Category Archives: Founding Fathers

Rick Santorum Revives The Lincoln-Douglas Debates; Unwittingly Takes Douglas’ Side

Wow… Just, wow. I’ve heard of people taking quotes out of context, but Rick Santorum is treading down a slippery slope that I think even he, as a hardcore social conservative, would find himself quickly uneasy with:

His spokesman Hogan Gidley emails me in response to Mark Miners comments: “Senator Santorum is certainly an advocate for states’ rights, but he believes as Abraham Lincoln – that states do not have the right to legalize moral wrongs. The Senator has been clear and consistent – and he believes that marriage is and can only be: between one man and one woman.”

Now, it’s easy to see where Santorum is coming from — the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln at the time was arguing, as so many libertarians argue, that there are some rights which are not to be voted on. Popular sovereignty can be good for making some decisions, but that in the case of slavery, it is used to uphold a moral wrong. Infringements upon rights granted by natural law cannot be justified by majority vote:

Lincoln’s strategy was to isolate Douglas’s doctrine of popular sovereignty from the national mainstream as a form of moral dereliction for its indifference to the corrupting effect of slavery in republican society. Douglas insisted that in his official capacity as a United States senator he did not care whether the people in a territory voted slavery up or down. Lincoln admonished: “Any man can say that who does not see anything wrong in slavery, but no man can logically say it who does see a wrong in it; because no man can logically say he don’t care whether a wrong is voted up or voted down.” Douglas argued that the people of a political community, like any individual, had a right to have slaves if they wanted them. Lincoln reasoned: “So they have if it is not a wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right to do wrong.”

Lincoln and Douglas were coming from different first principles. In fact, the argument is not at all unlike modern arguments about abortion, a point I’ve made before. The question is not whether abortion should be allowed, the question is whether a fetus is inherently “person” enough to have natural rights. If it is, abortion is murder. If it is not, abortion is no different morally from removing a cancerous growth from one’s uterus. Yet both sides constantly talk past each other without acknowledging that they are working from wildly different first principles.

Abraham Lincoln, contrary to what Santorum suggests, is not suggesting that all men must be forcibly stopped by government from engaging in moral wrongs. He explicitly acknoledges the libertarian right of natural law — you can do what you wish with what is yours. You may self-govern; the nanny state is not there to stop you from acting within your personal domain. From his 1854 speech in Peoria, IL (same source link as above, italics original, bold added by me, and one sentence from the original speech inserted into the below passage for continuity):

The South claimed a right of equality with the North in opening national territory to the expansion of slavery. Rejecting the claim, Lincoln denounced slavery as a “monstrous injustice” and a direct contradiction of “the very principles of civil liberty” in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln said that the right of republican self-government “lies at the foundation of the sense of justice,” both in political communities and in individuals. It meant that “each man should do precisely as he pleases with all that is exclusively his own.” Declared Lincoln: “The doctrine of self-government is right—absolutely and eternally right—but it has no just application” as attempted in the Nebraska Act. Spelling out the natural-law premises of his argument, Lincoln continued: “Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism.” Recurring to the nation’s founding principles, Lincoln summarized: “If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal’; and that there can be no more moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.”

Note my bolded portion on self-government. It seems that Abraham Lincoln and Rick Santorum have some agreement that a state cannot legalize a moral wrong — they merely happen to have WILDLY different definitions of what constitutes a moral wrong.

Abraham Lincoln is following the traditions of natural law and natural rights. Each man is his own, and barring his attempts to coerce others to do his bidding, he should have freedom to operate as he sees fit. Slavery is an attempt to coerce others to do his bidding, and therefore it is an abhorrent moral wrong that has no place in a free society.

Rick Santorum is following a different tradition, one that states that man is NOT his own, and should forcibly be stopped from operating in his own domain if his actions violate no ones natural rights, but violate Santorum’s own sensibilities. If two members of the same sex, wholly consensually and within the bounds of their natural rights, want to engage in a right of contract such that they bound themselves together for all the legal purposes we generally associate with marriage, they must be barred from doing so. This consensual and voluntary action must not be permitted!

