The Price of Liberty is Vigilance

Speaking Truth to Power

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Price of Liberty Has Moved

The Price of Liberty has moved to

Come on over and see the new and improved Price of Liberty. It’s cleaner, easier to read and feature rich so click on through. All the content on this site complete with comments has been moved to the new location so resent your links to The old Blogspot POL will remain so long as Blogspot sees fit.



Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Improved POL Coming Soon

Sorry about the lack of new posts at POL but I have been busy working on a new project. Price of Liberty will soon be moving to a new location. I have been using Wordpress to create a new and improved blog. It will be a cleaner format, with less scroll, (I know, the current scroll length is maddening, I can’t even find the end to my own essays). It will be feature rich, better organized, easier to read, easier to manage, and will include comprehensive links to other political blogs from various points of view. For all you Founding Father fans, there will be a Patriots section dedicated to biographies, portraits and links related to these great minds. There will be a Libros section with book reviews, recommended readings and a bookstore where you will be able to purchase recommended titles. There will also be a Friends of Liberty section dedicated to regular guests and commentators at POL. (Yes, this means you Cernig and Xristi.) Please be patient as this may take a few more days to complete. The existing site will remain at its current location with a link to the new and improved Price of Liberty.

Until then, for the next few days head over to these Friends of Liberty Newshog or to Gadflying

Thank you for you patience. I hope to make it well worth the wait.



Saturday, September 24, 2005

Over "There"

The following is taken from a discussion that developed in the comments to “Should Liberty or Empire Be Sought?” Some folks thought it merited its own post, so I have obliged to present it here. It has also been graciously cross posted by Cernig at Newshog.

The War Between the States and Reconstruction traumatized this society and tragically a culture that prided itself on hospitality grew ever more xenophobic. Texas is a collection of paradoxes as is any place so vast in scale. I am from San Antonio, a place that is about as culturally distinct from Beaumont as one can imagine. In San Antone we have for almost 300 years lived in a bicultural society and so are somewhat less prone to fear of the “other.”

Growing up in a predominately Hispanic town with an Italian last name has provided me with some unique insights into the bicultural experience. My name is the same in Spanish as Italian and hence I am generally presumed Hispanic until proven otherwise. This has led to some interesting situations. When Hispanics decry discrimination, this is for me not an academic thing since anything bad that happens to them is almost as likely to also happen to me. I have been turned down for jobs, yelled at by rude bill collectors, denied credit and housing all because of mistaken ethnic identity. So I am particularly sensitive about how the least powerful among us are treated, since that usually includes me.

But as a businessman, I also saw that the knife cuts two ways. I once offered to build a free website for the local Chicano cultural arts center. When they heard that a person with a last name ending in an “O” from a company called Tristero was offering to build their site, they were enthusiastic and called a board meeting for the presentation. When a longhaired blond with blue eyes marched into that room the silence was deafening. What was disappointing was they immediately lost interest in the project and this was one of the shorter meetings of my career.

San Antonio is no Utopia, but it is one of the most successfully integrated cities in the country. Almost no one from San Antonio presumes that a Hispanic is an alien. In fact a San Antonio Hispanic is likely to be 4th, 5th or 6th generation and to be more “from around here” than the multitudes of white carpetbaggers living in the suburbs. Hence, the relatively peculiar San Antonio phenomenon of Anglo natives who consider the suburban Anglo “snowbirds” to be more of the interloper than the urban Hispanic “illegal.”

We have a thriving Hispanic middleclass and a St. Mary’s Law School that has been producing Hispanic lawyers for generations. We even have a Hispanic old money political class that underlies the power base. The University of Texas at San Antonio has a Hispanic president, in this context ironically named Dr. Romo. Perhaps nowhere else in the country is Hispanic upward mobility so viably a reality.

Almost everyone in San Antonio, regardless of ethnicity or class, has Hispanic friends and neighbors. Consequently militant Chicanismo has been less attractive here.

If all this discussion of Hispanicity seems a digression let me explain. In San Antonio if you go to the emergency room your doctor is likely as not to be Hispanic. If you are arrested, the prosecutor is likely as not to be Hispanic. If you go to a public park it will be filled with Hispanic children and families enjoying the day. I love this about my hometown and it is only when I leave that I truly appreciate how unique San Antonio is.

A few years ago I designed and built a trade show booth for a software firm. I had to accompany it to San Diego to set it up. I spent a week in that beautiful city by the sea. But while there I noticed something quite disturbing. After a while I realized something was missing. Then it hit me, “where are all the Hispanics?” I had been downtown for a week and there were none in sight. No Hispanic businessmen in suits. No Hispanic secretaries filling the restaurants at lunch, even the busboys were all Anglo. I went to Balboa Park and not a single Hispanic family for days. Plenty of very pretty young white men though, playing Frisbee and cruising for company. I thought perhaps that explained the absence of families. I was wrong.

After a few days this really began to bother me. I could see Mexico from there but could not find the Hispanics. Eventually we had to pack up and I went in search of bubble wrap. Even though this was a port city there was none for sale anywhere near the ocean. I made several calls, finally found an address and headed out. I drove for perhaps fifteen or twenty miles due east through neighborhood after neighborhood where the most inexpensive home went for about $500,000. Then I came to The Wall. A wall about 15 ft high bounded “civilization.” On the other side, a freeway that was as an effective a natural barrier as a mountain range and more effective than the Rio Grande. Over “there” was the Barrio. I drove into it for a few miles and it was like a whole other country. A Third World country. Not an Anglo face in sight. Nor a middleclass face either.

