November 11, 1999

"Partisan, Bipartisan, or Non-Partisan"

"Lawfully Speaking" Vol I, Issue No. 5
A Weekly Internet Political Column
Written by William H. and John M. Huff

In Washington Newspeak the term bipartisan appears to mean "we know it is unwise and unlawful, perhaps even unconstitutional, but we have all agreed upon it. Therefore, since we have evenly distributed the remote potential for future blame, we can now move forward to more pressing issues [like raising our own pay or perks]."

We have come so far from the days that principle really took precedence over party affiliation that it almost seems quaint to mention. Fact is, principle has been sacrificed on the altar of party loyalty for roughly the same amount of time that political parties have existed.

We really don’t need officeholders who brag about achieving consensus with their alleged enemies, as though that, in itself, was some great moral triumph. These are chameleons who slither in and out of their make-believe ethics without even perceiving it themselves. They are no longer artful at lying, but must rely on the continued decline of awareness among the general population in order to maintain power. As long as the masses remain unwashed, there should be no reason for concern. We don’t want to completely write off everyone in Washington as having evil intent. We have to leave room for the incompetent and ignorant to be exonerated.

It should go without saying, but whenever a citizen who has been placed in a public trust under the Constitution of the United States does anything contrary to what he knows to be right and lawful, and in the best interest of his country, merely because of his party affiliation, he is committing two sins at once. He betrays both his country and his conscience. This is the beginning of the end of the Union. This is the point of departure from the Statesman en route to becoming a full-time political hack - the enemy of the Republic.

But what about Pat Buchanan?

This is not an endorsement or condemnation of any candidate, and certainly not of any party old or new. But why is it that the same old worn out nonsense about dividing the vote or "wasting your vote" is being trotted out, when, in reality, there is only one political party, or, as some call it, a duopoly in Washington? If they gang up to violate the Constitution, they are a gang of outlaws, not political parties.

Is either major political party running headlong back to the rule of law and the reinstitution of all that made America unique - all that made Americans the freest citizens who ever lived? No, they are playing "good cop bad cop" as our liberties continue to be eroded. This dialectic process or "ratcheting" toward government unbound by written law, or worse yet, subservient to supra-national corporate interests, is not going to be enjoyed without exacting a price in property and human life. The first few grisly payments have already been made.

Look in the mirror. We must always lay final accountability on the individual citizen. The crowd in Washington cannot be expected to perform beyond its own abilities, and certainly not beyond the citizens’ expectations and demands. If the average American wants a check from the government in exchange for his liberty, the average Congressman is apparently willing to at least make the appearance of delivering the goods.

Campaigns are nothing more than the most sophisticated and public version of the Liars Club. If Bill Clinton hasn’t proven that Americans love to be lied to, we don’t know what his real Legacy is.

What is wrong?

Parties and other entities such as special interest groups and mega-corps have begun to dictate over the daily lives of individual American citizens in ways that are eroding life, liberty and property. In other words, it’s getting so you have to pursue happiness a lot faster these days if you are to have any hope of ever possessing it. Of course, the well informed remember that "happiness" equated to an absolute right in private property in the minds of the Founders. The phrase "pursuit of happiness" replaced the word "property" in an earlier draft of the Declaration of Independence. However, no one can read the Founders’ writings and fail to acknowledge this relationship.

(Part 2)

What is the solution?

The aggressive education of the American people must be undertaken with a new voracity. They must be taught that they can never have security and liberty from an all-powerful State. They must learn to see to their own protection and safety, and the security of their own assets and children.

Americans must learn their own laws and Constitution so well that they will instantly reject any foreign concept; that they will reject every political hack and baby kisser who comes to their doorstep; that they will remove outlaws from office as quickly as they let a single remark fall from their mouths that would betray their contempt for the Constitution.

Should we be apprehensive that there might not be enough parasites left in Washington to dole out "benefits?" Do we fail to realize the government cannot be Robin Hood; it cannot give benefits to any person who has not labored for them until it has extracted them from someone who has labored for them.

Take every person and entity out of Washington that is only there to get someone else’s money and perhaps you would have a picture of what the LAWFUL seat of the national government ought to be. Can you imagine the savings?

Now, imagine what might happen if American citizens had never asked the government to do anything that is outside of its Constitututional limitations. While it is true that many dynamic events have been either engineered or exploited for the purpose of creating an illusion that government can and should solve all of life’s problems, it is also true that the illusion can never prove this notion.

