Monday, September 25, 2017

The troubles with Karl Marx are legion: Antisemitism, Racism, Terrorism, and Genocide

"Fascism was the shadow or ugly child of communism… As Fascism sprang from Communism, so Nazism developed from Fascism. Thus were set on foot those kindred movements which were destined soon to plunge the world into more hideous strife, which none can say has ended with their destruction." - Winston Churchill, The Second World War, Volume 1, The Gathering Storm (1948) 
Looking back at Karl Marx's writings demonstrates that by current standards the German philosopher falls far short.  Marx's early formulation of communism is antisemitic and offers a "solution" to the "Jewish Problem."
"Money is the Jealous God of Israel, beside which no other God may exist. Money abases all the gods of mankind and changes them into commodities.  The god of the Jews has been secularized and has become the god of the world. In emancipating itself from hucksterism and money, and thus from real and practical Judaism, our age would emancipate destroying the empirical essence of Judaism, the Jew will become impossible." Source Karl Marx-Engels Collected Works (London 1975ff),vol. iii,pp146-74

His early defense of using terror, one of the key elements of Totalitarianism is also problematic.
"We are ruthless and ask no quarter from you.  When our turn comes we shall not disguise our terrorism." Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vi pp 503-5
"Far from opposing the so-called excesses, those examples of popular vengeance against hated individuals or public buildings which have acquired hateful memories, we must not only condone these examples but lend them a helping hand." Marx-Engels Gesamt-Ausgabe, vol. vii p 239
Karl Marx in the essay “Forced Emigration,” in the New York Daily Tribune, 22 March 1853 seems to view the elimination of classes and races as a necessary part of revolution:
Society is undergoing a silent revolution, which must be submitted to, and which takes no more notice of the human existences it breaks down than an earthquake regards the houses it subverts. The classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way. 
 In a July 30, 1862 letter to Frederick Engels, his chief benefactor, Marx described nineteenth-century German socialist, Ferdinand Lassalle, in a racist manner:
The Jewish Nigger Lassalle . . .fortunately departs at the end of this week . . . It is now absolutely clear to me that, as both the shape of his head and his hair texture shows – he descends from the Negros who joined Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on the paternal side hybridized with a nigger). Now this combination of Germanness and Jewishness with a primarily Negro substance creates a strange product. The pushiness of the fellow is also nigger-like.
 Joshua Dill has written an important essay on how even with the early Marx one could see how things would turn out so badly when his theories were implemented.
..."The year was 1844. Hoping to unite German and French radicals, Marx and his colleague Arnold Ruge moved with their wives to Paris in order to found a new theoretical journal, the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals)."
Ruge falls out with Marx and goes on to provide a nuanced analysis of what the communists were offering and its shortcomings:
“What I’ve recently read, Fourier and the communists, has much to say in the critical realm—in the organic realm it is always highly problematic; and you are completely right, before one sees the “how,” there is not much to be said for the idea of a new reality. Heads are confused, and the socialist parties don’t speak much more clearly than they think. Neither the complicated proposals of the Fourierists nor the abolition of private property of the communists can be formulated clearly. Both amount in the end to a veritable police state or slave state. In order to free the proletarians both spiritually and physically from need and the pressure of need, they think of an organization that would make all people experience this need and this pressure. One must accept the challenge of ending the neglect of man at any price, and if it is necessary that the privileged suffer for this, one must accept this too. But is the practical problem even solved in this case? Is freedom achieved when both need for and abundance from the state is evenly distributed? And would men become more humane if some are relieved and some are burdened in that way? The communists say ‘yes’ and dream of a paradise as soon as the next revolution brings them to the helm, as they believe will happen. The communists are so far removed from humanity and from actual communism that living with them presents no intellectual or social attraction.”
 Those in 2017 who view Marx as having "had it figured out all along" need to have their head examined. One can diagnose a problem but providing a solution worse than the original problem should not be celebrated. The past century of communism in action, with over a 100 million dead, not to mention ideological offspring such as fascism, leaves a clear and negative record that is no cause for celebration.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Post-Constitutional United States

