George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796

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Jul 072020
 
George Washington Praying

Overview: War, Crisis, and Transition

  • Explaining Reluctance to Run
  • Unity and sectionalism
  • The Constitution and political parties
  • Checks and balances and separation of powers
  • Religion, morality, and education
  • Credit and government borrowing
  • Foreign relations and free trade
  • Address’s intentions
  • Defense of the Proclamation of Neutrality
  • Closing thoughts

Explaining Reluctance to Run

Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

Unity and sectionalism

“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?

The Constitution and political parties

“To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

“Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.”

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Checks and balances and separation of powers

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.”

Religion, morality, and education

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

Credit and government borrowing

“As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.”

Foreign relations and free trade

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

This Address’s intentions

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

Defense of the Proclamation of Neutrality

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the twenty-second of April, I793, is the index of my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

Closing thoughts

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

Geo. Washington.

(Washington, 1796)

Washington, G. (1796). The Avalon Project. Retrieved September 17, 2015, from Lillian Goldman Law Library: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

KNOW what the Constitution says concerning the Presidency:

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Feb 152020
 
http://dakotansforhonestyinpolitics.com/

With politicians and talking heads constantly in disagreement concerning the powers and responsibilities of the U.S. President – it is important for voters to know for themselves what the U.S. Constitution actually says concerning the Presidency.

Here is Article II of the U.S. Constitutionfollowed by the amendments pertaining to the Presidency. Ensure you KNOW what it says – not just what people tell you it says…

Article II of the U.S. Constitution:

Section 1.

“The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:

Each state shall appoint, [See the 23rd Amendment (XXIII) ] in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President. [Procedural change in 1804; See the 12th Amendment (XII) ]

The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States. [See Section 3 of the 14th Amendment (XIV), as well as the 22nd Amendment (XXII) ].

In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then act as President, and such officer shall act accordingly, until the disability be removed, or a President shall be elected. [Superseded by the 25th Amendment in 1967 (XXV) ]

The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Section 2.

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.

Section 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper [See the 20th Amendment (XX) ]; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Section 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The above, Article II, U.S. Constitution (United States, 1787), is quoted as written with the addition of notes concerning amendments

Note: A portion of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution was superseded by the 12th Amendment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS that have Affected the Presidency

AMENDMENT XII

  • Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804.

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. —]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

*The above starred portion was Superseded by Section 3 of the 20th Amendment (XX).

AMENDMENT XIV, Section 3.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

AMENDMENT XX

  • Passed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933.

Section 3.
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

AMENDMENT XXII

  • Passed by Congress March 21, 1947. Ratified February 27, 1951.

Section 1.
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

AMENDMENT XXIII

  • Passed by Congress June 16, 1960. Ratified March 29, 1961.

Section 1.
The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

AMENDMENT XXIV – Passed by Congress August 27, 1962. Ratified January 23, 1964, Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

AMENDMENT XXV

  • Passed by Congress July 6, 1965. Ratified February 10, 1967, altering Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution.

Section 1.
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4.
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.


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The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act

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Oct 222019
 
Freedom to live outside of 'Indian Country' - https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591/

By Elizabeth S. Morris

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Helms School of Government in Candidacy for the Degree of Master of Arts in Public Policy

https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591

‘Although the ICWA has some statutory safeguards to prevent misuse, numerous families continue to be hurt by the law.’

Preface

My husband and I began our lives together in a symbiotic alcoholic-enabler relationship in the late 70’s. With our family on the edge of self-destruction in 1987, my husband, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, born and raised on the Leech Lake reservation, had a transformational experience which changed his worldview and led him to take our family in a new direction. 

Having watched many of his relatives suffer within the reservation system, he began to see reservation violence and crime as an outcome of current federal Indian policy more than it was about past policy. This led us to forming an advocacy in the late 90’s for families hurt by federal Indian policy.  We did our best to share hope and life, as inadequate as we were, by assisting extended family in our home, neighbors in our community, and strangers across the nation. We never did it for money; there was never any money. Everything we did came from passion for the lives of our children, nieces and nephews, and extended communities.

Unfortunately, reservation crime, corruption, drug abuse and violence have continued to increase over the years. My husband has since passed away and I am a widow, continuing the work we had begun in 1996.

