Friday, July 04, 2014

Calvin Coolidge's "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence"

The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence - Calvin Coolidge (cleaning up after Wilson, July 5, 1926)

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human
experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them. The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be under-estimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.

The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.

But if these truths to which the declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker of Connecticut as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that:

The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people
The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance.

This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled "The Church's Quarrel Espoused," in 1710 which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.

While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise, It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his "best ideas of democracy" had been secured at church meetings.

That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that "All men are created equally free and independent". It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, "Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man". Again, "The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth . . . ." And again, "For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine". And still again, "Democracy is Christ's government in church and state". Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.

When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."

No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.

Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self government; the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that "Democracy is Christ's government". The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped.

Hey America - Dependence, or Independence - which do you declare?

Independence Day is at hand again, but before I re-post "Inspiration of the Declaration of
Independence" from our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, it might help it sink in more thoroughly by first looking at what he'd understood to be 'The Supports of Civilization', and the meaning of Education::
"The process of civilization consists of the discovery by men of the laws of the universe, and of living in harmony with those laws. The most important of them to men are the laws of their own nature.

This is education, the method whereby man is revealed to himself. It is the instruction of his understanding, the training of his sentiments, the direction of his action. It discloses the physical and the spiritual, the unseen and the seen. It includes every human relationship and shows forth every duty. It is alike the source of the intellectual and moral force of all mankind.

I shall assume that civilization is desirable. I do not think that is questioned in any respectable quarter...."
Because, unfortunately for us, there are those who do question whether 'civilization is desirable', people like Jean Jacques Rousseau, who made his splash into philosophic fame by questioning the very assumption that 'civilization is desirable', declaring instead that Civilization, particularly Western Civilization, was the root of all of our incivility. And sadly, it has been ideas like Rousseau's, rather than Coolidge's, that have driven our modern sense of education.

You don't have to check the news or even crank up the Google to verify this, just ask yourself if you can imagine your child coming home from a day at school, let alone from a semester at college, expressing the general sense of things found in this, my favorite passage from Coolidge's speech on the Declaration of Independence:
"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."
Not real likely, right? Coolidge had been doing his best to clean up after our other 'progressive' college professor, Woodrow Wilson, who'd begun peddling his pro-regressive socialistic idiocy,  such as this, back in 1886:
“... Old as democracy is, its organization on a basis of modern ideas and conditions is still an unaccomplished work. The democratic state has yet to be equipped for carrying those enormous burdens of administration which the needs of this industrial and trading age are so fast accumulating. Without comparative studies in government we cannot rid ourselves of the misconception that administration stands upon an essentially different basis in a democratic state from that on which it stands in a non-democratic state….”
Even then, Wilson and his ilk, had begun trying to get us to stop thinking of ourselves as a Republic, and instead for us to refer to ourselves as a 'Democracy'. It's a curious thing, that what he saw as being that 'democratic state', was not so different, in his eyes, or Pro-Regressives eyes today, as Socialism. From Wilson's 'Socialism and Democracy'
"...For it is very clear that in fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals. Limits of wisdom and convenience to the public control there may be: limits of principle there are, upon strict analysis, none.

It is of capital importance to note this substantial correspondence of fundamental conception as between socialism and democracy: a whole system of practical politics may be erected upon it without further foundation...."
What Woodrow Wilson wanted to do with that 'Old Time Progressivism', as Hillary Clinton called it, was to, in effect, to 'Fundamentally Transform America', and he said so, in speech after speech, such as in "What is Progress?", and he said it as clearly as our current college professor president attempts to obscure it:
"All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when “development” “evolution,” is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.
And yep, for those of you who like to spout off about Conservative's 'Social Darwinism'? It's all yours baby. And the means they put in place to 'evolve us', was the Regulatory State. From the ACA's to EPA's, they are the administrative means of transforming a 'Democracy' into an 'improved' version of socialism: 'Progressivism'. Wilson continued:
" Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia, July 4th, 1776. Their bosoms swell against George III, but they have no consciousness of the war for freedom that is going on today.

The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day and substitute them in some vital way for the examples it itself gives, so concrete, so intimately involved in the circumstances of the day in which it was conceived and written. It is an eminently practical document, meant for the use of practical men; not a thesis for philosophers, but a whip for tyrants; not a theory for government, but a program of action. Unless we can translate it into the questions of our own day, we are not worthy of it, we are not the sons of the sires who acted in response to its challenge. ."
The last line is one he did manage to get right: " Unless we can translate it into the questions of our own day, we are not worthy of it, we are not the sons of the sires who acted in response to its challenge".

America, you need to judge for yourself, which one of these President's visions sounds to you like they mean to see that you will be allowed to live your life as you see fit: Wilson's view of a Darwinist Govt living your life for you, or Coolidge’s idea of living your own life in Liberty?

We are faced with a choice today between the two: Which path to follow? We've been flirting with Teddy Roosevelt's & Woodrow Wilson's path for a century, and this current administration has brought us to the 'put up or shut-up!' stage - which will it be America? A Declaration of Independence such as Coolidge and our Founders envisioned for you and your children, or the Desire for Dependence under the tender mercies of the administrative state, as the Pro-Regressives have planned for you?

It's time to choose.

The sort of life you will be allowed to lead depends upon it.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Is History, history?

With all that is in the headlines today (together with what is not); scandals at the IRS, VA, NSA and happening abroad in Ukraine and Iraq, it's hard not to get a sense that you are living through History here and now. And since we're in the subject, did you ever ask yourself this question, at least once, while you were in school?:
Polemarchus: "But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured. "

