Category Archives: Antifederalists

The Constitution Myth

One reason for the failure of the modern conservative and libertarian movements to scale back, in even a miniscule way, the now gargantuan US welfare/warfare state has been the misinterpretation of the US Constitution.  Many conservatives have a slavish devotion to the document, placing it on a par with the Ten Commandments and New Testament.

A typical misunderstanding of the Constitution’s history and content appeared in this recent op-ed:



The Constitution was intended to limit 1) the power


of government over the citizenry 2) the power of each branch of


government and 3) the power of political/financial elites over the


government and the citizenry, as the Founders recognized the intrinsic risks


of an all-powerful state, an all-powerful state dominated by one branch of


government and the risks of a financial elite corrupting the state to serve


the interests above those of the citizenry.*

The author, like so many “Constitution enthusiasts” has also been hostile to the Medieval era, denigrating its institutions and social constructs – feudalism, aristocracy, crusading – when, in fact, the Middle Ages, in many respects, were far freer with less government than the present epoch. **

When the founding fathers decided to meet in Philadelphia in 1787, they did so at first to “amend” the Articles of Confederation which had guided the young country through some perilous times.  While the Articles had some defects (some libertarians even contend that they were too statist***), the delegates, at first, did not want it scrapped, however, it was the “leading lights” of the convention which connived to completely do away with it.

By superior political maneuvering, the pro-Constitution forces were able to ramrod their plan through despite being in the minority.  Not only were the majority of the delegates initially against scrapping the Articles, but most Americans were opposed to the creation of a new central government. 

Despite this, the Constitution was ruthlessly pushed through and, as its opponents feared, America would be saddled with a highly centralized national government, the loss of considerable state sovereignty, and the eventual erosion of individual liberties even with the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

A brief examination of the document reveals that its implicit and explicit language grants wide latitude for the expansion of state power.  In its Preamble, the ambiguous clause to “promote the general welfare” can and has led to all sorts of destructive social engineering schemes.  More ominously, for anyone that is under the illusion that America is governed by a “federal” system, they should reread Article VI which in part says

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United his Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land. [emphasis added]

An all-powerful central state went against much of Western history after the fall of the Roman Empire and the idea was always feared by philosophers.  Basic political theory and practical experience showed that a multitude of sovereign states were preferable not only for the protection of personal liberty, but for economic growth.  Numerous states and jurisdictions were a far greater check on government than the much celebrated “separation of powers” concept of constitutional government.

Under the Articles of Confederation, each individual state was autonomous while the national government had to rely on the states for most of its support.  Unfortunately, it will never be known what would have happened if the country remained as a confederacy of states, it is likely however, that there would have been less bloodshed, greater economic growth, and more personal freedom under a decentralized regime.

It is curious, therefore, why so many on the Right continue to revere the Constitution as some great bulwark against state power.  Much of it probably stems from ignorance or personal bias against the political conditions which existed prior to the late 18th century. 

Much of European history was under the sway of monarchial and aristocratic rule and the integral presence of the Catholic Church in society with a diffusion of power among kings, princes, dukes and Churchmen.  While far from perfect, the social order which existed under Christendom may not have been as materially or technologically advanced as contemporary times, but in regard to morality, justice, and individual freedom, there is no comparison.  The Christian age saw nothing of the social depravity, war making with its mass murder, the trampling of individual rights, and the existence of totalitarian government as witnessed in the supposedly “enlightened” modern age.

Decentralized Europe of 1300

Until it is realized that the Constitution is an impediment to rolling back the American Leviathan, there will be little progress in the fight for individual liberty and economic progress.

   

*Charles Hugh Smith, “Let’s Face It: The U.S. Constitution Has Failed.”  Zero Hedge.  20 February 2019. 

**One example, Charles Hugh Smith, “America’s ‘Neo-Feudal’ System is ‘Both False & Precarious.”  Zero Hedge 19 December 2018.

