"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fighting Revisionist History

I have spent about 24 hours fighting the urge to fisk this one little section of the very long screed by Mark Ames. I mentioned it in this post earlier.  It had me going around the web and looking up information I already knew, but needed to check references on.

Let me just get on with it.  Mr. Ames' words are highlighted.  

"Ever read the preamble to the Constitution? There’s nothing about private property there and self-interest."

For those of us who actually know the history of the United States and actually read the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers; you read a statement like that and your mouth drops open. It's like the reaction you have to followers of Louis Farrakhan who believe in that mother-ship stuff, or that the Apollo moon landings were faked.  The statement is so ridiculously wrong.  It almost seems silly to point out why it is so wrong, but then I realized; if Mark Ames is this clueless, there's a good chance that others are as well.  I was watching Glenn Beck the other night and he pointed out that one in four Americans don't know who we won our independence from, so how could they know why?  So, in the off chance that one of them comes to this blog, I want them to be exposed to the truth.

The events leading up to the Revolutionary War, the war for independence from Great Britain, was all about liberty, and if there was one thing that the founders of the United States saw as a fundamental right, it was private property.  Don't believe me?  That's okay, they spoke for themselves.

"Among the natural rights  of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can."  -- Samuel Adams

"The constitutions of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property and freedom of the press."
 -- Thomas Jefferson

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."  --  John Adams

"As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions."
-- James Madison, National Gazette essay, March 27, 1792

There are many more quotes, but that should suffice.  Even if I didn't have those, one of the most well known slogans of the Revolution was "No taxation without representation!"  What are taxes?  Taxes are a way to take some of the fruits of one's labor, their property.  If a person doesn't understand that simple concept, they'd better hope that someone else is going to be available to bring a tray of food on occasion and change their diaper regularly.

Then there's the issue of self-interest.  It would have been amazing enough had Ames only mentioned property, but to then assert that the Preamble was written without regard to or that it wasn't about individual self-interest is mind-boggling.  How much dope does one have to smoke to come up with that conclusion?  If the founders weren't concerned with self-interest, then what was it?  Ames is really begging the question.  What is the opposite of self-interest?  The collective?  All this talk about freedom and liberty is so we can then create a government powerful enough to enforce neighborhood covenants and deed restrictions?  Make sure that nobody earns too much money or eats what they want?   Are there some secret writings of the founders that we don't know about?  Is there a secret decoder ring or enigma box that tells us what the founders really meant?

The entire contents of the Declaration of Independence is about the freedom of the people as individuals to pursue their own interests without interference from government. In essence, freedom is about being left alone.  Freedom to associate or -- and this is important -- NOT associate with anybody you choose.  Liberty is about not having to worry that someone is going to demand part of your life, embodied in the fruits of your labor, for the benefit of others, regardless of your consent.

What taxes needed to be collected, were for very restricted and well defined purposes.  
 In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying, 

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." 

-- James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)

This was said by James Madison, considered the father of the Constitution because of his leading effort in writing the document.  He was also the 4th President.  Notice he is saying that such a right was not granted to Congress.  Yet we live in this upside down world today, where when someone asks the former Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, where they [Congress] think it is in the Constitution that they have the authority to pass the totalitarian medical care bill known as "Obamacare,"  the best she can come up with is: "Are you kidding?" 

Mark Ames continues:

This country, by contract, was founded in order to strive for a “more Perfect Union”—that’s “union,” as in the pairing of the words “perfect” and “union”—not sovereign, not states, not local, not selfish, but “union.”
What would Thomas Jefferson say about that?  Here you go:
“The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.”

That is a complete, in-your-face refutation of Mr. Ames' assumption or assertion.  There may have been some arguments among the founders early on about some details, but the States would never have ratified the Constitution had it been common knowledge that the purpose of the contract was to make them subject to a powerful centralized government that would forge them and hammer them into someone's utopian idea of a "perfect union" as seen through the eyes of a socialist.  It took three years of publicly pleading with the States via the Federalist Papers to get them to ratify the Constitution by 1789.

Now here is where Mark Ames really proves himself to be either totally ignorant about U.S. history, or he is a liar:

And that other purpose at the end of the Constitution’s contractual obligations: promote the “General Welfare.” That means “welfare.” Not “everyone for himself” but “General Welfare.” That’s what it is to be American: to strive to form the most perfect union with each other, and to promote everyone’s general betterment. That’s it.

"Our tenet ever was that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated, and that, as it was never meant that they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money. "
-- Thomas Jefferson letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817 

 "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one...."
-- James Madison, letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792 
 "With respect to the two words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators. If the words obtained so readily a place in the "Articles of Confederation," and received so little notice in their admission into the present Constitution, and retained for so long a time a silent place in both, the fairest explanation is, that the words, in the alternative of meaning nothing or meaning everything, had the former meaning taken for granted."  
-- James Madison in a letter to James Robertson
It really doesn't take a lot of effort to go and read the words of the founders and understand the plain meaning of what they said.  In fact, they made it a point to be well understood by the populace precisely because they were counting on the populace to agree to the system of governance that they had created.  How important was this concept of making the law clear and simple?  Let's hear from James Madison:

"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow."

-- James Madison, Federalist no. 62, February 27, 1788

That tells me that if Mr. Madison were here today, he would be leading the march on Washington to burn the entire contents of the U.S. Code and dissolving every cabinet post and bureau save but maybe three or four.  It is with the utmost confidence from studying the words of the founders, that I can say that their concept of freedom was to only tolerate the most minimum of government.  The highest aim of this experiment in self-rule was for all men to be left alone to live  their lives as they saw fit, as long as they didn't encroach upon the rights and freedom of others.

So, now that we can see the truth in the words of the very men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, what should we do about it?  Let me use Mark Ames own words:

Now, our problem is that there are a lot of people in this country who have dedicated their entire lives to subverting the stated purpose of this country. We must be prepared to identify those who disrupt and sabotage our national purpose of creating this “more perfect union” identifying those who sabotage our national goal of “promoting the General Welfare”—and calling them by their name: traitors.

Mark Ames, if you are merely ignorant, and willing to admit it, then let us forgive you and help you to rectify your delusions.  If you insist on holding to your beliefs which are destructive and counter to all that the founders said and wrote, then you have made yourself to be a most loathsome creature in the eyes of those who yearn for freedom.  You have made yourself a lover and friend to the state and champion of the statist, and as such, you have made yourself an enemy of any people who wish to remain free.

Those of us who understand real liberty do not wish to impose anything upon you other than for you to leave us the hell alone.  If you can attract enough people to engage in your ideals of how a society should function, go and get it done. Take California or New York. They are almost completely there already.  I'm sure it won't matter to you if I tell you that it's been tried over and over and over, in places like the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. etc. etc.  The definition of insanity has never been a deterrent to those who believe in your cause.  As history shows, every time the schemes of creating a socialist utopian dream fails, the response of you and people like you is always to double down.  As Kevin Baker has elaborated:  "Do it again, only HARDER!"

Do what you have to do, Mr. Ames.  Just don't expect those of us with a sincere and lucid understanding of what this country was founded to be, to just roll over and let you do it.  Molan Labe.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see that comments are working now.


Please don't make me disable comments because you couldn't maintain decorum and civil discourse. You can disagree all you want to, just don't get nasty.