The piece posted earlier here at America’s Right by Randy Wills reminded me of something I wanted to address before I left for Europe. Following the passage of cap-and-trade legislation by the House, I received a number of e-mails showing that people were more and more considering violence as the way to re-take our government. There was nothing planned, of course, but mostly the messages were filled with questions like: “Jeff, when do you think it’ll be time to clean our guns and get to the streets?”
My response was pretty much the same to all of them: I don’t think we are anywhere near that level yet, I’m not sure we’ll ever need to get there, and anybody who acts out violently is only discrediting those who are working to advance conservative ideals and re-take our government at the polls as designed.
Approximately seven years before America declared its independence from Great Britain, colonists were reaching a breaking point due to the trade-related aftereffects of the Townshend Act, another side effect of an overreaching Parliament. In April of 1769, George Washington penned a letter to fellow Virginian George Mason addressing the rising tensions and tempers. Washington, it turns out, was one of the first colonists to openly address the possibility of taking up arms against the mother country, though he cautioned that doing so should only come as a last resort. From the letter:
At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the [deprivation] of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke and maintain the liberty which we have derived from our ancestors; but the manner of doing it to answer the purpose effectually is the point in question.
That no man should scruple or hesitate a moment to use arms in defense of so valuable a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life depends, is clearly my opinion. Yet arms, I would beg leave to add, should be the last resource.
Substitute “Congress” for “Great Britain,” and the very same could be said today, couldn’t it? After all, it wasn’t until much, much later that it dawned on Washington that any uprising would be more about revolution than an effort to resume peaceful coexistence between Britain and the American colonies.
The difference now is that we don’t need a bold revolution. We need a reversion to governance rooted in common sense and that which is best for America and no one else. Armed insurrection is something done by banana republics, not constitutional ones and, furthermore, any change that would derive from violence would inevitable be short-lived, whereas the triumph of ideas can live on in near perpetuity.
It’s the classic give-a-fish or teach-a-fisherman scenario. Whether it be through armed insurrection or voting every single elected official out of Washington and starting over, the change from either would only last so long until human nature and the trappings of power took over. Lasting change will come from victory in the coming war of ideas. Our founders set forth, in our founding documents, the means by which we can recover our nation through principle.
There’s a reason for the Ronald Reagan quote at the bottom of this and every page at America’s Right. Reagan was spot on, and it not only applies to strife we see overseas, but the turmoil we see on our own doorsteps as well. It is, perhaps, my favorite quote from any politician, because it speaks of the triumph of ideas and core values:
The ultimate determinant in the struggle going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas — a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, and the ideals to which we are dedicated.
Preceding this statement by President Reagan by about 200 years, our founders were right about many things. They were right about human nature, they were right about the trappings of power, they were right about the ebb and flow of federalism, and they were right about the strength of American conviction. Above all else, however, they were right that our nation has been guided by Providence — and it is as true now as it was then, in the blood- and rain-soaked trenches at Bunker Hill to the frozen waters of the Delaware.