On March 20, 1775, delegates gathered together at St. Johns Church in Richmond, Virginia, to discuss what measures they might take as tensions between the Colonies and Britain increased. Of those in attendance at this meeting were George Washington; who would be chosen to lead the, yet to be formed Continental Army, and Thomas Jefferson; who would later be asked to pen a declaration of independence.
After hearing the speeches of a few delegates, Patrick Henry rose from his seat in the third row of pews, and delivered a speech which has gone down into the history books as one of the greatest ever delivered by man.
I could spend all day discussing the intricacies of Mr. Henry’s speech, but it is one line that I wish to focus upon now; “I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” There is a word we use to describe the study of the past…HISTORY. But for the study of history to be of any use it must be complete, it must be thorough, and more importantly, it must be impartial.
The famed philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Had I not taken it upon myself to begin studying the history of my country I would not have learned what the guiding principle was which lead our Founders to, first seek their independence from Britain, and then go on to establish a system of government they hoped would secure that principle for posterity; that principle being LIBERTY.
Jefferson declared liberty to be among our unalienable rights when he wrote our Declaration of Independence. The Preamble to our Constitution declares that one of the purposes for which the system of government it outlines was to “…secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”
Yet there were those, Patrick Henry among them, who feared that the system of government outlined by this Constitution threatened that liberty. On June 5, 1788 Henry once again rose to defend liberty on the floor of the Virginia Assembly which had gathered together to discuss whether to accept or reject this newly proposed Constitution.
Again, I could spend hours dissecting Henry’s speech to the Virginia Assembly, but it is one passage alone that I wish to focus your attention upon; that being, “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.”
A few years after the Constitution was ratified and the system of government it outlines went into effect, James Wilson would write, “Government … should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.” (Lectures on Law, 1791)
I don’t mean to be insulting, but I’ve noticed that people tend to read these historical quotes I provide, or my comments on them for that matter, without really thinking about what they say. Take for instance the quote I just provided from James Wilson; how many of you gave any thought to what he meant when he said “… the natural rights of its members…”?
People today grow up being taught that America is a democracy; which is a bold faced lie. Those who fought for our independence and established our system of government were astute students of history; and history taught them one thing…that all democracies failed. Sure, we elect those who fill the seats of power within our government via a democratic election process; but even then the evils of a pure democracy are minimized by the inclusion of our Electoral College.
But make no mistake about it, we are NOT a democracy. Upon leaving the convention which had just voted to accept the finished document which was our Constitution, Dr. Benjamin Franklin was accosted, supposedly by a woman who recognized him, and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got ― a Republic or a Monarchy?”
If you’ll note, she did not ask whether we had a Republic or a Democracy, she asked if we had a Republic or a Monarchy. Franklin responded by saying, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Why would Franklin answer in such a sarcastic tone? The answer is quite simple really; aside from being students of history, our Founders were also students of human nature.
Having studied history they understood the tendencies of societies and their proclivity towards apathy and ignorance, and how governments can, and will, over time become tyrannical and oppressive. Possibly that is why Madison would write the following in Federalist 51, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
It also explains why Franklin would respond to that question in the manner that he did. Few people know that on the day the vote was taken to accept the finished Constitution, a speech prepared by Ben Franklin was read to the delegates of the Philadelphia Convention. The purpose of this speech was an attempt to generate unanimous support for the finished document to show to the people who would be tasked with either accepting or rejecting it.
Although he was not entirely successful, his words still remain relevant today when considering what they attempted to do, and what they hoped to forestall; “I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present, but Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it: For having lived long, I have experienced many Instances of being oblig’d, by better Information or fuller Consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow the more apt I am to doubt my own Judgment, and to pay more Respect to the Judgment of others. … In these Sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
My point in writing all this was to lead to a question which has been nagging at me for quite some time now; “Have we as a people become so corrupted that we are incapable of anything other than despotic government?”
I see, time and time again, people voting for candidates from this party or that party, hoping that things will improve in this country; the whole time these same people are oblivious as to what the Constitution says are the powers our government is authorized to wield. Time and time again I hear people complaining about the ‘supposed’ crimes of one President, while they turn a blind eye to the crimes of past presidents.
I see, with increasing dismay I might add, the complete lack of concern that our most sacred rights are being trampled upon in the name of national security, or even worse, under the banner of political correctness.
These protests that are occurring over the election of Donald Trump are both a good thing, and at the same time, a bad thing. While I am all for resistance to tyranny and the abuse of power by government, I oppose senseless violence and protests when they are only because your side, your party did not win an election. If you are going to protest government, do it for a valid reason; the increasing loss of liberty and the expansion of governmental control over your lives.
