Wednesday, May 17, 2006

John Adams, Defence of the Constitutions....

John Adams, Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States
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1787 Works 6:6--8, 114, 116--17
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Marchamont Nedham lays it down as a fundamental principle and an undeniable rule, "That the people, (that is, such as shall be successively chosen to represent the people,) are the best keepers of their own liberties, and that for many reasons. First, because they never think of usurping over other men's rights, but mind which way to preserve their own."
Our first attention should be turned to the proposition itself,--"The people are the best keepers of their own liberties."
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But who are the people?
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"Such as shall be successively chosen to represent them."
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Here is a confusion both of words and ideas, which, though it may pass with the generality of readers in a fugitive pamphlet, or with a majority of auditors in a popular harangue, ought, for that very reason, to be as carefully avoided in politics as it is in philosophy or mathematics. If by the people is meant the whole body of a great nation, it should never be forgotten, that they can never act, consult, or reason together, because they cannot march five hundred miles, nor spare the time, nor find a space to meet; and, therefore, the proposition, that they are the best keepers of their own liberties, is not true. They are the worst conceivable; they are no keepers at all. They can neither act, judge, think or will, as a body politic or corporation. If by the people is meant all the inhabitants of a single city, they are not in a general assembly, at all times, the best keepers of their own liberties, nor perhaps at any time, unless you separate from them the executive and judicial power, and temper their authority in legislation with the maturer counsels of the one and the few. If it is meant by the people, as our author explains himself, a representative assembly, "such as shall be successively chosen to represent the people," still they are not the best keepers of the people's liberties or their own, if you give them all the power, legislative, executive, and judicial. They would invade the liberties of the people, at least the majority of them would invade the liberties of the minority, sooner and oftener than an absolute monarchy, such as that of France, Spain, or Russia, or than a well-checked aristocracy, like Venice, Bern, or Holland.
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An excellent writer has said, somewhat incautiously, that "a people will never oppress themselves, or invade their own rights." This compliment, if applied to human nature, or to mankind, or to any nation or people in being or in memory, is more than has been merited. If it should be admitted that a people will not unanimously agree to oppress themselves, it is as much as is ever, and more than is always, true. All kinds of experience show, that great numbers of individuals do oppress great numbers of other individuals; that parties often, if not always, oppress other parties, and majorities almost universally minorities. All that this observation can mean then, consistently with any color of fact, is, that the people will never unanimously agree to oppress themselves. But if one party agrees to oppress another, or the majority the minority, the people still oppress themselves, for one part of them oppress another.
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"The people never think of usurping over other men's rights."
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What can this mean? Does it mean that the people never unanimously think of usurping over other men's rights? This would be trifling; for there would, by the supposition, be no other men's rights to usurp. But if the people never, jointly nor severally, think of usurping the rights of others, what occasion can there be for any government at all? Are there no robberies, burglaries, murders, adulteries, thefts, nor cheats? Is not every crime a usurpation over other men's rights? Is not a great part, I will not say the greatest part, of men detected every day in some disposition or other, stronger or weaker, more or less, to usurp over other men's rights? There are some few, indeed, whose whole lives and conversations show that, in every thought, word, and action, they conscientiously respect the rights of others. There is a larger body still, who, in the general tenor of their thoughts and actions, discover similar principles and feelings, yet frequently err. If we should extend our candor so far as to own, that the majority of men are generally under the dominion of benevolence and good intentions, yet, it must be confessed, that a vast majority frequently transgress; and, what is more directly to the point, not only a majority, but almost all, confine their benevolence to their families, relations, personal friends, parish, village, city, county, province, and that very few, indeed, extend it impartially to the whole community. Now, grant but this truth, and the question is decided. If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest, or that of their families, counties, and party, to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations.
The proposition of our author, then, should be reversed, and it should have been said, that they mind so much their own, that they never think enough of others.
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We concur also most sincerely in our author's conclusion, in part, namely,----That since kings and all standing powers are so inclinable to act according to their own wills and interests, in making, expounding, and executing of laws, to the prejudice of the people's liberty and security, no laws whatsoever should be made but by the people's consent, as the only means to prevent arbitrariness." But we must carry the conclusion farther, namely,--that since all men are so inclinable to act according to their own wills and interests, in making, expounding, and executing laws, to the prejudice of the people's liberty and security, the sovereign authority, the legislative, executive, and judicial power, can never be safely lodged in one assembly, though chosen annually by the people; because the majority and their leaders, the principes populi, will as certainly oppress the minority, and make, expound, and execute laws for their own wealth, power, grandeur, and glory, to the prejudice of the liberty and security of the minority, as hereditary kings or standing senates.
