By David P Shirk
In the mid 1700’s, there lay on a new continent clusters of colonies from many countries populated by many different people. Some were there as outcasts from their parent nation, and some to escape tyranny or oppression. Some came seeking to make a new life, and some in service of another. Battles were fought on this relatively new land as extensions of hostilities of the parenting nations. When the dust settled and the fighting stopped, the colonists for the most part became united in the populated areas under English rule. People of every origin and background were now merged together under the rule of the English crown and sought to make their own fortunes as best they could.
At such time many of our nation’s founders were young men still – full of passion, yet lacking in experience. Those like Washington and Franklin served the crown in public service. Jefferson was the son of a farmer, and Paine was a bit of a drunk. Yet one thing they all had in common was their experiences in the colonies, and the inescapable urge to have their own destiny. All of them save for Paine were very well read for the times, and saw the world around them being changed in a manner that did not seem to fit any of what they had learned of it. Paine was an exception and trusted more to experience. Madison to was younger than the rest, and did not mind the idea of a republic as much as he did the abuse of one.
So as English rule began to tighten on the colonies, neither of the above parties could accept it any longer with their conscience, or their spirit. They saw the colonies as being strangled from meaningful growth by the heavy hand of the English, and to a varying degree, understood precisely what was happening. Benjamin Franklin was loyal to the crown until it rejected his attempts and hard efforts to climb the ladder so to speak, and saw how the colonists were forced to live an ever difficult life due to the pride of the English Aristocracy. Washington was not raised in high Aristocracy, but his high noble values would no longer allow what he perceived as tyranny. Paine was an everyman so to speak, yet highly perceptive of the events he found himself caught up in, and saw the whole mess for the nonsense it was. Madison was still a young man, his understanding of the world based off of his experiences and education. Hamilton was a hard luck case and hated the English not for their power, but their abuse of it, and sought to get rid of it.
The colonies had had enough. Paine’s Common Sense sold like wildfire. Jefferson ideals on self governance and limited government gave the people an alternative to what they had. Franklin put it all into words that the middle class of the day could appreciate and understand – the value an everyman could bring to the table. Many people still accepted limited English rule in its original ideals, yet would no longer tolerate the ever increasing abuse of its power. Some saw that it was not simply the acts of Tyranny that was the problem, but the pride, arrogance, and ignorance that led to the ideals that allowed it.
It is to the last group that those like Jefferson and Adams held the most appeal. They knew full well that if the current form of government was to be overthrown, only to be replaced by one just like it, that the oncoming revolution would be in vain. They saw that their fellow colonists were ready for a more meaningful existence, and that everyday more and more sought to shake off the restraints of governance that had held them in chains since their inception.
However the revolution was to happen far sooner than it would take for their teachings and ideals to be widely accepted and understood. Their ideals of enlightenment and freedom were being absorbed, but not fast enough. So it came about that when the Revolution hit full swing, that they were forced to compromise. When the war was over, people were left dazed and unsettled. They had indeed won the fight, but now came the rebuilding. Being that it is easier to destroy then to create, they had their work cut out for them.
The government they had previously was all they had known up until that point, and to many, it did not seem that bad until it became too much to handle. Newspapers and speeches started on how the new nation was to be formed. Many still held fast to the ideals of self governance and freedom, yet until the new nation got to her feet, it was reasoned by just enough people that the existing limited government be maintained to help clean up, and provide for common aid when needed. The articles of confederation which had held the states together through the end of the war was the basis for said governments. Yet what did not occur to most people was that the articles were created and ratified by currently exiting government . After the war was over, people wanted to rebuild and start anew, whereas the governing body set to rebuild itself as it saw fit.
Initially this was not too much of a problem as the new government had no real authority in the grand scheme of things. It held little power and influence, and acted more as a public service than anything resembling a forceful authority. Yet people thrived, businesses grew, and the new country began to resettle – each new state acting in nearly complete autonomy to the others.
