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Jefferson on the Federal Government   2 comments

This is Part 2 of a 2-part series.

Turning his mind from the Constitution and form of government, Jefferson hoped to explain the checks and balances of the federal system and also asked if perhaps the country should not be so attached to any one system

Jefferson knew that most foreigners did not understand how the United States worked and he attempted to explain the interaction to Major Cartwright.

With respect to our State and federal governments, I do not think their relations correctly understood by foreigners. They generally suppose the former subordinate to the latter. But this is not the case. They are co-ordinate departments of one simple and integral whole.

Jefferson rightly surmised that most foreigners though the states were under the authority of the federal government (which is how a national government works), but he was quick to correct this misunderstanding. Were he to suddenly be resurrected in the 21st century, he would quickly and probably forcefully remind us that our government was never supposed to involve the states kowtowing to the federal government. They were meant to be equal partners.

To the State governments are reserved all legislation and administration, in affairs which concern their own citizens only, and to the federal government is given whatever concerns foreigners, or the citizens of other States; these functions alone being made federal. The one is the domestic, the other the foreign branch of the same government; neither having control over the other, but within its own department.

Jefferson understood that the states were to focus on their own domestic matters while the federal government was only to function in matters with other countries or when states could not agree. He rightly states that the federal government is the foreign branch of the same government. Neither was supposed to have control over the other. I think this would be one of those times when Jefferson would want to amend the Constitution, if he could see how bloated and tyrannical the federal government has become.

There are one or two exceptions only to this partition of power. But, you may ask, if the two departments should claim each the same subject of power, where is the common umpire to decide ultimately between them? In cases of little importance or urgency, the prudence of both parties will keep them aloof from the questionable ground: but if it can neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called, to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.

Jefferson foresaw conflicts and saw two solutions to them. One would be where the two parties just ignore when one oversteps on unimportant issues. That has not worked well fo us in the 200 years since Jefferson wrote the letter. His second option for dealing with overreach has never been used. We’ve never called a convention of the States to discuss whether doubtful power should be ascribed to the states or the federal government. Instead, the federal government has continually assimilated powers to itself and told the states to sit down and shut up. Jefferson, were he alive today, would be organizing committees of correspondence and militias in Virginia and urging Alaska and all the other states to do the same.

You will perceive by these details, that we have not yet so far perfected our constitutions as to venture to make them unchangeable. But still, in their present state, we consider them not otherwise changeable than by the authority of the people, on a special election of representatives for that purpose expressly: they are until then the lex legum.

Jefferson explained that the Constitution of the United States and the constitutions of the states were not set in concrete, but could only be changed by a special committee, elected by the people for the purpose of making changes. Until such a convention had been organized and met, the constitutions were considered the “law of laws.”

But can they be made unchangeable? Can one generation bind another, and all others, in succession forever? I think not. The Creator has made the earth for the living, not the dead. Rights and powers can only belong to persons, not to things, not to mere matter, unendowed with will. The dead are not even things. The particles of matter which composed their bodies, make part now of the bodies of other animals, vegetables, or minerals, of a thousand forms. To what then are attached the rights and powers they held while in the form of men? A generation may bind itself as long as its majority continues in life; when that has disappeared, another majority is in place, holds all the rights and powers their predecessors once held, and may change their laws and institutions to suit themselves. Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.

Jefferson touches on something that we can go around and around on. Should constitutions be unchangeable? Should one generation bind the next to what was important to that earlier generation? That earlier generation is dead and dead things should not dictate to the living, Jefferson said.

But it should be noted that Jefferson considered rights and the powers that issue from them to be the same from generation to generation. So while subsequent generations can change the structure of government set out in the constitution, the inherent and unalienable rights of men remain the same.