----------Plato, The Republic, Book 1

"What do I need to study History for?!"
What did you think of the answers you were given? As an adult, with kids in school, you might want to pursue that question a little further with something more like this:
Is what it is that our kids are studying, still History? - or has History itself been relegated to the ash heap of history?
Of course to even be able ask these questions, you have to consult History... so to avoid going 'round and 'round in circles, we'd better first ask the question which very few people ever bother to raise:
What is "History" and what do we hope to learn from it?
If you search for a definition of the word 'History', with the exception of Wiki, believe it or not, you have to look far and wide for any site that gives the original meaning of the Greek word 'History'
"from Greek  historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation"
That understanding of the term was clearly the sense with which it was still defined in Webster's 1828 Dictionary which gave:
"HIS'TORY, n. [L. historia; Gr. knowing, learned, and to inquire, to explore, to learn by inspection or inquiry.]
1. An account of facts, particularly of facts respecting nations or states; a narration of events in the order in which they happened,with their causes and effects. History differs from annals. Annals relate simply the facts and events of each year, in strict chronological order, without any observations of the annalist. History regards less strictly the arrangement of events under each year, and admits the observations of the writer. This distinction however is not always regarded with strictness. "
Note the phrases I've underlined, the first being that facts & events alone are not History, and second, History includes the observations of the writer. Why? Hold that thought a moment. That understanding still substantially persisted in how Webster's 1913 Dictionary, defined History, although it had slipped down to second place:
"1. A learning or knowing by inquiry; the knowledge of facts and events, so obtained; hence, a formal statement of such information; a narrative; a description; a written record; as, the history of a patient's case; the history of a legislative bill.
2. A systematic, written account of events, particularly of those affecting a nation, institution, science, or art, and usually connected with a philosophical explanation of their causes;"
But that sense of History is pretty much gone from the modern Webster's definition:
": the study of past events
: events of the past
: past events that relate to a particular subject, place, organization, etc."
This newer definition essentially relegates History to being what the 1828 definition emphasized that History was not: Annals. Up through a century ago, History was still largely seen as knowledge and understanding obtained through inquiries into events "...usually connected with a philosophical explanation of their causes..."; and now to return to the thought I asked you to hold onto above: for what reason? The historic reason, was that it was in order to obtain Wisdom; to provide a means to a better understanding of ourselves and our culture; to provide an aid in developing an awareness of the pitfalls which our desire to make progress often leads us into, with hopes of it helping us to avoid repeating those errors ourselves; and a means of helping us to better understand the reality of where we are now, in order to help find our way more surely into the future.

One wag summed up the alternative modern approach to history, as being one where,
'Americans treat history like a cookbook. Whenever they are uncertain what to do next, they turn to history and look up the proper recipe, invariably designated  "The lesson of history"'
Which is a recipe for bad history.

Cooking the History Books
Looking to 'History' as simply 'the study of past events' in order to provide us with useful responses to situations, is an ahistorical view, downgrading History from a means to wisdom, to that of a useful skill. This new view historically had its proto-Utilitarian beginnings with Helvetius's 'Of the Spirit' (1758), a view which Isiah Berlin summarized in his 'Freedom and Its Betrayal: Six Enemies of Human Liberty', as
"...history is nothing but the tale of the crimes and the follies of mankind..."
, to be used, as Helvetius conveyed in a dialog by having God declare to Man that:
"...Over thee I set pleasure and pain; the one and the other will watch over thy thoughts and acts, excite thy aversions... set on fire thy desires"
This view sees history's only use as being a record of events & changes to be studied, like strata of geologic rock, in order to be utilized by 'those who know' as a means of making (and justifying) changes and improvements to what they regard as the plastic material of man. Helvetius was actually shocked on reading his friend Montesquieu's "Spirit of the Laws" (a book that was one of the most referenced by the Framers of our Constitution during its creation), he was alarmed that he'd publish such wisdom for the masses to see, where what they really needed was to be told what to do. Helvetius wrote to Montesquieu
"...You bid us behold the world, how it has been governed, and how it is still ruled: but you too often give the world credit for reason and wisdom, which are in fact your own, and of which it will be much surprised at receiving the honors.

...But have you not flattered them too much? Such a course may propitiate the priests; and in dividing the spoil with those Cerberus's of the church, you silence them with respect to your religion:.... as to the rest, they will not be able to comprehend you. Our lawyers are not able either to read or understand you. As to the aristocrats, and our petty despots of all grades, if they understand you, they cannot praise you too much, and this is the fault I have ever found with the principles of your work. You may recollect, that in our discussions at Brede, I admitted that they might apply to the actual state of things; but I concluded that a writer, anxious to serve mankind, ought rather to lay down just maxims for an improved order of things yet to arise, than to give force or consequence to those which are dangerous, at the moment when prejudice is striving to preserve and perpetuate human ignorance and subjection...."

That is what most of us have in mind when we're asked about what 'Elitist' thinking is: the belief that the mass of people are too dull and stupid to be trusted with their own lives. And in this new modern sense of 'history', our elites, such as Cass Sunstein, view history as being little better than a cookbook of recipes to serve up the most useful actions to be taken, nudging and shoving us as needed in any given situation with maxims of Pleasure and Pain, not as a means of bringing about greater understanding & wisdom, but to order other people's lives as Elites determine as being best for them. So my question, my inquiry, is: If History originally had one purpose, and that has been changed into another, is that change an example of making Progress or Regress? Is it still History? How are you able to know? And how are you able to know, except by inquiring into what men have thought, said and done, and by carefully considering what has resulted from those actions before?

Funny how the answer you receive, even if you try sticking with the modern answer, still finds yourself being returned to the original one, isn't it? Mightn't it be a good idea to give that original answer some further consideration? Not to mention looking very carefully at why you've been led to think that it wasn't enough.

A Textbook Case
Back in January a friend sent me a link to the new AP History standards, asking my opinion of it. I didn't get to get too far into it before realizing that there was only one opinion that could be formed from it: If these standards succeed in becoming The Standard, then the once standard view of history will itself become history; The History as means to Wisdom, such as Montesquieu sought, will be replaced by 'history' as maxims and skills, as Helvetius sought.

The opening paragraph of the Introduction, sets the tone for the tome:
"...The resulting program of study contains clear learning objectives for the AP U.S. History course and exam, emphasizing the development of thinking skills used by historians and aligning with contemporary scholarly perspectives on major issues in U.S. history. The course is designed to encourage students to become apprentice historians who are able to use historical facts and evidence in the service of creating deeper conceptual understandings of critical developments in U.S. history... "
This is the view of History as being nothing more than a means of manipulating the past, in order to build something new upon it. In particular, focusing upon the "development of thinking skills" screams out that it will inhibit any actual thinking, consideration and reflection. Instead it will promote useful skills in using references and citations for a purpose - that of delivering one recipe or another; and "aligning with contemporary scholarly perspectives", confirming that this Standard, has and intends to have, an agenda; to "encourage students to become apprentice historians who are able" to see History as but a useful skill, with apprentice historians being the most useful tools, for employing them.

Actual History might suggest a couple questions that would be useful for us to ask: useful to who and for what? To be employed to further...what? The answers, if you've any of the original spirit of history left in you, is given to us to be read right there between the AP's words: Serving up scholar's accepted and politically correct perspectives, is what they are to be employed in service of. And in that view, history can become little more than data to be quantified; studied, not as a means to a deeper understanding of self and society, but in order to further pre-determined ideological aims, serving up useful nudges to those studying it. How men actually act under the influence of ideas, passions, and adverse or favorable events and circumstances, can and will be given no more consideration than a laundry list for training others in using those references to effectively spin the approved position.

