Site menu:

 

February 2017 Policy Study, Number 17-2

   

A Commentary on the American Founding

   

Part 16

   

 

Let us dwell briefly on the Roman Empire.  When my high school class took our course in World History, we were taught that when the vaunted Roman Empire was on the brink of failure, it had changed from a strong, independent, and self-reliant people to a society appeased by Bread and Circuses.  Debauchery and immorality of all kinds were rampant.  The Roman Senate, sensing that their government was in deep trouble and that their citizens were becoming unruly, used the government’s power to tax to supply food for the masses and also provided diversions for them to keep their minds off their numerous difficulties.  The government commandeered from those that had and gave to those that didn’t to sate their hunger.  It provided the amphitheater, Circus Maximus, and bloody contests in the Colosseum to provide diversion.

 

Take a hard look at our own society today.  Doesn’t it appear eerily reminiscent?  We have serious problems of our own.  Yes, we as a people have problems with immorality.  The institutions of marriage and the family are being denigrated and destroyed, crime is pervasive, and we could continue the list.  And we do our best to divert ourselves with music, theater, movies, gambling, and sporting contests of every description.  These diversions aren’t necessarily bad in themselves.  It is only when we abuse them and use them to mask our problems that they too become a problem.  Isn’t this what the Romans did?  Civilizations fail when they become corrupt.  To be more specific, civilizations fail when they will no longer distinguish and discriminate between right and wrong, or most assuredly when they cease to acknowledge that there even is a difference between right and wrong.  Society moves to a mindset where no set of values is superior to any other set of values, where no moral code is superior to any other moral code, where no lifestyle is superior to any other lifestyle, and where the end (good intentions?) justifies the means (the “legal” use of government power to supersede the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”).  Government becomes the highest power.  In a word, government itself becomes their god.

 

If none of the above truly makes any difference, then why do we find such disparity between the effects produced by the aforementioned matters on the lives of the peoples of different civilizations?  Even with as much as our society has slipped in the last forty years, would you seriously argue that the codes of law that the Chinese, Russians, or the people of the African continent operate under today produce a quality of life equivalent to the quality of life we enjoy in this nation?  It is the belief system of a people that will determine the kind of society that that people will either enjoy or endure.  For all the slippage that has occurred in this nation since the time of its founding, we still enjoy this advantage over almost all other nations on earth.  Why?  Because the people of this nation, even those who are loathe admitting it or are totally unaware of it, are firmly steeped in the Judeo-Christian philosophy that is our country’s heritage.

 

Acknowledgement of, reliance on, and adherence to, the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” produced the greatest nation this world has ever seen.  Yet, we are seemingly willing to turn our backs on this remarkable form of government.  We as a people have ceased to conform to the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”  Our form of government was designed for a people who would conform.  To paraphrase John Adams, that original form of government is incapable of governing a people such as this.  It would seem clear that one of two things must happen.  We must, as a people, either return to being a morally upright people who conform to the Natural Law, or we must change our form of government to cope with the kind of people we have become.  And just so, the latter is coming to pass.  Each day, our government is becoming more severe to manage an unruly people.  We as a people demand as much.  It is a cause for trepidation.  We as a people must bear some blame.  We are a large part of the problem — a problem that some in government exploit.  We are uncomfortable with disorder.  Then there appears someone in government who promises to make the trains run on time — to restore order.  And we say, “Do it.”  But at what cost to our liberty?

 

Government attempts to do this because it can, because power corrupts and committing an act of perfidy is no deterrent to corrupting power.  Government is able to do this because we are asleep at the switch.  We are remiss in our fiduciary responsibility to maintain the endowment which was granted to us and which we must further bequeath to our posterity.  If we fail in that responsibility without giving our very best effort, we will also be guilty of an act of perfidy.  But all is not lost if we will act deliberately and decisively to reclaim our rightful inheritance.  What must we do?  First and foremost, we need to be intimately familiar with the original form of government bequeathed to us by our Founders.  We can do this by studying the documents that they have passed down to us, documents both formal and informal.  We must know this material at least well enough to recognize perfidy when we see it.  We must know this material at least well enough to make a loud noise to bring perfidious actions to the attention of our fellow citizens when some seek to change our government without the benefit of constitutional constraints.  That is, when they seek to change it through the subterfuge of an overly active Judiciary, through usurpation of power by an unrestrained Legislature, and through unconstitutional presidential directives and executive orders from an overly ambitious President.

