Power For Good or Evil - EC372

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Power: For Good or Evil?
Course: Course - Easy Chair Series
Subject: Subject:Conversations and Sermons
Lesson#: 70
Length: 0:55:40
TapeCode: ec372
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Easy Chair Series.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

This is R. J. Rushdoony, Easy Chair number 372, October the fourth, 1996.

In this session Andrew Sandlin, Mark Rushdoony and I will be discussing Power: for good or for evil, question mark.

Now the title doesn't really explain what our concern is. So bear with me while I give you an introduction to it. After World War II a scholar, Herbert J. Storing, S T O R I N G, began to collect the anti federalist writings. Now these were of considerable interest very early at the constitutional convention, hostility to what the framers were doing did develop. Some of those who expressed the hostility were not the best men to do it. One of them was a man whose name was Luther Martin. And Luther Martin in some ways was perceptive, but he was also not the most diplomatic and agreeable of persons. So while he was very vocal about his opinions they were not as influential as they should have been. Others who subsequently became anti federalists were very prominent men like, for example, Patrick Henry.

Now why were they anti federalist? Well, Storing collected these papers which had been neglected almost since the day they were written. I did read some of them as a student and then after World War II, but by and large until Storing gave attention to them, they were neglected. He collected I think it was in three volumes the anti federalist papers, wrote an introduction to it which the University of Chicago Press subsequently reprinted as a separate paperback. And in the course of it what Dr. Storing did was to analyze the problems as both sides saw it. [00:03:12]

Now we are going to concentrate tonight on one particular...[edit]

Now we are going to concentrate tonight on one particular thing and generalize beyond the Constitution. The men who wanted a constitution had come together with a very deep concern about the future of the country. They saw that the Articles of Confederation provided for too weak a government so that the United States under the Articles of Confederation seemed to be floundering. They needed a strong state, they felt, to protect them, to safeguard their interests, to make sure as faced with the British to the north, the French and the Spanish to the south they would not be caught in a squeeze between these great powers.

Their concern was a valid one. However, what the anti federalists called attention to was this. You say you want more power in the federal government in order to be able to do more good. But do you realize when you create such a power you are also creating the power to do evil?

Well, this tells you why this is a relevant subject today and why it is that Storing’s introduction, which cites this problem—among others—has been reprinted in recent years, in 1981, as a matter of fact. And it is very well worth reading. The entire anti federalist papers—I believe they were six volumes, come to think of it—give us many, many arguments, pro and con, on this or that issue. But this is one that was never fully settled. The power to do good in a world of sinful men can also be the power to do evil. And all we have to do is to look at Washington today to realize that the fears of the anti federalists are being realized. [00:06:04]

Well, with that introduction, Andrew, do you want to...[edit]

Well, with that introduction, Andrew, do you want to carry on for a while?

[Sandlin] Well, for a minute. There should always be limits on power and, of course, there are good men on both sides, but the anti federalists had a very good case there and they certainly seemed to be prescient, as you said, Rush, looking at what has happened today and the centralization of power in Washington, DC. An important thing to note is that before the Civil War people would use the plural verb with United States.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] And say, “United States are...” Because of this great consolidation and centralization of power, though, states rights is something that has just gone by the wayside, especially as a result of the Civil war.

Now biblically the idea of authority and the political sphere is largely localism. And you can read about it in Deuteronomy, I believe chapter one. And there is an appellate system of courts there. But for the most part political authority should be on the local level.

I think Rush, you pointed doubt in was it This Independent Republic about county authority?

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] Just a vital idea and I hope those of you listening if you don’t have the book will obtain it and read that. Also a chapter in {?} by Howard Philips on politics and globalism is very valuable.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] But these are vital issues and we have... we ourselves have gone by the wayside in many ways because of this... this problem.

[M. Rushdoony] Something I was recalling when you read that is the words of Cotton Mather I have often recalled. He sais something to the effect, I think this is fairly close, that we should give no more power to men than we would have use, for use them they will, something to that effect. Men like power. Men have always enjoyed power. And the most dangerous kind of power in the hands of men are men who think they are using that power for good, because then they think there are no moral limits to what they should be doing.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[M. Rushdoony] And it is characteristic of the modern state that they are very... it is very self righteous, that they think they are doing good...