We are not alone at in our suspicion that party politics is a cancer that could kill the Republic. In fact, if you will use the onsite search engine you will find volumes of documents here to prove this obvious principle that was so well understood by many of the great statesmen who forged the Republic as well as the average citizen in the America of 1787.

Read the words of Alexander Hamilton from The Federalist #1 below and, of course, some of the most famous words of George Washington. Nothing in the writings of the Founders or Framers could be so distorted as to excuse our representatives when they violate the Law in concert and label that as bipartisanship.

This subject can never be closed until the majority of Americans are informed enough to both laugh at anyone in office who might think they can get away with violating their Oath of Office, and turn them out of office at the earliest opportunity.

"So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be secured by persecution." - Hamilton in The Federalist #1.

"In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." - George Washington in the First Inaugural Address

Washington placed the ultimate responsibility in "the hands of the American people." That responsibility includes rejecting partisanship or even bipartisanship, when the proposed action violates both the "eternal rules of order and right" and the provisions of the Constitution. If we cannot have parties and virtue at the same time, our choice is clear.

Below we present a writing by Noah Webster as the preface to the book he published entitled "Papers on Political and Commercial Subjects." This writing is especially appropriate to our discussion of the dangers of political parties. The Administration he discusses so heatedly is the Third Administration, with Thomas Jefferson the President, Aaron Burr the Vice President, and James Madison the Secretary of State. However, the principles and arguments, as he said, apply to all Administrations.

(Part 1)

Noah Webster, June, 1802


No task is more delicate and hazardous, then that of criticism and censure. To err, is the common lot of men—to acknowledge errors, is the rare felicity of great minds. The man who discovers his own mistake, feels dissatisfied with himself—he who exposes the mistakes of another, incurs his displeasure. Yet in political affairs, in which the individuals of a society have a common interest, it is the right and even the duty of every citizen, who believes public measures to be wrong, to express his opinions with decency and candor, and offer the reasons on which they are founded.

Nothing is so fatal to truth and tranquility, as party spirit. It is rash, imperious, unyielding, unforgiving. Blind to truth, and deaf to argument, it sees no merit in an enemy; no demerit, in a friend. Urged by the passion or convenience of the moment, it rushes impetuously to the attainment of its object, regardless of events, and forgetting that it’s own example may be drawn into precedent, and under a change of parties, prove a two-edged sword, as fatal to friends as to foes.

To a man versed in the history of nations, the conditions of parties in the United States, presents nothing new, but the men and the forms of proceeding. The general principles, view and passions displayed, are the same as have characterized parties in all ages and countries. Individuals of aspiring minds, who have been mortified by neglect, or irritated by the agitations of successless competition; men who can neither bear an equal, nor yield to a superior; have the address to inlist into their service, the credulous and illiterate multitude. To oppose them, men of principle unite and form a party. Public measures are proposed or attacked with zeal—opposition begets obstinacy—argument is resisted by will—mutual concessions are either not proposed, or rejected—and laws passed under such circumstances are either soon repealed, or ineffectual in their operation.

Parties thus arrayed against each other, often lose sight of the original points of difference; or magnify trifling differences into matters of vast concern to the public. Zeal is inflamed to enthusiasm—the regard to truth is extinguished in the desire of victory—and moderation yields to the apprehension of defeat. Then begins the reign of corruption—each party determines to triumph—and neither constitution nor law, religion nor morality, reputation nor conscience, can raise effectual barriers to restrain their passions and pursuits.

In this warfare of parties, the adherants to each voluntarily put themselves under a favorite leader, and take a popular name. Thus organized, each party rallies under the name and the leader, with the esprite du corps for the moving principle; forgetting the origin, or ignorant of the motives, of the association. The leader is stimulated by pride; his adherants, by the sound of his name, or the appellation of the party, which is neither understood nor intelligible. A white rose, a red rose, a cockade—round-head or cavalier, whig or tory, federalist or democrat, or other insignificant appellation, becomes the rallying point for a headstrong populace, prepared for violence.

