The Founders

Here’s An Example From Jefferson On How To Argue Your Position In A Scholarly Manner

todayNovember 25, 2013 6

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Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – How many times have you checked your email, gone to your Facebook page, gone to your Twitter feed, go to your blog on your website and someone has gotten into an internet spat or an electronic spat with someone else and they have played the final trump card?  What is it?  It’s a quote.  How many times have you seen a quote played as the trump card and it’s got James Madison’s name attached to it, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, something to that effect?  Check out today’s transcript for the rest…


Begin Mike Church Show Transcript

Mike:  How many times have you checked your email, gone to your Facebook page, gone to your Twitter feed, go to your blog on your website and someone has gotten into an internet spat or an electronic spat with someone else and they have played the final trump card?  What is it?  It’s a quote.  [mocking] “Let me tell you something, buddy!”  How many times have you seen a quote played as the trump card and it’s got James Madison’s name attached to it, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, something to that effect?  [mocking] “Yeah, I got you now.  I won the fight.  I quoted a founder.”  Fine, you quoted a founder.  Great, wonderful.  Do you actually know that that founder actually said that?  Can you cite the source?  Do you actually know why or in what context he said it in?  Can you produce the source document?  Can you date it?

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Henry_detail_ChristmasThese things seem like trivial concerns but they’re not, and I’ll tell you why.  If you’re reading letters of 18th and 19th century statesmen, and if they’re quoting things and we can find these things today thanks to our electronic card catalog, Google, you can rely on the fact that they had the source right there in front of them.  They didn’t guess.  They didn’t say: Hey, man, somebody told me such and such said this in a book so I’m gonna put it in this letter here.  They had the source.  This is important.  They had the source in front of them.

Here’s what’s even more important.  They probably read the source, the entire source.  In other words, they didn’t just read that entire sentence.  They probably read an entire letter or they read the entire book or pamphlet or the transcript of the entire speech, that way they could put it into context.  They would know whether or not they should be using it.  This, in other words, was good scholarship on their part.  You may recall a month back or so that Senator Rand Paul was accused of plagiarizing things.  I said I love Senator Rand Paul.  He’s one of the few I do love and admire, and I mean that in the manliest sort of way.  We need for guys like Paul to be on their game on this.  They need to have good, solid, sound scholarship.  It elevates their cause.  It makes it that much less impregnable to criticism.  This is important.  We should all value this and we should all value scholarship for its own sake.  We all love to carp and complain about education.  You’re not doing anything about education if when you’re acting in a scholarly fashion you’re not doing what scholars do.  That doesn’t mean we all have to be scholars.

My point to Simpson was that nothing is altered or changed by the dropping in of the “trump card,” other than somebody goes: Nah nee nah nee boo boo!  No mind has been changed or altered.  No opinion has been moved.  No mighty course of great nations has been altered, nothing of the sort.  You know what’s happened?  A personal vendetta has been settled, that’s what’s happened.  I think it’s equally important, if you’re going to quote founders and use them as your trump cards, that you understand or have read what the founder read to arrive at his or her opinion.  There’s very little in that canon other than a few seminal works, and I mentioned two of them the other day, Jefferson’s “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania.”  There are very few of those works that are self-authored, and even in those works you will find references.

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We’re not helping ourselves out by dropping the founder trump card, in other words.  Go to your sources.  Thanks to Google and Bing and Yahoo, you can now find those sources.  Understand the reasons.  You will be a smarter, more well-rounded debater because of it. You’ll be able to back the point up and say “No, you’re wrong, sir” politely “and here’s why.”  Folks, that’s our job.  That’s what we have to do.  We can’t stoop down to their levels.  We can’t use cheap, sloppy scholarship or cheap, sloppy debating skills — they’re not skills, they’re debating tactics — to score personal vendetta victories.  If what is at stake here is truly existential, then doesn’t it call for the most concerted efforts?  If you want to restore classical education, it would seem to me one of the ways to do it would be to actually practice it.  I don’t know, maybe I’m old-fashioned and weird.

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This is why I wanted to bring this letter that Jefferson wrote to P.S. Dupont De Nemours to your attention today.  I had to go back and read the preceding letter that Nemours had sent to Jefferson.  There’s a problem with that because it’s in French.  I had to rely on somebody else reading it and yielding an opinion on it.  You can actually find it in today’s Pile of Prep.  What Jefferson was doing was advising these French guys who were trying to save France after the great terror of Robespierre, after the tyranny of Napoleon.  They were trying to put French back on a republican course.  They sent Jefferson what their ideas were and Jefferson went: That ain’t gonna work, dude, and here’s why.  Here’s what Jefferson wrote, in part, and this has great bearing on what the United States Senate did yesterday.  Jefferson is going to refresh our view of why we have a Constitution and why those men were willing to live under it back in 1816.  It’s a lengthy quote but I think it’s worth listening to.


