Those Petty, Big Government Founders (were not libertarian)


The Pink Flamingo is a historian.  I wrote about history.  In fact, I am currently writing a book dealing with a historic topic. The one group of people in the word as a genre are Democrats.  I dislike historical revisionists even more than I dislike Democrats.  I don’t are if revisions are liberal, conservative, or libertarian.  Revisionism is a lie – plain and simple.  It is dishonest.   The current conservative/libertarian revisionist spew Glenn Beck is parroting is a lie.   Some of his facts may be correct, but he is mis-representing them.

The Glenn Beck libertarian crowd likes to parrot about Alexander Hamilton, ignoring the actual facts of his story. Both Hamilton and Washington believed in a strong central government.  (so did Lincoln).  John Adams was a Federalist.

George Washington did not believe in political parties. He wanted the POTUS to remain independent above it all.  This said, his policies were basically Federalist.  Jefferson’s were “Republican” – which later eventually evolved into today’s Democratic Party.

Our Founders were not saints.  They were not perfect.  They were flawed men and women who, for the most part, detested on another.  For one brief shining moment they were able to put aside their dislike of one another and do something remarkable.  Once the crises was over, they went back to behaving badly.  They were normal people – normal men for their era.  They were also raving L – I – B – E – R – A – L – S.

There was nothing conservative about their agenda.  There was nothing libertarian about their agenda.  The fact is, the whole concept of “libertarian” did not exist. They did not even think about.  It was not there.

“…The Federalists were dominated by businessmen and merchants in the major cities who supported a strong national government. The party was closely linked to the modernizing, urbanizing, financial policies of Alexander Hamilton. These policies included the funding of the national debt and also assumption of state debts incurred during the Revolutionary War, the incorporation of a national Bank of the United States, the support of manufactures and industrial development, and the use of a tariff to fund the Treasury. In foreign affairs the Federalists opposed the French Revolution, engaged in the “Quasi War” (an undeclared naval war) with France in 1798–99, sought good relations with Britain and sought a strong army and navy. Ideologically the controversy between Republicans and Federalists stemmed from a difference of principle and style. In terms of style the Federalists distrusted the public, thought the elite should be in charge, and favored national power over state power. Republicans distrusted Britain, bankers, merchants and did not want a powerful national government. The Federalists, notably Hamilton, were distrustful of “the people,” the French, and the Republicans. In the end, the nation synthesized the two positions, adopting representative democracy and a strong nation state. Just as importantly, American politics by the 1820s accepted the two-party system whereby rival parties stake their claims before the electorate, and the winner takes control of the government….’

Alexander Hamilton would not be someone Ron Paul liked.  In fact, everything that Washington and Alexander stood for would be very much against the libertarians today  – and basically very GOP.

“...On taking office in 1789 President Washington nominated New York lawyer Alexander Hamilton to the office of Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton wanted a strong national government with financial credibility. Hamilton proposed the ambitious Hamiltonian economic program that involved assumption of the state debts incurred during the Revolutionary War, creating a national debt and the means to pay it off, and setting up a national bank. James Madison, Hamilton’s ally in the fight to ratify the United States Constitution, joined with Thomas Jefferson in opposing Hamilton’s program.

By 1790 Hamilton started building a nationwide coalition. Realizing the need for vocal political support in the states, he formed connections with like-minded nationalists and used his network of treasury agents to link together friends of the government, especially merchants and bankers, in the new nation’s dozen major cities. His attempts to manage politics in the national capital to get his plans through Congress, then, “brought strong responses across the country. In the process, what began as a capital faction soon assumed status as a national faction and then, finally, as the new Federalist party.”..”

Do not think that Jefferson was above petty politics.

“…The state networks of both parties began to operate in 1794 or 1795. Patronage now became a factor. The winner-take-all election system opened a wide gap between winners, who got all the patronage, and losers, who got none. Hamilton had over 2000 Treasury jobs to dispense, while Jefferson had one part-time job in the State Department, which he gave to journalist Philip Freneau to attack the federalists. In New York, however, George Clinton won the election for governor and used the vast state patronage fund to help the Republican cause….Washington tried and failed to moderate the feud between his two top cabinet members. He was re-elected without opposition in 1792. The Democratic-Republicans nominated New York’s Governor Clinton to replace Federalist John Adams as vice president, but Adams won. The balance of power in Congress was close, with some members still undecided between the parties. In early 1793, Jefferson secretly prepared resolutions for William Branch Giles, Congressman from Virginia, to introduce what would have repudiated the Treasury Secretary and destroyed the Washington Administration. Hamilton brilliantly defended his administration of the nation’s complicated financial affairs, which none of his critics could decipher until the arrival in Congress of the brilliant Republican Albert Gallatin in 1793.”…”

The French Revolution:  Washington was against the Terror.  Jefferson supported the revolutionary forces, but later denounced them.

“…International affairs — the French Revolution and the subsequent war between royalist Britain and republican France — decisively shaped American politics in 1793–1800, and threatened to entangle the nation in wars that “mortally threatened its very existence.” The French revolutionaries guillotined King Louis XVI in January 1793, leading the British to declare war to restore the monarchy. The King had been decisive in helping America achieve independence. Now he was dead and many of the pro-American aristocrats in France were exiled or executed. Federalists warned that American republicans threatened to replicate the horrors of the French Revolution, and successfully mobilized most conservatives and many clergymen. The Republicans, some of whom had been strong Francophiles, responded with support, even through the Reign of Terror, when thousands were guillotined. Many of those executed had been friends of the United States, such as the Comte D’Estaing, whose fleet defeated the British at Yorktown. (Lafayette had already fled into exile, and Thomas Paine went to prison in France.) The Republicans denounced Hamilton, Adams, and even Washington as friends of Britain, as secret monarchists, and as enemies of the republican values. The level of rhetoric reached a fever pitch.

