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  • Writer's pictureShane Caraway

Modern Politics Foreshadowed in 1787

The normal pursuit of my literary passions often requires revisiting historic documents that I have read dozens of times previously, simply to refresh or to confirm that my perception remains unclouded. Today I was prompted to read Federalist 1, an essay I first read years ago and many times since, but today affected me profoundly in the context of the current political climate. In particular, it was Hamilton's profound, yet seemingly casual observations concerning the volatility of political fanaticism and zealotry.

In part, Federalist 1 reads:

A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude, that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations, and by the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatised, as the off-spring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An overscrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretence and artifice; the bait for popularity at the expence of public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of violent love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is too apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten, that the vigour of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us, that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism, than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics the greatest number have begun their career, by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing Demagogues and ending Tyrants."

It is difficult to imagine a more salient review of modern events. Modern discourse, especially on the Left, is punctuated by fanatic emotionalism and subjective projections of truth or reality with the added insistence that these myriad and polymorphous untruths be elevated to the same level as objective reality. Repeated claims of insurrection, white supremacy, seething gun-murdering marauders and "racism" is weaponized to recruit more to the Left, the "loudness of their declamations, and by the bitterness of their invectives" alluded to by Hamilton. This includes the indoctrination of children into Leftist ideology and the ongoing malignancy that erroneously draws synonymy between disapproval and intolerant hatred.

This same crowd also assaults and maligns the "enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of the off-spring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty." A better description for restoring voter protections and the restoration of the Enumerated Powers Clause and Second Amendment could never be made. Any notion that the Federal Government cannot mandate broad, sweeping control is decried as an infringement on civil liberties, a stunning display of Newspeak throughout culture, while the restoration of natural rights is considered equally despotic. Meanwhile, those things that would definitively violate Constitutional protections and natural rights are praised and lauded, so long as those actions satisfy the ideological zealotry of the Left. Violence is the preferred method of effecting political change.

The redefinition of rights at the present day-a process begun by the pro-slavery Democratic Party who first insisted that owning blacks was a natural right-fulfill Hamilton's fears of "An overscrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people." This jealousy first triggered the Civil War; in the present day, perceived and imagined rights to sexualize children and to Federally-insured abortions threaten much the same.

Hamilton exposes the motivations behind this pattern, a pattern he and others observed in a cyclical pattern throughout human history. These perversions of rights and liberties were the result of "a dangerous ambition" that " often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people." This OVER emphasis of rights, or rather the perversion and distortion of rights (positive freedoms in most but not all respects), was the preferred vehicle of entropic nihilism and a return to historical despotism.

Despite his observations, and their relevance to the present, one is left to wonder if some great Western society a thousand years removed will tell the story of America with the sting of nostalgia, attempting to learn from the same errors repeated throughout the historical record.

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