A Constitution Gone Wrong

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On the eve of troubles with George III in the 1760s, His Majesty’s subjects on the North American continent regarded themselves among the luckiest people on earth.

Charles De Montesquieu praised the English constitution for its mixture of monarchy and republican spirit. Not only were colonials prosperous, they enjoyed a level of liberty not seen perhaps since the best days of the Roman Republic.

To be enlightened in the 18th Century was to be interested in antiquity, and to be interested in antiquity was to be interested in republicanism. Many of the men destined to become the statesmen and lawgivers in the 1770s and 1780s studied Rome as anthropologists studied South Seas cultures.

Yet, not eighty years after the Glorious Revolution and the 1689 English Bill of Rights, American colonials wondered what was happening to their English liberty and worried where they were headed. This pessimism for liberty after the accession of George III in 1760 appeared not just in America but in England as well. In prerevolutionary years, American colonists watched the British constitution succumb to the forces of tyranny. Poison entered the home island and threatened to turn the people and government into “one mass of corruption” as the Crown worked around many of the restrictions imposed on it in the late 17th century. The famed balance of the British system was fast upending as the Crown openly bought influence in the House of Commons.

Against this background of constitutional corruption in the mother country, and being imbued with the principles of ancient republics as well as their own experiences, colonial society watched the King’s governors introduce the same sort of corruption to England’s North American colonies.

Fast-maturing colonial legislatures chafed at the denial of self-government by royal governors under strict orders from the Crown. The leaders of the American revolutionary movement viewed the home island and colonial convulsions of the time as no less than a deliberate design – a conspiracy – among ministers of state and their underlings to overthrow the British constitution in both England and America, and to blot out, or severely reduce, English liberties.

As Bernard Bailyn explained in The Origins of American Politics:

“What was happening to America through the 1760’s, point by point in the controversy with England, could be seen, by the end of that decade, as fitting a pattern of concerted malevolence familiar to every 18th century student of history and politics. Britain, it was said, was following Greece, Rome, France, Venice, Denmark, Sweden – in fact almost the whole of continental Europe – from the liberty of a free constitution into autocracy.”

Set against this background is why the modest post-French and Indian war taxes followed by the Coercive Acts which culminated in martial law in Boston in 1775, ignited the American revolution against A Constitution Gone Wrong.

Similarly, America 2016 also exists under an unwritten constitution, a mockery of that bequeathed to a grateful nation in 1788. In this sense, the US Constitution has also gone wrong. Does the Constitution serve anything close to its lofty purposes in the Preamble? Does it serve to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, or have its republican institutions been rendered into “one mass of corruption” which suck the life-blood of liberty from the people?

Our American ancestors, the most prosperous people on earth, were sufficiently covetous of liberty to risk their lives in the face of encroaching tyranny. They ensconced in our Constitution a peaceful path to the restoration of free government, one so innocuous that we needn’t risk a single life.

Article V.

We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder of the American Republic. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.

Bailyn, Bernard. The Origins of American Politics. New York: Random House, 1970. Book.
Wood, Gordon S. The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787. The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.