On January 21, 1776, John Muhlenberg, Pastor of the Anglican Church in Woodstock, Virginia, preached his Sunday morning sermon on the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season;…a time of war, and a time of peace.” At the end of his sermon, he declared, “The Bible tells us there is a time for all things and there is a time to preach and a time to pray, but the time for me to preach has passed away, and there is a time to fight, and that time has come now. Now is the time to fight! Call for recruits! Sound the drums!”
Having finished his sermon, he removed his black clerical robe revealing a Colonel’s uniform and marched from the church. The following day he led 300 men from his county to form the nucleus of the Eighth Virginia Regiment in Washington’s army. Muhlenberg was one of the many clergymen unofficially referred to during the Revolutionary War as “the Black Regiment,” named for the black clerical robes customarily worn by pastors of that era while in the pulpit.
Pastor Joab Houghton of the Hopewell, New Jersey Baptist Church, on receiving news of the battles of Lexington and Concord ended his sermon with, “Men of New Jersey, the red coats are murdering our brethren of New England! Who follows me to Boston?” Every man in the congregation responded to his call and followed him to Boston. These ministers and hundreds of others who made up the Black Regiment were products of the great awakening of the mid-eighteenth century. Christianity and religion are woven into the fabric of America’s history and politics. Those of today who decry any “meddling” in politics by ministers of the gospel, often claiming their tax-exempt status should be removed for violating the “separation of church and state”, are crying in vain against the lessons of history and to the detriment of their country.
That is not to say that ministers are not subject to the same human frailties as any other members of God’s creation. However, due to their profession, they do have influence and leadership skills vital to a society in crisis. Throughout our four hundred year history, the clergy has been in the forefront of every societal movement, good and bad, that has brought us to the place where we are today.
During the seventeenth century, churches helped to provide the stability that allowed the colonies to grow and thrive. In the eighteenth century, they inspired the spirit of liberty that swept the nation leading to our independence. In the nineteenth century, they pricked the conscience of America and ended the evils of slavery. In the twentieth century, they were in the forefront of the civil rights movement.
Unfortunately, they were also at the forefront of the “social gospel” movement following the second great awakening that created the climate for socialism to take hold and flourish. While the churches and Christianity have served as a moral “light” to the nation throughout our history, there have been periods when that light was dimmed.
There is an amazing parallel between America’s religious history and its political history. Over time, theologians alter the message of the Scriptures underpinning the Christian faith just as lawyers alter the meaning of our founding documents, particularly the Constitution. The Bible was not written for theologians and the Constitution was not written for lawyers, both were written for the common man. Periodically we have to get back to the basics or else we continue to drift off course in a sea of fog and confusion. A knowledge and understanding of the ideas that shape our lives is an individual responsibility. Perhaps never before in our history has America been so in need of both a spiritual and political revival as it is today. As George Washington said, "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible".
Even ministers of the social gospel understood this fundamental truth. Charles G. Finney, a Congregational and Presbyterian minister during the “second great awakening” said,
“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”
While a modern day “Black Regiment” would not guarantee America’s return to a constitutional republic, it would certainly make the journey much easier.
Some of the most intriguing lessons from our history are the methods the colonies used to control their government and maintain their liberty. One of the earliest principles of government established in the colonies was the principle of representative self-government and the rule of law. The Pilgrims clearly stated this principle in the Mayflower Compact.
“[We] do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue thereof, do enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which promise all due submission and obedience.”
The principle was later emphasized in the Pilgrim’s code of law “The General Fundamentals” enacted in 1636.
“Wee…do Act, Ordain and Constitute; That no Act, Imposition, Law or Ordinance, be made or imposed upon us, at present or to come; but such as shall be made or imposed by consent of the Body of Freemen or Associates, or their Representatives legally assembled: Which is according to the free liberties of the State of England.”
