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Liberty Lost: From the Beginning
Liberty Lost from the beginning of the implementation of the Constitution of 1787. Now I am hearing the outcries of all those modern stalwarts of the US Constitution, “Tom, How Dare you say Liberty Lost from the beginning when the Constitution is the securer of our Liberty?”
I can only make the statement of Liberty Lost based on the comments and testimony of someone who was at the Convention of 1787. Our guest for this program is a forgotten soul. He is an uncelebrated war hero, a political leader and a person of great means and ability. He makes this comment in one of his early commentaries on the Constitution which he was able to debate in person:
“Where the people are free there can be no great contrast or distinction among honest citizens in or out of office. In proportion as the people lose their freedom, every gradation of distinction, between the Governors and governed obtains, until the former become masters, and the latter become slaves. In all governments virtue will command reverence.”
On this program, I will introduce and discuss aspects of an Anti-federalist who for all intents and stature should have been a Federalist. Yet, John Francis Mercer stood with the few who were at the Convention of 1787 and realized that the flaws in this document would be used in the future to inhibit or destroy Liberty of the individual Citizen and the States.
Lost Liberty a factor of Citizens ineptness to want it
John Francis Mercer give a similar commentary to that of Samuel Adams in respect to Citizens who do not understand true Liberty and are willing to give it up so that someone else will govern them. It is a matter of Self-governance that is very lost in our 20th and now 21st century America. Mercer noted it this way:
“That the people are not at present disposed for, and are actually incapable of, governments of simplicity and equal rights, I can no longer doubt. But whose fault is it? We make them bad, by bad governments, and then abuse and despise them for being so. Our people are capable of being made anything that human nature was or is capable of, if we would only have a little patience and give them good and wholesome institutions; but I see none such and very little prospect of such. Alas! I see nothing in my fellow-citizens, that will permit my still fostering the delusion, that they are now capable of sustaining the weight of SELF-GOVERNMENT: a burden to which Greek and Roman shoulders proved unequal. The honor of supporting the dignity of the human character, seems reserved to the hardy Helvetians alone. If the body of the people will not govern themselves, and govern themselves well too, the consequence is unavoidable—a FEW will, and must govern them. Then it is that government becomes truly a government by force only, where men relinquish part of their natural rights to secure the rest, instead of an union of will and force, to protect all their natural rights, which ought to be the foundation of every rightful social compact.”
Our institutions, which includes the churches, have failed to be wholesome and therefore we are left to the ideologies of master and slave, big government and subject, totalitarianism and subjugation.
Liberty Lost is no protection from Civil War
Mercer goes on to discuss that Liberty Lost is compounded in that ultimately the Constitution of 1787 does not give protection from a Civil War. As we have experienced, the 1800’s produced one. In many effects the 1960’s produced another with the rise of socialism and communism that became the ‘cultural revolution.’ And now, we are standing at the edge of the cliff of a full Marxist revolution in this present election cycle.
In regard to this Mercer has two points:
1st “Whether national government will be productive of internal peace, is too uncertain to admit of decided opinion. I only hazard a conjecture when I say, that our state disputes, in a confederacy, would be disputes of levity and passion, which would subside before injury. The people being free, government having no right to them, but they to government, they would separate and divide as interest or inclination prompted—as they do at this day, and always have done, in Switzerland. In a national government, unless cautiously and fortunately administered, the disputes will be the deep-rooted differences of interest, where part of the empire must be injured by the operation of general law; and then should the sword of government be once drawn (which Heaven avert) I fear it will not be sheathed, until we have waded through that series of desolation, which France, Spain, and the other great kingdoms of the world have suffered, in order to bring so many separate States into uniformity, of government and law; in which event the legislative power can only be entrusted to one man (as it is with them) who can have no local attachments, partial interests, or private views to gratify.”
