Friday, July 5, 2013


A high school buddy who played trumpet in the band. Half way through his ninth decade, he can still coax a tune out of his horn when the occasion calls for it.

Like most of the remnant of our 1947 graduating class, Fritz is a solid citizen, long married, lots of family, patriotic, saves his money, pays his taxes, supports the Church. Did his time in uniform.

And worries about America.

Every few weeks, I get an email from him. Some of them are shrill, unSnoped propaganda.

But not all. And when he weighs in about Benghasi, or the bureaucracy, or the IRS, he gives voice to the frustration so many Americans feel these days.

And he usually ends up with a call to arms.

Much as he loves me – and he does – he is quick to say that my dogged preachments about constitutional reforms are a fool’s errand, and the only message that will get through to the powers that be in Washington will come when the citizens rise up.

He is not alone. I know some golfers who spend almost as much time at the shooting range as they do on the driving range.

They know that the second amendment was not written to accommodate duck and deer hunters, but to allow Americans to defend their homeland from the enemies of liberty.

Including, if necessary, their own government..

Indeed these are perilous times.

The blogosphere shows a campy interest in the quote by Thomas Jefferson to the effect that an uprising like Daniel Shay’s 1786 Rebellion in Massachusetts ought to happen every twenty years or so.

Just to keep the tax collectors on their toes.

Historians suggest that Shay and his musket toting farmers rang the death knell of the Articles of Confederation and set the stage for the adoption of the constitution written in Philadelphia in 1787.

That constitution distinguishes us from every other nation on the planet.

As Alexander Hamilton said, our constitution made history.

It birthed a nation with words on a piece of paper instead blood in the streets.

Most often, politics is a bloody business. History books are full of it. So is the nightly news on television. Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria. People killing and getting killed over who is in power.

For many Americans, presidential politics is the sport of choice.

No sooner had Barack Obama been elected to a second term, than speculation about the Presidential election of 2016 began.

Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio. Who will run? Who can win?

The President of the United States is the celebrity’s celebrity.

Frequently hailed as the most powerful human being on the planet, the occupant of the Oval Office is revered, feared, obeyed, envied, and, of course, hated by more than a few.

In most of the world and throughout most of human history, kings and rulers have been deposed and replaced by force and violence.

And not a few have stayed in power by ruthlessly dispatching their opponents and enemies.

It’s not that way in the U.S.A. At least, not yet, Thank God.

As my old law partner used to say, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”

It’s good to have Fritz standing guard.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


The fifty-five men who met in Philadelphia and wrote our federal Constitution knew what they were doing.

They were drafting a charter for a new nation.

Defining its powers. Spelling out how its leaders were to be chosen and specifying what they could and could not do.

Nobody ever did it before. They were writing on tabula raza, a blank piece of paper.

To be sure, adopting constitutions was a process familiar to the Founders.

In May of 1776, the Continental Congress had advised all thirteen colonies to form governments, and the colonial legislatures went to work writing and adopting state constitutions.

By 1780, every colony had a constitution. They were thirteen sovereign and independent states.

But the United States was not then a single nation. It was called a ’firm league of friendship,’ a confederacy, in which each state retained its freedom and independence.

Creating a nation was virgin territory. Novel. Untried.

Alexander Hamilton put it this way:

It has frequently been remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and their example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.

And George Washington wrote this:

…the citizens of America…are…actors on a most conspicuous theatre which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity. This is the time of their political probation. This is the moment when the Eyes of the whole World are turned upon them.

They intended the constitution to be permanent, but they never claimed it was perfect. James Madison said:

A faultless plan was not to be expected. That useful alterations will be suggested by experience, could not but be foreseen. It was requisite, therefore, that a mode for introducing them should be provided.

Hamilton, again:

I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man. The result of the deliberations of all collective bodies must necessarily be a compound, as well of the errors and prejudices, as of the good sense and wisdom of the individuals of whom they are composed.

In 1816, Thomas Jefferson had this to say:

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead.

The Articles of Confederation were simply a treaty, an agreement among thirteen sovereign states. They could not be amended except by unanimous consent.

The Constitution was different. It was to be amendable. In fact, the first thing Congress did was to propose twelve amendments.

Two hundred years after the constitution was ratified the voice of Ronald Reagan was heard:

Indeed, we gave birth to an entirely new concept in man’s relation to man. We created government as our servant, beholden to us and possessing no powers except those voluntarily granted to it by us. Now, a self-anointed elite in our nation’s capital would have us believe we are incapable of guiding our own destiny. They practice government by mystery, telling us it’s too complex for our understanding. Believing this, they assume we might panic if we were to be told the truth about our problems.

Finally, a quote from old Ben Franklin, who was asked what the convention had created:

A Republic, madam. If you can keep it.

On these pages I ask the questions, “Have we the will? Shall we keep it?