Mar 31, 2023
Mar 31, 2023
Every human or nation is capable of the worst and while nations are not moral agents, they do need a foundation of virtue (itself an ephemeral and illusory entity, often conveniently usable) stemming from their leaders. America was blessed in having some of the most well read, intelligent and outwardly upright men of honor amongst its founders. Yet they practiced slavery legally in stark contrast to the words of the Declaration of Independence and indulged in lies, defamation and anonymous character assassination (Jefferson and Hamilton), promulgating the Aliens and Sedition Act (Adams) in diametric opposition to the First Amendment, changed positions for convenience, abandoning principles (Madison) and reneged on promises of freedom to black soldiers of the Continental army (Washington and the legislatures). Interestingly the least educated Washington was the most honest and upright of the founding fathers and the most popular and educated Jefferson was more like Catiline in character. The highly educated Adams was often peevish with an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
Madison was the father of the Constitution. To prove my point, I will impose on you by taking up the case of Madison, the greatest intellect of the Revolution and show you his genius, inconsistency and failure. His concern was the tyranny of the majority and a monarch (executive), thus he detested democracy and kingship. He devised a form of government which he hoped would consist of propertied individuals. Thus he desired to perpetuate the rule and tyranny of the minority, who he conveniently hoped would be enlightened and virtuous. Unfortunately this blind spot caused trouble for himself and the nation even until today.
Madison on legislators----"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interests would certainly bias his judgment, and not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are are many of the most important acts of legislation but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the right of single persons but concerning the rights of a large body of citizens; and what are the different classes of legislators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine?"
Madison on preventing the tyranny of the majority---"By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time, must be prevented; or the majority, having such co-existent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control."
Madison on wisdom and virtue in legislators and the electorate----"The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people."
" I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical check, no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without virtue in the people is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men, so that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them."
Madison on war and the executive----"War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In a war a physical force is created, and it is the executive will to direct it. In war the public treasures are to be unlocked and it is the executive hand that is to dispense them. In war the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war finally that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and the most dangerous weakness of the human breast, ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.
Madison had read Hobbes' Leviathan and Plato and was familiar with Glaucon's story of the ring of Gyge. The ring made the wearer invisible and the average person who possessed the ring indulge in every conceivable immoral and illegal act from prurient voyeurism, molestation, rape, theft and murder. He knew that men are selfish, ignorant, acquisitive and in the bulk foolish and manipulable. He thus chose to conveniently believe in their virtue and intelligence to orchestrate a form of government of the propertied few, to whose class he belonged. His scheme to hold the Constitutional Convention using the prestige of Washington and his convenient collaboration with Hamilton who represented the powerful mercantile and financial interests of the northern oligarchy, together with his acquiescence in suppressing the Shay and Whiskey rebellions and assumption of state debts by the federal government, prove that he was a knowing conspirator in bequeathing us our form of government. His tantrums against the Jay treaty and other convenient waffling between Federalist and Republican positions during his presidency confirm his lack of loyalty to principles. This is why Washington totally severed his relationship with Madison. Finally in spite of his prescient analysis of war and executive abuse of it , he led the country into a disastrous war in 1812 from which he was saved by the tactical genius of the puny American navy and the army under Andrew Jackson.
The unfortunate reality of human nature is that people and their leaders and reporters, who are merely a section of the people are not endowed with pure virtue and are often woefully lacking in knowledge, integrity and intellect. The press are supposed to be the monitors and disseminators of truth, but are often partisan liars with pecuniary motivations. Thus all of us are seriously tainted with vices which override our virtues and that is often the problem that prevents good government. The Congress, Executive and similar powers in the states have been on a spending spree and promised retirement benefits without fiscal prudence that are impossible to deliver without confiscatory rise in the tax burdens. This is why Plato laid down Draconian restraints on the freedom of guardians and the Catholic Church borrowed celibacy for priests from him and the example of Christ. We all know that led to the priesthood becoming a safe heaven for closet pedophile homosexuals who were sheltered by the church hierarchy for political reasons until their exposure, which has led to the bankruptcy of many a diocese. We know that state and federal regulators leave their agencies for lucrative positions in industries they regulated. House and Senate members do the same and retired military generals get positions with arms manufacturers for their past connivance. Even presidents, who are not afflicted with retirement economic security due to their munificent lifetime pension benefits, collect millions of dollars in speaking fees for past favors, while sundry speakers of the House and Senate majority leaders jump out of suitcases in advertisements or tout Viagra because of their physical impotence buttressed by their political and mental impotence during their long careers of feeding at the public trough. The irony is even in their names.
More by : Gaurang Bhatt, MD