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Who Would the Founders Endorse?

May 14, 2007

Tags Political Theory

The 2008 presidential campaign has been going on for months, even though we are far from the end of 2007. But all that really gets discussed are the horserace details — who is ahead, who is raising more money, how badly will a particular scandal or issue hurt a candidate, etc. Unfortunately, that approach, which dominates the media, is a horribly inadequate way to go about selecting the person who will fill America's highest constitutional office.

A far more useful place to begin in selecting who will be most directly charged with protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States is the appropriate role of the federal government. To do that, the best place to begin is with our founding fathers, who designed the Constitution to be the highest law of the land. So consider the following quiz to touch up your knowledge of our founders' beliefs. Can you identify whether they said or wrote either of the two statements listed?

Patrick Henry:

  1. "The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty…"
  2. "[L]iberty ought to be the direct end of your government."

Benjamin Franklin:

  1. "[W]e're supposed to be free. We seem to have forgotten that freedom means the absence of government coercion."
  2. "Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature."

George Washington:

  1. "[S]olutions to America's problems won't be found in the frequent clamor for more government…solutions can be found in an atmosphere of liberty, private property, and a free market…"
  2. "Liberty will find itself … where the Government … [will] maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property."

Samuel Adams:

  1. "With no consistent moral defense of true liberty, the continued erosion of personal and property rights is inevitable. This careless disregard for liberty…brought us disaster…"
  2. "[W]ithout liberty and equality [under the law], there cannot exist…the assurance of this to every citizen, that his own personal safety and rights are secure … the end and design of all free and lawful Governments."

James Wilson:

  1. "Political power is inherently dangerous in a free society: it threatens the rule of law, and thus threatens our fundamental freedoms. Those who understand this should object whenever political power is glorified."
  2. "Government … should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind."

Thomas Jefferson:

  1. "The most important element of a free society, where individual rights are held in the highest esteem, is the rejection of the initiation of violence. All initiation of force is a violation of someone else's rights…"
  2. "No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him."

Thomas Paine:

  1. "Continuing to view more government as the solution to problems will only make matters worse."
  2. "Society…is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."

George Mason:

  1. a) "In a free society, government is restrained…the proper role for government in America is to provide national defense, a court system for civil disputes, a criminal justice system for acts of force and fraud, and little else."
  2. "Every society, all government, and every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community…whenever any power or authority whatever extends further … it may be called government, but it is in fact oppression."

John Dickinson:

  1. "Every government edict, policy, regulation, court decision and law ultimately is backed up by force…That is why political power must be fiercely constrained by the American people."
  2. "[W]ho are a free people? … those who live under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled, that proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised."

James Madison:

  1. "[T]hose powers not explicitly granted to Congress by the Constitution are inherently denied to Congress."
  2. "[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated … it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction."

Alexander Hamilton:

  1. "Most of our mistakes can be laid at the doorstep of our failure to follow the Constitution. That Constitution, if we so desire, can provide needed guidance and a roadmap to restore our liberties…"
  2. "No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution can be valid…whenever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to … guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals … "

John Adams:

  1. "[T]he best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas."
  2. "There is danger in all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

In each of the above cases, the founding father in question wrote or said the second of the two possibilities. How many did you correctly identify? Did you feel tricked, because each was similar in meaning to the first option? But the other options were not just trick questions to no purpose. Each one of them comes from a current candidate for President — the only one whose positions are anywhere near those of our founders.

Each of the "wrong" choices is from Ron Paul. Each is completely consistent with the views of our founders and hugely different from anyone else running.

So why have most people barely heard of Ron Paul, despite the fact that he has been reelected to the House of Representatives many times, without ever abandoning his principles? Because the media ignores him. That is primarily because he is not near the front of the freebie-promising, money-raising or political-endorsement horse races. But adhering to our founding principles means that he cannot compete in those arenas of clout, bought with the promise of benefits to be extracted at other Americans' expense.

Some in the media also dismiss Dr. Paul as "Dr. No," for his consistent opposition to Congressional acts not warranted in the Constitution, or "extreme," or "not in the mainstream." Of course, who do you know that is even remotely satisfied with the results those in the mainstream are giving us?

More importantly, he is only an extremist in the same way that those who first thought through, sought out and fought for Americans' liberty were extremists. The only real differences are that they began "the land of the free" and he is trying to preserve it; they were establishing precedents of individual rights and liberty never before seen and he is trying to maintain them, as enshrined in our founding documents. He has spent his political career dedicated to protecting citizens' rights from government abuse, carrying out the primary purpose of our Constitution.

Few days pass without several Presidential candidates proposing to buy votes by violating the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution our founders pledged their lives, their liberties and their sacred honor for. Ron Paul doesn't. That hardly disqualifies him from a job—protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States — only he actually promises to do. After all, if he could not be elected, neither could any of our founding fathers.

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