This thesis compiles some of the documented history, philosophy, and consequences of federal Indian policy. It also includes a preliminary quantitative causal comparative survey with 1351 participants – 551 of whom identify tribal heritage – and explores the relationship between differences.

We serve a powerful God with whom all things are possible.  Our job is to serve in the capacity He has given us, even if we do not understand why, and then enjoy watching what He does next. 

Abstract

This paper will examine the philosophical underpinnings of current federal Indian policy and its physical, emotional, and economic consequences on individuals and communities.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission found in 1990 that “[T]he Government of the United States has failed to provide civil rights protection for Native Americans living on reservations” (W. B. Allen 1990, 2). As Regan (2014) observes, individuals have been denied full title to their property – and thus use of the property as leverage to improve their economic condition (Regan 2014). Tribal executive and judicial branches have been accused of illegal search and seizures, denial of right to counsel or jury, ex parte hearings and violations of due process and equal protection (W. B. Allen 1990, 3). Violence, criminal activity, child abuse and trafficking are rampant on many reservations (DOJ 2018). Largely because of crime and corruption, many have left the reservation system. The last two U.S. censuses’ report 75% of tribal members do not live in Indian Country (US Census Bureau 2010).

Research suggests current federal Indian policy and the reservation system are built on philosophies destructive to the physical, emotional and economic health of individual tribal members. This paper contends that allowing property rights for individual tribal members, enforcing rule of law within reservation systems, supporting law enforcement, and upholding full constitutional rights and protections of all citizens would secure the lives, liberties and properties of affected individuals and families.

Introduction

For almost 200 years the U.S. federal government has claimed wardship over members of federally recognized Indian tribes.  Yet, despite the nineteenth century U.S. federal court rulings that propagated this view, disagreement continues as to whether tribes located within the United States are sovereign, whether Congress has plenary power over them, and whether individual tribal members have U.S. Constitutional rights: 

  • Some say the nineteenth century U.S. Supreme Court cases known as the ‘Marshall Trilogy’ contradict tribal sovereignty.  Others say they uphold it.
  • Some say treaties promise a permanent trust relationship. Others point out that most treaties have clearly specified final payments of federal funds and benefits and were written and signed with clear intent for gradual assimilation.
  • Some say the Constitution never gave Congress anything more than the power to regulate trade with tribes. Others claim the Constitution not only gave Congress total and exclusive plenary power to decide every aspect of life in Indian Country – but by unstated extension, gave the executive branch this power as well.
  • Some argue that the Constitution never had authority over tribes or tribal members. Others cite the Constitution when seeking judicial redress. 
  • Some tribal officials argue that international law should not have been forced upon non-European cultures that had no say in it. Others point to natural law and international law – the grounds for treaties between nations – as basis for uninterrupted tribal sovereignty.

Inherent, retained tribal sovereignty was reality for tribal governments prior to the formation of the United States and in the immediate years following its birth, but is not reflected in case law from the 1800s and much of the 1900s. By the time of Andrew Jackson, the United States had taken a position of control. Further, over the last two centuries, the vast majority of tribal leaders accepted large payments for land, accepted federal trust benefits, and submitted to federal government’s de facto power over them.   

Throughout history and every heritage, various men have coveted power over others.  Today, tribal governments, while accepting and playing into Congress’ claim of plenary power, have themselves, also, claimed exclusive jurisdiction and authority over unwilling citizens. Tribal governments regularly lobby and petition both Congress and the White House to codify tribal jurisdiction over the lives, liberty and property of everyone within reservation boundaries as well as some outside reservation boundaries.  While claiming exclusive jurisdiction, tribal governments have requested and given blessing for the federal government to manage children of tribal heritage – asking Congress to write the Indian Child Welfare Act and the executive branch to write federal rules governing the placement of every enrollable child in need of care. Some tribal governments and supportive entities have gone further – asking even governors and state legislators to expand on and strengthen control over children with heritage.

