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Tag: Thomas Jefferson

Our Declaration of Independence

On this Independence Day, consider the virtue of independence in your own personal life.

Great American, and Russia-born, author Ayn Rand expressed the essence of independence at such a personal level, when she wrote in For the New Intellectual:

“Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence.” – “Galt’s Speech,” p. 128; via Lexicon.

In that context, including your life, and in light of the present conditions within the United States, listen again to The Declaration of Independence, and in particular the violations of individual rights committed by the English King.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETroXvRFoKY]

Reposted from Selfish Citizenship

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The Panic of 1819 and Rothbard

My readings the biographies of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe sparked an interest in the Panic of 1819, America’s first depression following the adoption of our Constitution. This panic had parallels to our present economic problems in that it was caused by credit policies of the Second Bank of the United States, federal credit policies related to the sale of western land, and changes in world trade resulting from the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Searching for a book on the event, only one kept popped up: The Panic of 1819: Reactions and Policies by Murray N. Rothbard. Frankly, this set off my crap detector. I have never read any Rothbard, but reference to his name left a bad taste in my mouth. Doing a quick Google search to investigate my reaction, I found the he had something to do with Libertarianism and was a critic of Objectivism. Not a ringing endorsement for his judgment and knowledge.

Thus, I decided to find an alternate reference by reviewing the sources and footnotes of Dumas, Ketcham, and Ammon from the biographies of the above referenced Presidents. I was surprised to find that, in addition to volumes of primary sources, both Dumas and Ammon cited Rothbard’s book. Further, Ammon praised it in a footnote by saying, “See the excellent study by Murray N. Rothbard…” As potential alternative sources, Ammon lamented the lack of a scholarly biography of Sec. of Treasury William H. Crawford, which I understand to still be true; and, he suggested Smith’s Economic Aspects of the Second Bank of the United States (Harvard Press, 1953) as a source on the public sector operations of the bank.

Lacking a better focused and concise alternative, I purchased and will read Rothbard’s book. If I can critically read authors as vile as Marx, Foucault, and Fanon, then sorting the Rothbard errors from the facts should not be too difficult of a task. I understand that this book is founded in his dissertation, so perhaps there was sufficient oversight to prevent biased analysis and omission of relevant facts. Plus, I will be able to assess Rothbard’s cited sources, if need be. I plan future posts related to the book as I read it.

Note to self: perhaps the Miller Center at UVa should organize a panel on the Panic of 1819, as it has interesting impacts upon our Presidents: Jefferson and Madison as former Presidents, and Monroe as the acting President; I suspect the same to be true of John Q. Adams as Sec. of State plus later President and legislator, and the subsequent presidencies of Jackson and Van Buren, who served during the Panic of 1837. I cannot recall any discussion associating Jackson’s veto of the Bank of the United States and the Panic of 1819, which seems like missing the elephant in the room; perhaps Remini’s trilogy on Jackson will offer me some information on that point.

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On Foreign Policy, Our Founders vs. Ron Paul

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvo8Sc6l5PQ]

It has been asserted that Ron Paul’s foreign policy is consistent with that of our Founders.  Let me list some of the actual foreign policies of the early American government so that supporters of Paul can reconsider whether he is actually consistent with them.

•     As an ambassador overseas, John Adams undermined foreign governments by giving aid to revolutionaries; further, he sought to promote American constitutional republicanism as superior to the monarchies of Europe and democratic proposals of French intellectuals.

•     As Minister to France, both Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe sought to increase American trade with France in part to weaken Britain. Jefferson offered detailed reforms to French laws that were necessary to rollback intrusive economic regulation.

•     American governments consistently made it a matter of policy to obstruct sovereign native tribes’ relations with European powers; manifestations of this policy include:  the War of 1812, Jackson’s invasion of Spanish Florida during the Monroe Administration, and a policy of pushing Indians west of the Mississippi that began in the Washington Administration.

•     A key policy plank of the Democratic – Republican Party before 1801 was a strong alliance with and preference for post-revolutionary France as part of a policy to expand republican governments in the world.

•     As President, Jefferson secured the purchase of Louisiana by advising the French that their failure to transfer New Orleans and navigation of the Mississippi to the Americans would result in war.

•     During the Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe Administrations, Spain was under threat of war with America over Spanish West Florida; during the Napoleonic wars, an American invasion of Spanish Florida was considered so as to prevent it from falling into British hands.  As President, Monroe invaded Florida twice to suppress piracy and the Seminoles.

•     During the Jefferson Administration, the United States engaged in regime change in Tripoli.

•     The Monroe Doctrine opposed further colonization by Europeans in the Americas.

•     Madison and Monroe both championed colonization in Liberia by freed American slaves.

•     During the Jefferson and Madison Administrations, American trade with Britain and France was subject to a series of federal restrictions to prevent such commerce.  The stated object of these policies was to compel Britain and France to change their own policies.

I do not find such early American foreign policies to be consistent with an evaluation of a non-interventionist American government that “didn’t pretend to know all the answers” while staying out of other people’s business.

For a study of early American foreign policy, I recommend the following definitive biographers:  Douglas Southall Freeman on Washington, C. Bradley Thompson on John Adams, Dumas Malone on Jefferson, Ralph Ketcham on Madison, and Harry Ammon on Monroe.  I am looking forward to reading Samuel Flagg Bemis’ volume John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy; while it is out of print, it can be found and I have it.

On Jefferson in particular, Malone’s account of his time as Minister to France, Secretary of State, and President demonstrates that Jefferson established principles for American foreign policy that have been consistent to the present.

Foreign policy is just another area in which Ron Paul is anti-Jeffersonian.

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