The Book: The Unwashed Philosophers' Guide To Perfecting An Imperfect Union

The Book, Part 2-Chapter I: Free Will’s Revolt

The first English efforts to colonize North America began with Humphrey Gilbert successfully claiming St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1583 as North America’s first English colony by the “Royal prerogative of Queen Elizabeth I”.

Right behind him, in 1585, was the first of two attempts to establish a permanent colony in Roanoke Virginia. This initial attempt lasted only a year before the colonists returned to England due to dwindling food supplies and Indian attacks. The second attempt began in 1587 but failed as well, ending with the disappearance of every member of the colony. The widely studied, so-called “first great American mystery”, will be forever referred to as the “Lost Colony of Roanoke” and marked the end of early English attempts to colonize that region.

Twenty years later, and a couple of hundred miles north, the Jamestown, Virginia colonization efforts began. In service to King James (the same King James that oversaw the bible translation), and paid for by the British commercial enterprise known as “The Virginia Company,” a group of 102 men and boys arrived in three different ships with sufficient supplies to set up a colony there.

Thirteen years after Jamestown got underway, and another six hundred or so miles north, a group of another 102 English citizens, considered by some to be a mixture of separatists, immigrants, adventurers, and speculators, disembarked from the Mayflower and came ashore at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620.

This particular wave of colonists, unlike those in Jamestown, was said to have been on more of a mission to start a new life, free of the King and the rule of monarchical tyranny. These “Pilgrims” brought with them, like so many that have come after them, it can be argued, that exemplifies the very meaning of the expression “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and represents everything this nation has achieved or tried to achieve, ever since the day they arrived here.

By 1650, with a well-established dominant English presence along the Atlantic coast, fledgling industries in things such as tobacco and grain began to develop, and by 1770 “more than 2 million people lived and worked in Great Britain’s 13 North American colonies”.

A little more than a century later, in 1760, George III ascended the throne of England, after the death of his father George II, smack dab in the middle of the Seven Years War. In many ways similar to the slow-motion train wreck that befell the Western Roman Empire, the fall of the British Empire was already underway without anyone in power really capable of recognizing how serious the problems were becoming for them.

After centuries of extravagance and largesse, a deeply corrupt Parliament and Elite class, and relentless tyranny from the monarchy, things were slowly beginning to unravel. The Empire was struggling to prop up a crumbling economy, soldiers and supplies were spread too thin by the Seven Years War and the endless wars with European neighbors, and the pressure was mounting to gather more revenue from the colonies in order to offsets some of the King’s growing debt.

Something had to give.

In 1764, the British Prime Minister introduced the Stamp Act in order to raise revenue from the colonies. It was repealed two years later, but the colonists never forgot.

Six years after the repeal, in 1770, Lord Norton became Prime Minister and, three years later, he passed an act taxing tea in the colonies. The historical record tells us this new tax was not intended to generate revenue for the King or the British coffers but was meant, instead, to be used in order to bail out the East India Company which was in deep financial trouble despite being a major player in the British economy.

Americans had been complaining for years about having to pay taxes to England despite there being no members of Parliament representing American interests in Great Britain. In fact, at least as far back as 1761, James Otis is credited with having reflected the resentment of American colonists when he coined this now- infamous anti-British slogan 15 years before the American Revolution would ultimately get underway:

“Taxation without representation is tyranny.”

On December 16, 1773, in Boston Massachusetts, a group of people disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded a ship in Boston Harbor, owned by the British East India Company, and dumped 342 chests filled with tea into the water. According to Britannica, “[t]he Americans were protesting both a tax on tea (taxation without representation) and the perceived monopoly of the East India Company.” Thus did the words of James Otis become forever emblazoned on the heart of the American Spirit that remains with us today.

Roughly 16 months later, on April 19, 1775, the American Revolution began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, in the Massachusetts colony. Fifteen months after that, in Philadelphia, our founders declared independence from England and the tyrannical rule of King George III. The Declaration, itself, laid out America’s case for freedom, portraying the King as an inflexible tyrant who had squandered his right to govern the colonies. Some historical records, however, suggest that – in reality – the situation was more complex: Parliamentary ministers, not the crown, were responsible for colonial policies, though George ultimately failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation that Great Britain was facing with the colonies until it was too late.

Approximately 16 months after the Declaration was signed, the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” were written on November 15, 1777. These articles, written with a sense of wartime urgency, were intended to establish the functions of the national government and allay growing fears of central authority and extensive land claims by states.

Although fighting did not end until 1783, America won its independence with the British surrender at Yorktown Pennsylvania in 1781. On September 17, 1787, the “basic” Constitution (no amendments) was written in order to replace the original Articles of Confederation. Roughly a month later, on October 27, 1787, the first group of 87 essays, known as the “Federalist Papers” was published. It is said that these essays “were written and published to urge New Yorkers to ratify the proposed United States Constitution”, and we strongly encourage the reader to thoroughly review them in order to gain a more powerful understanding of, and appreciation for, processes and rationales that went into putting America together.

