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The Corrupt Bargain July 29, 2011

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In American History slogans, catch phrases, and grand titles have often come to serve as signposts marking out eras and pointing the way to popular notions of what passes for an understanding of the national mood or circumstance in a particular period of time.  Examples include: “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute!” a slogan which spurred us on to our first undeclared war against the Barbary Pirates.  “Remember the Maine!” a slogan used by the newspapers at the end of the nineteenth century to gin up support for a war against Spain, and a war which launched the United States as a colonial power.  “The Square Deal,” the “New Deal,” the “Fair Deal,” and the “Great Society” all designate government programs aimed at the redistribution of wealth, and of course “Camelot” immediately brings forth visions of the youthful, inspiring, inept, and immoral Kennedy years.

In an effort to advance the cause of verbal economy by recycling a catch phrase from the past, I propose that we label House Speaker John Boehner’s proposed plan for raising the debt limit as “The Corrupt Bargain.”

Looking back the original Corrupt Bargain refers to the compromise which defeated a hero, elected a president, and ultimately led to that president’s defeat.

In 1824, as today, America’s political system was under unbearable stress.  There were two major political parties; the Federalists who were the political descendants of Hamilton and the centralized government party and the Democratic-Republicans who were the political heirs of Jefferson and the Anti-Federalists.

During the election of 1824 the Federalists collapsed as a party while there were five major candidates and scores of minor ones running as Democratic-Republicans.  The candidate officially backed by the Democratic-Republican Party was William H. Crawford, the Secretary of the Treasury under President Monroe.  He had been chosen by the Democratic-Republican Caucus in Congress and had little popular support.

The confusing outcome of this election showed the growing power of an electorate fast outgrowing the original restrictive voting practices of the Federalist era and beginning to display the impact of mass appeal campaigning.  Andrew Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans came out on top with Ninety-nine electoral votes and 43% of the popular vote.  John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president and Monroe’ secretary of state, won eighty-four electoral votes and 30% of the popular vote.  Crawford won forty-one electoral votes.  Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House came in fourth with thirty seven electoral votes.  Since no one had enough electoral votes to win, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives.  They had to choose between the top three candidates, which immediately disqualified Clay, and since Crawford had very little popular support it was immediately seen as a contest between Jackson and Adams.

In this situation Clay, as Speaker of the House, held the commanding position.  He held similar views in most areas to Adams and had actually split that wing of the party siphoning off enough votes to deny Adams a win.  However, Clay was an outspoken opponent of Jackson ,and after more than a month of bargaining he threw his support behind Adams securing his election as the sixth president.  Adams then appointed Clay as his Secretary of State a post that had been the stepping-stone to office for the four previous presidents.

While this politically expedient arrangement worked well for the election it did not work out so well for the administration or for the future of either Adams or Clay.  The supporters of Jackson branded it as the “Corrupt Bargain” and used it to immediately launch the bitter 1828 presidential campaign.  The Jackson Democrats pointed to the Adams-Clay bargain as the symbol of a corrupt system wherein Washington elites disregarded the will and interests of the people to pursue their own ends.

All of which brings us to Speaker Boehner and his various plans, trial balloons, and phone interviews he is presenting to the nation as a means of raising the debt limit.  And make no mistake about it that is his goal.  He is a career politician and a quintessential Washington insider.  He and the other leaders of the Republican Congressional Caucus are as attuned to the voice of their constituents as the Democratic-Republican Caucus was in 1824.  The grassroots Tea Party which swept the 2010 elections and which made him Speaker clearly want an end to yearly deficits and to an ever-increasing debt.  Yet every plan the perpetually-re-elected Republicans present including Paul Ryan’s, merely cuts the present deficit and slows the growth of the debt, but they do not end the deficit spending or reduce the debt.  In other words they propose to drive us to the poor-house a little slower than their Democrat opponents.

These same neo-conservative progressives caved during the lame duck session after the paradigm shifting election of 2010 breathing life into the freshly hobbled Obama Administration by agreeing to a stealth stimulus in return for an extension of all the Bush tax cuts.  They caved during the series of continuing resolution battles allowing more spending in exchange for cuts in discontinued programs and layoffs of none-existent federal workers.  They have either colluded or have been out-maneuvered by an administration determined to fundamentally transform America.

