be no alterations, no proposed amendments, not one comma or punctuation mark was to be removed or replaced; it was to be all or nothing.
How dare they?
Much of what was discussed while Congress debated the merits of the proposed constitution is lost to history. However, Melancton Smith kept notes which can be found if one does some research, as is a letter written by Richard Henry Lee; discussing his suggestions for amendments to the proposed document. One thing is certain, those who wrote the constitution wanted Congress to give their approbation, or approval, of the document before they submitted it to the States; which they did not do.
So the constitution was then sent to the State Legislatures, who also were not allowed to propose amendments, or make the final decision as to whether or not to adopt this plan for a new system of government. Instead of returning the document to Congress right then and there, with their stern vote of unanimous disapproval, they followed the instructions they had been given and called for conventions, or assemblies to be called; consisting of the people from each State.
The makeup of these State Ratifying Assemblies, the biographies of those who attended them, could fill a book. Let it be said that they did not cover the broad spectrum of people who lived within the States. Instead of having people from all walks of life make the momentous decision of whether or not to adopt this proposal, they ratifying assemblies consisted mostly of what, we might today call, the 1%; the elite, the wealthy and connected. It kind of gives a whole new meaning to the term, We the People, doesn’t it? Maybe it should have said, “We the wealthy” instead of We the People.
Regardless, there was just enough opposition to the proposal that its future was not certain. Heated debates took place amongst the public; with Federalist and Anti-Federalist writers battling it out in the press. Then of course there was Virginia, the home State of James Madison; one of the primary movers and shakers behind the constitution. However, Virginia was also the home of Patrick Henry; who refused to even attend the Philadelphia Convention; saying he smelled a rat leaning towards monarchy in Philadelphia.
Make no mistake about it, Madison was brilliant, but he was a timid little man, and no great orator and debater; unlike Henry; who was renowned for his oration and debating skills. It is said that among all the men alive at the time, Madison feared Patrick Henry the most; and for good reason; for if anyone could stop Madison’s plan for a new system of government dead in its tracks, it would have been Patrick Henry.
You see, Virginia was, at the time, one of the largest and most powerful States; therefore how Virginia voted in regards to the constitution would affect how other States voted. Madison needed Virginia to vote in favor of his proposal; and Patrick Henry stood in his way.
It might be a stretch of my imagination, but had not Patrick Henry ever lived we may not have seen a Bill of Rights added to the constitution. For that matter, had Patrick Henry never have been born we might not have seen the outrage over the Stamp Act of 1765, which was the impetus which led to the Revolution itself.
So now where at a point where we have a system of government, created by the delegates of the States, for the States, being argued as to whether or not that system should continue, or if it should be replaced by a system created by, and given its authority by the people. This begged the question among many an Anti-Federalist writer, was this to produce a confederated republic or was it to produce a consolidated republic; bypassing, or subverting the sovereignty and political authority of the States?
Henry summarized this question when he asked, “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.” He also said, “Here is a revolution as radical as that which separated us from Great Britain. It is radical in this transition; our rights and privileges are endangered, and the sovereignty of the states will be relinquished.”
It may seem trivial and inconsequential to you today; since you were born into a world where this system has been in existence for over 200 years; but at the time the question was of monumental significance.
There were those who pushed, and pushed hard for a quick adoption of the plan; before anyone had the time to truly examine it and find its hidden flaws and loopholes. Those who supported a quick adoption may have overreacted in Pennsylvania when they forcibly drug opponents to the Ratifying Assembly so that the majority might obtain a quorum and a favorable vote. However, their efforts backfired; as it caused people to take a closer look at a document that required such an underhanded mode of adoption.
Samuel Bryan, writing as Centinel, describes the underhanded treatment of opponents to the constitution in Pennsylvania, “A few citizens of Philadelphia (too few, for the honour of human nature) who had the wisdom to think consideration ought to precede appro’bation, and the fortitude to avow that they would take time to judge for themselves on so momentous an occasion, were stigmatized as enemies to their country; as monsters, whose existence ought not to be suffered, and the destruction of them and their houses recommended, as meritorious.’ The authors of the new plan, conscious that it would not stand the test of enlightened patriotism, tyrannically endeavoured to preclude all investigation.’ If their views were laudable; if they were honest,’ the contrary would have been their conduct, they would have invited the freest discussion. Whatever specious reasons may be assigned for secrecy during the framing of the plan, no good one can exist, for leading the people blindfolded into the implicit adoption of it.”
Regardless of the events that followed, those who supported the adoption of the proposed plan were forced to concede to having amendments added to it; if the States would just ratify the document first; which they eventually did.
Now you might say that I’m going to be nitpicking with this next section, but bear with me. If this constitution truly derives its power and authority from We the People, then aren’t we the creators of this system of government; not just those 39 who signed their names to the final document?
As the creators, as those who this system of government derives the consent of to exist, don’t we have the right to suggest changes or alterations in its structure, in the powers delegated to it, and to make sure that there are iron clad restrictions upon its ability to infringe upon and violate our rights?
Who did those 39 men who signed the final document think they were, telling the great body of the people that they could not alter or amend their precious document? Furthermore, who did the first Congress think they were, when the proposals for amendments were whittled down by them to only those that did not weaken their power and authority; and even then, those that they allowed to be submitted to the States had been weakened as to their protection of our fundamental rights?
For instance, Virginia submitted a proposal that contained 20 proposals protecting the rights of the people against infringement by the government and another 20 to the body of the constitution, altering or diminishing certain powers delegated to the government. North Carolina submitted a similar proposal, with 20 proposals protecting the rights of the people and the States, and another 26 to the constitution itself; limiting or restructuring the power delegated to the federal government.
