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Friday, June 20. 2014
Americans seem to want a little bit of both. The Founding Fathers knew that you can’t have both.
Portrait is the deeply-wise dead white male James Madison. To be an American, you need to know what he thought about this experiment in freedom.
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One thing worth clarifying is the term "equality". It's possible to have liberty and equality of treatment. In other words, we can all be free and treat each other equally well or poorly - depending on our moods.
Equality of outcome is always that thing which separates the Progressives from everyone else. Equality of outcome is impossible. We can't all be equal all the time, in every way.
Realizing the trade-off of liberty for some level of equality of outcome, it's possible to push this further and say equality (of outcome) is an impossible goal that costs you everything, because you lose your liberty while you never properly achieve your desired equality.
I'll accept the conclusion that you can't have both, but not the moral authority of the founding fathers.
Madison believed (as did all the Founding Fathers), to safeguard rights that come from nature, not from government—rights to life, to liberty, and to the acquisition and ownership of property.
natural rights! yay!, yeah but, if a right is contingent on the law of the land, its not a natural right. by decree of the Constitution, certain "natural rights" were verboten to change until at least 1808 because the until then the right to acquire property also included the right to be acquired as property.
ARTICLE I, SECTION 9.
The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.
it actually took a little longer,
Amendment XIII Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
thank the gods that natural law was so compliant with the founding fathers.
Natural rights are the rights that come, not from government, but from a higher law. It's also known as the moral law, because we all know that humans get it wrong sometimes, in fact, many times, such as in the case of slavery.
I think you impose far too much of your own bias upon the FF's. I agree their 'moral authority' is not unimpeachable. They did make mistakes. However, if you've read their works, it's this very fact which is what they prepared for by being so flexible. It's not that natural law was flexible for THEM, but for them it was designing a system which could be flexible to change for man's changing views of natural law. To use slavery as a gauge is misguided - this was a point all the FFs argued over. It was a contentious point. Adams and Jefferson were, essentially, opposed to slavery - yet one owned slaves.
Imposing our moral code on them is not just. They existed in a different time with a different understanding, and they knew at the time there was much more work to be done on some of these issues.
They did the best they could in the time they existed, and within that framework, with what they had to work with, you cannot help but be impressed and amazed and what they knew and prepared for.
What's truly sad is how their flexible framework has been abused, misused, and maligned by those pursuing cynical outcomes.
the slavery problem was solvable, it was solved by the Civil War, see, lash/sword, 600,000 dead. so while the FF did a remarkable job of compromise, here, their decisions on slavery (or, more correctly, deferrals) were a disaster.
moral codes shouldn't d/evolve over time. countenance of slavery was immoral then as now.
my objection to the debate always swirling around the FF is that their appeal to natural law or the natural rights of man rings hollow.
Moral debates ALWAYS evolve. It's wishful thinking to assume the morality of 1783 was the same as today.
At this stage, while many people had begun to see and understand the evil slavery represented, many still did not. Many were stuck in an old moral code based on cultural and ethnic superiority.
Think of it this way, at the time the US was only just getting past an old moral belief that witches existed. If you have been to Williamsburg you can sit through a trial of a witch. At the end, you must make a judgement based on the cultural understandings of the time, not based on what you know today. The judge makes it clear you need to assume you live back in that day.
Despite this, many people still claim to find the 'witch' not guilty. I voted that she was a witch because, based on what I was likely to know and understand back then, she clearly was a witch, the evidence (such as it was) was overwhelming. Was I morally wrong to think this? No, not if the knowledge I have today had yet to be developed.
So you can make your judgments of these men based on the improved understanding of morality and a improved understanding of the right for other ethnic and cultural norms to co-exist. But back then these were concepts which were only just being developed. It was clear to many of these men that progress was something which accrued to morally superior cultures. This is not so clear today, except in some very odd fringe groups.
