Rights Invaded

“In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we resent injuries or make preparation for our defense.”

James Monroe

The Fifth President, the last of the “Virginia Dynasty”, the last Founding Father to become President, and residing during the “Era of Good Feelings”. All of those titles, and how many of you actually know about Monroe? You may recognize his name (albeit slightly less than the preceding James M.- Mr. Madison) Indeed Monroe, in his time was widely popular, thought to be very handsome, and for his first term presided over an era of expansion. Monroe ran virtually unopposed in 1820, and began his second term on a presidential level only matched by George Washington himself.

Monroe Was a military man, having fought during the Revolutionary War as a major, injured during the Battle of Trenton. Monroe understand that our country should strive for peace, yet be prepared for war, or as good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt put it, “Walk quietly and carry a big stick.” The Monroe Doctrine ironically an idea of Monroe’s successor, John Q Adams, has been one of America’s primary military, economic, and social strategies since it was written.

Here, with this quote, we see a somewhat “different” side of the Monroe Doctrine. It falls with George Washington’s warning not to “Get involved in entangling alliances” and Adams pressure not to fight on either side of the French Revolution. How does it affect us today though? I’m sure some people will assume I’ll take one side of the argument, a few may see this as my standing on the opposing side. The truth is I stand firmly with Monroe here, and in the middle of the US Military Debate.

Having been in the Navy myself, and currently a disabled veteran, I certainly have to say that there are many things our military does right. Offering education after service (though still going through reform solutions to perfect the process) is almost unheard of. Housing benefits, and benefits for spouses have become the most advanced in the world. Our military has the most up to date technology, and training unmatched in most military organizations. During the Constitutional Convention, there was a proposal to limit the US military to 5000 men, George Washington sarcastically suggested we also limit invading armies be limited to 3000. Military strength in the United States has always been a bone of contention. There are those who want us to have a small army, and those who push to increase our spending, and our presence worldwide.

There are lessons to be learned from history though. Certainly US history has a great many lessons we would be sorry to miss, but then we can learn lessons as a nation from elsewhere as well. Germany, after the First World War was given strict sanctions to follow. Their army was limited, not just in troop size, but also in Officer count. They were forced to give up many of their advancements in weaponry, including Tanks, Planes, and Gas. This was done by the French, and British along with heavy monetary payments out of hope that Germany would never again be able to start a war.

Yet they did.

Germany began World War Two with a list of battle successes, including the defeat of the French Army in a remarkably short span of time.  How they did so has had some academic study, but mostly it has been attributed to Blitzkrieg. The real question should be not how this occurred, but if Germany has no planes, or tanks how did they form strategy for Blitzkrieg?

After the first war, when the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles came into effect, Hans Von Seeckt took over as head of the German Army, his first goal was to study the way the war was fought, to find strategy from both sides that was successful, and implement this strategy. Certainly there were private armies in Germany which allowed Germany to bypass its limitations and when Hitler came into power most sanctions were ignored, but the truth is, the limit to Germany’s military was actually advantageous.

Without the limitations certainly Von Seeckt may have created the panels which studied how the war was fought, but the dead weight of over 100 years of Prussian Military theory would have hampered the innovations found. Of course there was still a great deal of Prussian strategy, but to be honest, that’s because they had successful strategy to begin with.

All of this leads to my point. In the United States our philosophy was one of isolation for 170 years, the wars we fought outside of our borders, in many way directly affected us. Many of our military engagements however, were fought on our own soil.  And most of the time, America was in a state of peace. Theodore Roosevelt, and James Madison both worked to ensure a strong military, but both presided over a period of peace.

Our military today could use strategic cutbacks. I’m not proposing we take apart our military or cut pay or benefits. I wouldn’t suggest a withdrawal from certain areas of engagement until stabilization has occurred. What I am suggesting is that the world police itself, the UN make decisions towards international security, and the US make decisions for our own security. I want our nation to be strong, but strength does not require the most men, it requires the best men. Let’s form committees to explore our successes and failures in Afghanistan, to explore our enemies’ successes and failures, let’s build a military which functions more for the 21st century and less like the 1940’s.

Distrust of Power

All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.
James Madison

For those unaware James Madison was the man who wrote our constitution. Back in the late 18th century the idea of writing a constitution down (England had an unwritten constitution) was novel. It is ironic, the way we look at our founding fathers, these peaceful men in white wigs who used words to conjure up a nation all in agreement of what was needed and how each of their words were to be immortalized. Alas I wish it were so, but even in 1787 our nation was hardly unified.