[Sandlin] Absolutely.

[M. Rushdoony] ...by their own definition. And at the heart of the problem of all powerful government is Humanism. Once you say that the answer lies in man, inevitably, whether it is a dictator or a military regime or a king or a parliament or president that the responsibility always goes to the top...

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] ... the highest collective voice of men is always inevitably a statist entity. It is... anarchy doesn't work and everyone realizes it so that it is a state that always steps in to speak in the name of the people. And despite that, though, we needed a... a stronger government than we had at the time. [00:09:09]

[Sandlin] That is right...[edit]

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] We had problems immediately including the question of the Supreme Court and does the Supreme Court... that was one of the very earliest things. I believe that was in maybe Adams’ administration or...

[Sandlin] Yes.

[M. Rushdoony] I think it came very early. Does the Supreme Court have the right to speak authoritatively? Who is the ultimate authority in a government?

[Sandlin] Yes.

[M. Rushdoony] Well, it... it... it sort of devolved on the Supreme Court to declare something, a law passed by the Congress unconstitutional.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[Rushdoony] I neglected to say that the title of Dr. Herbert J. Storing’s introduction to his six volume set is titled What the Anti Federalists Were For. I don’t think it is in print any longer, but you might run across it in some used book store.

Now we have seen a steady growth of power and Mark cited a very fine statement from Cotton Mather. He also said, “Every horse will know the length of his tether by morning.” In other words, a horse will see as far as it can go immediately. It will work to see how length the tether is wherever it is tied, what it can reach. Well, this is interesting because a horse is tethered at night to rest for the night. But he will still test the length of his tether. Well, so do people. A child will test you to see what it can get away with. And it is a part of sinful human nature to push, to see how far we can go and what powers we have.

Well, today we have a federal government which is really unlimited in its powers, because in one area after another it is able to act without legislative authority. All the bureaucracy is beyond control. It is not responsible to the people. The bureaucracy has its own courts and you could be tried and stripped of your property in a bureaucratic court by judges that have no responsibility to the people. [00:12:10]

[Sandlin] That is right...[edit]

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] No relationship to them, so that the power to do good has become increasingly the power to do evil.

[Sandlin] As Mark indicated, the most dangerous civil governments are those that want to act virtuously.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] It is not the responsibility of civil government to be, quote, virtuous. It is the responsibility to enforce the law of God.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] And that, of course, is very limited biblically. But when the civil government gets in the business of trying to make people good, of course, it is trying to replace the church and especially the family. And then, of course, we get the paternalistic state like we have today. And that is particularly evil. We don’t need a virtuous state. We need a just, a biblically just state. Virtue is in the hands of God and in the derivative sense in the hands of individuals and the family and the Church, not the state.

[M. Rushdoony] But it is inevitable when you have a people who are not virtuous...

[Sandlin] That the state...

[M. Rushdoony] Then the state is going to step in and define it.

[Sandlin] Of course. That is precisely correct.

[Rushdoony] Well, we have a problem here in that the world since Hegel has a totally different idea of morality. Before Hegel morality was God given. It was God’s law that gave you the foundations of morality. You might not like God’s law, but you recognized that that was the source of morality in society. But with Hegel a revolution occurred. The state became the source of morality.

Now, of course, this was implicit in things earlier as in the French Revolution, but with Hegel the state became the embodiment as well as the source of morality. This meant that you no longer looked for morality from God. It meant also that the power of the state was a moral force.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] And this is why in the Marxist form the state could do no wrong.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] This was going back to ancient paganism. In the book of Genesis, for example, we have Joseph accused and convicted of attempted rape. Later he becomes the prime minister and the grand {?} of the whole of Egypt answerable only to pharaoh. And yet the interesting thing we have to remember is that Joseph almost certainly lived the rest of his life as a convicted man, convicted for attempted rape, never removed from his record, because that would be to admit that pharaoh could do wrong and that was impossible [00:15:27]

[Sandlin] That’s right...[edit]

[Sandlin] That’s right.

