When it comes to mankind, we rarely witness perfection. Oh, we can certainly strive for it, but it is something that is rarely achieved. I think Michael J. Fox said it best, “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
When it comes to systems of government, perfection is hardly ever something the people get, even under the best of circumstances. In a speech written by Benjamin Franklin, read to the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, we read, “In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution… From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does…”
Franklin admitted that our system is not perfect, that it has faults. But later Daniel Webster is quoted as saying, “Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again.”
With all the bickering and disagreeing going on in the Constitutional Convention, it truly is a miracle that anything came out of that assembly at all. Yet what they produced was a government that was designed to represent, and safeguard the rights of, the people and the states; with an Executive branch to ensure the laws passed by the Legislative Branch were enforced, and a Supreme Court to settle all disputes under said Constitution.
This government was to be one of very limited powers, those powers being specifically enumerated, [listed], with everything else, “…not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” [Tenth Amendment to the Constitution]
In Federalist 48 James Madison asked a very important question, “Will it be sufficient to mark, with precision, the boundaries of these departments, in the constitution of the government, and to trust to these parchment barriers against the encroaching spirit of power?”
He should also have asked, “How can we expect a government to refrain from overstepping the limits upon its power when the only true barrier to such encroachments is by resistance to such encroachments by the people?”
Thomas Jefferson spoke of this resistance when he said, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.”
In his Declaration and Protest of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The greatest [calamity] which could befall [us would be] submission to a government of unlimited powers.”
Yet here we are, over two hundred years later with exactly that; our Constitution lay in tatters at our feet, and the Bill of Rights has been shredded, leaving us in worse shape than were the colonists who fought a war to gain their independence over 230 years ago. The sad part about it is that we have done it to ourselves, by our ignorance, our apathy, and, to be truthful, our cowardice.
The colonists who rose up against the mightiest army on the planet at the time suffered far less at the hands of their government than we do now, yet they said enough was enough and mustered up the courage to either gain their independence, or die. And here we are, in the year 2012, begging our elected representatives to pass more laws which further enslave us. How pathetic is that?
In a speech delivered to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, James Madison stated, “[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.”
In Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”
Yet not only do people today refuse to demand that their elected representatives restrict their actions to those powers granted them by the Constitution, but they ask them to pass laws which clearly overstep the limits that document places upon their powers.
Lest you forget, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and anyone who violates it is, in fact, a criminal. That goes for every government agency which imposes restrictions upon the ability of the people to freely exercise their rights, all the way down to the lowly law enforcement officer who enforces unconstitutional edicts. To claim that these people are only doing their jobs is both ludicrous and asinine. I could hire an assassin to kill you, and if he succeeded and was caught, could he claim that he was simply “doing his job”? No, the law is the law, it applies equally to all, and all who violate it should be held accountable for their actions.
The founding principle upon which this country rests is thusly stated in the Declaration of Independence, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, most sacred right- a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to excercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own, of so much territory as they inhabit.” This was right before he placed his foot in his own mouth and squashed the rights of the Southern States to do the very thing he claimed to support.
People today talk about a democracy, they talk about their rights, they go to the polls and cast their votes for people they know very little about, and most don’t have the first inkling when it comes to what their government is supposed to do, or how their rights have slowly been stripped away. Still they look to the same body of people to fix the very problems that they themselves created. If it weren’t so pathetic it would be hilarious!
Freedom is as much a state of mind as it is a state of existence. First you have to know what your rights are, and then you have to be willing to stand up for them. If you can’t do these things then you may as well admit that you are a slave.
I know I’ve used this quote before, but it best expresses my sentiments, and I will continue to use it until Samuel Adams words sink in, “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget they ye were our countrymen.”
January 29, 2012
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross can be reached for comments at email@example.com.
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