The Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation 2 - RR144D7
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|This transcript is unedited. It was:|
|Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library|
|Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules|
|Posted by with permission.|
Before we begin I’d like to tell the College students that we will get to De Tocqueville perhaps by tomorrow night, and I’d like to have you read in addition to the three chapters I suggested, chapters 15 through 18. Which probably will take you through the balance of book one. In volume two we will more reading.
This morning we were considering the legal and constitutional foundations of the War of Independence. We saw that, the background of the English Monarchy was of a feudal monarchy. The English King was in origin a feudal monarch who ruled not as a absolute monarch, not in terms of any divine right, that claim came much later, but in terms of an obligation to render aid to those under him, and to observe certain rights and privileges of those who were below him, in return for which they had certain obligations to him. Thus, you could call feudalism a kind of contractual or constitutional arrangement, between peoples. Between powers. Nobles and those under them, and nobles and their overlords, and all of them together with the king. Now especially with the Tudor Monarchs and the Stewart Monarchs, The English crown claimed absolute power. The divine right of Kings came with the renaissance a very popular doctrine, in the middle ages the Kings did not dare claim divine right. One Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Hohenstaufen actually did, but this was not normal.
But with the Renaissance, the pagan idea of the divinity of kings was resurrected. However, Each of the colonies had a chartered existence. Their existence was either in terms of the charter or a crown grant, so that they had various rights and obligations. There’s was whatever the specific charter of their relationship to the crown still, a constitutional one, a feudal one essentially. So when trouble developed, they could appeal to this feudal character of their relationship, and list their grievances. This is exactly what they did, in two documents. The first of which we’ll consider at some length at this point. [00:03:00]
One of the most important documents in American history...
One of the most important documents in American history, perhaps the basic document in the steps that led to our independence, and yet today it is virtually unknown. It’s a sad fact, that document which we spent most of the morning analyzing point by point, is the Fairfax County Resolves. George Washington and a group of Fairfax county citizens met in the Fairfax County Courthouse, and they cited 24 reasons, 24 resolves, almost all of which except the last one or two gave the constitutional reasons why they had a right if the King of England, their feudal monarch did not grant unto them redress against the injustices he was inflicting upon them, together with parliament, to break off that relationship, although they expressed their desire to continue as law-abiding subjects of his majesty. Now of course what the crown actually did was to work with parliament which had no power over the colonies, the colonies were not under parliament, they were not under England. The Declaration of Independence, which we are now going to consider, is not a declaration of independence from England, because they were never under English rule. It was not declaration of independence from parliament, because they were never legally under parliaments rule. The Declaration of Independence, is a Declaration of Independence from King George the 3rd. Each of the colonies was under the same King as England, Scotland, and Ireland. King George the 3rd was King of Scotland, King of Ireland, King of England, King of New York, King of Virginia and Massachusetts, and so on. He was a Constitutional monarch in view of the feudal, contractual nature of his relationship to the colonies. The Fairfax resolves began by saying: “We are not a conquered people, but rather conquerors of this land. And we will not be treated as conquered.” And of course what the British Crown together with Parliament was trying to do, and was doing, was to abolish the various legislative bodies, and the courts of the colonies, and the move troops in to destroy the freedom of the Americans. We will analyze now what they were doing, in terms of the Declaration of Independence. [00:05:51]
Most people know the prologue, to the Declaration...
Most people know the prologue, to the Declaration. The prologue is full of high-sounding phrases. It was partly written in order to please the countries of Europe, the Declaration of Independence was important because they were going to go to Europe and say “We are now an independent country, we want loans, and we want help in the way of equipment. Will you help us to fight Britain?” To appeal to these countries they formulated the first couple of paragraphs of the prologue to the Declaration, in terms of the ideas that were then most current on the European scene. Not that they didn’t believe these ideas, but were trying as they wrote to look with half an eye, at the potential buyer out there. Now when Mr. ?Dohbran? sits down, and when he should need to, the three minute add which he did once at the very beginning of Fairfax Christian School, to advertise the school, in that add he is going to be thinking not so much in terms of what he himself believes and thinks, but what he himself think that there is in the school that will sell the school to the people out there. So there might be many things about the school that are very important to him that he won’t bother to go into, because what he is now doing is selling something. So he is thinking of the consumer, what will the consumer out there think, and what is it that I hold that will be appealing to him. So the first two, maybe three paragraphs, are really a job of selling the cause of the United States to the Europeans. And it declares to them, we are now an Independent Nation, and we intend to be. So much has been said about the Declaration of Independence as far as the prologue is concerned, that we are not going to spend much time on it. Except for one point. It is the right of the people to alter or establish it, any form of government which becomes destructive of the ends of government. And institute new government, laying its foundation on such principals, and organizing its powers on such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Now I’m selecting this because lately some have appealed to this as the right to revolution. Now in effect it does declare a right to revolution, but not as some people have felt, that there is a legal right to revolution affirmed in the Declaration of Independence. It does not affirm a legal right to Revolution, but a metaphysical right. Now what is the difference between a legal right, and a metaphysical right? Now the difference is simply this. There are certain things which according to Washington D.C. I can do, or must do, and certain things I cannot do, [00:09:01]
which in my eyes as a Christian may be all wrong...
