By David P Shirk
There is nothing more that I would like to write about then the founders of America. Yet what I would have to cover would not be understood because modern day visions and ideas of them and their times have been lost to most. Not to mention that I could not sum up in a page or two what takes scholars entire books to cover. It is truly a sad thing indeed when a people consider themselves educated yet cannot understand (let alone support) the events and people that allowed them their freedoms to begin with before throwing their ideals and works to the trash.
Yet because I probably one of the most stubborn fools you will ever hear from, I will attempt to give a small example.
It has been almost 235 years since our country felt the oppression of England, and literally fought to the death to obtain their freedom. Since then, the people of this land have spread from one sea board to the other. We have gone from horses to airplanes. We have gone from hand delivered correspondence that could take weeks for delivery, to the sharing of entire libraries spreading the same distance in milliseconds. Food has gone from being a necessity to an addiction. Shelter has gone from primitive houses to homes so advanced that with the touch of a few buttons you have light, entertainment, something fresh to drink, and control of temperature.
Yet for all these advantages – any of which would have wowed our predecessors (maybe Franklin would have been more curious then awed though), we have lost much more.
I meet very few people who have extensively studied our nations founding. However I meet a lot of people who preach socialism, democracy, and the modern day republic. One thing I have also found, is that those who support anything other then the republic our founders strove to give us, are usually those who have not studied it.
Jefferson worried that the government would grow so strong that it would grow to be another tyranny. Madison worried that the government would grow so weak that the people would never stick with it, and would get crushed by foreigners. Both believed in small government – Jefferson for a small elected one that would serve on a limited basis, and Madison for one more Monarchical that would be able to forcefully control the people if they went against its principles. Both detested democracy.
Yet inside these two ideas, are concepts that are as deep as any ocean. Jefferson’s was more obvious – he knew what government enforced tyranny was all about, and sought to oppose it. His is the more commonly known, so I will gloss over it for now. Madison on the other hand was more then aware that people on the whole could indeed be pretty self-destructive – especially when they stop caring about how their actions affected others, or lost their principles. Ironically, the two ideas clashed and destroyed their efforts before they even died.
Jefferson was more then aware of the delicacy of a true republic, yet trusted the new nation was up to the task and would prosper only as long as it was free. He trusted that the people would never take this for granted. He trusted that the people would have enough common sense, responsibility, work ethic, etc. to maintain their freedoms. Madison (and others like him) on the other hand continually sought to control the people as a means to prevent them from destroying this idea. Constitutional Republicanism vs. Federalism, and no, they are not the same thing, and the ‘civil war’ would prove the difference.
The main problem is that while Jefferson was out and about making his rounds, trying to continually establish the new country, Madison and the like were at home, operating as they thought best. Without Jefferson as a balance, public perceptions began to get thrown off.
You see after the first war for independence (I mean the Revolutionary War in 1776 – the second being the War of 1812), most people didn’t want to fight anymore. They wanted to be left alone. Few could have predicted that the War of 1812 would bring on a second fight for their lives. So things like standing armies became a thing that was deemed no longer needed, and people began to settle into their new land.
Aristocracy was a thing of the past that had given way to the idea of being a bona-fide gentleman. Men like Washington were held in high esteem by both the commoner and ‘gentlemen’ alike because they were self made. They were living proof that one need not be born into wealth to become powerful. So many were inspired by men like Washington. Men of unquestionable honor, courage, and willing success who strove to prove themselves. Yet even though Aristocracies held no real power in the new land, social classes did exist.
You know what this class system was based on? Merit. That simple little concept that is so abhorred in today’s culture. That is, if you didn’t earn it, then you didn’t get it. In its earliest stage the Republic we used to have was one that awed and shocked the rest of the civilized world, and until politics reared its ugly head, it truly was a thing of beauty, and great strength.
Yet the early disconnects of the people from their government took an ugly turn for the worse. Through many factors, government quickly grew to be highly misunderstood. This was both due to political meddling, and a people who did not know how to handle it.
So it became that government was to blame for everything. As people began to grow aware of the expanding power of the politicians (or the abuse of said politicians power), they decided that they should have say.
This is where the founder’s actions turned to bite them. They had not publically announced their intentions and plans widely enough for the commoner to understand, and because they could not have known how destructive a particular policy might have been (like the newly established First Bank of the United States), the end result was the distrust for the new government.
So the democracy began. The people had decided that if they were to be affected by the governing body, that they should have a say. The problem at the time was that most people were not educated enough on what it takes to hold a country together, and that a decided lack of good ideas would lead to a continuance of bad ones. Though many were elected into congress by their constituents for their ability to run their business to the benefit of themselves and their community, the elected official had no idea how to plug that into the ‘bigger picture’.
So here we are in good old 2010. You say ‘republic’, and people think of war, poverty, cruelty, and control. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For a true republic stands for none of those, nor could it cause them as long as it remained true to itself. The republic as it applied to government in those days was nothing more a system set in place to guarantee the freedom of its people.
As stated earlier political mistakes, peoples lack of understanding, and a dash of corruption quickly set to dismantle the republic we once had.
Today we have many libraries, bookstores, and internet hubs where one can learn anything they chose. So why these resources are ignored by politicians and people alike in favor of a pile of rhetorical nonsense passed down from one modern generation to another is beyond me. So in my book – ignorance is not an excuse – if you do not know it, do not set out to make your belief the be-all-end-all. And certainly do not seek to ‘vote’ – I talk to more people who support candidates that can’t tell you their voting record, let alone how it impacted anything!
Corruption comes in many forms. For some reason, everyone likes to blame the government. While I agree whole-heartedly that it is indeed corrupt on some levels, I find that easier to forgive then the dishonor they give their earliest predecessors by demonizing them instead of learning from the good things they had tried so hard to do. Yet the government hardly has the monopoly on that one – after all, how many colleges do we have that promote socialism and democracy over old Republic? How many young college brats are out the preaching Lenin and Marx in place of Jefferson and Washington? Talk about forgetful minds and ungrateful spirits. Just think – they can even vote too!
Lastly, we need to stop claiming to be something we are not. If we were the Republic our founders gave us, we would continue to be an example to the world, not trying to follow other countries mistakes and continuing in our own. We would not be advocating welfare or warfare. We would not be advocating democracy or socialism. We would not be happily agreeing to put every living man, woman, and child nearly 40 thousand dollars in public debt alone.
Yes, America was an experiment from the start – yet we are not failing because we followed the principles and the guidelines of the Experiment, but rather because we broke them. So before you go to cast your next vote – educate yourself. Nothing is as it seems, and every candidate bears full investigation outside of their on-air promises. Remember that only a precious few politicians will tell you the whole story.
Now I have spoken my peace, and until I see that anyone even cares, I see no reason to continue making a fool of myself.