I reached my intended destination where I encountered a Hispanic elderly gentleman who was visibly shocked to see my pale face in his hood. He seemed to presume I was a government official of some sort there to give him a hard time. I explained that I was just a working-class schmuck in search of bubble wrap and he was visibly relieved. But he was still confused and more than a little concerned with my safety, he thought I might be lost. I told him I was not lost but “apparently gringos do not use bubble wrap in San Diego.” He laughed and asked me where I was from. When I said San Antonio, he said “oh, that explains it.” I said, “Explains what?’ He said, “Why you were not reluctant to come to the barrio.” I told him that I had spent perhaps a third of my life in barrios and had long ago learned that Hispanics don’t have cooties. “In fact if I get more than about twenty miles from a good taco I feel an irresistible urge to turn around and go home.” He laughed and told me to be careful because not everyone would immediately understand that I was from Texas and not simply a gringo. He said folks around there don’t think too highly of gringos. I told him I was beginning to understand why they felt that way.

I returned to the convention center where union construction crews were tearing down the displays. Again I noticed the dearth of brown faces. This was beginning to piss me off. In Texas when there is sweating to be done there are generally plenty of Hispanics around. But apparently not among union workers in San Diego. When I returned to San Antonio I called up my old maestro. He was a stonemason in the San Antonio barrio that had trained me to fabricate marble and granite. Paul Flores and I went out and got a couple of much needed tacos.

This was an epiphanous experience for me. I had always wondered why California Chicanos were so pissed. Now I understood why. In San Antonio there is no Wall. Our barrio has an infinitely permeable membrane that is perhaps twenty miles wide. If one drives north far enough you eventually have trouble finding that taco, but there is a huge zone of geographic integration. In San Antonio only the carpetbaggers of the suburbs consider the Hispanic an “other.” Heck, most of us have more than one in the woodpile and most Hispanics have a daughter or a niece married to a gringo. So I was shocked to find out that on the Left coast racism and segregation were so endemic. In California, segregation is created by managing property values and building walls and freeways. But it is as effective as the most egregious de jur form ever practiced in the South. In some ways, because this discrimination is cloaked in class, it is even more pernicious since this facilitates denial of the horrible racist truth.

Since I returned to San Antonio from that adventure, I have focused my attention on “otherness” and how cultures react at their borders. I have looked for the synthesis that emerges and the hybrid personalities it creates. Sadly for California, it seems the hybrid is more common in Texas. I have come to believe that South Texas is the cultural laboratory that prefigures the emerging demographic reality of the rest of the nation.

Every time I hear Lou Dobbs or some other gringo crying, “The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!” I am simultaneously amused and offended. In San Antone they are not just coming, they are here and always have been. When I hear the paranoid complain they are “being invaded,” all I can think is, “It serves them right.” After all, most of the new immigrants are moving to places with names like Tejas, Nuevo Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California. Which makes one wonder, “Who invaded whom?” The Border is a fiction and it always has been. To all those scared Anglo-centrist out there, all I have to say is, “Get over it! Once you’ve tasted picante salsa you’ll never miss ketchup again.”

Ironically, It has been my studies of “otherness” that have brought me back around to my Southern roots on my mama’s side. I began to realize that what this country has been doing to minorities and to other nations; it has also been doing to my Southern brethren. I have been slightly surprised to discover how the methodologies used to study the exclusion of “other” groups also apply to the Southerner.

Because Southerners have been as guilty as any of exclusion, people are loath to admit that Southerners themselves have also been systematically excluded in American society. This puts Southerners in the paradoxical position of being both the poster children for exclusion and simultaneously its victims. This dichotomy is not easily appreciated either in or out of the South. Hence one finds that the apologist for Southern culture is equated with being an apologist for exclusion. In my case nothing could be further from the truth. It is my revulsion at exclusion that has brought me to the position of being a Southern apologist.

Growing up as an original Latino of a different stripe, with Southern roots, in a bicultural city in the borderlands has given me a somewhat unique perspective on this phenomenon. I have forever had a foot in at least two worlds, sometimes more. I have never felt truly a member of any single group. I am an initiate in several but not exclusively a member of any. I have always felt at least a little excluded wherever I am. Hence I am obsessed by the mechanisms by which we both exclude and include one another, whether those mechanisms be class, race, ethnicity, religion, language or geography. I am fascinated by the interplay of these phenomena and the complex cultural calculus in which we are all prone to engage. I am also fascinated by how inclusion in one group is determined by exclusion from another. If one is an initiate of mutually exclusive groups one tends to be suspected by both of disloyalty. It is as if we were more often judged by our choice of enemies than of friends. Regrettably, and more than a little paradoxically, it seems that the fewer enemies one has, the fewer friends one is likely to accrue. So it goes with “otherness.”

It is difficult to discuss such tender issues without offending someone. Even here I have “otherized” snowbirds, gringos, carpetbaggers, suburbanites and Californians. Yet at least two of those groups include me. If you are a member of such a group, it is not my intention to exclude you either, but it is difficult to discuss borders without leaving someone on the “other” side. It is my belief that the seeker for the Truth will find it between the lines in that zone of mystery and synthesis where the hybrid blossoms toward the Light.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Patrick Henry: Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?

The following is an expurgated version of a speech given by Patrick Henry on June 5, 1788, in the Virginia Convention, called to ratify the Constitution of the United States. It is prophetically entitled:

Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?

A complete version of this brilliant and impassioned oration is available at Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought? and I sincerely encourage you to read it in its uninterrupted entirety. Most of it appears below along with some of my meager thoughts and observations in light of 200 years of hindsight. What is most impressive about these Founding Fathers, and Patrick Henry in particular, was their outstanding foresight. After reading Henry’s own words, I am sure you will agree.

THIS, sir, is the language of democracy--that a majority of the community have a right to alter government when found to be oppressive. But how different is the geni of your new Constitution from this! How different from the sentiments of freemen that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority!

Patrick Henry was a populist democrat as was not pleased by the republican character of the proposed constitution. The word "minority" here should in no way be understood in the contemporary connotative context of that word. The minorities of which Henry is speaking are made clear in the following passage…

If, sir, amendments are left to the twentieth, or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone for ever...there is a great deal of bribery practised in the House of Commons of England...But, sir, the tenth part of that body can not continue oppressions on the rest of the people...It will be easily contrived to procure the opposition of the one-tenth of the people to any alteration, however judicious

Patrick was concerned with small cabals of crooked politicians inhibiting the will of the People. He felt the Constitution was too rigid and that the process of its amendment too inflexible. He viewed the process as a virtually insurmountable hurdle. History has shown that it was, while difficult. not so insurmountable as Henry imagined. I wonder what he would have made of the Volstead Act and its subsequent repeal.

Oh, sir! we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?

At the time of Henry’s writing there were no such examples. There remain precious few. Most Marxist revolutions were funded and manipulated by a superpower. Even the ANC in South Africa was sponsored by the USSR for its own reasons. India perhaps is the closest example as they brought an end to the British Raj, but even that soon devolved into internecine warfare. Most revolutions end up replacing one form of tyranny with another. Witness the tragic history of Mexico. It is, as Patrick Henry feared, generally cabals of corrupt politicians combined with foreign interference that subvert such attempts at Liberty.

You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors can not assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America.

If Patrick felt this strongly about the Riot Act, just imagine what he would have had to say about the Patriot Act. He would have been livid. He would also have been within his rights to sue for defamation of character for such an egregious misuse of the term Patriot.

A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment? … What resistance could be made? The attempt would be madness...Your militia is given up to Congress, also, in another part of this plan; they will therefore act as they think proper; all power will be in their own possession. You can not force them to receive their punishment: of what service would militia be to you, when, most probably, you will not have a single musket in the State? For, as arms are to be provided by Congress, they may or may not furnish them.

It would not take a clairvoyant to imagine what Patrick Henry would have thought of the current US Defense budget. Nor what he would have had to say about events like Waco. Your first clue might be the title he chose for this piece “Should Empire or Liberty Be Sought?” Given the inequity of the respective armories of Northern and Southern states at the outbreak of the war between them, along with his observation of the madness of resistance, Patrick would be the one who appears oracular.

An opinion has gone forth, we find, that we are contemptible people; the time has been when we were thought otherwise. Under the same despised government we commanded the respect of all Europe; wherefore are we now reckoned otherwise?

In the context of the events of our era; this is a striking statement regardless of how one interprets it.

The American spirit has fled from hence: it has gone to regions where it has never been expected; it has gone to the people of France in search of a splendid government, a strong, energetic government. Shall we imitate the example of those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid government? Are those nations more worthy of our imitation? What can make an adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they have suffered in attaining such a government--for the loss of their liberty?

Here Henry is referring to the events surrounding the French Revolution, which replaced a totalitarian autocracy with a totalitarian bureaucracy. When America was an experiment for the amusement of Rousseau’s aristocratic readers, the 18th century limousine liberals, it was cute and popular. When the ideas returned to France it was not so cute. The idea of Liberty may have been the proposed goal of the French Revolution, its real agenda however, was to feast on the rich while plutocrats contrived to regiment all aspects of the lives of its “citizens.” This was not what Patrick Henry had in mind for the United States and he thought forgoing Liberty was too high a price to pay to impress a bunch of French fanatics.

Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and a number of things. When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different; Liberty, sir, was then the primary object.

I don’t believe the Neo-Conservatives would be very big fans of Patrick on this score. Their defense industrial complex cronies would not permit it. I am always struck by the irony of these dissemblers insisting they are strict originalists when the Founding Fathers, who had such difficulty in reaching a consensus while crafting the constitution, would have been in unanimous accord on a motion to have the Neo-Cons tarred and feathered.

“What profiteth a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” Patrick Henry believed the same logic applied to nations. For Patrick, Liberty was the soul of America and the ambition for empire would inevitably undermine the foundations of the Liberty he so cherished. He was as correct about this as he was about so many other things. We do not need the power to conquer the world, only enough to keep it from conquering us. Any nation with a formidable standing army will inevitably find an excuse to use it. The very economics of militaries dictate a “use it or lose it” military policy. Otherwise why pay for it? Herein lies the true motivation for wars. There is money to be made in waging them. For more on this, consider the observations of another historic American Patriot, Major General Smedley Darlington Butler's War Is A Racketl

Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation.

It seems the American imperialists of Henry’s day were, like the Neo-Cons of ours, also prone to put the cart before the horse. Greatness is not born of strength but strength from greatness. For Henry the degree to which a society affords the greatest amount of Liberty to the greatest number of its citizens is the only true measure of its greatness. Impressive military might is transitory and epicenters of its brand of power forever shifting. Liberty is the only unshakable foundation for the enduring greatness of a people. So long as a nation’s People remain Free, that nation will be great, regardless of what the French may think.

But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together.

Well they didn’t have sufficient political energy, but as Henry anticipated military might and coercive force would be inevitably, and ruthlessly, used in lieu of the democratic consent of the governed.

But, sir, "we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble." Would this constitute happiness or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.

Here I think Henry was referring, at least in part, to European snobbery at anything or anyone from the savage New World. On that score Americans still get no respect. To some extent, deservedly so. But as to being feared by foreigners and making nations tremble, that is another matter. Most Europeans today report that they fear the unilateral application of American military might more than any other threat on the planet. Henry’s opponents would probably be as pleased as the Neo-Cons about this. For such folks, if one cannot be respected and admired, fear will do. Unfortunately for Americans, that fear of the tyranny of an imperialist regime now also extends to its own citizens. So it always goes with empires, as Patrick Henry so faithfully and articulately tried to warn us.

Go to every other member of society; you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of sight of the common people; they can not foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people; it is for them I fear the adoption of this system.

Again Henry’s words seem to have a prophetic quality. The fear of terrorism in our time has been cynically used by those would accrue the benefits of consolidated power without regard to the dangers it will produce. Again the dangers this consolidation produces are beyond the vision and comprehension of the common people and it will ultimately be the middling and lower classes who will bear the brunt of the negative effects of the corresponding losses of Liberty. Patrick Henry was right to fear such things and contemporary Americans would be wise to voice a little more of their trepidation at Executive usurpations and abrogations of our inherent Liberty.

When I thus profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people, I shall be told I am a designing man, that I am to be a great man, that I am to be a demagog;

Speaking as an observer of the American political discourse of the last 40 years, I can only say when it comes to demagogy and designing machinations, Patrick Henry was a rank amateur. When it comes to visionary oratory in the defense of Liberty, however, Henry remains unequalled.

Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government? Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered? Our Bill of Rights declares that "a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal."

Well Patrick, it did prove to be oppressive and our leaders have selectively applied the Bill of Rights as it suits their purposes. I also doubt that the Bush administration, or any other for that matter, would approve of a move to abolish it, though in its current iteration it might be conducive to the public weal to do so. I suspect that any such effort, even by duly elected legislatures, would be met with one of those standing armies about which you had such foresight.

The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans they will preserve and hand down to their latest posterity the transactions of the present times; and tho I confess my exclamations are not worthy the hearing, they will see that I have done my utmost to preserve their liberty.

The voice of tradition is not so respected as it once was, but the name Patrick Henry’s is still synonymous with the passionate defense of Liberty. Any absence of Liberty in the American common weal is not due to an inadequate defense on his part. Indeed what Liberty remains is in no small measure due to Patrick Henry’s cherished legacy among those remaining few who love Liberty as much as did this heroic character, who demanded it with that legendary ultimatum, “Give me Liberty or give me death!”

…for I never will give up the power of direct taxation but for a scourge… Nay, sir, there is another alternative to which I would consent… let it depend upon our own pleasure to pay our money in the most easy manner for our people… I would give the best security for a punctual compliance with requisitions; but I beseech gentlemen, at all hazards, not to give up this unlimited power of taxation.

Henry was extremely reluctant to grant the power of direct taxation to the Federal Legislature. He thought that they could requisition a sum from the states to fund the operation of the Federal Government. But he believed that the mechanism for the raising of those funds should be left to the respective state legislatures who he felt best knew how to justly tax their citizens. He believed that the vast differences in the sizes, economies and cultures of the individual states made a one size fits all taxation system unwieldy, unjust and inherently undemocratic. Though this idea may seem anachronistic in the modern era, this has more to do with what we have been conditioned and coerced to accept. I am not at all certain that Patrick Henry was wrong on this point. But then I am reluctant to dispute Liberty’s most ardent advocate.

…I hope will convince the most skeptical man that I am a lover of the American Union… but, sir, the dissolution of the Union is most abhorrent to my mind …The first thing I have at heart is American liberty; the second thing is American union.

You just have to love a man who has his priorities in order. We know where Lincoln’s priorities lay, contrary to propaganda it was not on freeing the slaves, but on adding to their numbers the rest of the citizens of that less perfect ”Union.” Despite the popular myth, Lincoln did not end the deplorable institution of slavery. He just made it a biracial phenomenon with slightly loosened chains. A “kinder, gentler,” slightly more racially equitable form of chattel, if you will. Maybe Bush is more like the Great Emancipator than he is given credit for.

The honorable gentleman has told us that these powers given to Congress are accompanied by a judiciary which will correct all. On examination you will find this very judiciary oppressively constructed, your jury trial destroyed, and the judges dependent on Congress.

Don’t let all those episodes of Law and Order fool you. The vast majority of convictions are not obtained from juries but from coercive plea bargains. Mandatory minimums, three strikes laws, sentencing guidelines, and redundant laws are all ways Congress has usurped Judicial authority. Once again Patrick Henry saw the handwriting on the wall. Once again he was ignored to disastrous effect.

This Constitution is said to have beautiful features; but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful. Among other deformities, it has an awful squinting; it squints toward monarchy, and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American? Your president may easily become king.

I’ll wager GW has an army of Justice Department lawyers going over this portion of the Constitution around the clock. This is probably the only line in Patrick’s oratory that caught GW’s feeble attention.

Your Senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed to what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue for ever unchangeably this government, altho horridly defective.

While Henry was probably referring to the difficulty of amending the Constitution, I don’t think Patrick Henry would have been a big fan of the filibuster, especially when it is applied to the confirmation of judges. Not that he would have been an any bigger fan of the current spate of judicial appointees from either party.

It is on a supposition that your American governors shall be honest that all the good qualities of this government are founded; but its defective and imperfect construction puts it in their power to perpetrate the worst of mischiefs should they be bad men; and, sir, would not all the world, blame our distracted folly in resting our rights upon the contingency of our rulers being good or bad? Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men without a consequent loss of liberty! I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed, with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.

Adams also warned against constructing a government on the presumptions that men would be honorable who occupied its offices. Remember his ardent disputation of Pope. But Adams would probably have disagreed with Henry on the lack of adequate checks and balances in the Constitution. For all Adam’s brilliant reasoning, I think history is on the side of Henry’s passion here. Adams seemed to have had a fatalistic optimism that a government so constructed would inevitably produce virtue in its people, who would in turn have the wisdom to select their wisest and most noble among them to lead. Unfortunately, what Adams envisioned was so soon perverted after its inception that we may never know if he was right.

Both Adam’s and Henry had a great faith in the collective wisdom of the American people. But neither had a very high opinion of the state of man as an individual. They cherished the Liberty of the individual but thought men would forever be prone to succumb to the temptation of power and to abuse it. Henry thought that no society could be counted on to produce nobility on cue and so extra precautions should be taken to prevent systemic weakness that he felt would inevitably be exploited by tyrants. Adam’s was only slightly less cynical. Perhaps if Adams had heeded Henry’s warnings we might now have a better sense of whether Adams was right about what kind of society would have actually been facilitated by such a government as he proposed.

