Students at a San Francisco High School want to remove George Washington paintings from their hallways, claiming that they are cultural vestiges of America’s racist past. According to those in support of removing the artwork, these portraits can no longer be accepted in “Modern America” as they are “highly offensive” to minorities, especially Native Americans and African Americans.
By Jack Parkos | United States
The founding fathers of our nation gave us plenty of advice on how to run the country they formed. They warned us on many threats to liberty, explaining how to prevent a tyrannical government from growing. Unfortunately, America did not listen to the advice. Our government has grown tyrannical and our liberties are waning daily. The founders knew how easily this could happen and did all they could to prepare us. Frankly, we failed them.
Warnings on Factions
It seems sometimes that many of the founders predicted the future of America. James Madison, in particular, seemed to have this power. The former president warned us of many things in his writings and philosophy, most notably mob rule. In the Federalist Papers, Madison strongly criticized democracy and urged for a constitutional republic. He clearly feared factions growing in America. The essays warned how mob rule would be a threat to the liberty, outlining the fears that factions would only lead to groups pursuing interests that ran opposed to freedom.
Washington, the only president in our history without a political party, expanded on this idea. In his farewell address, he warned about the dangers of political parties and how they could lead to despotism. No one listened to his warning: not even the other founding fathers. This led to many disputes throughout history and continues to be a major issue today.
Words Against War
Once again, Madison came in with some great advice that most people ignored. He clearly warned that wars were a threat to liberty, going so far as saying:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.
Madison knew how when a nation is in constant warfare, liberty is in danger. War also has the ability to create more enemies for the people that only will cause more tension and conflict in the future. The founders would not have cared about wars in Yemen: they would have safeguarded American liberty first.
Limiting the Federal Government
The federal government was supposed to be limited in what powers it had. Its main goal was to unify the states and prevent European dominance from ruining the American experiment. The federal government, however, has grown to such great lengths that the founders may not have been able to even conceive. In fact, by modern standards, even old George was a very modest tyrant, whose demands of the people were far more reasonable than those of the American government today.
One justification for such growth of government was the “General Welfare” clause. Basically, politicians believed their unconstitutional practices were acceptable, as long as they were intended to help the general welfare of the public. Once more, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, rebukes this:
If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury, they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post roads. In short, every thing, from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.
James Madison explicitly states that “general welfare” does not mean the federal government can do whatever it wants. Roads, education, and law enforcement are of no business of the government. Madison warned how officials could use this clause, but the people ignored him.
Consequences of Ignoring the Founders
The above stated are not the only examples of wisdom we ignored, but they are ones that have a big impact on modern-day America.
Partisanship has only grown, to the point where our system exactly matches what Washington warned against. As a result, elected officials are putting party over country, Constitution, and liberty. Tribalism is also spiking. Mob mentality has taken over politics and law. Public opinion, rather than clear examination, is the new grounds for looking at the Constitution. If a large majority believes in a false interpretation of the Constitution, it will change and liberties will die. This is what the founders warned about: people using politics for their pursuits and sacrificing important liberties in the process.
The United States has never listened to Madison’s wisdom on war and its negative impact on liberty. In fact, it is hard to think of a time that America has not been at war. In recent years, we have been in continuous wars in the Middle East. These have led to numerous deaths, and for the survivors, more debt and fewer freedoms. We have not been able to preserve liberty throughout the wars, just like Madison stated.
Perhaps we need to stop waiting for a new revolutionary idea or leader to come about to fix our country. We can look to the past to our country’s founding to save our liberty and our prosperity.
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By Jack Parkos | United States
In my previous article, I talked about the Gadsden flag. I have the Gadsden Flag and the First Navy Jack Flag. Since then, I decided to start a collection of Early American Flags. The most recent addition to my collection is the Flag of The Whiskey Rebellion.
It got me thinking, how many people actually know about the Whiskey Rebellion? I asked a sampling of random people, and only 20% knew what the flag was. Some people remember hearing the name in high school but knew nothing about it. The majority of people don’t know the historical event the flag seeks to immortalize. Some may argue this is the most important event in early America, as several things came out of it.
The Whiskey Rebellion was a tax protest by farmers and distillers from 1791-1794. The tax was introduced by Alexander Hamilton. After the revolution, many states were in major debt Hamilton had the Federal Government take on all the debt and to pay off the debt, he proposed a tax on whiskey. Thomas Jefferson and the anti-federalists opposed the tax. However, Congress still passed this tax, making it the first tax imposed on a domestic product.
However, this tax was very unfair to small farmers and distillers, for the large producers got taxed less per gallon. So the government gave bigger producers the advantage over the smaller guy (sound familiar?). This angered both farmers and whiskey distillers. With the spirit of the American Revolution and this anger, the defiance began.
