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Read The Federalist Papers

July 17, 2012 |

Why is it so important for liberals to hate America and its founding fathers? Editor Mike Dobbs' opinion column sneers (or should I say smears?) the founding fathers by stating that "Basically, it was the land-owning white guys who made the decisions" about the Declaration, the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He then enumerates their unforgivable sins of failing to live up to 21st century standards as relates to slaves, women's rights, Native American rights, etc. But in the 1700s, in every country, kings, nobles and landowners made all the decisions. Why single out America? Remarkably, in America, our white landowning forefathers actually came up with a document so foresighted that its terms respected all those rights and made it possible for the country to eventually embrace them. This is something every American should be proud of. The words "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" don't mean whatever you want them to mean. That is the liberal idea of a "living Constitution," which is an oxymoron. If the Declaration and the Constitution can mean whatever nine men want it to mean today, and something different tomorrow, we might as well be living under the Roman Senate. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the many Federalist Papers written around the time of the Declaration make it plain that the founders believed these rights came from God, and thus they will always mean exactly what they meant then: that God gives man his life, his personal freedom (which specifically includes freedom of conscience and religious freedom) and the pursuit of (not a "right to," but a right to pursue) happiness, which psychologists term "self-actualization." Madison and others went further to describe pursuit of happiness as the "right to own property," for it was believed that what a man built, developed, or produced must of necessity belong to him. All the founders' writings make clear that they believed in individual liberty, which was lacking in most countries at the time, where citizens were deemed to exist for the benefit of the state. Instead of going back in a time machine to talk to Thomas Jefferson, Editor Dobbs should read what Jefferson actually wrote back in his time, and review the Federalist Papers. A good place to start would be a slim, tight, 61-page book entitled "The Rise and Fall of Constitutional Government in the United States" by Thomas West and Douglas Jeffrey. Pat Henry East Longmeadow Editor's response: Jefferson is one of my heroes and I've quoted him many times in my column. I really don't think I "smeared" him by citing a historic reality, but please note the "personal liberty" from God was not seen to extend to blacks, Native Americans or women at the time of the Declaration of Independence was written. Otherwise, slavery would have been abolished, women would have received the vote much sooner and Natives would have been embraced by the European colonists. Having said that, I think Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin et al. were remarkable forward thinking people who forged the basis for a government that could seek change and improvement. They are giants in my book. I also strongly object to the tired old thinking that "liberals hate America." So a guy like Jimmy Carter, an active Christian and military vet, "hates" America? Really, everyone who is judged a "liberal" hates the country of their birth? For the record, I certainly don't hate this nation. Debate makes this country stronger and I appreciate your responses.

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