 

The Constitution makes provision for its own amendment.  The least we can do is to force these unscrupulous public servants to acknowledge before the world that their intended plans would change the form of government bequeathed to us by our Founders and to do so in a constitutional manner.  We are entirely free to change our form of government, but let us always change under the protection of the Constitution.  If our form of government is allowed to be changed other than in the bright light of day, our liberty will surely be lost.  We now have a king.  We fail to recognize that a king rules us because the king isn’t just one man with plenary power.  The king is government itself.  How can one determine this?  By their fruits you shall know them.  In today’s parlance:  if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.  Following is a description of the actions of a king that were identified and written down something over twenty-five hundred years ago.  The consequences of being ruled by a king were well-known long ago.  But apparently it is something we have to relearn for ourselves.  How many of these actions do you recognize?  You may have to substitute the modern equivalent, but it is entirely recognizable:

 

Samuel delivered the message of the Lord in full to those who were asking him for a king.  He told them:  “The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot [conscription into the military].  He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers [military officers and bureaucrats].  He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots [control of agriculture through farm programs, monetary and tax policy, and the military-industrial complex].  He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers [our wives and daughters as members of the everyday workforce is now the rule rather than the exception].  He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his officials.  He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves [income tax].  He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work.  He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves [income tax, personal property and real estate tax].  When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the Lord will not answer you.”  (Holy Bible, 1 Samuel 8:10-18)

 

The above passage denotes a condition of involuntary servitude to the king.  And doesn’t it pretty well describe our present condition?  A paradigm shift in our form of government occurred in 1865 at Appomattox Court House.  Robert E. Lee surrendered the Southern Army to Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union forces.  With this act, our great Civil War came to an end — and with it so did our original form of government.  Yes, I too was taught that President Lincoln engaged in this great battle to “save the Union and free the slaves.”  On the surface, it would appear that he was eminently successful; but a closer examination is less assuring.  Hearken back to the words of Article VII of The Constitution:  “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine states, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same” (Emphasis added).

 

Originally, a state’s membership in the Union was the voluntary act of a sovereign institution comprised of sovereign individuals.  If a state and the people thereof did not desire membership, the other states enjoyed no power to compel them to do so.  With the cessation of armed resistance signified by Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the Confederacy acknowledged the Union’s power to compel them to remain in the Union.  I don’t believe the Confederacy has ever acknowledged the Union’s constitutional prerogative to compel their membership in the Union — and rightly so, for there is none.

 

With Lee’s surrender, government based on the consent of the governed was extirpated.  The central government now rules, rather than governs . . . by threats, duress, and coercion when possible . . . by force of arms when necessary.  Our form of government has been fundamentally altered.  Whatever you may consider the proximate causes of the Civil War to be notwithstanding, make no mistake about it: a paradigm shift has occurred in our form of government.  The major characteristic of our central government is no longer federal.  The characteristic it has exhibited since 1865 is that of empire.  We may still have “a” union; but, as neither the state nor the individual is any longer sovereign, it is not “the” Union bequeathed to us by our Founders.

 

As for the slaves, I view their condition as only marginally improved.  They merely exchanged the master of a plantation owner, who expropriated the fruit of their labor, for the master of a central government that continues to expropriate whatever portion of the fruit of their labor it so chooses.  And the rest of us, of whatever color, share their servitude.  Our central government simply no longer views any of us as sovereign individuals.  We are to give ourselves over to that government body and soul, and without dissent.  Certainly, this is not the liberty for which our Founders fought and died.  How do we extract ourselves from this condition?  The very first thing we have to do is be honest with ourselves.  Acknowledge that the condition exists.  There is good news.  We already know how to redeem ourselves from this condition.  Our Founders laid down a beautiful plan for us.  All we have to do is follow it.  We need but acquiesce to their intent when they penned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

 

   

 

Click here for pdf copy of this Policy Study

 

All of our publications are available for sponsorship.  Sponsoring a publication is an excellent way for you to show your support of our efforts to defend liberty and define the proper role of government.  For more information, please contact Public Interest Institute at Public.Interest.Institute@LimitedGovernment.org