Sense (Part II)
(With absolutely no apologies to Thomas Paine)
by Edgar J. Steele
December 28, 2002
(I)t is the
republican and not the monarchical part of the constitution of England which
Englishmen glory in, viz., the liberty of choosing a house of commons from out
of their own body- and it is easy to see that when the republican virtue fails,
---Thomas Paine, "Common Sense" (Feb 1776)
Preface (to each of the four parts)
There are a remarkable number of parallels between prerevolutionary America and the America of today. It is downright spooky how, in their writings of that time, our founding fathers might have been speaking directly to this generation of Americans. Then again, I do not believe in coincidence so perhaps, in a sense, they were.
How appropriate that those of us who advocate a return to the ideals of those days are called "patriots," a word which has taken on as derisive a meaning when mouthed by government agents today as those uttered about our forebears by King George's men during the first American revolution.
Nor is it coincidence that those of us labeled as "patriots" wear the mark with respect and honor. I count myself proudly among their number and pray only that my work be worthy of inclusion.
It takes some effort to update the founding fathers' works to modern forms of language and phrasing, but the result is nothing short of amazing, particularly when we replace "England" with "Federal Government" and "King George" with "The President."
I have presumed to do just that in this series with Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," a four-part work written and published in early 1776 as part of a broad effort to convince the American settlers to declare independence from England.
In several places, I have retained Paine's wording intact, where it has particular impact in its original form. In others, I have edited and rephrased mercilessly, while trying to hew to the apparent intent of his argument.
I do not suggest that this is an improvement upon what Thomas Paine had to say. I believe only that this is how he might have said it, were he alive today and speaking of the grotesquerie that our government has become.
As you read this section, you might find it useful to compare it with its counterpart in the original "Common Sense." One of many on-line sources for Thomas Paine's "Common Sense": http://www.federalobserver.com/words.php?words=1299 . I have maintained the original's organization and structure in this rewrite, in order to facilitate direct comparison.
Inhabitants of America
on the following interesting subjects
I. Of the origin and design of government in general, with concise remarks on the
American Constitution. (released 12/26/02)
II. Of the imperial presidency and hereditary succession. (released 12/28/02)
III. Thoughts on the present state of American affairs. (to be released)
IV. Of the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflections. (to be released)
Part II: Of the imperial presidency and hereditary succession.
All men are created equal, but they need not stay that way. Some become rich and some poor, rarely due either to oppression or by means of avarice.
While wealth may produce oppression, it is rarely attained by oppression. And, though the avaricious may avoid poverty, they generally lack the discipline to attain wealth.
But there is a more significant distinction between men, for which no natural or religious reason can be given: the difference between citizen and ruler.
Male and female are distinctions of nature; good and bad, distinctions of morality. But, how a group of men came into the world so exalted above the other, distinguished like some new species, begs examination. Of equal importance: whether this new distinction is the source of happiness or of misery.
Originally, when there were no rulers in the world, there was no war. Generally, those countries that have continued without strong leaders have been the most peaceful. History as recorded in the Bible shows happy patriarchies, which gave way to Jewish royalty and concomitant misery.
Heathens first showed the way with Kings, idolized in their death. Christian nations have done them one better by idolizing their rulers while still alive.
Just as setting one man above others cannot be justified from the natural scheme of things, neither can it be defended in scripture, where the Almighty expressly disapproves of government by kings.
Three thousand years elapsed from the Biblical account of Creation until the Jews sought to replace their republican form of government with a king. Gideon, who prevailed against the Midianites, Israel's stronger oppressor, rejected the crown thrust upon him, saying, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you." Gideon properly rejected not only the crown, but also the right of the people, even, to give a crown.
One-hundred-thirty years after Gideon, Samuel also fought against the popular outcry for the naming of a king (so that Israel might be "like other nations"). Samuel noted that, not only would the king take the best of everything then owned by the citizens, "The Lord will not hear you in that day."
Hereditary succession, in addition to the degradation of accepting an absolute ruler, is both an insult and an imposition on posterity. If all are created equal, then nobody by birth should have the right to set up his own family in preference to others. While one may deserve the honor of his contemporaries, his descendants would only rarely be worthy to inherit that honor.
Hereditary succession includes, not just from father to son, but from circumstance to circumstance, and the whimsical designation of one in power.
The strongest natural proof of the folly of hereditary right is that nature disapproves it, else she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind the likes of George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton or any of the House of Windsor.
As no man should possess any public honors other than those bestowed upon himself, so the givers of those honors should have no right to give away the right of posterity. Though the people may choose one for their ruler, they could not, without manifest injustice, say, "Your children shall rule over ours," because the next succession might put them under the rule of a fool.
