Comments on the Federalist No. 38
By Seth Richardson
June 20, 2010
Craig: Welcome to the debate.
Your point about the immutability of the Constitution is well taken, and I doubt anyone here thinks that way, and certainly the Founders did not, as you state.
Rather, as I have discussed, what we object to is the changing of the foundational precepts of our nation without following the appointed process. The manner in which the People are permitted, and indeed required to make such changes is the amendment process. But what has been happening is a gradual, progressive “mission creep” in which the Constitution is not amended, in the open, after full and fair debate, but rather where it is “interpreted” away, a little bit at a time, through the gradual arrogation of power by our elected representatives. Notice that I do not say “leaders.” This is because they are not supposed to be out leaders, they are supposed to be our representatives. There is a difference.
Insofar as the “mutability” of the Constitution, it has been the agenda of the Progressives, since about 1912, to attack the fundamental concepts of limited government and separation of powers espoused by the Constitution gradually, utilizing wars and crises as the expedient for eroding essential liberty in the name of temporary safety (where have we heard that phrase before?), which is actually not safety at all, but rather enslavement to the State. It’s all been done with the best of intentions, as Progressives are True Believers, and actually believe that they are smarter than the rest of us and that we need to be ruled with a firm hand for our own good. But the evil they perpetrate is no less evil for having good intentions. We all know the destination of the Road of Good Intentions.
What Progressivism denies is immutable founding principles. As stated by Woodrow Wilson, Progressivism rejects any notion that government should be bound by any overarching, enduring, and unalienable principles. Progressivism believes that political society is “perfectible” and that there is an ultimate and “best” form of political rule, and democracy is not it. Nor is adherence to founding principles. Rather it is the expedient needs of the age that must apply.
Progressivism emerged during the Darwinian revolution, when political thinkers and intellectuals of all stripes became so enamored of the principles and processes of evolution that they fell into the trap of moral relativism in thinking that political society is akin to DNA, and that there must be some ultimate perfectability of form, something Darwin himself never, ever proposed.
A Constitutional Republic, however, is founded on the idea that there are immutable and necessary principles upon which all just societies must be based. The Founders knew that there are certain unalienable rights which we are endowed with as a function of our humanity that never change, and that must always be the touchstone and foundation for our society if it is to be just and if it is to endure.
This concept of “endowed rights” that devolve from a “Creator” is an essential component of our system because it places those unalienable rights above the actions or authority of government, of necessity and quite deliberately. The Founders knew full well that rights derived from political society are the subject of political society.
Socialism, or more broadly collectivism is the antithesis of our system of individualism. Collectivism holds that there is no such thing as rights (although it may use the word for expedience of propaganda) but rather all freedoms of action are privileges granted by the political society. The notion is that since the collective is the source of all protection and goods, that the collective is justifiably the arbiter of how those protections and goods may be distributed.
That is most certainly not what the Founders intended. The purpose of proclaiming inherent, unalienable, divinely-granted rights was to forever and immutably remove from the authority of government any power to infringe upon that which the Founders thought essential to the satisfactory existence of free men.
As to your allegation that the Founders were “deists,” I’ll leave it to the experts to debunk this particular canard. Suffice it to say that the Progressive recasting of history has persuaded many people that the Founders were not Godly men, but absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.
What I will say, as a Tolerist, is that this nation is not a secular or atheist nation created by deists or atheists, it’s a nation founded on the idea that there is a Creator, but that we, as a nation, choose to permit everyone to decide for themselves what form that Creator takes for them, and how, or if, every individual chooses to acknowledge that Creator.
This is not a secular or atheist nation, it is a nation founded on the concept of religious PLURALISM, where ALL forms of religious practice are firmly protected by the First Amendment against infringement. The tension of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses is carefully balanced not to deny, suppress or interfere with religion, but to enhance, support and protect it.
The unique construction of the First Amendment is that it imposes significant constraints on government, it tells Congress, and through the 14th Amendment every level of government from the dog catcher to the President what they SHALL NOT DO by way of interfering with religion. No public servant may either advance OR INHIBIT the free exercise of religion in any way.
The “or inhibit” part is extremely important, because while the Establishment Clause purports to erect a wall between government acts and religion, the Free Exercise Clause imposes an affirmative duty on the part of Government to preserve, protect and defend religion and religious freedom in this nation. This aspect of the First Amendment is commonly elided by atheists and has been largely forgotten by the people themselves.
When I say this is a nation of religious pluralism, I mean to say that it is a nation that is firmly founded in religious belief, not atheism. The genius of the Founders is that they knew the evil of founding a political society in any ONE religion, so instead they founded it in every possible form of peaceable exercise of religion that exists, or may come to exist.
Thomas Jefferson said, “Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination. ”
The most basic principle of our nation is that without the right to freely (but peaceably) exercise one’s most fundamental internal beliefs about one’s nature, purpose and reason for existence, which is the very definition of religion (as distinguished from theism), man is not free. Whenever such core beliefs are infringed upon or worship of one set of beliefs and practices over another is mandated by the collective, by society, or by a monarch, the individual is enslaved to the beliefs of others. Without the freedom of conscience, belief, and practice, man is little more than a chattel of his rulers. This the Founders knew all too well, and they were determined to create a new form of society that mandated obedience to the principle of “live and let live” in the matter of personal beliefs and practices.
As Jefferson said, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” He also said, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.” In this he was expressing his liberty to tell posterity that his religious beliefs are none of their business.
Thus, to say that there is a “wall of separation” between church and state is to misstate the truth. In truth, government is set as the guardian of all faiths, and the protector of religious liberty. While it must maintain strict neutrality when it comes to advancing any religion, it must also act to vigorously protect the right to free exercise of religion on behalf of every citizen, because it is the citizens who are sovereign, and it is their liberties that government exists to secure, not it’s own power and control.
As to your assertion that the Founders would like to “re-think this 2nd Amendment thing,” a close examination of the writings of the Founders, and some understanding of the nature of society of the time, and history, will easily debunk this notion.
The right to keep and bear arms is so fundamental to individual liberty and a free society that the Founders would be aghast at the degree of regulation that currently exists.
I will not bother to cite the relevant quotes, space forbids, but there are dozens on precisely this subject, and if you read them it will become clear that the Founders were well aware of the dangers of arms, but they were equally aware of the dangers of an unarmed citizenry, which are far greater than the harms that occur when no man is debarred the use of arms.
This is not the place for a gun control debate, but the Founders were unequivocal in their support for an armed society, because they had just wrenched us free from a long history of societies were the common man was disarmed, and thereby enslaved.
And nothing in history subsequent indicates that the course of tyranny has changed in the slightest when the people are disarmed. The 100 million dead at the hands of Communism ought to be enough proof for anyone of the evils of an unarmed citizenry.
And our great experiment with lawful concealed carry is over, and the results are conclusive. Wherever it is lawful, violent crime rates drop, substantially, and there is no concomitant rise in gun-related deaths, as so often hysterically predicted by hoplophobes. Therefor, there is no possible justification for disarming law-abiding citizens.
Craig, thank you for your input, and I hope I have been able to give you some more information to think about. Please continue to join us on our journey towards knowledge and understanding.