Guest post by ‘Grok friend, Matt Kittredge
In 1803, after much thought, Jefferson signed a treaty with France, purchasing the Louisiana Territory without express Constitutional Authority. When he sent the treaty to the Senate, it was ratified. He later wrote, "[a] strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."
I agree with Jefferson, especially in time of war, but with some caveats. Our elastic Constitution can and has been abused. And ‘justifying’ crises manufactured, as well. Think about the internment of Japanese Americans without a shred of evidence in WW2 by FDR, who, among other assaults on our Constitution, seized monetary gold and devalued our currency by 43% and essentially destroyed the right of property. The bar seems to get lower and lower each time the ‘crisis’ passes, with Federal authority returning ever less and less to the ante pro ante limits of original wording and intent.
Jefferson’s reasoning is an underlying the premise of the…
…"Patriot Act". But, as we all know, the devil is in the details. And, to be sure, in the character, purpose and competence of those who design, oversee and enforce those details. Finding an appropriate balance between efficacy and hazard, to safeguard without hobbling, wield power without tyranny, show flexibility without license and provide vigilant oversight without micromanaging is the eternal challenge of effective governance. One must remember that "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" and that governments are notorious for becoming paving contractors.
The issue is important. We are at war! There is no easy button for this. Autopilots only work well in calm weather when all equipment is functioning as expected. As a systems analyst and air defense programmer (ret.), I can assure you that writing code (law or machine) that perfectly anticipates all parameters and circumstances of partially understood, complex systems interacting in real-time is far worse than difficult, it’s virtually impossible.
Nonetheless, we must do our best without making the perfect the enemy of the good. It is why we need pilots, editors, sovereign voters, juries, judges, presidents and legislatures on overwatch. It is here that knowledge, judgment and character become necessary and critical; we cannot forgo the human factor. Authority can be delegated, but not responsibility and vigilance. In America, that’s your job and mine. Each generation must be shown the sinews of Liberty, the lessons of history, the how and why of community, government, self-reliance, free enterprise and civic duty. If they don’t know, it’s because we haven’t taught. And that, too, is our job; parents, teachers, mentors and neighbors all.
I am a staunch Constitutionalist and I lament that the many limitations of Federal power are now observed mainly in the breach; not for necessity or survival of the Union, but for the convenience of those absconding with our liberties and our substance. This mission-creep happens when the electorate gives tacit approval by abandoning its role as a knowledgeable and vigilant overseer. Our sovereign electorate is disengaged, often disgusted and dispirited. They no longer show up to vote in significant numbers, let alone pay attention to what has become, for them, a meaningless process of choosing between Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber. The statists are not the main problem, it is voter apathy born of ignorance and endless frustration with a labyrinth of laws made complex beyond comprehension on purpose.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Republican Party to become ". . .fishers of men", not just before elections in November, but throughout the year. With solutions and not mere criticism. It is not enough to find and elect wise, courageous leaders, we must also actively encourage a growing community of informed and vigilant neighbors who join hands to enhance self-reliance and local interdependence; who keep a warm wind at the backs of both neighbors and leaders in this time of war and burgeoning government. An upbeat, synergetic community building a bright and shining City on the Hill. Together!
Yours in Liberty,
Derek MacMillen "Mac" Kittredge lives in Rochester, NH and is a Justice of the Peace and conservative activist.