Yet the Congress, or James Madison to be precise, allowed for none of the proposals that limited the government’s power to be submitted to the States, and he weeded out those protecting rights held by the people or the States down to 12; of which only 10 were ratified.
So what we had is a transition from a government of the States, by the States, for the States which was replaced by one of the people, by the people and for the people; yet the people were not allowed to decide what powers this government could and could not exercise; and they people were told that certain rights were not worthy of protection against federal encroachment.
Then to make matters even worse than they already were, the Congress passes a law that restructures and dramatically expands the power held by the federal judiciary; The Judicial Act of 1789. This judiciary, since then, has handed down decisions which gave it the power to determine what laws are, and which aren’t constitutional; a power which should be reserved to those who created government, not to a single branch of that government. It has expanded it’s own power; it has limited the power and sovereignty of the States, and it has handed down numerous rulings that liberally interpret what is meant by ‘regulate commerce’, the ‘general welfare’, and what is meant by ‘necessary and proper.’
Thomas Jefferson would later write the following about the federal judiciary, stating that it had been “… working underground to undermine our Constitution from a co-ordinate of a general and special government to a general supreme one alone. This will lay all things at their feet. … I will say, that “against this every man should raise his voice,” and, more, should uplift his arm”; and by arm I don’t think he meant the appendage attached to our shoulders.
Yet here we are in 2020, two-hundred thirty one years after the constitution went into effect, with less, probably much less, than 5% of the people of this country knowing anything about the document, or the underhanded way it came into becoming the ‘supreme law of the land.’
The fact that your government does not even adhere to the limits imposed upon it by a faulty and flawed document is of little concern to people; all that matters is whether their party gets to control the government; not whether the government is doing the job it was supposedly established to do. The people sacrifice their rights and freedoms for the promise of comfort and security; then turn around and say that they are making America great, or that they are defending our democracy; when we never had a democracy to begin with.
Yet they wonder why things are so bad in this country; why people have to work two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet; why taxes and the debt are so high; why there are so many laws and regulations telling them what they can and cannot do.
Plato once said, “The price good man pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Then, in his Social Contract, Jean Jacques Rousseau states, “Born as I was the citizen of a free state and a member of its sovereign body, the very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affairs, however little influence my voice may have in them.”
A hundred years before our Declaration of Independence was written Etienne de la Boetie wrote a book in which he could have been talking about America today when he said, “But O, good Lord! What strange phenomenon is this? What name shall we give it? What is the nature of this misfortune? What vice is it, or, rather, what degradation? To see an endless multitude of people not merely obeying, but driven to servility? Not ruled, but tyrannized over? These wretches have no wealth, no kin, nor wife nor children, not even life itself that they can call their own.”
Boetie then goes on to say, “Shall we call subjection to such a leader cowardice? Shall we say that those who serve him are cowardly and fainthearted? If two, if three, if four do not defend themselves from the one, we might call that circumstance surprising but nevertheless conceivable. In such a case one might be justified in suspecting a lack of courage. But if a hundred, if a thousand endure the caprice of a single man, should we not rather say that they lack not the courage but the desire to rise against him, and that such an attitude indicates indifference rather than cowardice?” If you ask me, that’s a more accurate description of the overall ignorance and apathy that pervades America today.
He then goes on to describe people like those living today, “It is incredible how as soon as a people becomes subject, it promptly falls into such complete forgetfulness of its freedom that it can hardly be roused to the point of regaining it, obeying so easily and so willingly that one is led to say, on beholding such a situation, that this people has not so much lost its liberty as won its enslavement.”
And next he describes people like me who understand liberty and anguish over the loss of it; those you call radicals, extremists, or threats to society, “There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the weight of the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always — like Ulysses on land and sea, constantly seeking the smoke of his chimney — cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways. These are in fact the men who, possessed of clear minds and far-sighted spirit, are not satisfied, like the brutish mass, to see only what is at their feet, but rather look about them, behind and before, and even recall the things of the past in order to judge those of the future, and compare both with their present condition.
These are the ones who, having good minds of their own, have further trained them by study and learning. Even if liberty had entirely perished from the earth, such men would invent it. For them, slavery has no satisfactions, no matter how well disguised.”
Finally, backtracking a bit, Boetie offers a bit of sympathy for those who have never known true freedom, “I am of the opinion that one should pity those who, at birth, arrive with the yoke upon their necks. We should exonerate and forgive them, since they have not seen even the shadow of liberty, and, being quite unaware of it, cannot perceive the evil endured through their own slavery.”
Yet that is one thing I cannot, or will not do. I cannot feel pity upon people who bow down and worship those who tyrannize them; I just can’t find it within myself to feel pity for them. Instead, I feel as did Thomas Paine, when he wrote, “When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.”
Our system cannot be fixed; it cannot be improved upon to better our situation. For America to solve our problems, regain our lost liberty, the system itself must be abolished; and for that to happen requires that the people first stop participating in electing officials to it. As long as people think that voting makes one iota of difference, the system wins; for it knows that their votes do not matter, that it is going to do whatever it wants because the people do not have the courage to stand up and resist it.
The truth is a bitch, isn’t it? My words may sound harsh, they may sound drastic, but they are rooted in truth; for our Declaration of Independence supports my position, “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.”
So go ahead, keep wallowing in your ignorance, in your apathy; just don’t complain to me, or ask me what we can do to fix all the problems in America; for you don’t want to hear the answer – GET RID OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT! It was conceived in sin by evil and designing men to benefit the few at the cost of the rights and liberty of the many; and until we get rid of it, not one damned thing is going to change.
Samuel Bryan described exactly what our constitution was back in 1788 and nobody listened then, why should they now; but regardless here is my final piece of truth for you today, the constitution is the “…most daring attempt to establish a despotic aristocracy among freemen, that the world has ever witnessed.”