On April 19th, 2008, Ron Mann, former Deputy Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Director of The Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, delivered the following address to a political gathering in Salt Lake City. It is as relevant today as it was then. It is filled with excellent quotes and serves as a reminder of the civic responsibilities that each of us carry. Enjoy!
It is a pleasure to be you this morning, especially with people with a like mind. This is the largest gathering of real constitutionalist I have been with since I attended my last staff meeting in the White House with President Reagan. It shouldn't take you long to recognize that I am not the most articulate or entertaining speaker, but I can assure you that you could not have selected anyone that holds our Founding Fathers and Constitution in higher esteem.
Charles Dickens expressed well the situation that faced our nation in the 1770's and today when he wrote in A tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
Truly we appear to live in the best of times, we have some of the greatest writers, painters, musicians, inventors, actors and most of them live in Washington DC, scientists, medical doctors and dentist that have ever lived. We can travel anywhere in the world in a few hours and will soon have commercial aircraft that can fly across the United States in one hour, we can talk to people around the world and actually see them while doing so, we can buy products from any place in the world from our office via the Internet. We can even find a wife or husband there as well. Life has been extended nearly a decade in the last fifty years. The Internet, as you all know was invented by one our past candidates for president, allows us to do research at home that not too many years ago would have required a visit to some of the greatest libraries in the world. It allows us to take classes on just about any subject from some of the greatest teachers in the world. And the list goes on and on.
On the other hand it could be said we live in the worst of times. There are at least 23 wars and revolutions going on throughout the world, people are starving to death all across the globe, freedom is being lost to dictatorships, things have become more important than people, love is waning, millions of people are out of work, famine is a real possibility, government has become more pervasive ruthless and powerful while the rights of man are being trampled on. Millions of people are still dying from cancer and other diseases, Christianity is being replaced and persecuted. At the same time that the church is being replaced by sports stadiums, the family, the foundation of nations is being destroyed. Medical care is getting so expansive that many can no longer afford it. Drugs and alcohol addiction is increasing and at younger and younger ages. We live in a time of increased terrorism, youth gangs and dishonest politicians at all levels. People in general no longer feel safe in their homes and do not trust government. Government coercion has replaced freedom of action. The cost of living is rising faster than wages.
Today we are thrown in a battle for the soul of our nation and the people who live here. However, it is the same old battle that man has faced since Adam and Eve, the battle for freedom – free agency. During the Revolutionary War a person – under the pen name of: “The Freeman” wrote a message to the people of the colonies, which is applicable today perhaps even more so.
“Never was a cause more important or glorious than that which you are engaged in; not only your wives, your children, and distant posterity, but humanity a large, the world of mankind, are interested in it; for if tyranny should prevail in this great country, we may expect liberty will expire throughout the world. Therefore, more human glory and happiness may depend upon your exertions than ever yet depended upon any of the sons of men.” (Frank Moore, Diary of the American Revolution, New York, Scribner, 1860, p 172.)
We truly live in challenging times not too dissimilar to his – in spite of the fact we have been the most blessed people and nation in the world. Millions from around the world would love to live here and demonstrated their resolve by waiting years to be granted that privilege. Sadly a few greedy, power hungry and godless people have placed our nation in a precarious position. Our nation is in bondage because or our great debt and at the same time we are close to loosing our sovereignty, all because of few ruthless individuals. We have no leaders that I believe can and are willing to correct the terrible direction our nation is heading.
We appear to be in the same position as a young naval officer that had just been made a commander of a new destroyer. One of his new responsibilities was to take the destroyer out on sea trials. All went well until they ran into a heavy fog. Confident of his instruments he continued on his course, when he was apprised there appeared to be another ship directly in his path. He immediately told his radioman to send the ship a message: “Change your course immediately”, Commander so and so. Within a few minutes the radioman return with a message: “You must change course”, Ensign Smith (an ensign is several grades below a commander). Somewhat angered the Commander told the radioman: “Send another message: This is commander so and so, change your directions immediately.” By this time the commander was concerned, as it appeared his ship was about to collide with the other. Again the radioman returned somewhat shocked and handed the pompous Commander another message. “Sir change your direction immediately or expect a collision” – signed Ensign Smith of the Green Point lighthouse. It seems like most of our leaders have lost their course and like the arrogant Commander refuse to change courses.
There are a few issues that I would like to call to your attention. You need to address these issues with your state and national representatives and suggest they start doing something about them now - under no conditions accept rhetoric are verbiage that does not answer your questions.
- The increasing cost of fuel and the resulting impact on everything we buy — we are present importing approximately 70% of the fuel consumed
- The growth and increase in power of the federal government while at the same time destroying the state governments and the individual, contrary to our constitution.
- The destruction of our Constitutional Republic based on a government of check and balances and limited power to a rule by man. The Supreme Court now legislates from the bench as well as making constitution amendments contrary to Article IV of the constitution. The Legislation branch has become a rubber stamp for the Executive and gives largess to all its friends and lobbyist, while the Executive branch has become the imperial president who believes he is above the law.
- An educational system that graduates students from high school that can neither read, write or do arithmetic.