Often cited as justification for the ICWA is a 1998 pilot study by Carol Locust, a training director at the Native American Research and Training Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  Locust’s study is said to have shown that “every Indian child placed in a non-Indian home for either foster care or adoption is placed at great risk of long-term psychological damage as an adult” (Locust, Split Feather Study 1998).  Referring to the condition as the “Split-feather Syndrome,” Locust claims to have identified “unique factors of Indian children placed in non-Indian homes that created damaging effects” (Locust, Split Feather Study 1998).  The Minnesota Department of Human Services noted “an astonishing 19 out of 20 Native adult adoptees showed signs of “Split-feather syndrome” during Locust’s limited study (DHS 2005).

“Unfortunately,” according to Bonnie Cleaveland, PhD ABPP, “the study was implemented so poorly that we cannot draw conclusions from it.” Only twenty adoptees with tribal heritage – total – were interviewed. All were removed from their biological families and placed with non-native families. There were no control groups to address other variables. According to Cleaveland:

Locust asserts that out-of-culture removal causes substance abuse and psychiatric problems. However, she uses no control group. She doesn’t acknowledge the high rates of trauma, psychiatric and substance abuse among AI/AN people who remain in their culture and among the population of foster children. These high rates of psychosocial problems could easily account for all of the symptoms Locust found in her subjects 

(Cleaveland 2015).

Cleaveland concluded, “Sadly, because many judges and attorneys, and even some caseworkers and other professionals, are not familiar with the research, results that may be very wrong are leading to the wrong outcomes for children” (Cleaveland 2015).  While supporters of ICWA cite “Split-feather Syndrome” as proof the ICWA is in the best interest of children, many children have been hurt by application of the law. 

Questions that need more extensive study include whether children who were adopted into non-Indian families as children show greater problems with self-identity, self-esteem, and inter-personal relationships than do their peers.  Are the ties between children who have tribal heritage and their birth families and culture stronger than that of their peers, no matter the age at adoption?  Other considerations include whether all tribal members support federal policies that mandate their cases be heard only in tribal courts and whether a percentage of persons of tribal heritage believe federal Indian policy infringes on their life, liberty and property.

 The central concern of this paper is how current federal Indian policy has affected the lives, liberty and property of those who have tribal heritage – most specifically the Indian Child Welfare Act.  Through research of the historical foundations of federal Indian policy and a nation-wide comparative survey of family dynamics, this paper will attempt to answer these and other questions.

READ FULL TEXT – https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/masters/591

Citation

Morris, Elizabeth S. The Philosophical Underpinnings and Negative Consequences of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Master Thesis, Helms School of Government, Liberty University, Lynchburg: Digital Commons, 2019, 337.  

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Did the 2nd Amendment Guarantee Gun Ownership?

 Comments Off on Did the 2nd Amendment Guarantee Gun Ownership?
Sep 282016
 
http://dakotansforhonestyinpolitics.com/

“Since the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller [2008] and McDonald v. City of Chicago [2010] announced that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms and incorporated that right against the states, courts and scholars have struggled to determine the reach of those opinions” (Meltzer 2014).

Heller and McDonald held that citizens have a right to keep handguns in the home. Left in question was the rights of individuals to carry guns outside the home, and whether or not they could be concealed. Over the last few years since Heller and McDonald, dozens of challenges to gun regulations have been brought forward. “The issue is extraordinarily important to proponents and opponents of gun rights alike. For proponents, the only way to truly vindicate the right to self-defense is to allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms on their person. According to opponents of gun rights, an individual right to carry would constitutionalize extreme behavior, allow for vigilantism, and undermine public safety” (Meltzer 2014).

TWO POINTS OF VIEW

“The debate has resulted in odd political alignments which in turn have caused the Second Amendment to be described recently as the most embarrassing provision of the Bill of Rights” (Vandercoy 1994). Embarrassing, because people who might be 100% behind freedom of speech, ready to defend it against government encroachment, along with defense of all other rights in the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments – are reticent to defend the 2nd amendment with the same vigor, if at all.

Following Heller and McDonald, lower courts have been left to decide how far the right to gun ownership extends:

“Some have taken after Heller, conducting significant historical analysis to determine the extent of the Second Amendment right outside the home. Others have concentrated on tiers of scrutiny, weighing the benefits of the gun regulation at issue against its intrusion on the right to keep and bear arms. Others still have refused to extend the right outside the home absent further instruction from the Supreme Court” (Meltzer 2014).