One of the principals behind the abhorrent 'Common Core Standards' is a fellow named David Coleman, unsurprisingly he is also the fellow behind the new AP History standards. One of the 'favorite' make-work terms of CCS is 'compare and contrast' (See Terrence O. Moore's "The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core" for an I-opening look at the dereliction of intellectual duty which their use of that phrase conveys, and what else is being standardized through the Common Core Standards), well, here's a chance to do just that; compare and contrast the AP intro, to the course blurb for History at Hillsdale College"

"...The History program at Hillsdale College strives to develop the minds and improve the hearts of students by engaging them in reflection upon the ideas, events, cultural patterns, and leaders responsible for shaping our Western Heritage, of which the American tradition is a part; to support the classical liberal arts education of our students through the development of critical and free inquiry, through the exposure to a breadth of knowledge about the human past, and through the refinement of oral and written communication skills; and to lead students into a dialogue with the inhabitants of the living past and thereby foster the historical perspective by which the present might be understood as an extension of the past. ..."
"Story-Killers: How the Common Core Destroys Minds and Souls"
Although this is not free of gobbledy-gook ('the development of critical and free inquiry', 'and thereby foster the'), its aim is true: the development of the individuals understanding of self, and society.

More to the original point, is this from Thomas Aquinas College, which teaches 'History' not as a subject itself, but as an understanding which emerges from teaching significant works from history in chronological context with that period's philosophy, literature, political development and so forth (which IMHO is how it should be):
"...No college can claim to complete a student's education, nor should it claim to teach all things. It ought to assert that it will teach him what is first and fundamental. Histories by such writers as Herodotus, Thucydides, Plutarch, Gibbon, and Tocqueville are read. However, the discussions they provoke are not limited merely to an interest in historical fact. These discussions, for example, may involve an analysis of the assumptions used by the writer in establishing and evaluating historical events. The value of reading history will always depend upon the quality of the reader's general understanding of reality. History itself will not make a well-ordered mind, but the cultivated intellect will profit greatly from the study of history...."[emphasis mine]
Are you seeing some contrast there? In the later view, Reality is seen as the root of all of the studies, and in the AP's, changing people's perception of what reality is, is their point. The language of the AP introduction, is not only tortured, inflated, self flattering and rife with pointless elaboration of terms ("Chronological Reasoning"), it screams out that this is unserious in its regard for History, and is instead intended to manipulate and sell not just a point of view, but a way of developing a point of view which excludes the real value of History - self knowledge. This is not designed to further the aims of anything worthy of the name of Education, but only for the development of useful, meaning 'Politically Correct', skills in furtherance of political ideology.

That is what it means to develop thinking skills to be employed for a purpose, a purpose having little or no relation to Reality.

The AP's Standards would have you "use historical facts and evidence in the service of creating deeper conceptual understandings" - that is a dangerous standard to keep. Yes, it is by considering historical facts and evidence, that you may develop a deeper conceptual understanding, but that is not the same as using facts and evidence in order to construct an understanding. Do you see the difference there? It's a small difference that has huge implications, as the later has a pre-conceived answer in mind which the facts and evidence are to be used to rationalize. If you use facts and evidence in service to developing deeper conceptual understanding, that entails cherry picking facts and evidence in order to elaborate a pre-determined conclusion. On the other hand, if you consider the facts and evidence, not simply as material which occurs as striations in the 'fact pattern' of time, but which follow from people's thoughts and actions, you may develop a deeper conceptual understanding... which can dangerous to approved views, as you just might be surprised through such an understanding the suggestion that what you thought you understood, was only a partial truth, shallow or even in error. That is not what standards such as the AP's want students to learn from History.

An actual consideration of the narrative of history goes far beyond mere facts and events, it's hardly a mechanistic 'insert fact 'A' here, attach event 'B' there, then turn knob 'C' for a deeper conceptual understanding' process. How deep that conceptual understanding can be developed will depend upon the purpose given for doing so - if it's understood that the purpose for studying History is to gain a greater understanding of yourself and human nature, then the depths you might discover are limitless. On the other hand, if the purpose for studying history is "aligning with contemporary scholarly perspectives on major issues", then those perspectives have already defined your limits, confining you to the conceptual wading pool of history.

This modern view of history means that those who've 'learned the lessons of history', will be advising people to take actions without either understanding their situation, or what a worthwhile solution to it would be. Consequently Mark Twain's 'history may not repeat, but it does rhyme', will do so at an ever increasing rhythm (and blues), rhyming and repeating the same mistakes in an ever increasing tempo.

Illusory Lessons Learned
If you don't value what is highest, you will foster and encourage what is lowest, and that goes double for human nature and the unfolding of it in time, which is what we should know of as History. When we talk of History, too often we are talking about what has changed over time, rather than those issues we need to pay attention to because they are timeless. Forgetting that the reason why we inquire into the past is to gain a better understanding, not of the illustrious dead, but of ourselves, we begin speaking of historic events and people of 20 years, 200 or 2,000 years ago, as if they have as little to do with us today as aliens from another world (which they will have become).

We repeat the error so easily by presuming that the trivial differences in appearance between one historical period and another are somehow what separate us from them; as if wearing a toga or a suit, or a grass skirt, for that matter, define a person or make us immune from the choices they made, or failed to make, on a daily basis. Why focus upon the dress and styles of those in the past? As Polemarchus asked in the opening of the Republic, can you persuade someone who will not listen? If you supplied a different view of history, to those fed the new AP view, could they be persuaded if they will not listen? If a person is led to believe that the dated appearances of the period, the dress and style of those in it, have more significance, or somehow determine what was said & done, than what was actually said & done... then, like Polemarchus, they won't listen to that which they'd actually said and done, has to say to them now.

I recently had an exchange with a fellow which illustrates just that. In a thread that had begun on the 2nd Amendment, he'd worked himself up to full leftist righteous superiority mode, demanding that I produce statistics to prove how the Free Market would benefit kids and seniors more than Social Security & Medicaid, which, if you've read any of my posts on how not to argue with leftists (such as here and here), you know that that's a lead I'm not going to follow. Don't follow the squirrel of statistics, that's simply a means of not discussing the Principle they're dying to avoid. He was infuriated when I returned to asking him to first explain how the Constitution, let alone Justice and Decency, justified stealing for their good intentions.

Still in full superiority mode, he said "The constitution also once claimed that African Americans were 3/5 of a person". I replied that he was wrong again, that it referred only to "three fifths of all other Persons", which had infuriated the pro-slavery members by refusing to introduce either race or slavery into the law of the land. I gave him a link to what Frederick Douglass had to say on how mistaken such a view of the Constitution was, but he had no comment to that.

