Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you

Pericles

We often celebrate the politicians, men who through their eloquence and passion seek to incite people to join our causes.  Men like Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin were certainly important to the cause of Liberty but it’s important to understand that they sought to have people join their causes and build a nation that they wanted.  Our nation would not exist, however, were it not for the true statesmen who toiled, fought, and struggled to build our republic rather than give speeches and simply demand it be brought into existence.

Since its inception, nay its very settlement, our country has had men who passionately argued for their own self interests.  The first settlers of Roanoke and Jamestown sought economic sovereignty; the multitude of religious separatist who fled to the Americas came here to freely express their religious ideals (although often not tolerating the ideals of others!); and of course, the patriotic verve New England was largely driven by trade not voting ambitions.  These are our POLITICAL forefathers – men who are willing to destroy the status quo and often the peace in order to advance themselves and their causes.  Before you vilify the current political establishment, understand that this is the system we created and it really isn’t different from what we had at the birth of our nation.

Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party. 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. In governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged.

George Washington

“There are some for whom the applause of the multitude has deluded them into the belief they are Statesmen[1]”  Just as was in every Congress since, the ugly hounds of factionalism and party pursued the dialog of the Continental Congress, then the Constitutional Convention, and finally every Congress since 1789.  One only need to look at our founding documents to know that rancor and discord were the hallmark of our early republic just as they are today.

Sure July 2, 1776[2] is hailed today as a bellwether date but was Independence inevitable or even truly desirable?  Was it need or ambition that drove us to cut ties with the Mother Country and what of those who sought to avoid the desolation of war with Brittan and seek reconciliation?  Were they patriots or traitors to the cause?  Were they thinking of themselves or their communities and progeny?  History having been “written by the victors[3]” sides with the separatist who mostly sought to tear down the old-world order rather than build a new one.  “A true statesman’s cause isn’t for the immediate future but for the future of the next generation.[4]”  Which course served the next generation best?  Its only through active and fervent debate and hearing all sides that we can be sure.  This is the job of real statesmen.

However political parties 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. 

George Washington

 Factionalism grew as the nation came into being.  During the war there was constant internal bickering within the Continental Congress (really an alliance of 13 states rather than a true federal government) and the army.  We celebrate the hardships endured at Valley Forge but quickly forget that it was our government (Congress) and our army (Gen. Thomas Mifflin – quartermaster) who CREATED that hardship!  The Conway Cabal sought to remove George Washington from his post as Commander in Chief.[5]  This internal intrigue finally reached a tipping point in 1787 and precipitated the total dissolution of the United States government and the recreation of our country as a constitutional republic with the Constitutional Convention and later ratification of a new Constitution[6] and still elements of factionalism remained and grew.

Probably all laws are useless; for good men do not need laws at all, and bad men are made no better by them. 

Demonax

Our new Constitution came into being as a result of special interest and factions.  It guarantees the rights of small states over the will of the populace,[7] it allows for Slavery despite a global sentiment that slavery should be abolished and our grand statements in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,”  and at the time of its ratification the Constitution provided no means of protecting ANY rights of the people.  This is factionalism at the extreme yet despite all of these failings, our republic has held together for 244 years.  We owe this perseverance to the constant toil of our nation’s true statesmen — men and women who sought not their own better interest but those of our country. These people were willing to actually live up to the pledge of “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor[8]” to build something bigger, something important – their country.

Liberty does not exist where rights are on one side and power on the other. To be liberty, rights must be armed with vital powers. A people cannot be free who do not participate in the control of the government which operates upon them.

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus

Statesmen BUILT our country, not with tools and stones but with words and deeds.  While others were arguing against the abuses of Parliament statesmen like Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense.  When we needed support from Europe’s monarchial governments, Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence outlining our justification for rebellion and demonstrating that our cause was justified and not taken recklessly.  While politicians like Samuel Adams and John Hancock were raising mobs to riot against mistreatment by the Crown, James Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights – a clear precursor to our Bill of Rights.  While factions in Congress fought over states’ sovereignty, James Madison drafted outlines of what would ultimately become our national constitution and when factions sought to undermine this new constitution, he drafted amendments that would ultimately become our Bill of Rights.

No matter whether you claim a slave by purchase or capture, the title is bad. They who claim to own their fellow-men, look down into the pit and forget the justice that should rule the world.

Zeno

Our country slowly fought off the early gains of factionalism.  In 1865 we eliminated the Constitution’s protection of Slavery,[9] and in 1964[10] we finally guaranteed that self-evident truth to all people the promise of our Declaration of Independence – “that all men are created equal.”  But we must fight this battle in every generation lest those ugly hounds be at our heels.  In every generation we need statesmen not just politician. We need men and women who are willing to act selflessly for the greater good and serve rather than rule.  We need political servants who look to the future not to their pocketbooks.  When we fail to step forward, we will surely step back.

It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Like in the 1700’s, we face a tyrant today no less fixated on our destruction than George III.  If we love our country, we will fight for “ourselves and our posterity[11].”  Today the battle is with words and votes.  A true stateman will not let this progress to the point where more vigorous means are justified.

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated…”

Thomas Paine — The Crisis

[1] Plato

[2] Date the Continental Congress VOTED for Independence.  It will not be formally declared until two days later when certain politicians are convinced to be absent for the final vote so that it may be unanimous.

[3] Alternatively attributed to Winston Churchill or Niccoli Machiavelli – either of which clearly motivated by politics not statecraft.

[4] James Freeman Clark

[5][5] Philbrick, Nathan: Valiant Ambition; ISBN 9180143110194

[6] Eliis, John; Revolutionary Summer;  ISBN 9780307946379

[7] Resulting in Electoral College decisions that are incongruent with the popular vote. 

[8] Declaration of Independence

[9] 13th Ammendment

[10] Civil Rights Act

[11] US Constitution Preamble

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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