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty — power is ever stealing from the many to the few. . . . The hand entrusted with power becomes . . . the necessary enemy of the people. ~Wendell Phillips
Imagine for a moment a state where your home can be seized and sold to another private entity, and the central government has the power to decide who you as a community will do business with — a place where your movements are tracked and recorded and your conversations recorded. Imagine one man with the power to order mass surveillance, start wars, and execute citizens without trial anywhere in the world, including on American soil. The state that I am describing is the United States of America in 2013.
Individuals across the ideological spectrum have recognized this crisis for US freedom and have described it with a variety of terms: soft-totalitarianismfascism, and anarchotyranny, to name a few. Needless to say, this is a far cry from what the founders of the United States had in mind when the Constitution was drafted and ratified in 1787.
The steady erosion of freedoms in the United States did not begin with the election of Obama in 2008, or with Bush in 2000, or even the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The latter did, however, accelerate the process with the war on terror and the cover of permanent interventionism abroad.
This is the first in a series of reflections that seek to understand what happened that led us to this lamentable state of affairs. In learning how we arrived here, the goal shall be to figure out how to carve a path back to a free society.
Let’s go back a generation and consider the role of the judiciary.
At one time, US Americans in their local communities and at the state level had the power to decide whether or not they wanted to do business with repressive regimes. In the 1970s and 1980s, the anti-apartheid movement sought to obtain boycotts from local and state governments doing business with South Africa. This was at a time when the White House was advancing a policy of constructive engagement with the apartheid regime in South Africa. Over the long-run, successes at the local and state level translated into a policy change at the federal level. It was a classic bottom-up approach to governance.
Today, however, an anti-apartheid campaign like the one designed a generation ago would be impossible. In 2000 the Supreme Court in the Crosby versus National Foreign Trade Council decision stripped that power from states and localities and left it in the hands of the executive branch. Soon after, the Supreme Court forced Massachusetts to do business with companies that had done business with the military junta in Burma.
According to constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson in the Fordham Law Review, the Crosby decision compels state and local governments to cooperate with evil. It also concentrates power in Washington, D.C.
Then in 2005 the Supreme Court, in the Kelo v. City of New London case, stripped private property rights away from individuals and families. A majority of justices on the court claimed that cities and municipalities have the right to seize properties from private individuals in order to promote private development that could be put to “better” use to generate more tax revenue for their respective community.
In practice these local governments, often corrupt, declare good properties blighted and then seize them at bargain basement prices in order to sell them on to politically-connected parties. To make it a win for the local government, at the expense of the legitimate owner, these parties then redevelop the properties to provide a larger tax base.
Former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) described the importance of the decision at the time:
The City of New London, Connecticut essentially acted as a strongman by seizing private property from one group of people for the benefit of a more powerful private interest. For its services, the city will be paid a tribute in the form of greater taxes from the new development. In any other context, what’s happening in Connecticut properly would be described as criminal. . . . The individuals losing their homes understand that stealing is stealing, even if the people responsible are government officials. The silver lining in the Kelo case may be that the veneer of government benevolence is being challenged.
In 2009, after the local government had the backing of the Supreme Court, they seized the property of private home owners and destroyed the homes — leaving empty acres where there was once a neighborhood. However, the company that was supposed to develop the property, Pfizer, then decided to walk away from the whole deal.
Susette Kelo’s former home in New London, Connecticut — before and after.
The misguided belief of government officials, that they could get more revenue, destroyed people’s homes and lives. They wound up destroying not just the community but losing even the prior tax revenue.
These Supreme Court decisions have two features in common. They (1) take power from a lower level and concentrate it the hands of fewer decision makers, who often impose unjust and immoral decisions, and (2) they allow a small group to profit from their contacts in government, to advance their economic self-interest.
Of course, these decisions were not shaped by national security issues but narrowly defined interests, seeking to use the state to take from others to enrich themselves. This is crony capitalism — or simply cronyism — and in other parts of the world it has led to rising poverty and less economic freedom. Not surprisingly, the United States is no longer the economically freest country in the world, and the severe plummet has followed these cases. According to the Fraser Institute, the United States has now fallen to 17th in the world.
The weakening of private property rights in the United States and the centralizing of the right to decide who to do business with in the federal government strikes at the heart of the US American tradition of liberty. The late conservative polemicist Joseph Sobran, who passed away in 2010, called the present system “Post–Constitutional America,” and went on to say that “the U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government.”