Instead, he followed that up with how my 'precious constitution' (meaning it's neither his Constitution, nor precious to him?) denied women the right to vote. I told him, no, wrong yet again, it leaves voting up to the states. He followed that up, still in full leftie mocking mode, with an
"So the original Constitution allowed women and people of African descent to vote? Can you link me to something that will make me unlearn all the history that I have known to this point?"
Which I of course did (here and here). He of course didn't want to acknowledge that either, instead he replied about how 'your social darwinist views' would end life as we know it in America. When I explained that Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism (he's the one who coined the phrase "Survival of the fittest") was not only opposed to everything I'd been explaining to him, but actually underlay nearly every view the he had been prattling on in support of, the irony was lost on him.

Not only did he not know who Herbert Spencer was, but he did not want to know. He did not want to know what the meaning of Social Darwinism was, or that it actually supported what he 'believed', and was in opposition to what I believed. When I pointed out that Spencer was a driver of using statistical Quantities to justify philosophic Qualities, ex: "Capitalism is the greater contributor to the greater good!", which, in conceding and discarding principles in favor of statistics, abandons what makes a Free Market justifiable, he was unimpressed. When I pointed out that Spencer was a driver of discarding an Education centered around knowledge of the best of literature, history, philosophy, virtues, in favor of one that concerned itself only with teaching useful skills, calculative abilities and a slate of memorized places and dates; that Spencer and Social Darwinism itself is in favor of exactly how this fellow was justifying his passion for imposing Social Security & Medicaid programs upon us all; was for his own reasoning for discarding the 2nd Amdt; was for keeping actual History and a regard for our Founder's Era out of our schools, in favor of useful skills for the '21st Century' economy - it made no impression upon him at all. How could it? He wasn't listening.

instead, he doubled down on that view by saying that it doesn't matter what happened a century ago (except with slavery and women's suffrage?), or what Social Darwinism Actually meant (except to accuse me of it?), only with what people like him 'knew' it meant today(without knowing even the first thing about what they claim to know!).

For the Pro-Regressive, the past, because it is past, and does not appear as 'up to date' as we do here and now today, it has no relevance to us. In that view, historical references and assorted facts are only fun to play with as long as they don't blow up in your face, and when they do, you simply deny them and refuse to listen to them. The Pro-Regressives today, approach the situation pretty much the same way as Polemarchus did, 2,500 years ago:
"But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you?"
The answer to that question, then and now, is of course is: No. They will not listen to you, History, or anything else that might thwart those actions they're trying to force others to take - for their own good (as determined by them). They are not seeking after understanding or solutions, but only to change their approach so as to overwhelm your position. When that is the purpose of 'the lessons of history', then the 'educated' not only act without understanding, but boldly reject the need to; and then they rinse and repeat.

And when that lesson is thoroughly learned, History will have truly become history.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Rant: To be Pro-Socialist-ic-ish, is to be Anti-American.

Can we just cut the crap? If you are Pro-Socialist-ic-ish, then you are Anti-American. Period.

Doesn't mean you hate puppies, or that you want to visit ruin upon your neighbors, but it does mean that you are opposed to what being an American means. Whether you prefer to pass it off as being Socialist, Socialistic, Fascist, Communist or 'progressive', you are repudiating the ideas and principles which define this nation as America.

America is a nation founded upon a set of ideas - that an individual has the right to live their own life, and its laws were written to uphold and defend those fundamental Rights, without which, those having political power could wield the power to live your life for you.

That realization, that achievement, was the most significant step forward in political progress in over two thousand years. To oppose it, to seek to undermine it, is to seek after political regress.

If you want to replace Individual Rights with politically popular privileges, then you are in every meaningful sense of the word, Anti-American.

If you'd prefer a leisurely and secure suck from the Govt tit to the risks inherent in living your own life, then you are in every meaningful sense of the word, Anti-American.

If you are willing to gin up passions and fears over money and guns in order to subvert or repeal those constitutional amendments which guarantee that those fundamental Rights will not be abridged, if you want to use political power to tell others how to think, what words they are permitted to say, and how they must go about living the sort of life which you and your collective gang approve of, then you are in fundamental opposition to what it means to be an American.

If that is what you seek, then have the brass to declare yourself to be Pro-Socialist-ic-ish, and Anti-American - stop pretending, stop mouthing words like 'Constitution' and 'Rights' which you don't believe in, stop praising the Founders or saluting the flag which turns your stomach.

Just come out of the closet ya pro-regressive pansy. Enough already.

That is all, end rant; have a nice day.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day - A day to honor those of our military who died in service... to what?

Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is a day set aside to remember and honor those who have died in the armed forces of the United States of America. If we are to honor and memorialize those who gave their lives, can we do so properly without being mindful of what it was that they offered up, and lost, their lives in defense of?

After all, unlike the service members of other nations around the world who pledge their lives in defense of the nation, or the homeland, or the government or crown, the members of our armed forces do not. They did at one time, prior to 1789 members of the armed forces swore allegiance to the United States of America, but afterwards, with some short lived variations for officers, members of our military first give their oath as:
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;....",
and only in pursuance of that, do they also swear
"and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Although that is most assuredly a solemn service to the nation, their lives are not sworn primarily to the nation, or to the government or to the President. They swear to support, to defend and to protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance, to, the Constitution of the United States of America.

Can any decent person, with that in mind, especially on this day, dare to think of that document as being simply a piece of paper? Or that the Constitution they sacrificed their lives for, was primarily created for the ability of politicians to jockey for power, to bargain for benefits and to increase the influence of one political party or another?

I do so hope your answer to that is No.

The Constitution is not simply a piece of paper, and it is far more than a set of rules to define how government is to operate. Its laws were created by men in order to preserve and protect that which is by nature necessary for our being able to live our lives as human beings. Not just regulations, but laws written under the principles of Natural Law, designed to harness men's baser (and also inalienable) faults - such as ambition for power - to serve the purpose of preserving and defending the highest of political aspirations: liberty and justice for all.

The Constitution doesn't simply define our laws, but their limits.

The Constitution, which would not have been passed by We The People, without the promise that it would be immediately amended with what became the Bill of Rights, those first ten amendments to it, is not simply paper, but words which harness the power of We The People to protect a select few rights which were understood as being necessary to prevent a tyrant from successfully rising amongst them or their posterity.

The Constitution was not designed to make the operations of government efficient, smooth and easy, but was instead deliberately designed so that its branches and operations would serve to slow, stall, and kill any implement of power - aka: Law - which some significant body of representatives of We The People (whether in the House, Senate, Executive or Judiciary) might see as being a threat to their liberty to live as human beings.

Those men and women we honor on Memorial Day served and died, not in defense of a government, or a leader, or for a piece of paper, but for rule of laws which recognize, uphold and defend the right of human beings to live their own lives in liberty, and respectful of others right to do the same.

