The vocal firebrand of the American Revolution was my favorite founding father, Patrick Henry, known for his famous declaration to either “…give me liberty or give me death,” spoken at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, on the heels of the American Revolution. He foresaw profound weaknesses in the distribution of power among the three branches of our government. Like a prophet, he realized the Supreme Court was given too much power. In his day there was no fallout from the poor decisions made at the inception of our new government, since our populace was truly of one accord, and our nation was well over 98% Protestant Christian. Christian justices could be trusted to submit to the will of the people. Today is obviously a different story. Patrick Henry exposes the flaws in the distribution of power in the three branches of government, especially the judicial system, in the third paragraph from the end. This is an excellent publication from a spiritual and Christian man with insight and foresight:
| Volume Two * Number Four, * Fourth Quarter, * 1999 AD
Many in Christian/Confederate, and patriotic circles talk with fondness about our founding fathers. We hear them speak of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc. Yet there is one among this company that is seldom mentioned, even though he was among the most discerning and able of them all –Patrick Henry. About all most patriotic people seem to knowabout Henry is a passing reference to his “liberty or death” speech in St. John’s Church. American historians today, both left and right, for some obvious reasons, are not really anxious to give Mr. Henry too much coverage.
According to Patrick Henry’s grandson, Henry, in his youth, was taught “…that robust system of theology known as Calvinism and which has furnished to the world so many of her greatest characters.” Looking at Henry’s life and his unceasing quest for liberty, one can have little doubt that he was strongly influenced by the great biblical thruths reaffirmed in the Protestant Reformation. As a young lawyer Henry argued strongly for religious liberty in Virginia for Presbyterians and Baptists who did not wish to be under the binding restrictions of the Church of England.
A reading of the life story of Patrick Henry several years ago showed me what a truly remarkable man he was. I learned much about him I’d never known before. For instance, how many of us in our day realize that when the federal Constitution was presented for ratification in Virginia that one of its strongest opponents was Patrick Henry? Other well-known men lilke George Mason and Richard Henry Lee opposed ratification, but Henry’s opposition was most forceful and eloquent.
To many, questioning the Constitution was, and is, tantamount to treason. Yet, would any of these people dare to call Patrick Henry a traitor? Sad to say, the Constitution has, for many, come to be kind of a secular replacement for the Bible, or possibly an extension of it as some would allege.
We’ve heard a lot about the constitution over the years, much of it favorable, depending on who you talk to. Yet many today do not perceive the issue of the Constitution as Patrick Henry did.
To Henry it was a clear cut issue of a strong federalism, or centralism, as opposed to a loose confederation of state governments where the rightsof the states would be the rule.
In his speeches opposing ratification Henry noted that the delegates who went to Philadeplphia had overstepped their bounds, in that they had not been sent there to create a central government, but rather merely to amend the Articles of Confederation. Henry observed that “The object of their mission extended to no other consideration.” Henry warned Virgina delegates that they were not to consider how they could increase trade or how they could become a great nation, but rather how their liberty could be secured, and he stated “…for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.” Sounds like Henry could be talking to many of our politicians today, and it seems apparent that some of their ilk were also present in his day.
Many things about the new constitution bothered Henry. He was distrubed by the fact that the new federal government would control the militia and the new president would be its commander in chief. Henry felt that federal control of the militia robbed the states of the right to defend themselves. He perceived that federal power overshadowed states rights, and, as time has shown,his concerns were justified. They were justified not only by such subsequent actions as the sending of federal troops into Pennsylvania during the “Whiskey Rebellion” but also by the sending of federal troops into Mississippi almost 200 years later to enforce a federal policy of integration. Fedral troops could be used in Mississippi because the precedent for it had been established in Article 2, section 2 of the Constitution. Think about that for awhile.
Article 1, section 8 bothered Henry, in that it gave Congress the power to tax.
Article 2, section 2 also gives the President the right to make treaties if two thirds of the Senate present concurs. According to Henry “they may make themost ruinous treaties, and yet there is no punishment for them.” Again Mr Henry was on target. In recent years we’ve had the Panama Canal treat, the Genocide treaty, and others. If one is tempted to ask if Mr. Henry’s concerns were justified, all he has to do is look at recent history and answer that for himself. Some have noted that what Patrick Henry forsaw with ratification of the Constitution has come to pass.
Henry also feared that the checks and balances system in the Constituion would prove inadequate, and so it has. He feared the unlimited power of judicial intervention and judicial usurpation. We might ask, did not these abuses begin with the Judiciary Act of 1789, which was made the basis for the federal court system? This permits the Supreme Court to overturn state court decisions and acts of legislatures as well as changing federal laws. Is it because of this that muchy of the country, both North and South, suffered with forced busing for so many years? Henry feared a Supreme court that, if left unchecked, would raise itself into the position of a judicial tyrant. Honestly, folks, can we honestly look at what we have today and say this hasn’t happened? Look at Roe Vs Wade. Now the “Supremem Court” has taken it upon itself to decide when life begins. I always thought that prerogative belonged to the Almighty, but apparently, in 1973, that court decided it was the almightly. (It would have been ibnteresting to watch the Supreme Court and Honest Abe fight over which of them was really god)
In 1791 we got the first ten amendments to the Constitution, our Bill of Rights (mostly ignored today). Patrick Henry and others wanted more amendments, at least nineteen, according to some sources, but they only got half a loaf, so to speak.
Having read part of Henry’s speeches opposing ratification in Virginia, I can only say there’s a lot more meat there than I can cover here. I would urge all concerned to read more about the life of Patrick Henry and about his opposition to the Constitution. And, in closing, I would also urge all concerned to read the constitution of theConfederate States of America, which I consider to be a superior document to the one we supposedly operate under now.
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