Representative government was guaranteed under the English Constitution dating back to the Magna Carta of 1215 and the later establishment of the House of Commons in the fourteenth century. Since the colonies did not have representation in Parliament, they considered internal laws and taxes passed by Parliament to be unconstitutional and therefore non-binding on them. Unpopular and unconstitutional laws were simply ignored by the colonists. Attempts to enforce these laws were met with protests and occasionally outright rebellion. Unconstitutional taxes were circumvented by smuggling. Tax collectors were frequently “tarred and feathered”, “whipped”, “rode on a rail”, or otherwise humiliated by colonists.
The most effective method used by the colonial assemblies for protecting the liberties of the people from encroachment by the Crown was their control of expenditures. Governors and their councils could not spend tax money unless it was first allocated by the general assembly of each colony for that purpose. In serious disputes between the appointed governor and the elected assemblies, the assemblies would often refuse to allocate money to pay the governor’s salary or pay for his programs until he acquiesced to their demands. This “power of the purse” was continued in the Constitution’s requirement that all revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives. Refusing to allocate funds for unconstitutional actions by the federal government is still a valid method for controlling the size of federal government.
The first six counts in the indictment of King George set forth in the Declaration of Independence all have to do with violations of the principle of representative government. The idea of representative government is the principle behind the doctrine of enumerated powers. There is a limit to the expanse of territory and the number of people any government can manage without resorting to tyranny. America today consists of 3.79 million square miles and 308 million people. The presumption that any 535 people are collectively or individually wise enough to “rule” so vast a nation through the “rule of law” with laws applying equally to each individual’s circumstances and needs without abolishing their liberty is utterly preposterous. That is why the Founders limited the power of the Federal Government to make laws only for matters of national importance.
Of the 536 elected representatives making up the U.S. Legislative Branch, only one is elected by the voters of all the fifty states. That single individual is the President of the Senate, and he is forbidden by custom and his political party from actually participating in the functions of the legislature. The remaining 535 are elected only by the voters of their home states and are not accountable to the voters of the remaining 49 states, no matter what types of despotic laws are imposed on their citizens. If history teaches us anything, it is that a national government cannot function simultaneous with individual liberty unless its powers are strictly controlled by a written Constitution that is actually followed.
Tinkering with the Constitution is a favorite pastime for many politicians. On seventeen occasions, they have been successful in convincing the American people a particular amendment to the Constitution would improve its effectiveness. Seventeen times history has proven them wrong. Yet, they keep trying.
At any given time, there are a number of amendments being promoted by various political factions, term limits, popular election of president, balanced budget, etc. The current amendment fad is an amendment that would guarantee Congress the right to spend at least eighteen percent of our gross domestic product each year, more if they can convince Congress of the need. Of course, that is not how it is presented to the public. Rather, it is presented as a “spending limit” --- you know, like the limit on the national debt.
Spending limits are set by the Constitution. Article One limits expenditures by Congress to those “necessary and proper” for carrying out the functions delegated to it, and no more. That restraint was honored by Congress for a few months during the spring and summer of 1789 and only rarely since then. If the Constitution itself has not been able to restrain the illimitable spending habits of Congress, it is futile to believe that adding another amendment will suddenly transform it into a group of thrifty law-abiding misers.
In 1927, the aggregate spending by state and local governments surpassed spending by the federal government. If, by chance, future conservative Congresses were able to stuff Congress back into its Constitutional box, many of the congressional expenditures currently being made by it would be transferred to the states. The end result would be that more than half of our gross domestic product would be consumed by government bodies of some type. Since the contribution by government to the gross domestic product is absolute zero, more than half of the earnings produced by the labor of individual citizens would have to be confiscated by government for its own use. That comes close to meeting the dictionary definition of slavery as being “forced to labor for someone else”.