The US Constitution was ultimately ratified on June 21, 1788. New York signed on a month later, and the last of the Federalist Papers was published a month after that.

In the pages ahead we will look more closely at several of the finer points about the “democratic” governance of a civil society that was made by the authors of these papers. Before moving on to the next step in the evolution of the American Nation, however, we believe a particular passage from Alexander Hamilton, under the pen name “Publius,” a Roman general that helped found the Roman Republic. Roughly halfway through the opening paragraph of the First Federalist Paper, Hamilton makes this observation:

“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 in 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.”

It is our contention that, despite this paper having been written over 230 years ago, it could have just as easily been written at any point during the past 5 years and, arguably, the entirety of the 2020 election cycle.

We strongly urge you bear this in mind and equally-strongly suggest you read all of the Federalist Papers, even if only for your personal education, in order to recognize the extent to which we have, as a nation, lost sight over the centuries of the need for careful consideration regarding what effects we have on our country when we do not adequately sustain a thorough and well-reasoned reflection and most honest and vigorous debate over the needs and the greater good of the entirety of the nation as opposed to the fleeting temptations to which our various classes and their factions are routinely subjected and must always resist.

The final piece of the evolutionary puzzle that the Founding Fathers needed, in order to stand humankind back up on its feet and be fully free to exercise their God-given rights to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they had emplaced in the Declaration, was codified into law within the US Constitution on December 15, 1791. Known as the Bill of Rights, these 10 amendments, written by James Madison, were designed to, specifically, constrain governmental power over the people and were written in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protections of individual liberties.

It’s important, we think, that readers be reminded that the inspiration behind creating an American Bill of Rights was not new. King John, on June 15, 1215, signed the Magna Carta, in an effort to make peace with 40 rebellious Barons and prevent a larger Civil War. The war would eventually take place none the less, but the words would live on to help inform the considerations and judgments of the Founding Fathers as the American Bill of Rights was put together. Additionally, the English Bill of Rights from 1689 was enacted that, among other things, effectively gave power to the British Parliament over the Monarchy. It has been said that both of these “Rights documents” played a significant role in the inspiration behind the first 10 Amendments to the American Constitution.

Consider, first, the Magna Carta. It has been suggested that the Barons were demanding submission by the King to the notion that he was not above the law of the land and that they were simply protecting the rights of the people. Keep in mind the time period, 1215, which was roughly 700 years after the Western Roman Empire withdrew from Britain and 500 years before the British Monarchy agreed to the English Bill of Rights and the relinquishment of its power to Parliament and the British citizenry. In the days of King John, people lived according to the rules and systems of a feudal society, which consisted of warrior Kings, and “the three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clergy, and the peasantry, all of whom were bound by a system of manorialism.”

With his signature, King John agreed to a list of 63 protections for the ownership, management, and transfer of property along with an acknowledgment of the rights, freedoms, and liberties to which all Free men should be entitled. Historians suggest that the Magna Carta would go on to serve as the foundation for individual rights in Anglo-American jurisprudence and is said to have informed the creators of the subsequent English Bill of Rights 500 years hence.

Regarding the English Bill of Rights of 1689, it is noteworthy to point out that, interestingly enough, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 came after the end of the “glorious” English revolution which ended some 40 years after our General Cromwell narrative, back in Chapter 3 of Part I. We say “interesting” because, throughout the history of mankind, it seems as though civil wars, revolutions, and uprisings against tyrants, despots, dictators, repressive regimes have always been our only, eventual, recourse in order to claim our God-given rights to the exercise of our free will and our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

Experts and historians tell us that, with the Founders’ collective understanding of the need to recognize and affirm the individual rights and freedoms of the American people, and their understanding that getting the Constitution ratified would more likely be successful if they attended to these individual freedoms, James Madison took on the task of creating the American Bill of Rights which would ultimately be ratified 4 years after the Constitution itself was ratified. It has been said that Madison took into account not only the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights but considered, as well, the bills of rights that had been established within each of the colonies.

For those who might be unaware, the original Bill of Rights consisted of 17 amendments, later whittled down to 12 in the Senate, and ultimately became only 10 because the first two could not be agreed to by a majority of the states. The first of these failed amendments “stated a formula for determining the size of the House of Representatives” and, if it had passed, our House of Representatives, today, could have well over 3000 members. The second failed amendments dealt with “determining when Congress can change its pay.” As it would turn out, 200 years later, the rules for how and when Congress gives itself a raise were addressed, and ratified, in the 27th Amendment.

