Taking America Back One Bit At A Time -Part 2:The Making of America

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Part 1 of this series, Introduction, can be found here

The Making of America

.This will be a very broad brush review of our Founding. Conservatives more than most know the history of how America came to be. It is the Taking of America we need to understand better.

The original settlements of what is now the Eastern sea board of the United States of America were colonies of England. The people were subjects of the crown no less the people of England and for the most part they were content with being Englishmen. They  were almost uniformly Christians. That contentment changed over time, at least among some of the colonist. Some came to see that  these colonies in America were not going to be an extension of England; but rather  a source of goods and wealth for the King and England leaving little for the colonist. Talk of declaring independence from the mother land began to circulate throughout the colonies.

Who were these people spreading talk of sedition? Well, they weren’t the down trodden peasants. They were among the elite of their time. They were learned men of means. Talk of revolution was a dangerous business. These men were knowingly putting their lives and fortunes at risk. Our history tells us that they would gain no more than 30% support for their cause. Some say it was no more than 13%. They chose a well to do “farmer” from the Colony of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, to write a Declaration of Independence that would be presented to the King and the Parliament of England. Jefferson, like many of our founders whose names would be remembered, was a learned man who had studied the works of great thinkers like John Locke and others. He was chosen for this task because he was known to have great skill when putting quill and ink to paper. His Declaration of Independence turned out to be a masterpiece. Many of its lines still resonate today. And so, a war of independence against the greatest military and navy the world had known, to that point in time, was imminent.

Delegates from the colonies, soon to be called states, were sent to Philadelphia to give form to this new nation of states. They would put together a document called the Articles of Confederation, under which a national government would be formed and operate. It would turn out to be wholly inadequate to the task ahead of this new nation.

This newly declared nation had no well-trained standing army or militia. How did they hope to defeat the best military in the world at the time? A religious faith that they were on the side of right can be the only answer. They chose a man by the name of George Washington to lead their fight for independence. He would turn out to be the right  man in time and place to pull off the miracle. In spite of not having professional officers and troops to confront the superior English forces, in spite of not receiving anything close to proper funding to conduct this war, and in spite of all the hardships and, in spite of the fact that his troops were sick from the cold, without proper clothing or even boots, General Washington would manage to rally those troops and take the British by surprise on a frigid night at Valley Forge and a new nation, that would come to be known as America, was born.

The first order of business for this new nation was to send delegates back to Philadelphia to fix the Articles of Confederation. Although there were many delegates from the states, only a few would be remembered in our history. Those remembered were people like Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Jay and few others.  The delegates would go to great lengths to keep their deliberations secret. They would decide early on not to do what they were sent to Philadelphia to do, fix the Articles of Confederation, Instead they decided to write a proper constitution for this new nation. The debates over what this constitution would look like were long and contentious. Two factions would develop amongst the delegates. One led by Thomas Jefferson and one led by Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson understood that the central government had to have more power than it had under the Articles of Confederation, but he wanted it to still be very limited in its powers. Jefferson’s vision of America was that it would remain mostly a country whose economy was primarily agricultural in nature. Hamilton and his followers might be described as being more visionary than the Jeffersonians. Hamilton wanted and could see a day when the United States of America would take its place as, at least, an equal to the greatest nations of Europe. Hamilton envisaged that America might become a great industrialized nation and it was Hamilton who would push the idea that this new nation would need a national or central bank. Hamilton wouldn’t win hid battle for a national bank, but other powerful interests would continue the fight for many years until they would finally win in 1913 with the establishment of the privately owned Federal Reserve System. This central bank would play an important role in both the rise and the fall of America and we will discuss that more in Part 3 of this series.

In the end the delegates would produce a remarkable constitution. Unlike anything ever tried in the world. It was based on the principles of maximum freedom, maximum rights, and minimum government. Betjeman Franklin would tell us that we were given a republic if we could keep it. We now know that We The People were not able to keep it and that will be the subject pg Part 3, tomorrow.

Well.  now you know what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

Original Post:  Conservatives on Fire

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The American Left Shamelessly Follow The Principles Behind The French Revolution Instead Of Those Of The American Revolution

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It is only fair that I start out by telling you that I am not a fan of the French. Intellectually I know that it is wrong to judge a people and their history because of a handful of distasteful experiences. But, what can I tell you? I’m not totally sure where my angst comes from. I suspect it may have started with World War II movies and learning how General Patton and his troops were ordered to stand aside and allow that pompous ass, General Charles de Gaulle, to lead his French Resistance fighters into Paris as the “liberators”. Then sixteen years later, that same pompous ass, as the French President, used their accumulated dollars (much of which came out of the pockets of American taxpayers to rebuild France after the war) to make a run on America’s gold reserves. Did that play a role in President Richard Nixon’s decision to end the Breton Woods system of international financial exchange and, thereby, ending the last vestiges of the gold backed dollar? Many would say yes. I have other more personal reason for my feelings about the French that I won’t bore you with today. Today I wish to review with you some interesting and important history.

