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America’s Founders made good their choice, not lesser evil

There was a time when the people who argued that the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was a choice of evil were mainly leftist radicals riding the hobby horse of the 3/5 clause on their way to discrediting America’s Founders and all their works. My WND column tomorrow will be about an article by WND’s managing editor, David Kupelian, in which he revisits this heretofore predominantly leftist slander against the Founders.  He does so in an effort to prove his assertion that they “engaged in the most monumental example in American history of deliberately choosing the lesser of two evils.” In my column (which you can look for here at Loyal to Liberty if WND refuses to do publish it in the customary fashion) I analyze the exceptional nature of the historic choice the Founders actually made (which Mr. Kupelian ignores). As that analysis makes clear, they chose to base the American Republic on the true principle of justice articulated in the Declaration of Independence. “So far from choosing the evil of slavery for blacks, they framed the Constitution with respect for the principle of government that recognized slavery as evil for all mankind.”

The best way to see to the heart of the flawed “lesser of evils” view of the Constitution may be to think about the provision of the Constitution that originally apportioned direct taxes and Representatives “among the several states…according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifth of all other Persons.” People anxious to discredit the Founders pretend that this involved treating a slave as 3/5 of a Person. In fact the language counted each slave as a person, but accorded to the slave States only 3/5 of the voting power they could otherwise have used in the Congress to protect and promote the evil of slavery. It’s worth remembering that there are several critically important clauses in the Constitution (including the due process language of the Fifth Amendment) that apply to all persons rather than just to citizens. Language that acknowledged the personhood of the slaves provided a constitutional basis for arguing that they could not be abused and killed like animals, with no accountability under the law. This is hardly a choice for evil.

The fact that such a constitutional argument could logically be made did not mean that it would be accepted, at least not while deeply rooted racial prejudice held sway. But it did provide Constitutional grounds, in principle, to assert the personhood of the slave. People with the decency and courage to take a stand on those grounds were thus given the opportunity to challenge, rebuke and seek to reform the prejudice. The language of the Constitution accommodated prejudice in fact, but undermined it in principle. This was a positive good. Compare this to the opposite state of affairs today with respect to the personhood of nascent children. To aid and abet politicians like Mitt Romney, people seek legislation that factually reduces the number of abortions, but yet and still explicitly accepts the assertion that it is lawful. Under the Constitution, however, no person can be deprived of life without due process of law. Individual whim, however accounted for, is no warrant for murder. By asserting, in cases of rape for example, that abortion can be lawful, politicians like Mitt Romney are asserting that nascent children are in principle not persons, no matter how they are incidentally treated, as a matter of fact, in this or that legislative act. (Obama, Romney and others put nascent human offspring in the same category as insects or animals occasionally protected by provision of law. The fact that legislation exists to protect them in some way does not mean that they have the status in law of persons.)

There is a distinction between statesmanship that lets evil stand, as a matter of fact, and statesmanship that establishes what is lawful or not lawful, evil or not evil, in principle. The latter provides grounds for recognizing what is good, just and lawful as such, and pursuing it by all means possible. Incidentally it also provides grounds for recognizing evil as such, and resisting it by all means possible. In this respect Kupelian’s account of the situation of the Founders does not do justice to their intention. He writes as if their aim was exclusively to deal with the evils occasioned by the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation. This was in fact what they were officially commissioned to do. But they consciously, deliberately, purposefully chose to go beyond their commission, in order to establish a form of government that respected the requirements of right and justice acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence. They did so after having successfully demonstrating their commitment to this form of government, by their courage and sacrifice during the Revolutionary war.

Thus America’s founders did not consciously and deliberately make a choice of evil. In a sense, they could not have done so, for it was only in consequence of their exceptional choice that slavery was, for the first time in the history of political practice, recognized as evil in principle, as much for those who inflict as for those who suffer it. (This point is the core of the analysis I have submitted to WND for tomorrow’s edition.) Tragically for America, voters who plan to choose evil in the election next Tuesday do so in the course of events being orchestrated to undo the Founders’ exceptional statesmanship. And they will do so whether they vote for Romney or Obama. In practice, both men discard the acknowledgment of God-endowed right wherewith the Founders set all forms of human slavery on the path to extinction. Both promote evil in fact in a way that dooms good in principle.