[Rushdoony] And we have all kinds of problems like that today. For example, in the Gulf War we had a great many servicemen who came back shattered in health, the Gulf War syndrome it was called. It was declared to be psychological. But here were men no longer able to function. They had definitely physiological consequences, their condition. But once the federal government declared that this was not an actual ailment and for whatever other reasons...

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] ... perhaps because they didn’t want to reveal some of the things about that war and the use of chemicals. At any rate, they have not backed down and these men continue to suffer without compensation or any kind of benefits.

Now this is a part of the process whereby the state as the embodiment of morality can do no wrong.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] This was true of the Soviet Union. They never did wrong. They could not do wrong.

[Sandlin] It is interesting you say that, Rush. I just finished a book Mikhail Heller’s book Cogs in the Wheel: The Formation of Soviet Man in which he cites some of these people. What is morality? Morality is what the state says it is.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] Morality is what the party says it is. So they said, the Soviets said, “Don’t come to us, you western powers barking about what morality. Morality is what we say it is.” And, of course the western powers are hypocritical, because they had abandoned biblical law and the Christian faith. So how could they come shake their finger in the face of the Soviet Union and be sanctimonious, because neither ... both were relativists? You get rid of biblical law and then you don’t have anything to stand on. The state does rule then and become the index for morality.

[Rushdoony] Well, in the biblical perspective all power belongs to God.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] And God is inescapably all righteous, all just, all holy. Well, what we are seeing is that the modern state is claiming the same thing.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] It is claiming that what it does is good, that its intentions are moral. We are moving steadily to the same position as the Soviet Union.

[Sandlin] That is right. Yeah, Robespierre saw that the basis of a secular state requires, what did he call it, the supreme legislator.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] Someone has to speak the word.

[Rushdoony] Yes. [00:18:03]

[Sandlin] And, of course, in a secular situation then...[edit]

[Sandlin] And, of course, in a secular situation then that is... and in a strong state it is the state that speaks the Word.

[Rushdoony] Well, one of the interesting things is that before the French Revolution a great deal of thinking prepared the way by seeing the state as the necessary agent to accomplish good, not the Church, not God, but the state. On top of that some of the thinkers like Conrdey held that true knowledge is measurement. Therefore, those who truly had knowledge were the scientists. This meant, in time, what Karl Marx said it did, that the solution to man’s problems had to be in the scientific socialist state, the state of experts. Well, of course, the leaders in the Marxist states have not been scientists. They have controlled the scientists, but technically it is held to be in ever instance a scientific socialist state.

Well now if it is scientific, it is a government of experts. This means that in spite of the façade of democracy all over the world as we move towards this Hegelian dream the people are less and less and the experts are everything. Most of the law that we are under in the United States is administrative and bureaucratic law. It is not congressional law, not that I think congressional law is that good, but the people less and less make the laws. Bureaucratic fiats do. And if Congress doesn't give the bureaucracy what it wants, it proceeds on its own to do precisely the things it demands need to be done so that the power to do good and the power to do evil are becoming one in the same thing. By definition the state sees itself as the power that does good and whatever we call evil is a part of that power and they do not see it as evil. We don’t understand their benevolence. [00:20:58]

[Sandlin] Which really is to say, as you pointed out...[edit]

[Sandlin] Which really is to say, as you pointed out, Rush, the state wants to play God.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] Because God is the only one that has that authority. God has the authority, ultimately to say what is right and what is wrong.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] To establish standards of morality and to eternally judge the wicked and decide what is right and wrong and so forth. Well, now the state wants to play God and to be vested with that divine role. And that has to be opposed to the uttermost.

[Rushdoony] One of the consequences of this is that the men Storing wrote about are now forgotten and nobody knows about Luther Martin, nor about some of the other men who wrote at the time.

When I went to school Patrick Henry was still an important figure and you didn’t go through school without learning something from Patrick Henry by heart. No Patrick Henry is to known by school children outside of Christian schools.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Very few know of him. He is a forgotten man, because he belongs to a current Calvinistic, very much against the centralization of power and opposed to the centralism that he feared was going to come with the Constitution.

[Sandlin] I should mention that I think it was three or for years ago Sprinkle Publications republished Henry’s works.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] And they may still be in print. And a good little introduction to Henry that I just saw, oh, several months ago, was written by R. G. Jones and the group in, is it Massachusetts? What is it called? The publisher? I am sorry. I can’t remember the name.

