(From the diaries…bill s)
The heart of this entry is a letter I wrote in response to one specific liberal professor who made the mistake of attempting to embarrass me for holding conservative views. First let me share a little back-story. It was an online course on American Government, one that made use of a message board for class discussion and student interaction. After introductions our first assignment was to answer a question regarding freedom in America, including how and to whom it should be applied. I happily typed and posted my response, which I share here in part:
“Our Federation was founded on the ideas of Individualism, and the idea that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure. It was this idea that the framers of our Constitution embodied and enshrined within our system of governance. They sought to create a document that preserved and protected the idea of individual freedom by enumerating a system that not only protected the citizen but allowed the citizen to participate should he or she choose to do so.”
Being a liberal my professor could not let me, a mere student, praise the work of our nation’s founders, especially in an open forum where other students might be exposed to a positive view of them. Thus she felt it her duty to post a reply and correct my “errant” notions, and responded by stating:
“I will not usually intervene here, but I want to push you all to think about something —
Irish writes: “Our Federation was founded on the ideas of Individualism, and the idea that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure.” As I’m sure Irish knows, though, the Founding Fathers explicitly did not believe that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure. Quite the opposite. They believed that freedom should be available mostly to the wealthy, land-owning, white men. Our idea of who should be allowed to participate in this project of self-governance has evolved substantially over our history.”
Like so many liberal professors, in a room with a captive audience, this woman had become far too comfortable spouting factual inaccuracies and historically incorrect statements in order to drive forward a corrosive ideology. Like so many conservatives I am sick of this having become a common occurrence, so rather than drop the matter, I chose to respond:
In response to your attempt to correct my statement I would prefer to defend my position. I said exactly what I meant, it needs no correction, and furthermore I can defend my position with historical evidence.
At the time of our nation’s founding the understood meaning of the word “citizen”, so far as political involvement was concerned, was indeed that of white, land-owning, males. Thus, to say, as I did, that “Our Federation was founded on the ideas of Individualism, and the idea that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure” is accurate in its context. However to state that the founders “explicitly did not believe that freedom should be available to every citizen in equal measure” that they believed “[q]uite the opposite” going so far as to suggest that “They believed that freedom should be available mostly to the wealthy, land-owning, white men” is demonstrably incorrect.
It defies logic to suggest that our Constitution’s Framers intended to reserve citizenship and freedom to white, male, landowners, either generally or exclusively. If that were the case they could have done so, they had the opportunity — they had the votes.
Our Constitution, written by those very framers, does not restrict citizenship or freedom in such a manner. Even issues such as slavery are acknowledged but not enshrined, left instead to the discretion of the states. Nowhere within our founding document can be found anything resembling the Jim Crow laws or the “slave” codes that erupted in the South after the passing of the 13th Amendment. Yet these men you accuse of harboring such vile racist views had ample opportunity to include such legislation. Furthermore, the inclusion of the Article 5 Amendment process indicates that our Constitution’s framers were aware of the fact that times would change, and also aware of the need to provide for those changes. They were conscious of the population growth in the North and expected that it would eventually overrun the influence of the South within Congress. Feeling that this would be the case they allowed the Three-fifths Compromise in an effort to prevent the Southern States from simply importing more slaves as a means to increase their power within the House of Representatives. This act by the Framers suggests they intended to provide a means by which our federation could eventually deal with the issue of slavery while accomplishing the immediate, and necessary, task of creating a union of the existing States.
I would suggest that our Constitution is not a rigid document enshrining bigotry, patriarchy, or voting rights tied to landownership, is evidence of the lack of intent to restrict society in America in such a manner; but it could have been. This is a truth I feel is easily supported. We need look no further than he dissenting opinion in the infamous Dred Scott case. This document contains a great deal of history relating to the treatment of African Americans prior to the Emancipation. In the opinion Justice Benjamin R. Curtis reveals that four Northern states (Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire and New York) provided voting rights for African American citizens even before our Constitution was drafted. (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1072053/posts) Ironically, in light of your assertion, several states when ratifying the Constitution did so with votes from both Whites and African Americans. This, to my mind, seems to fail as evidence of an exclusionary approach by the Framers.
I am however not naïve, I realize that there were those among our founders who felt otherwise but the facts are clear — the majority of our Founding Fathers did not intend to restrict freedom, using a narrow definition of who was a “citizen,” reserving it to a select few, as you have suggested.
On a final note I would point out that where there hasbeen a substantial change to our definition, or understanding, of what constitutes a “citizen” it has been a result of those “white, male, landowners” in the North who voted to abolish the institution of slavery and redefine said citizenship, via the 13th and 14th Amendments, and this was done in the face of great opposition from the southern Democrat Party. (On a side note: This phenomena was repeated in the early 1900’s when again “white men” in the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to extend that definition to include recognized national voting rights for women as citizens of America, and this via another Constitutional Amendment. This decision closed the gap legally between citizenship and voting rights for women.)
The ability for this to happen, both for former slaves and for women, was precisely a result of those “white, male, landowners” who could have enshrined sexism, bigotry and the like within our founding document but did not.
I stand by my original statement, and maintain that I was accurate in my portrayal of the intent of our founders.
I appreciate your time.
I knew even then that I would not change her mindset, or reverse her ideology, but I also knew that I was throwing down a gauntlet she could not afford to pick up. This is why it is important we self-educate. We as conservatives must be able to defend our beliefs with documented and researched opinions. It is amazing to watch a liberal when they are out of their element, falling back on tired and weak hypothetical arguments.
Not surprisingly this professor never again attempted to correct my posts, and for the curious, my grade did not suffer for my response.