It should be noted, as we present to you here the text of these 10 constitutional rights, that- at least for now – they have never been amended or modified or in any way altered since the day they were ratified in 1791:
Amendment 1
– Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 2
– The Right to Bear Arms

A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3
– The Housing of Soldiers

No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4
– Protection from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5
– Protection of Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property

No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Amendment 6
– Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Cases

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment 7
– Rights in Civil Cases

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8
– Excessive Bail, Fines, and Punishments Forbidden

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9
– Other Rights Kept by the People

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10
– Undelegated Powers Kept by the States and the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

And so it would become that, 2,700 years after the Israelites had chosen their first King and roughly 2,100 years after the last of the Israelite Monarchy had collapsed, a group of Englishmen cast off their chains of bondage, held tightly around their throats by King George III, and set about trying to stand humankind back up on its feet, free of their own chains of bondage, and unleash their free will and human right to self-determination. By all accounts, this idea was considered foolish and suicidal and doomed to fail.

The individual, so-called “experts” believed, is by and large considered incapable of survival when left to his or her own devices and therefore necessarily considered, singly, to be expendable in the context of the greater society at large. This isn’t true, of course, but the notion was widely pervasive among the Royal and Elite Class of 18th century England. It comes as no great surprise that the entitled class would hold such an opinion of the slave and servile class, however, when you consider that they, and their Global peers, were nothing more than products of 200 centuries worth of class-based hierarchical separation.

As we have discussed before, in many ways this propensity for subjugation dates all the way back to the first King chosen by the children of Israel; they specifically asked for someone to lead them and protect them and tell them how to live their lives. And they did this, arguably, precisely because they had lost faith in their unseen and unheard God, and given up trust in themselves to live righteous lives in accordance with God’s laws.

History teaches us that this was, in hindsight, an unwise decision. History, beginning the day Independence from King George III was declared until this day, teaches us, as well, that not only can our species survive in a self-determinant way of life, as it had been with Abraham and lot all those Millennia before, with individual freedoms and liberties while being free of the chains of tyranny and monarchical bondage, we can also thrive and excel beyond the wildest imaginations of the human race.

How ever sad it might be that humankind, in all its self-proclaimed enlightened glory, could have evolved itself beyond its most primitive and fundamental need to value and honor the sanctity of each and every life, it is as much the fault of the leaders we have chosen over the centuries to turn us away from our primal survival instincts as it has been our own fault for letting them do it.

America’s Founders, great students of religious, cultural, and philosophical history that they were, understood this. So, too, did the men and women who fought alongside them against the King, not nearly so much for themselves as for an “idea” that promised freedom and liberty and self-determination for the generations that would follow them. Not all of them espoused any particular religious dogma or doctrine, but they collectively understood, and fully embraced, the idea that they were little more than microscopic upstarts in a vast, incomprehensible eternity. So too did they recognize and respect the significance of this truth in the hearts and minds of their fellow Americans.

While the lives and livelihoods that would be sacrificed, in defense of declaring independence from the King, were many and terribly costly, the ultimate victory of the Colonies on September 3, 1783, stands as the day Free Will’s revolt had, once more, cast off the chains of bondage humankind had clasped so tightly around its own throat three Millennia earlier.

After a war against their King, with freedom and independence gripped tightly in their hand, America set about the business of building their new nation. It would not be easy, and it did not happen overnight. And with nearly 240 years of practice under our belts, we are still struggling to create a “more perfect union” but, despite our flaws and imperfections … at least up until a few years ago… We have been able to maintain that which our Founders had hoped we would, in all ways, and in good faith, “endeavor to persevere”; great efforts seeking great outcomes requires great consideration and thorough, extensive, and vigorous debate.

It is safe to say that, as it was with the first Covenants, first between God and man and then between one man and all of mankind, in the Millenia after Abraham and Moses and Jesus of Nazareth, so too did it become in the Covenant between the American people and what has become of its government more than two and a half centuries after it was first formed. This is not to suggest the world has come to an end but rather to serve as a reminder that the continuing decay of the American experiment can either be turned around using all the means provided by the founders, or we can finish slipping those chains back around our necks and clasp them tightly around our own throats.

About David M. Poff

There's not much to say... I come from a long line of Appalachian folk that landed in America long before flipping off the King was even a twinkle in the eyes of our founding fathers. We have been Carpenters and coal miners... Soldiers & Sailors and pig farmers and Sunday morning circuit-riding preachers. Hell, I'm told we have even been fairly decent bootleggers too. The oldest of my family elders I met as a child were the sons and daughters of farmers across whose red rocky fields the North and South marched and died at Antietam. I am quite sure that my ancestors had more wisdom in the palms of their crooked calloused hands than the whole lot of high-minded and over-educated White Collar class will ever acquire across the entirety of their collective lifetimes. It is my hope that, in the midst of so many lost and self-unaware souls, I might pay forward - even a little bit - of what was handed down to me before it is my turn to swan-dive off this mortal coil.
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