Written by Winter Trabex.
For the first few years of America’s existence, the country did not have a Constitution. Rather, it had the Articles of Confederation. The Articles specified that most government power would be given to the individual states. In fact, the push for state’s rights under the Articles was so strong that the following was written in it:
“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.”
This is a far cry from today’s federal government that presumes to reverse decisions made at a state level. Rather than treating state as an independent nation, it appears that today’s government treats each state as a satellite nation- each one having no right to secede from the union as a whole.
Though the colonies joined together for common cause in the American Revolution, the notion that they were allowed to leave the union they had voluntarily joined faded from memory until it was readily accepted that each state was a part of the country no matter what.
The Articles of Confederation lasted for seven years from the date of its ratification to the date when the Constitution replaced it. Now, adoption of the Constitution was a very tricky process. From the beginning of the Constitution’s introduction to the several states, two factions debated through public newspapers whether there should be a strong national government (they were called Federalists) or whether a strong national government presented a danger to the country (they were called the Anti-Federalists). Each side had their own respective viewpoints.
The primary reason to establish a federal government in the first place was to protect the country from foreign powers attempting to wage war upon it. Although George Washington (among others) would later declare that the United States would not be entangled with foreign alliances, the need for citizens to protect themselves against the cannons of King George (for example) was very real. In those days, European nations went to war with each other at the drop of a hat. Those who envisioned a national government also envisioned it as a bulwark against foreign invasion.
On the other hand, if the Anti-Federalists were concerned about foreign invasion, they did not use it as their central argument during 1788 and 1789 when articles in the newspaper appeared under the pseudonym “Brutus.”
Much of what happened in the Constitutional Convention had already given the citizens of the new nation cause for concern. The Convention met in secret in Philadelphia. The document they drafted was not offered to the American public until after its completion. The states could decide to ratify it or not; however, they had no say in what its content might be. They could only reject it.
Even worse, the Constitution only needed nine out of thirteen states to be ratified. If four states dissented, they would be forced to accept the Constitution whether they liked it or not.
Changing the Constitution was a difficult matter, as well. People could neither change it good or for bad easily. From the beginning, the mechanism of the Constitution’s amending introduced a slow, inefficient process that once more allowed most people in the country to only say yes or no to a proposed change.
Later, it would prove that, after the passage of tariff known as the Tariff of Abominations in 1828, no country would be allowed to leave the union. South Carolina hated the tariff. The state was on the point of seceding from the union only to discover that President Andrew Jackson was ready to invade South Carolina with the American army just to keep a group of dissenters in line. In this way, it may be observed that the nation of America (whatever form it has taken) has always leaned towards being an oligarchical nation. It was established as a nation where a select few people in power made the most important decisions of their day.
It was, and always has been, a nation where disagreement with nationally-accepted policy has been repressed- sometimes by violent force. Those who sought a benevolent government whose primary function would be to ensure the safety and happiness of its citizens failed to understand the basic nature of government power.
Shortly after the Constitution was ratified, a series of events called the Whiskey Rebellion began under President George Washington in 1791. Washington’s government instituted a whiskey tax as a means of attempting to pay the federal debt. The tax has been attributed to the Federalist, Alexander Hamilton. Despite all the flowery words that Hamilton himself used under the pseudonym “Publius” (he wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers), he soon began doing the opposite of what he suggested the government might do.
Rather than protecting people and ensuring their happiness, he helped created a program whereby citizens would have part of their earnings stolen from them- for it must be admitted that taxation is theft, whether it occurs with or without the consent of the taxed. Thus it was that Lysander Spooner, many decades later, declared the Constitution unfit to exist.
The American government had first abrogated the original system upon which everyone could agree- and which people ignored whenever possible. Thus it was that, in spite of their noble intentions, the leaders of the French Revolution found something unexpected when they based their new Constitution off the American version: the Constitution itself did not secure the liberty of the citizens who were expected to live under its laws. Nor was there ever any reason for any President or Congress to restrain himself by following the Constitution.
As the Whiskey Rebellion demonstrated, the power of the government to enforce its edicts came from the power of its weaponry. Without imposing the threat of violence upon citizens, no government in the world can enforce its laws. Those laws will be ignored by a citizenry that has no reason to fear their leaders.
Today, America’s traditional oligarchical society has become ever more repressive and brutal. It has discovered, as many other governments have discovered, that it is only capable of using violent force to get what it wants. The more it has to struggle to get what it wants, the more violence it uses. Those who claim that the government should follow the Constitution has missed the point entirely: laws are unwritten and arbitrary as long as the enforcers of those laws rely on firearms and ammunition to see their will be done.
For all intents and purposes, the Constitution does not exist in America. Nor does it exist in any other nation. There is, and only ever has been, a select few intimidating entire populations. As long as this is the case- and history proves that it has never been otherwise- the existence of a government should not be permitted under any circumstances. As long as government power continues to be the power of violence, it will continue making things worse and worse until it collapses from its own ponderous weight.
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