[Rushdoony] Flower?

[Sandlin] Yes, yes, that group. Doing a lot of good things as far as biographies and that sort of thing. But you are right. He is largely a forgotten figure and a thoroughly Christian man.

[Rushdoony] Yes. Well, we have in the constitutional convention and in the debates that followed a very, very important event, because key issues were discussed. They haven’t gone away.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Now a good introduction to the convention and the aftermath from a pro constitutional perspective is Bancroft’s The Constitutional Convention in two volumes. The work by Storing, of course, gives us the other side which does not mean that Storing agreed with the anti federalist position. I would suspect he did not. He simply felt that it was time that the whole position was aired.

[M. Rushdoony] It is interesting the title that what the anti federalists were for because usually one the standard arguments why they lost or why they had nothing to offer is because they had nothing. They had no other... there was only one constitution offered for ratification. Therefore we needed something we ... and they had no alternative... [00:24:33]

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] ...plan, which... and at that {?} constantly to this day.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] If the... the... the party in power has a tax plan or a health care plan or something it is, well, you don’t have a plan.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] Therefore you have no right to oppose our plan.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] Better something than nothing. It is... it is an argument that doesn't make much sense. It didn’t make much sense then and it never does make sense.

[Sandlin] Well, they believe much more in state’s rights. And I think that is something that we hope will be revived in the future in this country rather than a strong centralized bureaucratic civil government. States rights, I think , could be the wave of the future and confederation.

[M. Rushdoony] And we don’t give the anti federalists enough credit. We have to remember one of the writers of the Federalist Papers which are brilliant.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] It is a brilliant document and because it presented a lot of the problems and a lot of the reasoning why certain provisions were in the Constitution and defended them as a lot of the specific points. But Alexander Hamilton was one of the right.... main writers of the ... of the... who is one of the big... he believed n a powerful government.

[Sandlin] Oh, yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] Very powerful, more powerful even than the Constitution, really.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] ...provided for. And he did expand as secretary of the treasury he... he was the... in Washington’s administration he immediately took initiative. He assumed the ... the state’s debts which meant that people in some of the states that paid off their war debts, he assumed state debts and made everyone responsible for the debts of some.

[Sandlin] That’s right. Exactly.

[M. Rushdoony] And that was very early thought to be a totally inappropriate use of power in making some people pay for the debts of others.

[Sandlin] Yes. That’s right. What we need to recognize, too, that although not all men on either side were Christians, Christian thought did tend to shape the argument and one has only to read the Federalist Papers or the anti federalist papers, both of them, to see how that historic Christianity influenced the way of thinking of both of the... on... on those on both sides, even though their arguments were not always sound.

[Rushdoony] Well, the anti federalists have not been done justice and Storing’s title calls attention to the fact, because he says, in the title What the Anti Federalists Were For.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Not against. Their attitude can be characterized by some as negative because they opposed the Constitution. But they did have some very, very fundamental things that they favored. So negation was not basic to their position. It just happened that the debate put them in the negative position. But basically they were positive in their orientation. [00:27:37]

We have to recognize anti Federalism is back again...[edit]

We have to recognize anti Federalism is back again, because there is a strong movement to restore the relevance of the 10th Amendment.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] And more and more people in the past year or two have been citing the relevance of that Amendment and I don’t think that is going to go away. Also the fact that the federal government is not able financially to overwhelm the states as it once did and is having to withdraw in certain areas...

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] ...is going to give the states an opportunity perhaps to recoup some of their power.

I would like to go back to Storing’s book and cite something. He comments on page 40 that the real Democrats in our modern sense were very few at that time. However, he says, and I quote, “The anti federalists were typically more democratic than the federalists in the specific sense that they were less likely to see majority faction as the most dangerous and likely evil of popular government. They were inclined to think with Patrick Henry that harm is more often done by the tyranny of the rulers than by the licentiousness of the people. Moreover, so far as there may be a threat of licentiousness, it is to be met in the same way fundamentally as the threat of tyranny, by the alert public spiritedness of the small homogeneous self governing community,” unquote.