- The loss of our industrial base requiring us to buy essential products from some our enemies.
- A foreign policy that has created more enemies than friends, in spite of the billions of dollars of foreign aid given out annually.
- The loss of our moral value system and the creation of a humanist secular state.
- The loss of our dollar's value in market where the Euro now trades at $1.52 and countries are now using it as their base.
- Our Balance of Trade and Balance of Payment are now the worst in our history.
- We have now become a debtor nation.
- Our housing market is presently tumbling and will probably result in 40 – 60 percent drop in value, just as the Japanese's did fifteen years ago, which has not improved much since.
- Unknown to most Americans is that our strategic deterrent force is far inadequate for the times in which we live. We have no, repeat no defensive capability, which could subject us the nuclear blackmail in the future.
- We used to be the breadbasket of the world, whereas today we are now importing up 25% of our foods. It should be noted that we have no idea of what they are putting on their crops.
- Our social security system is broke and we presently running a $9 trillion debt and yet our politicians keep promising more of everything to everybody, at the same when we cannot afford what we are presently committed to fund.
- Our nation's economic system appears to being close to collapsing, which could make the 1929 depression look like a Sunday picnic. Yet our federal government officials and economic whiz kids insist all is well.
You might ask how could this have happened? James Madison warned: "Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." – The Debates Resolutions and other Proceedings in Convention, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution Vol II, Jonathan Elliot, 1828, p 90. And this is exactly what they have done. Madison also warned: “It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties, we hold this prudent jealousy to the first duty of citizens.” I believe had we been taught and followed this sage advice we would not be in the situation we are now. The question now is how do we get out of this situation? Again going back to the advice of our founding fathers we read: “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.” – The Statesman’s Manual, Edwin Williams and Benson J. Lossing, “Madison’s Second Annual Address”, p 377.
Perhaps the most important part of my message this morning relates to the importance of our Constitution in the solution of these matters. The opposition would have you believe the constitution was written for an agrarian society and no longer applicable. I want to point out some of the thoughts of others on this subject:
It was honorable William Gladstone who made the definitive statement on our constitution: “it is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose man.” Thomas Jefferson expressed his feeling on it: “The constitution ... is unquestionably the wisest ever yet present to men,” – The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Vol V: 1788-1792, Thomas Jefferson, p 89. Perhaps the most impressive statement relative to the men responsible for our constitution was made by Senator Albert J. Beveridge (1862-1927): “The American system was devised by the ablest group of men who ever appeared at the same in the same country throughout the history of the world. Just as former times produced masterpieces of literature, philosophy, and art, just as our own period is producing masterpieces in science and commercial organization, so the architects of the American plan of self-disciplined liberty produced a masterpiece of free government.” – The Constitution of the U.S. of American and Bulwark of Liberty, Everett P. Wilson.
The key to successfully bringing forth the creation of any great human endeavor is the selection of the persons required to accomplish it. In this regard the bringing forth of a new nation is unlike anything before or since and considered by many, including those that were involved in it as a miracle. Few men are capable of accomplishing such a horrendous task in such a short time and fewer yet would be willing to tackle it. The men responsible for this impressive work represented some of the great minds of all time. If one were looking for signs of providential care in the creation of America – and the framers often did – it would be found in the gathering of these men with these particular qualities, at this juncture of our history. It was not an accident that virtually every doctrine, value, institutional development and painful lesson gleaned through all the centuries since Magna Carta converged on the State House in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Here we have combined the notions of the law above the king, the need to impose restraints on power, the wisdom of diffusing authority instead of having it focused in one center, that were the chief political doctrines of the free society, annealed and tested in the fires of battle.
To those involved in this Herculean task it was evident that it was indeed a fact – Providence had indeed been involved, from the beginning to the end. No less than George Washington had said so himself in his First Inaugural Address of 1789: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conduct the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of Providential agency...” He also said: “It appears to me … little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states ... should unite in forming a system of national government so little liable to well-found objections.” – The Writings of George Washington, 29:409. Even James Madison noted in the Federalist #37: “It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it a finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the revolution.”
The point being that we had a gathering of the greatest men conceivable who believed strongly that providence had been involved in their efforts in creating a constitution, as John Adams said: “… they were building a constitution and a system of government which would one day serve a population of 200 to 300 million freemen.” In other words it was created to last indefinitely. However, Ben Franklin warned: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – The Writings of Ben Franklin, Vol. 9:569, 1787. James Madison also warned us: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea.” – James Madison (1788), Elliot's Debates, 3:537. An additional consideration that is necessary if we are to keep our Constitution was expressed by Thomas Jefferson: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, … it expects what never was and never will be.” The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 1816, 14:384. He further warned: “Education is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” – Ibid. Vol. 10: 161.
I have often asked myself if ignorance and disobedience of the advice of our Founding Fathers were the reason for the problems confronting us today? We are in a life and death struggle. Never before have we as a nation been confronted with so many different and very serious dilemmas, which if not resolved could soon result in the demise of our nation.
