As stated in Part One of this article, if we can have meaningful and respectful dialogue, we have a chance at bridging the divide in our country. It is my considered opinion that the great American divide has been fueled by politics.
Politics is defined as the art or science of governing with concern for winning or holding control. Politics are practiced virtually everywhere. However, when politics are utilized for self-serving gain or an elitist group advantage, tyranny has entered the scene.
Tyranny is precisely what the original thirteen colonies in America sought to be free from. The opening lines in the Declaration of Independence (1776) reads as follows (printed here exactly as originally published):
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. 1
The Declaration then lists the many tyrannical abuses the people suffered as evidence of their reason for succession from the British monarchy. I encourage you to follow footnote number one to learn about the abuse of power America’s early settlers suffered.
America’s Founding Fathers, studied the history of governments to determine the best the form of government for the newly united colonies. Their quest was to establish a government that would have built-in protections from future abuse of power. They were impressed with the ancient Roman Republic, and used some of the ideas from that style of government when forming the government for America. The Founders learned that republican government was one in which:
• The power of government is held by the people.
• The people give power to leaders they elect to represent them and serve their interests.
• The representatives are responsible for helping all the people in the country, not just a few people.
The Founders thought a republican government was the best system for the people for the following reasons:
• Fairness: They believed that laws made by the representatives elected by the people would be fair. If their representatives did not make fair laws, the people could elect other representatives who would.
• Common welfare: The laws would help everyone instead of one person or a few favored people.
• Freedom and prosperity: People would have greater freedom and be able to live well. 2
Many people today claim that America is a democracy, which is entirely incorrect.
A democracy is government by the majority. There is a restricted group of citizens in a democracy, but this group rules directly and personally runs the state. The group may delegate specific tasks to individuals, such as generalships and governorships, but there is no question that the ruling force in a democracy is not a charter (if there even is a charter), but the vote of the majority. Democracies are free only if the people know what freedom is and are consistent in their application of it. If they don’t know this, or more appropriately, if a majority of the people don’t know this, then a democracy could be just as tyrannical as the worst dictator (see Socrates’ forced suicide by the Athenian democracy.)
A republic is a government in which a restricted group of citizens form a political unit, usually under the auspice of a charter, which directs them to elect representatives who will govern the state. Republics, by their very nature, tend to be free polities, not because they are elected by the citizens of the polity, but because they are bound by charters, which limit the responsibilities and powers of the state. The fact that people vote for representatives has nothing to do with making anything free. The logical consistency and rationality of the charter, as well as the willingness of the people to live by it, is what keeps people free.3
The militant opposition to the current administration is, in my opinion, evidence that tyranny is on the scene, because those who prefer a democracy are experiencing a loss of power. Advocates of democracy in America are either ignorant concerning our true style of government or aware and seek to change the governance so they may be among the majority who can then vote themselves benefits.
The first Constitutional Convention of the United States, (1787) was held to address the problems of the weak central government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The United States Constitution that emerged from the convention established a federal government with more specific powers, including those related to conducting relations with foreign governments. Under the reformed federal system, many of the responsibilities for foreign affairs fell under the authority of an executive branch, although important powers, such as treaty ratification, remained the responsibility of the legislative branch. After the necessary number of state ratifications, the Constitution came into effect in 1789 and has served as the basis of the United States Government ever since.4
One of the main fears at the first Constitutional Convention was that the government would be too democratic. Alexander Hamilton is known to have suggested a restricted monarchy. However, this idea was rejected on the basis that any majority could vote itself anything it wanted, be it property or executions.
The Founding Fathers anticipated elected representatives to be statesmen—true public servants. That is, men who would serve their constituency, upholding the will of the people and not promote their own personal ideals. Initially men who served in government, left their personal careers for a limited time to serve their country—to serve their fellow citizens. Early statesmen sacrificed income, personal business advancement, and time with family out of the sense of duty to serve America. Statesmen are those who work to help others by promoting the common welfare, which is to display civic virtue.
The reason these men were willing to sacrifice was because of the tremendously oppressive lives they and their ancestry had lived under the British monarchy. With the mindset of humbly governing the people without abuse, salaries for Senators, for example were exceptionally low. The years 1789-1815 Senators received $6.00 per day, which is equivalent to $89.69 per day actually worked. If the senators worked a five-day week, their salary in 1815 would have been $23,319.00 per year. Compare that to the $174,000.00 annually paid to senators today, not to mention the many additional benefits our elected officials have voted for themselves. Additionally, early senators were limited to serve a maximum of a six-year term. Far different from the career-politicians we have today.5.
Part One of this article stated: ‘When we successfully arrive at a common definition of what is true and therefore good, only then can we enter into any rational dialogue with hopes of resolving common human problems.” In America, we have many issues that divide us. However, I believe if we the people, intentionally replace the ignorance we have lived with for too long, with the truth of the historical rationale and reasoning of our Forefathers, we will be on a path to bridging the gap.
The next part of this article, I intend to identify the common goals we have, whether we claim to align with the democrat or republican party.
3. Republic? Democracy? What’s the Difference? By Alexander Marriott, (January 4, 2003) http://capitalismmagazine.com/2003/01/republic-democracy-whats-the-difference/
4. Constitutional Convention and Ratification, 1787–1789
5. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/senate_salaries.htm and https://www.senate.gov/history/1787.htm
Pamela Christian is a speaker, writer, and media personality. Her current book series is Faith to Live By, with the third book to be released April/May 2017, Revive Your Life! Rest for Your Anxious Heart.