Originally published in The Panam Post

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ron Paul statement on the passing of Phyllis Schlafly

Remembering a friend of freedom
Phyllis Schlafly together with Ron Paul and his wife Carol
Former Congressman Ron Paul issued the following statement regarding the passing of Phyllis Schlafly:
“My wife Carol and I join Phyllis Schlafly’s many friends and admirers in mourning her passing and sending our deepest sympathies and prayers to her family. While Phyllis and I did not always see eye-to-eye, we were always willing to work together on those issues—such as protecting the unborn, dismantling the Department of Education, and protecting America’s sovereignty—where we agreed.
Phyllis was also a valued ally of the liberty movement in our battles with the GOP establishment.  In 1996, when many Republicans and even many so –called conservative leaders, where waging a well-funded smear campaign to prevent my return to Congress, Phyllis defied the establishment and endorsed me. In 2012, she stood with my supporters at the Republican convention in opposition to the RNC rules disenfranchising grassroots activists.
I was honored when she asked me to write the forward to the fiftieth anniversary of her classic work A Choice Not an Echo, which details the underhanded tactics used by the establishment, with the support of many inside-the-beltway conservatives, to maintain control of the Republican Party. I hope that the new generation of liberty activists  discover this book and learns form Phyllis how to effectively offer the American people a choice of liberty instead of an echo of authoritarianism."
You can purchase a copy of A Choice Not an Echo here

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Remembering an American Country Music Legend

A great musician and a great American he will be missed. 

Merle Haggard – April 6, 1937 to April 6, 2016 R.I.P.

"That's The News"

Suddenly it's over, the war is fin'lly done
Soldiers in the desert sand, still clingin' to a gun
No-one is the winner an' everyone must lose
Suddenly the war is over: that's the news.

Suddenly celebrity is somethin' back in style
Back to runnin' tabloid for a while
Pain's almost everywhere, the whole world's got the blues
Suddenly the war is over: that's the news.

That's the news, that's the news
That's the ever-lovin', blessed, headline news
Someone's missin;' in Modesto, an' it's sad about the clues
Suddenly the war is over: that's the news.

Suddenly the cost of war is somethin' out of sight
Lost a lotta heroes in the fight
Politicians do all the talkin': soldiers pay the dues
Suddenly the war is over, that's the news.

That's the news, that's the news
That's the ever-lovin', blessed, headline news
Politicians do all the talkin': soldiers pay the dues
Suddenly the war is over, that's the news...

Hag's Editorial 
My closest buddy in 1951, had just got out of the Marine Corps, because they found out he was to young to be a Marine. Besides that, he received an undesirable discharge for whippin' his sergeant. He wanted to re-enlist because he was now 18. He straightened up his past don't you see. I was 14 and we thought it might be better to change our names. We enlisted under the names of Bobby Eugene and Roy Leslie Davis. Point being we wanted more than anything to be Marines during the Korean conflict. My older brother James L and cousin Gerald Harp were both decorated Marines and saw active battle in World War II in the battle of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Patalou, I went to both of their funerals with my family. I still get goose bumps when I think about the 21-gun salute and the Marine with a tear in his eye who handed the flag to my brother's wife, Fran. I doubt there are few who care more about the flag than I do.

I went to volunteer for the Marines at the tender age of 14 and I'm convinced I would have given my life. I'm sure if necessary, I'd do the same today. But 14-year olds don't ask questions and they certainly don't begin to understand politics. This nation has a history of being a warrior. Young men always pay the dues, and it was America's way to always be behind what America was doing. And the issues and the reasons why were always argued after the fact. Speaking of after the fact, it's a national shame the way we treat our vets. You see, to be an American you want to respect everything you know about this great country. Those who have the gumption to investigate, know that the reputation of honesty between the government and the people cannot reflect the reason for a single man to have confidence in what were doing in current day conditions. I'm suspicious, I'm paranoid, and I'm afraid. And the person who says he isn't has not looked up or around lately.

I don't even know the Dixie chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching. Whether I agree with their comments or not has no bearing. And in the same breath let me say that I have become a fan of this new little kid, Toby Keith. There is some humor in me calling Toby Keith little. God bless this great country and I pray he keeps a close eye on us in these last days. And God knows the headlines of today surely indicate that were living in that time now. Seems lately we're awfully quick to criticize and pleased with ourselves to be part of the majority. As a country we need to look inward for the answers to the energy of the future. We need to bring down our demands for oil, rebuild some bridges and highways and allow the farmers to grow something that replenishes the soil. Those who don't know what that is, should do some research. The problem is not in Iraq and the answers are not in Iran. I hope were not buried alive beneath this pending financial collapse if the pipeline doesn't get through. Surely everything doesn't depend on oil!