According to Judge Wilkinson in United States v. Masciandaro, “[t]he whole matter [of the right to carry outside the home] strikes us as a vast terra incognita that courts should enter only upon necessity and only then by small degree.”  The Court of Appeals of Maryland agreed, stating, “[i]f the Supreme Court . . . meant its [Heller] holding to extend beyond home possession, it will need to say so more plainly.” (Meltzer 2014)

However, other courts, using the same historical examination of evidence that was used in Heller, have found that United States citizens do have a right to carry their guns outside of the home, while a third set of courts has ruled that while carrying a gun is legal, it must be ‘open carry.’ Concealment isn’t allowed” (Meltzer 2014).

ANTI-GUN

Both the Second and Tenth Circuit Courts, while agreeing the right to carry exists, have issued opinions denying the right to ‘concealed carry.’ They came to their conclusions following “extensive historical evidence regarding limitations on the right to carry” (Meltzer 2014).

Many scholars agree and continue to argue that the Second Amendment does not bar reasonable regulation of guns. A 1995 paper published in the Boston University Law Review laid the foundation for pro-regulation arguments.  “Viewing the Second Amendment as an absolute barrier to firearms regulation is like the assertion that the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause absolutely prohibits any speech regulations,” argued Andrew Hertz in his 1995 paper, ‘Gun Crazy: Constitutional False Consciousness and Dereliction of Dialogic Responsibility,’ published in the Boston University Law Review.

Hertz painted the pro-gun lobby as the deceitful root of the public’s fear of regulation. “Out in the heartland, the “right to bear arms” resonates in the hearts and minds of a very vocal and active portion of the American public. Nurtured if not conditioned by the gun lobby’s barely-challenged drumbeat of propaganda, these people believe in the “right” — constitutionally or divinely ordained — to bear arms against brutal thugs and feds” (Herz 1995).

Erwin Chemerinsky also seemed to mock the constitutional argument concerning the bearing of arms against brutal feds.  He said;

“… [It] seems silly. With the possible exception of the Civil War, never in the 217- year history of the United States have people needed guns for this purpose. If ever there were a truly tyrannical government in the United States, it is highly questionable that individuals having their own guns would make much difference. Interestingly, Robert Bork put this best when he said: “The Second Amendment was designed to allow states to defend themselves against a possibly tyrannical national government. Now that the federal government has stealth bombers and nuclear weapons, it is hard to imagine what people would need to keep in the garage to serve that purpose. “The incredibly remote chance that guns might be helpful against a tyrannical government hardly seems a reason to accept the tremendous human costs of guns” (Chemerinsky 2004)

Herz’s paper, written years before the Supreme Court took on Heller, went so far as to deny a constitutional right to own guns exists. “Indeed, constitutional false consciousness has claimed fair-minded gun-lobby analysts like Osha Gray Davidson, and even ardent gun control activists like Handgun Control, Inc. presidents — both Pete Shields and Richard Aborn have spoken of the mythical “right to bear arms” (Herz 1995), and yet, according to Hertz, “courts have consistently found that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms only for those individuals who are part of the ‘well-regulated Militia’…there is no right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting, or shooting competitions, much less arsenal-building in preparation for resistance of potential domestic tyranny” (Herz 1995)

Hertz referred to the gun culture as “…a disease, just as surely as drug and alcohol abuse are societal diseases” (Herz 1995). He concludes the paper ‘Gun Crazy’ with a warning that continuing to entertain the gun lobby will result in the “sacrifice more than one hundred men, women, and children every day on the altar of exaggerated firearms freedoms” (Herz 1995).

Hertz was proven wrong in 2008 with the Supreme Court ruling in Heller, but his attack on the integrity of those who supported the constitutional right to own guns remains today. At the least, there remain many who want to work around the constitution to create the regulation they desire.

“One way that the Court could affirm a personal right to self-defense without constitutionalizing open carry would be to evaluate the right to self-defense through a wider frame… narrow reading of the antebellum case law should lead the Court to find that only open carry is constitutionally protected. But by widening its scope, and instead finding that the nineteenth-century case law stands only for the existence of an individual right and nothing more, the Court could then fashion that right as it saw fit—as requiring an alternative outlet, for example” (Meltzer 2014).