Can we honestly honor the dead, without honoring what they gave their lives for?

Please keep that in mind the next time you hear someone talking about getting around the Constitution - for the Constitution is the reason why there are so very, very many whose lives are honored and memorialized on this day, and so very, very many others whose lives were so deeply affected by their loss for the remainder of their days.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The real problem is that Character is Destiny.

The problem is not that the President has lied about when he learned about the problems in the VA, or about the IRS, or the NSA, or about your being able to keep your health care , etc. - he did lie about them. That's not the problem.
This is not the problem.

The problem isn't that the administration, this one and the previous ones, have lied to congress and to the American people. They have. That's not the problem.

The problem isn't that members of Congress, and the administrative agencies and the Supreme Court have lied to the American people. They have. That's not the problem.

The problem isn't that businesses and members of local, state and federal govt have lied about the origin, quality and purpose of Common Core Standards for our schools to the American people. They have. That's not the problem.

The problem isn't even that our schools teach our children flawed or out and out false ideas as truth. They do. That's not the problem.

The problem is that the American people as a whole are either Ok with that, or uninterested in that. Any of that. The problem is that telling Lies is seemingly seen as an acceptable means to an end, so long as they aren't prematurely exposed, causing (temporary) embarrassment to those involved.

The real problem is that, as an old, old dead Greek named Heraclitus observed long, long ago: "Character is Destiny".

You're not going to fix that with either an election, new policies, new media or new tests.

This picture says that people would be scared if they suddenly saw, not their face, but their character in the mirror. I wish that were true.

The problem is that it isn't.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bundy's Ranch: The Rule of Law, Rights, State Powers and Civil Disobedience

I haven't been able to dig very deeply into the material on Bundy Ranch yet, new job & all, but there is a fundamental involved in the case which applies far beyond one rancher in Nevada, it is fundamentally at the root of this controversy and so many others today, and I've seen it referred to, claimed by, or ignored by, both sides: the Rule of Law.

In responding to a tweet the other day, I'd said that:
"When is Law less than Law?When its based upon nothing but laws."
Which baffled and infuriated some fine folks in the twitterverse:
  • "I guess we can ignore any law that is based on laws. All then
  • That is bullshit! Laws r laws! U don't get to pick & choose! That is claptrap! U follow the law or u don't! Its simple!
  • We r supposed to be a nation of laws. #ClivenBundy doesn't get to just ignore laws he disagrees with & pull a gun!"
That sort of response, from the left and the right, worries me more than any other aspect of the case.

Ladies and Gents, 'Rule of Law' means much more than if there's a law, you obey it - nothing in that differentiates the Western conception of the Rule of Law from the expectations of any of the worlds tyrants who also have reams of laws which they fully expect everyone to obey as well. It also means more than the somewhat higher concept that 'No one is above the law', and the lack of depth shown in these very passionate responses, gives an indicator of just how large the problems are that we face in righting the bad laws which burden our courts and our lives. The question that we need to be asking ourselves more than any other, is the one Dana Loesch asked last week, 'What is the Rule of Law?"


Frightening to consider just how wrong
this confrontation could have gone


At the very least you should understand it to mean that no particular law exists separate & apart from the entire body of our laws. Each law must integrate with related laws without direct contradictions, else they must be modified or overruled, forming precedents which themselves must stand the same testing process, and all of which, in America, must fit within our constitutional framework - and that framework must remain rooted in a foundation of Right Reason, which is what all of our laws draw their legitimacy from.

Wait, what? Right Reason? Whu...?

Before looking at what I mean by that, let's first try disregarding it.

Let's assume that "When is Law less than Law?When its based upon nothing but laws." is just silly and meaningless drivel, and let's suppose that laws need no further basis than the agreement of other laws to validate them.

Ok, then ask yourself:
  • Q: What then can become law?
  • A: Whatever the lawgivers provide
Correct?

When law alone justifies law, then by legislation or court judgment, it could be lawful, based upon nothing more than a stroke of the pen to create the necessary basis in law, to take half or all, of your earnings, by law? As it would be lawful to spy on you? To monitor the activities in your bedroom? Lawful to validate or invalidate your marriage? Lawful to prevent you from having more than one child? Or demand that you have more? Lawful to designate unpopular minorities to be used as subjects in medical testing?

Here's another question for you:
  • Q:What is it you imagine that could not become law?
  • A: Nothing.
Correct.

What? Are you wanting to say
"No, they can't just make anything a law, we're a democracy afterall, a majority of the people have to approve!"
No, sorry, EHHH! When you say that laws need nothing but laws to stand upon, then you don't get to reach outside of the laws in order to regulate the writing of them. If you claim that 'the rule of law' requires nothing but other laws to justify them, then that's that. In a circular system such as that, what those who write the laws, say is law, acquires the unquestioned force of law, whether those who write the laws choose to write them fairly or unfairly, passing them by majority rule, or by dictatorial rule, decreeing by law that the laws are hence forth to apply to some, many or all of the people; for whatever the laws say are lawful, are but the result of the arbitrary choices of the lawmaker(s) who have the power to write the laws, and the laws that justify them.

That is the Pro-Regressive ideal of Might Makes Right, and it is the essence of the legal school of Positive Law that has led our judicial system for the last century. With that as the basis for the laws, parents soon find that they have little say in the education of their own children, and indeed children can be lawfully taken from their parents, or it can be ruled, as it was done by Judge Taney's court in the Dred Scott case, that it is perfectly lawful for one person to own another person, or as that judicial titan of the 20th century, Oliver Wendell Holmes, idol of left and right, thought that the Supreme Court could rightfully rule that people judged to be 'botched' could be sterilized against their will, since:
"...It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind..."
, and in each of these cases, and more, each law, as it was justified by other laws, was every bit as legal as laws forbidding robbery - not because the laws are valid and Just, but simply because they are laws which other laws have said are justified. The old maxim of Gresham’s Law,'bad money drives out good'. should be kept firmly in mind because it most certainly applies to law as well, what is Just and Right is driven out by what is unjust and made with more concern for the exercise of power than the evaluation of Right and Wrong. Such laws are laws, not because they aspire to some degree of rightness, but because those in power, whether one or many, favor them - they can make no claim to valuing what is right, let alone of actually being right. And if there is any law, or judgment that is made against you through such laws which you object to, you will find that you have no other recourse but to those same laws, administered by those in power, who are applying them against you.

And should those in power pull out their pens and phones to alter the laws as they see fit? Then what was legal yesterday can become illegal tomorrow, and you may very well wake up to find yourself an outlaw for any number of reasons, such as not turning in your legally purchased arms which have been made illegal with the stroke of a pen, or for not buying health care insurance you'd decided you didn't need. Under such a system of 'justice', if the whims of lawmakers transform you, through your once legal actions, into a criminal, then that's just too bad for you.

