Category Archives: Founding Fathers

When In The Course Of Human Events


Two Hundred Thirty One Years Ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following:

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.

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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. — The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

And so the men of 1776 rebelled against King George III, citing as examples numerous examples of his usurpation of the rights of man. And, quite honestly, given the historical record and the example of dictators far worse than George III that history has produced, one might sometimes wonder if the colonials were overreacting. After all, it’s not as if King George had authorized usurped legal authority to conduct surveillance on his own citizens, or conducted a war based on false assumptions, pardoned a close aide, taken property from one citizen and given it to another, or restricted people’s ability to earn a living in their chosen profession. Heck, when you look at the taxes that led the colonialists to rebel and compare them to what gets taken out of your paycheck every week, its hard to understand what they were so upset about.

Seriously, the lesson of 1776 isn’t so much that George III was a good guy, but that we’ve forgotten the warning of Thomas Jefferson that

[T]he price of liberty is eternal vigilence.

We’ve let freedom be eroded, little by little, to the point where the idea of the state being allowed to put surveillance cameras on street corners to “watch” us seems natural. We’ve let privacy become a charade to the point where the Social Security Number has in fact become the National ID that it’s advocates promised it never would become. We’ve let government involvement in the economy expand to the point where a trillion dollars in tax collections seems like a trivial amount.

We’ve become the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water.

The question, then, is when does it become enough ? When will the American people finally wake up and realize that their liberties are being eroded on a daily basis ? And, where are the heirs of Jefferson ?

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July 2 1776

It was today that the Continental Congress considered, and approved, a resolution brought by Virginia Delegate Richard Henry Lee that went as follows:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

It was two days later that the Declaration Of Independence itself, the formal announcement of independence was approved. But, at least in the beginning, John Adams thought that today would be the day we celebrated:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Adams was right, just not about the date that history would remember.

Counterpoint: The “Living Constitution” Is The Road To Serfdom

In his opening post, our Guest Blogger Derek Hammer states that the United States Constitution is, and should be considered to be, a living document.

In at least one interpretation of that phrase, I agree with him.

As we sit here, less than three months shy of the 220th anniversary of the date that the Philadelphia Convention sent the Constitution to the States for ratification, it is clear that the document itself is alive and that, notwithstanding several decades of bad decisions by the Supreme Court and lower Federal Courts, the core protections of individual liberty that were created in Philadelphia in 1787 remain intact.

However, the debate over a “living Constitution” vs. strict constructionism is far more complicated than that.

Derek’s core argument, which I agree with on many levels is this:

The Constitution is a living document. However, I must stress that a living document does not mean that the government has free reign to do what it wishes! Instead, power must stay consolidated with the people, as was the intent of the Founders, and the people are the only ones that should be able to relinquish their power to the government. The government should not direct the lives of people nor should it abuse the flexibility of the Constitution. Instead, I believe that the Constitution’s flexibility should be considered minor leeway for the Congress instead of a free-ranging usurpation of power from the people. Major changes to the Constitution should not be, and cannot be, overruled by the laws of Congress. Instead, amendments should be made in order to change the Constitution itself.

Also, the Commerce Clause and the Elastic Clause are being abused by the Congress and the federal government. In the 9th and 10th amendments, the powers that are not enumerated to the Congress are reserved to the states and, ultimately, the people. Universal healthcare does not “promote the General Welfare,” it enforces it! Such a law would restrict the freedoms of the people–the very freedoms that are reserved to the people. Congress does not have the authority to do this even under a living Constitution.

This argument is not entirely unlike the argument that legal scholars like Randy Barnett have made in favor of what amounts to a libertarian version of judicial activism. Put a bunch of libertarians on the Supreme Court, give them the 9th and 10th Amendments to work worth, and let hell break loose.

The problem with that argument is that ignores political, and in some sense, legal, reality.

The natural tendency of the state is to expand it’s power.

This is not an original insight on my part, it’s been noted by classical liberal/libertarian thinkers since the Enlightenment. A legal theory that asserts that the founding document of the nation, in this case the U.S. Constitution, is open to interpretation based on contemporary standards, is an open invitation to the expansion of state authority over the individual.

Quite honestly, this isn’t even a matter of academic argument. It’s a matter of what has actually happened. Beginning even with Marbury v. Madison, the case that established the Supreme Court’s authority to declare a law passed by Congress unconstitutional despite the fact that no such authority was granted by the Constitution itself, the process of removing the reality of authority in the United States from what the Constitution actually said had begun. The process continued with cased like Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson and then reached their height in the New Deal era when the Supreme Court, temporarily at least, had the audacity to tell Franklin Roosevelt that he didn’t have the authority to turn the United States into a semi-socialist state. And then, he challenged them, and though he failed, they caved and the result is history.

I could go on, but the point is this. The history of the idea of the “Living Constitution” is a history of the expansion of the power of the state and the shrinking of individual liberty and autonomy.

And, to paraphrase William F. Buckley, Jr., I’d rather be governed by the words written 220 years ago by a group of American Patriots than by the whims of several hundred Federal Judges.

Point: The Constitution Is A Living Document

In the United States, a document–the Constitution of the United States, the Supreme Law of the Land–binds us, the people, when we are granted citizenship. By becoming citizens of this great nation, we assure ourselves the protections outlined by this document. Unfortunately, many citizens forget these inalienable rights.