- Merle Haggard June 2003

Lonesome Day

When the men in black come kickin' in your door.
And guitar-playin' outlaws lay spread-eagled on the floor.
When our celebrated heroes have been cuffed and locked away.
It's gonna be a lonesome day.

Well out of all the crazy things them guitar players said.
They talked about the workin' man and the troubled life he led.
When everything is perfect and no rebel's in the way.
It's gonna be a lonesome day.

They'll be singin' up in heaven while we're livin' here in hell.
Givin' up our liberty and buyin' what they sell.
Who's gonna sing the Song of Freedom if freedom goes away?
It's gonna be a lonesome day.

When the big boys with the microphones just up and back away.
And they're afraid to say the things they know they ought to say.
When the symbol of our freedom like the eagle flies away.
It's gonna be a lonesome day.

A lonesome day lonesome day it's gonna be a lonesome day.
A lonesome day lonesome day it's gonna be a lonesome day.


A Conservative Appreciation for The Dixie Chicks

Not ready to make nice
Dixie Chicks at West Palm Beach on August 20, 2016

On August 20, 2016 in West Palm Beach one of my favorite music groups Dixie Chicks put on a great show that will be cherished by those lucky enough to have attended. Go see the show if you can before the tour ends. Hopefully they will record a new album. However, in the midst of the current polarized political season the Texas based country rock band reminded me of events that had taken place 13 years earlier.
I am a conservative, but I was not a supporter of the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and thought that the war would be a disaster. Needless to say the Dixie Chick's lead singer criticizing the President of the United States at the time did not shock or upset me. Nor was I alone among conservatives in that reaction. 

 Aaron D. Wolf on April 1, 2003 in the pages of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture wrote an essay on the Dixie Chick's controversy titled "A Divisive Statement" reflecting on the reaction to singer Natalie Maines on March 10, 2003 in London stating, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”  The crowd that heard this statement roared with approval. Wolf described in the above essay how the Dixie Chicks were living up to their name as a group and the excerpt below outlined the aftermath and shameful behavior of those claiming to be "patriots".
 Reacting to the swell of press coverage concerning their singer’s lighthearted comment, the Chicks issued a statement on March 12: “We’ve been overseas for several weeks and have been reading and following the news accounts of our government’s position.  The anti-American sentiment that has unfolded here is astounding.  While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost.”  Maines added, “I feel the President is ignoring the opinions of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world.  My comments were made in frustration and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view.”
The Dixie Chicks have been around since 1990, after sisters Martie and Emily Erwin, young bluegrass virtuosos, teamed up with singers Robin Macey and Laura Lynch.  In 1996, Macey and Lynch were replaced by Miss Maines, the daughter of pedal-steel legend Lloyd Maines, and the Chicks reconfigured their sound to be more country and less bluegrass.  Their latest record, Home, contains more bluegrass and includes the song “Traveling Soldier,” about a small-town boy dying in Vietnam after writing several letters to his high-school love back home, echoing Jimmie Rodgers’ “Soldier’s Sweetheart.”
Whatever you think of the Dixie Chicks (their music is too rock-’n’-roll, their dress is often immodest, they sometimes associate with leftist musicians of the Lilith Fair variety), one thing is clear: When Natalie Maines made her infamous statement, the Dixie Chicks were living up to their name.  Contrary to the war drums of the reconstructed country-music industry, our Connecticut-born President’s war of conquest in Iraq does not reflect the spirit of Texas, let alone the land where old times are not forgotten.
On March 14, Miss Maines, without compromising her convictions about the war, attempted to show deference to the Commander in Chief: “As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. . . . While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers’ lives are lost.  I love my country.  I am a proud American.”
Pop-country jingo Toby Keith, whose “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” has become the hee-haw anthem of pro-war country fans, began to show a split-screen on his concert jumbotron, featuring Miss Maines’ face next to Saddam Hussein’s.  At the climax of Keith’s Nuremberg rant, he declares, “We’ll put a boot in your a- - / It’s the American way.”  Now, wars of foreign aggression may have become the American way, but they sure ain’t Dixie’s.  Miss Maines later replied that Keith’s lyrics “make country music sound ignorant.”
Following the March 18, 2003 crackdown in Cuba I went on the air on an Irish radio station to discuss what was going on and the Castro apologist I debated wanted to argue the Dixie Chicks controversy. At the time I had their album Home in my car's CD player and enjoyed their music and was against boycotting them, much less destroying their CDs. My response shut him down quickly and we continued debating what was going on in Cuba.  