“A second way the Supreme Court might escape enshrining a right to open carry would be to simply insert ahistorical reasoning into a case otherwise reliant on history. The Court would have a particularly good model for such a maneuver: Heller itself. …Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban posed something of a problem for the majority in Heller, seeing as the framers of the Second Amendment undoubtedly had long guns in mind in 1791. To avoid this problem, the Heller Court determined that because handguns were the overwhelming choice of modern-day Americans for use in self-defense, they should receive protection under the Second Amendment… the Court had no trouble making these thoroughly modern accommodations” (Meltzer 2014).

PRO-GUN

Contrary to the assertions of Hertz, “Research conducted through the 1980s has led legal scholars and historians to conclude, sometimes reluctantly, but with virtual unanimity, that there is no tenable textual or historical argument against a broad individual right view of the Second Amendment” (Barnett and Kates 1996).

What the research has shown is that “…the original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect each individual’s right to keep and bear arms, and to guarantee that individuals acting collectively could throw off the yokes of any oppressive government which might arise. Thus, the right envisioned was not only the right to be armed, but to be armed at a level equal to the government” (Vandercoy 1994).     http://dakotansforhonestyinpolitics.com/

The history of the Second Amendment reveals the critical reasons our forefathers knew the amendment to be necessary. “Eighteenth-century commentators frequently discussed the evils of standing armies.’ …In free states, the defense of the realm was considered best left to citizens who took up arms only when necessary and who returned to their communities and occupations when the danger passed. Standing armies were viewed as instruments of fear intended to preserve the prince’” (Vandercoy 1994).

“By the end of the Tudor period, the citizen army or militia concept had become a fixed component in English life. The period’s commentators attributed English military successes to the universal armament practice prevalent in England but absent on the continent…Historians suggested that English universal armament caused a moderation of monarchial rule and fostered individual liberties because the populace had in reserve a check which soon brought the fiercest and proudest King to reason: the check of physical force” (Vandercoy 1994).

Various abuses by King James brought the 1689 English Parliament to insist the current sovereigns, William and Mary, sign a Declaration of Rights restricting their powers. “The declaration set forth the positive right of Protestant subjects to have arms for their defense, suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.  The Declaration did not create a new right. The English had been able to possess individual arms for centuries and at times were required to keep them. Nevertheless, the debates attending the Declaration make clear that Parliament thought the right should be recognized as a right of individuals” (Vandercoy 1994). The first draft stated: ‘[I]t is necessary for the Publick Safety, that the Subjects which are Protestants, should provide and keep Arms for their common Defence. And that the Arms which have been seized, and taken from them, be restored.’ …The final version read: “[T]hat the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.”‘ The term “as allowed by law” was not a limitation on possession, but a limitation on use” (Vandercoy 1994).

“…The essence of republican thought was that a citizenry could rule itself without the paternal guiding hand of a monarch.” One of the leading republican theorists was James Harrington.” Harrington’s beliefs were simple and direct. He believed that ownership of land gave people independence’” (Vandercoy 1994)

“…Harrington also believed that the actual independence attained would be a function of the citizen’s ability to bear arms and use them to defend his rights” and “that an armed population is a popular government’s best protection against its enemies, both foreign and domestic”  (Vandercoy 1994, 1021).

http://dakotansforhonestyinpolitics.com/

Rob Natelson

This background to the Second Amendment has been available for all to read, including those critics denying the purpose of the Second Amendment. Constitutional Attorney Rob Natelson states, “We can understand what it did and didn’t include by examining the history of the Founding. It has always bothered me that so many judges and constitutional writers merely speculate about what First and Second Amendment rights mean, rather than going to the historical records and finding out” (Natelson 2013).

At times, these critics appear to have purposefully distorted the history and facts. Professor Randy Barnett writes, “Gun Crazy portrays the near-unanimous scholarly literature as “pro-gun lobby” propaganda. One of Gun Crazy’s tactics is to reject twenty-five law review articles defending the individual right view as biased per se. These are articles by nonacademics whom Gun Crazy identifies as employees of the NRA and other pro-gun groups or whom Gun Crazy denigrates as “[g]unrights litigators and activists,” “leading gun-rights litigators and lobbyists,”” and “warhorses.”” At the same time, Gun Crazy derives its substantive arguments on the Second Amendment from the handful of articles on the other side which it cites without ever informing readers that their authors are officers or paid employees of anti-gun groups” (Barnett and Kates 1996).

