This column appeared in the Laurel Leader Call (Laurel, MS) on May 22, 2012:
“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” So said Thomas Jefferson, the architect of American liberty and its greatest champion. Throughout his entire life, he fought every attempt by government to control the lives of the people, in thought, speech, and deed.
Today we should be just as vigilant, whether a form of tyranny originates in Washington, Jackson, or the local schoolhouse. We must be ever mindful that state and local governments can be just as tyrannical as Washington, DC. Continue reading
The United States faces an abundance of problems, a weak economy, an abundance of public expenditures, out of control entitlements, and an over-expansive foreign policy, to name a few. These issues are getting worse, not better, with no end in sight. In recent decades, politicians of nearly every conceivable stripe have offered solutions, all to no avail. The only real solution to America’s woes is a return to Jeffersonian principles.
Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and D.R. Francis standing on a porch circa 1903. Courtesy of the POTUS Flickr archive.
Since the days of Grover Cleveland, who ended the harsh Panic of 1893 in less than a full term in office, the federal government has used Keynesian economic theory, or intervention, to fight every economic downturn. The results have been less than spectacular. What began as a severe recession in 1929 became the “Great Depression,” the worst economic calamity in American history. Many people will be surprised to learn that the Great Depression came after the government stepped in with its bag of tricks. It did not end until the latter half of the 1940s.
After the Panic of 2008, the government bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion. In 2009, the Obama administration kicked in another $800 billion in a stimulus designed to jump-start the sagging economy. A total of $1.5 trillion in stimulus money has been apportioned. The economy is still in a state of mild depression with a net job loss during the Obama presidency. Continue reading
The United States began its existence as an independent nation during a pitched battle over what direction the federal government should take and which party – the Hamiltonian Federalist or the Jeffersonian Republican – would rightly carry the banner of the American Revolution. This first ideological fight took place in President Washington’s Cabinet, which found itself torn between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The philosophical clash that began in 1789 continues today.
Hamilton’s arguments prevailed during both the Washington and Adams administrations, but Jefferson struck back with a great victory in 1800 and stopped the Federalist onslaught. The nation was governed, for the most part, by Jeffersonian principles for the next sixty years, and, despite some historians’ beliefs to the contrary, Hamilton’s entire big government program was eventually repealed.
However with Lincoln’s election in 1860 – Old Abe being from the school of Hamiltonian thought – and the secession of the Jeffersonian South, the Republican Party re-instituted all of Hamilton’s ideas – a strong central government, a national banking system, fiat currency, high tariffs and internal taxes, direct aid to corporations, loose construction of the Constitution, and suppression of civil liberties, with little opposition. Continue reading
Politicians, pundits, and scholars have wrestled over a central question throughout American political and constitutional history: What role should the government have in the lives of ordinary citizens?
For Jeffersonian Conservatives, such as Grover Cleveland, the government has no business involving itself in areas outside its limited, constitutional role, and should never take a position as a “custodian;” the people should be free to pursue their own dreams without government interference, to rise as high and as far as their God-given talent, abilities, and determination will carry them. Success or failure depends on the individual.
Some liberals on the other side of the political spectrum believe the government should play a vital role in the lives of the people, from cradle to grave. They believe the lowly masses cannot take care of themselves. For Democrats, government must step in and take up the role of caretaker. As Nancy Pelosi said in 2011: “I view my work in politics as an extension of my role as a mom.”[i] This progressive viewpoint is known as government paternalism, and has been defined as “a policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.”[ii] Continue reading
Whenever friends and family find out the subject of my new book, one of the first questions I am usually asked is: “Why Grover Cleveland?” My answer: “Why not?” For Grover Cleveland, who served as both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, was one of the greatest conservative statesmen in American history, a steadfast advocate of Jeffersonian political principles, the bedrock of conservatism. The Last Jeffersonian: Grover Cleveland and the Path to Restoring the Republic is an examination of the true nature of conservative thought, exemplified by the public life of Cleveland, and a pathway to a restoration of the republic crafted by our Founding Fathers.
During my first semester of graduate school, at the University of Southern Mississippi, I became seriously interested in Grover Cleveland and his political life after reading a less than stellar biography. As I delved deeper into his policies, I soon realized that the career of this forgotten statesman offers answers to modern America’s most pressing political issues, such as the public character and behavior of our politicians, direct governmental assistance to the people, actions during an economic depression, foreign intervention, and upholding political principles. It is only with the study of history, and the solutions Cleveland provided for us, that we can solve our problems and restore the constitutional republic. Continue reading
America is at a crossroads. The 2012 election, as well as those in the very near future, could very well determine what kind of nation we will leave for posterity. Yet, while on our current political trajectory, America is in danger of losing the constitutional republic created by the Founding Fathers, and once lost, it might be gone forever.
My new book, The Last Jeffersonian: Grover Cleveland and the Path to Restoring the Republic, examines the true nature of conservative thought, the present direction of the nation, and the changes we must make in order to preserve our great political heritage. Exhibit A in achieving these three goals is a study of the public career of Grover Cleveland, who served as the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, from 1885-1889 and from 1893-1897.
As a great public servant – mayor, governor, and president – Cleveland confronted many of the same troubles we face in our time – the public character and behavior of our candidates, the role of government in the everyday lives of the people, the burden of taxation, the distribution of wealth, government involvement in an economic depression, spending, constitutional interpretation, and complex foreign affairs. Continue reading