However, there are some that have not. There are still many scholars of the Constitution and between these informed citizens there is a debate that has raged since the days after the Civil War. This debate–the debate over the elasticity of the Constitution–is a healthy discourse that defines the heart of the American philosophy. On one side of the debate, there are scholars that declare that the Constitution is rigid, that only a strict interpretation of the Constitution is acceptable. Supreme Court justices such as the late Chief Justice Rehnquist and constitutional scholar Ron Paul support this argument. On the other side, though, many scholars also say that the Constitution is a “living document” that has a certain amount of elasticity to it. Again, several Supreme Court Justices and constitutional scholars agree with this point of view. So, who is right?

While the “strict interpretation” argument has several solid points, I believe that the evidence falls heavily in the favor of the “living document” argument. The legal system in the colonies, the words of the framers, the fears of the Constitution’s opponents, the Supreme Court’s solidification of its own power and even the framework of the Constitution all point to a “living document.”

However, before I delve into details about each one of those evidence points, I must point out that “living document” is unjustly correlated with “judicial activism.” Judicial activism is a situation where a judge tries to impose his own political views into a ruling–usually by completely disregarding any acceptable ruling logic. Thus, any judge, whether she has a “strict constructionist” or “living document” view, can be a “judicial activist.”

The first point to be made to support the living constitution rhetoric is that the colonies all had legal systems that were similar to the Great Britain legal system. In Great Britain, citizens were protected under the Magna Carta. This British “bill of rights” was a document that is not unlike our own Bill of Rights, though it was less extensive and less restrictive on the British government. However, there was a practice in Great Britain that was called “Common Law.” This law was flexible law that was aggregated by using all of the court cases to determine what is lawful and what is not. The Founders practiced this sort of flexible law in the colonies and, afterward, in the states. It is reasonable to say that they expected the Federal government’s legal system to act in much of the same way.

The Framers are also on record describing the powers of the judicial branch. Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No.78 that “exercise of judicial discretion” is the “province of the courts” of which he gave a specific example of “two contradictory laws” where the courts have the power “to liquidate and fix their meaning and operation.” This “province of the courts” to “exercise judicial discretion” sounds familiar to the Common Law practices of the colonies and Britain, as discussed before.

The opponents of the Constitution wrote a series of letters that are now in a collection called the “Antifederalist Papers.” These letters were written to oppose the Constitution and are useful in attempting to discover what the Founders feared about the Constitution and government in general. It can also be used to determine the intent of the Constitution, as the arguments written in these letters elaborate on each part of the Constitution more than the Constitution does itself! In Brutus 5, one of the opponents of the Constitution declared:

    In the 1st article, 8th section, it is declared, “that Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence, and general welfare of the United States.” In the preamble, the intent of the constitution, among other things, is declared to be to provide for the common defence, and promote the general welfare, and in this clause the power is in express words given to Congress “to provide for the common defence, and general welfare.” — And in the last paragraph of the same section there is an express authority to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution this power. It is therefore evident, that the legislature under this constitution may pass any law which they may think proper.

He argued that the Congress would have power to do what it wished with the elastic clause (which, sadly, has not been restricted and Brutus has been proven correct). This is evidence that the founders intended for the document to have some elasticity.

In 1801, John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Before his appointment and during his first two years as the nation’s top Justice, the Court had no real power. The Court’s decisions reached no further than the individual cases which were brought before it. However, Chief Justice Marshall changed that in Marbury v. Madison, 1803. In this case, Marshall declared that the judiciary branch has the power of judicial review–the same concept that was exercised in state judiciaries as well as in the judiciaries of the colonies. This power was not directly outlined by the Constitution but it was declared shortly after the Constitution was ratified and it was during the times of the founders. To my knowledge, not one of the Founders criticized the decision (though, Jefferson was angry. But, it was for different reasons other than Constitutionality).

For my final point of evidence, the framework of the Constitution itself creates an aura of openness and flexibility. The words of the Constitution are very vague. In some instances, certain powers are left open to interpretation–the judicial branch had nearly no direction from the Constitution! Also, the Bill of Rights weren’t properly ratified and added to the Constitution until 1791! The vagueness of the Constitution can be seen when compared to other constitutions. For example, the length of the Constitution, in words, is 4,543. By comparison, the South African Constitution has over 50,000 words! By all counts, the South African constitution is specific while the United States Constitution is vague. The vagueness of the United States Constitution leaves for flexibility in the government.

The Constitution is a living document. However, I must stress that a living document does not mean that the government has free reign to do what it wishes! Instead, power must stay consolidated with the people, as was the intent of the Founders, and the people are the only ones that should be able to relinquish their power to the government. The government should not direct the lives of people nor should it abuse the flexibility of the Constitution. Instead, I believe that the Constitution’s flexibility should be considered minor leeway for the Congress instead of a free-ranging usurpation of power from the people. Major changes to the Constitution should not be, and cannot be, overruled by the laws of Congress. Instead, amendments should be made in order to change the Constitution itself.

Also, the Commerce Clause and the Elastic Clause are being abused by the Congress and the federal government. In the 9th and 10th amendments, the powers that are not enumerated to the Congress are reserved to the states and, ultimately, the people. Universal healthcare does not “promote the General Welfare,” it enforces it! Such a law would restrict the freedoms of the people–the very freedoms that are reserved to the people. Congress does not have the authority to do this even under a living Constitution.
As one last point, whether the Constitution is a living document or not is a great argument to research and learn about. Many scholars would disagree with me on my stance that the Constitution is a living document. In fact, most of my conservative friends would completely disagree with me. However you feel, though, I think that promoting such a discussion is beneficial for all. No matter whom is right, we all win; we win back the defining principle that makes Americans uniquely American: public discourse. If we don’t fight for our Constitution, living or dead, it will slowly disappear into oblivion. None of us want that.