which in my eyes as a Christian may be all wrong. Now in terms of the law, Washington has a legal right to require certain things of me. But in terms of the law of God I can say that there is a metaphysical right which I hold, which is greater than your right. Now this is what the declaration is here saying. There are times when there is a metaphysical right to disobey. To overthrow someone’s rule or government, King George in this case. And to establish a new form of authority. And we hold that now we have this metaphysical right. Then they go on to affirm the legal right. So first they have said, there is a metaphysical right, and absolute right and wrong in terms of heaven. Now were going to spell out the legal right, which we also believe is right, in the sight of God. And so they begin:
“Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
They are writing with the world in mind. And so first of all, they cite the fact that he has over and over again, vetoed their legislation. Now they granted the king the right to veto legislation, after all he was the supreme authority in their civil government. He had the right of veto. But his right of veto was now being used in a totally arbitrary manner. In effect saying “You are going to have no law, and do nothing, unless I approve.” Moreover, they went on to say:
“He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected;”
Now what are they saying? “This is no normal veto, No normal kind of royal constitutional authority being exercised, because it goes together with calling a meeting of our legislature, not in the normal place in the capitol, but someplace far away, so that everyone has to drop everything and get on horseback and hurry over there for a meeting. And what’s the purpose? To break down our legislative government. To call meeting on the sly, so that people have difficulty or inability getting there, and if they oppose him what does he do? He order his royal governors here to dissolve those legislatures. And then he refuses to call for another election. In other words, what he is trying to do is to destroy our legislatures, our self-government. He has endeavored to prevent the population of each states. We want immigrants. We want to grow. What does he do? For that purpose obstructing the laws of naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of land. The Colony wanted settlers. They wanted them whether they were English or German or French or whatever the case might be. [00:13:07]
But the King of England because the colonies were growing...
But the King of England because the colonies were growing and becoming strong and self-reliant, independent countries, was telling them, “No you cannot do anything to encourage immigration.” And so he was doing everything to frustrate immigration to America, and those that were there, to prevent their naturalization into citizenship. Or to prevent them from acquiring land. He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers. He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. Now one of the things that King George tried to do was to take over together with parliament the payment of Judges salaries. That was one of the things that most frightened the colonies. Consider what that meant.. It meant that instead of the people of Virginia, of Massachusetts paying their judges, King George would pay them from England. And they knew good and well the man who pays the judges salary will control the Judge. “And if we the taxpayers don’t pay the judges, those judges will never judge us rightly. He has erected a multitude of new officers, offices they had not devised. He created a vast bureaucracy in the colonies, and sent here swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He has put among us, in times of peace standing armies, without the consent of our legislator. He has in effect rendered the military independent of and superior to the civil power.” To this day, it has been a permanent thing in American history, the distrust of the military. In fact, if you traced the history of the army and the military in the United States, the distrust of it even when our army was to house only two hundred men, which it was in the early days, has been almost to the point of phobia. Very unreasonable. But there has been that long and persistent fear from colonial times of military power and the independence of the military. And with reason because a lot of what has happened since then, because we have not had any problems since then, is because of their experience of that time. “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation. Now this is the only reference to parliament, and they don’t even deign to mention parliament. They never recognized parliament, and so they felt that “We will not even dignify parliament by mentioning it by name.” But they were talking about parliament here. And they said “What he has done is to try and put us under foreign government.” [00:16:10]
And parliament was a foreign government...
