Pendulum: The Will of the People?

Here is a letter that I sent off to a high profile Republican Senator after the 2014 midterm election:

Dear Senator:

Congratulations, you are now part of the majority party in Congress. Thank God. The pendulum has swung back your way. The question is, how long until the pendulum swings back in favor of Democrats. You must be thinking about that.

Why is it that modern Washington politics acts like a pendulum in the first place? I maintain it is because “the people” are confused. They are human beings, who are flawed and easily manipulated for good or ill.

“The very media, founded on communications and automata, especially television, can communicate illusion as well as reality, and that is all right as long as we know the difference.”Dr. William O. Baker, patriot genius and one time leader of Bell Labs.

 All too often the people do not know the difference.

I watched you last night and you invoked the “voice of the people” several times. Stop with that nonsense! The same people you speak of twice elected the disaster we have in the White House.

In 1787, one of our greatest Americans, John Adams wrote that “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” I maintain the people are like children. They do not understand freedom. Many of the founding fathers were skeptical of pure democracy. Rightly so. It is possible for citizens in a democracy to vote themselves into servitude. To some extent we have already done so in America. It’s time our leaders reverse this trend. That is your job now. Your ideas are mostly right. You must find a way to bring “the people” along.

The end is good government. Good government can only be achieved when there is piety, virtue. Good government only exists where there is frugality and the rule of law and where justice is applied equally regardless of stature. You must constantly remind the people of this. The revolution at hand, if that’s what it is, will hopefully result in a return to these principles. That would be something. Or is it only a matter of time until the pendulum swings back? Then where will we be?


Frotho Canutus

John Adams by Copley

John Adams by Copley

“If there is a form of government, then, whose principle and foundation is virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better calculated to promote the general happiness than any other form?” –John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“Human government is more or less perfect as it approaches nearer or diverges farther from the imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government.” –John Adams, draft of a Newspaper Communication, 1770

“Human nature itself is evermore an advocate for liberty. There is also in human nature a resentment of injury, and indignation against wrong. A love of truth and a veneration of virtue. These amiable passions, are the “latent spark”… If the people are capable of understanding, seeing and feeling the differences between true and false, right and wrong, virtue and vice, to what better principle can the friends of mankind apply than to the sense of this difference?” –John Adams, the Novanglus, 1775

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” –John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions, 1787

“Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; and to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary. But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent.” –John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.” –John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.” –John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

“I have accepted a seat in the [Massachusetts] House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and the ruin of our children. I give you this warning, that you may prepare your mind for your fate.” –John Adams, to Abigail Adams, May 1770

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” –John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, 1780

“If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce and give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.” –John Adams, Rights of the Colonists, 1772

“I have long thought the Philosophers of the eighteenth Century and almost all the Men of Science and Letters, crack. In my youth I was much amused with the Idea that this Globe of Earth was the Bedlam* of the Universe. If I were now to judge it by the Conduct and Writings of the Men of Science, I should be more disposed than ever to believe that the Sun, Moon and Stars send all their Lunaticks here for confinement, as they used to send them from Paris to Bicetre.”

*insane asylum

“But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” –John Adams, letter to H. Niles, February 13, 1818

“As long as Property exists, it will accumulate in Individuals and Families. As long as Marriage exists, Knowledge, Property and Influence will accumulate in Families.” –John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 16, 1814

“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” –John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it! If you do not, I shall repent it in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it!” – John Adams to Abigail Adams, April 26, 1777

2 thoughts on “Pendulum: The Will of the People?

  1. Very good post! We as Americans need to read more on the intent and thoughts of our founding fathers! One note, The USA is a republic not a democracy, if you do a comparative you will see the difference. Just saying.

    • Excellent point, Paula. The two are often confused and a comparison is useful. I think our system might properly be called a Constitutional Republic. Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote one of the greatest works on American civil and political society in the 19th century, titled his book, “De la démocratie en Amérique.” Have you ever read this wonderful book? (It’s actually two books.)

      “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in constraint and servitude.”
      (“La démocratie et le socialisme ne se tiennent qu par un mot, l’égalité; mais remarquez la différence: la démocratie veut l’égalité dans la liberté et le socialisme veut l’égalité dans la gêne et dan la servitude.”)
      –Alexis de Tocqueville

      We might quibble over a chosen word or two, but of course our communication will always be imperfect. However, as demonstrated in the above passage by Tocqueville, you can see his grasp is clear and his conclusion beyond argument. An example – radical environmentalists and other “progressives” often lament that “the people” have a say in determining policies. They dream about bypassing the Constitutional restraints of our representative government in order to impose their will on us by fiat. Unfortunately, the truth is that some of their dreams have become reality, especially during the Obama era. We have a real struggle on our hands. As for me, I will always choose liberty over constraint and servitude.

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