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Monday, July 14, 2014

A Government of Force or A Government of Laws? by Alexander Hamilton

On August 28, 1794, Alexander Hamilton wrote Tully No. III asking the American People what secured America:

“If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a Republic?  The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws-the first growing out of the last.”

He indicates that by honoring the Constitution We the People keep “caballers, intriguers, and demagogues…from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.”

Hamilton then addresses the two forms of government:

“Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions, a government of FORCE and a government of LAWS; the first is the definition of despotism-the last, of liberty.”

Hamilton notes that “those, therefore, who preach doctrines, or set examples, which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws, lead us from freedom to slavery; they incapacitate us for a GOVERNMENT OF LAWS, and consequently prepare the way for one of FORCE, for mankind MUST HAVE GOVERNMENT OF ONE SORT OR ANOTHER.”

Finally, Hamilton agrees that when the Constitution is in jeopardy, the People must act to defend its principles:

“There are indeed great and urgent cases where the bounds of the constitution are manifestly transgressed, or its constitutional authorities are so exercised as to produce unequivocal oppression on the community, and to render resistance justifiable.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Laws of Nature by Alexander Hamilton

The Revolutionary Era produced many great writers, among them, a brilliant man named Alexander Hamilton.  In 1774, Hamilton wrote A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress defending the Congress against attacks led by loyalists.  In this excerpt, Hamilton discusses laws of nature and obligations one society may (or may not) have towards another:

“There is no law, either of nature, or of the civil society in which we live, that obliges us to purchase, and make use of the products and manufactures of a different land, or people.  It is indeed a dictate of humanity to contribute to the support and happiness of our fellow creatures and more especially those who are allied to us by the ties of blood, interest, and mutual protection; but humanity does not require us to sacrifice our own security and welfare to the convenience, or advantage of others.*  Self preservation is the first principle of nature.  When our lives and properties are at stake, it would be foolish and natural to refrain from such measures as might preserve them, because they would be detrimental to others.”

*My emphasis added.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

America's Crisis by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, much in favor of America’s break from Great Britain, published his pamphlet Common Sense in January 1776.  A year later, he wrote The Crisis a pamphlet published to boost public morale and re-affirm the necessity for America’s independence from Britain.  In Crisis Number III, published on April 19, 1777, Paine notes:

“ America, till now, could never be called a free country, because her legislation depended on the will of a man three thousand miles distant, whose interest was in opposition to ours, and who, by a single ‘no,’ could forbid what law he pleased.”

What of America today?  Is America’s legislation now depended on the will of a man, perhaps not “three thousand miles distant” but a lot closer to home?  Are his interests in opposition to the interest of the People?  Is he saying “no” to whichever law he pleases?  Is America still the land of the free?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rules of Proper Etiquette Part 5 by George Washington

Resuming this week, Washington's Rules of Proper Etiquette beginning with number 41:

41st  Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy

42d  Let thy ceremonies in Courtesie be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to act y same with a Clown and a Prince

43d  Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

44th  When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

45th  Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness

46th  Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place conveninet to let him him know it that gave them.

47th  Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abtain from Laughing thereat yourself.

48th  Wherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts

49  Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile

50th  Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagment of any

Monday, June 9, 2014

We the People

Are Americans overreaching their authority for holding our public officials accountable for their actions?  Should Americans simply remain bystanders and allow our “representatives” to do what they deem fit for our country?  George Washington was acutely aware of the sentiments of the People.  In a letter to Benjamin Harrison dated December 18, 1778, Washington expressed his concerns about the political system in America.  The following is an excerpt from the letter where Washington discusses the role of Americans in the nation’s political system: 

 “I think our political system may, be compared to the mechanism of a Clock; and that our conduct should derive a lesson from it for it answers no good purpose to keep the smaller Wheels in order if the greater one which is the support and prime mover of the whole is neglected.”

He addresses the concerns of Americans:

“The Public believes (and if they do believe it, the fact might almost as well be so) that the States at this time are badly represented, and that the great, and important concerns of the nation are horribly conducted, for want either of abilities or application in the Members, or through discord and party views of some individuals….”

Furthermore, he points out the necessity of why Americans should hold officials accountable for their actions:

“A picture of the times, and of Men; from what I have seen, heard, and in part know I should in one word say that idleness, dissipation and extravagance seem to have laid fast hold of most of them.  That Speculation, peculation, and an insatiable thirst for riches seems to have got the better of every other consideration and almost of every order of Men.  That party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day whilst the momentous concerns of an empire, a great and accumulated debt; ruined finances, depreciated money, and want of credit (which in their consequences is the want of every thing)* are but secondary considerations and postponed from day to day, from week to week as if our affairs wore the most promising aspect; after drawings this picture from my Soul I believe to be a true one I need not repeat to you that I am alarmed and wish to see my Countrymen roused.”

Again, Washington insists that Americans must get involved:

“I am afraid even to think of It; but it appears as clear to me as ever the Sun did in its meredian brightness, that America never stood in more eminent need of the wise, patriotic, and Spirited exertions of her Sons than at this period….”

*My emphasis added.