Now they stand with the strongest card conservatives have held since the Clinton impeachment debacle.  A card dealt by the hard work and strategies of the Tea Party.  This card is the ability of the House to just say no to any more deficit spending.  By refusing to pass a bill to raise the debt limit the House can stop our slide into the financial abyss.  When a shopaholic has maxed out all their credit cards and reached the limit of their available lines of credit the answer is not to give them a higher limit or new cards.

Yes, the alternative will be tough but we have spent our way into this corner and we have to work and save our way out.  Since neither party seems willing to drain the swamp it is time to flood the swamp with calls, letters, and visits.  Demand that our representatives represent us and not themselves or their fellow insiders.  Stop the deficits!  Pay down the debt! And don’t make a Corrupt Bargain that will lead us and our posterity further down the road to serfdom.  Don’t sacrifice the future for the expediency of the present.  Don’t mortgage the innocent lives of the unborn for the fleeting luxury of a self-indulgent present or we will all endure a shabby future in a second-rate Chinese financial dependency that was once the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

Lemmings the Cliff and 2012 July 22, 2011

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We all think we are invincible.  We all think we will have another day.  Then one day there isn’t another day and our day is done.  Empires rise and empires fall and everyone always thinks, “We’ll make it through this. We always have” then one time you don’t.  No one gets to live in the world they grew up in, because the only thing that never changes is that everything changes.

Though we won the race to the Moon, though we pioneered and financed the International Space Station we have witnessed the end of America’s manned space program, but not because of some grand explosion or tragedy.  Past administrations faced these and soldiered on to boldly go where no man has gone before.  It was not because of a lack of vision; our planners wanted to send Americans to Mars and beyond.  It wasn’t because of a lack of talent, or technical know-how.  No the end of America’s manned space program has arrived because America is in the grip of an administration focused on managing the decline of America even if they have to make the decline happen themselves.

Look at the economy.  Though Nixon famously quipped, “We’re all Keynesians now” Milton Friedman and the neo-classical economics of the Chicago School proved we can’t spend our way to prosperity. We can’t borrow our way to solvency, yet this administration has racked up the largest debt of any administration in History in less than three years.  Their first 800 billion dollar stimulus was such a failure even Mr. Obama can’t keep a straight face when talking about the supposed shovel ready jobs.  And what is this administration’s answer to the continuation of the Great Recession?  The President wants more spending and more debt, a policy which ensures the continued degradation of America’s economic position in the world.  From the undisputed leader of the world this administration is fundamentally transforming America into an economic dependency on China.

Ever since the early 1980s and the Laffer Curve provided the facts to prove what many economists had long known: within certain perimeters reducing taxes generates more revenue than raising them.  Economists generally agree that raising taxes slows growth and reduces revenue especially during a recession.  Yet in the current debt ceiling EMERGENCY!!!#*%!!! what does the Obama Administration propose?  They want to raise taxes.  And how do they seek to achieve this masterstroke?  By the most blatant application of class warfare rhetoric since Lenin climbed on a barricade in 1917.

If the President is to be believed, it is the tax credits given to the purchasers and operators of private jets that are one of the three causes of our current economic anemia.  Conveniently it is forgotten by the President and by the Corporations Once Known as the Mainstream Media, who parrot his every word, that it was his own stimulus bill which created these tax credits to begin with.  The second cause according to the President’s teleprompter is tax breaks given to millionaires and billionaires.  By millionaires and billionaires he means everyone earning more than the level needed to qualify for food stamps and Medicaid.  And last but not least are the billions of dollars in subsidies given to Oil Companies.  Of course these aren’t really subsidies they are tax credits extended to domestic companies for the exploration and development of new oil resources, and since at the same time the President and his party will not allow anyone to develop any resources they don’t amount to much.  Never mentioned is the Democrats’ pet corporation such as GE, which pays no federal taxes at all.

That’s the economic plan: attack the private jet industry, tax the rich (anyone not on welfare), and penalize anyone attempting to actually solve America’s dependence on countries that hate us for our energy.  That won’t lead us on the road back to prosperity or maybe that isn’t the destination our leaders have chosen.  Remember don’t discount ulterior motives when the mistakes are so great stupidity seems like the only other answer.

