Lacey Smith

Freedom Fridays: The Preamble (Pt. 5)

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 12:53 am

I know it’s Sunday night and you are just now getting the Freedom Fridays post I promised last week. Next week I think will go more smoothly and I am hoping to return to regular noon-time postings.

In the mean time, this Freedom Fridays post has stumped me a little bit. The clause “insure domestic tranquility” was relatively undefined in my mind.

I really had to ponder what it means.

I also turned to the Federalist Papers. What better source than documents written by those who were there, who helped create our country?

Here’s what I found: insuring domestic tranquility means two things. The first is protecting the states from each other and unifying them. The second is is preventing the whims of men from destroying America.

In the 1780s, following the end of the Revolution, there was significant disharmony between the states. They each had their own currency, were not recognizing the laws of other states and putting tariffs on other states’ goods. It was damaging the national economy and threatening to put a swift end to America’s new freedom.

The founders knew it might get worse until there was full-out war between states.

In Federalist No. 6, Alexander Hamilton writes that “…if these states should either be wholly disunited or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other.”

In fact, we see this throughout history. In continents where many countries share borders with each other, there have been many issues when they are not somehow united. Ranging from small tiffs and scrimmages to full-out wars over everything from borders to fundamental ideology.

Hamilton asserts that “To look for a continuation of harmony  between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.”

The Middle East is a perfect example of the kind of chaos that can exist between just such individual governments.

More quiet examples can be seen in the former Soviet Union where states now exist wholly independently of each other and some nations utterly refuse to recognize others.

In at least one instance I know of, one nation goes so far as to have no roads that enter their country from another that they do not recognize. This means you literally have to leave that country and travel around it to go to the other, even though they share a border.

Imagine the kind of harm it would cause a young, small state to be prohibited from all trade and travel with its nearest neighbor. Worse is what happens when a larger country invades a smaller one and leaves them war-ravaged.

Insuring domestic tranquility is also about preventing the whims of men from destroying nations.

Hamilton, again in Fed. No. 6 writes that there are countries whose “attachments, enmities, interests, hopes and fears of leading individuals in the communities” shape the whole nation and that “Men of this class…have in too many instances…have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquility to personal advantage…”

In other words, these leaders’ own personal passions end up taking precedent over the good of the country.

The Constitution is designed to prevent this, setting up a system of checks and balances, preventing one person or group from hijacking the government. This I think I will focus on in later posts as it was a central concern of the founders, especially the Anti-Federalists.

I am concerned that insuring domestic tranquility will soon be used to justify the limitations of many of our rights. Now that we know what the founders intended, we must be wary of men twisting it to mean something else and speak out if and when that happens.


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