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The conclusion, therefore, that "the people, in a succession of their supreme single assemblies, are the best keepers of their liberties," must be wholly reprobated.
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It is indeed a "most excellent maxim, that the original and fountain of all just power and government is in the people;" and if ever this maxim was fully demonstrated and exemplified among men, it was in the late American Revolution, where thirteen governments were taken down from the foundation, and new ones elected wholly by the people, as an architect would pull down an old building and erect a new one. There will be no dispute, then, with Cicero, when he says, "A mind well instructed by the light of nature, will pay obedience," willingly "to none but such as command, direct, or govern for its good or benefit;" nor will our author's inferences from these passages from that oracle of human wisdom be denied:
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"1. That by the light of nature people are taught to be their own carvers and contrivers in the framing of that government under which they mean to live.
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"2. That none are to preside in government, or sit at the helm, but such as shall be judged fit, and chosen by the people.
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"3. That the people are the only proper judges of the convenience or inconvenience of a government when it is erected, and of the behavior of governors after they are chosen."
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But then it is insisted, that rational and regular means shall be used that the whole people may be their own carvers, that they may judge and choose who shall preside, and that they may determine on the convenience or inconvenience of government, and the behavior of governors. But then it is insisted, that the town of Berwick upon Tweed shall not carve, judge, choose, and determine for the whole kingdom of Great Britain, nor the county of Berkshire for the Massachusetts; much less that a lawless tyrannical rabble shall do all this for the state, or even for the county of Berkshire.
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It may be, and is admitted, that a free government is most natural, and only suitable to the reason of mankind; but it by no means follows "that the other forms, as of a standing power in the hands of a particular person, as a king; or of a set number of great ones, as in a senate," much less that a mixture of the three simple forms "are beside the dictates of nature, and mere artificial devices of great men, squared out only to serve the ends and interests of avarice, pride, and ambition of a few, to a vassalizing of the community." If the original and fountain of all power and government is in the people, as undoubtedly it is, the people have as clear a right to erect a simple monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, or an equal mixture, or any other mixture of all three, if they judge it for their liberty, happiness, and prosperity, as they have to erect a democracy; and infinitely greater and better men than Marchamont Nedham, and the wisest nations that ever lived, have preferred such mixtures, and even with such standing powers as ingredients in their compositions. But even those nations who choose to reserve in their own hands the periodical choice of the first magistrate, senate, and assembly, at certain stated periods, have as clear a right to appoint a first magistrate for life as for years, and for perpetuity in his descendants as for life.
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When I say for perpetuity or for life, it is always meant to imply, that the same people have at all times a right to interpose, and to depose for maladministration--to appoint anew. No appointment of a king or senate, or any standing power, can be, in the nature of things, for a longer period than quam diu se bene gesserit, the whole nation being judge. An appointment for life or perpetuity can be no more than an appointment until further order; but further order can only be given by the nation.
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Can think of quite a few of our politicians that need to study this writing. As it is quite evident, or should be, that there has been much lost in transition. So much so, that even the President of the United States frequently calls us a ‘democracy’, and that we are ‘spreading democracy’. Thought it was spelled out quite clearly in the Federalist Papers, that our nation is a Constitutional Republic!
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In the Federalist Papers, it is spelled out quite clearly, that We The People are the Legitimate and the Ultimate Authority. As well as the Natural Guardian’s of the Constitution. And, because of the fact, that we are indeed a Constitutional Republic, there are certain absolutes that cannot be changed. Regardless of how many people desire the change. Unless, of course, the whole body of the people were to decide to alter the present form of Constitutional Republican government. But, until such point and time, the Constitution is binding upon all.
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The perfect case in point, would be that of Rights. Our Rights were clearly declared to be inviolable and unalienable. And yet politicians, judges, majorities of the people voting, have trampled upon our Rights repeatedly. How can this possibly be happening in a Constitutional Republic? The answer is simple, our public servants have and are continuing to betray us at all levels of government. And this perversion must cease.
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Elections coming up in 2006 and 2008. Vote every last politician out of office that has advanced in any manner against our Rights. When the new representatives get in office, have them thoroughly purge all branches and agencies of government. Any agency that is not provided for in the Constitution should be disassembled. Any judge that has ruled in a Constitutionally Repugnant manner gets impeached.
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We are, after all, talking about our own and future generations Freedom and Liberty. Or, should we just stand idly by watching, while the remainder is perverted and subverted as well?