You see, that’s where folks like me disagree with those who would be our rulers today. They’re fine with the current structure of government, but want our rights to be changeable based on what they think is best. Rights, to them, flow from the government. Jefferson and our founders saw rights as being inherent in the individual. I live, therefore, I have a right to an opinion and to state it, a right to practice my faith as I see fit, a right to bear arms, a right to security in my person, property and papers, a right to a fair trial, and a right to be unmolested in my efforts to support myself and my family (in so long as those efforts do not harm anyone else). I don’t live in that world anymore. I live in one where my rights can be taken away whenever the government decides they are inconvenient to the government or some group the government favors.

I object.

I Did Not Consent

Jefferson’s Lament   3 comments

Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Major John Cartwright in 1824, when both were elderly men. The purpose of the letter was to praise Major Cartwright’s book on the history of Anglo-Saxon rights, but Jefferson also attempted to explain the American experiment to Cartwright. Although I might enjoy reading Cartwright’s book as much as Mr. Jefferson did, as an American, I am much more interested in what Jefferson had to say about the country he lived in.

After remarking on what he found interesting and hopeful in Anglo-Saxon history, Jefferson turned to America.

Our Revolution commenced on more favorable ground. It presented us an album on which we were free to write what we pleased. We had no occasion to search into musty records, to hunt up royal parchments, or to investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved on our hearts.

The American Revolution was based on Lockean notions of natural law, which Jefferson insisted issued from human nature. The Anglo-Saxons had an ancient history of exercising those rights, lost in the Norman invasion, but reconstituted when kings were put in their place as limited monarchs once more. For them to move toward liberty had required an exploration of and a negotiation with their past. The Americans had mostly a blank slate on which to draw.

Yet we did not avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position. We had never been permitted to exercise self-government. When forced to assume it, we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had entered little into our former education. We established however some, although not all its important principles.

“We were,” Jefferson seems to say, “Like kids in a candystore, complete novices at this self-government notion.” Americans didn’t really know what they were doing, so they established some of the guiding principles of self-government, but they also missed some. It’s important to remember that Jefferson was in France at the time of the Constitutional Convention. John Adams was in Holland. Ben Franklin was old. The old guard of the Revolution was not well represented in Philadelphia that hot summer of 1787. Had they been there, the Constitution might have been a better document. At least, Jefferson thought so.

The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press.

Jefferson found little fault with the state constitutions. For the most part, they stated:

  • All power is inherent in the people and is theirs to exercise in direct democracy and/or by selecting representatives
  • They have a right to be armed at all times
  • They have freedom of person
  • They have freedom of religion
  • They have freedom of property
  • They have freedom of the press

I wonder what Jefferson would think of our current state of affairs, where we have the largest prison population in the world, major presidential candidates who want to disarm the entire country, survelliance programs that potentially are tracking each and every one of us on a daily basis, government telling people they must violate their faith to obey the government, eminent domain, and press corps that lick the boots of the White House.

In the structure of our legislatures, we think experience has proved the benefit of subjecting questions to two separate bodies of deliberants; but in constituting these, natural right has been mistaken, some making one of these bodies, and some both, the representatives of property instead of persons; whereas the double deliberation might be as well obtained without any violation of true principle, either by requiring a greater age in one of the bodies, or by electing a proper number of representatives of persons, dividing them by lots into two chambers, and renewing the division at frequent intervals, in order to break up all cabals.

Jefferson here praises the separation of powers and encourages the frequent flushing of the legislature. What would he think of us today?

Virginia, of which I am myself a native and resident, was not only the first of the States, but, I believe I may say, the first of the nations of the earth, which assembled its wise men peaceably together to form a fundamental constitution, to commit it to writing, and place it among their archives, where every one should be free to appeal to its text. But this act was very imperfect. The other States, as they proceeded successively to the same work, made successive improvements; and several of them, still further corrected by experience, have, by conventions, still further amended their first forms. My own State has gone on so far with its premiere ebauche; but it is now proposing to call a convention for amendment.

All right, first, I have to thank Jefferson for teaching me a new word “ebauche” which is the preliminary sketch of a canvas prior to painting. I didn’t know it had a specific term.

