We’re Not All Socialists Now: New Hampshire’s Jeffersonian Uprising
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 2/25/09
The Newsweek headline last week hit a cord: We Are All Socialists Now, it read. That should not surprise us, says Pete du Pont in a Wall Street Journal column, for more government involvement and decision-making in all aspects of our country's policies, organizations, businesses and local governments is the belief of the Obama presidency.
But not everyone is ready to roll over so quickly. Here in New Hampshire, they have discovered the long forgotten antidote to government over reaching: Thomas Jefferson.
It started with a skit, Margot Sanger-Katz reports in the Concord Monitor. Rep. Dan Itse was preparing for a Constitution Day celebration this summer when his research for the part of James Madison brought him to the 1798 Kentucky Resolution, a repudiation of federal overreaching penned by Madison and Thomas Jefferson in response to the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts.
"I looked at this and I said, this is the real thing," Itse told Sanger-Katz.
Now, the fruits of Itse's studies - a 2,400 word House continuing resolution designed to reassert New Hampshire's sovereignty - have set off a frenzy among liberty-themed media and have helped inspire a flurry of federalist legislation in states across the country.
Suddenly Itse is gaining national attention. He was recently interviewed on the Glenn Beck Show. Beck: “You say the federal government is overstepping its bounds. . . .”
“Yes,” said Itse. “We have a resolution which says, thus far and no farther. It’s a line in the sand to tell the federal government that they are no longer allowed to transgress the Constitution and if they do, they’re nullifying the Constitution.”
Itse quoted directly from Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution in his bill where Jefferson writes that we are not bound by unlimited submission to a general government by a compact, the Constitution.
Secession is clearly suggested in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, but Itse makes the more subtle point.
“This isn’t about withdrawing from the union,” he told Beck. “The happiest resolution of this resolution would be a renewed union within the confines of the Constitution. But if the general government nullifies the Constitution, how do you withdraw from something that doesn’t exist?”
“You’re playing word games,” said Beck.
But Beck missed the point. Jefferson and Madison did not leave the Constitutional faith. They carried the faith and kept it. The feds left the faith when they passed the illegal and unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts.
The Kentucky Resolutions, possibly more than any other legal document, express the immaculate mind of Jefferson and the pure vision of his legal writing. Jefferson says that the Constitution represents a contractual relationship between people freely entered upon based on good faith, fidelity, honor and responsibility one to the other. It is similar to a marriage contract. If one of the parties breaks the vows he or she has broken faith with the other and the marriage no longer exists; the people are living alone together in a house in bad faith, and it can no longer be called a marriage.
Likewise, if fidelity to the principles of the shared republic are broken, and Jefferson’s point was that the contract was broken when the federal government pushed through the oppressive Alien and Sedition Acts, then the republic no longer exists. The people then are little more than a horde, blindly following Emperor or Suleiman. In time, they become fenced cattle, neither free nor connected.
A House committee voted 13-7 against the proposal earlier this month, Sanger-Katz reports, but local activists plan a massive rally for the resolution's floor vote March 4. And between 10 and 22 states are considering similar resolutions this term, some inspired by New Hampshire's example. The bills all tell Congress to stop meddling in state functions.
Sanger-Katz reports that Sen. Randy Brogdon of Oklahoma, the sponsor of a similar resolution in his state, described Itse's bill as "poetic." The Oklahoma resolution, which reasserts that state's sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, passed that state's House last week and Brogdon predicts it will carry the Senate as well.
"If we're going to take back our nation, it's going to be, we're going to do it state by state," says Brogdon, a Republican from the suburbs of Tulsa who is mulling a run for governor in 2010. Brogdon pointed to the recently passed federal stimulus bill as just the latest congressional act that unconstitutionally limits states' autonomy. "Congress isn't doing it. Congress is destroying our nation," he said.
Matt Shea, an Iraq war veteran and a new state representative from Spokane, said he almost came out of his chair when he read the headline on Newsweek.
“It speaks volumes,” he said on the Alex Jones Show. “That type of federal government intervention and over reaching is exactly why state governments are beginning to fight back. We need to rediscover our sovereignty.”
They are sending a message to Barack Obama, he said, that Washington is a sovereign state and demands to be treated as such.