You do see the problem here, don't you? 'Dana summed it up well,"
"...What is the rule of law if the rule can be broken? What is the rule of law if it is inconsistently applied according to politics? If we’re going to discuss rule of law, this situation would have never happened in the first place. The Bundys and those who agree with them aren’t devaluing the rule of law, rather, they’re pointing out how those who have violated the rule of law are now trying to hold it up as a standard of measure. Bureaucrats writing their own regulations to later violate is a bad thing. Making a specious argument based on a situationally-endangered turtle is a bad thing...."[emphasis mine]
Those who are writing the laws, those administrating the laws, those writing regulations having the force of law, and who are calling people like Cliven Bundy 'domestic terrorists' for opposing their laws, are themselves the ones who have no visible regard for the Rule of Law. Laws written without reference to anything other than other laws for their own justification, serve only to put you entirely under the power of those who write the laws, and you can be sure that justice will not be their purpose.

Laws, to be good laws, to be Just laws, must be derived through and justified upon some standard outside of the laws themselves, and no, ladies and gents, simply providing a written constitution is not enough. A constitution which refers to nothing but itself, is simply another circular means of having laws justify other laws, and as we just saw, it doesn't take a lot of thought to grasp that without external references, such circular laws are in reality illegitimate. But. We can know that only because you are yourself making that judgment by evaluating them based upon something outside of the laws themselves. Our Constitution, when it was still alive within We The People, was rarely thought of apart from those principles external to it - that was what gave our Rule of Law legs in reality as well as a standard to judge their soundness by. With that as the standard for our laws, then we have a means of discovering its shortcomings, and also a guide for how to right them (see the 13th, 14th & 15th amendments).

So what is that standard?

Right Reason
There are two statements about the Law that are vital to the understanding of what the Western ideal of the Rule of Law is. The first goes at least as far back as Aristotle, and he assures us it goes much further back than that, and that is the idea that :
'No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side'
That is anathema to the rule of tyrants, who by definition rule in their own causes and interests, and care nothing for hearing any other side but their own. That has been foundational to our western conception of law, and was central to the writing and selling of our Constitution, as is easily seen here in Federalist #10:
"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time;"
When Laws require nothing more than other laws to justify themselves, then the law effectively becomes a judge in its own case, and all manner of evils will follow from that.

The second point comes to us from Cicero, and it was something our Founders were very familiar with, as it was found in the common educational materials of their time, and it was also a vital part of every education in the law during that era which produced our Constitution, not because it was old, which it was even then, written in 54 B.C., but because it was understood to be right and true in Cicero's time, as well as in their own time, just as it is right and true today and will still be right and true tomorrow and through times to come (why it is no longer found in any textbooks today is a question for another time). From Cicero’s Commonwealth (often called 'The Republic'), from Book III:
"True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly called punishment."
Right Reason in agreement with nature, means not only must an idea seem to be true, it must also prove to be true in reality. That understanding preceded Cicero and continued on as a maxim of law; shaping and instructing the formation of Western Law in general and English Law in particular. The understanding that ultimately led to conceiving of individuals as having Individual Rights, would not have been possible without that understanding. And because that maxim remained central to our understanding of Law, it continued to develop and continued to influence the formation of our own laws a thousand years and more afterwards.

Thomas Jefferson, in writing to James Madison in Feb, 1826, regarding what were the proper legal books that should be used for the instruction of law in his college, wrote with some urgency, about Sir Edward Coke (1552 – 1634, English Jurist) and his instructions on learning the Law:
"You will recollect that before the revolution, Coke Littleton was the universal elementary book of law students, and a sounder whig never wrote, nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of the British constitution, or in what were called English liberties. You remember also that our lawyers were then all whigs."
IOW, Coke's instructions on The Law, particularly the The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England, which Jefferson was speaking of, were central to and formative of the legal thinking of those who not only reasoned for our break with England over the injustices done to their 'Rights as Englishmen', but was also implicit in the writing of our Constitution. Typical of Coke's instructions in law, were such as this,
"And this is another strong argument in Law, Nihil quod est contra rationem est licitum.5"-> 5. [Ed.: Nothing that is against reason is lawful.]
That phrase, 'Nothing that is against reason is lawful', is not only central to our understanding of law, it is unreasonable to think that liberty could ever be had without it. As we've been straying further and further from that understanding since the beginning of the 20th century, look around and see if you think it can continue to. And while such a maxim may not be a rule of law itself, one that a judge can rule upon, it does provide the means of reaching outside the circularity of the self referencing laws, so that good law can stand to reason in relation to sound thought, reality, and our lives in it, in order to be considered to be right and true.

Does that mean that our laws can simply appeal to 'Right Reason' in order to justify them? No. Is it a guarantee against ever making errors? No, and nothing is. But what it does do is provide a basis for calling the legitimacy of any law into question, and points to the standard they must comply with in order to be justified. When that understanding animates our approach to the law, it prevents an accretion of laws from creating their own reality, it requires that all law retain their purpose and connection to the reality of human life and right and wrong.

These views are not new, though few of today's legal realities reflect them. When regulatory agency's sit in judgment of their own regulations, the law is being made into a judge of its own interests. When the law, which is the means of upholding the lives, rights and property of the people, is turned against the livelihood of the people in a region, the law is not hearing the other side. When We The People are being afflicted with the law, when people are being strong-armed by the law, when govt agencies such as the BLM, and other incestuously related courts and agencies, demonstrate their intent to write and rewrite whatever regulations seem most likely to prove useful to running off those who have a long history of working the land they seek, such as they have with Cliven Bundy, the last rancher in his region - and his is by no means the only case, or state, it is happening to - then it is clear that these cases are not being heard by the law. When the reasons that are given for these actions is to ostensibly to preserve an idyllic existence for desert turtles (which, btw, are 'euthanized' as their numbers become inconvenient to those claiming the importance of their being preserved), then we have good reason to question what and who the law is being used to serve, for obviously, reason, reality and truth aren't playing a large part in the govt's plans.

Some in congress are starting to realize this, and it even appears that a number of States are beginning to see and do something about it as well. It should be getting clear that the laws our regulatory agencies are imposing upon us are not standing the test of Right Reason, and it should be becoming clearer still that what we are dealing with is not the rule of law, but the means of our being ruled by means of laws.

The Revolutionary Rule of Law
How has this come to pass? What 'The Rule of Law' is, and what the purpose of the law is and what can serve as a basis for it, is the ever revolutionary question we should be asking ourselves today, and the answers you give can still be every bit as revolutionary, as they once were and likely always will be.