And parliament was a foreign government. Now Canada may be a sister country, but if the president were to work tomorrow to put us under the Canadian parliament, we would resent it. Well this was exactly what King George was doing. Each of the colonies as an independent country, had its own parliament so to speak, its own legislator it did not want to be governed by foreign one, and that was what parliament was to them. And this very important point, and later on the constitution was not ratified by the citizens until the bill of rights included this, For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us. Now this was one of the most fearful instruments in those days any monarch could use, to quarter troops. I mentioned this briefly his morning, but it’s so important it deserves repetition. The first act was to send troops here, and require that they be quartered in the inns. Then next to send more troops, and require that they be quartered in the houses. In those days the armies were formed out of the dregs of the slums. This was true in every European country. Then a worst weapon, any government had that they could use was to quarter troops on people. Why? Because those troops when they were quartered on you had full command of the house. Which meant that they raped the women, young and old. This is the tool that Louis the 14th used to break the Huguenot movement in France. Remember what he did? He told all the Huguenots that if they did not become Gallatin Catholics, within a certain period of time, they would have troops quartered in their houses. Well, this meant that the Huguenots had a choice between becoming seeming converts, or else trying to escape from the country, because quartering the troops would’ve destroyed every family. It’s a sorry fact that our history books don’t tell us what the implications of quartering troops meant, and why it was such a horrible thing in the eyes of the colonists. It meant that they were being treated with utter contempt. That their families, their homes were to be destroyed at will. Now that alone was enough to make a people ready to rebel. For protecting them by a mock trial, these troops for punishment for any murders they might commit on the inhabitants of these states, for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world, mercantilism which we discussed last night, for imposing taxes on us without our consent, for depriving us in many cases of the right of trial by jury. For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses. Now consider what it meant if you could be transported somewhere else before a group of people that were convinced that any American was automatically in the wrong, and put through a mock trial where conviction was certain. [00:19:43]
“For abolishing the free system of English law, and...
“For abolishing the free system of English law, and so on, for taking away our charter, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our government, for suspending our own legislator, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated government here. By declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.”
Now this is very important. You see they are saying “We are not rebels. King George the 3rd has for all practical intent abdicated. He has violated the charter, he has treated us as enemies, instead of as loyal subjects. He has declared war on us. He has even sent troops to declare war on us, to destroy our families. Are we rebels, or are we people who are defending ourselves from an armed invasion by a foreign power, parliament.”
Their attitude was emphatic. “We are defending ourselves.” And that was their term, “From a foreign power. Parliament. Which is now waging war. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death desolation and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy to be the head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or fall themselves by their hands.”
Now this was one of the things that made Americans especially bitter. If you were captured on the high seas on shipboard by the British, you were given your choice between becoming an impressed seaman, or being executed. And if because you had a wife and children at home and you were unwilling to die you became when of them, then if there were any who did not join you, among your own fellow shipmates, you had to be their executioner. [00:21:59]
It is no wonder the American felt very bitterly...
It is no wonder the American felt very bitterly.
“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
Now we become very sentimental about Indians today, but we forget what a fearful thing it was to the people then. And to have the Indians of the frontier turned loose upon their towns, their farms and their cities. And this they said: “Our King has done to us.”
“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Then they went on to say “We have warned the British who are friends and relatives of ours of what is happening. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity” (That is, of blood) “We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.” [00:23:33]
And so in terms of this, ...
And so in terms of this, “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,”
The colonists went on to say that “united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Now a book has been written about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, to point out the price they paid for signing it. Because naturally their properties were the target of reprisal whenever an area was conquered. And sides of war during the War of Independence flowed back and forth, and at times the situation was very bleak for the colonies, and the homes and properties of those who signed the Declaration whenever the British could get them were subject to the most savage reprisals. The men who signed the Declaration for the most part paid a heavy price for what they did. They did indeed pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Well having done this, they then had another problem. How to establish a new government. And so, after a great deal of debate the next year, November 15, 1777, they adopted the articles of confederation in Congress. And these articles were then sent to the various states for ratification. They were not ratified for three and a half years, not until March 1, 1781. Each of the colonies or states before the war had come to see itself as an independent nation. Friendly to the others but unwilling to submit to them. Now when there was a need for them to come together, each of them were very jealous of their independence and of their rights. They saw the need, for some kind of federalism without a loss of the independence of the various states. [00:26:07]
They distrusted centralized power...
They distrusted centralized power. They mistrusted power. The very compelling sense of distrust of power among all the men there was quite notable. When you read some of the documents of historians as they describe this period, it’s very difficult to find out what they are really talking about. Because words, can depend very often on their context for meaning. For example, in an important work on the articles of confederation by Doctor Jenson, very liberal in his point of view, speaks of throughout as he discusses the articles of confederation, the liberals and the conservatives in congress. This is why the book is, in spite of its excellent scholarship, rather worthless. Because what does liberal mean, and what does conservative mean? Well, if you are a conservative in the Soviet Union today it could mean that you are in favor of the Soviet Union. If you are a liberal it means that perhaps you feel that the Soviet Union should be changed somewhat. And more Liberalized. And if you are a radical there it could mean that you believe in free enterprise, and Christianity. You see the use of those words is relative, to what you have reference to. Now actually the people whom Jenson calls conservatives in the debates on the articles of confederation we would call liberal. Those whom he would call the liberals, and radicals, we would give another name to. They were Calvinists. Which is literally what they were. They were just terms that were used relatively. Now the Calvinists or the so called Liberals in the article formation were by and large men who were very distrustful of power and centralization, almost to the point of wanting as little government as possible, to the point of anarchy. [00:28:25]
They distrusted power...