From Guest Blogger Derek Hammer

Counterpoint: Sometimes Intervention is Necessary

(Responding to Brad Warbiany’s post here)

After reading Brad’s arguments opposed to interventionism, I found many more areas of agreement than I expected. Brad makes the point that he does not favor isolationism or pacifism and points out that force is sometimes justified, though he does not explain the circumstances where he believes force or “intervention” is justified. I believe that the real question Brad, myself, and many others are grappling with is this very question, not so much if the U.S. should adopt either an interventionist or non-interventionist foreign policy. To offer these as the only two choices is to fall prey to an either/or fallacy. Rather than generally arguing in favor of intervention, I will instead argue for intervention under very limited and specific circumstances.

Under most circumstances the U.S. should neither intervene militarily nor otherwise be involved in the internal affairs of other sovereign states. It is probably safe to say that the U.S. has significant policy differences with every other country on the planet but very few of these differences require any kind of military action or other intervention. If I were to hazard a guess, I would guess that in 95% of these cases, the U.S. should not use military force. But what should be done about the other 5%? At what point should the U.S. use military force against Iran, North Korea, or other states which harbor terrorists who are credible threats to our national security?

Brad is mostly correct in his assessment that America’s intervention in other countries over the past 60 years has been an abject failure. Misadventures in Cuba, Vietnam, South America, Africa, and the Middle East come to mind as being among some of the most obvious examples of failed and/or unjustifiable interventions. Indeed we are now dealing with the consequences of the U.S. support of the Taliban in the Afghan War and Saddam Hussein during the Iraq/Iran war and we will continue to deal with the consequences for the foreseeable future. But is it really fair to say that every intervention has been a failure or has not yielded some positive results for the U.S. and the world?

Consider that over this same span of time that we witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and successfully drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Both of these required intervention on the part of the U.S. and the world is better off for it.

I would further argue that interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have also delivered some positive results which have been downplayed by the MSM and those who oppose these interventions. In the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban was driven out of power and has given the Afghanis their best opportunity to pursue freedom. Roughly 1/3 of the Afghan people and 40% of eligible women participated in the 2004 elections with minimal violence.

In Iraq the U.S. deposed a dictator and his heirs. Since that time Iraq has had several elections (with much greater participation than we could expect in our own elections) and wrote a constitution supported by 79% of the Iraqis (however imperfect). More recently, even the Sunnis who have been part of the insurgency have begun to join forces with the coalition to fight al Qaeda elements in Iraq. Even the bipartisan Iraq Study Group Report , which on balance paints a grim picture, admits that only 4 of Iraq’s 18 provinces (home to 40% of the Iraqi population) are considered “highly insecure.” The report also cites “encouraging signs” of improvement in the Iraqi economy, especially in regard to its currency reserves, consumer imports (especially computers, cell phones, and appliances), and opening of new businesses (especially in more secure areas).

This isn’t to suggest all is well in these two crucial fronts in the war against Islamofascism—far from it. But if the troops were to leave now, most if not all of the progress would be lost and our brave men and women who have died in these missions would have died in vain. To make matters worse, the Islamofascist terrorists would become emboldened and focus their energies on U.S. soil.*

Many on my side of the debate have made the mistake of responding to the other side by falsely suggesting that hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight is no closer to 20/20 than foresight. To say that hindsight is 20/20 in regard to were we are in the war against Islamofascism is to suggest that we know for certain what would have happened had the president and the congress opted not to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same way we do not know what would have happened had the U.S. stayed out of World War I, limited U.S. involvement in World War II to Japan, or opted not to drop the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have no way of knowing what would have happened if the U.S. kept Saddam Hussein in power. For all we know, Europe could have emerged from the first World War more peacefully (and thereby avoid the second World War), Nazi Germany may have been defeated without the help of the U.S., the Japanese may have surrendered after a few more U.S. victories, and Saddam Hussein may have decided not to reconstitute his WMD program and limit his rein of terror to his own people. It is also possible that Europe would have remained at a perpetual state of war, that Hitler would have taken over Europe and eventually the world, that the U.S. may have suffered up to 500,000 casualties (at least by some estimates) in taking Japan’s mainland, and that Saddam Hussein would have reconstituted his WMD program to destabilize the Middle East even further. The possibilities of what might have happened in any of these cases are almost infinite.

Those who argue in favor of non-intervention in the Middle East or elsewhere fail to realize that there are potential negative consequences for non-intervention as well as there are for intervention. Ron Paul seems to believe that had the U.S. never intervened in any capacity in the Middle East, we would not be targets of the Islamofascists. Rudolph Giuliani believes the Islamofascists simply hate us for our freedoms. Paul and Giuliani are both right and wrong. I believe Paul is right in terms of the ways the Islamofascists have used past interventions in the Middle East to stoke the flames of hatred of Western culture; Paul is wrong to suggest that such flames of hatred did not already exist toward Western culture prior to U.S. interventions. Giuliani is right to suggest that the Islamofascists hate us because of our freedoms but is wrong when he suggests that the U.S. has never interjected itself in the Middle East (whether justified or not) to the detriment of ordinary people in these countries.