In addition to an honest study of history, scholarly parsing of the text is necessary for a correct understanding of the amendment. Natelson states, “In recent years, people offering answers to that question have often focused on the militia part of the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state. . .” But…The militia phrase is … a “preamble”—a non-binding explanation of intent. It is not the effective, or operative, part of the amendment. In other words, it is only a guide to interpretation, not the actual law. The actual law is “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” (Natelson 2013).

He goes on,

“First, it refers to ‘THE right of the people to keep and bear arms.’ Like ‘the freedom of speech’ and ‘the freedom of the press’ in the First Amendment. The Founders were referring to a right already existing before the Constitution was ever adopted. In the Founders’ view, it was a natural right, given by God and not to be impaired by government. On the contrary, it was a right that government must guarantee” (Natelson 2013).

Natelson takes it to the furthest end of the spectrum from Herz, stating, “Today, political demagogues talk about imposing “common-sense” or “reasonable” restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. But the Constitution, properly understood, is clear that there are NO permissible restrictions on the right, however much the politicians may think they are “common sense” or “reasonable.” (Natelson 2013).

“…The Second Amendment cannot be limited to muskets and flintlocks any more than the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce can be limited to trade in sailing ships and horse-drawn wagons.  Even an old-fashioned constitutionalist like myself believes that Congress can use the Commerce Power to regulate railroads and air travel, although those forms of travel did not exist when the Constitution was ratified. Otherwise, the Commerce Power would mean nothing. For the same reason, the right to keep and bear arms must include the free use of modern technology appropriate for self-defense” (Natelson 2013).

 

CONCLUSION

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states that: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”

According to David Vandercoy, our forefathers understood two things from English history: standing armies were beholden to the government and therefore, a threat to liberty. That said, the only true check on a tyrannical government is an armed populace. “… the public purpose of the right to keep arms was to check government, the right necessarily belonged to the individual and, as a matter of theory, was thought to be absolute in that it could not be abrogated by the prevailing rulers. These views were adopted by the framers, both Federalists and Antifederalists…The intent was not to create a right for other governments, the individual states; it was to preserve the people’s right to a free state, just as it says” (Vandercoy 1994).

Rob Natelson agrees,

“The author of the first draft of the Second Amendment was James Madison. Madison’s favorite book of political theory was Aristotle’s Politics. Several times in that work Aristotle makes the point that all citizens should have weapons, and that only those with weapons should be citizens. Otherwise, he wrote, those that are disarmed are the slaves of those who are armed” (Natelson 2013).

Men have understood this all the way back in ancient times, In Nehemiah, 4:17-18, “Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built…” They each kept a weapon handy for defense.

Lastly, this concept has always been understood by tyrannical governments. One of the first thing Hitler did was disarm his populace.  Men who want control over other men – disarm them.

“The widespread ownership of firearms, therefore, helps to preserve freedom, usually without the need for armed violence. When politicians limit or harass gun ownership, the threat is far wider than the threat to guns alone. By reducing the number of citizens who are armed, gun control emboldens the authoritarian politicians to control everything else we do, thereby imperiling freedom generally” (Natelson 2013).

 

References 

Barnett, Randy E., and Don B. Kates. “UNDER FIRE: THE NEW CONSENSUS ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT.” Emory Law Journal (Georgetown Law Library) 45 (Fall 1996): 1139-1259.

Chemerinsky, Erwin. “Putting the Gun Control Debate in Social.” Fordham Law Review 73, no. 2 (2004): 477.

Herz, Andrew D. “Gun Crazy: Constitutional False Consciousness and Dereliction of Dialogic Responsibility,.” Boston University Law Review 75 (1995): 57.

Meltzer, Jonathan. “Open Carry for All: Heller and Our Nineteenth-Century Second Amendment.” The Yale Law Journal 1123, no. 5 (2014): 1118-1625.

Natelson, Rob, interview by The Tenth Amendment Center. The Founders and the 2nd Amendment (3 23, 2013).

Vandercoy, David E. “THE HISTORY OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT.” Valparaiso University Law Review 28 (1994): 1007.