Authored by William Robert Barber
“At the close of the Constitution convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic if you can keep it” responded Franklin.”
Simply defined a republic (of the United States of America) is a constitutionally derived government wherein the power of governance is held by the citizens entitled to vote directly or indirectly through their elected representatives. This nation’s constitution was constructed specifically to deny the executive branch omnipotent power; congress was purposefully divided into two houses of representation and the Supreme Court, though justices require senate approval, was structured to avoid political influence or pressure by having the justices serve life terms. The uniquely American system of checks and balances was tantamount with the 1789 concept of limited government power wherein each branch of government was restrained and purposely did not reign supreme over the other.
After a couple of hundred years plus, the response to Franklin’s challenge to Mrs. Powel is that the nation could not keep its status as the republic of original intent: As with all preceding governments since ancient Rome, original intent was converted, dismissed, and resubmitted with caveats and amendments or replaced by the finesse of legalized sleight-of-hand.
There are many causes, reasons, and excuses as to the loss of original intent… but if one was to be extracted from the many to form the critical it would be the following:
The first is the inclination of those that govern to fashion governing in the image of their ideology first and the tenets of the constitution last; and if not persuaded firstly by their ideology, then it is their personal perspective of righteousness, their egocentric wanting enthusiastically seeking applause; or their craving for immortal achievement and recognition.
There are numerous examples of extra-constitutional actions by the elected; forthwith are two:
Presidents John Adams and his Federalist within congress enacting the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition’s Act, and Thomas Jefferson affirming the Louisiana Purchase without the approval of the Senate; all such actions undercut and evaded their oath to uphold the constitution. The reason for such extra-constitutional action is obvious: The elixir of power dominates over many a president and congressperson, not to mention those non-elected appointees that wield immense influence within the authority intrinsic to governess. The will to ‘get it done,’ be it Machiavellian or the sweetness of rhetorical style, will always dominate the constitutional process; therein lies the issue of concern and the cause for the dismemberment of the republic as originally conceived.
The second of causes, reasons, and excuses is taxation; as so eloquently stated by Daniel Webster, “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” In 1913 the 16th amendment to the constitution was ratified and the meaningfulness of the republic of original intent was diverted into the sector of a republic awaiting permanent deletion. When this amendment was adopted, wherein the congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source…the idea of limited government died and the concept of forever-encroachment by the governing authorities on personal liberties and freedom began.
The unlimited capacity of government to extract any percentage of a citizen’s personal income affords government a predominance that surely was never thought possible by the Founders. The ability for unlimited taxation far exceeds the government authority required for implementing and delivering services. Because of the 16th amendment to the constitution taxation is a weapon used by congress and the executive branch to subordinate and compel citizens to its will.
The harvesting of tax revenue by necessity creates a coercive extension of the federal, as well as, State power. But it is the distribution of taxes collected that enables political, economic, and societal corruption. Political favoritism is always a player when taxes collected is distributed. This corruption could have never have been a factor if the 16th amendment had NOT been ratified.
Evidence suggest that the larger the government the more grandiose and entrenched its bureaucracy. Correspondingly, a government other than one limited in scope, power, and means will always, unavoidably, abate the ethos of individualism; such a government will obligingly retard personal liberty and freedom. The government’s ability to tax at will has aggravated the sagacity of The Bill of Rights; it has shifted the ultimate power of governess from the people to the government and therefore from a republic to one of statism.
The third cause, reason, and excuse for the loss of the republic’s original intent has been because of the explicit exploitation of governmental operations by the legal and political class. It is these practitioners of the dark arts that have intentionally interfused the process of legalize-ambiguity into the mainstream of the legislative result. Regulators have lobbied politicians to purposefully injection enigmatic language within the nation’s laws so to establish themselves (the regulators) as the ultimate arbitrator of the law’s meaningfulness. All of these actions were and are intentionally designed by those in power, those close to those in power, and the always looking out for themselves appointed government bureaucrats charged with the tasks of transforming the simple and mundane into the complicated and extra-ordinary.
The forth and the most notorious reason for the loss of the republic is the apathy of the ordinary citizen. The average citizen of a republic must participate in the national debate and they rarely do. They must be concerned with the political events and feel an obligation to be engaged and informed nevertheless with noted exceptions the voting populous sit on the sidelines seemingly satisfied to be enchanted by the spectacle whiles feeding on bread, beer, and games.
So no, Doctor Franklin, we could not keep the republic of 1789; indeed, the federal government of 2012 would be unrecognizable to the Founders…