Empire of Reason Commentary No. 8

To:  The People of the United States, May 6, 2021

Revolution Needs to be Perpetual

For Revolution to succeed it needs to be perpetual . . . Mark Albertson

* * * * *

In a letter to Samuel Kircheval, July 12, 1816, Thomas Jefferson expressed his learned concerns on how the masses viewed constitutions.  Stating, “some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.  They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.  I know the age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it.  It deserved well of its country.  It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead.”[1]

To continue with Jefferson’s letter to Samuel Kircheval, “I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects.  But I also know this that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.  As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”[2]

The historical obligation to corroborate said changes is further explained by the Virginian, “Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before.  It has, then, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the Constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure.”[3]

The perpetual nature of Jefferson’s notion of the Constitution as a living and breathing document is based upon the premise that the present belongs to the living, and not the dead.  “The dead?  But the dead have no rights.  They are nothing; and nothing cannot own something.  Where there is no substance, there can be no accident.  This corporeal globe, and everything upon it, belong to its present corporeal inhabitants, during their generation.”[4]

The considered author of “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” is admitting to, without overtly testifying to same, that the Framers made a mistake, by not including in the blueprint for government, the People’s obligation to acclimate the document to the present generation, every generation.  This, of course, had to be done.  For most of the masses would not figure this out.  Leading, of course, to proving what many of the Framers already knew, that the Common Man’s ability to run a country was certainly suspect and to be viewed with the utmost degree of incredulity.  Yet at the same time, the Founders, too, did not include the provision in question.

Then there is the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who, in his inaugural address of March 4, 1861, expressed the perpetuity of the American Nation, on the eve of violent disunion.  “I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. . . . Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever—if being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provided for in the document itself . . . the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself.  The Union is much older than the Constitution.  It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774.  It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778.  And finally in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was to form a more perfect union.”[5]

But the ideals inherent in the American blueprint for government that are to render the Constitution as a living and breathing document, is to consign the Revolution to perpetuity.  In other words, the American Revolution was meant to be perpetual.  Such was possible with every generation showing their regard for the efforts of the most Dynamic Generation in the Nation’s history and budgeting the required time to acclimate the Constitution to the realities of the present circumstances, whenever, of course, that is.

But this was never done.  Sure, amendments have been applied along the way.  But a generational acclimation?  Never.  And since the Republic is truly gone at the behest of an apathetic, and indeed, benighted public, the corporate purchasers of this majestic landmass would never indulge such an effort in political authenticity unless it was for their own designs.  For instance, critics of Republican-controlled state marginalization of those considered lesser breeds from active participation in elections, need to grasp the concept that if voting truly worked, it would have been outlawed by now.

Of course the dominate question within the context of this literary effort is . . . is the Common Man capable or, if he is, does he and she contain the required amount of desire to meet the challenge Jefferson had laid before the future generations to insure the survival of legitimate Republican government (not to be confused with that ridiculously ignoble political amalgamation that calls itself the Republican Party).

History is forthright, undeniably straight forward, supremely unchallenged in its court of reality that has passed an unapproachable judgment on this upright, thinking product of Evolution, to which, that is, is this émigré from the primordial ooze actually capable; or if capable, up to the obligation of assuring a functioning system of representative government, to which the court of history has rendered its verdict and, that verdict is final . . .    Quite simply, No!  Something to which the Founders understood to be absolutely correct, as correct as Ben Franklin has been proven to be, when petitioned for an opinion at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, September 17, 1787:

          “MR. PRESIDENT:  I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them; for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.  It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.  Most men indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think of themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error.  Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication tells the Pope that the only difference between our churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible, and the Church of England is never wrong.  But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady who in a dispute with her sister, said:  ‘I don’t know how it happens, Sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right’—Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.

          “In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults if they are such; because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing, to the people if well administered; and I believe farther that this likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.[6]

Endnotes

[1]  See page 750, “To Samuel Kircheval, Monticello, July 12, 1816,” Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Edited by Philip S. Foner, Ph.D. 

Jefferson is highlighting that seeming human penchant to recall the past with a hopeless regard of those divorced from same.  World War II breeds such a mindset.  The so-called Good War, to which Americans collected themselves in a Nation-wide community scene for a single goal . . . Win the War.  Then, and only then, could those American citizens go back to their lives. 

          Some Americans today hold the Greatest Generation in an esteem rarely accorded any other generation of Americans.  A generation from which they are divorced by the passage of history; while at the same time, have allowed that national community scene to wither and fray until it, by comparison, no longer exists.

[2]  See page 750, Foner.  Jefferson is alluding to the fact that Man does not standstill.  New inventions, new technologies, resources discovered, more people, more wants, needs and desires. . .  Institutions, and the trappings of same, need to be assessed in the light of stated changes as well as alterations not rostered, to acclimate said institutions and their accoutrements to the new realities taking root in society.

[3]  See page 751, Foner.  The perpetual nature of the Constitution and the precepts contained therein, is fostered by Jefferson.  A design that is to be carried forth by the People themselves, generation in, generation out.

[4]  See page 751, Foner.

[5]  See pages 55 and 56, “First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861,” Abraham Lincoln, Great Speeches, Editor, Stanley Applebaum.

[6]  See pages 681 and 682, “Last Speech,” Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiographical Writings, Edited by Carl Van Doren.

         Indeed, the sage of the Revolutionary Generation was bolstered years hence by Daniel Webster, who observed:  “There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow . . . Our destruction should it come at all, will be from another quarter.  From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.  I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct, that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their undoing.”  See “Notable Quotes that Denote the Theme of This Work,” On History:  A Treatise, by Mark Albertson.    

Bibliography

Albertson, Mark On History:  A Treatise, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, Mustang, Oklahoma, 2009.

Applebaum, Stanley, Editor, Abraham Lincoln, Great Speeches, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, NY., 1991.

Doren, Carl van, Editor, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiographical Writings, The Viking Press, New York, 1945.

Foner, Philip, S., Ph.D., Editor, Basic Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Halcyon House, Garden City, NY., 1950.

Posted in

Mark Albertson

Leave a Comment





Categories

Subscribe!