Sunday, April 05, 2015

and because we haven't linked to Orthocuban in a while, don't forget that the Founding Fathers wouldn't have drafted the Constitution if the Articles of Confederation had worked


What I (and many others like Mr. Dowd in the quote above) can argue is that it is incredibly easy to show that the founding fathers struck compromise after compromise as they tried to achieve a workable union. Their first set of compromises did not work. We need to remember that. The Articles of Confederation were a failure. The Constitutional Convention took place because the Articles of Confederation were a failure. That attempt, to keep almost all power in the States did not lead to freedom, it led to mini-tyrannies and confusion. For instance, no one but scholars knows, or is even taught, that Massachusetts continued to collect taxes for the established state church until the early 1800’s. Meantime such a tax collection law was defeated in Virginia with Thomas Jefferson arguing for its defeat. People who had rights in one state, such as Baptist preachers, might be considered unlicensed, attacked, and even jailed in at least one or two states. The same problem surged in regard to issues such as taxation, the Armed Forces, etc. The Articles of Confederation were a failure.
The States and Congress knew that this had to change, that there had to be a stronger central union, and that there had to be a better cross-State guarantee of rights. Many of those today who quote founding fathers appearing to show that the central government should have little power are quoting them from before the US Constitution, at a time when it was still thought that the States should have most of the power. When they speak of original intent, they fail to acknowledge that the original intent failed and that the very fathers they quote got back together precisely because their original intention did not work.
The USA Constitution is the result of the realization that something new had to be written and the old discarded. It was also the realization that this country was going to fail if they were not able to reach necessary compromises. And, so, a new document was written, one that better delineated the compromises necessary to make this nation work.
There's other thoughts expressed in the post along the way but this would be the highlight articulating the problem with trying to go back to the "original intent" of the Founding Fathers with respect to governance on the one hand, or to assert a certain idealism that permits jettisoning what was actually formulated on the other, that the idealism of granting powers to the states was second-guessed.  Whether we get to the left or the right if there is no moderating impulse then we get something an older guy once told Wenatchee The Hatchet would be the blight of American politics, we'd see a political landscape dominated thoroughly not by mid-20th century liberals and conservatives but by radicals and reactionaries.

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