American Elephants


The Founding Fathers Explain Conservatism by The Elephant's Child

From the archives 2008

The brilliant Mark Levin lays out the bedrock principles of conservatism using the founders’ own words. It is no coincidence that they are the exact same principles our nation was built upon. These are the exact same principles that made America great, they are the exact same principles that liberty depends upon, and they are the exact same principles that liberalism seeks to destroy:

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare but only those specifically enumerated.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
“[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.”
~ James Madison
“…[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”
~ James Madison
“…the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
~ Thomas Paine
“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
~ Thomas Paine
“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
~ John Adams
“To be prepared for war, is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
~ George Washington
“One single object. . . [will merit] the endless gratitude of the society: that of restraining the judges from usurping legislation.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
“Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
~ John Adams
“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
” I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
“[The purpose of a written constitution is] to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights.”
~ Thomas Jefferson
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It Takes Elephants of All Persuasions, United. by The Elephant's Child

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[American Elephant adds: While I wrote the paragraph quoted from our “About” page, I did not write this post and do not agree with the insulting characterization of the Tea Party.]

If you have ever clicked on the “ABOUT” line in the sidebar, it says :

American Elephants is the internet home of big-tent conservatism — black, white, brown, gay, straight, Christian, Jew or Hindu — it takes elephants of all persuasions, united, to beat back the liberal clowns and lead the circus of politics. So, ladies and gentlemen! Children of all ages! Step right up and come on in under the Big Top!

I have no story about my magical conversion from a  youthful romance with the Democratic party, I have always been a Republican. In fact, I’m a 4th generation Republican, one of my great-grandfathers wrote around 1860 that he “was a quiet but interested member of the Republican Party.”

“Republican” is a term in current disfavor, Liberals have gone to great lengths to call us racist, bigots, mean, uncaring, racists, and now “conservative” is the preferred term. My party registration remains the same. The “Big Tent” part has lapsed into disfavor among many Republicans as the Tea Party people are furious with the Republicans in Congress because they haven’t taken down the Democrats, impeached the president, and denied funding to ObamaCare. Business interests are furious with the Tea Party because of their encouragement for shutting down the government, and opposition to increased immigration.  Libertarians keep complaining about the regulatory state, and want more conversation about liberty — personal and economic. Republicans disagree about a lot of things, but they also agree about most of the really important ones.

Democrats apparently agree about everything, They even agree in exactly the same words, so one must assume that “the words” are passed down from a particular source, probably the Center for American Progress, the home of those who now want to be called ‘progressives’ instead of ‘liberals’ because ‘liberal’ has become somewhat out-of-favor word. Since they are well-informed by the left-wing media, they scrupulously avoid anything that might question their certainties, which makes it hard to find ways to compromise with opponents.

There is a lot on which Republicans agree. Free markets, free people, respect for the Constitution, support for the military, small government, avoiding over-regulation, low taxes, balanced budgets, fiscal conservatism — a very partial list. But some are neglecting what is meant by a big tent. The Founding Fathers put together a government where the process was meant to be slow so that all sides could be heard and disagreements fully aired. Individuals have their own opinions. Expecting everyone else to agree, or attempting to drum out of the party those who do not agree is a recipe for disaster. Concentrate on the areas of agreement, and support those who agree most of the time.

I agree with the Tea Party. I think the Obama administration is the most incompetent and corrupt administration that we have ever had. I agree with the Libertarians that big government and the administrative state are way out of control, and that Americans are perfectly capable of managing their own affairs without government interference. I agree with business that over-regulation and uncertainty are devastating to business; and if we want a recovery we need to remove the barriers we put in the way of business. There is no reason in the world why America should have the world’s highest corporate tax. Corporations don’t pay taxes, they pass them through to consumers in the price of their goods. No candidate is going to be perfect. We are human, a quarrelsome, flawed species, and we are not going to agree on everything. Don’t expect perfection. If we are going to win, we need everybody in the big tent.

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