Then this which I think is very, very interesting. Storing quotes one of the anti federalists and this is a quotation. [00:30:04]

“The strongest principle of union resides within our...[edit]

“The strongest principle of union resides within our domestic walls. The ties of the parent exceed that of any other. As we depart from home, the next general principle of union is amongst citizens of the same state where acquaintance, habits and fortunes nourish affection and attachment. Enlarge the circle still further and as citizens of different states, though we acknowledge the same national denomination, we lose the ties of acquaintance, habits and fortunes and, thus, by degrees, we lessen in our attachment until at length we no more than acknowledge a sameness of species,” unquote.

In other words, the family is the basic unit, the most effective unit. And the more you get away from the family and the county and the state government to the federal government, the more remote you make it.

[Sandlin] Absolutely.

[Rushdoony] The more dangerous you make it. Now this was the argument of the anti federalists. And it was an excellent argument.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[Rushdoony] I am not saying that they necessarily were right in every aspect. But we have to see that the power to do good is the power to do evil. There is no restraint on power in the final analysis except a moral restraint.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] If you have a gun in your hand, that is power. You can use it to kill a man or you can use it to defend your home. There is a world of difference between the two.

[Sandlin] Excellent.

[Rushdoony] And the one who decides that is the person who holds the gun. So the essence of the solution is that you have to strengthen the person, the family, the community and this is a religious task. And this is why John Adams at one point said that the Constitution was worthless with out a moral community, without a Christian community.

[Sandlin] When that happens, the state will be disempowered because family government is much more vital than state government or even Church government for that matter.

Another thing that people need to remember, too, Rush, is that, as you pointed out, all human authority is derivative. There is no irrevocable human authority. And that is why if we recognize that the authority is ultimately vested in the sovereign God who has only mediate authority. It is not immediate authority. He is the only immediate authority. The others are subject to him. Then, of course... and, of course, this was taught... this whole idea was fought during the Puritan time of the Puritan Commonwealth and the wars in the 1620s, 30s and 40s in England and even in our ... the War of Independence. But we need to get back to that idea the rulers stand under God and under his law, rather than above them. [00:33:32]

[M. Rushdoony] I think some thing we have to remember about the anti federalists, too, about all opposition, political opposition that they can perform an invaluable service. The anti federalists lost in the sense that they were not able to prevent the Constitution from being ratified. But they made such a case of the dangers of the Constitution that it was necessary for the proposal to be made that in several cases made their ratification contingent on the introduction in Congress of a Bill of Rights.

[Sandlin] Precisely.

[M. Rushdoony] And so they are really responsible ... they were really responsible for the... the Bill of Rights.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] And where would we be today if... if we had our present government without a bill of rights?

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] So they performed an invaluable service that... that perhaps was not necessary to the government of Washington and Adams and the ... for some time because they had no thoughts of violating those rights.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[M. Rushdoony] But as the years have gone by and we have gotten farther and farther away from the original spirit of the founding fathers and their view of government and we have gotten to more statist government, imagine where we would be in the federal... anti federalists hadn't...

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] ...been able to get the Bill of Rights {?}

[Sandlin] That is exactly right.

[M. Rushdoony] So they performed an invaluable service.

[Sandlin] Yes, they did.

[M. Rushdoony] If for that alone.

[Sandlin] I think maybe in the last Journal of Christian Reconstruction didn’t William Graves have an article on that about the Bill of Rights? Maybe it was the one before that.

[Rushdoony] Yes, yes.

[Sandlin] It was an outstanding article...

[M. Rushdoony] Excellent article.

[Sandlin] ...on that very point. That is right. There would not...

[Rushdoony] And it is .... he is an outstanding lawyer.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[Rushdoony] ... has been a state senator and he writes with the full knowledge of the law and the legal decisions and ramifications.

[Sandlin] Incidentally, he has got an excellent article in the upcoming journal on the case for curbing the federal courts, so...

[Rushdoony] Very good.

