Candor in government? It sounds like an almost ridiculously naive notion in 2010. In a world where outright lies are dressed up as merely “misspeaking” and political scandals are new every morning, it seems like a utopian plea as realistic as calling for unicorns and flying ponies. Yet at the creation of our Constitution, candor was regarded as a central foundation upon which this entire Constitution would stand.
In Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton, or Publius as he signs the document, writes for candor in the political system of America to the “People of the State of New York”:
“After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences, nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, or the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world…”
Upon reading these opening lines of Federalist No. 1, I am struck by the fact that some 200 plus years later, we find ourselves in the same perilous place regarding our union and the rule of law as established by this same Constitution. While the Federalist Papers were written during the time in which the states had to seriously deliberate on the ratification of the Constitution, we live in a political climate in which the establishment sworn to protect and defend that same Constitution sees it as something they need to twist and contort to such a degree as to no longer be recognizable in order to advance their radical leftist ideology that never actually wins at the ballot box. In many cases, they have now gone beyond twisting and contorting and have begun nefariously plotting the Constitution’s actual demise in favor of a Marxist utopia.
Currently in 2010, we sit poised to confirm leftist radical Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court of the United States. Even though she has no actual judicial experience and very little actual litigation experience, Kagan’s comments in memos, emails, and a very disturbing college thesis, seem to suggest that Kagan joins President Barack Obama in viewing the court as a branch that must usurp the legislative responsibility of the government in order to save us from ourselves. Judicial activism threatens to destroy the very fabric of our Constitution which has safeguarded the rights of our citizens and kept our republic from devolving into another socialist regime of oppression and persecution for over 200 years. Our current leaders in Washington seem determined to throw off all Constitutional restraints in order to achieve sinister and radical “fundamental transformation” to our nation.
The next portion of Hamilton’s text introduces the idea of American Exceptionalism, a notion completely lost on our current administration:
“It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force. If there be any truth to the remark, the crisis, at which we are arrived, may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”
Here, Hamilton plants the seeds of what President Washington believed to be the hand of Providence leading a nation toward its destiny. Here, we see the foundation laid of the “shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan would speak of as he lifted us out of the incompetent malaise of Jimmy Carter. Here, we see one of our Founders reminding his contemporaries of the real and lasting importance of their deliberation. Not just generations of Americans would be impacted, but the entire world. For over 200 years, America has led the world in promoting freedom and liberty.
It is truly sad to read this passage during a time in which we are led by folks who would rather insult America than promote her, and find every opportunity to apologize for what Lincoln called the “last best hope” for the world.
It is also sad that in some very serious political and economic times, we are led by politicians not leaders. Unserious leadership through smoke and mirrors, polls, and a pervasive and arrogant passing of the buck mentality when strong leadership is called for.
“This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism to heighten the solicitude, which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished, than seriously to be expected. The plan offered by our deliberations, affects too man particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favourable to the discovery of truth.”
In his call for candor in the governance of the United States of America, Alexander Hamilton just hit the nail on the head. Little did he know how true his words would be. In fact, to quote our illustrious president, “few would have foreseen” this truly “unprecedented” assault on governance by public servants committed to the public good instead of special interests, and political gain. Our founders knew that local interests, economic and otherwise, would influence our leadership, and were willing to accept that. They did, however, expect their public officials to try to stand above that and for generations leaders of this country did just that. Were they perfect? No. Yet, there was a certain element to public service that still clung, perhaps bitterly with guns, religion, and antipathy towards others, to the idea that being a public servant meant to be an actual servant.
The radical leftist revisions will have you believe that Christianity and the Judeo-Christian world of morality had no impact on our nation’s founding, and yet it was just that worldview that promoted the idea of a leader as a servant. From the shared Judaic and Christian texts of the Old Testament, we clearly see the servant-leadership style of Moses, where he commits his life to serving his people without regard to his own status, perks or power.
And nobody exemplifies servant-leadership better than Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. He who washed the feet of his disciples and offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world in the most humiliating fashion gave our founders the model for true servant-leadership.
It is for this reason that President Washington told the nation during his farewell address that:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens.
The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private & public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure–reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
‘Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of Free Government.”
Washington’s view summed up the view of a majority of his contemporaries. The indispensability of religion and morality was to be that very safeguard against tyrannical rule. It was only through the servant-leadership and humility of the Judeo-Christian heritage that leaders could resist the corrupting influence of power. Our founders understood this. Unfortunately, too many of our leaders today do not.
In an age of politicians passing bills they haven’t read, suing states for defending the borders the federal government refuses to protect, shoves unpopular legislation down the throats of the public while insulting their intelligence, Washington’s words are inspirational. They are inspirational not in the carefully scripted TelePrompTer lie-ridden boilerplate read to us with intermittent “uhs” and “ahs” and inappropriately placed dramatic pauses by our president, but rather in the real sincere place where truth resides and leaders are born.
Leaders inspire and their language is that of transparency and candor. Leaders take charge, they don’t make empty threats to kick people’s asses.
In part two of the series on Federalist No. 1, we will examine the “most formidable obstacles” the Constitution would face according to Hamilton (and take more shots at Obama.)