If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute! The army is in his hands, and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him, and it will be the subject of long meditation with him to seize the first auspicious moment to accomplish his design, and, sir, will the American spirit solely relieve you when this happens…But, sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not, at the head of his army, beat down every opposition? Away with your president! we shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch; your militia will leave you, and assist in making him king, and fight against you: and what have you to oppose this force? What will then become of you and your rights? Will not absolute despotism ensue?

Patrick Henry did not approve of a Presidential commander in chief. He saw this as inherently dangerous and thought it amounted to asking for trouble. Henry saw it as the temptation no ambitious man could resist. He also remained unpersuaded that what was then being called the “American Spirit” would be a prophylaxis against all evil. It seems that many of the Founding Fathers shared the belief that there was something unique that beat in the hearts of every American that would make them inherently intolerant of any government that would try to establish its dominance by force rather than common consent. This ethnocentric arrogance proved to be in error as Patrick Henry’s skepticism turned out to be well founded.

We have not as yet had a man in that office who would have us refer to him as King. But several have chosen the term Tzar for their subordinates, so you have to wonder what they think that makes them? Emperor perhaps? But they would never be so bold as to claim it out loud. There is no king so powerful as one who has convinced his people to call him by another name. Don’t be surprised if in your lifetime some “President” announces, “due to a state of national emergency, elections will be indefinitely postponed.” The “legal” framework is already in place for this. On that day the “American Spirit” will be too busy grabbing its ankles to resist, and all will know Patrick Henry for the oracle he was. They will lament the fact that they had not heeded him sooner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

John Adams: Thoughts On Government

The following are excerpts and commentary on John Adams “Thoughts on Government” Apr. 1776 Papers 4:86-93. A complete rendition of this work is available at

I heartily encourage you to read it in its entirety. It was a little long so I have presented some of what I believe to be its more important points and have offered them here with my feeble observations. Do not let my musings deter you from considering Adam’s thoughts for yourself and drawing your own conclusions. It is a healthy exercise and there is not a single American who would not be well served by it.

“…as the divine science of politics is the science of social happiness, and the blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government, which are generally institutions that last for many generations, there can be no employment more agreeable to a benevolent mind than a research after the best.”

How many today would describe politics as “a divine science of social happiness?” Not to put too cynical a point on it, but a more accurate description of contemporary politics might read, “there can be no employment more self-serving to the malevolent mind than the research after what is best for the few."

“Pope flattered tyrants too much when he said, "For forms of government let fools contest,That which is best administered is best."

Nothing can be more fallacious than this. But poets read history to collect flowers, not fruits; they attend to fanciful images, not the effects of social institutions. Nothing is more certain, from the history of nations and nature of man, than that some forms of government are better fitted for being well administered than others.”

From this I derive two things: 1st that process matters more than intentions. If we circumvent it in pursuit of our immediate interests, it will set precedents that will come back to bite us in unexpected places. 2nd that Hollywood is probably not the best place to look for political advice. Artists are all about personality and will tend to prioritize it over substance.

“From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.”

The key here is “the greatest number in the greatest degree,” not solely the wealthy, the powerful or any other group. Nor should we settle for the lowest common denominator of happiness but rather should expect the “greatest degree.” But herein lies the rub McDuff, happiness is not the pursuit of unbridled hedonistic consumption but rather…

"All sober inquirers after truth… have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue.”

Perhaps it is because of distasteful notions like this that these old fellers have so fallen out of favor.

“If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?”

Since happiness lies in virtue, and the business of government is to provide an environment conducive to happiness, then according to Adams the role of government is to promote virtue.

“Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.”

I think on this point Adams would be appalled by how much fear eventually became the foundation of the government he so tenderly crafted and bitterly disappointed in how easily most Americans have acquiesced to it.

“Honor is truly sacred, but holds a lower rank in the scale of moral excellence than virtue. Indeed, the former is but a part of the latter, and consequently has not equal pretensions to support a frame of government productive of human happiness.”

From this I derive that George Walker Bush and other politicians should be less reluctant to make their mea culpa, and more concerned with actual virtue rather than pharisaical piety.

“The foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the people. The noblest principles and most generous affections in our nature, then, have the fairest chance to support the noblest and most generous models of government.”

Greed, ambition, fear and partisan prejudice are not “the most generous affections in our nature.” But they are the engines that drive our current model of government, hence its ignobility.

“A man must be indifferent to the sneers of modern English men, to mention in their company the names of Sidney, Harrington, Locke, Milton, Nedham, Neville, Burnet, and Hoadly. No small fortitude is necessary to confess that one has read them. The wretched condition of this country, however, for ten or fifteen years past, has frequently reminded me of their principles and reasonings. They will convince any candid mind, that there is no good government but what is republican.”

Plus en change plus ce le mem chose. It still requires “no small fortitude to confess one has read” these men in the contemporary American academies and halls of power. Perhaps it is the shortage of candid minds among those that tend to congregate in such places.

“the very definition of a republic is "an empire of laws, and not of men." That, as a republic is the best of governments, so that particular arrangement of the powers of society, or, in other words, that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws, is the best of republics.”

"An empire of laws not of men”…What would Adams thought of political dynasties today? His son also followed him into office and the country had a bumpy ride. Don’t get me wrong, I’d gladly swap George Walker for John Quincy, but I can’t help but wonder about this country’s tendency to brand loyalty. What was considered exceptional early in the Republic has become accepted and even expected. Dynasties like the Roosevelt’s, the Gore’s, the Kennedy’s, the Kerry’s, the Sanunu’s, the Walker/Bush’s now seem to be the keys to access to political power. They all attend the same schools on legacy entrance and most join the same “Skull and Bones” regardless of familial party affiliation. I am not convinced that such dynasties have over the last century in fact “contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of the laws,” nor have they necessarily delivered us “the best of republics.”