Before getting to that history, I should expose one more of my many short comings. I am regrettably not an American history scholar and much less a scholar of French history. Yes, I took all the requisite courses in highschool and college and passed them with flying colors, but it was a very superficial education in history. Although I have often enjoyed reading historical novels and biographies of some our Founders, it is probably safe to say that I have learned more American history since I started blogging than in all the previous decades.

This past weekend I was reading the most recent post by my friend, Cheryl Pass, at her blog, My Tea Party Chronicle. in which she linked an article titled  The American Vs French Revolutions.  I thought to myself, “that might be an interesting read”. It was. The author of the article, R. J. Rummel, is indeed a scholar of history and political science. Dr. Rummel is a professor at the University of Hawaii. If you go to the above link and click on the “personal” page you can learn of all his credentials.  He is the author of several books and if you click those links you will long summaries and conclusions that are also interesting reading.

In Dr. Rummel’s article, he writes:

The intellectual struggle worldwide today is now between the beliefs encapsulated in the American Revolution and those in the French. It is interests versus reason.

After a short historical background on mankind’s struggle to break free from thousands of years of feudalism, he explains how those efforts bore fruit in the eighteenth century with two revolutions and two very different results:

Then, in the late 18th century two momentous revolutions destroyed this balance, triggered a great battle between the State and Freedom. Freedom emerged victorious in one; the State in the other. The great historical struggle since has been between the principles and conception of these two revolutions, for as the old balance between kings and aristocracies was destroyed, the success of Freedom or advance of the State has depended on the triumph of one of these two sets of principles and conceptions.

The following two paragraphs provide the gist of his view of the American Revolution:

The American Revolution was the first. As a struggle against monarchical and aristocratic power, it was an explicit attempt to establish the greatest possible common Freedom. The leaders were careful historians who knew their political philosophy. Descendents of the English tradition of common law and rights, they were influenced by the great liberal philosophers, such as Sir John Harrington and John Locke. They understood that Freedom would be short-lived, that defeating an imperial State would only unleash a new State at home, unless the power of the State could be shackled. Their efforts, after a short experiment with the Articles of Confederation, were soon enshrined in the Constitution of the United States in 1787. In simple words, the Constitution was a conscious attempt to bound the State and preserve Freedom.

[…]

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A conception of Freedom as an outcome of contending interests, each guaranteed inalienable Rights, and the three principles of Rights, checks and balances, and limited government, constituted the American Revolution — a revolution that established and preserved Freedom down to modern times.

And then his synopsis of the French revolution:

Unlike the American Revolution, whose philosophical ancestors were the English liberals, the French Revolution was fundamentally fathered by the French radical philosophers, especially Jean Jacques Rousseau, and inherited the faith in reason engendered by The Enlightenment. RenŽ Descartes’ trust in geometric like reasoning and Rousseau’s belief in the common will and sovereignty of the people framed the conception guiding the French Revolution. This conception is mechanical. Government is a machine, fueled by coercive power, and driven by reason; and its destination is Social Justice. Government is thus a tool to reach a future goal — improving man. Those in charge of the State would therefore use reason to apply government to further and create Social Justice.

Two revolutions to break the chains of feudalism. Our revolution led to a limited government and maximum freedom while the French revolution led to an all-powerful state in which the elite know best.

Sadly, it is the spirit of the French revolution that lives on in much of the world today.

They underlie the revolutions of 1848 in Europe, the first stirring of socialism, the writings of Marx and the birth of communism and democratic socialism. The French Revolution was defeated but the Revolution was victorious. Infesting intellectuals everywhere, its ideas eventuated in the successful Russian Revolution.

It is the philosophy of the French revolution that America’s “progressive movement” follows. I wonder if they know that?

What did I learn from professor Rummel¡s lesson? On a personal level, this son of a Scottish immigrant father and a mother whose roots come from Ireland has no interest what so ever of following the French anywhere! On a more serious level, it occurs to me at this late stage in life that our nation would be better served if we had more historians and less lawyers in Washington. Maybe we wouldn’t repeat the mistakes that history is there to teach us.

Well, now you know what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

Original Post:  Conservatives on Fire

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We Know About the Federalist Papers. What About the Anti-Federalist Papers?

