Patrick Huntsman: They gave us a republic
In this reckless period when misguided Americans are feverishly ripping pages from our nation’s history and threatening whole chapters, it must be remembered there are certain pages, symbols and emblems that must be preserved at all cost, lest we lose the heart and soul of our great nation. With that in mind, let’s review some facts about America’s history as well as a few of the vital founding principles that support its freedom-promoting political framework.
First is this indisputable fact: Our founders gave us a republic. These were all highly influential men, men who possessed the power to mold public opinion. They could have created an American monarchy and made themselves kings and lords. Or they might have established an oligarchy in which only a scheming few would rule. But instead, they exhibited a rare faith in the common man by establishing a political system wherein the national government would be granted but a few enumerated powers, and unto the sovereign states and the people would be generously given all the others.
And they even went so far as to include a Bill of Rights so there would be no doubt about the fundamental rights, freedoms and privileges that were to be exclusively retained by the people. In formulating our nation’s political system, our founders said they were establishing a “more perfect union.” In saying this, they were admitting there remained within their plan a small number of shortcomings, but it was as near perfect as this brilliant and diverse group of statesmen could make it under the circumstances. And the glorious Union they formed has stood the test of time remarkably well for many, many years.
Something our founders clearly understood from the outset, however, was this new and lean government’s success and longevity rested upon a few central and basic requisites; namely, the people could live, get along together peacefully, and sustain themselves with little oversight or assistance from the federal government. It was suited, as John Adams put it, “only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
In recent times politicians holding views distinctly dissimilar from those of our founders have ventured forth advocating “progressive” changes for improving our system of government, for making the union produced by our founders an even more perfect one. However, these formulas almost always require a substantial transfer of power from the people to the federal government. And it must be recognized what primarily distinguishes one government from another is the way political power is divided. It can be divided in a variety of ways, but history has repeatedly shown us the safest systems are those that withhold from the central government as much power as possible. It just seems most people, at least those wishing to retain a significant degree of control over their own destiny, usually end up happier and more content that way.
It has been said when Benjamin Franklin was leaving the final meeting of the Constitutional Convention, he was asked by a small gathering of anxious citizens what kind of government had been agreed upon. To this he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.” He meant of course a republic, if it’s to remain a government of the people, must be scrupulously looked after and guarded by the people. Admittedly there are more effortless and streamlined governments, systems stripped of the checks and balances deemed prudent by the founders. But such systems, directed as they are by only a small number of self-appointed rulers who are under no obligation to consult with anyone beyond themselves, can seldom be counted upon to make decisions favorable to the common man or woman. And that’s precisely the kind of government we in America are headed for, if we remain sideline spectators while power grasping career politicians steadily restructure our political system in ways that will increasingly render it much more likely to place the majority of our country’s rich bounties into their hands rather than into ours, to be distributed as they see fit.
Be warned! If we don’t want Franklin’s anxieties about our country’s future to become a reality, if we truly value the republic the Founders bequeathed to us and wish to keep it intact, we the people must unite as a powerful moral force without delay and assume once again our rightful place in the political structure. For without our full collective wisdom, weight and will in the equation to counteract those who no longer believe in our country’s venerable founding principles, our precious republic will continue mutating into something else entirely.
And odds are we won’t like it.
Patrick Huntsman is a resident of Fallon.