“Of republics there is an inexhaustible variety, because the possible combinations of the powers of society are capable of innumerable variations.”

Perhaps we should all remember this in Iraq.

“…it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.”

That sounds great. Now, will someone please tell the “most wise and good” to start running for office. For Heaven’s sake someone tell these evil ambitious fools who keep running to shut up and go home!

“The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed, in constituting this representative assembly.”

No, John. “The principle difficulty lies…” in getting the most wise and the good to run for office. Even if they did, they would as likely be pilloried by a partisan mob as be elected to govern. Oh crap, I'm sounding like Pope. Nevermind.

“It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them.”

In its current iteration…it isn’t and it doesn’t.

“Great care should be taken to effect this, and to prevent unfair, partial, and corrupt elections. Such regulations, however, may be better made in times of greater tranquillity than the present; and they will spring up themselves naturally, when all the powers of government come to be in the hands of the people's friends. At present, it will be safest to proceed in all established modes, to which the people have been familiarized by habit.”

Well John we are still waiting for the government to "come to be in the hands of the people’s friends." As far as electoral regulations springing up naturally...well lets just say that both cynical gerrymandering and recent events in Florida and Ohio seem to indicate that such things are more likely to be of a more malevolent synthetic origin.

“A single assembly is liable to all the vices, follies, and frailties of an individual; subject to fits of humor, starts of passion, flights of enthusiasm, partialities, or prejudice, and consequently productive of hasty results and absurd judgments.”

Well, John was sure right on this score. Can you say Patriotic Act? Yeah I know, the irony is as galling as it is striking.

“A single assembly is apt to grow ambitious, and after a time will not hesitate to vote itself perpetual.”

This sure turned out like he thought. Only perpetuality is handled by campaign finance and 98% incumbency. In some ways this is even more insidious because it is less transparent and leaves the electorate with the illusion of choice.

“A representative assembly, although extremely well qualified, and absolutely necessary, as a branch of the legislative, is unfit to exercise the executive power, for want of two essential properties, secrecy and despatch.”

The Legislature would do well to remember this on occasion and be less inclined to use foreign policy to serve partisan agendas. Conversely the Executives would do good to seek a little more advice and consent and then maybe they would not so often find their Legislature making liars of them.

“Because a single assembly, possessed of all the powers of government, would make arbitrary laws for their own interest, execute all laws arbitrarily for their own interest, and adjudge all controversies in their own favor.”

This certainly proved to be the case.

“But shall the whole power of legislation rest in one assembly? … these two powers will oppose and encroach upon each other, until the contest shall end in war, and the whole power, legislative and executive, be usurped by the strongest. The judicial power, in such case, could not mediate, or hold the balance between the two contending powers, because the legislative would undermine it. And this shows the necessity, too, of giving the executive power a negative upon the legislative, otherwise this will be continually encroaching upon that.”

Adams was justifiably skeptical of the integrity and judgment of Legislatures that are prone to hasty judgments in the heat of partisan political passion. He thought there should be both a Senatorial and an Executive veto on their excesses. This is why it is so important who we elect for our Executive. We might want to raise our standards a bit before casting that ballot in the primaries. Maybe we should concern ourselves less with electability and more with competent culpability.

"To avoid these dangers, let a distinct assembly be constituted, as a mediator between the two extreme branches of the legislature, that which represents the people, and that which is vested with the executive power.

Let the representative assembly then …should have a free and independent exercise of its judgment, and consequently a negative voice in the legislature. These two bodies, thus constituted, and made integral parts of the legislature, let them unite, and by joint ballot choose a governor… If he is annually elective, as he ought to be, he will always have so much reverence and affection for the people, their representatives and counsellors, that, although you give him an independent exercise of his judgment, he will seldom use it in opposition to the two houses, except in cases the public utility of which would be conspicuous; and some such cases would happen."

I think Adams has good intentions here but was over optimistic about how independent and effective the Senate would be. He also underestimated the role political parties would come to play in equally polarizing and politicizing both assemblies. The fact that we currently have what amounts to a governmentally mandated two party system essentially nullifies the mitigating effects of a bicameral legislature. I’m sure old Jimmy Madison is rolling in his grave. I doubt Adams is sleeping any more soundly.

“And these and all other elections, especially of representatives and counsellors, should be annual, there not being in the whole circle of the sciences a maxim more infallible than this, "where annual elections end, there slavery begins."

These great men, in this respect, should be, once a year,

"Like bubbles on the sea of matter borne,They rise, they break, and to that sea return."
This will teach them the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.”

I second this observation…"where annual elections end, there slavery begins." I would be content if we could just get these little “bubbles” to return to the sea. I have long since given up on their learning moderation, humility and patience. But John sure had that “ravenous beast of prey” thing correct. These little “bubbles” are insatiable.

“A rotation of all offices, as well as of representatives and counsellors, has many advocates, and is contended for with many plausible arguments. It would be attended, no doubt, with many advantages; and if the society has a sufficient number of suitable characters to supply the great number of vacancies which would be made by such a rotation, I can see no objection to it.”

My only objection to this proposal John, is that while there is no shortage of “characters” who will ambitiously seek such posts, there tends to be a perpetual scarcity of men of Character and expertise to fill them. Oh John, where are you when we need you?

"The governor should have the command of the militia and of all your armies. The power of pardons should be with the governor and council."

We can have militias and other armies? Wow, did anyone clue Lincoln into this? Governors can pardon? Let me guess, nobody told GW about it.

“All officers should have commissions, under the hand of the governor and seal of the colony.”

Cool, does this mean I can be an admiral in the Texas Navy? On second thought I’d probably just end up a swabby on the TXSS Minnow. But imagine if Texas had its own aircraft carrier…I bet it would be bigger than yours.