If, on the one hand, you see Individual Rights as being an inherent and necessary part of our nature as reasoning human beings, as I do, then law, to be valid, good and proper, must respect, uphold and defend those Rights. To do that it needs a sound framework, such as our Constitution, and with that purpose in mind, the law sets out the powers and limitations of government, within which federal and state laws are to be written, and for that purpose power is gathered and formed into Govts by means of law, and in the same breath is leashed by its laws. Of all of the schools of law, the one that is most compatible with that view, the one whose fundamentals were identified by Aristotle, and Cicero, embodied in Magna Carta, and were expounded upon by Coke, and formed the understanding from which our Constitution and Declaration of Independence were derived, is that of Natural Law. Its insistence that the laws must comport with Right Reason was, is and always will be a truly revolutionary view, and a leap of Progress never before made. Unfortunately for us, very few of our educators, legislators or Supreme Court Justices today still recognize, or attempt to interpret and apply the law, in accordance with that view; not Scalia, Roberts, Alito... Rehnquist, or nominees such as Bork, etc, who hold instead to varying views of textualism, originalism and traditionalist flavors of what is still essentially Positive Law in conservativish drag. Clarence Thomas is essentially alone in his respect for Natural Law, and you've got to go back towards the first half of the 20th century in order to find other Justices who attempted to do the same.

But if on the other hand, you yearn for the spirit of those timeworn views, which assert that the law is primarily a means for government to form, induce or nudge societal behaviors towards a 'greater good', then what you are yearning for is the rolling back of the only true progress made in political science over the last thousand plus years, then at least recognize that the views you hold are truly Pro->Regressive. Those views which see 'rights' as privileges which government can extends to those individuals in society it deems to be the most deserving, the most in need of particular benefits, protections or aids which justify seizing the power to take from some to extend to others - raising some above the law while throwing everyone else under it - they shove Right Reason and Individual Rights off the table. Those seeking the power to use power in order to impose their dreams of social justice and other 'greater goods' upon us, will find fellow travelers in former Justice Breyer, who wants to transform your right to bear arms, as protected by the 2nd Amdt, into a permission for some to retain some particular guns, in some govt approved situations, he is most definitely their guy.

Unfortunately, for the supporters of Positive Law, our Constitution was written and originally amended through the lens of Natural Law. That was once considered too obvious a fact to need repeating. Today it obviously needs stating and repeating often and continuously. And for those who like to say that Natural Law and the principles of the Declaration of Independence have nothing to do with our constitution or with governance in America, I'll direct you to consider (H/T Chris Loesch) how the Congress of the United States of America expressed their expectations for the people of the then Nevada Territory, to consider in their application for statehood: "Act Of Congress (1864) Enabling The People Of Nevada To Form A Constitution And State Government"
"Sec. 4. Authorization to form constitution and state government; limitations. And be it further enacted, That the members of the convention, thus elected, shall meet at the capital of said territory on the first Monday in July next, and, after organization, shall declare, on behalf of the people of said territory, that they adopt the constitution of the United States. Whereupon the said convention shall be, and it is hereby, authorized to form a constitution and state government for said territory: Provided, That the constitution, when formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence: And provided further, That said convention shall provide, by an ordinance irrevocable, without the consent of the United States and the people of said state:— First."
If the principles of the Declaration of Independence had nothing to do with our constitution and of governance in The United States of America, and held no sway past the revolutionary era, as Pro-Regressives stridently claim, then why oh why would Congress include a statement in the legislation for admitting another state into the union and directing them in writing their own constitution, on the terms that "...Provided, That the constitution, when formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence...", eh? It simply doesn't stand to reason that they would do such a thing, for no reason, does it?

Unfortunately for us, it has been the Utopian folly of Positive Law, of legislating on no other basis than claims of 'the greater good', that has most 'consistently' been used and abused upon us, since the opening of the 20th century.

The understanding which once commonly served as the basis for our Rule of Law, is the real revolution that we are fighting today, and those who don't understand it, or who ignore it, or who seek to act against it for 'the greater good', represent the battlegrounds we need to be concentrating upon - if we lose them, we lose the war. Time will tell which view will ultimately win out, but actual liberty can only exist within the context of a view such as that of Natural Law, and if that is snuffed out... we'll get what we deserve.

What's a law abiding person to do?
So what is a person to do when they find themselves up against not only unjust laws, but a judicial system that is itself manifestly unjust, as that of our system of regulatory laws are?

To begin with, it's important that you do not begin making your case upon fundamentally false positions, and one of the most common and treacherous of these false principles, is the bogus claim of 'State's Rights'. It is important to understand that this is NOT a 'States Rights' issue, because the concept of 'States Rights' necessarily means that there can be no Individual Rights unless the state first grants them. I understand the tendency to reach for a shorthand reference, but 'States Rights' is not only not a helpful shorthand summary, it undermines all rights altogether.

Let me say that again: States do not, and cannot, have rights. While States do have powers, as do the people, (see the 10th Amdt:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
) , only individuals have Rights (see the 9th Amdt:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
), and they have them by virtue of their nature as human beings - Rights being those actions a reasoning person must be free to take (or retain what results from them) in order to live as a reasoning being; states most definitely are not reasoning creatures and so they can have no rights.

States are organized power, and those powers which States receive come to them through the consent of the governed who delegate it to them in order to uphold and defend the Rights of their people. It is for our Rights, that governments immense power is leashed by our laws, in order to be served by them. For states to have rights as well, would mean that our rights would be subordinated to the powers of the states, rather than the other way around.

States do not have rights, they have powers. Powers defined and restricted by laws, and the rights of We The People are critically dependent upon those powers being held by laws. Anytime a state is allowed to exercise power outside the bounds of the laws which define them, then everyone's rights are imperiled.

When, as now, those powers are abused by another state, whether a fellow state or federal parent, that is an instance of power escaping from the Rule of Law, and it is a danger to everyone's rights and to the lawful power of all other states. States must resist, in the name of their peoples rights, the encroachment of power acting outside of the law.

However, while states have the power to state their opposition to unjust laws and to withdraw their administrative support of them (see the original Jeffersonian and Madisonian 'nullification', as opposed to the Calhounian sense that animated the Civil War era and many of those agitating for 'nullification' today), they cannot act outside of their defined powers against fellow state or federal powers, without jeopardizing what really is a fundamental basis for the rule of law. What the Rule of Law requires most, is leashing unfettered power to the law - creatures of the law, cannot be allowed off their leash! - that is the path to war and the destruction of the law.

Individuals however, do have both Rights and Powers, including the power to lawfully oppose laws and seek their alteration, and as with states, individuals have the power to not comply with unjust laws, though that does not mean they they can violate or obstruct the law.