In the effervescence of popular passions, the leader who has gained the confidence of a party, must feed the hopes, and gratify the expectations, of his adherents. Applying to faction, the military maxim of M. Porcius Cato, "Bellum seipsum alit," "war feeds itself," a victorious leader supplies the wants, and secures the attachment, of his followers, by dividing among them the spoils of the vanquished. Then commences the reign of persecution and revenge. The man who mounts into office on popular confidence, may rise with impunity, above the constitution of his country, and trample on the rights of the people. Under the specious titles of a republican, and the friend of the people, he may exercise the despotism of a Frederic.

To parties in government or religion, may be applied the profound remark of the Roman historian, respecting the populace—"They are distinguished for mean servility, or insolent domination—real liberty, which occupies a middle section between extremes, they can neither enjoy nor reject with moderation."* Nor is it less true, as the historian adds, that "demagogues are seldom wanting, who favor the passions of the people, and inflame their restless and unruly dispositions, to the horrid work of blood and slaughter." The men who flatter the people become their masters; and the party which, while a minority, will lick the dust to gain the ascendancy, becomes, in power, insolent, vindictive and tyrannical.

However surprising may be the fact, the truth of it is not to be questioned, that parties equally forget or spurn the maxims of prudence, by which individuals regulate their conduct. In political concerns, expedience, rather than strict theoretical justice, is the rule of action and the measure of practicable good. Yet how rarely will parties yield an iota of their pretensions, to meet their opponents on the ground of expedience! The federalists, in 1798, stood on high ground—they pushed their advantages too far, and contributed not a little to their own overthrow, and to the triumph of men, whose principles threaten a speedy dissolution of the Union.

The proclamation of neutrality in April, 1793, was advised by the policy, and sanctioned by the deliberate approbation of the federal councils; while their opposers, with shameful solicitude, urged for the adoption of measures, which would result in a war, in concert with France, against Great-Britain. In 1798, when the outrages of the French government had turned the popular current, the federalists became the advocates of war, in direct contradiction of the principles of 1793, and nearly succeeded in carrying the proposition. In the period preceding 1797, the federalists complained, and justly, of the influence which the French had obtained over American presses; but in 1797, when a professed British subject, and a declared enemy of our Independence, established a Gazette in Philadelphia, the federalists opened not their mouths, but in many places, gave him unusual encouragement. Anterior to the year 1798, the federalists were outrageously clamorous against every opposer of the executive authority, denouncing him as a jacobin and disorganizer; but the moment the President adopted a measure that displeased particular men, the federalists turned their arms against the administration. And in the pursuit of this absurd policy, if one of their friends, wishing to be consistent, and foreseeing the ruinous tendency of such measures, happened to call in question the propriety of these contradictory proceedings, they fell upon him like wild beasts, ready to tear him in pieces.

*Aut servit bumiliter, aut superbe dominature—libertatem que media est, nec epernere modice, nec baber sciunt. Liv. Lib. 24. 25.

Of the measures before mentioned, we now severely feel the effects. The following essay on the Rights of Neutral Nations, presents to view another subject, no less interesting; and the consequences of the principles admitted by our government, in regard to it, are not yet fully felt, and may be remote. The Congress which conducted the revolution, recognized, with general approbation, the principles of the "Armed Neutrality," in regard to the freedom of neutral ships; and the proclamation of neutrality in 1793, virtually acknowledged the principles, in recommending "modern usage of nations," as the rule of contraband commerce. Yet in the treaty with Great-Britain, the administration receded from the principles. Then to vindicate the conduct of the government, immense efforts were made to prove the claims of neutral nations ill-founded, and to lessen the importance of free ships during a war. The immediate effect of these efforts has been, to give a false coloring to the subject, and a wrong direction to the public opinion. The ultimate effect, by enabling the British Court, in future negociations, to repel our claims to the principle of free ships, by the reasonings of our own administration, and the very popular administration of General Washington, no man can undertake to predict nor to estimate—The writer himself was misled by his confidence in the executive, and in the elementary authors to which the appeal was made for authorities. But the public should be disabused of their errors.—Within a year past, an effort has been made, thro the medium of the public prints, to depreciate the principles of free ships; and one writer has attempted to persuade our citizens that the privilege is not only no benefit, but a positive evil to a neutral nation. Where there is contradiction, there must be error. The unalterable principles of justice and true policy should not be held at the mercy of temporary attachments and aversons.

