Monday, August 9, 2010

The Founding Fathers' Vision

After six years of dragging out a war that was ended at last by foreign help, and six more years of confusion and discouragement, when Washington no longer had even as much hope as he had felt at Valley Forge, they made one last effort to save the Revolution, and wrote the Federal Constitution.

With sound common sense, they did not debate it publicly.

They opened the convention by shutting its doors and pledging their honor to keep their discussion secret. That handful of veterans, and the assembly of young men in their thirties, were hard-headed realists. They knew that nothing but rockbottom honesty and plain speaking could save the existence of the Revolution and no public man but Thomas Paine had ever risked telling the truth in public.

They had no fantastic faith in The People; no more notion of consulting or obeying public opinion than Wilbur Wright had when he was trying to invent an airplane. They knew that every man's real responsibility is to his own moral standard.

As Washington realistically said, "If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterward defend it? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and just can repair. The event is in the hand of God."

For weeks they struggled, with argument and compromise and bargain, to construct a new kind of Government. They disagreed so profoundly that the job seemed impossible; they adjourned for three days, agreeing to spend that time not with their supporters, but in the company of their opponents.

The Constitution was not their ideal; it was the practical best that they could get. It was a compromise, it was an effort.

It was a desperate hope.

Then they went out and fought, for two years more, with every political weapon they had, against the powerful pressure group that was demanding the one-man responsibility of monarchy.

They fought, with argument, with speeches, with appeals to logic and justice and common sense, with pamphlets and newspapers and books, and political deals, with every weapon they had they fought against the rioting mobs that were demanding democracy, the majority-rule that always creates an irresponsible tyrant.

And when they won, when they got nine States to accept the Constitution as amended with ten additional prohibitions of Government, when at least they had saved the existence of the Revolution through that crisis, Jefferson could only say that they had done the best they could do.

The future, he said, must show the results. Whatever the results might be, they depended upon individuals, since every individual is self-governing.

American Constitutional Government is now the oldest existing Government. It is the only form of Government now on earth that has been flexible enough, well enough adjusted to reality, to survive the strains of one century and a half.

All other Governments have been shattered during that time, either by war or by the conflict between human energy and the Government's coercive force.

The men who invented this kind of Government were not enthusiasts. They worked out no plan for a better world; they had no illusions and no dreams of any Utopia. You can see their realism in the Constitutions they wrote. They designed the Federal Constitution with the firm intention of preventing any man in public office from using Government's monopoly of force, to seize, torture and arbitrarily kill ordinary Americans.

(Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great selections by the way. I am almost halfway through, and it is a keeper!