As a historian I find the extreme right wing of the Republican Party provocateurs of the worst sort. In the name of liberty they lie and distort the very words of the Constitution in order to further their goals. In fact some of their arguments more closely resemble the anti-Federalists positions than they do the actual words of the Constitution.
They seek to inflame the passions of the masses through the brain washing of our fellow citizens through talk radio and Fox Television. If you a lie long enough and repeat it enough people will believe the lie.
We are so busy that most of us do not have time to read the original source material to verify what is being said as to its truthfulness and we tend to trust whoever is on television.
The preamble to the Constitution states the following: “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”
Let us analyze some of the words in our preamble. In order to form a more perfect union, means that the prior Union was not as perfect. In fact, the states were being ruled by the Articles of Confederation. They were a failure due to the lack of an ability to tax , have interstate commerce and provide for a common defence. After all, there were three empires who had troops hovering over the former British colonies.
The Constitution was to establish Justice. Justice is not just for some of the people it is for all of us. It is a degree of fairness before the law that many of the former colonists did not experience in former days prior to the establishment of our Constitution. For example, William Penn was tried by the king more than once for same crime. The King was insistent on a jury trying Mr. Penn for the same crime but each time the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Equality is a goal when it comes to Justice. We hope that if we have our day in court; that we will be treated equally and impartially before the law.
Domestic tranquility is to be insured. That means that in situations like the Whiskey Rebellion, Shay’s rebellion or the Civil War, the nation comes first. It is the job of the Federal Government that we do not have sedition, anarchy or a rebellion. This is just common sense for if were to allow such behavior we would at a minimum have less than a nation and each state would therefore be sovereign and independent of each other.
The current conversation being heard these days in certain states about secession, and nullification is dangerous and against the interests of the nation. We fought a bloody Civil War over the notion that state’s rights were more paramount than federal law when slavery was the issue of the day. James Madison the father of the Constitution, lived longer than any of the other founders and spoke to the issue of nullification in his letters and he spoke against the idea of nullification.
But here we are once again hearing the rumblings of discord particularly among followers of the Tea Party. We have checks and balances built into our Republic and the highest court in the land has spoken on the issue of the Affordable Care Act, known by some as Obamacare. That Act is now the law of the land, not just a state here or there but the law, period for all of us. Though some of you may disagree with the law, it is the law never the less.
Once, when the Constitution was written slaves were 3/5 of a human being. Nearly a century later in the Dred Scott case, the court held that slaves were property. The Constitution is a living and breathing document, it has evolved, as we have evolved as a people. We no longer recognize slavery as an institution, but rather we hold that slavery is inhuman and against the very nature of man to hold another man as merely property.
Respect for the law is paramount, for as citizens must hold our laws in respect or else we are finished as a people. Society requires this respect or else anarchy would reign supreme.
The Constitution states that our government must provide for the common defense.
Some people choose to ignore the next phrase, and that is the government, our government is to promote the general welfare. Don’t take my word for it, read it. Now let us listen to the words of Madison in Federalist #10 which goes a long ways in defining what that phrase means.
In Federalist 10, Madison speaks to his concerns regarding the failure of prior Republics and he talks about factionalism as being the root cause. To me that speaks to our problems today regarding excessive partisanship. He speaks to the responsibility of government by saying the following: “But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those are the creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide themselves into classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”
But today we hear from some quarters that it is all about the individual and not the general welfare. There is a clause in the Constitution that also speaks to the general welfare, and that is the part where it talks about the responsibilities of Congress. It is called the Necessary and Proper Clause which you will find in Article I, Section 8. There instead of using the word promote, the founders used the word provide for the common Defense and general welfare.
It does not speak to the general welfare of just the wealthy and propertied but for the general welfare of all.
The Constitution’s preamble then promises to secure the blessings of liberty. Each day we still work to insure our rights for it is a continuing struggle and there are those who would take away the rights of some to the benefit of others.
As Madison wisely noted , factionalism brings with it animosities and that it divides mankind. Passions can very well inflame and excite violent conflicts. This is why we have to and I mean all of us, true patriots, not just sunshine patriots, fight to keep our nation together and to quiet the hot rhetoric that we hear from the Tea Party and their leaders who would seek to divide us.
As Ben Franklin so simply put it when a woman came up to him upon the close of the Constitutional Convention and asked, what do we have Mr. Franklin and he responded by saying a Republic if we can keep it.
It is up to the majority of us to keep the flame of liberty alive and still the waters of discontent and mischief.