Al Benson, Jr.
Several years ago I read an interesting book called The Jefferson Conspiracies written by David Leon Chandler (now deceased). He dealt at some length with some of the political intrigue that went on during the early days of the republic, and the picture he gives us of some of the Founding Fathers is, shall we say, less than pristine. In fact some of what he describes almost sounds like politics in Chicago. You have to wonder, reading some of this stuff, how much has really changed in the last two centuries. The happy fables we've been told about some of our founders are just that--fables.
Chandler comments on page 52 of his book, about the debates over the Constitution, observing that: "To a large degree, these debates concerned the merits of a strong, urban-based central government versus a weaker, rural-based confederacy. Had Jefferson been present it is likely that his arguments would have shifted the scales toward the rural view. As it was, the centralist ideas of Alexander Hamilton carried the day."
In regard to a national bank, he wrote: "The national bank was clearly designed to favor not only Federalists but mercantile over agricultural interests, and Jefferson attacked it immediately as unconstitutional. There was no authority anywhere in the Constitution, he said, to charter such a bank. Nevertheless, with Washington's backing, Hamilton prevailed and by doing so established an enduring nation-defining doctrine, 'implied' powers. In reply to Jefferson, Hamilton said the Constitution gave Congress authority to pass any laws 'necessary and proper' to carry out designated powers. One of the designated powers was to levy taxes and coin money." Seems like the checks and balances for which the Constitution is supposed to be so famous didn't work out too well here, except in favor of the centralizers. You can see from Chandler's comments that Mr. Hamilton had a rather loose view of what he could use the Constitution to get by with.
Reading further in Chandler's book, it seems that Hamilton also had a rather loose view of several other things. He was caught in an adulterous situation with another man's wife, which he admitted, when confronted, even presenting those questioning him with the correspondence between himself and the other man's wife. Interestingly enough, his questioners had pity on him and admitted that "the affair had no relation to Official Duties." Pardon me if I disagree, but I think that mindset is representative of one of the highest grades of bovine fertilizer known to man. If a man will cheat on his wife in the most sacred of human relationships, marriage, then he will not hesitate to cheat others in his performance of his "official duties" if doing so will benefit him or his friends. For that day and age his questioners had an amazingly modern mindset--and that not to their credit!
Looking at the limitations on "progressive" politicians which were present in the Articles of Confederation, you can see why the most aggressive of them, in concert with their sinful human natures, wanted more power. "Power corrupts" and sometimes even the mere thought of it corrupts.
Norine Campbell, in her biography of Patrick Henry (previously mentioned) noted: "The provisions left Congress no room for doubt as to where sovereignty lay under the Articles of Confederation, for they pointedly declared that each state retains its 'sovereignty, freedom, and independence.' Congress in a sense was merely an assembly of diplomats to whom had been entrusted the control of certain common problems. It derived its authority wholly from the states, as whose agent it acted. It was in no sense responsible to the people of the United States, nor could any of its actions bear directly upon them." A slightly different situation than we have today, where, Congress, in the name of "serving the people" has, in fact, become part of the ruling elite that controls the people and restricts their freedom.
Campbell observed that at the Constitutional Convention, the Virginia Plan, (previously noted) was introduced. She said "This proposed that the Articles of Confederation be put aside, and in their place, 'a National government, consisting of a supreme legislative, executive, and judiciary' be established. (The word National was later stricken out)." The word may have been stricken out, but the intent remained, and it remains until this day.
Although a strong opponent of the new centralizing document, Patrick Henry was not the only one. The well-known George Mason of Virginia was also a vocal opponent. In commenting on the proposed new Constitution, Mr. Mason said: "I thought it wrong, Mr. Chairman--I thought it repugnant to our highest interests--and if with these sentiments I had subscribed to it, I might have been justly regarded as a traitor to my country. I would have lost this hand before it should have marked my name to the new government." You have to admit that Mr. Mason told folks how he really felt. Such candor in our day would be a rarity. But, then, Mason was a statesman. Today we only have politicians.
When the opposition to the new Constitution in Virginia was perceived, George Washington came to the fore and began a letter writing campaign stating that it was either adopt the new Constitution or end up with anarchy. No other options available! And James Madison, centralist Alexander Hamilton and John Jay started cranking up their propaganda machine with a batch of articles that eventually morphed its way into the well-known series The Federalist Papers. These were geared to show the people how well the proposed Constitution would work out for everyone.
This goes along with comments by Gary North in his Conspiracy in Philadelphia where he noted: "The federal Constitution was created to apply equally to every age, never running down, wearing out, or falling into disrepair. As far as these Federalist writers were concerned, the new republic should continue in this perfect state forever...Throughout the debates, Federalists would continue to argue that the Constitution was a theoretically perfect instrument. As the state conventions went on, however, they came to admit the cold hard truth so often propounded by the Antifederalists--that the Constitution, however excellent in theory, might well be flawed in practice."
Campbell informs us that: "Madison was solicitous, nay eager, in his efforts at putting the plan over to the people, and there were certain methods in his exertions." Campbell's next comment is quite revelatory. She said: "However, everyone of consequence understood the issue. It was strict Federalism, with new and nationalistic attributes, against a loose union of local governments. Everyone of clear comprehension understood the binding effect of the final yea and nay. Madison was blunt, but not too blunt, when he declared: 'The Constitution requires an adoption in toto and forever'." The salient point of all this was centralism vs. local self-government. In that day the astute understood that issue. Campbell understands it, else she would not have written as she did. How many people today understand it?
To be continued.
Also see the other parts of this series by Al Benson, Jr.:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14
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Al Benson, Jr. is a veteran columnist and activist. He is publisher of the Copperhead Chronicle newsletter which features commentary and analyses of history, culture, education, and faith. Mr. Benson, is author of the Homeschool History Series," a collection of booklets that discuss ignored facts about the War to Prevent Southern Independence. Additionally, he and Walter D. Kennedy are co-authors of Red Republicans and Lincoln's Marxists: Marxism in the Civil War. Mr. Benson's columns can be read at: AlBensonJr.Com, Mr. Benson's Blog, and FireEater.Org