Paris in 1793 sent a new minister, Edmond-Charles Genêt (known as Citizen Genêt), who systematically mobilized pro-French sentiment and encouraged Americans to support France’s war against Britain and Spain. Genêt funded local Democratic-Republican Societies that attacked Federalists.  He hoped for a favorable new treaty and for repayment of the debts owed to France. Acting aggressively, Genêt outfitted privateers that sailed with American crews under a French flag and attacked British shipping. He tried to organize expeditions of Americans to invade Spanish Louisiana and Spanish Florida. When Secretary of State Jefferson told Genêt he was pushing American friendship past the limit, Genêt threatened to go over Washington’s head and rouse public opinion on behalf of France. Even Jefferson agreed this was blatant foreign interference in domestic politics. Genêt’s extremism seriously embarrassed the Jeffersonians and cooled popular support for promoting the French Revolution and getting involved in its wars. Recalled to Paris for execution, Genêt kept his head and instead went to New York, where he became a citizen and married the daughter of Governor Clinton. Jefferson left office, ending the coalition cabinet and allowing the Federalists to dominate….”

Jefferson as POTUS was a stinker – and a BIG GOVERNMENT KIND OF GUY!

“…After 1800 the major Federalist role came in the judiciary. Although Jefferson managed to repeal the Judiciary Act of 1801 and thus dismiss many Federalist judges, their effort to impeach Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in 1804 failed. Led by the last great Federalist, John Marshall as Chief Justice from 1801 to 1835, the Supreme Court carved out a unique and powerful role as the protector of the Constitution and promoter of nationalism.

President Jefferson imposed an embargo on Britain in 1807; the Embargo Act of 1807 prevented all American ships from sailing to a foreign port. The idea was that the British were so dependent on American supplies that they would come to terms. For 15 months the Embargo wrecked American export businesses, largely based in the Boston-New York region, causing a sharp depression in the Northeast. Evasion was common and Jefferson and Treasury Secretary Gallatin responded with tightened police controls more severe than anything the Federalists had ever proposed. Public opinion was highly negative, and a surge of support breathed fresh life into the Federalist party. The Republicans (slowly assuming the name “Democratic-Republicans”) nominated Madison for the presidency in 1808. Federalists, meeting in the first-ever national convention, considered the option of nominating Vice President George Clinton as their own candidate, but balked at working with him and again chose Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, their 1804 candidate. Madison lost New England but swept the rest of the country and carried a (Democratic-)Republican Congress. Madison dropped the Embargo, opened up trade again, and offered a carrot and stick approach. If either France or Britain agreed to stop their violations of American neutrality, the U.S. would cut off trade with the other country. Tricked by Napoleon into believing France had acceded to his demands, Madison turned his wrath on Britain, and the War of 1812 began….”

The late Eyler Robert Coates, Sr. was the leading scholar on the life of Thomas Jefferson. He wrote a series of articles designed to disclaim the libertarian lies that Jefferson was a libertarian. He was not.

“…Objectivists and those Libertarians influenced by Ayn Rand all claim Thomas Jefferson as their patron saint, as does every other political faction now-a-days, it seems. But some of the very basic premises of Objectivist philosophy vary significantly from many of the basic premises of Jefferson’s politics. These differences suggest a fundamental incompatible, even though there are some selected statements by Jefferson that all Objectivists and Libertarians wholeheartedly embrace.

As with any philosophical system taken seriously by highly intelligent adherents, Objectivism is an intricate, complex set of doctrines that occupies the best mental energies of some very capable people. It begins with certain premises, and on those builds a highly intricate structure. We have no intention here of discussing all the ramifications of Objectivist theory. What we intend to show is that Jefferson’s thought included some very basic premises that formed a foundation for a political philosophy which, while including some statements that are consonant with Objectivist beliefs, is nevertheless in overall and fundamental disagreement with their foundations. This is not intended as a critique or examination of Objectivist philosophy as a whole. It merely examines some of the fundamentals and attempts to show that an incompatibility exists at a very basic level. Hence, the basic premises discussed here are not highly abstract; they are instead simple, “self-evident” truths that can be appreciated by the mind of any thoughtful person.

Orthodox Objectivists — those who adhere strictly to the original teachings of Ayn Rand — do not treat Jefferson’s thought as a complete philosophical system. Rather, they treat his writings as a resource from which they can extract a few isolated thoughts and use them to support their own positions. This causes them to ignore other thoughts of Jefferson that do not fit their purposes, and that put those more acceptable statements of Jefferson in a different light. But any thorough examination of Jefferson’s thought will reveal that his statements are not just isolated ideas; they all fit together into a complete, interrelated philosophy of individual liberty and national self-government. All of his statements are built upon certain fundamental ideas, and derive their force from the basic premises that give meaning to the whole.

These essays will therefore focus on the differences between Jefferson’s thought and that of Ayn Rand. There are people who call themselves Objectivists who do not adhere strictly to all of Miss Rand’s teachings. Indeed, many feel that she was outright wrong on some issues and agree with some of the points made here. As a result, “Objectivism” means one thing to some, and another to others, and Objectivist thought becomes an uncertain target. But we here will be looking at what might be called “orthodox” Objectivism: Objectivism as taught by Ayn Rand and embraced by most of her followers.

Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.