Geo-politically, the endless wars for peace grind on even though everyone knows the moment we leave Iraq they will ally themselves with Iran and the moment we leave Afghanistan the Taliban will march into Kabul as Karsai, his crew, and our billions will take off for Geneva.  Just as the President’s best seller, The Dreams of My Father resembles the nightmares of others his Arab Spring looks more like the prelude to a twenty-first century Kristallnacht or the Middle East version of the March on Rome.  Any but the blind can see that the pro-Western dictators overthrown are being replaced by pro Al-Qaeda Muslim Brotherhood clones.  And after less than three years of the Obama drama America now leads from behind and cannot muster the wherewithal to defeat a tin pot dictator hated by his own people with a rag-tag army of mercenaries and children.

With a dismal record of retrenchment and failure such as this how can President Obama possibly win re-election?

His only chance is the Clinton formula.  There has to be a viable third party candidate or the Republicans could resurrect Herbert Hoover and win in a landslide.

However, we can’t ignore the Lemming Effect.  The political lemmings are those Americans who proudly ignore politics and economics, who get there news from John Stewart, Jay Leno or the major networks, this who vote for the same party their parents did just because that is what they do,  in other words, Democrats.  They will vote for the President even if they can’t stand anything he’s done and disagree with everything he says.  After all he has a “D” after his name.  Or as Lenin said, “The capitalists will sell us the rope we use to hang them.”  With these millions of lemmings heading for the cliff Mr. Obama has a solid third of the electorate but with his record of failure and surrender that won’t be enough to win.

Luckily for the President and the Progressives the Republican leadership in Congress is dedicated to compromise when they should stand their ground and are experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  In the coming months they will vote to raise the debt ceiling and alienate the majority of the Tea Party who could be the salvation of the Party of Reagan.  Then they will nominate a lackluster, “It’s my turn” candidate and POOF there will be a third party candidate strong enough to ensure four more years of humiliation and defeat.

The Space Race is over, we won, but now we have capitulated.  The Cold War is over, we won, but we squandered the opportunity to create a world of freedom to pursue wars without end.  The greatest creditor in the world is now the greatest debtor.  The greatest manufacturer is now the greatest importer of manufactured goods.  Twenty-three years of Progressive presidents combined with a big-government, big-spending Congress has led us to the brink of the abyss.  Our current debt levels are unsustainable and unless we act quickly the momentum of decline may become irreversible and irresistible

However, we are the American people, we can stop this.  We can throw the rascals out, reverse course and rebuild the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We can do it.  We must do it.  Or, it won’t get done.

How do we do it?

We can’t let divisions divide us anymore. We must unite behind the strongest conservative and work together or we will all watch our beloved country swirl down the drain of History separately.  Just as the Democrats and independents took control of the Republican primaries in 2008 to nominate the Progressive McCain the conservative majority must take control in 2012 to ensure that a viable conservative is nominated.  Otherwise the leaders of the Republican re-election machine will nominate an Obama-lite and the lights may go out on the greatest experiment in freedom ever devised.  Keep the faith.  Keep the peace.  We shall overcome.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

The Ratification Debate Part Three July 17, 2011

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Concluding my three part series in celebration of our nation’s 235th Birthday, we will look at arguments advanced by both sides.  Last week we ended with the question, who were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists and why does it matter to us today?  This week we will learn the answers to the questions.  Who was debating?  What did they have to say?  Who won?  And, why does it matter to us today?

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a collection of eighty five essays published in New York newspapers.  They outline how the government, as proposed in the Constitution, would operate and why this highly centralized type of government was the best for the United States of America. All of the essays were signed by “PUBLIUS.” To this day there is some dispute as to who authored some of the articles.  However, after much study the consensus is generally believed that Alexander Hamilton wrote fifty two, James Madison wrote twenty eight, and John Jay wrote five.

Just as in every state, the debate over the ratification of the Constitution was intensely followed by the public in New York. Immediately after the conclusion of the Convention, the Constitution came under intense criticism in many New York newspapers. Echoing the sentiments of several of the prominent men who had been delegates to the Convention some contributors to the newspapers said the Constitution diluted the rights Americans had fought for and won in the recent Revolutionary War.