2nd in respect to foreign and internal avarice influence, “As to any nation attacking a number of confederated independent republics … it is not to be expected, more especially as the wealth of the empire is there universally diffused, and will not be collected into any one overgrown, luxurious and effeminate capital to become a lure to the enterprizing ambitious. That extensive empire is a misfortune to be deprecated, will not now be disputed. The balance of power has long engaged the attention of all the European world, in order to avoid the horrid evils of a general government. The same government pervading a vast extent of territory, terrifies the minds of individuals into meanness and submission. All human authority, however organized, must have confined limits, or insolence and oppression will prove the offspring of its grandeur, and the difficulty or rather impossibility of escape prevents resistance. Gibbon relates that some Roman Knights who had offended government in Rome were taken up in Asia, in a very few days after. It was the extensive territory of the Roman republic that produced a Sylla, a Marius, a Caligula, a Nero, and an Elagabalus. In small independent States contiguous to each other, the people run away and leave despotism to reek its vengeance on itself; and thus it is that moderation becomes with them, the law of self-preservation. These and such reasons founded on the eternal and immutable nature of things have long caused and will continue to cause much difference of sentiment throughout our wide extensive territories. From our divided and dispersed situation, and from the natural moderation of the American character, it has hitherto proved a warfare of argument and reason.”
The reality that we no longer fully function within the context of ‘federalism’ and true ‘republicanism’ set the stage for those cautions of Mercer that has and is forcing Liberty Lost.
Sam Adams Wisdom
We will defer to John Francis Mercer as he wrote as ‘A Maryland Farmer’ on March 25, 1788.
“I have been long since firmly persuaded, that there are no hidden sources of moral agency beyond the reach of investigation.—The all-wise and all-bountiful Author of Nature, could never have created human reason unequal to the happy regulation of human conduct.—The errors and misfortunes of mankind spring from obvious sources. Religious and political prejudices, formed by education, strengthened by habit, maintained by interest, and consecrated by fear, are forever arming the passions against the judgment. —The celebrated Blaise Pascal (the powers of whose understanding were rather miraculous than surprizing) closed his painful researches after religious truth, with this dogma, as pernicious as untrue,—”That a religion purely spiritual, was never intended for mankind.” There could be no judgment more unbiassed, for there was no mind so strong, no heart more pure; but bred in the bosom of the church, even her idolatry impressed him with veneration and awe. Notwithstanding his conclusion, the doctrines of Calvin maintain their ground in their primitive simplicity, divested of the aid of ceremony and form. The thunders of the Vatican, which for ages deluged Europe with blood, have dissipated their force, and reason has resumed her spiritual empire. Would to God, that the history of temporal despotism had terminated as favourably for the happiness of mankind!—In the political world, the chains of civil power, upheld by the numerous links of private interest, have proved more equal and permanent in their effects; they have, and I fear forever must, shackle the human understanding; and it is much to be questioned whether the full and free political opinion of any one great luminary of science, has been fairly disclosed to the world—Even when the great and amiable Montesquieu had hazarded a panegyric on the English constitution, he shrinks back with terror into this degrading apostrophe— “Think not that I mean to undervalue other governments—I who think an excess of liberty[,] an excess of all things, even of reason itself, a misfortune, and that the happiness of mankind is only to be found in a medium between two extremes.”—The author of the Persian letters, at that moment recollected the afflicting presure he had felt from the hand of Gallic government, and his pen trembled as he wrote.
Is it then possible that governments of simplicity and equal right, can have been fairly dealt by in theory or practice? The votaries of tyranny and usurpation, stand not alone—in bitter opposition; every man of enterprize, of superior talents and fortune, is interested to debase them; their banners have ever been deserted because they never can pay their troops. —The most amiable and sensible of mankind seem to have made a stand in favour of a mixed government founded on the permanent orders and objects of men.—Thither I suspect the American government is now tending. If it must be so—Let it go gently then—with slow and equal steps. —Let each gradation and experiment have a full and fair trial—Let there be no effect without a good, apparent and well considered cause— Let us live all the days of our lives, and as happily as circumstances will permit.—Finally, let moderation be our guide and the influence of manners will conduct us (I hope without injury) to some permanent, fixed establishment, where we may repose a while, unagitated by alteration or revolution—For in sudden and violent changes, how many of the most worthy of our fellow-citizens must get their bones crushed?”
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1. John Francis Mercer of Stafford County: A Neglected Patriot, by Jeffrey Garth Edmunds, August 14, 2018
2. Anti-Federalist Papers: A [Maryland] Farmer, Updated February 28, 2017
3. New Constitution Creates a National Government, Will not Abate Foreign Influence, Dangers of Civil War and Despotism
5. On the Preservation of Parties
7. Summary of an Essay by a [Maryland] Farmer No. 5 (1788), John Francis Mercer (Likely), from University of Texas Library