[M. Rushdoony] That would be interesting. They... it is... I think that is something that ... that needs more attention. I don’t think we could ever do anything dramatic with our government in turning it around until we have some judicial reform. We have got to curb the power of the judiciary to be creating laws on their own.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[M. Rushdoony] We have got to make them responsible. That is something that needs to be addressed. And I think there would be a tremendous amount of public support, because people ... well, if you look at lawyer shows even on television, they are always showing the abuse of judicial discretion. [00:36:18]

[Sandlin] That is right...[edit]

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] And I think people understand the problems with judges who do what they want and think they are above the law. And I... and I ... I think that there could be a widespread support for...

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] ... and extensive judicial reform.

[Sandlin] We need people like Robert Bork and I won’t go into that whole historical fiasco, to say we are not going to create legislation over here. If you want to write law, you do it over in the legislature. We will interpret the law, but we are not going to do your dirty work for you.

And, of course, that has been happening for the last 30 years. The Supreme Court has been doing the dirty work for the liberals, because what they couldn’t pass legislatively, they enacted judicially by the Supreme Court.

[M. Rushdoony] Something else that I think is... is interesting I... I read something. I never heard any more about it. ire ad that Colorado had passed.... I believe it was Colorado had passed a law saying that any federal statute that the state of Colorado was expected to enforce had to be accompanied by a constitutional reasoning on why they had the authority to impose that.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[M. Rushdoony] I don’t know...

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] Sometimes states pass these things and they have no intention of following through on them. But I think that is a point that ... that ought to be pursued. We assume the government can do anything it wants. I think a classic example is the 55 mile an hour speed limit.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] If they can ... if they can pass a national speed limit, they can anything.

[Sandlin] They can do anything. Absolutely.

[M. Rushdoony] Exactly.

[Sandlin] Exactly. Well, some of the Christian state legislators—and I won’t mention their names—say, “What we need to do is wean ourselves of federal money.” And if they say, “If you don’t enact this federal requirement, then we are going to cut off your money supply. Well the states should stand up and say, “Fine.” You know, we don’t need your money. We are not going to use your money. You don’t want to give us highway money? Fine. We will do it in another way. In fact, I know of a very good legislator in the state of Ohio. He is presently, I believe, he is an incumbent running for his seat, a good Christian man whose name I won’t mention, but he is presently involved in getting the Ohio legislature to pass that very sort of legislation. In fact, I think they did last year, a couple of years ago. But that is precisely correct. I mean, states need to wean themselves off of federal money. Then they will be able to wean themselves off federal regulations.

[Rushdoony] One of the things that Storing cites in his book and I must say I quote it favorably, but he doesn't agree with the purpose of the proclamation. It was by the Massachusetts general court in 1776 and this is what they said, that piety and virtue which alone can secure the freedom of any people be encouraged and vice and immorality suppressed, a great and general court have thought fit to issue this proclamation commanding and enjoining it upon the good people of this colony that they lead sober, religious and peaceable lives avoiding all blasphemies, contempt of the holy Scriptures and of the Lord’s day and all other crimes and misdemeanors, all debauchery, profaneness, corruption, banality, all riotous and tumultuous proceedings and all immoralities whatsoever and that they decently and reverently attend the public worship of God,” unquote. [00:40:02]

In other words they did recognize that power needed...[edit]

In other words they did recognize that power needed control.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] And the society could not control or deal with power unless the people themselves had a godly perspective.

[Sandlin] That is exactly right. I also wanted to recommend a book. I was thinking, Rush, a book I read about three months ago, a brand new book by Daniel Drysbach called Religion and Politics in Early America. He demonstrates how that so many of the state constitutions discuss the necessity of Christian morality and that sort of thing. Of course then changed since the early 19th century now, but he demonstrates that by and large the people were God fearing people who legislators were God fearing individuals who recognized the very same thing that you have just mentioned there.

[Rushdoony] Well, one of the ideas that we have dropped was a basic aspect of the belief of every American in those years, namely that church and state both had a ministry under God. They saw civil office as a ministry and they saw church office as a ministry. And both had a duty to create a godly society otherwise there would be no check on power, no check on man. And you would have a society running riot, suicidal, immoral and destroying whatever liberty was provided.

One of the evils of our time is the kind of mindless conservatism that says all we have to do is to get back to the Constitution and all will be well in the United States. The Constitution is simply rules for procedure in the operation of a government. [00:42:07]

[Sandlin] That is right...[edit]

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] ...the terms of office, the kinds of office and so on. There are no moral laws. There are no laws of any kind that govern human society.