Some congressmen tried to appeal to protestors by enacting a very minor reduction on the tax. But the protesters were not satisfied; people refused to pay these taxes and often intimidated tax collectors. The angry mob would feather the tax collectors, often forcing them to resign out of fear of further violence. Robert Johnson, who was tarred and feathered, reported them, but the man who later delivered the court warrants was also tarred and feathered.
The violence against tax collectors continued. With some having there homes burned down by the mob. The protesters believed they were fighting for the principles of the American Revolution, No taxation without (local) Representation. On the other side, the Federalists argued it was a fair and legal tax by congress. Whoever is right, is up to your own opinion.
But President Washington, who was originally opposed to the tax, faced a bigger problem than politics: the mob had been burned down houses and participated in violent protest and property destruction. A rebel army had been raised. Washington wanted peace, while Hamilton wanted to send men into Pennsylvania. When peace failed, Washington gathered and led 12,000 men in a state militia into Western Pennsylvania. There was no rebel army, so suspected rebels were gathered and tried for treason. Two men were found guilty of treason, but both were pardoned by Washington. While the law remained, the tax was still evaded, but most violence stopped. The tax remained law until Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson, who opposed Hamilton’s taxes, repealed it in 1802.
This is a big event in American history. It showed that the United States Federal Government was legitimate in it’s authority to pass and enforce laws. This event contributed to the formation of the first two political parties in America. People who had been Anti-Federalist started voting for Democratic-Republicans and accepted the Constitution. The Federalists also started to be more accepting in First Amendment rights.
This event raised the question. “Was the violent rebellion a legitament form of resistance under the new constitution?” The Whiskey Rebels believed they were fighting under the same principles as the revolution and that people had the right to challenge the government, even if in extreme ways . The Federalists believed that because the new government was by the people that such methods were no longer needed. This question, raised by the Whiskey Rebellion is a very important one to understand.
The Whiskey Rebellion changed America. It was more than a bunch of riots. It caused a lot of people to think, it caused political tension, and lots of change to American Politics.
By Andrew Lepore | USA
Were the founding fathers of the United States Libertarians? We who prescribe to the ideology often find ourselves placing heavy emphasis on historical examples from the early republic, and quoting names like George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine. But how libertarian really were those figures, and do policies of the time truly reflect the libertarian bastion which many proclaim the early Republic to be?
Firstly for convenience sake, we will simply define “libertarian” as minarchist with the only real role of government being to protect life liberty and property, with virtually no interference by the state in markets or the economy. As well as a non-interventionist foreign policy. We will be using this as the ideal definition of libertarian, comparing this ideal to how well the founders (and the founding) matchup in philosophy and policy. Both advocates and critics of libertarianism have taken to the internet with claims such as “The founding fathers were libertarians” from the Ron Paul Institute, and “No, the founders were not libertarians” from The Federalist. Both of these titles are misleading and point to a simple black and white conclusion. Are those at the Ron Paul Institute saying all of the founders’ policies lined up with “Libertarianism”? And are those at The federalist saying the founders were in no way libertarian as if they were describing Mao Zedong? The question both of these publications should be asking is how libertarian were the founders? Even that question, which is the question of the day here, can be misleading. People may define libertarianism differently. Also as there were many founders with a variety of beliefs,: and how often they acted on those beliefs when it came to policy is another question. Of course, any analysis of this type requires some degree of simplification and subjectivity, it’s important to keep these variables in mind.
The truth of our founding is that it cannot be perfectly classified or lineated into one single ideology. Although that does not mean that the founders were not libertarian, or that libertarianism and the founding aren’t rooted in similar viewpoints. Truthfully, we haven’t seen a more libertarian government in the history of man, but the founding was far from perfectly libertarian as one would suspect. The strongest correlation between the two is the ideological foundation of both, which is strict adherence to the natural law of man, or Lockean philosophy. The natural law of man states that there are certain inalienable rights which are inherent in human nature, endowed by our creator. This language can be found most notably in the declaration of independence where Thomas Jefferson quotes
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
To me and other libertarians, there isn’t a word in this statement we don’t agree with. If anything it could be the introduction to the libertarian party platform. Us libertarians agree fully with these natural rights and believe protecting them is government’s sole purpose. But although the founders believed in a strictly limited government they did not make it abundantly clear that this was the only role of government. The tariff act of 1789, the Alien and Sedition acts of 1798, the adherence of slavery, and the ability of states to violate the natural rights of its citizens, among other things, are contradictory and show that the state could get away with doing much more than just protecting life liberty and property. This is where the founders delineate themselves from pure libertarianism, and also I believe to be the reason for the growth of the small government which our founders created, into the oppressive corporate monolith we live under today.
In conclusion, the framework with which our country was founded on is the same framework of libertarian Ideology. The adherence to the natural law of man. Though the two have much in common, the two are not mutually exclusive. Although the founders were not by any means pure blood libertarians, they were quite libertarian indeed.