The reason why we have this “reverse King Midas” phenomenon is due to the politicians running the war instead of the generals. Our government is composed of what Thomas Paine referred to as “sunshine patriots and winter soldiers” (meaning individuals who are gung ho about fighting for a cause when things are going well but defeatist when things are going poorly). Politicians (arm chair generals) have further placed the troops in impossible situation of acting as police officers rather than soldiers (cops Mirandize, soldiers vaporize). Overly burdensome rules of engagement (i.e. no attacking “holy sites” even when these sites are used as fortresses by the enemy), a failure of President Bush to better manage the expectations of the American people (he should have stuck to his “long, hard, slog” line and should have continued to warn everyone that this war would likely last decades rather than his two terms in office) and a lack of clarity of the mission have contributed greatly to the challenge of defeating Islamofascism. Things were not always this way. American interventionism helped beat back the forces of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism to make the world much more like the world we “wished it to be” (to borrow a phrase). Clearly, something has changed since that time, but there is no reason why we cannot relearn how to make the world safer for America and the world.

To end on yet another point of agreement with Brad, I also believe that we should be looking for ways to decrease foreign intervention whenever possible. Intervention, especially military intervention, should always be a last resort. But intervention should never be taken off the table entirely.

*I concede Brad’s point about the argument myself and others have made: “either we fight them over here or we fight them over there.” This too is an either/or fallacy and I should take this moment to clarify my point. My point is we have to be vigilant on both fronts. If we abandon the fight “over there,” then it stands to reason that the terrorists will concentrate their activities “over here.”

1776: The Year Liberty Stood In The Balance

Today, we celebrate 1776, and more specifically the 4th of July as the birthday of American freedom, the day that the American colonists courageously stood up to the most powerful monarch on the planet and declared the independence of the thirteen British colonies on the Eastern seaboard of North America.

The truth of the matter is that, even on that hot Philadephia day in July, the future of freedom in America was far from secure. The American Revolution had barely started and, only ten months before King George III had vowed before Parliament that the colonies would remain in the British Empire, and had dispatched the world’s most powerful Navy and Army, backed up by some well-paid Hessians, to make sure that his will would be followed.

In 1776, David McCullough tells the story of that year and of a military campaign that, but for fortunate leadership and even more fortunate luck, could very easily have ended in disaster and snuffed the infant nation in it’s sleep.

The year started out well enough. The Continental Army, newly under the command of George Washington, had stood down the British in Boston and forced them to retreat from the city. That victory, though, came without a decisive battle and was merely a prelude to the confrontation that would come in New York.

For a time, New York was secure but that proved to be quickly short-lived when the British Army and Navy appear off the coast and quickly land on Long Island. What follows is a tale of what can only be called ineptness at times. The Americans were always outmanned and outgunned by the British but, on more than one occasion, the defeat they would suffer would be the result of bad decisions, even bad decisions by Washington himself.

In the end, Washington was forced to retreat. First out of New York, and then clear across New Jersey and the Delaware River. It was only thanks to an attack on Trenton that combined equal degrees of bravery and audacity that the Americans were able to end the year on a high note, even if the war itself didn’t end for another six years.

As with everything else McCullough has written, 1776 is both informative and enjoyable. Someone once said that history is a story, and McCullough does a great job of telling this one in a way that makes you want to keep reading on, even though we all know how the story ultimately ends. If nothing else, the book will make you appreciate just how brave the men who fought for American freedom were, and just how lucky we are they that they were successful.

Isn’t That What The President Is For ?

Lt. General Douglas Lute was named yesterday by President Bush to fill a position that the media is calling the new White House “war czar” responsible for overseeing the Iraq War

President Bush tapped Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute yesterday to serve as a new White House “war czar” overseeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, choosing a low-key soldier who privately expressed skepticism about sending more troops to Iraq during last winter’s strategy review.

In the newly created position, Lute will coordinate often disjointed military and civilian operations and manage the Washington side of the same troop increase he resisted before Bush announced the plan in January. Bush hopes an empowered aide working in the White House and answering directly to him will be able to cut through bureaucracy that has hindered efforts in Iraq.

The selection capped a difficult recruitment process for the White House, as its initial candidates rejected the job. At least five retired four-star generals approached by the White House or intermediaries refused to be considered. Lute, a three-star general now serving as chief operations officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in effect will jump over many superiors as he moves to the West Wing and assumes authority to deal directly with Cabinet secretaries and top commanders.

“General Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done,” Bush said in a statement.

Let’s just recap the command structure in Iraq. Commanding the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) is David Petraus. Above him is Admiral William J. Fallon who heads the U.S. Central Command. (CENTCOM). Then there’s General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) who reports to Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) who in turn was appointed by George W. Bush, President of the United States (POTUS)

I don’t really understand where Lute fits into that command structure, except perhaps to add another layer of bureaucracy. More importantly, though, why do we need a “war czar” when we have a person whose job responsibilities are pretty clearly defined:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Andrew Sullivan asserts that Bush has essentially appointed someone else to be President, and I’m afraid he’s not that far from the mark.

John McCain Calls For Another Entangling Alliance

As if the alphabet soup of international agencies and treaties that the United States is a part of wasn’t enough, John McCain is calling for the creation of another entangling alliance:

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate John McCain envisions a “League of Democracies” as part of a more cooperative foreign policy with U.S. allies.

The Arizona senator will call for such an organization to be “the core of an international order of peace based on freedom” in a speech Tuesday at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

“We Americans must be willing to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies,” McCain says, according to excerpts his campaign provided. “Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom, knowledge and resources necessary to succeed.”