Jefferson was very proud of Virginia and its exercise in self-government. Virginia may, he said, have been the first nation (note that he calls it a NATION, not a state) to write a constitution and put it on permanent record for everyone to appeal to. Yet, he admitted, it was an imperfect document and wanted amendment. Other States had discovered improvements, areas of liberty that required acknowledgment. It was time for Virginia to amend its constitution as well.

Among other improvements, I hope they will adopt the subdivision of our counties into wards. The former may be estimated at an average of twenty-four miles square; the latter should be about six miles square each, and would answer to the hundreds of your Saxon Alfred. In each of these might be, 1. An elementary school. 2. A company of militia, with its officers. 3. A justice of the peace and constable. 4. Each ward should take care of their own poor. 5. Their own roads. 6. Their own police. 7. Elect within themselves one or more jurors to attend the courts of justice. And 8. Give in at their Folk-house, their votes for all functionaries reserved to their election. Each ward would thus be a small republic within itself, and every man in the State would thus become an acting member of the common government, transacting in person a great portion of its rights and duties, subordinate indeed, yet important, and entirely within his competence. The wit of man cannot devise a more solid basis for a free, durable and well administered republic.

Jefferson then laid-out what he hoped a republic might look like. He wanted small wards to divide larger counties. Each of those wards should:

  1. educate its children
  2. provide for its defense
  3. assure peace within its borders
  4. take care of its own poor
  5. build its own roads
  6. hire its own police
  7. elect jurors
  8. vote for representatives

Jefferson envisioned each ward being a republic unto itself, where every man would have a voice, exercising their rights and duties. He saw this as the foundation of republican self-government.

I have to say that if our communities were organized in this way now, we might have less frustration with our government. In the borough that I live in, we have a geographic divide between conservatives — mostly working-class (although some are college-educated) and former military who live on the east end of the borough (sort of like a county) and liberals – mostly university professors and government employees who live on the west side of the borough. These two broad groups are in a tug-of-war with one another, each trying to coerce the other into doing things their way. Would it not be better if we had smaller units where folks with similar ideas could work together to achieve their goals and pretty much ignore adjacent neighborhoods that have divergent goals?

Jefferson himself admitted that this letter was long and rambling (he was 84 years old, after all), so I’m going to make this a two part series.

Jefferson on the Federal Government

What Business is It of Ours?   4 comments

Long-time readers of my blog know that I am a registered non-partisan with conservative leanings who does not consider the Republic Party to be representative of conservative values.

This year’s election is pretty much cinching my belief that political parties in general are not representative of my values and I’m starting to see why my anarchist friends don’t vote.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/18/politics/georgia-delegate-donald-trump-ted-cruz/

So, over on the Republican side, Donald Trump keeps winning the popular vote (WHY? Oh, why, oh, WHY?), but Ted Cruz is starting to pick up delegates because the Republican party regulars understand what a Trump candidacy would do to the Republic Party. All across the media and in half the web sites I visit, people are lamenting that the Republican Party is ignoring the will of the people.

So?

The GOP and the Democratic parties are both private entities that you must be a member to influence. I chose to be a member for one day this year as I did in 2012, as I might not bother in 2020. I expressed my will. But the fact is, I don’t really have to live with the decision the people make. Ultimately, if the GOP disintegrates, it’s no skin off my back. I don’t have ownership in that private entity.

And, neither do most of the Trump voters. From what I can see, he is turning out a lot of brand-new GOP voters. Maybe they were never-voters before or maybe they’re Democrats who crossed over to skew the primaries … I don’t know. What I do know is that these are people who joined the GOP for a specific candidate, not to uphold the values of the Republican Party. Neither Trump nor the GOP reflect my values, but neither does Trump reflect the values of the Republican Party.

The Republican Party is in a civil war right now because after years of being a big-tent coalition, the various factions are trying to become the face of the party. That’s not a bad thing. I’d like to see all political parties cease to exist tomorrow, but I’d settle for them all splintering into tiny fractions so as the dilute their power.

