Liberty Defense League Timothy Baldwin Romans 13

You Are Here: Articles Monday, March 16, 2015

by Tim Baldwin

Part 3 addresses A Conservative Vision of Government sections, The Founders and The State and Legitimate Object.

The Founders and The State

A Conservative Vision of Government states well the Founders’ differing political and constitutional views and shows how “self-described leaders of the Tea Party” create a version of the founding fathers that is myopic and incomplete. That is, it does not account for the diversity of ideas under the Republican umbrella. If the TEA Party would recognize that their version of politics, the constitution and government is not the only legitimate one, then they would or should open their minds to other ideas, tactics and goals, including ones not TEA Party.

The article goes into a small but telling sampling of how the Federalists viewed politics and showed that the prevailing view of 1787 saw the Constitution as a working, pragmatic system. Distinguishing a conservative purist and pragmatist view (see here and here), the article states,

[The Founders] would have little toleration for politicians who are committed to abstract theories even when they are at odds with the given world and the welfare of the polity — who fail to differentiate between conserving the system by adapting it to changing circumstances and undermining the system by breaking with its fundamental aims and outlook.

Candidly, the Constitutional Convention Debates of 1787 show that the Constitution’s drafters held entirely different and opposing views of politics and the constitution. Some wanted no States; preferred monarchy; preferred aristocracy; wanted more democracy; etc.—the differences were as innumerable as a delegated political body could be. In truth, using TEA Party purism standards, most of the Founders’ political views would not be acceptable.

TEA Partiers who presume that their view is the “pure” political and constitutional view display their ignorance or arrogance—or both. Unfortunately, however, this purism causes them to oppose other conservatives of the same or similar principles, thus giving more power and advantage to the real or greater political enemies.

The Legitimate Object

This section starts by describing Abraham Lincoln as “continu[ing] the philosophical arc of the framers of the Constitution.” It continues, “[Lincoln] believed, as [the Founders] did, in a federal government strong enough to achieve large national purposes.” This is not a mischaracterization of the national principles expressed in 1787. Herein contains the rub: many TEA Partiers are rejecting the Federalist principles explained to get the Constitution ratified, which is frustrating the Republican Party (a sort of extension of the Federalists).

The article implores, “‘constitutional conservatives’ should recognize what both the federalist founders and Lincoln actually envisioned for the republic they created and preserved;” that is, “a profound and sophisticated vision of government and of government's relation to the life of the nation and the lives of its people.” Again, some TEA Partiers would find some of the Founders’ political views to be worthy of condemnation. Indeed, some are promoting a political philosophy unfamiliar with America’s core history.

Further using Enlightenment philosophy as the basis of the Federalist view, the article states,

[The Founders] were…heirs of the Enlightenment [and] fully expected America to spread across a continent, undergo economic and social change, and emerge as a global actor. And they purposely designed a constitutional system that could accommodate such ambitions.

This is not a mischaracterization of Enlightenment philosophy and the Federalists’ description of government’s general purpose. Yet, some TEA Partiers reject this philosophy and are working against it within the Republican Party, but they act as if their view of politics is the only correct view and the Founding view. They are wrong.

The article observes the truth that the Founders were not monolithic and homogenous in their political views, despite what some TEA Partiers present. The article states that this fact should thus

warn against short-circuiting that discussion with overly simplistic and legalistic appeals to the Constitution as a purely limiting document.

The article continues to implore conservatives to use the process itself to make desirable, long-lasting changes, as John Stuart Mill articulated (see part 2). It concludes,

Our debates about what government ought to do must be debates about what we take our constitutional order to be and what we think are appropriate national goals. Such questions should be addressed through the political process established by the Constitution; we cannot expect them all to be settled in detail simply through direct interpretation of the Constitution's text.


This article’s substance is sound. Think what you want about the “source”—it is irrelevant. While one may not like the philosophy presented, the fact is, it accurately resembles what the Federalists and Enlightenment philosophers expounded to create the Constitution and shape its application.

Passion is a great asset of human nature as it relates to the baser instincts and impulses of our experiences, but it does not do well in a complex, complicated political system as the United States. Instead of boiling blood, perhaps this article can shed light on other views of politics and the constitution that may be different but are equally valid as any TEA Party idea.


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