Abraham Lincoln says that the government must not condone the violation of one man’s natural rights by another, and that democracy is not an adequate justification for doing so. Rick Santorum says that government must be in the job of actively violating those natural rights, even if the people of a territory choose to vote to recognize those rights! Abraham Lincoln says that slavery is wrong because it takes away the right of self-government; Rick Santorum says that we must all be slaves of the state, because he doesn’t like what we choose to do with our freedom.

Abraham Lincoln decries a situation which denies the equality before the law of human beings; Rick Santorum claims the mantle of Abraham Lincoln while cheering laws that deny that equality! In doing so, Rick Santorum misses the irony: he’s replaying the Lincoln-Douglas debates in modern times, but he doesn’t realize that he’s taking Douglas’ side, not Lincoln’s.

Ad Populum

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” – Barry Goldwater

Ron Paul’s supporters and detractors would probably agree that many of his positions are out of the main stream of modern political thought. By definition, this makes Ron Paul and those of like mind extremists.

Josh Harkinson, writing for Mother Jones has put together a list of what he considers “Ron Paul’s 15 Most Extreme Positions.” Among these “extreme” positions are “eviscerate entitlements” (such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), eliminating entire departments (ex: Education, Health and Human Services, Energy, etc.), “enable state extremism” (allow the states to determine issues like gay marriage and school prayer rather than address these issues at the federal level), end the war on (some) drugs, and Ron Paul’s statements against the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Josh Harkinson lists these positions and calls them “extreme” but does not make any arguments against these positions because these positions are already unpopular in his estimation (and indeed, many of these positions are unpopular). Harkinson, either consciously or not has resorted to what is referred to as the Ad Populum fallacy, otherwise known as “appeal to popularity.”

Ad Populum fallacy works like this:

1. Most people approve of X
2. Therefore, X is true

By calling someone an extremist or calling his/her positions extreme is at least a variation of this fallacy: “Most people disagree with Ron Paul on entitlements, therefore; Ron Paul is wrong.”

To be sure, most of the items on the list of 15 that I fully agree with, others that raise my eyebrows (ex: I haven’t investigated number 4 yet) and others that I disagree with* but whether or not each is an extreme has nothing to do with if I agree or not. Whether a position on an issue is extreme or not is entirely beside the point! Rather than calling a position extreme, it should be debated on its merits or lack thereof.

Popular opinion, especially in American politics, is a very fickle thing. Consider how much attitudes have changed over the history of the U.S. It was once considered perfectly okay for one human being to own another. To call for the abolition of slavery in one era was considered extreme, in another controversial, in yet another popular. Any person who would say today that the institution of slavery should be resurrected would now be called an extremist (among other things).

What does this change in popularity concerning slavery tell us about the morality of slavery? Was it a moral institution because it was accepted as part of the culture and perfectly legal but now immoral because most would say that slavery is one of the great shames in our nation’s history?

Of course not.

Slavery was as immoral when Thomas Jefferson owned slaves as it would be today. Popularity has no bearing on questions of right and wrong.

Obviously, there are many more examples of how popular opinion has shifted over time. These positions of Ron Paul’s that Josh Harkinson calls extreme today could become controversial (i.e. having nearly as much support as those who are opposed) or even mainstream in the future. This is likely a great fear of Harkinson and those of his ilk as it’s much easier to call Ron Paul, libertarians, or libertarian positions extreme than it is to confront them directly.

Yes, Ron Paul is an extremist but he is in some very good company. We can safely say that the founding fathers – the original tea partyers were the extremists of their day. They certainly couldn’t be described as mainstream. The words penned by Thomas Paine in Common Sense and later Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence were downright treasonous!

“You’re an extremist!”

My response: “Yeah, so? What’s your point?”

