What does liberty mean in the 21st century? Can it be maintained? “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”— do these words have any relevance for a society that has largely forgotten its historical roots?
Consider the plight of the American people. We have become apathetic, even apologetic, of our heritage. We have forgotten that the original intent of the Constitution was to place limits on the government’s ability to intrude into people’s lives. We have bought the devil’s lie that humans can build a utopian heaven on earth through what Bush the Elder called a New World Order.
Perhaps more than any other Founding Father, it was Patrick Henry who tried to warn his compatriots that adopting the U.S. Constitution would eventually lead to a consolidated empire instead of a federated republic, which they had under the Articles of Confederation. If our Founders had foreseen that the Constitution would be used to overthrow liberty and establish despotism, they probably would never have ratified it. The Anti-Federalists, like Patrick Henry, were distrustful of a central government that was built at the price of liberty. That’s why they insisted on the Bill of Rights — to stay the hand of tyranny for as long as possible.
We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty … but now the American spirit assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire; if you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together; such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism.
Years later, Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America, said,
The great vital question now is: shall the federal government be arrested in its progress and be brought back to original principles, or shall it be permitted to go on in its present tendencies and rapid strides until it reaches complete consolidation?
The events of September 11, 2001 were tragic, but hardly provide justification to abandon our Constitution or deploy the military to every corner of the globe. The security of the United States is not enhanced by perpetual intervention and permanent war. The Presidency is meant to lead the country, not to transform the nation into an empire. …
President Bush has overseen an expansion of the federal government, that no Democratic administration could accomplish. His use of executive orders has only increased the scope and reach of central authority. Resonantly absent are any efforts to enact fundamental conservative policies, or to reverse past policies of liberal administrations. Appointments and procedures all reinforce and expand a dominant role of bureaucratic agencies over local jurisdictions. The defense of liberty has been forsaken and is the ultimate causality of the Bush legacy.
In the end, Patrick Henry and the Anti-Federalists were right: people are far too trusting of government. Henry realized what few of us are willing to admit any longer — that men are basically evil, intrinsically power-hungry, and inherently incapable of being anything but tyrants in their feeble attempts to play God.