Such are the mistakes of the federalists, which have furnished their opposers with the most efficacious means of victory. On the other hand, the party which has assumed the name of republican, have not only objected to federal measures of a wrong or equivocal tendency, but have opposed, with unabating zeal, the most salutary regulations. They have struggled to defeat the measures intended to establish public credit, to enforce the laws, and to secure peace with Great-Britain. They have execrated, and would have invoked fire from heaven, to consume the proud, but rich, learned and respectable nation, to which the world is greatly indebted for arresting the career of French victories. They have omitted no opportunity to weaken the administration of our government, and degrade the honor of the American name. No public character, however pure, has been safe from the shafts of their malice—no corner of the United States has escaped the poison of their slanders.

Unfavorable as has been the opinion of the writer, respecting the principles and views of the leading men in the party, he had no conception that a man in the United States would have been found weak enough to avow the principles on which the present administration has proceeded; nor bold enough, under cover of republican principles, to attack the most essential provisions of the national compact.

(Part 2)

In this condition of things, when the domineering spirit of party frowns on moderation as apostacy or cowardice, who are the men to listen to truth and impartial discussion! Who will hazard the opprobrium of both parties, to expose their mistakes and attempt to arrest the career of men, whose intemperate zeal has pushed our affairs to this alarming crisis?

Let it be considered, that nothing is more injurious to a cause than to attempt to defend, what is not susceptible of defense. The advocate, who dwells on a weak point, exhausts his own powers, while he tires the patience, and impairs the confidence, of his judges. By insisting on every thing, a party often loses every thing—This is especially true in political affairs, where numerous interests are to be consulted, and numerous opinions to be reconciled to a common result. If men would withdraw their attachment from systems and names, the sober, reflecting, unambitious citizens of both parties would, at this moment, coalesce on every measure essential to the public safety. If instead of enlisting under the standard of federalism and republicanism, they would investigate principles, and understand the true interests of the United States, the great body of the people would unite in their conclusions. If the charm of names cannot be dissolved, our condition is hopeless. The supporters of the present administrator, more especially in the Southern States, are not all jacobins nor disorganizers. Great numbers of respectable men abandoned the late administration, because they believed the government had abandoned the primary objects of the revolution, and made improper concessions to the British government. Of this fact there is certain evidence. Their opinion is probably not correct, in the latitude in which it is entertained; but it is not to be denied, that some measures gave countenance to it.—Both parties have committed errors—the true policy of our country unquestionably lies between the extremes of their measures. The federalists as a party, appear to have the most correct ideas of government—ideas drawn from a view of the nature of man, and from the history of society—and experiment will ultimately decide in their favor. At the same time, they have pushed their measures farther than the temper of the people will bear; and the writer believes, that in their honest zeal to preserve peace with Great-Britain, and a revenue undiminished, they have made some necessary concessions to the British government, in regard to a neutral commerce in time of war.

The present ruling party, on the other hand, led astray by closer theories, are making experiments in government, which all history and the observations of every day, demonstrate to be idle and futile. Their principles are incompatible with the safety of society, and their administration disdains all constitutional obstacles to the accomplishment of their schemes. The consequences of such a system, pursued to its extent, are more easily imagined than described.

To avert the evils that threaten our public tranquility, more temper and forbearance, with mutual disposition to conciliate confidence, must be manifested by the respective parties. Whatever may be the fact, with regard to the precise degree of merit in their systems, it is prudent for both to recede from some of their pretensions. There is no exact standard of political right and wrong, by which discordant opinions can, in all cases, be adjusted. Even the Constitution is not sufficiently explicit to furnish this standard. Our substance for such a common arbiter, must be found in mutual concessions, which will answer the purpose; for it is a remark on which great stress is laid, that harmony of councils will obviate the errors and defects of legislation. Mutual concessions, therefore, would be honorable to the parties—they are due to truth—they are demanded by the imperious voice of public duty and national safety. Nor is it to be questioned, that without receding from some of the ground which has been taken, the most upright and able men in the country, will find it extremely difficult to recover the influence which they have lost, and which they certainly deserve.

It is morally impossible, that the body of a people, can be enemies to public happiness. They may be, and often are, misled; yet in every case of this kind, the evil will find a remedy in the inconveniences resulting from their councils. It is the remark of an accurate observer of human nature, "That a few men only have discernment enough to distinguish in speculation, what is expedient and useful, from what is improper and pernicious; most men are taught only by experience."* Experience alone can convince the great mass of people of their mistake; and for the effect of experience we must wait with patience. It is worse than useless to rail at men for being in error, or for being misled. Instead of weakening their confidence in their leaders, or convincing them of their mistake, personal ill treatment serves to confirm them; and resentment coming in aid of natural attachment to a preconceived opinion, renders the possessor incorrigible.