Actually, I consider being called an extremist a badge of honor; so much so that I have put a bumper sticker on my vehicle declaring myself as such (I bought the sticker below from

The day my views become mainstream will be the day I have to seriously reevaluate my views because I doubt they will be mainstream any time soon. But even though my views or those who promote them don’t win very often on Election Day doesn’t make my views wrong…just unpopular.

Hat Tip: The Agitator
» Read more

Quote of the Day: Beware of “Kook Tests” Edition

Popehat writes:

Here’s the thing: people with unscientific, irrational, and foolish ideas about evolution and global warming might still have something worthwhile to say about other topics. Take, as one example, Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn doesn’t believe in global warming. He also thinks that lesbian gangs were terrorizing Oklahoma’s school bathrooms. But he’s a been a vigorous critic of earmarks. He’s right to attack earmarks, and no less right because he’s a nut on other issues. If he’s the lone voice in the wilderness on earmarks, and we refuse to engage his criticisms because they’re coming from a lesbo-potty-phobic global warming denier, then we’re being lazy and cowardly. On the other hand, there are plenty of people, and groups, that believe firmly in evolution and global warming, but can’t be taken seriously as bastions of science or reliable political analysis. You won’t find much creationism or global warming denying at the Huffington Post, but you will find it to be a cesspool of junk science and assorted twittery.

Honest people — people who care about issues, and not crass group identities — ought to resist the strong human drive to construct rationalizations for ignoring competing viewpoints. “We can safely ignore and marginalize any blog where most of the authors or commenters don’t believe in evolution or global warming” is lazy tribalism, just as surely as “we can ignore any bloggers and blogs that don’t support Sarah Palin” or “we can ignore any bloggers or blogs that don’t oppose the War on Drugs.” It’s all a cheat, a form of shorthand — a quick way to separate, in our mind, people who belong from people who don’t. It may unclutter your RSS feed, but you’re not going to learn much that’s new, you’re not going to challenge yourself.

Personally, I’m quite skeptical of man-made global warming but like Popehat, I admit that I’m by no means a climatologist nor anything remotely close. He does make very good points here about writing someone off because they believe something kooky on one subject or even a assortment of subjects. There is always the temptation to ignore individuals like the “Truthers,” the “Birthers,” and “Creationists” – just to name a few. It’s quite defensible for me to tune someone out who goes into the whole “Obama is a secret Muslim hell bent on America’s destruction” nonsense if that is the topic of discussion but the same person might be quite rational and knowledgeable on other issues.

Also consider the founders of this country. Many of them either owned other human beings or defended the practice in the name of property rights even as they eloquently made the case for liberty. Thomas Jefferson, in The Declaration of Independence, scribed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” yet himself didn’t find it “self-evident” that owning slaves inconsistent with this philosophy.

Should Jefferson be condemned by historians for being a slave owner?


Does this make his arguments or his founding brothers’ arguments any less valid?

I think not.

Back to First Principles: An Excellent Primer on the Rights of Life, Liberty, and Property

In beginning the 112th Congress, House members took turns reading the Constitution aloud to a nearly empty chamber. While I in some ways appreciate members at least uttering the words, I believe that the members would have been better served not by merely reciting the words but by studying the philosophical roots of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights. This two part video does an excellent job explaining the meaning of the Bill of Rights as the document related to the times it was written as well as how it continues to aid us in the difficult times we currently live.

Part 1 deals with the philosophical foundations that came out of the Age of Enlightenment.

Part 2 explains the reasoning behind each of the ten amendments we call the Bill of Rights

As the narrator went through each of the amendments, I couldn’t help but think of the many instances where these very rights have been violated and continue to be violated by federal, state, and local governments throughout the country. For those of you who want to really know what we are about and the larger liberty/small government movement is all about, these are the very principles we are trying to restore. These are our guiding principles.