“The judges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men.”

I think on this point there is no dissent among the People, but among the Senate, well that is another matter all together.

“To these ends, they should hold estates for life in their offices; or, in other words, their commissions should be during good behavior…”

I would be more than willing to grant the Judiciary their tenure if…

“For misbehavior, the grand inquest of the colony, the house of representatives, should impeach them”

…a little more often.

“A militia law, requiring all men, or with very few exceptions besides cases of conscience, to be provided with arms and ammunition, to be trained at certain seasons; and requiring counties, towns, or other small districts, to be provided with public stocks of ammunition and entrenching utensils, and with some settled plans for transporting provisions after the militia, when marched to defend their country against sudden invasions…”

I think most Americans would be more amenable to a military draft if they were stationed in their home states and if they could count on their President to only deploy them “to defend their country against sudden invasions…”

“Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

Amen to this John! If only we had started when you first suggested it. If only we hadn’t quit once we started. If only we had lawmakers of “a humane and generous mind.” If only we had listened to you and your colleagues about so many things…sigh.

“The very mention of sumptuary laws will excite a smile. Whether our countrymen have wisdom and virtue enough to submit to them, I know not; but the happiness of the people might be greatly promoted by them, and a revenue saved sufficient to carry on this war forever. Frugality is a great revenue, besides curing us of vanities, levities, and fopperies, which are real antidotes to all great, manly, and warlike virtues.”

Sumptuary Laws are luxury taxes and they are an excellent idea. They are a great means of raising revenue and they really cramp the style of those latte drinking limo types, which if nothing else provides some small satisfaction to the rest of us. I once asked an enlightened wealthy art collector how he felt about luxury taxes, his response surprised me, because he favored them. I protested that the luxury taxes would diminish the demand for yachts and all the working class shlubs who build those ships would be out of work. His response was telling, “Folks who buy yachts don’t care about the price of the boat let alone the cost of the taxes. If you have to ask how much…you can’t afford it.” I guess the rich really are different.

“But must not all commissions run in the name of a king? No. Why may they not as well run thus, "The colony of to A. B. greeting," and be tested by the governor?

Why may not writs, instead of running in the name of the king, run thus, "The colony of to the sheriff," &c., and be tested by the chief justice?

Why may not indictments conclude, "against the peace of the colony of and the dignity of the same?"

What makes Federal laws so sacred? Why are not state laws sufficient for the prosecution of most crimes? The current redundant system amounts to double jeopardy. If the state can’t convict the Feds will. This gives Government two bites at the same apple and puts an undue burden on the defense. But we get all these redundant laws, mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines because politicians like to look tough on crime. Since felons can’t vote, legislators create such laws at no political risk to themselves. Because most people don’t anticipate ever being arrested and charged for something they have not done, they don’t mind when their civil rights are preemptively violated. Americans have been cheering for revenge instead of weeping for their loss of Liberty. These dead guys were right about one thing…we get the government we deserve.

“A constitution founded on these principles introduces know ledge among the people, and inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious, and frugal. You will find among them some elegance, perhaps, but more solidity; a little pleasure, but a great deal of business; some politeness, but more civility. If you compare such a country with the regions of domination, whether monarchical or aristocratical, you will fancy yourself in Arcadia or Elysium.”

“…inspires them with a conscious dignity becoming freemen; a general emulation takes place, which causes good humor, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general.” These virtues are in critically short supply in Washington and since our leaders no longer have them or follow Constitutional principles our people are now less “sober, industrious, and frugal.”

As for “If you compare such a country with the regions of domination, whether monarchical or aristocratical"...Well I am not sure if Adams would even recognize what he and his companions wrought as it has become more “aristocratical” and its Executive ever more “monarchical.”

Regarding: “you will fancy yourself in Arcadia or Elysium.” Perhaps the Ancients put this one best when they said “Et in Arcadia Ego.” You’re gonna have to look that one up for yourselves folks.

“…a continental constitution should be formed, it should be a congress, containing a fair and adequate representation of the colonies, and its authority should sacredly be confined to these cases, namely, war, trade, disputes between colony and colony, the post office, and the unappropriated lands of the crown, as they used to be called.”

That’s it. Operative phrase here is “confined to these cases.”

“These colonies, under such forms of government, and in such a union, would be unconquerable by all the monarchies of Europe.”

So far so good.

You and I, my dear friend, have been sent into life at a time when the greatest lawgivers of antiquity would have wished to live. How few of the human race have ever enjoyed an opportunity of making an election of government, more than of air, soil, or climate, for themselves or their children! When, before the present epocha, had three millions of people full power and a fair opportunity to form and establish the wisest and happiest government that human wisdom can contrive?

Adams and his colleagues were acutely aware of the gravity of the task they set themselves. They could hardly believe the opportunity that they had and were conscientiously attendant to their effect on posterity. Oh what we would give to have such minds among us today! I’d give you 50 Senators a couple hundred Congressmen and a President for the likes of one John Adams.

"For myself, I must beg you to keep my name out of sight; for this feeble attempt, if it should be known to be mine, would oblige me to apply to myself those lines of the immortal John Milton, in one of his sonnets:--

"I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
By the known rules of ancient liberty,
When straight a barbarous noise environs me
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs."

Apparently good ideas have always been dangerous and people have generaly been willing to disregard them due to prejudice against the messenger. I’m certainly no John Adams, but I think I’ll stick with my nome de plume.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

James Madison: Parties

National Gazette, January 23, 1792

In every political society, parties are unavoidable. A difference of interests, real or supposed, is the most natural and fruitful source of them. The great object should be to combat the evil: 1. By establishing a political equality among all. 2. By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches. 3. By the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort. 4. By abstaining from measures which operate differently on different interests, and particularly such as favor one interest at the expence of another. 5. By making one party a check on the other, so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented, nor their views accommodated. If this is not the language of reason, it is that of republicanism.