In addition to their embrace of so-called abortion rights (however occasionally restricted on account of public sentiment), the prime example of this is their promotion of so-called homosexual rights. Until Obama’s recent endorsement of same-sex marriage, both men tried to pretend that their promotion of homosexual rights was somehow compatible with excluding homosexuals from the purview and privileges of marriage, as a legal institution, involving enforceable rights and obligations. Yet the whole idea of equal rights rests on the premise that those who actually have a bona fide claim of right cannot be discriminated against on grounds that in no way relate to the prerequisites of their claim. If same-sex relationships have an enforceable claim equal to that of male/female couples, on what grounds can that claim be set aside by the mere demand, regardless of right, that marriage be restricted to male/female relationships? How does this differ from, say, claiming that blacks and white have an equal claim to be respected in their right to use public accommodations, and then setting aside the claim because this or that hotel owner, or city or State has enough clout to demand that the City Council or the District Judge, or the Supreme Court for that matter, respect racial prejudice. Either race affects the fundamental claim of right or it does not.

This forces us to consider the actual basis for the claim of equal right, in order to understand which considerations properly affect the claim and which do not. When they embraced the true principle of equal rights America’s Founders accepted the will of the Creator God as the ultimate ruler, in light of which claims of right must be evaluated. Where human action arises from the Creator’s endowment of human nature, for the preservation and perpetuation of humanity, those who act accordingly to serve His ends are exercising the right as He instilled it in them. In this respect the rights (and antecedent obligations) involved in the institution of marriage are not fabrications of government or arbitrary individual preferences. They exist in consequence of the necessary role played by the cooperative union of men and women in the preservation and perpetuation of human nature as a whole, encompassing in that whole not only the body, but the mind and spirit that inform and animate the self-conscious activities of individual human beings.

When they pretend that same-sex relations are entitled to equal respect under the law both Obama and Romney disregard the basis in Creator- endowed right for the institution of marriage, a basis antecedent to human society and rooted in the will of God that transcends and justifies (or not) all human legislation. When they agree (as both men say they do) to use the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief to force this disregard on military personnel, they substitute for the principle of God-endowed right a principle of right that has no basis except the discipline of force. The fact that they have first moved to enforce their view against people who wield that force most directly, and in its most potent form, is an ominous indication of their true intention. They mean to replace the Declaration principle of God endowed right with the tyrannical view that government’s use of force is not constrained by respect for any rights except those it has fabricated, and can therefore arbitrarily alter or abolish.

Once we fully appreciate the implications of this fact, we realize that the evil choice Americans face in this election represents a triumph of evil greater still than either of the men put forward to serve its purposes. It is an evil bent on restoring mankind’s once nearly invincible ignorance of God’s true superintendence of human justice; the first and greatest political truth, which truly sets men free. We can only reject this greater evil by making a choice that goes beyond any partisan commission, a choice that acknowledges, as America’s Founders did, the principle of right endowed by the Creator. To explore this choice, before it is too late, consider the Platform Republican Approach to the 2012 Election.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • dangrqa November 2, 2012, 12:14 pm

    but Alan, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to return to the original days of our Nation’s beginnings with its Constitution, complete with slavery options for each State?…nor would you want be a part of a Civil War to abolish it? You talk about how our choice is about evil, yet Christ called us all evil: “if you, who are evil…” Matt.7:11, and Paul: “there is no one righteous, not one” Romans 3:10. Abortion, is a choice, having sexual relations outside of marriage is a choice; or even having THOUGHTS of homosexual behavior is a choice…all of these being abominations to Almighty GOD, where even our thoughts are the same as if we physically did them (see Matt 5:28). May our Freedom be in Christ, and in Him only, as only He has the true Right to Rule. I’ll vote for Jesus on November 6, 2012; and it will not be a wasted vote, because whether or not He takes Office in January 2013, He will one day return, and the ‘Government shall be upon His shoulders’.

    • alkeyes November 2, 2012, 2:19 pm

      Dangrqa: Unless you believe that Christ’s perfect sacrifice makes no difference in this world a choice for good has been available since he fulfilled God’s will for our salvation. This choice was not available to many of those he addresses in the passage you cite because they would not recognize and accept him for who he was: the Word made flesh, beyond the power of sin and death. Because Christ lives we can choose to accept the kingdom of God within us, and to live with respect for the sovereign will of God. Because Christ lives, if we truly receive him within us we can express His boundless love here and now, even as he does to those who trust in him. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” the Apostle said to the Philippians. As Christians, therefore, we cannot pretend that all we have in this world is a choice of evils. Those who make the choice for Christ choose good, and by the power of Holy Spirit His indwelling presence impels them to example that good to others, here and now. As they do so the world around them can be transformed by the loving influence of Christ, here and now. This is as true in politics as in any other aspect of our lives. And among the founders were those who understood and acted on this fact. If we sit about waiting for Christ to return without letting his living presence overflow in us now, we are like the servant who buried the talent he was given, instead of investing and multiplying it.
      As for me, I would rather have lived during the American Revolution or the Civil War than in the days before either. Those events took place as they did because the insight Christ makes possible had matured to the point where the idea that slavery was divinely ordained was questioned in theory and finally rejected (by America’s founders) in principled action. I would rather live in the days when men battle for God’s truth (as many who went to battle singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic truly professed to do), than to mistake for peace the morbid, timid quiet that shuns its light. I guess that’s why even now I try to speak the truth, as much as by God’s Word and will I am allowed, whatever the odds against it.

