FEATURE ARTICLE

Going Forward to the Past

Going Forward to the Past
 
Michael Badnarik 
Date: 0000-00-00
Subject: Articles of Confederation

When asked to write this commentary, my instructions were "pick one person who you want inspire/mentor in 2013, and then do it!"  I'm sorry, but… I can't do it.  I can't pick just one.  I want to inspire everybody!  It is difficult for me to focus on a single individual. However, in keeping with the spirit of the assignment, I've decided there is one person I would like to influence more than any other.

Patrick Henry.

I know!  I know!  He died in 1799 at the age of 63, but he's the guy I would like to influence and inspire. By now you're rolling your eyes and wondering, "Why would the guy famous for Give me Liberty or Give me Death require any kind of inspiration at all?"  I'll tell you.  Because he didn't step up when we really needed him.


I have no doubt that readers of this periodical are more familiar with the history of America's founding than your average Supreme Court Justice, so I won't attempt a lengthy tutorial. Suffice it to say that after the Declaration of Independence, the free, sovereign, and independent states joined together loosely associated under the Articles of Confederation.  Then the "Federalists" (who were really nationalists) convened in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to sabotage and usurp the Articles with a new document known as the Constitution.

A second group called "Anti-federalists" (who were really federalists) adamantly opposed the concentration of power in a centralized, national government, and for that reason the convention lasted four months.  Unfortunately, this is where Patrick Henry should have stepped in - but didn't.  The most articulate and passionate anti-federalist of all didn't just strike out - he never stepped up to the plate.  And now there is no joy in Mudville.

Naturally, he justified his (in)actions on moral grounds because, as he put it, he smelled a rat. The delegates to the convention had been instructed to amend the Articles of Confederation to alleviate the economic depression that had been caused by the colonies printing currency like there was no tomorrow.  Please note they did not call it "quantitative easing" or "economic stimulus" in those days.  The point is that delegates were not given permission to scrap the Articles and start from scratch with a new form of government.  On this issue Patrick Henry was right.

Quoting Henry about the convention, " The rights of conscience, trial by jury, liberty of the press, all your immunities and franchises, all pretensions to human rights and privileges, are rendered insecure, if not lost, by this change so loudly talked of by some, and inconsiderately by others. Is this same relinquishment of rights worthy of freemen?  Is it worthy of that manly fortitude that ought to characterize republicans:  It is said eight States have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve States and half had adopted it, I would with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it."

I often wonder what this section of the globe, casually referred to as the United States, would look like if we still operated under the Articles of Confederation.  Under that document, laws common to all of the states required the unanimous approval of the states before they were adopted. Would the 1968 Gun Control Act have gotten unanimous approval?  How about the Patriot Act?  I think I've made my point.

So this is where I'd like to step in and have a heart to heart, "Come to Jesus" meeting with my buddy Patrick.  I would do everything I could to convince him that he - and he alone - had the intellectual integrity to dissect, deconstruct, and derail the Federalist plans to contaminate Liberty in this country.  Who else would have the perspicacity to go toe to toe with Alexander Hamilton, and emerge victorious from a debate on how to prevent a gradual erosion of the people's rights?

Oh, how I wish that Pat and I could have shared a few glasses of rum together.  (I presume that he and I would have established a more relaxed and familiar relationship by this time.) A major thesis of my argument would be to convince him that one man can make a significant difference.  You never know what you can accomplish until you give it everything you've got.  Ignoring the limitations of the normal space/time continuum, I would point out that I personally ran a campaign for Libertarian Presidential nominee… and won at the last minute against all odds.  I would remind him that although I attended the Continental Congress 2009 expecting to be merely a delegate representing Texas, I ended up as President of that large group who were his philosophical contemporaries - two centuries later.

If only I could inspire Patrick Henry to participate in that Philadelphia convention, he could have saved our country by preserving the Articles of Confederation.  That is a missed opportunity that I will always regret.

The only way I can imagine redeeming myself is to inspire thousands of YOU to stand up and take an active role in restoring the Articles of Confederation.  Of course, the first logical step would probably be to restore the damned Constitution, and the Bill of Rights after-thought that came into existence like a political game of "pin the tail on the donkey". Once we restore the Constitution, it should be a simple process of continuing our momentum to reestablish "states rights" as the prevailing political strategy.

Being the quintessential over-achiever, I am not content with merely being an inspiration to you. All that requires of you is a deep sigh as you wipe a wistful tear from your eye, muttering something about how wonderful you think I am.  Screw that! I want to be significantly more MOTIVATIONAL.  Motivational implies movement and action!  I want to crack the whip and get you asking "How high?!" when I say jump. How can I convince you that one man - or one woman - can make all the difference in the world?  How can I convince you that you never know how much you can accomplish until you give it everything you've got?  Don't make the same mistake that Patrick Henry did. Don't fail to step up to the plate when we really need you.

Justice Leaned Hand said, "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."
 
Michael Badnarik is a Constitutional scholar, the author of Good to be King (a beginner's guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) and Secret to Sovereignty (How to survive the Second American Revolution). Michael travels the country teaching his highly acclaimed class on the Constitution. You can visit his webpage at ConstitutionPreservation.Org