And so we begin! This will be the first post at HugAJackass.com and I find it critical that we should start with a solid foundation. I believe that all discourse on political debate has to start with a basic understanding of, and agreement on, the purpose of Government. The role of Government needs to have a clearly defined and supported purpose, without which it is impossible to determine what the limits (if any) of said Government is. How can we know if a Government has done enough, or too much, in regard to any given issue if we don’t know the reason why that Government exists in the first place?
The American Revolution brought forth a very unique time in history that had never happened prior, and will likely never happen again. Abraham Lincoln called America the World’s “last best hope“. It was a unique opportunity to look back over all of history and put together a system of government that was built with human nature in mind. So, they had to answer for themselves the question of purpose.
“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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – Declaration of Independence
They came to the conclusion that the purpose of Government is to safeguard the liberties of its people. What was incredibly fortunate for mankind is that these men were very, very, educated with classic liberal educations. They were the product of the ages of Reason and the Enlightenment. They knew that mankind was extremely flawed and therefore anything that man is involved with is also flawed, as the nature of man itself was inescapable.
“But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”–Alexander Hamilton
They knew that in order for man to be civil, he must appeal to something higher than himself. Since, Government is made of men, it couldn’t be government, since that (government) would inherit all of the flawed characteristics of human nature. It had to be higher yet. They had to appeal to their Creator. This is where “Natural Law” came onto the scene.
The concept of Natural Law states that the rights of man are coded in nature itself, by God. These rights cannot be granted nor taken from man, only infringed upon. The rights exist simply upon the basis that man exists.
“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” – Declaration of Independence
So, with all of this in mind, they set out to form a system of Government that recognizes that man is flawed, and since Government is made up of man, it too possesses the selfish and flawed traits of man. James Madison mentioned that “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” They acknowledged that Government needed to be reigned in by man, and that man needed to be reigned in by religion. The need for both were paramount for this system to function. If either one was allowed to run amuck, the nature of man would cause the whole thing to crumble.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams
So, first the Founders addressed how people would restrict the ambitions of Government. They created a Constitutional Federal Republic. The Federal Republic that they left us was a whole new system that even they referred to as an experiment. Instead of a supreme leader like a dictatorship or monarchy, or mob rule like a democracy, they chose a system in which the Rule of Law itself is the supreme authority. The rule of law was to be so absolute that the Government was restricted to only exercise power that was expressly granted in the Constitution, and no more. This is the concept of Enumerated Powers. All other power was relegated to the individual States.
Then, they had to address how to restrict the ambitions of man. They believed this to be so needed that it was the very first amendment of the Constitution, the free exercise of religion. Together, these are the constructs that they figured would be the best at safeguarding the liberties of the people.
“It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” – George Washington
The Opposite of Government’s Purpose
The purpose of Government is NOT to provide for people.
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” – Benjamin Franklin.
“Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.” – Samuel Adams: The Rights of the Colonists, November 20, 1772
It’s to safeguard the liberty of people to be able to provide for themselves. Any policy that takes from people the ability to exercise their liberty, and grants that to the Government is absolutely contrary to the whole purpose for which this system was put together. The founders correctly called this tyranny. The founders believed that any Government that operated from a position of tyranny, was illegitimate and therefore no Government at all. If the liberties of the people were not protected, then it was upon the people to protect them, themselves by replacing the Government with one that will fulfill its purpose.
The creation of the United States of America was exceptional. At no other time in history was mankind able to build a Government and a society which truly encapsulated the purpose of Government. At all costs, they sought to secure the liberties of the individual. The proof is not only in the above letters of correspondence, grandiose public speeches, or minutes from multiple debates. No, the greatest proof we have of this is in the Constitution itself. The Preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Declaration of Independence highlights so much of what was discussed in this article. But, the important part of all of this is to understand the purpose of the Government so that our generation, or the next, does not ever have to write their own Declaration of Independence. May we always seek to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.