When a person finds that the laws being applied to them are unjust, they have a duty to speak out, as all people's rights are in jeopardy by the mere existence of unjust laws. An just law, means unreasonable law, and as Coke said: "Nothing that is against reason is lawful", which in practice means that govt has gained hold of unrestrained power - that is a danger to all. Implicit in 'The Rule of Law' is the necessary and continual attention and re-evaluation of the laws, by the people.

The first stage of non-compliance, is bringing suit against the law, fighting it out in court, and in the court of public opinion. But when you find no response, no redress, when you find yourself facing a system that has set itself up to NOT hear the other side, and which sits in judgment of its own interests, then you have a Right and a duty, to not comply quietly with those laws.

So... wait... how can the laws have the force of law, if they can be ignored by the people?

It can't. And they can't. Which doesn't make matters easy.

The Right road is not an easy one
The Law must have 'force of law' but at the same time the people must call it into question when their laws seem unjust. The lawful form of opposition is through the courts, working your way up through to the State Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Failing that, there is a legislative path, as well as that which was ultimately taken through the 13th, 14th & 15th Amdts - and hopefully that path can be taken without a Civil War, as the 19th Amdt, recognizing women's right to vote, or ending Prohibition with the 21st Amdt (which repealed the 18th Amdt).

But when the courts provide no justice, and when We The People have been too inattentive for too long, allowing bad laws to accumulate and be imposed upon us, and if those who should have known better, refuse to, enabling those in power to persist in ignoring our laws and amendments, then it is not unreasonable for people to conclude that they have no option but to refuse to comply with the laws being imposed upon them. In such cases there is a recognized path to be taken, that of Civil Disobedience. And long before Thoreau expressed the concept, it had already been identified and recommended as the proper path during the ratification of our Constitution! See Federalist #46:
"Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty. On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm."
[emphasis mine]
You see, under the American understanding of Law, such civil disobedience is not undermining or obstructing the lw, but among the oldest safeguards of the Rule of Law!

And that 'General Alarm' which Madison spoke of, is what We The People must raise - Peacefully, violence would only serve to solidify the Federal Govt's position - but through non-compliance, beginning with the people and then through their states, there is a path to successfully bringing the laws back under the Rule of Law first.

The abolitionist, such as John Brown, chose violence, and we not only had a civil war, but additional complications which spread and went unresolved for another century.

The peaceful path was the path taken by the Woman's Suffrage movement, and it was the path taken by Martin Luther King, as explained in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", and both exemplify the best use of a citizens power against unjust laws, peaceful, civil disobedience, and vigorously 'spreading the word' and explaining why their actions are being taken. Peacefully.

Understand - drawing the state or federal powers into a contest of arms, is counter-productive, futile, and not nearly justified as yet. Pointless violence serves to uphold no ones rights, and not only does not advance the cause of justice one whit, but will almost certainly bring about a loss of ground and lend the unwarranted aura of 'moral authority' to the state's benefit - which would be intolerable.

But even worse, those calling for violent action are making the classic mistake of preparing to fight the next war by means of the last war - and it is doomed to failure. Not only will it fail to win, it will fail to even see action, because it fails to ever even set foot upon the real battlefield before us.

Understand this: We do not face or require a revolution in our form of government, or in our laws (though we could use some vigorous repealing of them), but in our understanding of them. We already have the best form of government possible - The Declaration of Independence has already been declared! The Constitution has already been written! The government has already been formed! What we've lost is our understanding of them! Guns are of no use in that battle, and that battle is the battle we must fight - and you don't bring a gun to a mind fight! There are not yet enough people that are familiar with, or have a sound understanding of the constitution, let alone the Rule of Law. Who are you going to get to support you? What happens when you get support from those who don't know what they need to know? What form of government do you suppose will follow from those who don't even grasp the one we already have?!

As MLK's assassination shows, that path is not without risk, and not just from the government - it didn't become so disordered without the people being so as well. We The People do need to realize that there will be consequences for non-compliance with the law and incorrect views that are widely held or tolerated. He knew there would be consequences, but he felt it was justified. Refusing to comply with such laws is in a very great sense, your duty. And if you cannot find the ability to oppose them, then you must at least alert and educate your fellows about such laws, just as you would warn someone that their house was on fire. The good news is that you are not alone in this, and together with others, all exercising your freedom of speech and association, you will bring attention to those unjust laws, to the acute embarrassment of those attempting to justify them.

What about the Bundy's use of arms to oppose BLM? Do I think the incident at the Bundy's ranch was a proper exercise of 2nd Amdt rights? No I don't. Perhaps the Bundy's themselves could have made the case for defending their property, but again, it would have been a futile one, and highly unlikely to help their case, or ours. And as I understand it from the reports I've read from here, 1,500 miles away from the action, Cliven Bundy not only did not ask for supporters to come armed, he specifically asked that they come unarmed. That is the proper approach, IMHO, and those who showed up not only armed to the teeth but aiming their weapons at the BLM, IMHO, nearly turned a likely victory - the national media viewing of unarmed [Edit: or at least holstered] protesters facing ranks of armed BLM SWAT could have ended in no other way than it did, this is still America, they had to back down -but if one shot had been fired by the 'militia', that would have turned it all into a violent failure.

We aren't there yet. Sorry, we're just not. And if you think we've reached the level of government opposition and abuse that was faced by those in pre-revolutionary America, or even by those protesting for Woman's Suffrage, or the repeal of Prohibition, or that of the Civil Rights movement, for heaven's sake, you are simply wrong, and painfully uninformed. Fix that. Please. Quickly.

We are afflicted today with a vast array of laws which we are required to face and oppose and protest. Do not comply quietly with them, but keep your civil disobedience civil. Raise questions. The most effective shot you can fire today is to simply speak out. Just do it. Bundy is doing it. Texas ranchers are doing it. New York and Connecticut residents are doing it in regards to the right to bear arms. Parents across the country are doing it in regards to unjust laws in the education of our children. Study the issues, learn the questions, raise them and discuss them with your family, friends and neighbors, calmly when possible, loudly when necessary. The nature of the battle we face must be pointed out and understood, or it will be lost. Martin Luther King jr. succeeded not because he protested, but because his protests brought attention, and then understanding, and then a pervasive disgust that could no longer be ignored, brought it to bear upon unjust laws and to those supporting them, and then they and their institutions fell of their own weight.

Understanding comes first, first yours, and then others. Then solutions can and will be found. But the attempt to jump straight to solutions, through force of arms, is counter productive and misses out on the real work to be done.

Shortcuts in laws are how we got to where we are today. Man up. Do it right. Question, loudly, Ask 'What is the Rule of Law?', and know the answer.