Hence, with us, the people (by which is meant the mass of individuals composing the society) being competent to judge of the facts occurring in ordinary life, they have retained the functions of judges of facts, under the name of jurors; but being unqualified for the management of affairs requiring intelligence above the common level, yet competent judges of human character, they chose, for their management, representatives, some by themselves immediately, others by electors chosen by themselves. Thus our President is chosen by ourselves, directly in practice, for we vote for A as elector only on the condition he will vote for B, our representatives by ourselves immediately, our Senate and judges of law through electors chosen by ourselves. And we believe that this proximate choice and power of removal is the best security which experience has sanctioned for ensuring an honest conduct in the functionaries of society. Your three or four alembications have indeed a seducing appearance. We should conceive primâ facie, that the last extract would be the pure alcohol of the substance, three or four times rectified. But in proportion as they are more and more sublimated, they are also farther and farther removed from the control of the society; [Mike: This should start sounding familiar now.] and the human character, we believe, requires in general constant and immediate control, to prevent its being biased from right by the seductions of self-love. Your process produces therefore a structure of government from which the fundamental principle of ours is excluded. You first set down as zeros all individuals not having lands, which are the greater number in every society of long standing. Those holding lands are permitted to manage in person the small affairs of their commune or corporation, and to elect a deputy for the canton; in which election, too, every one’s vote is to be an unit, a plurality, or a fraction, in proportion to his landed possessions. The assemblies of cantons, then, elect for the districts; those of districts for circles; and those of circles for the national assemblies. Some of these highest councils, too, are in a considerable degree self-elected, the regency partially, the judiciary entirely, and some are for life. [Mike: Listen to this.] Whenever, therefore, an esprit de corps, or of party, gets possession of them, which experience shows to be inevitable, there are no means of breaking it up, for they will never elect but those of their own spirit. Juries are allowed in criminal cases only. I acknowledge myself strong in affection to our own form, yet both of us act and think from the same motive, we both consider the people as our children, and love them with parental affection. But you love them as infants whom you are afraid to trust without nurses; and I as adults whom I freely leave to self-government. And you are right in the case referred to you; my criticism being built on a state of society not under your contemplation. It is, in fact, like a critic on Homer by the laws of the Drama.

republican-shirt-ifyouhavetoask1But when we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society. I meet you there in all the benevolence and rectitude of your native character; and I love myself always most where I concur most with you. Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of your society. I believe with you that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force; that a right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings; that no one has a right to obstruct another, exercising his faculties innocently for the relief of sensibilities made a part of his nature; that justice is the fundamental law of society; that the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society; that action by the citizens in person, in affairs within their reach and competence, and in all others by representatives, chosen immediately, and removable by themselves, constitutes the essence of a republic; that all governments are more or less republican in proportion as this principle enters more or less into their composition; and that a government by representation is capable of extension over a greater surface of country than one of any other form. These, my friend, are the essentials in which you and I agree; however, in our zeal for their maintenance, we may be perplexed and divaricate, as to the structure of society most likely to secure them.

[end reading]

article-v-pamphlet-adMike:  There’s more on this about the history of republics and about some of the republics of the world at that time.  What we can conclude is, and he said this out loud, when a majority acts to tyrannize an individual, that is a criminal act.  I would say that a majority acting to tax an individual, to steal from him the fruit of his labor so it can be transferred to another, that that is an act of tyranny.  That is an act of plunder; therefore, again, we talked about this yesterday when David Simpson was here, that’s a crime.  Most of what is done that Harry Reid and company now want to do more of in the national legislature is criminal.  It’s immoral and it’s criminal.

What was Jefferson’s remedy?  What did he say?  He used [r]epublican.  He said the only way this will work over a great landmass is if the people have a direct method of recourse, meaning that guy, that woman screwed me and I am going to put together a coterie of people and we’re going to un-elect you, disempower you.  Is that possible today?  In very rare and limited instances, yes, but our representatives are not directly controlled by us or answerable to us.  I suggested on yesterday’s show that you go and visit with your state representative.  Sit down with your state representative and you will probably find this out.  They purport to represent you, but what they really are representing are the will, or at least partially, the will of what has already been established.  There’s very little inertia to stop any of this.  What Harry Reid and company did yesterday is just going to make it that much more difficult.

End Mike Church Show Transcript



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