While it's true that there is a little bit more enlightenment today in terms of understanding of other cultures, we have lost some of the practical common sense that we had back when the FF were writing. I'm reading Hadley Arkus' book right now, and it's answering a lot of questions I have about what is going on with our culture. I think knowing our history is the key to understanding what is happening now.
Hadley Arkus, "Natural Rights and the Right to Choose", 2002, Cambridge University Press is a fascinating read.
Moral debates ALWAYS evolve. It's wishful thinking to assume the morality of 1783 was the same as today.
don't pretend the FF relied on natural law/rights if this is so. tell me they were excellent negotiators and politicians who knew now to run a revolution and set up a government but don't tell me that "natural rights of man" excluded Blacks in 1790 and 1859 but not in 1865 and 2014.
unless natural rights were different in 1790 and 2014.
were they? because they're not supposed to be dependent on how a government or men define them. they're supposed to emanate from something else, the "nature" of man, or reason, or are God-given.
tell me, did God change his mind between 1790 and 1865 about who was included in the phrase, "all men are created equal"?
You're assuming - and it's a very large assumption - that the understanding of natural rights was something which, when first determined, would remain consistent over time.
That's a very odd thing to think.
Natural rights today may be very consistent with what they were, IN THEORY, in 1783, but in very basic understanding that is doubtful and I think even an intelligent person like you knows this.
It's as if you can say "natural rights today are exactly the same as they were in 600 B.C." Well, yes, of course they were. But the people of 600 B.C. didn't have as full a grasp of what that term meant. As a result, they had slaves. They treated their wives poorly. They didn't understand the nature of government as well and felt monarchs were the natural state of affairs.
So yes, moral debates evolve over time. Natural rights themselves never change - but the ability of men to grasp, understand, and even develop laws to help retain them DO change.
By the way, the concept of 'all men are created equal' is, as you probably know, a broad enunciation of a relatively narrow concept.
They clearly felt that while men should have equal rights under the law, women often didn't nor did men without property.
The FFs were working, as best they could in the time they existed, to overcome some very basic differences of opinion about what natural law represented. Yes, I'm sure you know that, but perhaps you're just resistant to admitting this?
I'm responding to both the above...
1. we've got to put this in historical context, the period from 1776 to 1790. why is natural law/natural rights important to them? because they needed to articulate a theory of rights that was independent of absolutism and explained the purpose of the Revolution. this same theory afterwards forms the basis of a constitution intended to prevent an overreaching central government from devolving into the same absolutism they just fought a war to win freedom from.
2. they used powerful ideas like "all men are created equal" and others against the King and as the basis for a constitutional republic because for their aims "all men" didn't have to include Blacks (or women, as you note, or Indians, or later, various other undesirables).
3. there's a debate over slavery during the constitutional convention, with major compromises made (3/5 compromise) and decisions deferred (slave trade protected for 20 years, extension of slavery into new territories and the ultimate fate of slavery unaddressed). this means that some FFs were ostensibly taking "all men" as meaning, "all men", not "all white men" or "all white men of property". but were they even doing that? some of those delegates knew slavery was wrong - contrary to natural law, as Lincoln elegantly stated, but they compromised anyway. they danced with the devil and 70 years later the house of cards collapsed and 600,000 Americans died.
4. so in 1790 the natural rights of all men took a back seat to what the FF saw as a necessity of a federal form of limited central government. not that this is wrong (except that it failed in a major way), but that it wasn't based on natural rights.
5. The FFs were working, as best they could in the time they existed, to overcome some very basic differences of opinion about what natural law represented.
I don't think "natural law" as anything more than a political tool mattered to them.