But for now, let’s watch the show. At the moment, the private entity known as the Republican Party sees itself being taken over by a loud and obnoxious movement that would destroy everything the GOP has worked for over the last 100 years, so the party regulars (the people who have ownership in the party) are moving to keep that from happening.

Good for them. They have a right to build and maintain an organization that reflects their values. Their decision to fight this invasion may end the GOP … or it may transform it into something far better. Maybe I can vote GOP in the future with a clear conscience … or maybe not. But it’s not really for me to decide because I am not a Republican … and since many of Trump’s supporters are brand-new to the party, it isn’t really for them to decide either.

While the show is going on, why don’t we take a moment and ask ourselves — and this can be a question for anyone of any political party, but particularly if you normally vote either GOP or Democrat …

Why are we allowing two private organizations to control who we elect as president? Or Congress? Governors? Legislators?

You see, a large part of what is happening is that folks have begun to realize that these private organizations do not have an obligation to do what people on the outskirts of the party want them to do.
I’m seriously thinking of not voting for a party member in November. I could randomly write in someone. I suspect just about anyone could do a better job than Barack Obama has done and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to outperform Hillary Clinton, so ….

Lela Markham is a pen name, so don’t write me in. Maybe write in your own name. Can you imagine the message that would send? 100 million people vote and they each and every one vote for themselves.

Now that’s putting individual liberty back in the driver’s seat!

 

Posted April 18, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

Tagged with , ,

Slavery and the Framers   1 comment

Attacking Our Nation’s Founders

Source: Slavery and the Framers

Posted April 18, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in History

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The End Is Not Near   Leave a comment

I thoroughly agree with this. In my book Life as We Knew It, it takes a nuclear attack to bring us to crisis, but in reality, the weight of our own empire is going to eventually tear us apart … and that’s not a bad thing in the long run. Alaska would certainly be better off if it wasn’t a pretend state of the United States. We’re told we’re not a colony, but we’re not allowed to grow an economy, we have to ask permission of the mother country to sell our resources and we aren’t allowed to pursue our own interests. I’m sure other states feel the same way. Lela

 

The End is Not Near, It has Begun
By Jack Perry
April 15, 2016

I’ve gotten some emails from folks asking my opinion on “How’s it all going to end?” As in, what major crisis is going to finally cause the American Giant to fall down and go boom? Guess what? There won’t be a major crisis that does it. It’s going to be a slow cascade reaction of crisis and disasters. What’s more, it has already begun. We’ve already seen several of these disasters. More are on the way. The end has begun and is upon us.

Source: The End Is Not Near

Trouble for the Empire   Leave a comment

America’s Imperial Overstretch

This week, SU-24 fighter-bombers buzzed a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. The Russian planes carried no missiles or bombs.

Message: What are you Americans doing here?

In the South China Sea, U.S. planes overfly, and U.S. warships sail inside, the territorial limits of islets claimed by Beijing.

In South Korea, U.S. forces conduct annual military exercises as warnings to a North Korea that is testing nuclear warheads and long-range missiles that can reach the United States.

U.S. warships based in Bahrain confront Iranian subs and missile boats in the Gulf. In January, a U.S. Navy skiff ran aground on an Iranian island. Iran let the 10 U.S. sailors go within 24 hours.

But bellicose demands for U.S. retaliation had already begun.

 

Source: Trouble for the Empire

Hated by Merkel, Soros, and Obama   2 comments

Brad and I have been wondering about Hungary because BBC News and DW keep mentioning them, so I finally went in search of something about them. Generally whenever state-owned media call another country “fascist”, I’m skeptical and I found out why. I don’t know enough to say that I believe this article 100%, but my daughter and I both experienced Germany’s idea of “freedom” and came away from the experience appreciating America more, though also more sensitive to the tyranny that seems to be growing here as well.

Source: Hated by Merkel, Soros, and Obama

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