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.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Relevant for today: "Grow Up, Conservatives" Speech

Barry Goldwater delivered this speech at the 1960 Republican National Convention to announce his decision to withdraw his name from consideration for the party's nomination. During the speech, Goldwater blamed the Republican's recent electoral losses on conservatives who decided not to vote because they disagreed with the positions of individual candidates. Goldwater, who led the party's conservative wing, attempted to rally Republican support around Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election to present a unified front to the Democrats.


"Grow Up, Conservatives" Speech (1960)

By Barry Goldwater

July 28, 1960

Mr. Chairman, delegates to the convention and fellow Republicans:

I respectfully ask the chairman to withdraw my name from nomination. Please, I release my delegation from their pledge to me and, while I'm not a delegate, I would suggest that they give these votes to Richard Nixon.

Now, Mr. Chairman, with your kind permission and indulgence, as a conservative Republican I would like to make a few statements that will not take more than a few moments, and I think might help in this coming election.

We are conservatives. This great Republican party is our historic house. This is our home. Now some of us don't agree with every statement in the official platform of our party, but I might remind you that this is always true in every platform of an American political party.

Both of the great historic parties represent a broad spectrum of views spread over a variety of individual and group convictions. Never are all of these views expressed totally and exclusively in the platform of either party.

We can be absolutely certain of one thing. In spite of the individual points of difference the Republican platform deserves the support of every American over the blueprint for socialism presented by the Democrats.

Over the years, however, it is clear what the historic position of both the great parties has been. There has been a real difference over-all in the two great parties.

I might suggest to you that during the past thirty years it is true beyond any doubt that those with more radical views have felt more at home in the Democratic party, while those with strong historic beliefs have felt more at home in the Republican party.

The same condition prevails today. Yet if each segment, each section of our great party, were to insist on the complete and unqualified acceptance of its views, if each viewpoint were to be enforced by a Russian-type veto, the Republican party would not long survive.

There are tides of sentiment, tides of belief, that rise and fall inside the party. And under these changes in emphasis the basic core convictions of the party endure from generation to generation.
Now radical Democrats who rightfully fear that the American people will reject their extreme program in November are watching this convention with eager hopes that some split may occur in our party.

I am telling them now that no such split will take place.

This very morning the press carried a story that the nominee for the Vice-Presidency on the Democratic ticket was speaking hopefully of a split in the Republican party. Let him know that the conservatives of the Republican party do not intend by any act of theirs to turn this country over by default to a party which has lost its belief in the dignity of man, a party which has come to believe that the United States is a second-rate power.

I am proud to call myself a Republican as well as conservative. And let me tell you something and let me remind the members of the press who might think otherwise:
I've been campaigning across this country for six years for Richard Nixon. And I see no reason to change my mind tonight.

Now you conservatives and all Republicans, I'd like you to listen to this. While Dick and I may disagree on some points, they're not many. I would not want any negative action of mine to enhance the possibility of a victory going to those who by their very words have lost faith in America.
I know that conservatives here and in November will show the strong sense of responsibility which is a central characteristic of the conservative temper.

We must remember that Republicans have not been losing elections because of more Democrat votes—now get this—we have been losing elections because conservatives too often fail to vote.

Why is this? And you conservatives think this over—we don't gain anything when you get mad at a candidate because you don't agree with his every philosophy. We don't gain anything when you disagree with the platform and then do not go out and work and vote for your party.

I know what you say. You say, "I'll get even with that fellow. I'll show this party something!" But what are you doing when you stay at home? You are helping the opposition party elect candidates dedicated to the destruction of this country!

We have lost election after election in this country in the last several years because conservative Republicans get mad and stay home. Now I implore you. Forget it! We've had our chance, and I think the conservatives have made a splendid showing at this convention!

We've had our chance: we've fought our battle. Now let's put our shoulders to the wheels of Dick Nixon and push him across the line. Let's not stand back. This country is too important for anyone's feelings: this country in its majesty is too great for any man, be he conservative or liberal, to stay home and not work just because he doesn't agree. Let's grow up, conservatives.

Let's, if we want to take this party back—and I think we can someday—let's get to work.
I'm a conservative and I'm going to devote all my time from now until November to electing Republicans from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ticket, and I call upon my fellow conservatives to do the same. Just let us remember that we are facing Democrat candidates and a Democrat platform that signify a new type of New Deal, far more menacing than anything we have seen in the past.

Just remember this: The Democratic party is no longer the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Woodrow Wilson; it is now the party of Bowles, Galbraith, and Walter Reuther.