The founding fathers were dealing with the reality of slavery. Slaves were introduced to this country by landowners who didn't even live in this country and most of this happened long before the constitution. Slavery then ws similar to illegal drugs today in that they were brought in against the will of most people, the slavery issue was foisted upon us, all of us even those who never owend slaves and never would have. At the height of slavery there may have been 600,000 slaves owned by 10,000 slave owners. There were 35,000,000 non-slaves living in the U.S. in 1865 and that means .029% of Americans owned slaves. When the founding fathers got together to craft the constitution they were forced to compromise and the existing slavery couldn't simply be ignored or ended so they compromised to allow slavery to continue until they could end it. There was another option of course. They could have simply allowed that issue to prevent the formation of a constitutional republic. I doubt that would satisfy the self rightious of today though since that would have allowed far more slavery then the compromise did and also would have prevented a future ending of slavery by the government.
I suspect that the future will look back on us today and consider that the killing of 50 million unborn babies for convenience was a far worse crime then the enslaving of 600,000. Both thngs are dispicable of course but based on the degree of the crime I think the 50 million deaths are far worse. Just imagine what names and insults will be used to describe the pro-abortion of today in the future.
for political and expedient reasons the founding fathers had to counter the divine right of kings with a theory of government wherein liberty emanates from natural law. after all, there was a war to be won and a government to be set up. got it. cool.
but don't tell me this was anything but political expedience. compromise, as in buying and selling out, I can deal with. hypocritical bullshit just rubs me raw.
don't piss down my back and tell me its raining tell me that "all men are created equal" and at the same time leave 600,000 Americans as slaves. if a right is contingent on the law of the land, its not a natural right so don't pretend that the constitution was adopted based on an inalienable right to liberty, yeah, but.
Article I Sec 9 cl. 1 guaranteed that the slave trade would continue until at least 1808, it said nothing about ending slavery.
here's a thought experiment. borrow a time machine and hand madison, jefferson, et al. copies of A Stillness at Appomattox, lock them in the Pennsylvania Statehouse and tell them no bathroom breaks until they solve this slavery issue once and for all. what do you think is going to happen?
the constitution as adopted allowed slavery to continue, the founders failed to find a solution with the result that patchwork compromises kept the lid on until the Civil War. 600,000 Americans died before the 13th Amendment put an end to the natural right to be someone else's property.
Lincoln, 2d Inaugural Address, called slavery an offense before God. here is the consequence of allowing that sin to continue for 70 years after ratification of the constitution:
Yet, if God wills that it [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
and while I expect that He will call all of us one day to account for our toleration of, if not participation in, the murder of 50 million plus murdered children, I'm not going to dignify by response your vile comparison of the relative evils of slavery and abortion.
You can't ignore the facts and realities of the situation. The compromise they made was the best one they could get. To say that then they shouldn't have stated their goals and dreams for equality until and unless they created a perfect world is flat out naive. Keep in mind that this country is the only country that has ever freed slaves and outlawed the ownership of slaves and used a massive civil war to enforce that mandate. At the time slaves were brought to the Americas every country allowed slavery of oe form or another. Fully half the people who immigrated to this country inthe pre-constitution days were slaves and had to work for a master until they fulfilled those obligations. Slavery wasn't a choice made by Americans it was foisted upon us by the English, Dutch, French and Portugese. Americans didn't go nto the jungles of Africa to capture slaves, ironically most slaves were captured by black Africans and sold to Arab/muslim Africans who then traded them all over the world.
The point is that it is a futile and intentionally provocative excercise to judge the past based on the mores and beliefs of today especially when you choose to only highlight the negative. My comment that the greater social and legal crime is the one we commit today by killing unborn children, 50 million or so to date. Slavery pales by comparison.
Another great example is drugs. More people are killed by illegal drugs in America then were enslaved. The personal and social harm done by drugs exceeds that which was done by slavery and yet peple will often argue that we should let people choose to do drugs in a free society. Why? 99.8% of Americans prior to 1865 didn't own slaves. 100% of the Americans alive today never owned slaves. 100% of the African-Americans alive today were never slaves. Yet it is popular to rant about slavery as though it was still practiced n all 50 states.
I say step up. Be a man. Attack a real problem not a historical problem then was correct so long ago. Fight against abortion or high taxes or political cronyism. The fight over slavery ended 150 years ago; we won!
