The United States was founded on exceptional principles that we are ignoring at our peril.
The Declaration of Independence explained that individual liberty was the center of our constitutional universe; and, that the United States was formed to protect the unalienable rights of citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, i.e., wisdom and virtue.
The soldiers at Valley Forge did not sacrifice to build an empire to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. Neither did they fight to become wealthy and indulged with creature comforts. They uniformly agreed with Samuel Adams that liberty was the philosophical soul of America. He sermonized:
“If you love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”
James Madison, father of the Constitution, elaborated that power must be deftly diffused among the three branches of government to prevent any faction from acquiring predominance. Otherwise, liberty would be crushed. He further amplified in Federalist 51:
“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger …”
The United States additionally embraced the moral cornerstone of civilization: It is better to risk being the victim of injustice than to risk being complicit in it. We take risks that unfree peoples shun to avoid the possibility of harming the innocent.
The greatness of America has been lost because our culture has come to love wealth, domination, and a risk-free existence more than liberty and justice. Exemplary of the degradation is last Sunday ‘s Opinion column in The Washington Post authored by David H. Patraeus and Michael E. O’Hanlan titled “The next American century.”
The words “liberty” and “justice” are denied even cameo appearances. The twin putative wizards maintain that the success of the United States is to be measured by the production of oil liquids and natural gas; manufacturing jobs; domination of high-tech sectors of the economy; the federal budget deficit; household debt; small business confidence; the crime rate; population growth; military power; international competitiveness; and, GDP growth.
Messrs. Petraeus and O’Hanlan are unconcerned about the nation’s alarmng liberty and justice deficit. The President plays prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill any American citizen he decreees based on secret evidence is a threat to the national security. Thousands of innocent civilians abroad are killed by predator drones. The National Security Agency conducts surveillance against the entire United States population without suspicion that even a single target has been complicit in crime or international terrorism.
Individuals are detained indefinitely without accusation or trial at Guantanamo Bay. Eighteenth century British legal scholar William Blackstone — who was gospel to the Founding Fathers — wrote: “[T]o bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom.”
The recently published executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on enhanced interrogation techniques demonstrated that the United States perpetrated torture against al Qaeda suspects with impunity. The president has and continues to initiate perpetual, objectless, wars of aggression to justify the destruction of liberty. This is unsurprising. As Alexis de Tocqueville lectured in “Democracy in America,” “All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.”
Then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams was correct in his July 4, 1821, address to Congress. If the United States chose to become dictatress of the world, her policy would change from liberty to force, and she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit. As the New Testament teaches (Matthew 16: 26): “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
For more information about Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.