Yet that right there is the problem, people have very short memories; they can’t remember what a president said or did 8 years ago; they focus on what a particular president is doing because it goes against what their political ideology says government should be doing. Never is the Constitution referred to as what the government is AUTHORIZED to do.
Yet if one were to go back, with an open mind, and examine the acts of previous presidents, of previous administrations, they would see that one may enact a program, and the next typically expands upon it. All one has to do is but look at the apparatus that has grown up to keep us safe from terror to understand how all governmental programs just keep getting bigger, and Bigger, and BIGGER.
Yet people fail to remember Jefferson’s words, “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrators) too plainly proves a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.”
Our school systems have done a marvelous job of teaching us to ignore facts; instead teaching us to feel and empathize; and vote accordingly. I’m reminded of a scene from the movie Enter the Dragon, when Bruce Lee tells a pupil, “Don’t think, feel!!!”
I hear all these people complaining about the supposed laws Trump is guilty of violating, yet they trivialize the crimes of past presidents because they are in the past. Yet where someone to break into your home and rob you, or kill one of your family members, would you allow time to diminish their crimes? Of course, not you would seek justice no matter how long it took; and that’s all I seek; justice for all the times our Constitution has been violated by our government. I do not take sides in this, my anger is not directed at any particular political party; it is directed to government as an entity which has grown to be far worse than the one our Founders fought to free themselves from.
We seek to correct this abuse of power by voting people in and out of the various offices which make up our government, but refuse to address the underlying issue that government routinely acts outside the rule of law; and in so doing deprives us of the very thing it was established to secure…LIBERTY.
In essence, we are seeking to ask the fox to punish himself for raiding the henhouse. I hate to be rude, as I’ve been told that I lose the respect of my readers when I am, but you have got to be a special kind of stupid if you think government will punish itself for its own abuses of power.
This was one of Patrick Henry’s biggest concerns with the system of government proposed by the Constitution, that there was no means to punish tyrants. In a speech on June 7, 1787 Henry declared, “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?”
They may punish their members for violations of certain laws, but when it comes to punishing each other for violations of the Constitution they are deathly silent. It is made worse when the people who choose them to fill these seats of power do not know what the Constitution says and vote according to partisan loyalties.
If the people of this country still had the deep, undying love of liberty that led our Founders to take up arms against their government and seek independence, if they had the deep respect for the Constitutional limitations upon government which led 11 States to severe their ties with the Union and establish a more perfected Constitution, then maybe I could hold out some hope for the future of America; but they don’t, and I won’t have any until the people do.
That is why, when Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Assembly and made the following comments, I choose to repeat them today, “But I am fearful I have lived long enough to become an fellow: Perhaps an invincible attachment to the dearest rights of man, may, in these refined, enlightened days, be deemed old fashioned: If so, I am contented to be so: I say, the time has been when every pore of my heart beat for American liberty, and which, I believe, had a counterpart in the breast of every true American…”
If you were a true American, a red-blooded lover of liberty, then you would be outraged over EVERY instance in which our government overstepped its authority and endangered your liberty; not just those of the candidates you disagree with.
It is because people no longer care about liberty, only about what benefits or security their government can provide them, that I tend to believe we HAVE reached that point where we have become so corrupted that despotic government is all that is suitable for us.
But make no mistake about it, as long as I live and breathe, I will fight the continued growth of government, and the subsequent loss of liberty that goes along with it. If that means that I lose friends…so be it. If that means I become labeled treasonous or unpatriotic, I will consider it a badge of honor; just as Patrick Henry did when he declared, “If this be treason, make the most of it.”
You may consider my beliefs to be treasonous and dangerous to American beliefs, but I consider your apathy and ignorance to be far more dangerous than my firm adherence to the belief that government was instituted to safeguard and protect our liberty…not destroy it.
We won our first war for independence and lost the second one. I fear a third is on the horizon if things do not change. I suppose historians in the future will write about it should it come. I only hope they get their facts right when they do.
March 11, 2017
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross, Student of history, politics, patriot and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Send all comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you liked Neal’s latest column, maybe you’ll like his latest booklet: The Civil War: (The Truth You Have Not Been Told) AND don’t forget to pick up your copy of ROSS: Unmasked – An Angry American Speaks Out – and stay tuned – Neal has a new, greatly expanded book coming soon dealing with the harsh truths about the so-called American Civil War of 1861-1865. Life continues to expand for this prolific writer and guardian of TRUE American history.