Monday, January 07, 2008

Could Our Founders Get Elected in 2008?

In the mid 60's my parents took me to a campaign rally for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. I don't remember what Nixon said at the speech, I was only nine years old, but I do remember the enthusiasm and excitement of the crowd.

As I grew older the memories of that event slipped back into the abyss of my mind, and only in the not so distant past did it rise back up to the surface. Although I do not share the same enthusiasm for the election process, certain sentiments still exist. I am, at the same time, both hopeful and resigned to the fact that our election process has become corrupted. I find it interesting to watch the process of who this country chooses to be its next president, while at the same time I am amazed at how easily fooled and ignorant the public is when it comes to the contenders for the office of President of the United States.

I would not call myself a scholar, instead I consider myself a collector, of quotes by our founding fathers. These men were the ones who made the choice to seek independence from Britain. They were the ones who penned the great documents which gave rise to the nation we live in today. It is upon their wisdom regarding affairs of our government that I rely upon most for inspiration and guidance.

With the 2007 presidential campaign in full swing and the Iowa caucus already behind us, I often wonder if George Washington or Thomas Jefferson were alive today, could they get elected as president, or even obtain their parties nomination. In the politically correct society we live in today would their words and thoughts be acceptable to the people of this country? How many special interest groups, advocacy groups, or demographic designators would they offend with the opinions they held?

I wonder, how would the Million Mom Marchers react to Washington and Jefferson in regards to gun control? The Million Mom Marchers want to childproof all guns and enact sensible gun control laws. They claim that the availability of guns make death or severe injury more likely in domestic violence, criminal activity, suicide attempts, and unintentional shootings..

Gee whiz, didn't Theodore Roosevelt once say. "A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user." Getting back to Washington and Jefferson, I wonder how well the following would be accepted by society today, particularly by those who favor strict gun control legislation?

George Washington once said, " Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence. To secure peace, securely and happiness, the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that is good." Washington also said, "A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government."

Isn't that interesting. The very first president of these United States felt that everyone should be armed and disciplined. I don't know of any federally mandated firearms training classes for our youth.

I wonder what Jefferson had to say about firearms? Jefferson is quoted as saying "No free man shall ever be de-barred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

Jefferson, in a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, wrote the following, "A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore by the constant companion of your walks. "

In 1818, Jefferson submitted a report to the Commissioners of the University of Virginia in which he stated, "the manual exercise, military maneuvers, and tactics generally, should be the frequent exercise of the students, in their hours of recreation."

I find that interesting because as a child we used to play war with toy guns. We used cap guns, guns that shot suction cup darts, and even homemade rifles that shot rubber bands. Parents these days would be outraged if their kids did that. The very thought of someone getting their eye poked out the projectile fired by a toy gun is too much for them to handle. I think on the issue of gun control, Washington and Jefferson would not pass muster in the Million Mom Marchers quest for gun free zones and child proof firearms.

The possession of firearms are not the only area where Washington and Jefferson may have run into problems with their viewpoints. I wonder how well their views on morality would be accepted considering the shenanigans that go on in our nations capital?

Did not Jefferson once say, “Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction.” Jefferson went even further by saying this, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Then, of course, there was the following by George Washington, Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” If that wasn’t clear enough, Washington also said, Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”

So in today’s political climate, where sexual trysts with interns and congressional pages, it looks to me like the views on morality which were held in such high esteem would be considered old fashioned and outdated, disqualifying these two men from the office they once held.

Next, what about the role of government itself. How did these two founding fathers feel about what the duties of our government were to be?

In regards to war, George Washington felt that it was clearly enough defined in the Constitution, “The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”

In regards to legislation which might violate certain aspects of that Constitution, Washington had this to say, “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”

Jefferson was quite outspoken on the role of government. With our national debt standing over $9 trillion now, I am sure Jefferson would feel that we have not heeded his warning that, “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude.”

As to the duties of government, Jefferson might have run into problems with those who receive massive government subsidies when he said that “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” For those who rely upon the government to control their daily lives, Jefferson had this to say, “"If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny." On the subject of taxation, Jefferson felt that “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

Finally, on the right of the people to oppose the policies of their government, how did these two former presidents feel? George Washington felt that “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” He also stated that “The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”

Jefferson couldn’t have spoken in clearer terms when he said, “What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

In review, we have two men who believed that the people should be well armed and disciplined in the use of those arms. They believed that it was not the job of the government to micromanage our lives by endless regulations and legislations. They believed that we should be of high moral character. And finally they felt that the people had the right to openly revolt if our government became too big for its britches.

It looks like neither of these two former presidents had what it takes to get elected in the political climate we live in today. However it would have been very interesting to see them debate the current crop of candidates on both sides of the political aisle. If Congressman Ron Paul, who is campaigning on a platform of strict adherence to the Constitution is being blacklisted by the news media and made fun of by the other candidates, I wonder what would be the treatment they doled out if George Washington or Thomas Jefferson were to be running for President in 2007? Makes you wonder if this country is on the continued path of liberty, or the path to tyranny that our founders warned us of. Food for thought anyways.

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