Mandeville, LA – I have with great energy read and re-read Prof. Clyde Wilson’s essays available online. Essays that move the real freedom loving journeyman to action in words and deeds. In this excerpt from the Nov., 2011 issue of Chronicles Magazine (a great mag to subscribe to!) Prof. Wilson lays out the best case for what the American Revolution produced I have ever read. One cannot help but feel compelled to run or gallop to the local, burst the doors open and yell “the Fedcoats are coming, the Fedcoats are coming” and then begin the manly task of recruiting militia and pamphleteers to abate the attack. Please share this article with everyone you know. Beseech them to resist forwarding Obama’s latest birth certificate or the “How to stop Agenda 21 for Dummies” guide, they will not save republicanism. Understanding, believing and living as [r]epublicans is the true “last, best hope of Earth” this essay will inspire anyone to that calling. – Mike Church
A Little Rebellion
by Clyde N. Wilson • November 3, 2011, Chronicles
EXCERPTED, The full article is here.
My point is illuminated by the argument between John Adams in his A Defense of the Constitutions of the United States and John Taylor of Caroline, the systematic philosopher of Jeffersonian democracy, in his Construction Construed, and Constitutions Vindicated. Adams’ view of history was that the popular majority always had a tendency to envy the wealth of its betters and use the government to appropriate it, and that this tendency was the chief source of destruction of a free regime.
He hoped to avoid the subversion of American republicanism by various devices that would dilute and delay an unwise popular majority: a bicameral legislature with an upper house remote from popular opinion, an executive veto, and an independent judiciary. All Adams’ devices have catastrophically failed to limit government and to preserve freedom, as Taylor plainly predicted.
For Taylor, Adams had got his history wrong. The people, in a society like that of Americans, were not dangerous. Most of the time they went quietly about their own business and demanded nothing—unless they were intolerably provoked by abuses of government. It was the “court party” that was the enemy of liberty and that would subvert the free commonwealth. History showed that there were always self-seeking minorities, would-be elites, ready to use the machinery of government to live off the labor of the majority. Sometimes this was done by force, and sometimes by fraud, as in the Hamiltonian maxim “a public debt is a public blessing.” The remedy was not to erect artificial “checks and balances” but to make sure power was widely dispersed, limited, and amenable to recall.
The Jeffersonian Constitution has been misrepresented as much as or more than Jeffersonian philosophy. It was not “strict construction,” a nonstarter, nor even states’ rights. It was state sovereignty. Jefferson (and Madison, too) may be quoted ad infinitum to this effect. The Virginia and Kentucky documents of 1798-1800 spell out beyond any doubt that the final defense of freedom in the American system is the people acting in their only constitution-making identity, that of their sovereign states. The states were the legitimate and peaceful resort to protect the liberties of their citizens and themselves as communities from federal encroachment.
Years after leaving the White House, Jefferson writes to an inquisitive foreigner,
“But the true barriers of our liberty in this country are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed. Seventeen distinct States, amalgamated into one as to their foreign concerns, but single and independent as to their internal administration.”
In the last months of his life Jefferson suggested to influential Virginians that it was time once again to consider interposing the sovereignty of the state against unconstitutional federal legislation. Never for a day in his life did Jefferson doubt that the people of a state could exercise their sovereignty by leaving the Union, though it was not something to be encouraged rashly. He rather expected that the expanding country would break up into two or more confederacies. That was fine, if it was what the people wanted. Americans were rightly joined together by fellow feeling—shared blood and sacrifice—not by the armed force of Washington City.
Commentators have twisted themselves into incredible acrobatic postures and wholesaled semiplausible lies to assert that Jefferson did not really mean the plain language of what he said. Others have “explained” that Jeffersonian states’ rights was only a temporary and expedient device to defend liberty, a device now made unnecessary by the establishment of the American Civil Liberties Union. They miss the point, unwelcome to all adherents of elitist agendas and centralized power—for Jefferson, individual liberty and state sovereignty were indivisible. Properly rebellious free men defended themselves and their communities from Leviathan.”