In all political societies, different interests and parties arise out of the nature of things, and the great art of politicians lies in making them checks and balances to each other. Let us then increase these natural distinctions by favoring an inequality of property; and let us add to them artificial distinctions, by establishing kings, and nobles, and plebeians. We shall then have the more checks to oppose to each other: we shall then have the more scales and the more weights to perfect and maintain the equilibrium. This is as little the voice of reason, as it is that of republicanism.

From the expediency, in politics, of making natural parties, mutual checks on each other, to infer the propriety of creating artificial parties, in order to form them into mutual checks, is not less absurd than it would be in ethics, to say, that new vices ought to be promoted, where they would counteract each other, because this use may be made of existing vices.


Though their ideas continue to have merit and their voices still ring with the peal of Liberty, sometimes the writing of these dead gentlemen is a little archaic to the modern ear. Occasionally one needs to know a little of the specific historical context surrounding these men to appreciate their priorities. At the risk of gilding the lily, I offer some brief observations and context to James Madison's remarks.

"The great object should be to combat the evil"

Parties, though unavoidable, are inherently evil and must be combatted.

"By establishing a political equality among all."

Anyone think we're there yet?

"By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches. 3. By the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort."

Wow! Did I hear that right folks? Have the Neo-Conservative strict constructionist originalists seen this? I don't think they're gonna like it. It also seems Madison' s sage advice has been completely ignored for the last 200 years. I wonder what John Roberts and his buddies at the Federalist Society would make of this.

One should not necessarily conclude that Madison was envisioning a graduated income tax. What he did imagine was that folks like Railroad companies would demand land for 12 miles on each side of thousands of miles of the RR tracks. He imagined speculators would profit at the expense of investors. He imagined no-bid government contracts to politically connected industrialists. He imagined the predatory practices of Morgan, Carnegie, Rockefeller, ADM, Microsoft, and Walmart. He imagined large businesses demanding property tax abatements. He imagined FCC commissioners who would tell us media consolidation is a good thing. Madison would have viewed all these things with disdain and seen them as contributing to the perpetual existence of political parties and thus part of the problem. Madison was less concerned with wealth redistribution than preventing its unjust accumulation in the first place.

The graduated income tax amounts to little more than requiring thieves to return a small fraction of their loot to a third party who would redistribute 75% of it to their friends and cronies and return 25% to the original victims of its theft. Being as they are thieves, getting the loot back from them is going to be a lot trickier than preventing them from taking it in the first place. Since the politicians have a self-interest in redistributing that lucre to their cronies, they have no interest in preventing its illegitimate accumulation to begin with. Madison would probably have viewed an income tax as being as absurd as monarchistic checks and balances and would have likely seen it as a potential violation of what he calls "the rights of property."

"By abstaining from measures which operate differently on different interests, and particularly such as favor one interest at the expense of another."

OK this one gores everybody's ox, from those seeking special dispensations for industry, to those in the criminal justice system (yeah, like class doesn't matter there, suuure...), to legislators with seniority, to advocates of affirmative action.

"By making one party a check on the other, so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented, nor their views accommodated."

We may complain about the constipation of divided government, but it is the job of any party out of power to as best it can frustrate the party in power regardless of the merit of their prospective platforms. Apparently this Madisonianism came through loud and clear. But I don't think we've been trying hard enough on the existence of parties being "prevented" part, maybe just a tad more effort should be expended in that arena.

"the great art of politicians lies in making them checks and balances to each other."

It seems modern politicians are getting their clues from modern artists instead of these old dead guys.

"Let us then increase these natural distinctions by favoring an inequality of property; and let us add to them artificial distinctions, by establishing kings, and nobles, and plebeians. We shall then have the more checks to oppose to each other: we shall then have the more scales and the more weights to perfect and maintain the equilibrium."

OK here he is making a modest proposal...that's satire folks. You can tell because the next line is...

"This is as little the voice of reason, as it is that of republicanism."

You see reason and republicanism=good...unreasonable and monarchy=bad.

"From the expediency, in politics, of making natural parties, mutual checks on each other, to infer the propriety of creating artificial parties, in order to form them into mutual checks, is not less absurd than it would be in ethics, to say, that new vices ought to be promoted, where they would counteract each other, because this use may be made of existing vices."

Ok this one needs a little background. In those days there were folks talking about making certain parties official and writing them into the Constitution. Madison thinks this is absurd. It would be like saying, "since we cannot prevent adultery, the government should establish houses of prostitution and manage them as a government monopoly." To Madison, Political Parties are an unavoidable evil of dubious necessity to be fought diligently over time in pursuit of their ultimate obsolescence. To anybody who thinks that's the course we're on I just have one thing to say, "stay away from the brown acid." I just wish we could get the current inhabitants of Government to do the same thing.

Benjamin Franklin On the Federal Constitution

Speaking before the Convention in Philadelphia, 1787

I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve of it, for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope that the only difference between our two churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrine is, the Romish Church is infallible, and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But, tho many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister said: "But I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right."

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 I believe, further, 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; for, when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. 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; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded like those of the builders of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of that government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of our posterity, that we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would, with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

Friday, September 16, 2005

PC Glossary


Someone whose cultural prejudices blind them to incompetent governance when it’s done by their party.


Someone whose cultural prejudices blind them to incompetent governance when it’s done by their party.
synonym: Kneejerk Liberal


A cultural agnostic who panders to as wide a group as possible in order to further the agendas of their corporate masters.

Limousine Liberal

A closet Moderate who talks a good line of bullshit.

Rockefeller Republican

See Moderate.

Latte Sipper

See Moderate.

Rexal Conservative

Etymology: Drugstore Cowboy
Definition: See Limousine Liberal.
Synonym: Compassionate Conservative
Example: GW Bush