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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The Founding Fathers Understood Bureaucracy Better Than Today’s Liberals. by The Elephant's Child

The story of the Taylor family, just below, is an excellent example of Statism, Progressivism or just bureaucracy in general.  Centralized government, by its very nature is one-size-fits-all government. All goes well until your case is a little different, until the one-size doesn’t fit you. Centralized government runs by regulation, and making regulations for over 315,000,000 people just isn’t going to fit a significant number of people.

The Taylor family’s only hope to avoid FEMA regulations is by getting Congress to pass some kind of exception to the regulations. How would you like your future dependent on getting Congress to pass a law just for you. It happens, but for some Congress cannot rescue you.

The Founding Fathers understood this. Their regulations came from the British government 3,500 miles away, with the fastest communication by sailing packet. And the British government was not shy about regulating. Americans got fed up with bureaucratic regulation that had no real understanding of the realities in the colonies. So the colonies revolted against the crown. The American people’s distaste for bureaucracy is real and longstanding.

In 1651, long before the Revolution, England began passing a series of Navigation Acts to regulate the trade of its American colonies. John Steele Gordon explained:

These acts restricted the colonies to using ships built, owned, and manned by British subjects. The Dutch, far more efficient merchant mariners than the English in the mid-seventeenth century, were able to profitably ship the tobacco of the Chesapeake to Europe for as much as a third less than English ships could. But as the English merchant marine grew and as New England became a major shipping center in its own right, shipping costs declined even without Dutch competition.

The Navigation Acts also required that certain commodities exported by the American colonies could be shipped only to England. Many of these commodities —tobacco, rice, sugar, indigo, furs, copper, and naval stores, tar, pitch and turpentine —were reexported to continental Europe. This assured both that these commodities passed through English customs and were taxed, and that English merchants handled the trade with Europe. Other colonial exports, such as flour from the middle colonies and pig iron, could be exported by the colonies directly to whatever markets could be found.

Third, the Navigation Acts required that European goods imported to America had to pass first through England, and of course, English customs, except for certain products of southern Europe that England didn’t produce in the first place, such as wine from Spain, Madeira, and the Azores. The main purpose of this legislation was to protect the American market for British manufactures. But as Britain quickly became the most efficient producer of these goods in Europe, British manufacturers almost always offered better prices anyway.

Those who are placed in a position of power can seldom resist the temptation to tell everyone else what to do. And that is a pleasant power. What fun to be able to arrange  things to suit yourself. The colonies remained dependent on the mother country to provide those goods and services which they could not provide for themselves. All well and good, but British law effectively forbade the establishment of banks in the colonies, and forbade the export of British coinage from Britain to protect its own money supply. Money speeds up transactions in a barter economy, and its lack is beyond inconvenient.

With the prohibition on export of British coins, the colonies had to find some other source. In 1652, Massachusetts began making its own coins, the pine tree shilling. People had to bring in their own silver and have it assayed before being made into coins. That was illegal, but successful, and the Massachusetts economy prospered, so the British didn’t interfere. The rest of the colonies turned to the Spanish dollar, which accounted for about half the coinage in the colonies. It was chopped into eighths or ‘bits’ from whence came the designation of our quarter as ‘two bits’, but since nothing much costs a quarter any more, the term may be completely unfamiliar to our younger citizens.

That’s just a small sample of the bureaucratic complications of being a colony of a mother country intent upon maintaining America as a colony. America got fed up with regulations coming from 3,500 miles away, and communication that took as long as three months.

Those progressives that are so sure the Constitution is outdated, not up-to-date enough for modern people like themselves may assume that the Declaration and the Constitution, dusty old documents, were dashed off by old white men with no understanding the needs of truly modern men, and a modern age. But the Founders understood centralized government and bureaucracy probably better than we do. They understood human nature, and did their best to set up a government with checks and balances that would prevent or at least slow down its excesses. Pity that the Progressives have so little understanding of history and so little respect for its lessons.



Congratulations to our new President-elect! by The Elephant's Child

On January 20th of next year, we will have a new president, and I wish him well.  He was not my choice, but he will be my president, and I wish him luck in dealing with the daunting challenges that face us.

We differed sharply on matters of his policies, his associations and his experience.  He will quickly get experience.  We will see who he chooses for his cabinet. We will continue to fight for the policies we believe in.

Please remember that disagreement and arguing are how we arrive at a way forward. That is what the founding fathers intended.  Attempts to silence those who disagree are attempts to destroy the the world’s most durable constitution.  Read The Federalist Papers, and renew your faith in debate, and read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence while you’re at it.  Our founding documents have served us well.




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