I won’t give you a full history lesson of the constitution today, though I may sprinkle in in bits and pieces throughout my blog, suffice it to say James Madison and the constitutional convention was a hotbed of merging political ideals. From James Madison, a follower of Jefferson’s Democratic ideals, to Alexander Hamilton a man who worked to give the federal government as much power as possible. Certainly there is a degree of unity in these men, having fought the revolution, and even Madison and Hamilton co-authored the federalist papers. In the end our Government was formed, a Democratic-Republic. You may here of the United States spreading democracy like young men with a brilliant idea that everyone should share, the irony is that The United States isn’t a pure democracy, nor was it meant to be.

Our constitution was written to both give, and restrict the power of the federal government. We know many of the basic powers given in the bill of rights, daily we hear freedom of speech, freedom of religion, we here about the right to own firearms. These are only a few of the abilities prescribed to the people within the constitution, of course many forget the tenth amendment: : The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Likewise in amendment nine it says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” James Madison hadn’t thought it all necessary to include a bill of rights, after all isn’t the constitution itself a bill of rights?

But the anti-federalists (soon to be Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans) won out, and Madison wrote down those first ten amendments. So here we have passed the history lesson, and those of you still reading are wondering why I’m writing this, and why it’s been so long since I have even written a post. Here goes:

Our government was meant to protect us from the powers of parliament, and the rule of a king. James Madison thought it was pointless to say that we had rights not because they were not there, but instead because there are so many. Were it not for those first eight amendments, America would have surely become an autocratic power led not by a single man, but by a congress whose corruption would have given the vote only to their own body of government (see the Roman Republic). Sadly the next two amendments (9 and 10) are thoroughly ignored by our government. Certainly those in power can cite later amendments which are used to give the federal government the ability to do this thing or that thing.

So here’s the deal, here is my point; The Constitution was meant as a protection for the people from the States. Read that again, and understand. We needed protection from foreign powers, and that’s why a confederation failed, but our Democratic-Republic was given specific powers which were intended not for the legislature to restrict our ability (whether it is our ability to do drugs, to drink, or to read the communist manifesto) The federal government was meant as a watch dog to make sure the states didn’t infringe upon our rights. And when taken in that context, one can understand why the Bill of Rights was unnecessary. Likewise we can understand why Lincoln stopped the secession of the Southern Confederacy. If the Confederate States were allowed to secede, then the Federal government could not protect the citizens. (Slavery was a cause, but not the reason we fought the civil war)

I want you to think on our government, and what rights it has stripped from you, it may be able to cite standing cases or amendments which might be read to give the federal government more power but that was certainly not the intent. What would our society look like if the federal government followed its role of only ensuring that citizens’ rights are vouchsafed? And if the federal government is meant as protection against the states, what are states governments meant to do? (I believe protect our rights from encroachments upon each other)

Pains of Freedom

The Incorrigible John Adams“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

― John Adams

Our second president is perhaps the most overlooked. In his time, he placed George Washington as the commanding general of the revolution, wheeled and dealed to get the Declaration of Independence signed, used every ounce of his power to avert war with France, and then laid the foundation for the Louisiana Purchase.

Yes, John Adams may be the reason you are today not paying taxes to the British government (no offence Brits, if you knew me, you’d know I love you!) but let’s be honest our Freedom wasn’t built on one man’s back. It was the persistence, and perseverance of three generations of father’s to found our Union. From Benjamin Franklin, who died not long after the election of our first President, John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, who fought for, wrote, and negotiated our independence, and to James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay who wrote out constitution.

These men, most who later became presidents, ambassador’s and elder statesmen (or statesmen who were killed before becoming elderly because of duels- I’m looking at you Mr. $10) The point is that our Nation came into being slowly, with guidance, and assistance from men, who, sadly we cannot  now seek the approval of. What’s the point you ask?

When asked to write the bill of rights, James Madison thought it ridiculous, how would it be possible for a government to restrict a person’s right, if in fact, the government never had that power to begin with. I am most thankful for Madison’s opponents requiring the bill of rights, and especially for ensuring it was Madison who wrote them.

Sadly, poor John Adams is repenting, even now. The freedom he gave us, that Madison ensured to us, that Washington fought to bring about, that Franklin negotiated for us, it is well, and truly lost.  (21 U.S.C. § 811)( 18 U.S.C. §1464)   (12 U.S.C. ch.3). My point is that our government, when originally set up was never supposed to be there to restrict our freedoms, our federal government was meant to protect our freedoms from encroachment by the states. I am deeply saddened by the move from a government of freedom, to a government of restriction, and I think that many of our founding fathers would have been as well. government of restriction, and I think that many of our founding fathers would have been as well.