They distrusted power. In fact there were some of them who said the very desire for public office is a leprous disease. And they felt that people who were interested in political office were in danger of this contagion of leprosy. This is the way they felt about the desire for power. It was because they had a strong sense of total depravity. Now they carried this we could hold, to to great an extreme, to a point where the security of the colonies, and later the United States was being endangered by their radical distrust of centralized government. Incidentally, Thomas Jefferson was the darling of the Calvinists, even though in religion, at the time of the formation of the country, Jefferson was one of the two radicals religiously, he and Franklin. And yet the Calvinists were the ones who elected him to presidency. Why? Because Jefferson had made it clear that he believed that the best government is the least government. And the Calvinists were so distrustful of government that even though some of their greatest heroes were on the federalist side, they were for Jefferson. Heart and soul. The articles of confederation then very strongly reflected this early distrust on the part of the Calvinist element. As a result the articles gave emphatically the balance of power to the states. The constitution of 1787 which we have to this day, gives the balance of power to Washington. Not to the degree that it has today.
Another problem in the articles of confederation was the question of the western lands. There were no clearly defined boundaries for some of the states. As a result, Virginia claimed everything to the west of Virginia. And Maryland was very upset about this, after all Maryland was locked in there, it had no extra land except that which was part of Maryland. Now Virginia at that time in 1775, was the big state. It might be of interest to give you the population, in 1775. Virginia, 400,000. It was a big state. Massachusetts was second with 350,000 and Pennsylvania with 300,000. Those were the three powerful states. Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, in that order. Then surprisingly came Maryland, with 250,000. Then Connecticut, South Carolina, North Carolina, and New York were tied with 200,000 each. New York was not a big state at that time, and it was so heavily owned by the wealthy patroons, the Dutch Aristocrats in the country areas that there wasn’t much growth until that sort of thing was broken up. It was the one part of the country where there was a really European type aristocracy that was ruling things. New Jersey came next with 130,000, New Hampshire with a 100,000, Rhode Island with 58,000, Delaware with 30,000, and Georgia, 25,000. Virginia thus was the real power. Together with Massachusetts. And this is why for some time thereafter so many of the presidents were Virginians. And if they were not Virginians, usually Virginia had a tremendous hand in electing them. In a little while we’ll come to an aspect of Virginia which, if George Washington had his way would’ve made Virginia, to this day, the greatest state in the union, the most powerful state. But very few people had Washington’s vision. Now the articles of Confederation I will not read to you, but they had a basic weakness in that there was no real taxing power on the part of congress. This made the prosecution of the war very difficult. Congress only had money as the states saw fit to give it money. This is why though the states grew richer and richer during the war, because of trading with the enemy, the Congress of the United States could only edict paper bills. Now the paper money was on a promise to pay in actual gold or silver, if and when the war was won. If you’ve ever seen any of the paper money, and I think you can get replicas of it at various places including Gunston Hall, I picked up some there when I was here once, it will say that there is a promise to pay at the end of the war in Spanish milled dollars. [00:33:26]
Now, the milled dollars is an interesting point, what...
Now, the milled dollars is an interesting point, what did that mean? Well, one of the problems in ancient times was that coins were clipped, and by clipping was meant that if you got a gold or silver coin, you got a fine instrument and you shaved the edge of it all the way around. Then you had some gold or you had some silver. And if every time you got a coin you shaved a bit, you built up a lot of gold and silver after a period of time. And the coin would get smaller and smaller, and a quarter for example would finally end up the size of a dime. As a result, milling, the kind of edge you see on your coins now was instituted. And those were the coins that became valuable, because you could tell immediately if a milled coin was doctored. And so it was that congress was offering to pay at the end of the war, to redeem its paper money for Spanish milled dollars. Now of course the Chinese figured out another way to get gold out of coins without trimming them, which will show. In the early days in California, the elderly chines in the family would be given a coin, they would sit in the back of the Chinese shops and stores where people would come to trade, and the gold pieces, if you had gold pieces they were not used for change, they were put into a cloth bag, and old Grandpa or Grandma would have to sit there all day shaking the coins, like that, clinking them together so that flecks of gold would come out of them, and then they would wash out that cloth bag very carefully, and they would accumulate over a period of time quite a bit of gold dust. However for most people that wasn’t practical, and the milled dollars became an invaluable means of preventing the adulteration of coins. The promise therefore was to pay off. But during the war the coins or the paper money sometimes became quite worthless. And this was a real problem, because the farmers, the shopkeepers, would refuse to sell to the [00:35:48]