Then something funny happened. After people got settled living their lives as they saw fit, many began to get comfortable and in many cases reckless. Though the nation was now independent, some states started running up trade deficits with the English – not a good idea at all. Other states were notorious for cheating and swindling, and still others for just being ‘backwards’ to the rest of their perspective societies. Unfortunately it never occurred to people that if they could not curb that behavior or hold the dishonest accountable for their misdeeds, that the cry for someone to do something about it would be heard by the wrong people.
So the limited governments got together with the intent to solve these problems. Though they had won the war against England, they did not want a second helping, and had to figure out a way to appease the English anger at the states who would not pay the debts they were incurring. Yet as long as they were at it, they also decided that they could fix the problem of swindlers taking advantage of the honest in society. They made it their mission to answer the calls for help. A nasty chain reaction began to ensue when they decided that a central power must be created to gain some kind of stability in this chaotic time by mediating between the states to help iron out the issues. Sadly it never occurred to them that they were about to embark on the same string of mistakes that led to their initial revolution in the beginning.
To Jefferson this was a most alarming state to be in. it was his wish that people would be enlightened enough to solve their own problems, or at the very least keep issues as local as possible. To Hamilton it was a sign that the new government was not strong enough, and that Jefferson was naïve in his belief that people would work things out if given time. Washington wrote to Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison alike in an attempt to get any kind of guidance on what to do as the new government had tried placing him in charge against his wishes. Jefferson wrote that he should accept the position, but not to make any attempts to build a new authority, and Washington agreed that the role of the new executive office was to mediate between the states – nothing else.
Yet as time passed government offices began to grow in an attempt to answer the calls that were placed on them. Soon it was noticed that such offices were gaining power, and were therefore a desirable place to be. Political favors began to grow on a local level and legal enforcement began to seep its way in. The more this went on, the more upset the people grew, yet they did not understand that the solution of putting more people in government offices was the reason why things never improved. As the idea of a governing authority vs public service took hold, it was soon idealized that to fight this, something has to happen. Even worse was the mindset of status quo seeping its ugly head in, and soon people began seeking laws not to prevent harm, damage, or death, but to enforce their ideas of how things should be.
With more pressure than ever the constitution was drafted and reviewed. Washington was most alarmed as was Jefferson and Adams. Yet for the first time on that large of a scale, our nation bought into the idea that something had to be done now, even if the solution was not an ideal one. The result was the Constitution which was based off the Federalist Papers, Articles of Confederation (amongst many other writings), and with the Bill of Rights as the guiding rule. Yet as always is the case when government rushes things, the document was noted to the letter – not the ideals, of freedom.
Yet even then the newly empowered federal government was not seen as the body of power we know it as today, but rather the final limit on the actions the state governments could take that may adversely affect either themselves, or the liberties of their citizens.
In the interest of time I will skip over the nonsense that has ensued since then as it has already been addressed over and over again. I am just sick and tired of the myth that it was the fault of the people that caused our current plight, and ergo the need for a governing ‘authority’ to prevent such madness. In the few years America had as a truly free people, the nation did just fine on the whole. Had they just let the states that did mess up (or the localities as was more often the case) learn from their mistakes, we would not be having this discussion. Their cry was not for government to do much of anything to help in those days, but for the strong and honest to take a stand and lend a hand. Yet the strong either showed indifference, or the weak refused to make any real attempt to help themselves, and so the only avenue that they saw that could help was government (whom of course pretended like they could actually do something about it – the later war of 1812 proved how wrong they were). I find it pathetic that this was the case to begin with, and even more so how government cares more for its ego then it does the people whom it swore to protect and defend.
Yet we are people – not animals. We learn, and we seek solutions. Do any of you now understand why it is that those whom are either anarchical or voluntary in nature are far more beneficial to the real American ideal then statism or a corruptible republic could ever be? Do you see how the cries of a democracy can bring so much damage when those who raise their voices do so in ignorance? It has been well over 200 years since all this came about, and it is inexcusable to continue following 200 year old mistakes! All I can say is that if people don’t open their eyes soon, then their collective voices will bring us all to ruin.