***David Gordon, ed., Strictly Confidential: The Private Volker Fund Memos of Murray N. Rothbard, Auburn, AL.: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2015, pp. 96-98.

Antonius Aquinas@antoniusaquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

[emphasis added]

Presidential Dictatorship

Sic Semper tyrannis II

Executive orders, undeclared wars, drone hits, assassination of citizens and non-citizens alike, the overthrow of foreign regimes, domestic spying, the abetting of known criminal activities through pardons, economic planning, opening borders, monetary manipulations are just some of the nefarious activities that routinely emanate from the most dangerous political office that the world has ever painfully come to know – the United States Presidency!

The U.S. presidents can and have created a veritable “hell on earth” for their opponents, perceived enemies, and the innocent not only in the country in which they reign, but over the lives and fortunes of peoples and places where they have absolutely no authority to interfere.  While other chiefs of state have theoretically had such power, U.S. presidents have been able to inflict their destruction and chaos because, paradoxically, the nation’s free-market system, for a long time, created immense wealth which could be tapped into.

The tyrannical nature of the presidency was recognized long ago by those politically perspicacious men who opposed both the office and the draconian document which created it.  Few groups in history have been so vindicated for their foreboding as those who vainly argued against the ratification of the United States Constitution than the Antifederalists.

“An Old Whig”* aptly sums up the damage that would come about if the Constitution was ratified and the office of president would come into being:

. . . the office of President of the United States appears to me

to be clothed with such powers as are dangerous.  To be the

fountain of all honors in the United States, commander in chief

of the army, navy and militia, with the power of making treaties

and of granting pardons, and to be vested with an authority to

put a negative upon all laws, unless two thirds of both houses

shall persist in enacting it, . . . .**

An Old Whig saw that the president would become a “king” but without the natural and binding checks that even the most absolutist of monarchs were restrained by:

[The president] is in reality to be a KING as much a King

as the King of Great Britain, and a King too of the worst

kind; – an elective King. . . . The election of a King

whether it be in America or Poland, will be a scene of

horror and confusion; and I am perfectly serious when

I declare that, as a friend to my country, I shall despair

of any happiness in the United States until this office

is either reduced to a lower pitch of power or made

perpetual and hereditary.***

One of the Federalists’ counterarguments to the Antifederalists’ concern over the presidential office was the widely held assumption that George Washington would become the new Republic’s first chief executive and the general knowledge of his impeccable character would assuage those worried of potential executive overreach.  Such a lame response neglected to look into the future when the office’s huge potentiality for despotism would be sought after and won by those who had less upstanding personal traits than the father of the country.

The growing decentralized political movements throughout the world with, for instance, the hopefully upcoming British exit from the European Union, can only be enhanced if the office of the president and, for that matter, all other nation state’s chief executives are exposed as tyrannical institutions which are anathema to individual liberty and collective self-determination.  Presidents, premiers, chancellors, prime ministers, and their like along with central banking are the two nefarious pillars of power of the modern nation state whose continued existence guarantees perpetual war and economic regression.

In this seemingly interminable presidential election cycle, populist, libertarians, conservatives, and all sorts of anti-Establishment types are delusional if they believe the totalitarian direction in which the country is now headed will be reversed through elections or choosing the “right” candidate.  “Making American Great Again” will only come about when the chief executive office and the statist document that created it have been repudiated.

Prior to the presidency’s abolition, its ideological justification must be first debunked.  There is no finer place to start for this most necessary task to take place than in the dissemination of the perceptive and enduring words of the much neglected Antifederalists.

 

*Probably penned by a group of Philadelphia Antifederalists – George Bryan, John Smilie, James Hutchinson and maybe others.  See, John P. Kaminski & Richard Leffler, eds., Federalists and Antifederalists: The Debate Over the Ratification of the Constitution.  Madison, Wisconsin: Madison House Publishers, 1989, p. 18.

**Ibid., p. 86.

***Ibid.

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com/