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Constitutional scholars, federal justices, and lawyers who try cases in federal courts and the Supreme Court often go to the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist papers and other historic documents to get to the original intent of our constitution. Although my education on American history was woefully lacking, I was, at least, aware the something called the Federalist Papers existed. It was decades later when I actually read any of the Federalist Papers and then only about ten of the eighty-five or more papers. It was only recently that I decided it might be educational to find out what those opposed to the ratification of our constitution had to say. I have now read about ten of Anti-Federalist Papers.

The Articles of Confederation signed in 1781 is considered our first constitution. Although written by essentially the same group of Founders, their first attempt at forming a federal government for the United States was a total disaster. The thirteen states were so intent on maintaining their power and sovereignty that they created a Federal government that was toothless. Article II stated:

ARTICLE II

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

Under the Articles of Confederation, there was no Executive branch, there was no judicial branch, there was no one designated as head of state to negotiate treaties or commerce with other nations,there was no taxing authority, and the federal government had no control over interstate commerce or in the coinage of a national currency and each state was, therefore, setting tariffs to protect their own industries and creating their own currencies. The Federal government was a joke and that was how it was perceived by other nations.

There were during the years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation a few attempts to fix parts of it; but they went nowhere. Finally in May of 1787 twelve states, Rhode Island was the exception, sent delegates to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation such that the federal government could truly function. However, after about four weeks, the majority of the delegates voted to throw out the Articles of Confederation and start over on a new constitution. Some delegate were very unhappy over this turn of events and the New York delegates walked out temporarily.

Working behind closed doors the delegates worked and debated in secrecy until the final document of seven articles on four pages was completed on September 17, 1787. Copies printed so as each state could then hold ratifying conventions and that is when the “fun” began. The destiny of our constitution was fought until March 4, 1989.  Supporters of ratification published papers explaining and defending the new constitution. All of these 85 papers were signed Plubius. But, consensus today atributes 52 to Alexander Hamilton, 28 to James Madison, and five to John Jay. Collectively they have become known as the Federalist Papers. Those that opposed ratification of the constitution as it was written also published their arguments against ratification. Most were written under pseudonyms, such as, Centinel and Brutus and Federal Farmer and Cato. Some, however were signed with the authors proper name. These letters became collectively known as the Anti-Federalist Papers.

In the course of ny research for this post, I found several references to the  Anti-Federalst as the “old patriots” (those that had been loyal to the crown and did not support the Revolution) and the Federalist were refered to as the “new patriots who had supported the Revolution. I think that is an over statement because as you will see Patrick Henry was an Anti-Federalist and argued against ratification of the constitution as written.

If you click on the link above to the Anti-Federalist Papers, you will find an index to 85 papers. Scroll through it and look at the titles and you will the gamut of concerns the Anti-Federalist had.

The fear that an American aristocracy would take over our new government was common to many of the Anti-Federalist. Massachusetts, for example, was appalled that Senators would be elected to serve six-year terms and could possibly serve for a life time. The Federalist argued that they had addressed that concern because Senators were to be appointed by the state legislature and they could remove an appointee at will. Sadly, the states lost that power with the 17th Amendment in 1013.

Patrick Henry gave a total of 24 speeches before the Virginia ratification convention.  If you have time, you may want to read Henry’s Speech No. 1. Patrick Henry was very much a states rights man. He objected to the words “We the People” and would have prefered “We the States”.

I was impressed that in several of the A-F papers I read the authors were concerned about the “Commerce Clause” and thee “General Welfare Clause” would be used to expand the powers of the federal government. The Federalist, of course, were quick to point to the “Enumerated Powers” as the restraint against the federal government.We all know how that worked out, don’t we?. I doubt we could find a conservative today that doesn’t wish the founders had been more specific with those two clauses.

There was another concern that came up often in the papers I read. It was a reference to the well known political philosopher Montesquieu who believed that republics could only function in relatively small geographical areas with relatively small populations. The reason being that otherwise the connection between the people and their representatives would be lost. The Federalist argued that this had been addressed through the proportional representation in the House of Representatives. The constitution allowed that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand. Congress  regularly increased the size of the House to account for population growth until it fixed the number of voting House members at 435 in 1911. Today with a population of 330 million a House member represents on average about 759,000 people. Maybe the Anti-Federalist had a point.

In the end the Anti-Federalist lost, which explains why so few Americans are even aware that there were arguments against ratifying the constitution as it was written. But, even my cursory review of their concerns makes me think that they were quite prescient.

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

Original Post:  Conservatives on Fire

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