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The headline said “Meese promotes Returning America to Founding Principles”:
“Former Attorney General Edwin Meese told CPAC 2013 attendees that the best approach for the country’s future is one that emphasizes returning to the original principles that built America, as opposed to the more powerful centralized government favored by President Barack Obama. ‘It’s the responsibility of conservatives to go back to those principles and get away from the all-powerful state that the current administration wants,’ Meese said.”
As a matter of historical fact, the people who drafted the original Constitution of the United States and went on to lead the campaign to secure its ratification aimed, for very practical reasons, to establish a more coherent and powerful national government than was possible under the Articles of Confederation. They sincerely believed in libertarian self-government. But for that very reason they did not lie to themselves about its defects. Those defects were clear to them, not only from the history of other times and places, but from their own experience, so fresh that it was the reason for their convention.
Though deeply and habitually attached to liberty, they had the intellectual and moral integrity to acknowledge that great care is needed to preserve the distinction between liberty and licentiousness; and between the love of liberty and arrogant disdain for just authority and law. They were profoundly aware of the fact that such care was especially important in order to conserve government based on the consent of the governed, in which the people are empowered to be the arbiters of access to government power. Deciding what to do as individuals they determine, as a whole, what the government will be like.
The Constitution the founders produced was intended to lead the nation toward a more powerful central government, not away from it. Is Attorney General Meese simply mistaken when he says that the nation’s founding principles have a different aim? He is not mistaken; but his statement only makes sense when we remember that, though the U.S. Constitution was framed in light of America’s founding principles, it is not the document from which we learn what they are. That document is the American Declaration of Independence. It must be, for that very reason, included among the Organic Laws of the United States.
The Declaration provides the basis for understanding the true origin, aim and end of constitutional self-government. In this respect it deals first with the origin or principle that defines human nature. From this it derives the aim and end of the governments instituted by those who share that nature. Human nature is the work of the Creator, who is determined to preserve and sustain humanity. On account of this determination it is incumbent upon each human individual, insofar as we are able, to preserve humanity in ourselves and as a whole.
People who accept this obligation consent to do what is right, according to our God-endowed nature. God-endowed unalienable rights arise from this decision. They are, therefore, in the first place, rooted not so much in our freedom as in our right exercise of freedom, our willingness to implement the “provision God makes for our existence as human beings.” Yet “because this exercise implements God’s will for our nature, all creatures capable of consciously or self-consciously responding to His will are prohibited from denying or disparaging our action. In respect of our righteous action, they are obliged to leave us alone, to let us act freely.”
Thus, as a logical consequence of the principles of the Declaration, every valid claim of right is associated with the freedom to exercise the right. But in light of those same principles, not every exercise of freedom entails a valid claim of right. This is the essential point forgotten or willfully rejected by many so-called libertarians these days. As a result, they advocate positions that ignore what America’s founders were determined to respect, to wit, the distinction between liberty and licentiousness; and between the wholesome courage wherewith we stand upon our rights and the rebellious arrogance that disdains decent self-government.
As I point out in the essay on Ninth Amendment rights quoted above, the Declaration’s logic in this respect allows Americans to recognize and properly assert rights not mentioned in the Constitution. The 9th Amendment exists to provide them with clear constitutional grounds upon which to stand as they invoke these rights, as constraints upon government power.
At the moment, the relevance of this constitutional claim is painfully obvious. The elitist faction forces presently controlling the U.S. government and some state governments (including Republicans as well as Democrats) are moving to deny the constitutional right of individuals or states to oppose the taking of human life, as required by the first law of “nature and Nature’s God.” They are doing so in the context of an insidious, persistent assault on Second Amendment rights. They are also doing so in the context of Obamacare, as they prepare, by force of unconstitutional edicts and “laws,” to deny the constitutional right of individuals and States to refuse complicity in so-called health-care practices that disregard this same life-preserving natural law obligation. In addition, by promoting so-called homosexual rights, they are engaged in a general offensive to disparage, subvert and ultimately deny the constitutional rights – rooted in obligations antecedent to any and all humanly instituted law or government – that are inherent in the God-endowed family, the primordial institution that is the paradigm, in terms both of liberty and obligation, for natural justice and human community.
The Constitution’s Ninth Amendment provides the key to recognizing and justifying legal and other moves to oppose what amounts, on every front, to a wholesale assault on the first principle of constitutional self-government in the United States, i.e., the Declaration’s affirmation of God-endowed individual rights. Next week I plan to post an article at my blog in which I will discuss specific instances in which politicians and other public figures, who claim to be conservatives, are cooperating with this assault. By discussing these examples, I hope to awaken Americans committed to our founding principles, and to the constitutional republic based upon them, to a simple fact: No one prominently associated with, or promoted by, either of the so-called major parties appears to shares this commitment. Unless Americans who do share it rouse themselves and unite against the regressive elitist faction agenda, the incomparably successful American experiment in principled self-government will give way, first to disorder and dissolution and then, in all likelihood, to the most thoroughly totalitarian elitist despotism humankind has ever known.