“To be a good leader, America must be a good ally,” he adds in the speech, another in a series of policy addresses as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

I agree with McCain’s statement that American foreign policy should not be based upon the idea that we can act however we wish, where ever we wish, whenever we wish. Instead, the core principle of American foreign policy should be the protection of the freedom and security of the United States of America.

The American military doesn’t exist to “spread democracy” to foreign lands — as if democracy by itself was the cure for the world’s problems. And it doesn’t exist to expand Pax Americana. It exists to protect the United States, and that is what America’s foreign policy should be based upon as well.

While McCain’s idea avoids the crusade for democracy nonsense that the Bush Administration has spouted since September 11th, it adopts the mistake of thinking that the only proper international action by the United States is action done in concert with, and with the approval of, other nations. Call this the Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton School of Foreign Policy.

I’m not saying that I don’t think the United States should have allies, or even that we shouldn’t enter into mutual defense treaties like NATO. However, as George Washington noted in his Farewell Address:

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

What Washington said then, is equally true today. Clearly, the United States has interests outside of its borders worth protecting. At the same time, though, we should keep in mind that the primary obligation is to the defense of the American people, not the preservation of yet another alliance.

Were the Federalists Really Lying?

Lew Rockwell has an interesting essay in the American Conservative:

Maybe the authors of the Federalist Papers were liars. Maybe they were just engaged in political propaganda in order to shove through the Constitution. In secret, perhaps, they were plotting a Leviathan state with a president who can do all that the Bush administration claims he can, which pretty much amounts to whatever Bush wants to do.

If that was the case, they knew better than to advertise it. The Constitution would never have passed. Fear of a powerful president was one of the main reasons that people were fearful of abandoning the Articles of Confederation, which had no executive to speak of.

In any case, this book by Yoo dismisses the whole of what Hamilton says in Federalist 69 as “rhetorical excess.” And an article in the Boston Globe quotes him as saying that “Fed 69 should not be read for more than what it is worth.” Why? Because all presidents since FDR have used the imaginary war power to do their dirty tricks.

This is an interesting argument. It says that because some tyrants have violated the Constitution, all presidents should presume the right to be tyrants in the manner in which the Constitution’s framers tried to guard against. Now if some intellectuals set out to say that the Constitution is really just a myth, that our past doesn’t matter, that the founders’ intentions are irrelevant, that the rule of law is and should be a dead letter, that would be one thing. We would be back to the fundamental debate of liberty versus despotism.

what if the authors of the Federalist Papers were liars? This is not as crazy a theory as it might sound. Patrick Henry believed that they were, which is why he opposed the Constitution to begin with. It was too much of a risk, he said, to create any sort of president: “If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute!”

Patrick Henry lost the debate because enough people believed that Hamilton was sincere in his promises and that the president would be restrained. So let us be clear about what the advocates of executive rule are really saying. They are saying things that if they had been said to that founding generation of Americans would have prevented the Constitution from ever being passed. But it did pass. So until we can restore the Articles, let’s live up to the Constitution, and stop the dissembling, especially in the name of “conservatism.”

Worth reading in its entirety.

This matter goes to the heart of a fundamental debate that I really wish would become the centerpiece of the next election cycle. The Bush administration’s doctrine seems to be based on the old Roman model of the Dictator. In times of crisis, the senate would appoint a dictator who would run the state until the crisis was passed. he could seize goods, order armies about, issue or suspend laws, etc. The dictator was expected to relinquish power once the crisis was past, and his term was initially limited to a mere 6 months.

Practically speaking, this system did not work out so well. As the Roman Republic politically disintegrated the office was increasingly abused. After repeatedly appointing Julius Caesar as dictator, eventually the Senate appointed him dictator for life. This marked the last breath of the Roman Republic, and the birth of the Roman Empire.

It is tempting in times of crisis to embrace a strongman, a man who will have the vision and power to right wrongs and defend the community for internal or external attack. Given the power to violently expropriate goods with impunity, to force the members of the community to labor according to his will, only the strong-man’s conscience and wisdom restrain him from harming those in his power. If he is both wise and has a strong aversion to hurting people, the community can survive such a man. If, on the other hand he is unwise, or bloodthirsty, or simply uncaring he can destroy not only the society but kill thousands or millions of people.

Today, the dominant political arguments seem focused on what decrees a strong leader should make to solve the crises of the world. All to often the necessary debates to whether a strong leader is even necessary are so muted, that most people are not even aware of their existence.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson

Two Hundred Sixty Four years ago today, one of history greatest advocates of human freedom was born. Though he went on to live a life that, at times, contradicted the principles that he advocated, Thomas Jefferson remains one of America’s greatest treasures. I can think of no better way to remember him today than by remembering his legacy.

First, there is his greatest legacy of all, the Declaration of Independence:

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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And, shortly thereafter, Jefferson was instrument in passage of the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom which provided:

[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

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Book Review: P.J. O’Rourke — On The Wealth Of Nations

I’ll admit a cardinal sin. I’ve never read The Wealth Of Nations. It’s always been on my “to read” list, as it is one of the most revolutionary books in economics history, and routinely quoted by many of the libertarians I admire. I actually bought a copy last year, and took a look at it. I realized it was 900+ pages of dry economics text, written in the style of an 18th-century Scotsman. I put it on my shelf, in order to get to it later. The shelf collapsed under the weight, so I rebuilt [and reinforced] it, put the book back up there, and there it has sat ever since. My guess is that many of those aforementioned libertarians I admire haven’t read it either, so a little book is making it easier on all of us.

