As an American Historian my favorite area of study and discussion is the writing and ratification of the Constitution. It isn’t because this is the beginning because the 167 year long colonial period became the world which birthed the Revolution, and without the Revolution there would be no America. So the colonial period is crucial for identifying many currents and trends in our society many of which still impact us today. Then why does this short period of one year capture my attention so much? Perhaps, it stands out because this is the cradle, the bedrock of American civil society. It is here that we can find the roots of the issue I wish to discuss today.
Labels are important.
The Revolution was fought not because of taxation. Remember the battle cry of the Revolutionaries was not the anarchist’s “No Taxation!” It was instead the cry, “No taxation without representation!” This was not pulled from the heart of people who wanted to destroy the British Empire. It was not shouted from the lips of people who initially wanted to start a new country on the edge of wilderness thousands of miles from the center of everything they considered civilization. No it was the cry of people who sought for some level of local power. They wanted a voice and a vote in Parliament. What they wanted without vocalizing it was a federal system where there were defined levels of authority between a central government and a local one.
For most of the Colonial period the colonies had been allowed to run their local affairs. It is known as the period of Benign Neglect when England more or less allowed the colonies to do as they wished, to establish local governments, and manage their own local affairs.
So after the massive expenses of the French and Indian War, which finally secured the American colonies from the fear of French attack, the British government sought to make the colonies help repay that debt through taxes. The fat hit the fire and Katie bar the door. This sparked the Revolution fought to secure the right to local government. The thirteen colonies all considered themselves independent States after the Declaration of Independence which expressly says:
That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
You can’t be much clearer than that. Thirteen independent States formed a Confederation to fight the Revolution and to coordinate their foreign affairs. After the Revolution when this Confederation appeared to weak a central power for some it was brushed aside in what some have called a counter revolution. Remember the so-called Constitutional Convention was called and empowered to merely draft suggested amendments to the Articles of Confederation. The Framers took it upon themselves to draft and entirely new government supplanting the one then in existence. It was mainly the weight of Washington’s name attached to the effort which gave it undefeatable currency among the people forcing the current government to agree to its own obsolescence.
Here is where the importance of labels manifests itself. The backers of the Constitution were in many cases wealthy and powerful men. They had powerful allies in the press. And in the ensuing debates that proponents of a strong central government were labeled the Federalists and those who opposed them were labeled the Anti-Federalists.
Besides the fact that “Anti” in front of anything certainly sounds and feels negative the reality is that the Federalists were the enemies of local authority. Hamilton, the leader of the Federalists in the debate, originally wanted a monarchy. And those opposing the Constitution wanted to keep the Confederation model of strong local authority and a loose central government. In other words, the opponents in this vital debate were intentionally mislabeled to confuse the voting public.
Fake news didn’t begin with the Trump era and propaganda didn’t begin with Hitler or Stalin.
If we look at the most famous artifacts of this debate the Federalist and Antifederalist Papers we see that the Federalists led by Hamilton basically said whatever they had to in order to get the Constitution ratified. They magnified the weakness of the central government and exaggerated the authority of the States. Then as soon as the Constitution was ratified and they took over the new government Hamilton and his followers immediately began stretching the central power by re-interpreting such things as the Necessary and Proper Clause and the Interstate Commerce Clause. This continues to this day. Federalism which is the idea that there exists a separation between the sovereignty of the central government and the States continues to appear alive and well. There is a central government in Washington and State governments in all fifty States. However the Civil War radically changed the equation tipping the scales forever in favor of the central government. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution reigns supreme as does the central government. Try to find somewhere in America today that is not regulated, monitored, or controlled by the various tentacles of the Federal Government. They’re everywhere, everywhere!
I have said all that to say this.
In a pivotal debate today the press is weighted heavily in favor of one side and solidly against another. They routinely portray one side positively and the other side as merely a negative of the side they are attempting to convince the public to support. What is this issue?
I believe abortion is a moral dilemma disguised as both a political debate and a religious issue. While it is certainly both I contend that at its heart lies a moral question whose answer will ultimately describe and define the reality of the three fundamental God-given rights for which the Revolution itself was fought to secure, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
There is no debate about the reality of what an abortion is and what it does. The science is all on one side. Life begins at conception. A freshman in high school biology should be able to put that one and one makes two together.
Yet how is the public debate defined? How has it been defined for the many decades that it has occupied a prominent place on America’s horizon?
Is it Pro-abortion and Pro-life? Two names which clearly describe the two positions. No it is defined as a debate between Pro-choice and Anti-abortion or Anti-choice, Pro-women’s rights or Anti-women’s rights.
Why did I start this article speaking about the Constitution? One, because it is a quintessential example of the power of labeling in a public debate, and two because looking at what this country was founded to secure brings us immediately to those God-given rights we all love so much. The first of which is “Life.”
We may call this a political debate between Republicans who are officially pro-life and Democrats who are officially pro-abortion. We may call it a religious debate between Christians, Muslims, and Jews who believe in the sacred sanctity of life and secularists who believe that one can be sacrificed for the convenience of another. We can be distracted by the carnival mirror reporting of the Corporations Once Called the Mainstream Media or we can look inside ourselves and let the voice of our conscious speak to the reality of our lives.
Murder by any other name is still murder. Murder is always and everywhere wrong. Does society need to do a better job educating people about the cause and effect of casual sex? Yes. Do we as Americans want a culture of life or a culture of death? The secularists demand that we look at the science when it comes to their Gia worship dressed up as man-made global warming so why don’t we demand that they look at the science. Life begins at conception period. If reading studies or listening to lectures is too tedious to prove this fact, maybe looking at ultrasounds of pre-born in the womb sucking their thumb or scratching their head might help.
Now back to the Constitution.
Those who seek to advance the Living Constitution model basically say that what the Framers believed was carved in stone was actually written in sand. Through their interminable twists and turns of literary interpretation legerdemain they seem unable to understand that the Second Amendment actually means what the words say. However, they have been miraculously able to stretch the Fourth Amendment to confer a right to privacy which is then stretched to say the right to an abortion, which was considered an abomination during the time of the Framers, was somehow implied in there some place.
The Constitution which was written to establish and maintain a limited government is now elastic enough to empower the leviathan along the Potomac. And the Revolution which was meant to secure our God-given right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness has morphed into the ultimate evil state approved and funded murder.
This all leaves me with a final question. How can a moral wrong be a civil right?
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2018 Contact Dr. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens or visit Dr. Owens Amazon Page / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens