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Death of a Republic

Pop quiz: What form of government do we have in the United States of America?

If you answered 'democracy', you are wrong. It is a Republic, and yes there is a huge difference. Following is an article I thought was very good, written by Joseph S. Bommarito.

Death of a Republic --

After the adoption of the Constitution by the Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what had been wrought. He responded, 'A Republic, if you can keep it.' He was referring to the form of the new government of the United States and also to the ideal: an agency of the people whose most pressing business was to be guarantor of rights and protector of liberty.

We still have the body of the Republic. The government is a strong and growing super-State, a Leviathan that has already begun to strangle itself in its own bureaucracies. But what of the spirit of the Republic? Is Thomas Jefferson's warning that 'The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground' being borne out? What of liberty?

On September 6, the Savannah Morning News ran an Associated Press article by David Kravets with the disingenuous local headline, 'Attacks reshape our rights.' The article begins by stating, 'The government has imposed new limits on legal rights ...' This is the only place in the article where the word 'right' is used, and it is modified by 'legal,' implying that government legislates rights.

Kravets also refers to freedom of association amongst law-abiding citizens as a mere 'idea' and probable cause as a 'bread-and-butter legal standard.' He quotes Viet Dinh, an assistant U.S. attorney general as saying, '... liberty cannot exist without order and security.'

Deceitful claims like these only serve to lead us further down the road to serfdom. Kravets cites an August telephone poll finding that 30 percent of citizens were 'very concerned' about restrictions of freedoms. Seventy percent of the population is not very concerned or not concerned at all. The ideals of liberty have been indoctrinated, bought, or scared out of the population.

To say that rights can be reshaped debases American heritage, reviles the Revolutionary spirit, and spits in the faces of those 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to protect their rights. They knew that security depended on liberty, that security without liberty was servitude.

The concept of rights derived by government grant is blood-chilling. The dictionary definition of right is 'something to which one has a just claim.' If the claim is just, then rights cannot be reshaped, limited, granted by government, or bargained like baseball trading cards. But if government is the grantor of rights then there are no rights, just arbitrary entitlements crafted by self-serving legislators.

Our heritage of freedom rests on an understanding of rights derived from a Creator or as being inherent in human nature. Furthermore, rights are essential to human moral agency, being the yardstick of moral action. These fundamental theories of rights have certain essential provisions:

.Rights are universal, applying to everyone. They are constrained only by 'limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others,' as Jefferson wrote. 'I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.'

.Rights cannot be 'reshaped,' they can only be infringed. If rights can be changed, limited, or prohibited, then by definition they are not rights, but wants.

.Rights go beyond those listed in the Constitution. They consist of all human action that does not coercively interfere with the actions of others.

.Government is instituted to secure and protect our rights. There is no other justification for that institution that Tom Paine called at best 'a necessary evil, and at its worst, an intolerable one.'

.Governments have powers; people have rights. The Bill of Rights was demanded by the Anti-Federalists to protect individual rights from abuses of government power, including the excesses of majority rule.

It was from these ideals that the Republic was conceived. It gestated through a long period of mostly forgotten infringements, including the Sugar Act, the Townshend Acts, seizures of private property, destruction of property, the Tea Act, and the Coercive Acts.

The Republic was not born when the Constitution was ratified, nor at the adoption of the Constitution, nor when independence was declared. It was born in noise and confusion and blood on April 19, 1775. It was born with a burst of gunfire, the smell of powder and the whistling of shot, and with the blood of patriots on Lexington Green, at Concord Bridge, and during that long, terrible aftermath on the road to Boston.

The young Republic had only just started to walk when it received its first injuries, the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion and the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts. These events made the body of the Republic-the government-stronger. The ideal of the Republic-the spirit-was weakened. Thus continued the age-old struggle between government and liberty in a land dedicated to minimization of the former and preservation of the latter.

Injuries to liberty are most evident during times of war. James Madison wrote, 'Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.'

Rights violations, justified by war, have occurred time and again. Wars have ushered in unconscionable taxes, suspension of habeas corpus, trial of civilians by military courts, censorship of communications, nationalization of private property, and once a scorched earth policy inflicted on our own country. In additional to actual conflicts, 'war' is blithely declared on alcohol, drugs, tobacco, poverty, and other popular 'enemies.' With each war comes further infringements.

Now we have a war on terror ... or terrorism ... or terrorists. It's not clear. What is clear is that it is an open-ended war, a 'new normalcy' according to Vice President Cheney. The spewings of the Federal propaganda machine are reflected in the attitudes of citizens, many of whom are willing to trade their birthright for honeyed promises from Congress-weasels and Bureau-rats, promises of safety, security, and the ever-popular Rooseveltian freedom from fear. Safety and security from the government that failed to provide them on September 11, 2001.

The spirit of the Republic is still moving, still breathing, but it is dying, succumbing to a 200-year accumulation of serious blows. Liberty is gasping its last. Franklin wrote, 'Where liberty dwells, there is my country.' I ask, 'Without liberty, where is my country?'

No amount of resuscitation will restore the Republic. Once in a while it is strapped down on a table and jolted into a Frankensteinian simulacrum of life with a few feel-good pieces of legislation, a minor tax decrease, or a Congressional 'inquiry' into the iniquities of some agency or other. But in a little while it sighs and collapses. Each collapse lasts a little longer, each resuscitation a bit shorter.

Some readers will consider me unpatriotic for declaring the imminent death of the Republic, the loss of liberty. Some will think me foolish for preferring rights and freedom over promises of safety. I can only echo an unknown writer:

'A patriot secures his liberty before he secures his safety.'

View responses or leave your own response


bryan bryan
hmm. interesting. perhaps i'm the 1st nut becuz i have (or have chosen to have) the time to read it. i hate more than anything not being free and i'm willing to accept danger to stop that from happening. the only thing that bothers me about this whole idea of freedom is that when most people desire freedom, what they really mean is money; they want their tax dollars back. if we could have the same amount of security (or even more) and not have to pay taxes, how many people would have no complaints? by the way, i got the quiz.

bryan bryan
if you supress your urge to answer the question immediately, it's not a difficult one (into the republic, for which it stands).

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