April 16, 2024

Broken Covenant

Timothy Birdnow

It's too bad we've forgotten all of that. We are now an oligarchy ruledbythe force of arms and the law is a weapon to impose the will of the oligarchs.

Chester McAteer



"The compound government of the United States is without a model, and to be explained by itself, not by similitudes or analogies”
-James Madison

The Constitutional Convention's deliberate choice of words is telling. By calling it 'The Federal Government of These States', they emphasized the decentralized nature of the government they were creating, rather than a centralized national authority.

Additionally, the fact that this name was given after the Convention was fully formed and the Constitution had been entirely finished, demonstrates their commitment to a collaborative and thoughtful approach to federalized rather than centralized governance.

John Adams wrote of the Constitution:

"Men of learning find nothing new in it. Men of taste, many things to criticize. And men without either, not a few things which they will not understand. It will, nevertheless, be read and praised, and become a powerful engine in forming public opinion.”

Madison argued that the Confederation was inadequate for the governance of the United States, as it lacked the fundamental principles of a political constitution. Instead, it was a treaty between independent states, which could not be relied upon for punctual and unanimous obedience to federal acts. This led to rampant treaty violations, which could have had disastrous consequences had it not been for the intervention of other nations.

The central objective of the American political system was to establish an effective government that would maintain order, provide security for property, and safeguard the hard-won liberties and the spirit of liberty that had become the pride of independent Americans. Madison's strategy was to introduce significant and far-reaching reforms that were shaped to the new spirit of self-governing men, without destroying in radical fashion the continuity of political institutions.

As Madison’s meticulous Notes on the Debates demonstrate, the bedrock principles of representation and freedom, intricately woven into the fabric of the Convention, resonated deeply with the delegates. Whether hailing from the commerce- and fishing-oriente d states of New England, the agriculturally rich and diversified 'Middle' states, or the Southern states with their focus on staple crops and exports, all delegates sought to create a new governmental framework that would provide both order and security while preserving freedom for the people.

To ignore the connection between the Federal Convention and the iconic words penned by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, which explicitly outlines the right of a free people to establish a new government based on principles and a form that ensures their Safety and Happiness, is a peculiarity that only those who deliberately distort the Constitutional Convention into a false antithesis to the spirit of '76 should be tasked with explaining.

On the contrary, as explicitly stated in the Notes document, the ultimate source of political authority and power resides unfailingly with the people, expressed within the framework of their Sovereign States and it is this principle that forms the bedrock of democratic governance; furthermore, the Constitution, with its intricate system of checks and balances, including bicameralism, separation of powers, and federal division of functions between the national and state authorities, remains a shining example of republican governance at its finest.

The idea that government should be based on the consent of the governed is the fundamental principle of legitimate government, as it eradicates the prescriptive subordination of individuals in society. Madison's articulation of a Republic in various contexts highlights his intention to create a democratic republic, or a representative democracy, where the will of the people is represented through elected officials.

Madison noted that America was the sole country to have taken the concept of popular government through elected representatives of 'we the people' from theory to practice. Additionally, America was the only large country to have implemented this non-monarchical , representative form of government in practice, creating an 'extensive republic'.

The Federal Convention Debates offer a unique perspective on the challenges of self-governance and the importance of finding a balance between weak and oppressive government. By examining the Debates in detail, it becomes clear that they represented a turning point in political thought and laid the groundwork for a new era of constitutional development.

"As the weakness and wants of man naturally lead to an association of individuals, under a common authority whereby each may have the protection of the whole against danger from without, and enjoy in safety within, the advantages of social intercourse, and an exchange of the necessaries & comforts of life: in like manner feeble communities, independent of each other, have resorted to a Union, less intimate, but with common Councils, for the common safety agst powerful neighbors, and for the preservation of justice and peace among themselves.”
-James Madison

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 10:37 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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