Even true kings, traced to their first rise, likely were nothing better than the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners earned him the title of chief among plunderers. Hereditary succession, in the early ages of monarchy, could not have taken place as a matter of divine claim, but only endowed with such after the lapse of a few generations, as the result of some trumped-up superstitious tale. Thus was hereditary right crammed down the throats of the vulgar.
The office of the American president has become akin to hereditary right, with very few able to lay claim to it, all of a stripe with differences in appearance only, and all beholden to the moneyed class that selects their number, time and again. None but those so chosen are offered to the citizens in the primaries, so that it is irrelevant precisely who is ultimately elected.
America, since the first revolution, has known some good presidents, but groaned beneath a larger number of bad ones, particularly of late.
It is no coincidence that the Twentieth Century saw the American presidency become a truly imperial office, resplendent with the tokens and privileges of rank previously reserved to the mightiest and richest of kings throughout history.
It is no coincidence that the current American president is but a poor reflection of his father, who occupied that position less than a generation previous, a man plucked from nowhere and annointed with sufficient money and influence to carry through the entire electoral process.
It is no coincidence that the current president's father was head of the American secret police for a time.
It is no coincidence that the current president was born into a moneyed and privileged family, one which travels in the top levels of society throughout the world.
It is no coincidence that one rumored to be preparing to seek the presidency is the wife of the last man to hold the office.
The plain truth is that the validity of presidential succession in America will not bear looking into.
It is not so much the absurdity as the evil of American presidential succession which concerns us. As it opens a door to the foolish, the wicked and the improper, it has in it the nature of oppression.
Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance. The world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests.
The most plausible plea in favor of the American presidency is that it preserves the nation from civil wars. Were this true, it would be persuasive, yet it is among the most barefaced of falsities. Abraham Lincoln, believed to be among the greatest of presidents, fomented and prosecuted the bloodiest war known to America, and the only one fought entirely on its own soil, a civil war of the first order.
Lincoln was the first to gather to the office of the presidency many of the rights, privileges and powers now taken for granted to be a part of the American presidency, yet which had been eschewed specifically by the nation's founders.
There have been others since Lincoln who have singularly usurped the power of other offices, so that the presidency has become the power unto itself now witnessed astride America. Franklin Roosevelt comes to mind, as do Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. William Clinton seemed a part of the same class until George W. Bush showed what a piker Clinton really was.
The American presidency today is as close to being a truly imperial office as ever it has been. In terms of real power and organization, the American presidency far outstrips the regal reach of any king in history. In terms of effect, the Supreme Court and Congress are nothing by comparison with the executive branch, which employs literally millions of Americans at home and abroad. The presidency has become a virtual dictatorship through the accretion of powers by each subsequent occupant of the office.
The nearer any government approaches to a republic, the less business there is for a ruler. America's ruler is very busy, indeed. It is somewhat difficult to find a proper name for the government of America. Its constitution calls it a republic; but in its present state it is unworthy of the name because of the corrupt influence of the presidency. By having all the offices of government at its disposal, the presidency has so effectively swallowed up the power and eaten out the virtue of the Congress (the republican part of the constitution) that the government of America is even more monarchical than that of old England.
Men fall out with names without understanding them, for it is the republican and not the monarchical part of the constitution of America in which Americans glory; i.e., the liberty of choosing the members of Congress from out of their own body.
It is easy to see that, when republican virtue fails, slavery ensues. Why is the American constitution sickly? Because the presidency has poisoned the republic, thereby appending the Congress to itself.
Yet, Congress is not blameless in its current ineffectualness. In their own right, Congressmen have become separated from the American public. Generally, only the rich and well-connected can run for office. Only the politically-correct receive the blessings of the media, all of which is controlled by the same moneyed interests that select and fund the presidential candidates.
And they run again and again, never returning to private life, so that they need never feel the heel of the governmental boot brought to bear upon the average citizen's neck. Term limits are universally stricken by courts that are the lapdogs of the same moneyed interests as previously described, with the result that congressmen continue in the same position in perpetuity, with family members often assuming that position upon the death of their forebear.
And Congress has proven itself to be those moneyed interests' lapdog, as well, giving over to the imperial presidency all the powers constitutionally prescribed to itself, all the while submitting itself and its employees and functions to executive oversight.
Truly, Congress has ceased to be the sole remaining republican element prescribed by the American constitution.
Future installments to be released in this series:
Part III: Thoughts on the present state of American affairs.
Part IV: Of the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflections.
- an idea whose time has come.
"I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it
would be the truth."
Copyright ©2002, Edgar J. Steele
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