      • dangrqa November 2, 2012, 4:16 pm

        Alan, you seem to be accusing me of being like the man who hid his talent or the one who hid his the light under a basket. I don’t wish to be either one.

        I think the words that you say, in your article or in reply to me are for the most part true. I was trying to keep you from pedastalizing our Founders, especially in the light of slavery and how the majority of them owned slaves; and, I fully understand how their justification was made to sound even Biblical, when it clearly was not. I remember learning about Jefferson’s Monticello and how he tried so hard to hide his slaves and make it seem like he didn’t own any, a reaction to what must have been his conscience (the Holy Spirit?) which bothered him, I’m sure. I wonder if voters in Jefferson’s time who opposed slavery, wondered whether to vote for him even though he owned slaves, faced perhaps by this same discussion of choosing ‘the lesser of two evils’. When you wrote your reply to me, I was struck by the dichotomy between your language and testimony concerning Christ , to the absence and clarity of that same language in the The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. Oh how I wish you had been there when these documents were written and been a part of their language: to show this great need to ‘have the mind of Christ’, and then to follow Christ, even to the point where we would be willing to sell our possessions (and slaves), and follow Him; perhaps, then, we could have squashed slavery, avoided the Civil war, and kept Barack Obama from stating, ‘this is no longer a Christian nation’. I applaud your tenacity to declare and believe that we can make a difference; one that both Christ accepts and within the framework of the RNC Platform, as presently written.

        • alkeyes November 2, 2012, 5:31 pm


          I think the Declaration was crystal clear. The logic it represents is the basis of everything I say and do with respect to America’s political affairs. As for Jefferson’s guilty conscience, it simply affirms that he regarded slavery as an evil. That doesn’t mean that he could easily overcome habits of mind deeply ingrained in him and in the society in which he lived. Remember, until the Declaration’s logic took hold and proved successful as a basis for government the notion that the master/slave relationship was the foundation of orderly government pretty much prevailed throughout the world. Slavery was not condemned as evil. Even the Scripture is not explicit on this point, though the logical implication of Christ’s gospel of love is that slavery runs counter to the nature of the relationship Christ offers to each individual.

          BTW, Aristotle’s argument for slavery as an aspect of the natural law rests on the interdependence by nature of master and slave. The master by nature has intelligent foresight, which the slave by nature lacks. Without intelligent foresight the slave cannot provide against future needs and eventualities, and so suffers damage and even death. Jefferson was well aware of Aristotle’s view. Even though he ultimately rejected it in principle, he wrestled with the fact that if he simply freed his slaves, in the context of his day, there was no guarantee they could provide for themselves. This was not some racist assumption, but an objective assessment of the factual situation. Even as feelings of love aren’t enough to assure a sound marriage, so feelings of goodwill aren’t enough to assure that an act intended for good will not damage the people its intended to help.

          This is the sort of thinking that had to take place in the days before the view that slavery is evil was as widely taken for granted as it is now. In our times we are not dealing with the effort to end deeply ingrained moral evil. We are dealing with the push to force people to accept as good evils long acknowledged as such. I would have had no trouble voting for Jefferson, who acknowledged and worked to establish the principle that makes clear that slavery is wrong and unjust, and (should therefore be unlawful) even though he owned slaves. I have great trouble voting for someone like Obama or Romney, who says that what is evil in principle (abortion in general, or, for Romney these days, abortion in cases of rape and incest) should be lawful, and in this way tears down and discards the established principle of just law ( respect for God endowed right, including the right to life) on which our liberty depends. Jefferson acted to administer the antidote to the infection of evil. Romney and Obama act to neutralize the antidote so that we again fall prey to the infection.

  • Paul November 2, 2012, 12:24 am

    We Americans have too long and too completely allowed the executive and judicial branches to usurp powers granted to our legislators. Moreover, we who are Christians have no king but Christ and should be highly-critical when our executive impersonates His Laws and His Identity by word, act, or by omission! I choose to vote for a lesser evil not because I condone their agenda but to thwart a greater evil. I am but one man/ one vote. I can do this much. I can try to do more. The battle is the Lord’s and I will not shrink from that which I can do to further His Truths–even in the face of evil on every side.

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