As one of the leading designers and loudest proponents of the Constitution Alexander Hamilton worried that the document might fail to be ratified in his home state of New York.   Therefore, Hamilton, a well trained and well spoken lawyer, decided to write a series of essays refuting the critics and pointing out how the new Constitution would in fact benefit Americans.  In the Convention Hamilton had been the only New York delegate to sign the Constitution after the other New Yorkers walked out of the Convention, because they felt the document being crafted was injurious to the rights of the people.

Hamilton was in favor of a strong central government having proposed to the Convention a president elected for life that had the power to appoint state governors. Although these autocratic ideas were thankfully left out of the finished document Hamilton knew that the Constitution, as written, was much closer to the kind of government he wanted than the one which then existed under the Articles of Confederation..

Hamilton’s first essay was published October 27, 1787 in the New York Independent Journal signed by “Publius.” At that time the use of pen names was a common practice. Hamilton then recruited James Madison and John Jay to contribute essays that also used the pen name “Publius.”

James Madison, as a delegate from Virginia, took an active role participating as one of the main actors in the debates during the Convention.  In addition he also kept the most detailed set of notes and personally drafted much of the Constitution.

John Jay of New York had not attended the Convention.  He was a well known judge and diplomat.  He was in fact a member of the government under the Articles currently serving as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

“Publius” wrote All eighty five essays that were written and published between October 1787 and August 1788, in newspapers of the state of New York.  But their popularity, readership, and impact were not limited to New York. They were in such great demand that they were soon published in a two volume set.

The Federalist essays, also known as the Federalist Papers, have served two distinct purposes in American history.  Primarily the essays helped persuade the delegates to the New York Ratification Convention to vote for the Constitution.  In later years, The Federalist Papers have helped scholars and other interested people understand what the writers and original supporters of the Constitution sought to establish when they initially drafted and campaigned for ratification.

Knowing that the Federalist Papers were written by such luminaries as Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; James Madison, the fourth President of the United States; and John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the question asked is, who were these Anti-Federalists who dared speak against the founding of the greatest nation that has ever existed:  Some fringe people who didn’t want the blessing of truth, justice, and the American way?!

The Anti-Federalist Papers

The list of Anti-Federalist leaders included: George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and even though he was not in the country at the time, Thomas Jefferson.

There is one major difference between the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers: the former are compact and relatively unified the latter are not really a single series of articles written by a united group with a single purpose as the Federalist Papers were. Instead there were many different authors and they were published all over the country in pamphlets and flyers as well as in newspapers.  Among the many the most important are: John DeWitt- Essays I-III, The Federal Farmer- Letters I and II, Brutus Essays I-XVI, Cato, Letters V and VII.

The first of the Anti-federalist essays was published on October 5, 1787 in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer.  This was followed by many more published throughout the country which charged that any new government formed under the auspices of the Constitution would:

  • Be injurious to the people because it lacked of a bill of rights.
  • Discriminate against the South with regard to navigation legislation.
  • Give the central government the power to levy direct taxation.
  • Lead to the loss of state sovereignty.
  • Represent aristocratic politicians bent on promoting the interests of their own class

The Federalists had the momentum from the beginning.  They were wise enough to appropriate the name Federalist, since federalism was a popular and well understood concept among the general public even though their position was the opposite of what the name implied.  They also had the support of most of the major newspapers and a majority of the leading men of wealth if not of all the original revolutionary patriots.  They also used a tactic of trying to rush the process as much as possible calling for conventions and votes with all dispatch.  And in the end these tactics combined with the great persuasion of the Federalist Letters and the prestige of General Washington carried the day. The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788.

Although the anti-Federalists lost their struggle against the ratification of the Constitution their spirited defense of individual rights, personal liberty, and their deep-rooted suspicion of a central governmental power became and remain at the core American political values.  Their insistence upon the absolute necessity of the promise of enumerated rights as a prerequisite for ratification established the Bill of Rights as the lasting memorial to their work.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

The Ratification Debate Part Two July 8, 2011

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Picking up where I left off in my review of the ratification debate I want to address the question I raised at the end of last week’s essay,What was the problem?”

If the government as established under the Articles had so many successes how did it end up being replaced by the government as established under the Constitution?

