(Note: the following is my response to a remark made in another forum by a gentlemen attacking my previous article on the national guard training for gun confiscation as “propaganda”, and defending the federal government. Further, this uninformed antagonist cited the tired example of the Whiskey Rebellion as ‘evidence’ of our Founders’ intent. As always, I encourage reader comments from both supporters and antagonists. However, antagonists will have to come armed with more facts than they can gather from ‘wiki’, or they will simply be embarrassed)
Good morning. I was hoping the statists did their homework. However, I see no new wisdom is forthcoming. So let me address this to all the statists and pseudo-Americans out there. Feel free to google any sentence in my post to confirm I have not plagiarized or simply copy/pasted from some rudimentary wiki-type source:
Our Founding Fathers, generally speaking, were an anti-statist lot. Despite the compromises that resulted in the Constitution of the United States, the anti-federalists and federalists alike were united by a fundamental distrust of government that ran consistent, in both word and deed, during the debates of the era when these great men were charged with creating a government from the aftermath of the revolutionary war. In some cases, they built upon and refined the institutions and traditions of English common law. Other cases, they built upon the independence and frontier spirit of the colonial culture of the time.
The Whiskey Rebellion is often brought up in statist circles as a ‘proof’ of the intentions of our Founders, and of George Washington in particular, in terms of setting precedent. However, the truth is more complicated, and sheds light on true American political culture. While ‘wiki’ is a popular source for snippets of information, I would suggest, instead, no greater authority than Murray Rothbard (Austrian economists will recognize Rothbard as a towering figure of both economics, free-market anarchy and anti-statism). The following article serves to highlight the Whiskey Rebellion in the context of the time. Take your time and read it; it is fairly succinct.
This article demonstrates the Agorist tendencies pervasive at the time of the founding of our nation. These Agorist sympathies were shared to a large extent by our Founding Fathers. I provide several quotes to back this up:
“The refusal of King George II to allow the colonies to operate an honest money system, which freed the ordinary man from the clutches of the money manipulators, was probably the prime cause of the revolution.”
“We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds… [we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers… And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for [another ]… till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery… And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
– “Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Kercheval, Monticello, July 12, 1816
“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”
The anti-tax positions held prior to, during and after the Revolution speak to these sympathies and are addressed by Rothbard.
That our Founding Fathers were minarchists is indisputable. But one must understand that within each minarchist is a touch of the anarchist. One does not “propose” anarchy as a system of government. Anarchy, by definition, is the anti-system. Instead, one chips away at the state as much as possible, much like an anarchist or agorist might. If one chips away at the state enough in the direction of anarchy, one arrives at minarchy.
Our Founders, and Jefferson in particular, envisioned a political culture that was always in flux. Our Founders understood the inherent problems of a federal state – the ‘mission-creep’ and relentless expansion of power inherent in central government. The bulwark between this expansionist dynamic (understand that the state can only expand at the expense of the people – this is indeed a zero-sum game) were the States or, more specifically, the People. Rothbard’s summary of the Whiskey Rebellion serves to illustrate the independence and fortitude of the American people of the time relative to their understanding of their civic responsibility to resist the state and its encroachment upon individual liberties in the form of regulation and taxation. (Up to and including tarring & feathering tax collectors). Further, the article demonstrates the lack of both enforcement and compliance typical of the time. Therefore, the ‘flux’ referred to above is the constant, vigilance of the People and the battle against the state. Often this battle manifests only in minor acts of civil disobedience or tax revolt. On the other hand, Jefferson (and others) understood this battle would occasionally break out into something larger. Some additional quotes on this:
“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” -Patrick Henry
“I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” -George Mason
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” – Benjamin Franklin
This is a famous one, although many omit the full paragraph and quote only the last few lines, therefore depriving the reader of full context and intent:
The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. – Thomas Jefferson
Therefore, the minarchy designed by our Founders -again, by both word and deed- was understood to be a prize not just fought for once and won, but rather one that required constant vigilance and anti-statist activity on behalf of the populace: resisting, first by ballot and then by disobedience, the encroachment of the state upon our liberties.
Flash-forward to 2009. What might Jefferson think of Barack Obama? Of George Bush? Of Pelosi, Dodd, and Frank? Of any of our current or recent crop of political overlords? What might he think of our tax code? What might he make of our code of laws – a code that could be stacked floor to ceiling in the Empire State Building? What might he think of the enforcement of these laws via multiple, overlapping ‘law enforcement’ agencies (agents of the state)? And what might he suggest be done about this?
I will leave you to ponder this. But in conclusion, I will share one more quote for those who would accuse me, and many others like me, of being anything other than an American Patriot:
“You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.”
-Charles Austin Beard