If ever you are perplexed by a position that we write about be it our opposition to the war on (some) drugs, opposition to conscription, support for sound money, support for the right to bear arms, opposition to ObamaCare, opposition to the so-called Patriot Act, etc. , you might find it helpful to refer back to these first principles.

I would like to encourage others to share these videos because I would like to see these videos go viral to remind our friends on the Left, the Right, and the middle about why these rights are so important and worth fighting for.

Related: The Philosophy of Life, Liberty, and Property Explained

No Apologies for “Heated Political Rhetoric” Here

Like many Americans following Saturday’s senseless murders and attempted murders in Tucson, AZ I am very angry. In fact, I probably haven’t felt so angry following a national tragedy/attack since September 11, 2001. I must acknowledge, however; that most of my anger is directed at Left wing pundits and politicians who have decided to turn these despicable acts into political fodder to attack those who “mistrust” or “want to tear down government.” Neal Boortz put it quite nicely (I recommend everyone read the whole article) in his response to this tragedy:

What SHOULD we be talking about in the aftermath of the horrible shooting in Tucson? We should be praying for the complete recovery of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. We should be expressing our sympathy of the families of the other victims. We should be discussing the irony of a little girl born on September 11, 2001 being killed in a senseless act of violence nine years later. There should be discussions on failures in our system that permits mentally deranged people access to weapons and political leaders. Discussion on security for our elected officials would also be appropriate. Though these items were included in the conversation over the weekend .. they all took a back seat to talk driven by the left and the ObamaMedia over the supposed role that evil right wingers, Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties in particular, played in this situation.

We all remember Rahm Emmanuel’s comment at the beginning of the Obama reign: “Never let a crisis go to waste.” We only need to change one word there. “Crisis” to “tragedy.”

The “ObamaMedia” as Boortz put it was very quick to blame “heated political rhetoric” and “hate speech” on the part of those of us who dare to criticize our government (though when Bush was president, criticizing the government was a very patriotic thing. I say it was and still is and always will be patriotic to criticize government). Somehow, when sick individuals take someone’s words and uses them as an excuse to commit violence, the person who said or wrote the words are somehow supposed to be “held responsible.”

What exactly does this mean? Are those on the Left suggesting that Sarah Palin should be held criminally liable for something she put on her PAC website? This reminds me about how metal groups in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s such as Judas Priest and Ozzy Osborne were blamed for their music influencing teenagers to commit suicide. I’m also reminded of when the role playing game “Dungeons & Dragons” was blamed for young people joining the Occult and even committing murder. As a teenager I listened to Judas Priest and Ozzy (and still do to this day) and played D&D and I can tell you that none of these things ever encouraged me to harm myself or others.

But in listening to the media, they seem to acknowledge that most individuals won’t respond violently to such messages; only a small minority of individuals would respond this way. If I am understanding correctly then, we should illuminate eliminate any rhetoric that might encourage an unstable person to respond violently even though most people are right thinking and reasonable.

So what might the MSM consider “overheated” because we need to know lest we be “responsible” for someone else’s actions. Might this be considered overheated:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Oh no, that’s a call to overthrow separate from the government and form a new independent government! Surely this is overheated rhetoric.

How about this:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

Or maybe this:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

These are all quotes from the founding fathers of this country (The Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson respectively). Merely reposting these words could reasonably inspire someone to take violent action against the government.

Perhaps I should apologize for reposting this as well as other content found on this site?

Well if this is what you are hoping for, hoping that we will “tone it down” at The Liberty Papers you will be very disappointed. I make no apologies for any content I or others have written on this site. We cannot nor will not be held responsible for any acts of violence that some might try to hold us responsible for.

We do not believe in initiating violence to further our political agenda. We all grieve for those who were harmed in this attack, hope that justice will be swift, and hope the perpetrator will be punished to the full extent of the law.

For anyone who would read this blog and believe that something we have written has inspired you to commit an act of violence, you clearly do not understand what we are all about.

1 2 3 4 5 21