You can't ignore the facts and realities of the situation.
why not? they did. why are you pretending that what they did had anything to do with natural law or the inherent rights of man?
every country allowed slavery of oe form or another. exactly. so stop pretending that the founding fathers' conception of liberty was a natural right of man. because for them it wasn't, i.e., slaves, Q.E.D. how many times do I have to repeat this: natural rights do not depend on the law of man, so when you have a supposed right that edited down, colorwise, you don't have a natural right, you have a man-made limitation.
Slavery wasn't a choice made by Americans it was foisted upon us by the English, Dutch, French and Portugese.
the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for 20 more years until 1808 and slavery itself to expand westward and continue until 1865 and it wasn't the Europeans who allowed it or ended it. who do you think was importing slaves between 1790 and 1808? who was laying taxes on these slaves? who allowed it to happen?
The point is that it is a futile and intentionally provocative excercise to judge the past based on the mores and beliefs of today especially when you choose to only highlight the negative.
I'm critical of this "natural rights" / "natural law" bullshit where the definition of "natural" is slippery enough to mean whatever expediency requires and only extends to what, 13% of the population after a disastrous war nearly ended the country.
Slavery pales by comparison.
any other crimes you want to minimize by this totally irrelevant observation?
I say step up. Be a man.
you're trying to play Whose Is Bigger on this forum??? seriously??????
I think you are arguing trifling details about the founding fathers and yet indicting them as though they committed some horrendous crime. This may "truely" be a big deal to you, something that sticks in your craw, that could explain your anger and passion. To me it sounds like much ado about nothing. I am neither arguing for or against natural law I am disagreeing with your description of the foundng fathers, period. Most of them were incredibly intelligent and all of them risked life and property to do what they did. We all owe them a hge debt as much as any nation owes their military that went to war to save the country. Your rant against the founding fathers makes no sense to me in the context of natural law.
My point about slavery paling by comparison is hardly irrelevant. 50 million dead unborn babies is hardly irrelevant. More importantly the issue isn't 150 years old it is current. Where is your passion for that crime which is arguably 50 million times worse?
slavery = horrendous crime. yes. glad you noticed. when did you first become aware?
you get management here to start an abortion discussion thread and I might discuss my work there.
here, its derailing the discussion on whether the FF's appeal to natural rights/natural law was bogus, the point of all of my comments. hardly a rant unless you're married to the concept of FFs as Most Holy FF Way Beyond Reproach Whose Every Word We Hang On, as many conservatives are.
Yes I am and I do hang on their every word. I suspect I am too biased to discuss this.
really? you ought to take a class or three in constitutional law.
Your comment is consistent with your constant negativity and anger. I suspect you are a total fake. Your outrage against slavery is conveniently only aimed at the founding fathers. Yet slavery exists today in Arab and black countries. Where is your outrage? But it serves no purpose to be angry at the "wrong" people/ethnicity does it. You must be hip and leading edge and pile onto the founding fathers who as we all know were just old white guys. There were fare more white slaves in Africa then black slaves in the U.S. Where is your outrage about that? Drug use in this country has killed more people then the total number of slaves in this country prior to the civil war. Where is your outrage. Oh that's right, it isn't PC to talk about drug use but faux outrage over the foundng fathers and slavery will get you into the right circles. You are a phony and your outrage is phony.
I suspect you are a total fake. ... You are a phony
ad homs on the Farm.
It may appear to be an ad hominem attack but it is not. It is a simple observation. That is I do not believe that you are truely angered over how the founding fathers dealt with the slavery issue. This observation is amplified by your apparent lack of concern about slavery still going on today. I think you are simply looking for an arguement about an issue you don't really care about, hence you are a fake or a phony. Perhaps I'm wrong and the fact that the founding fathers failed you haunts your every waking moment. But I think I'm right. I think my conclusion was accurate and descriptive and therefore it wasn't an attack on you it was merely commentary not even as negative as your attack on the founding fathers.