There were some perceived and actual weaknesses of the government as established under the Articles of Confederation:

  • The national government was too weak as compared to the State governments.
  • There was only a unicameral legislature and thus there was not a separate executive department to carry out and enforce the acts of Congress.
  •  There was no national court system to interpret the meaning of the laws passed by Congress leaving them open to differing interpretations.
  • .Congress didn’t have the power to levy taxes. It was instead dependent on State donations, which were levied on the basis of the value of land within the various states.
  • Congress did not have the exclusive right to coin money. Each state retained the right to coin money.  Without a uniform monetary system the coins of one state might not be accepted in another, hampering commerce.
  • There was no mechanism to adjudicate disputes between the states.
  • The Individual States were not precluded from having their own foreign policies including the right to make treaties.
  • Each State had one vote in Congress with no respect to size or population.
  • It required nine out of the thirteen states to approve the passage of major laws, approve treaties, or declare war.
  • The amendment process was cumbersome requiring a unanimous vote.

Some of these weaknesses caused actual problems during the Articles short tenure, and some were merely perceived as possible sources of problems in the future.

So how did we get from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution?

It was commerce that proved to be the catalyst for the transition between the Articles and the Constitution.

Disputes concerning navigation on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia led the calling of a conference between five states at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1786.  Alexander Hamilton was one of the delegates.  He successfully convinced the delegates that these issues of commerce were too intertwined with primarily economic and political concerns to be properly addressed by representatives of only five states.  Instead he proposed that all of the states send representatives to a Federal Convention the following year in Philadelphia.  At first Congress was opposed to this plan However, when they learned that Virginia would send George Washington they approved of the meeting.  Elections of delegates were subsequently held in all of the States except Rhode Island which ignored the summons.

The Convention had been authorized by Congress merely to draft proposals for amendments to the Articles of Confederation.  However, as soon as it convened they decided on their own to throw the Articles aside and instead create a completely new form of government.

Was the writing of the Constitution legal?  Who gave the Federal Convention authority to discard the Articles of Confederation which had been duly ratified by all thirteen States?  Was this a counterrevolution?

The answers to these questions have been debated by historians and constitutional scholars for hundreds of years, but in reality the answers are moot.  Whether the Federal Convention had any legal sanction to do what they did doesn’t matter. The action was eventually accepted by the Congress, the ratification conventions were held in the various States, and eventually it was ratified becoming the supreme law of the land.

Now we are ready to look at the Great Debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.

First, what about the terms, “Federalist” and “Anti-Federalist” how appropriate were they during the debate?

New Speak is nothing new in politics, and the concept of words having power to shape reality was not invented by George Orwell.  Look at the original debate of the ratification of the Constitution, and as a consequence how we have studied, learned, and even shaped the debate in this lecture concerning the ratification of the Constitution.

Think about the central term itself. Federalism refers to decentralized government. Those who supported the Constitution, who advocated that it replace the Articles of Confederation, which if nothing else established a decentralized system of government, called themselves “Federalists,” even though they wanted a more centralized government.  This left the supporters of the Articles, who wanted a decentralized government, to be known then and forever as the “Anti-Federalists,” when in fact they were the true Federalists.

So much for the straight forward clarity of Historical fact, everything must be examined and everything interpreted.

In the study of the debate for the ratification of the Constitution a common mistake made is the shallowness of the study.  In a good school the average student will be exposed to perhaps two of the Federalist Letters and none of the Anti-Federalist Letters, which is like trying to understand an answer without knowing what the question was.  In this abbreviated look at the subject we will look at both sides in general seeking instead an overview of the topic leaving the specifics to a personal study, which will without a doubt enrich the understanding of any who find the motivation for such an endeavor.

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers were actually published as newspaper articles for the general public.  This in itself tells us much about the comparative state of public education and awareness between the American general public in the late Eighteenth Century and the early Twenty-first.  When we examine the two sets of papers and dwell upon the vocabulary and the breadth and depth of the philosophical, political, and economical ideas expressed we are immediately struck by the fact that the average person in America today would not be able to understand the sophisticated and specialized vocabulary let alone grasp the ideas.  And yet these were not published in journals for the educated elite. These were published in general circulation newspapers and were actually debated and referenced across the dinner tables and around the workshops of America.