*Pauci prudentia, bonesta ab deterioribus, utilia ab noxiis, discernunt; plures aliorum eventis docentur. Tacit An. Lib. 4. 33.

This impolitic conduct often multiplies the foes of a good cause; without necessity, and widens a breach which a temperate policy would serve to heal. If a man cannot assent to every measure of his party, he is abused and his reputation slandered; perhaps too by the very men who clamor most bitterly against the same conduct in their opposers. The man’s pride and independence of mind revolt at the indignity, which he is conscious he does not deserve; resentment stimulates him to vindicate his principles, and finally to abandon his persecutors. This mistaken policy, of erecting a particular system of measures, as an idol, and chastizing every man who will not fall down and worship it, has accelerated the overthrow of the federal interest—in one state, it has been the most fruitful source of opposition to that interest—nor is there any party or cause, which this species of overbearing persecution, would not gradually fritter away and destroy.

Triumphant jacobinism, in any country, is a formidable calamity, overwhelming all good order, all social security, and all improvement, in promiscuous ruin. But jacobinism is a monster which devours her own offspring. No nation of jacobins can exist, nor can a race of such monsters long tyrannize over a nation. The reign of error, of vice, of folly and passion, must ever be short, in proportion as it is violent and destructive.

The turbulence of the democratic spirit is a violent disease, incident to free states. France has felt the full force of its pangs—but the crisis is past and she is convalescent. Whether the United States are to suffer all the violence of the disease, or only its milder symptoms, time only can determine. One thing is obvious—the present state of inflammation will not bear stimulant applications.

If arguments will not restrain the intemperate zeal and vindictive spirit of men in power, menaces and provocations will only serve to irritate that spirit. Nor will it be of any use to hold up to view the terrors of civil war. Foreign danger, indeed, would call for more passion; but internal dissensions call for less. No internal disputes should unsheath the sword—that should be reserved exclusively for defense against a foreign foe. A constitution prostrated—the independence of the judiciary destroyed—a revenue defrauded—offices committed to worthless men—these would be severe national calamities—but infinitely less evils than a drawn sword. Let rash heads be suspected—let violent hands be restrained—let public evils be left to operate on our citizens, till they have learnt the cause and are willing to apply a peaceable remedy. As sure as the revolutions of the day and night, the pernicious effects of a bad system of measures will alarm the fears and open the eyes of its advocates; provided the passions of the people can be liberated from the influence of hasty councils, and guarded from the exasperations of headstrong men. The people can neither be forced nor provoked to renounce their errors. Nine tenths of the blood that has been shed in civil commotions, would have been spared, if a few ambitious leaders had been restrained, until the people could have had time to pause and deliberate.

Amidst the angry passions of parties, the writer has hitherto preserved that independence of mind, without which men is not better than a machine. His opinions, except on the point before mentioned, have been uniform from the year 1793, when parties began to assume their present complexion. In 1793, he defended the conduct of our government in regard to neutral commerce—on this subject, a more careful investigation, has compelled him to change his opinion.

In the following collection, the remarks addressed to the President were written for the public prints, with little regard to style or arrangement. The short essay on the Rights of Neutral Nations, was originally intended for the same channel of communication; but was found to be too lengthy. If any mistake, in fact or opinion, shall be found in any part of this miscellany, it will be cheerfully acknowledged and corrected. The principles are such as the writer believes to be just, and equally suited to all parties and every change of administration. The remarks have been dictated by no personal animosity, nor are intended to answer any private views. They have exclusively, for their object, the public interest—that interest which good citizens pursue, under all changes of political affairs, unallured by the smiles, unawed by the frowns, of violent party men.—The writer has endevoured to treat the several subjects with candor; and he trusts, his language is marked with that respect for private characters, and public opinion, which he sincerely feels.

New-Haven, March, 1802.

"During the second session of the first Congress the people split into two great political parties. Those who supported the Administration and believed in Alexander Hamilton’s policy were known as Federalists, while those who feared the power of the Constitution and opposed Hamilton’s policy were called Federal Republicans. Thus was the great party strife born in the United States." p. 228, The Story of the United States, Marie Louise Herdman, 1916

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