Amidst the rising wave of criticism, boycotts, CDs destroyed, and credible death threats, Merle Haggard and Bruce Springsteen both came to the band's defense. Springsteen on April 22, 2003 and Merle Haggard in June of 2003 in an editorial on his website. Below is Springsteen's April 22, 2003 statement:
A Statement From Bruce Springsteen

The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves, To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks,for speaking out is un-American.

The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create free speech in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same right here at home.

I don't know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.

Bruce Springsteen 
Three years later they released the album Taking the Long Way and the single "Not ready to make nice" expressing their continued defiance in their music. The album and tour that followed were a success.

In conclusion, don't agree with all their causes, but do appreciate their music and the rebellious stand taken by Natalie Maines and the rest of the band back in 2003, maintained in 2013 that is in the best tradition of both Texas and Dixie. The legendary country artist Merle Haggard, who passed away earlier this year, summed it up best back in June 2003 in an editorial on his website:
"I don't even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching."

West Palm Beach Setlist 

Let's Go Crazy (Prince cover)
Taking the Long Way
Lubbock or Leave It
Truth #2 (Patty Griffin cover)
Easy Silence
Some Days You Gotta Dance
Long Time Gone
Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
Video Top of the World (Patty Griffin cover)
Goodbye Earl
Travelin' Soldier (Bruce Robison cover)
Don't Let Me Die in Florida (Patty Griffin cover)
Daddy Lessons (Beyoncé cover)
White Trash Wedding
Instrumental Bluegrass
Ready to Run
Mississippi (Bob Dylan cover)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Cowboy Take Me Away
Wide Open Spaces
Sin Wagon

Not Ready to Make Nice
Better Way (Ben Harper cover)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Calvin Coolidge's "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence"

Calvin Coolidge Celebrates America's 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania July 5, 1926

Fellow Countrymen: 

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgement of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much, then, for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.

The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its Members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be underestimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.

The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.

But if these truths to which the Declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our Declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, of Connecticut, as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that—

“The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people.”

“The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.”

This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled “The Church’s Quarrel Espoused,” in 1710, which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.

While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise. It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch-Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his “best ideas of democracy” had been secured at church meetings.

That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that “All men are created equally free and independent.” It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, “Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.” Again, “The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth. …” And again, “For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine.” And still again, “Democracy is Christ’s government in church and state.” Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.

When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature’s God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say “The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven.”

No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.

Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the Colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government — the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that “Democracy is Christ’s government.” The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever-broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world.

Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Washington, Adams and Jefferson: No Entangling Alliances vs The Empire of Liberty

The long debate over America's role in the world 

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams

Beneath the surface frivolities of the 2016 presidential election in the United States there are profound differences being discussed as to the proper role of the United States in the world that are long overdue and go to the heart of American thought and differences within the founding generation.

220 years ago George Washington gave his Farewell Address refusing to run for the office of President for a third time and expressed some thoughts on the proper role of America in the world that are still remembered and reverberate to the present day warning against permanent alliances and permanent hostility:
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it - It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.
As Governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson addressed the idea of an empire based in expanding freedom and explained what one the surface appears as a contradiction as follows in a letter to George Rogers Clark on December 25, 1780:
"...we shall divert through our own Country a branch of commerce which the European States have thought worthy of the most important struggles and sacrifices, and in the event of peace on terms which have been contemplated by some powers we shall form to the American union a barrier against the dangerous extension of the British Province of Canada and add to the Empire of liberty an extensive and fertile Country thereby converting dangerous Enemies into valuable friends." 
A month after leaving the Presidency, Thomas Jefferson again spoke of the empire of liberty within the context of the time in a letter to James Madison.
"we should then have only to include the North in our confederacy, which would be of course in the first war, and we should have such an empire for liberty as she has never surveyed since the creation: & I am persuaded no constitution was ever before so well calculated as ours for extensive empire & self government."
On July 4, 1821 Secretary of State John Quincy Adams gave a speech that continued George Washington's position on what the role of America should be in the world. Secretary Adams in this speech gave the answer to a question he raised "What has America done for the benefit of mankind?"
Let our answer be this–America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, equal justice, and equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations, while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.

She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama, the European World, will be contests between inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. 
Secretary Adams also provided in this speech a warning that if America decides to take sides in foreign conflicts she would lose her freedom and no longer be self governing.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.
These themes are being actively debated today and as citizens of the United States you owe it to yourself and your posterity to be engaged in this important conversation.