Next week we will look deeper into these two sets of documents that have had such a profound effect upon America and find out exactly who the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were and why does it matter to us today?

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

The Ratification Debate: Part One July 1, 2011

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While it is not my usual routine to write articles in a series, in honor of our nation’s 235th birthday I want to take some time to examine the process that led to the ratification of the Constitution.  Therefore, each of the next three weeks I will post one installment of a short refection on the ratification debate.

Context:

To understand the debate over the ratification of the Constitution it is necessary to first establish the context, for the study of a text without a context is a pretext.

Was the Constitution the first document produced to form the United States of America?  Does it mark the beginning of our nation and its government?

No, before there was a Constitution there was a United States of America.  This nation was not formed under the auspices of the Constitution the Constitution was formed under the Auspices of the United States.

Years before there was a Constitution there were the Articles of Confederation and it was at the final ratification of this document that the United States of America officially was born.  This often over-looked and much maligned document was drafted in 1777 by the same Continental Congress that passed and proclaimed the Declaration of Independence.  The Articles acknowledged the inherent sovereignty of the constituent States while at the same time establishing a league of friendship and perpetual union.

The Articles of Confederation:

The Articles of Confederation were written, debated and ratified during the Revolutionary War when the States were fighting for their lives against the overbearing Imperial government intent upon reducing all of them to mere appendages of the London based bureaucracy.  In consequence, they reflect the lack of confidence felt in any highly centralized state power.  The States were jealous of their ability to control their internal affairs.  These privileges had been won in various ways in the different States but in each of them they had gained the authority of custom and Tradition.  And in every State they were held dear and looked upon as necessary for a free and prosperous nation.  Therefore the Articles while creating a central government that could address such issues as war and peace most of the actual power was reserved to the individual States.

The maintenance of the sovereignty, freedom and independence of the individual States was facilitated by the fact that under the Articles there was no Executive or Judicial branches in the central government only a legislature and that consisted of only one house.  This one house Congress was composed of committees of delegates appointed by the States.  Congress was charged with the responsibility to prosecute the Revolution, declare war, maintain the Army and Navy, establish relations with other government, send and receive ambassadors and other functions such as establish policies for any territories acquired that were not under State control.

In the depths of war the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. The Articles actually became the official and original organic document establishing the government of the United States of America on March 1, 1781 when Maryland, the last of the thirteen states ratified the document.

Today we reap the fruits of the reality that winners write history.  For two hundred plus years we have all been taught that the Articles of Confederation were an abject failure.  We are lectured on the fact that they did not have the power to create or sustain a viable nation.  It is common knowledge that if they would have continued in force there would have been wars between the states and a dysfunctional economy.

Yes, this is what we are taught.  This is what every school child for ten generations has learned as the bedrock of civics and the study of American politics and History.  But does the accepted History fit the facts?

What were some of the accomplishments of the Articles of Confederation?

  • The government of the United States was established under the Articles not the Constitution.
  • The government as established under the Articles successfully fought and won the Revolutionary War
  • The government as established under the Articles concluded the peace which gained not only the independence of the thirteen original colonies but all the land east of the Mississippi River and south of Canada.
  • The government as established under the Articles established diplomatic relations with the rest of the world and worked successfully to get the new United States of America recognized as an independent nation.
  • The government as established under the Articles negotiated our first treaty with a foreign power (France).
  • The government as established under the Articles led all the States to renounce their claims to the western lands.
  • The government as established under the Articles passed the Land Ordinance of 1785 which provided for the survey and sale of the western lands surrendered by the original thirteen states. These sales provided income for the new nation without taxation
  •  The government as established under the Articles through the set aside of land established federal support for a public education system.
  • The government as established under the Articles passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which provided the process through which every subsequent State after the original thirteen became States, with full equality with the original States.
  • The government as established under the Articles outlawed slavery in the Northwest Territory.
  • The government as established under the Articles passed a bill of rights that protected the settlers of territories from abuses of power.

This is a very long list of positive accomplishments for a government that is portrayed as an abject failure.  This brings us to the question, “What was the problem?” a question I will address next week.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College.  He is the author of the History of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com View the trailer for Dr. Owens’ latest book @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ypkoS0gGn8 © 2011 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.

 

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