I was a bit excited when I found out P.J. O’Rourke was releasing a book on Adam Smith’s revolutionary tome. The humorist which has supplied libertarians with countless quotes about the inefficiency, inadequacy, and impropriety of government was going to bring Adam Smith to the masses. And he hasn’t disappointed, in his book On The Wealth Of Nations.

The book is a bit of a Cliff’s Notes for The Wealth Of Nations, with humor added. Of course, it’s a rare Cliff’s Notes that is 196 pages, but not many 900+ page economics books get Cliff’s Notes. In fact, most of the summary of the original book takes up only about 130 pages of O’Rourke’s book, with a lot of added background on Smith himself (whose life was rather un-extraordinary), and on the impact that the book has had on the world. If you’re looking for a readable summary of The Wealth of Nations, with a little of the historical background thrown in, this is your book.
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Today In History

The first Presidential veto:

On this day in 1792, George Washington exercised his power to veto legislation for the first time in the nation’s history when he refused to sign a bill designed to apportion members of the House.

He vetoed the bill because he held that the Constitution did not authorize Congress to fix the size of the House of Representatives on a permanent basis as it goes about allocating seats in proportion to a state’s population. As Thomas Jefferson, then Washington’s secretary of state, observed, “if the [ratio of] representation [is] obtained by any process not prescribed in the Constitution, it becomes arbitrary and inadmissible.”

A President who vetoed legislation because he knew it was unconstitutional. Imagine that.

Somebody’s Gotta Say It (Book Review)

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

As a regular listener of The Neal Boortz Show, I find this book every bit as hard-hitting, insensitive, informative, and entertaining as his show. The High Priest of the Painful Truth pulls no punches in his assault on ignorance whether from the Right, the Left, or Center. The Libertarian Party (the party that most closely reflects his views) is even skewered on a number of fronts.

It’s difficult to know how people who do not listen to his show will respond. You will likely find this book near books with a conservative political bent but conservatives who expect to find yet another book which relentlessly attacks the Left while keeping their sacred cows protected will be sorely disappointed. While Boortz dedicates a significant portion of the book to the lunacy of the Left, the Right is criticized for pushing their religious anti-science agenda on the American public (especially in government schools), their homophobia, and their continuous chipping away at the limited government platform they claim to embrace.

Boortz has many targets in this book but none receive more of his ire than government schools. Teacher’s unions exist solely to keep mediocre to incompetent teachers in a job; they will fight tooth and nail to prevent any kind of competition from private schools. But government schools are even more harmful that what we can see on the surface. Want to know why the American public has lost its love for freedom in exchange for security from an ever expanding government? According to Boortz, government schools are to blame. Government schools teach school children from a very young age that government is good and is the solution to every problem. There is even a chapter dedicated to how school children learn their first lesson in communism. Have you ever taken your child to the store and bought school supplies on a list only to have the teacher take those supplies away from your child to be donated to the class? If you don’t believe this to be a big deal consider the lesson your child is learning: he or she must give up his or her private property (school supplies in this case) for “the greater good” of the whole society (the classroom in this case).

Is it any coincidence that most Americans erroneously believe that America’s government is a democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic? Is it any coincidence that most Americans don’t know the difference or know why this distinction is important? Boortz contends that this is not by accident but by design. The purpose of government schools is not to educate students but to indoctrinate them into obedient citizens subjects.

Eventually, these school children grow up to be voters (Did I mention that the author finds no constitutional guarantee to the right to vote? Sounds crazy but once you read his arguments and consult the U.S. Constitution, he makes a compelling case). After thirteen years of government indoctrination, many of these adults see no problem with wealth redistribution, the welfare state, the nanny state, and have no genuine appreciation for liberty. This makes it very easy for politicians to pander to the American public to meet all of these needs which far too many people believe to be birthrights. Those who believe this the most tend to vote Democrat which leads me to his chapter “The Democrats’ Secret Plan for America.”

Boortz mockingly calls the Democrat plan a “secret plan” because of how Democrats typically scare various constituencies about Republican secret plans to kick old people into the street, burn black churches, and starve babies. Much of the secret plan is no secret at all however. So what do the Democrats have in store for America should they retain congress and win the presidency? According to the author we can expect the entire tax burden to be shifted to the wealthy, imputed income (which would put most all home owners in a higher tax bracket), place caps on income for those who “make too much,” add taxes to 401k and other investment vehicles which are not currently taxed, womb to the tomb universal government healthcare, the reinstatement of the “fairness doctrine” (which would effectively put an end to talk radio), the repeal of the Second Amendment, and several other such wet dreams of the far Left. If you don’t read any other chapter in this book, read this chapter.

Certainly, this book isn’t one which will leave the reader thinking “Its morning in America” but it does offer a fair amount of humor, positive solutions (such as what should be taught in government schools; provides his own citizenship test), and an inside peek of the talk radio business. Boortz opens the book by introducing himself, his interests and how he got into talk radio (under rather tragic circumstances). Even in the chapters that contain a discouraging outlook have a healthy dose of humor. But if you are overly outraged after reading the chapter about government funded art or the Democrat Party’s war on the individual, skip to “Chasing Cats” or “Terrorizing the Mailroom.” I won’t give away what these chapters are about but I assure you that you are in for a good belly laugh (that Boortz is quite the prankster).

