Republican Upkeep and Renewal

By Rodney Dodsworth – April 14, 2016

There isn’t a worldly creation that doesn’t need continual upkeep and renewal. Examples abound. Without regular maintenance to our autos, homes, marriages, bodies and souls, they will degrade and eventually cease to operate, or will ill-serve their intended purposes. As applied to government, look no further than a congress that rarely serves its designed Constitutional purposes. Our government in general, and congress in particular, are in dire need of renewal, of restoration to their free government designs.

Patriots know their forebears created the world’s best free government, yet the American republic is not the longest lived. At about 450 years, that achievement goes to the Roman Republic, and the Romans had to work to keep it. Liberty ended when the Romans stopped improving their republic.

Shouldn’t that concept be put back into practice in 21st century America? Didn’t we, just as the Romans, do that for so long? From 1607 to 1912, from the colonial era to perhaps the childhood of our grandparents, American governing systems continued to improve.

Step back for a moment and consider:

1607 – 1702. England was too consumed in religious conflict, civil war and revolution to pay much attention to her American colonists. Being heavily influenced by biblical scripture, colonial societies and quasi-republican governments grew and developed.

1702 – 1765. Early maturation of colonial governments.

1765 – 1776. Improvements to American self-rule collide with Parliament and George III.

1776 – 1781. Thirteen independent republics go it alone.

1781 – 1788. The Articles of Confederation are a logical first step toward republican perfection, but prove insufficient to implement the revolution and secure free government.

  1. “We The People” form a more perfect union in a system that improves upon the Articles of Confederation.
  2. The bulwark of free government is immediately strengthened with a Bill of Rights.
  3. The 11th Amendment further clarifies Article III.
  4. Article II, the electoral college process is improved by the 12th Amendment.
  5. The 13th Amendment bans slavery.
  6. Through the 14th Amendment, congress is empowered to reinforce personal and societal rights guaranteed in the Declaration and Bill of Rights.
  7. Blacks are guaranteed equal political rights in the 15th Amendment.

Like earlier and long-lived republics, the American colonial and later republican systems were regularly maintained, improved, and strengthened. Most Constitutional amendments refined the relationship of man to state, and his freedoms under self-rule. Notice that we also worked to perfect governing institutions through the 11th and 12th amendments, through alteration of the judiciary and presidential election process. America responded to actual circumstances, found room for improvement, and adjusted her institutions and supreme law. So, while the foundation of our governing form remained, its superstructure was amended to deal with changing circumstances and lessons learned from experience.

Mistakes began in 1913. A congress designed to serve the ends of free government along with a central respect for property in all forms were destroyed upon ratification of the 16th and 17th Amendments. Just as it is easier to burn a house down than it is to build one, destruction of free governing institutions is easy compared to building and maintaining free government.

Instead of strengthening the republic in the face of societal and economic change, Americans betrayed themselves. Overnight they weakened the Framers’ freedom-enhancing structure. With the 17th Amendment they tossed aside confederal government and embraced democratic republicanism, which history has shown to be precursor to anarchy, usually followed by tyranny. They cut and pasted an inferior popular form over a freedom-enhancing federal structure. Without adjusting enumerated powers which were designed with the assumption that the states would forever participate in a law-making congress, America unwittingly substituted a free government enhancing structure with democracy as it’s central feature.

The mistake of the 17th Amendment wasn’t evident until the New Deal when popularly elected senators rolled over and did the bidding of FDR. By the 1960s a few began to recognize the threat posed by a growing centralized power in Washington, D.C. but were powerless to arrest it.

Rather than identify, admit and repeal the mistaken 17th, America settled this past century for a senate corrupted from its original purpose. Rather than serve to defend the 10th Amendment, and provide wise counsel to the president in the course of negotiating treaties, his nominations to high offices, and the judiciary, America accepts a senate of demagogues whose only real talent is reelection, followed by the promise of sending taxpayer goodies back to their states. Free government is impossible with a popularly elected senate.

There is little time to return to the straight path to republican perfection. As our history and recent experiences show, all human creations are subject to corruption and will perish unless consciously renewed and reduced to first principles. We can avoid the self-destructive historic cycle of once free republics, but unless we take active measures to restore American republicanism, despotism will overwhelm the nation.

Article V of the Constitution is there; it is within our grasp. We must embrace it, restore federalism, reestablish free government, or join history’s long list of failed republics.

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