I am pleased that there are so many of you who are involved and want to learn and do something about it. The opposition wants you to believe it is hopeless and that we should just submit to their oppression. I for one won't do that. There is hope for us and with Providential assistance we make a majority which makes every worthy cause doable. I would like to close by illustrating what can be done, by telling several of my favorite stories which show in spite of the darkness of the day and the lateness of the hour success is still possible. It is the story of the invasion of Long Island by the British in 1776.
On the night of August 28, 1776, the British and Hessian troops received a first-hand experience that convinced many of them that Providence was on the side of General Washington:
There had been an incident that deeply troubled the German soldiers.
“On a hot August night, just before they went into action, hundreds of British and Germans had sat around an enormous bonfire, laughing and cheering while four rebel leaders were burned in effigy. The figures of John Witherspoon, President of the College at Princeton, and Generals Washington, Israel Putnam, and Charles Lee had just been set afire when a wild thunderstorm suddenly interrupted the fun.
“The soldiers dashed for whatever shelter they could find, and after the rain had passed, some of the men returned to the vicinity of the bonfire to discover that three of the dummies had been consumed by the flames but the effigy of George Washington remained intact. As good as it ever was. The symbolism was not lost on the foreigners; as a British deserter relayed the story, the incident caused a great deal of fear among the Hessian troops, most of whom are very superstitious.” —Richard M. Ketchum, The Winter Soldiers: The Battles for Trenton and Princeton, 1998, p. 90-91.
Within twenty-four hours of the bonfire incident, an attack was launched against Washington and his troops on Long Island. The results of which gave the Hessians and British addition things to ponder about the American Cause. The British naval forces planned to sail up the Long Island Sound where they could unload some of their forces on the north end while another group would attacked from the south, placing Washington troops in a pincer - the result would be the demise of the rebel forces. However things didn’t go as planned. When the fleet started up the Sound they were unable to enter it because of the terrible wind and waves. After twenty-four hours they gave up on sending their ships up the sound and launched there attack from the south and started their advance up Long Island, by dusk they had driven the Americans and beaten them to the point that the British Commander felt that “on the morrow he would quickly and decisively end the conflict.
Since the winds were in their favor that evening the British could hear the Americans digging their trenches and setting up their camps. However, later in the evening the winds reversed and now the Americans could hear the British. Then it started to rain and later that evening a dense fog settled over Long Island. Washington had earlier recognized the possibility that he might have to retreat and had positioned boats to ferry his troops to New York should it be necessary. Necessity required that he implement that contingency and so all night Washington’s troops, animals, and hardware were ferried across the sound to New York. This was all done under the shroud of fog and with prevailing winds without being detected by the British or Hessians. This was done even though they were within shouting and listening range of the British. Early the next morning, the British started their advance, only to discover that the rebels had moved out under the cover of fog and darkness. They arrived just in time to the last boat, carrying Washington move across the sound. It is difficult to imagine a more visible demonstration of Providence’s hand in the protection of Washington and his troops than this incident.
These two stories represent only two of over fifty such stories of Providence’s Hand in our history. I truly believe it is available to us, if we start now, to live as He would have us do. With that assistance we can change the direction of nation.
I believe You represent the future. The Democrats and Republicans have lost their way and represent the past. They are guilty of corrupting the greatest form of government ever trusted to man and replacing it with a form of government we fought the Revolutionary War against, one that rejected the rights of man and was based on the mistaken belief that all rights come from the state.
We are on the right side of the issues and the vast majority of Americans agree with us. Now is time to get out and let the people know where we stand; That we truly support the Constitution and intend to restore it to the position of the Supreme Law of The Land; That we believe in our sovereignty and will demand the borders be closed and the every department of the government live by and support their oath of office. We need to remind the people that when they vote for the lesser of two evils they still end up with evil. We provide a better option. Today we are few in number, but over time we will increase and make a difference — now is the time to begin.
In closing I would to read two of my favorite quotes. The first is from a speech by Daniel Webster, given in Washington DC on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Washington’s birthday.
“Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome. If disastrous war should sweep our commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it: if it exhaust our treasury, future industry may replenish it, if it desolates and lay waste our fields, still, under a new cultivation they will grow green again, and ripen to future harvest. It were but a trifle if the walls of yonder capital [pointing to the US Capital Building] were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all covered y the dust of the valley. All of these might be rebuilt. But who shall reconstruct the fabric of a demolished government? Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of constitutional liberty? Who shall frame together the skillful architecture, which unites national sovereignty with the state rights, individual security and public prosperity? No gentlemen, if these columns fall they will be raised not again. Like the Coliseum and the Parthenon they will be destined to a mournful, a melancholy immortality. Bitterer tears, however, will flow over them than were ever shed over the monuments of Roman or Grecian art; for they will be the remnants of a more glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw – the edifice of constitutional American Liberty.”
In his great book, The Theme Is Freedom, p 323, M. Stanton Evans concludes by saying:
“None of the foregoing, be it said, would be sufficient in itself to restore our freedoms—even assuming that such a platform could be adopted. In every sense, the spiritual and intellectual vision must be foremost. Recovery of our religious faith and its teachings should be our first and main concern. Without it, nothing much by way of practical improvement can be accomplished. With it, all the rest might readily be added.”