Somebody’s Gotta Say It is a refreshingly honest, sober view of the body politic, American culture, and state of our world. Boortz presents a variety of original controversial ideas on a variety of issues. Such proposals would certainly make the political debate more productive if not more interesting (a number of these proposals can be found toward the end of the book in a chapter entitled “No Way in Hell.”). I highly recommend this book for anyone who is not easily offended. Anyone who is easily offended should skip this book in favor of a selection from the Oprah Book Club.

D.C. Circuit Court Gets it Absolutely Right

I couldn’t imagine a better statement about the right to keep and bear arms coming from any court in this land (emphasis mine):

To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.

That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad).

In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Antifederalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty.

Despite the importance of the Second Amendment’s civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.

More, including links to other sites and analysis, at How Appealing

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Is Islamofascism a Legitimate Threat to Liberty?

In my recent post about Michael Charles Smith, I received a response from a reader by the name of Carl Deen regarding my support for the war against terror Islamofascism (Not the war on terror. Terrorism is the method the Islamofascist uses to accomplish his political-religious goals). I think his challenge is worth a post of its own so rather than responding in the original post, I have decided to answer him here.

Deen writes:

Let’s see if I understand the author. Without provocation, much like Germany did to Poland, the USA invaded Iraq, a country that was no threat to us; however, because, we did, we cannot admit our mistakes and withdraw. I suppose, by that reasoning, we must stay there forever at a cost of $500 billion and the lives of several hundred solders a year.

According to the author, Islam is a threat to us; therefore, we must attack and meddle in their affairs. It doesn’t occur to the author that if you attack and meddle in their affairs, you make more enemies than if you leave them alone.

Oh, I forgot; they hate us for our freedoms. Therefore, by using the war as reasons to turn the USA into a police state, they will stop hating us because we will have lost our remaining freedoms.

Was Iraq a threat to the United States?

First of all, the comparisons of the U.S. to Nazi Germany are getting very tiresome. Whatever ‘atrocities’ the U.S. has committed pale in comparison to the Holocaust. I also reject the premise that Iraq was no threat to the U.S. Regardless of whether or not Saddam had WMD, he was a threat to the U.S. Saddam did in fact invade Kuwait in the early 1990’s to steal the Kuwait’s oil. Had Saddam been allowed to proceed, there would have been national security threats as well as economic threats to the U.S. and the world.

When Saddam surrendered to the international coalition, there were certain conditions that he agreed to so that he could continue to be in power. Among those conditions were that he was not to reconstitute his WMD program and was restricted from flying in the ‘no fly zones.’ To enforce the agreement, coalition fighters patrolled the no fly zones from the time of the surrender to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Saddam routinely fired with anti-aircraft weapons on the coalition fighters patrolling the no fly zones, directly putting the lives of U.S. and coalition pilots at risk. These attacks were provocative acts of war.

Let’s also not forget that Saddam attempted to assassinate former President Bush. Regardless of how you feel about President Bush, he was a president of the United States. An attack on the president—any American president is a provocative act of war against the United States.

And then there were the families of the suicide bombers who Saddam paid to spread terrorism throughout Israel. Sure, he was not paying suicide bombers to make attacks in American cities (as far as we know anyway), but this still proved that he was not above such tactics. Though the 9/11 commission found no links between Saddam Hussein and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the commission did find that attempts were made between Saddam and Bin Laden to form an alliance. Their ties however, were non-operational. Had Saddam been as far along in his WMD program as most of the world’s intelligence agencies and world leaders had thought, it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe that those ties could have eventually become operational making it possible for Islamofascits to gain access to this material and carry out an attack on the U.S. Based on Saddam’s track record (his use of chemical and biological weapons on his own people, for example), there was no reason to believe that he did not have WMD. U.S. intelligence had underestimated Saddam’s progress in his WMD programs in the past. If left unchecked, he would have.

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Happy Birthday Mr. President

David Boaz discusses why George Washington is so important:

George Washington was the man who established the American republic. He led the revolutionary army against the British Empire, he served as the first president, and most importantly he stepped down from power.

In an era of brilliant men, Washington was not the deepest thinker. He never wrote a book or even a long essay, unlike George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. But Washington made the ideas of the American founding real. He incarnated liberal and republican ideas in his own person, and he gave them effect through the Revolution, the Constitution, his successful presidency, and his departure from office.

(…)

What values did Washington’s character express? He was a farmer, a businessman, an enthusiast for commerce. As a man of the Enlightenment, he was deeply interested in scientific farming. His letters on running Mount Vernon are longer than letters on running the government. (Of course, in 1795 more people worked at Mount Vernon than in the entire executive branch of the federal government.)

He was also a liberal and tolerant man. In a famous letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, he hailed the “liberal policy” of the United States on religious freedom as worthy of emulation by other countries. He explained, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

And most notably, he held “republican” values – that is, he believed in a republic of free citizens, with a government based on consent and established to protect the rights of life, liberty, and property.-

And for that America, and the world, should be eternally grateful.

Quotes Of The Day: George Washington Edition

As we mark the 275th anniversary of the birth of our nation’s first President, there isn’t a better time to note some of his more important observations:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.

Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.

The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.

The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.

Unveiling A Piece Of History

On December 23, 1783, George Washington addressed the Continental Congress for the last time as Commander of the Continental Army. Today, the original copy of the speech, in Washington’s own handwriting will be unveiled to the public:

It was a speech so moving the crowd wept. It was a speech so personally important George Washington’s hand shook as he read it until he had to hold the paper still with both hands. After the ceremony, he handed the thing to a friend and sped out the door of the State House in Annapolis, riding off by horse.

For centuries, his words have resonated in American democracy even as the speech itself — the small piece of paper that shook in his hands that day — was quietly put away, out of the public eye and largely forgotten.

Today, however, amid festivities celebrating his birthday, Maryland officials plan to unveil the original document — worth $1.5 million — after acquiring it in a private sale from a family in Maryland who had kept it all these years. It took two years to negotiate the deal and raise money for the speech, which experts consider the most significant Washington document to change hands in the past 50 years.

The speech, scholars say, was a turning point in U.S. history. As the Revolutionary War was winding down, some wanted to make Washington king. Some whispered conspiracy, trying to seduce him with the trappings of power. But Washington renounced them all.

By resigning his commission as commander in chief to the Continental Congress — then housed at the Annapolis capitol — Washington laid the cornerstone for an American principle that persists today: Civilians, not generals, are ultimately in charge of military power.

And for that alone, America should be eternally grateful.

We Don’t Need Anymore “Great” Presidents

As we mark the 275th anniversary of the birth of America’s first President, Robert Higgs argues that we need more President’s who don’t aspire to greatness:

In the New York Times Magazine for December 15, 1996, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., presented the results of a poll of historians asked to rank the presidents (excepting only William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, who held office very briefly). Thirty historians plus politicos Mario M. Cuomo and Paul Simon were asked to rank the nations chief executives as Great, Near Great, Average, Below Average, or Failure. The ranking applies to performance in the White House, not to lifetime accomplishments, and the historians used their own judgment as to what constitutes greatness or failure.

The results of the poll correspond well with the results of a number of earlier polls, especially in the set of presidents regarded as Great or Near Great. The three Great ones are Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Near Great comprise Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, and Truman. The Failures are Pierce, Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Grant, Harding, Hoover, and Nixon, the last ranking at the very bottom of the heap.

(…)

One need not ponder the rankings long, however, to discover a remarkable correlation: all but one of the presidents ranked as Great or Near Great had an intimate association with war, either in office or by reputation before taking office. Of the top-ranking “nine immortals,” five (Lincoln, FDR, Polk, Wilson, and Truman) were commander in chief when the nation went to war, and three (Washington, Jackson, and Teddy Roosevelt) were best known prior to becoming president for their martial exploits. The one exception, Jefferson, confined his presidential bellicosity to authorizing, with Congressional consent, the naval engagements against the Barbary pirates. (Of course, he had been a revolutionary official during the War of Independence.)

In contrast, of the eleven presidents ranked as Below Average or Failure, all but one (Nixon) managed to keep the nation at peace during their terms in office, and even Nixon ultimately extracted the United States from the quagmire of the war in Vietnam, though not until many more lives had been squandered.

As Higgs points out, each of these “great” Presidents took steps that not only increased the power of the state, but increased the power of the Executive Branch far beyond what the Founding fathers intended.

The president is to act as commander in chief of the army and navy, but Congress alone can commit the nation to war, that is, “declare war.” The president is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but only Congress can enact laws, and then only within the scope of its limited, enumerated powers. The presidency was intended to be a largely ceremonial position whose occupant would confine himself to enforcing federal laws.

But over time, abruptly during Lincoln’s presidency and progressively during the twentieth century, presidents seized more and more power.

American liberty will never be reestablished so long as elites and masses alike look to the president to perform supernatural feats and therefore tolerate his virtually unlimited exercise of power. Until we can restore limited, constitutional government in this country, God save us from great presidents.

This will require, though, a significant change in how the American people view both the government itself and the Presidency specifically.

Thomas Paine: More Harm than Good?

Thomas Paine is one of the least respected figures of the American Revolution and early American history. Many of Paine’s compatriots believed that his anti-religious ideas found in The Age of Reason were so dangerous that they would undermine the moral character of America (Keane 475). Paine further caught the ire of the American public with his open letter to President George Washington in which Paine called Washington “a cold blooded traitor” (Keane 429-33). Upon Paine’s death, The New York Citizen had eulogized: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Criticism for Paine and his works continued long after his death. Theodore Roosevelt once referred to Thomas Paine as a “filthy little atheist” (Stade 382). There has never been a shortage of criticism of Paine or his work whether in his own time or since. Certainly, some of the criticism is warranted, but the notion that Paine “did some good and much harm” is hardly fair for a man who sacrificed his wealth, risked his life, and inspired countless others in the cause of America’s independence from England.

When Thomas Paine arrived for the first time in America on November 30, 1774, no one could have predicted the enormous influence he and his writings would have on citizens of every class. Paine was not well known at this time, but Benjamin Franklin’s letter of introduction to Philadelphia’s movers and shakers would soon change that. As Paine became comfortable with his new surroundings, he spent many hours in book stores and conversing with others about his literary interests. One day, Paine was in one of his favorite stores visiting with the store’s owner, Robert Aitken. Aitken was so impressed with Paine that he offered Paine a job as the editor of the upstart periodical Pennsylvania Magazine (Kaye 49-50).

Rather than writing directly about controversial issues, Paine used allegory and the increasingly popular medium of the fable to express his ideas. The fables opened up the world of politics to the general public; something which was not done in literature prior to Paine’s writing and editorship of Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine’s impact on the magazine was immediate. Circulation of the fledgling magazine more than doubled in the first month of Aitken’s hiring of Paine as contributing editor. The magazine would sell more copies than any other magazine up to that time (Larkin 261).
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