[Sandlin] That is right. Absolutely.

[Rushdoony] It is just a procedural manual, as it were, for setting up a federal government for the United States.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] And I dealt with that in, oh, I think two or three articles in an issue of the ... of the journal a few years ago.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[Rushdoony] Interesting, I never got a letter commenting on those articles, but my whole point was that to expect the Constitution to provide a moral framework or in any way be a champion of anything is ridiculous. It is only an instrument whereby a federal government can be set up, terms of office assigned and certain general restraints put on the federal government. No more.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Everything else in the way of morality, in the way of character has to come from the people. It can come from nothing else. And it is only as we have declined in character that the federal government has grown in its powers, because we have transferred the powers from ourselves to Washington.

[Sandlin] You know, we need to understand there is no safety in the Constitution.

[Rushdoony] No.

[Sandlin] It is like a knife. It can be used to cut bread or it can be used to stab somebody. It is going to be dependent upon the ...the will and the morality and the faith of the people who use it. So I don’t think we should be so concerned as some of these conservatives are on constitutional alterations. I am not saying that that is totally out of the question, but we need to be concerned most of all with individual alterations which, by means of regeneration, of course, and subordination to God’s law Word.

[Rushdoony] Well, the country is changing in remarkable ways and most people are unaware of it. One good thing the media did with respect to the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1996 was to call attention to the fact that these in no way resemble the conventions of 30, 40, 50 years ago which were wild affairs with intense dissent and people almost ready to fight over their opinions.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] The conventions were both cut and dried. Anyone who might dissent was barred from the platform. [00:45:04]

[Sandlin] Everything was well scripted, yeah...[edit]

[Sandlin] Everything was well scripted, yeah.

[Rushdoony] Yes. It was all well scripted. In fact, it was dishonest in that there were a great many votes cast and delegates who should have been voting for Forbes, for Buchanan and for others. None of that appeared. It was discretely screened out so that nobody would remember the differences. The differences were obliterated. The people who came there did not come as delegates, but as spectators...

[Sandlin] Absolutely.

[Rushdoony] ...for a performance put on both by the ... by both parties.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] ...for... for the television audience.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Now that has no resemblance to anything that represents historic American conventions. We didn’t have conventions always. We had caucuses, but they were efforts to bring differing perspectives together and hammer out a conclusion. Now the conclusion was predetermined and no dissent was permitted.

Well, I think the 1996 Republican and Democratic conventions were excellent evidences of a loss of freedom in this country.

[Sandlin] I mentioned before Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He points out, Rush, about the Lincoln Douglas debates and how if we were to actually have debates like that today most people with the mentality of modern society wouldn’t care to watch them because there was very in depth profound substance to those debates. As we are taping this, the presidential and vice presidential debates are yet future. You will hear the tapes after them, but I will make a prediction that very little of any substance is going to be said. The most important thing is how the President’s hair is done. How Bob Dole... what Bob Dole’s suit looks like.

[M. Rushdoony] If somebody says something stupid...

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] That is what these...

[Sandlin] Exactly. Exactly. Who is going to make a gaffe rather than...

[M. Rushdoony] Right.

[Sandlin] That is just exactly right. Well, it is simple over substance.

[M. Rushdoony] Oh, they are even talking about they can’t... their eyes can’t wander. George Bush looked at his watch.

[Sandlin] Yeah.

[M. Rushdoony] I mean, you can’t do things like that. So it is... so it is entirely a ... And both candidates have been sequestered practicing and they have been having people, because they don’t want Bob, you know, the one... Bob Dole to look angry and they don’t want ... they want President Clinton to look... it is all appearance.

[Sandlin] Do... do you realize ...

[M. Rushdoony] It is too bad that all of our politics is... is appearance?

[Sandlin] Do you realize Postman pointed out, a number of the men that were president in this country couldn’t be elected today and, Rush, you pointed out because some were rather very corpulent men. Lincoln was, of course, was lanky and ugly like...

[multiple voices]

[M. Rushdoony] ... high pitched voice.

