“On this day in 1816, Thomas Jefferson writes a letter to a friend. He speaks of the need to keep power separated between the national and state governments. Such a division of labor, Jefferson notes, protects liberty.
“Perhaps it would also help the country to be less angry at each other? Consider that if Texas and California don’t have to agree on everything, then there is less cause for upset. Each state can simply make its own decisions and live its own way.”
My goodness, what a radical concept….! Here is a fuller expression of the theme, from Mr. Jefferson:
“[T]he way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police… What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and power into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of a Venetian senate.”
“While Jefferson is better remembered today, it is actually Hamilton’s political legacy that has triumphed – a legacy that has subverted the Constitution and transformed the federal government into the very leviathan state that our forefathers fought against in the American Revolution. How did we go from the Jeffersonian ideal of limited government to the bloated imperialist system of Hamilton’s design?
“Acclaimed economic historian Thomas J. DiLorenzo reveals how Hamilton, first as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and later as the nation’s first and most influential treasury secretary, masterfully promoted an agenda of nationalist glory and interventionist economics. These core beliefs did not die with Hamilton in his fatal duel with Aaron Burr, but were carried on through his political heirs.
“The Hamiltonian legacy wrested control into the hands of the federal government by inventing the myth of the Constitution’s “implied powers,” transforming state governments from Jeffersonian bulwarks of liberty to beggars for federal crumbs. It also devised a national banking system that imposes boom-and-bust cycles on the American economy; saddled Americans with a massive national debt and oppressive taxation, and pushed economic policies that lined the pockets of the wealthy and created a government system built on graft, spoils, and patronage.”
“By and large, the Founding generation’s view of human nature was drawn from the classical Christian tradition. These practical statesmen understood that individuals, while having the potential for great good, also had the capacity for great evil.
“Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites, and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large. No society can exist without some means for restraining individual rapacity…
“In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles…
“The problem [in our contemporary society] is not that religion is being forced on others. The problem is that irreligion and secular values are being forced on people of faith…
“This is not decay; it is organized destruction. Secularists, and their allies among the “progressives,” have marshaled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.
“We must be vigilant to resist efforts by the forces of secularization to drive religious viewpoints from the public square and to impinge upon the free exercise of our faith.
“I can assure you that, as long as I am Attorney General, the Department of Justice will be at the forefront of this effort, ready to fight for the most cherished of our liberties: the freedom to live according to our faith.”
This is absolutely magnificent. And these are only a few excerpts: read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest! I did not really have much of an opinion on Attorney General Barr prior to this speech; but now I admire him greatly. Well said, sir! Well said.
“George Mason, like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, was happiest at home, either in the fields and woods, with a good book by the hearth, or entertaining neighbors and family. Living close to the soil, time was measured by the rhythms of nature. The flow of the seasons brought different activities: planting and harvesting, fishing and hunting, visiting neighbors in winter, and strolling through the gardens in summer. There was time for church, social gatherings, dances and parties, especially during the Christmas season. All took place in the community and around the home… Traditions ran deep, with kith and kin close by and entertainments mostly homemade.”
This would be my ideal life! I cannot conceive of a better. True, today we have advances like indoor plumbing, air conditioning (!), and advanced medicine (although the way it is organized, distributed, and administered has plenty of room for improvement); but was it really necessary to give up graciousness, in exchange for these benefits? I wonder, I truly do…
In any case:
“… for George Mason, home was Gunston Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia. … Mason and many of his contemporaries loved to experiment with plants and took pride in their gardens. Gunston Hall was noted for the beautiful English boxwood that lined the walk from the house to a beautiful view of the Potomac River…
“Visitors such as Washington, Jefferson, and other patriots, neighbors and family, walked down the garden paths, and guided by the boxwood, took in the vista of the distant Potomac River, the artery of trade in this region. As children played, talk of domestic concerns and the nature of American rights and liberties was heard on these grounds…
“Now the boxwood have fallen on hard times and the decision has been made to dig them up. Experts believe that at 230 years old, the plants may be at the end of their natural life. The boxwood was planted amidst such hope, as the Colonies won their independence, and went about the process of protecting their hard won liberties. Perhaps the boxwood just does not understand how a country with so much promise could go so far astray. Nor would George Mason.”
This is barely to scratch the surface of this excellent essay, which uses the boxwood of Gunston Hall as the backdrop for a tale of the rise and fall of the America our Founders intended: – ’tis a mere appetizer, to entice one to the feast. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest! But this I will say, if the above is not sufficient enticement: might the imminent demise of Gunston Hall’s boxwood, beautiful as they have been for more than two centuries, be an emblem of the demise of other things, just as old – but things of much deeper import…? Again, I wonder!
“In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize [sic], or money is called his property. In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” ~ James Madison, 1792
Many thanks to the inimitable Tara Ross for this and many other wondrous posts!