4 comments:

Jared McLaughlin said...

I think that we were duly warned of this situation. I am sure you remember that Franklin gave the warning, "You have a republic, if you can keep it." Then I note that in his opinions on education, Jefferson was adamant in his inclination that education was necessary to the preservation of the Republic. Where other thinkers have noted, "attribute not to malice what can be attributed to ignorance", I feel that it may a combination of the two. We may find that the necessary solution has been in front of us for many years, but we have not grasped it. The key is education.

One of my personal maxims is, "Do not lament a situation unless you too present a fitting solution." Having implicitly lamented the state of our Republic, and noted my thought that the chief cause of the problem is education, I herein provide my proposed solution: Education ought to be within the oversight of those who pay for it, namely the citizens. Those citizens ought to be polled from, in a form much like jury duty, to oversee from time to time the affairs of education. We can identify easily those that would form the population to select from; those that have identified themselves as paying the school tax. This solution may give more direct involvement in the process of educating our youthful members to the elder members of their community. Such a duty, as I have found with most duties, gives a moment for reflection, and in this reflection I would hope that the members thus selected would be inclined to take seriously their duty. I feel this is conformable to the ends and means of a Republican form of government, and a positive measure which can be easily enacted that would be of value to our nation.

Having addressed the education of our younger members, I note that if the problem is with those currently in power, then the control lays with those currently voting for them. The above solution only fits for the future preservation of the Republic. To the ends of educating other citizens of majority, we ought do as we are, and our forefathers did. They published for the widest audience their thoughts and reasoning for the founding form of our government. They discussed it ardently in letters with their peers. I say that we should exercise the right protected by the First Adendment to protect all the other rights which are ours by birth. As in times of great distress we would band together and form citizen militias, we must now come together to speak our words with the loudest voice. As we would need modern arms to resist with violence, we must use modern means to resist with words. With so many words I have said, I think we have a part of the solution already, and need to sustain the effort. I note a growing number is not standing by watching, and recommend that we continue to join together in speaking the truth of the virtues of our republican form of government.

E. David Quammen said...

Jared,

Precisely! Very much enjoy and agree with the commentary I've witnessed from you! You have a way with words that is enviable. Agreed on all the above points. Have exclusively devoted the last 9 months of my life to sounding the alarm. That is how much Im devoted and determined that We The People do not acquiesce to the evil being perpetrated.

Have approached the problem from a number of different angles. In the hopes of touching as many as possible. In addition to the five Blogs and the website. Have articles published on the Free Market News Network and Keep and Bear Arms.

The key, for sure, is education. And as Mr. Samuel Adams pointed out;

"It doesn't require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires to people's minds."

As well as what Jefferson stated;

"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion."

Tis a definate battle we are in. And unity, as well as purpose and resolve are necessary in order to prevail. A prevailing thought is that if we enlighten people to the True nature of the Freedom and Liberty bestowed upon us. The desire to recapture, and maintain it, will gather momentum
on its own power.

Let's set some 'brush fire's in people's minds', shall we?

Jared McLaughlin said...

I thank you for your kind comments on my use of language. I have cultivated it in the dark for some years, much like a mushroom. I find now that it is necessary to speak, even if my words are not perfect, my arguments not complete, my form not notable. I have had the personal experience of a people on the verge of liberty, and have felt for their cause. I have also found myself in frustration at their apparent lack of comprehension of what a gift they have been handed.

The people of Mesopotamia are beginning to awaken and see what the new light of day has brought them. It occured to me that if they all took hold of their new liberty, or even a small enough group familiar with the ideas of liberty would say it loudy enough for all their neighbors to hear, they could have a nation that is the pride of that area, and a beacon to all who would seek liberty.

I then returned to the land of the free, and the home of the brave to the stark realization that we were not partaking of liberty even to the extent of my friends near the Tigris River in some manners. Namely, all male citizens have arms. It does not make sense to me that a nation still struggling for liberty ought to have more freedoms than a nation who ought to already be secure in its liberty. I put myself in the position of that hypothetical patriot of Iraq, and endeavored to do the things I thought he ought to in order to secure the blessings of liberty.

I tend to drink from the same well of knowledge as you do, and have sustained myself on some of your work, but I find that the result of my experiences seeing a new free nation emerge from the dust of a brutal dictatorship has invigorated me to a degree that I may speak at times from personal convinction. The good people of Iraq were only ruled over because enough them would not rise to the occasion. This process happened to them in bits and pieces. I would not see the same thing happen here within my lifetime, or within that of my successive progeny if I can help it.

It has been a pleasure to communicate more directly with you. We may find it to great advantage to come together more often.

E. David Quammen said...

It must have been awe inspiring to be in the birthplace of civilization. You touch on a subject that 'lit my fire' as well, a while back. I to noticed how the people of Mesopotamia are enjoying a truer sense of Freedom than we. And admittedly it caused me a little envy.

Have a few people from the region that come to the blog and website.
And it raises my spirit that there are those still hungering for Freedom. That is one of the reasons I try to place heavy emphasis upon the Foundation principles. What better place to restart, than on the TRUE basis where it all began?

Please stay in touch and let us work together to help enlighten our fellow citizens and others to the cause of True Freedom.

Just started a post on http://amendmentii.blogspot.com/
that is working exclusively towards gaining our Right(s) back fully. Would be very happy to have you aboard!