Friday, June 25, 2010

Keeping the Republic

At the conclusion of the proceedings of the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was approached outside of Independence Hall and asked, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"

Franklin responded, "A republic,...if you can keep it."

The Colonel would have you consider that the question asked of Franklin was not whether the delegates to the Constitutional Convention had crafted a democracy or a monarchy. Frankly, there had been no intent amongst the serious visionaries who labored to hammer out our Constitution to create a democracy. It will no doubt surprise the three of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon (as well as 99.9% of the U.S. population), to learn that nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does the word democracy appear. Don't take the Colonel's word for this, look it up.

In fact, many of the founders of our Republic and framers of the Constitution were disdainful of democracies and fearful of democratic tendencies.

James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution and fourth President of the United States, wrote, "Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

John Adams, co-author of the Declaration of Independence, champion of the concept of "Checks and Balances" that is embodied in our Constitution, George Washington's vice president, and second President of the United States, wrote, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

The foregoing are not snippet sound bites taken out of the context of the writers' otherwise love of democratic ideals, as many progressives would have you believe. Simple democracy was anathema to them.

Benjamin Rush, signatory to the Declaration of Independence, physician who led in the recognition of alcoholism as a chemical addiction and who provided medical training to Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery, and an early abolitionist, wrote, "A simple democracy, or an unbalanced republic, is one of the greatest of evils."

Unfortunately for the future of our Constitutional Republic, the acidic encroachment of simple democratic concepts has corroded the fulcrum upon which our Republic balances. Those who believe that the original Constitution and its "Bill of Rights" Amendments are simply antiquated general guidelines to be ignored when they interfere with our current pursuit of comfort or convenience, have, in the name of democracy, introduced popular concepts that would no doubt cause Dr. Franklin to lament that we have "failed to keep our Republic."

One such acidic democratic concept that unbalances our Republic is the popular, direct election of U.S. Senators. The framers of the Constitution intended the U.S. Senate to be a deliberative legislative counterweight to the popular-passion-fueled U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to the progressive-promoted 17th Amendment of 1913, members of the Senate were appointed by their respective state's legislature, thus enjoying a measure of insulation from the pressure to cater to fickle popular sentiment. Since 1914, the U.S. Senate has become increasingly susceptible to the popular passion of the moment and has lost its ability to act independent of that popular passion when that popular passion threatens the maintenance of our Constitutional Republic. Indeed, U.S. Senators now see their greatest role as securing federal funding of projects benefiting their constituents and in effect buying their constituents' votes for reelection. Democracy feeding on itself.

The "American Experiment," as envisioned by those who fashioned and established its parameters, was not designed to prove the efficacy of a democratic government. The results of other experiments with simple democracy were enough to convince our founders that such "mob rule" was not good enough for the people of our new nation. Americans, as exceptional as they were and were to be, deserved better. The "American Experiment" was a test of a completely new form of representative government wherein democracy was the power source, but our Constitution provided the mechanism by which that popular energy was converted into action for the good (not, wants) of the people.

The Colonel would go so far as to say, knowing it will subject him to criticism and dismissal by most, that our Constitutional Republic, as originally designed, is more like a benevolent dictatorship than a pure democracy. Most of you will recoil at that thought. We Americans like to think of ourselves as democrats (little d), and speak grandly of "Jeffersonian Democracy" in the mistaken belief that Jeffersonian ideals were purely democratic and reflected his trust in a "democratic government" to ensure the rights, and provide for the needs, of all. Most Americans have no more idea about the difference between the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian (Federalist) concepts of government than they do about the differences between Newtonian and quantum physics. It probably will come as a surprise to most to learn that Jefferson deplored big government. He would be aghast at the malevolent behemoth that has escaped and grown, extra-constitutionally, out of the Philadelphia political science laboratory.

Our ignorance of governmental philosophy is exactly why our Constitution was designed as a blueprint for a benevolently dictatorial mechanism of government--to protect us from ourselves.

Next: The Colonel will opine on the most critical question of the day--the evolution of collegiate sports conferences and the need for a Division I football playoff system.
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