This often-debated quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin following the creation of the United States Constitution in 1787. Franklin’s message underscored this form of government would be difficult to maintain. Greed and the lust for power in the hearts of some would seek to alter our nation to suit their own needs vs. the needs of the nation. This is the underlying struggle behind the rhetoric and noise of our current elections. Do we abandon the very foundation of our nation or do we fight for the structure and the natural rights protected by our Constitution and Bill of Rights?
The most complete version of Franklin’s quote indicates the person asking the question was Mrs. Elizabeth Willing Powel, a prominent society figure and the wife of Philadelphia Mayor Samuel Powel, and goes as such:
Powel: Well, Doctor, what have we got?
Franklin: A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.
Powel: And why not keep it?
Franklin: Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good.
It is important to remember where our new country was at this point. Having just freed itself from the oppressive rule of England, the Founding Fathers were insistent on establishing a government which would not devolve into the same monarchy they had just freed themselves of. They were also highly concerned about “the tyranny of the majority” in a democracy.
In a democracy, the majority rules on every issue and there are no protections for the minority opinion. If 51% of the population decides there is no right to free speech, then there is no right to free speech, period.
This is why the Founders chose to create our country as a republic. In a republic, a constitution protects inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government, even if a majority of the population votes for it. So even if 99% of the population votes there is no right to free speech, then the law is unconstitutional and invalid.
It would sound like a done deal then, right? It can’t happen here because of our natural rights are protected by the Constitution. But that’s not what is happening. Our Constitutionally protected rights are being eroded at an alarming rate and the process is relatively easy.
Lawmakers who enjoy a ‘flexible’ interpretation of their oath of office appoint like-minded judges on the bench to validate the laws they enact. If a new law is challenged, it can be upheld as “Constitutional” by judges who are willing to ignore the original text of the Constitution, Supreme Court precedents and the rule of law to create new precedents. Each new precedent builds on the last until you have a set of laws that has NO resemblance to anything Constitutional.
The protection for our rights is supposed to be in the checks and balances provided by the three branches of government. But when the courts are subverted by political appointees who are willing to legislate from the bench and utilize highly creative interpretations of the Constitution to advance a radical ideology, our individual rights easily, and legally disappear.
Maintaining the balance of power and independence of the Judiciary is one of the reasons the elections are so contentious this year. One political party is vowing to expand the United States Supreme Court with liberal appointees deemed ideologically compatible in order to “reduce the influence of politics”. Put another way, they want the high court to validate whatever law they put forward and a conservative, originalist / constitutionalist majority court would most certainly prevent that.
How do they get around this? Easily, just by having politicians (who see the Constitution as a systemically racist construct that is standing in the way of implementing socialistic changes) controlling both Houses of Congress and the White House. It allows them to eliminate the Senate filibuster, stack the Supreme Court, eliminate the Electoral College and add additional left leaning states to ensure a long-term, unbreakable liberal majority.
Oh, I know… I’m just a right-wing conspiracy nut who’s trying to invoke fear among conservatives and maintain a white supremist dominated country. EXCEPT, all these plans have originated FROM left-wing zealot politicians already in office, both as threats against the judiciary branch and promises to their constituents.
It is unfortunate that so many in our country have bought into the belief that our nation was so fundamentally flawed from the beginning it must be torn down and rebuilt in a new, reimagined way. What they seem to forget is their natural rights of freedom of speech, the right to peacefully assemble and the ability to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, the very rights they are exercising to demand the complete restructuring of our country, are the rights protected by what they want to get rid of.
Whether history’s recording of Benjamin Franklin comments is accurate or not, the call to action it evokes is important to us all. Do we allow the underling principles of our country to be swept away in a wave of lies and political correctness or do we continue to build on that foundation in a way that protects our rights now and into the future?
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