[Sandlin] Exactly, high pitched voice. Exactly. [00:48:15]

[Rushdoony] Well, Storing cites Patrick Henry at the...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Well, Storing cites Patrick Henry at the Virginia convention for ratification sitting in Richmond and he said, “What right had they to say ‘We the people’? My political curiosity exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare leads me to ask: Who authorized them to speak the language of we the people instead of we the states? States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great consolidated national government of the people of all the states,” unquote.

So Patrick Henry saw the weakness very clearly.

[Sandlin] Yes.

[Rushdoony] And over the years since the ratification of the Constitution, that expression in the preamble has been a sore spot with many. It has been the subject of much concern and various court decisions. Why we the people?

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Instead of we the states?

[Sandlin] Thank God at least we still have a residue of state’s rights in the electoral college. Individuals don’t elect presidents in this country, although they think they do. States do.

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] But that demonstrates a mentality that is largely lost in modern culture. And that was a very good point, Rush, about individuals rather than states there. And it was a valid point, I think, that Henry made.

[Rushdoony] Well, the anti federalists had another point that was important. They knew there were problems in the United States under the Articles of Confederation. But they did not feel that ht problems were mainly caused by an ineffective central government. In other words, people can be responsible for problems. This was a point not explored by scholars. It was not a stronger central government, Patrick Henry felt, and others as well, but time and hard work that would correct all the evils that had arisen and all the problems that existed. [00:51:10]

In fact, they said that the true cause led to problems...[edit]

In fact, they said that the true cause led to problems that were not governmental and I quote. “Unhappily for us immediately after our extrication from a cruel and unnatural war, luxury and dissipation overran the country vanishing all that economy, frugality and industry which had been exhibited during the war.”

Again, Richard Henry Lee wrote in 1787, “I fear it is more ambitious manners than mistakes in form that is {?} government....

[Sandlin] Yes, yes.

[Rushdoony] ...that we must seek for the causes of the present discontent,” unquote.

And another said, “May not our manners be the source of our national evils? May not our attachment to foreign trade increase them? Had we not acted imprudently in exporting almost all our gold and silver for foreign luxuries? It is now acknowledged that we have not a sufficient quantity of the precious metals to answer the various purposes of government and commerce. And without a breach of charity it may be said that this deficiency arises from a want of public virtue...

[Sandlin] Yes.

[Rushdoony] ... in preferring private interests to every other consideration.”

Well, in other words, they were saying it is a moral failure. This is the problem.

[Sandlin] Can you imagine, though, today, any of the two major presidential candidates or congressmen standing up and pointing their bony finger in the face of the people and say, “The problem isn’t the government as much as it is our society?”

[Rushdoony] Yes.

[Sandlin] “...wickedness and evil in society.” They wouldn’t get reelected.

[Rushdoony] Well, our time is nearly over. Do you have any summary comments you would like to make, Andrew, Mark?

[Sandlin] Well, I think Christian individuals have to assume many of the responsibilities the civil government now holds to take back those things. Then eventually they will be able to wean themselves off the civil government in health, education, welfare and all sorts of other activities. And, of course, living a godly life and pressing the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ and his law word in every sphere of life relentlessly and then the state eventually by the Spirit of God will be forced to capitulate.

[M. Rushdoony] Well, I think a... a... the Constitution was a ... a safeguard to American’s liberties, but even if we could reverse the trend, that won’t solve a lot of our problems, that is a moral problem. And going back in time doesn't solve the... the problem. We need to look to the future.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[M. Rushdoony] And that involves limiting the government, but it is.... it is not all a constitutional problem as I said.

[Sandlin] Yeah, but we don’t believe in political salvation, so we don’t believe that simply changing the form of government or cleaning out congress or the presidency is going to solve the problem. That should be a result of the solution of the problem.

[M. Rushdoony] And it is a means to stop evil men by holding them to the Constitution.

[Sandlin] That is right.

[Rushdoony] Well, I think Dr. Storing raised an important issue in his book. I believe it is an issue that has to be thought through once again. It points to the very, very great importance of individuals, families, churches, society at large, because the basic reform, the basic restraint upon the power to do evil has to come from the individual.

Thank you all for listening and God bless you.