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We The 21st Century People: Introduction

An open letter to my fellow citizens of the United States of America:

Eleven score and nineteen years ago, our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all {men} are created equal.We are now engaged in a great political struggle, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, can long endure.

The divisions are many, and seem irreconcilable; Rampant extremism has made “The Aisle” a barrier to negotiation and compromise, a barrier to the republican form of government promised by the Constitution. A canyon that threatens the country that so many have fought, struggled, and died to build and preserve.

This is how the Founders wrote (plus a bit of Honest Abe), and I have paraphrased them here to bring the mind of the reader back to the time of Enlightenment and the founding of the country. Now is the time for us to remember our origins and the thinking behind it: “The Great Experiment”. The Framers were familiar with the workings of government, especially the capacity for injustice and oppression when the few hold overwhelming power over the many. Sadly, few currently give the matter its due contemplation; accepting policies that may seem proper to them without exploring the truth or the consequences thereof.

In this moment, the wrong questions are being asked. Instead of listening to the propaganda of power-seekers and cronies, one must develop one’s own philosophy of what “a more perfect Union” consists of.

Thomas Jefferson believed that:

“In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe their minds must be improved to a certain degree. This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be essentially necessary. An amendment of our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth: and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price. The government of Great-Britain has been corrupted, because but one man in ten has a right to vote for members of parliament. The sellers of the government therefore get nine-tenths of their price clear. It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.”

Unfortunately, the present distribution of wealth, coupled with its permitted application to the arts and edifices of politics, does indeed allow for mass corruption to a degree that actively supports the degeneration and corruption of government.

The first act of the Responsible Citizens who seeks to defend Liberty must be to Enlighten (educate) themselves on the fundamental principles of government. Recognition of the significance of the study of political science has faded from the public square in spite of its importance to liberty and the maintenance of good government. Some have even sought to undermine the teaching of political science. By doing so, they act to suppress independent and educated understanding of what a good government could and should be, as well as undermining democracy as a viable regulator of government.

AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Papers (1)

The Federalist Papers were written to the people of the United States to explain the new Constitution and make the case for its ratification.

To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

More than 200 years old, yet disturbingly relevant today.

Footnotes:

  • The “subsisting federal government” refers to the central government under the Articles of Confederation, which proved too weak to be effective.
  • The idea that societies of {men} are capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, free of the dictates of kings and bishops and entrenched aristocracy, is referred to as “The Great Experiment”. It, coupled with the principle of “rule of law”, was the foundation on which the Framers based our Constitution, and our Nation.
 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Citizen Statesman

 

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We The People, part 2 – Origins

In Federalist 2, John Jay wrote of the land and the people of America:

“It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together; while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their various commodities.

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

Map of U.S. territorial acquisitions

U.S. Territorial Acquisitions

It is important to note that his America was not the diverse and sprawling country that we have all grown up in. They began as British colonists, with King and state Church. It was the abuse and misuse at the hands of the Crown and the East India Company that spurred them to rebellion and independence. To be sure, there were factions that disagreed on various issues, but the country was predominantly monocultural. They populated lands left unspoiled by the native population for thousands of years.

As we expanded west, we acquired land from Native American, French, Spanish, and other sources. Through Ellis Island, we absorbed immigrants from all over Europe. Japanese and Chinese came to California. Cajuns came south, and Latin Americans came north.

The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus, 1883

Immigrants entering the United States through ...

Ellis Island Immigrants

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

More than any other country, we have welcomed and absorbed a multitude of immigrants and the diverse cultures they brought with them. The land of “E pluribus, unum”, the great “Melting Pot” society. From St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, to Kwanzaa, Mardi Gras, Oktoberfest, and Chinese New Year, we have assimilated culture as well as people.

Demographically, culturally, geographically, technologically, socially, economically, militarily, politically, and religiously, America has grown and changed enormously from the days of the original Thirteen Colonies.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in We The People

 

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We The People, part 1

We the People

The very first words of our Constitution, writ far larger than all others. And why not, for what is the foundation of a nation if not it’s people?

Governments rise and governments fall. Constitutions are replaced. Businesses form and last for a moment, a generation, a lifetime… but not forever. Partnerships dissolve. Businesses go bankrupt. The people remain.

It is the people who abide and endure when all else fails.

We the People, and the land we claim for our own, ARE the country.

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensable necessity of government, and it is equally undeniable, that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.”

John Jay, Federalist 2

Where there is unlimited liberty, there is inevitable conflict between the competing liberties of multiple individuals. To participate in a human society, some restraint is required. Even animal communities have their rules. Humans are more complex, and need more complex rules. Society exists on the premise that more liberties can be preserved through common cause than can be preserved by the individual alone. The effectiveness of society could be measured by the degree of liberties preserved v.s. the degree of liberties ceded in their defense.

“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,”

Declaration of Independence.

The consent of the governed, the consent of We the People. – The fundamental restraint on the powers vested in the government. The power of government can only be Just when nothing comes between the citizens of this country and their right, their unalienable right, to exercise that restraint. To allow others to interfere with that restraint, or to exert their own restraints on our government, is to surrender to them a portion of our sovereignty and the portion of our liberties ceded to government so that it can function on our behalf.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in We The People

 

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