There are three parties to the Constitution: We the People, the states, and the federal government. It is the people who have the most to gain by its defense. Until the people realize this fact and assume the responsibility for protecting it by voting out of office any elected official who takes part in its violation, adding amendments will not restore the liberties we have lost. As long as we permit our elected officials to ignore the parts of the Constitution they do not like and distort the meaning of its language to support expanding their powers, we will continue to see our liberties fade away along with the possibility of freedom and happiness for future generations.
Some individual politicians are motivated by a genuine desire to serve their county. Others are motivated by the sense of superiority they feel in controlling the lives of their fellow citizens. Most are motivated by a desire for power. Political Parties are motivated solely by power. Once they attain power, they will do anything to hold onto it; their primary objective always being to win the next election. This fact opens up opportunities for third parties wishing to make changes in the way government functions.
Throughout our history two parties have competed for control of the government; Federalist vs. Democratic-Republicans from 1792 to 1820; Democrats vs. National Republicans from 1830 to 1832; Democrats vs. Whigs from 1832 to 1852; Democrats vs. Republicans from 1854 to the present. Along with the two competing major parties, there has always been a hand-full of minor parties referred to as “third parties” affecting the major parties, but never replacing them. Parties destroy themselves from within and in our entire history; none have ever been replaced by an existing third party.
However, third parties do exert an important influence on the agendas of the major parties. Two stand out in the political history of America, the People’s (Populist) Party of 1892 - 1906 and the Democratic Socialist of America during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Major political parties only respond to outside force threatening their hold on power. In 1892 the idealism of the socialists was in vogue. The Populist Party won a number of local and state offices and carried four western states in the presidential election plus electoral votes from two other states. Although they were a regional Party and only received some six percent of the total national popular vote, their growing popularity was enough to force changes in the Democrat Party.
In 1896 both the Democrats and the Populists nominated William Jennings Bryan for President. By 1900 both the Republican and Democratic Parties had adopted the progressive causes of the Populist Party and by 1906 the Populist Party faded from the scene having set the political agendas of the major parties for the next century.
The all-time most successful third party in America is the Democratic Socialist Party of America (DSA). Unlike most third parties, the DSA’s objective is to spread an ideology rather than to gain power simply for the sake of power. Consequently, they do not run candidates in national elections. During the New Deal era of Franklin Roosevelt they saw the unlikelihood of electoral success in America and changed their focus from trying to win elections to influencing the agendas of the two major parties. It currently works through the eighty-three members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and its sympathizers in the House and Senate to promote progressive legislation. In 2008, working with its constituent base of unions and community organizing groups it succeeded in getting one of its own elected to the White House by the Democratic Party.
With the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency and with control of both houses of Congress and the Executive Bureaucracies they seem to have decided to “go for broke”. Progressive Democrats have placed the Democratic Party on a Kamikaze mission to destroy capitalism and force socialism on the American people in its place. In doing so, they provoked a grassroots opposition made up of fiscal conservatives, constitution conservatives, and “common sense” patriots, collectively known as the “tea party movement”. The political battle between these two factions was joined in the 2010 election and will be fought out over the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. It is difficult to predict the outcome of the conflict based on history. However, it is likely that it will follow the pattern established in 1800 and 1856.
If so, the Democrat Party will destroy itself over the next few years while inflicting severe damage on our Constitutional system of government. A large percentage of disillusioned Democrats will realign with the Republican Party pulling it further to the left. A new party in opposition to the Republicans will emerge, probably from the tea party movement, and the nation will stabilize once more with a two-party system consisting of the Republican Party vs. the [yet to be named] Party. Based on history, the transition should take up to twenty years to complete.
Time is running out for America. The next five years will determine the future of America for generations to come. Will we continue as a Constitution Republic or as a Democratic Socialist Oligarchy? The answer rests with the people. We all need to become involved today. Contact your local tea party or other patriot group and add your voice to the millions already being heard. Tyranny can only prevail when patriots do nothing.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
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Philosophy of Evil Socialism in America
"The struggle of History is not between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is between government and the governed."