A few thoughts by Bill Golden
“In questions of power,
let no more be heard of confidence in men,
but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution”
— Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions, 1798
The Founders were fairly smart guys … although truth be told: most were braver than they were thinkers. The thinkers could be counted on both hands with a few fingers left over. And most spoke great words but were pragmatists with self-interest in their hearts when they woke up or went to bed each day.
Among the thinkers — those that gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence — they were ultimately human and usually had their own dark side. My point being that government is what it is and the good ol’days were not necessarily better … we tend to remember the good and forget the other stuff.
Jefferson was right “in questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution” … but Jefferson himself has been accused of pushing the boundaries of executive power within the Constitution, and probably crossing those boundaries.
“It is incumbent on those who accept great charges
to risk themselves on great occasions.”
— Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Colvin, 1810
where Jefferson anguished over the constitutionality of some decisions
Geo.Washington sent out almost 70,000 troops to collect past due taxes. When the then Tea Party of 1791 (the Whiskey Rebellion) refused to pay taxes … well, the troops returned home with the taxes and there were widows attending funerals of those that took up arms to protest paying. Washington also supported taxing citizens to pay for churches to continue their social work, continuing the practice of the former English government.
John Adams gave us the ‘Aliens and Sedition Acts‘ which made it a felony to criticize the federal government and it forbade any individual or group to oppose “any measure or measures of the United States.” — So you think that Washingon is out of control now? Washington is a tame beast compared to the Washington of our founders.
Aaron Burr, one of our first vice presidents, was found guilty of treason for trying to setup a new country largely situated in the Louisiana Purchase area. And did I mention that Burr killed former Treasury Secretary and one of the Top 10 most important Founders Alexander Hamilton in a duel?!
The loss of Hamilton was immense as he was the ultimate pragmatic deal maker.
Virginia — even with the Bill of Rights added, Virginia refused to ratify the Constitution. Madison and Jefferson did their best … but it took Alexander Hamilton working behind closed doors making deals to bring Virginia into the fold.
It would be easy to become cynical. Skeptical is a better path. Optimistically skeptical is even better. Government is us. We exist and live our lives based upon self-interest. We do deals. We all do. That is us, and a government based upon us is no different.
If we want better government then we should seek out transparent government. We should be skeptical of ALL political parties because the price of membership is to sell your soul to the collective whims of many for the election of one. It has forever been that way and it will be forever that way.
Our options can be to constantly point out that government constantly falls into various pitfalls … but then so do we. It is us and we are it.
God bless America. Each day is a new day to try and to make things a bit better … and should that not work out then there is always the day after today to try again.