Most people don’t know the name Charles Carroll of Carrolltown, but he was actually an important Founding Father. As a Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress, he became the only Roman Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence.
At the time of the Boston Tea Party, Carroll sought to remind the Crown and Parliament that his fellow American colonists “are not yet corrupt enough to undervalue liberty.”
Ouch! It’s hard to read those words without wincing and thinking about modern politics and a certain presidential election.Charges of corruption are everywhere, but calls for liberty are nowhere to be heard.
Charles Carroll may well have been right about his own time. I wonder what he would think of our era. Could Charles Carroll say that we today are not corrupt enough to undervalue liberty?
The colonists were certainly concerned about London-initiated corruption. The Boston Tea Party was less about the tea tax than the sweet deal that the British East India Company had negotiated with Parliament to monopolize the colonial tea market. To break free from England was to break free from that sort of corruption. We’d call it crony capitalism today.
Are we Americans now so corrupt that we undervalue liberty today? Perhaps we’re just inured by it. A friend of mine spent lunch the other day telling me all the reasons she’s voting for Hillary Clinton. The word “liberty” wasn’t uttered once in that 45 minutes. I can’t imagine Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton even saying the word. One promises strength; the other offers goodies. Where is liberty in all of this?
As for corruption … oh, puh-leese! We’ve had administrations that created clouds of corruption in their wake, but we’ve never had two major party candidates so engulfed in visible clouds of shadiness in advance of their possible presidency. These are two incredibly flawed candidates who are flawed in ways that would have deeply troubled our flawed Founders.
Which one is more corrupt? It depends on the day which way I might answer. Can I “eeny-meeny-miney-mo” them? That’s not even a rabbit worth chasing.
Instead, ponder Charles Carroll’s words and pay particular attention to the last word of his statement … that little word “yet.” Consider our own complicity in all of this. You can’t blame the primary system entirely, but thanks to that system, we are much closer to being a democracy. Our founders envisioned and intended a republic. Our current system means we are more likely to get the sort of leaders that we deserve. They’re the people we think we want as opposed to the sort of leaders that we might need. And we want them because they offer us things we think we want. They in essence buy our votes. Liberty doesn’t sell because liberty is about us pulling ourselves up by hard work and voluntary cooperation with others. Liberty assuages coercing taxes out of our more well-off neighbors to feature our nests. Who would want to buy that?
So if Charles Carroll were to survey America today, there’s a good chance he would say that we are now too corrupt to value liberty. And certainly our voting patterns will show that. We don’t need anyone manipulating the voting machines. We do this to ourselves.