Some of us will have a day off on Monday, Feb. 19, because it is another federal three-day weekend, this time “President’s Day.”
But this federal holiday is yet another force-fed celebration of the Cult of Government. So, rather than pondering the lives of Lincoln and Washington, we are now celebrating “The Presidency,” the office itself, which has been morphed into an elected dictatorship, with the entire panoply of the good, the bad and the ugly of the forty-five men who have mostly violated their oaths of office in ways that could fill an encyclopedia.
Even the “good” presidents violated their oaths to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and some of them even admitted it.
Lincoln certainly did. His self-examination of conscience was revealing when he asked “Should the government go to pieces lest the Constitution be violated?”
Notice he said, “government” and not “Constitution.” In other words, he confused the two, just as he did with the concept of “union.” To him, “government” and “union” were synonymous with “Constitution.” So, he was willing to violate his oath in order to preserve the union and the government.
But libertarian hero Thomas Jefferson also admitted that he violated the Constitution with the Louisiana Purchase. He wanted a Constitutional amendment before making the treaty with Napoleon, but the temptation of empire was too strong, and he swallowed his principles for the sake of expansion.
And most Americans applaud him for it!
If you like what he did, let us admit that it led to endless demands for expansion and mercantilism, the very thing that caused us to break away from England. The Mexican War was an unjust invasion and ripped a million square miles away from our southern neighbor, which contributes to the mess we are in today.
And when we reached the Pacific, we did not stop. We invaded, purchased or annexed Hawaii, Alaska, the Philippines, Guam, Micronesia.
Jefferson’s unconstitutional Embargo Act pushed the New England states into justifiable de facto nullification. Soon, it contributed to serious discussion of secession, culminating with opposition to the War of 1812 and the Hartford Convention of 1814.
James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” and a dead-set opponent of Washington’s approval of the unconstitutional Bank of the United States, later signed the Bank’s re-charter when he was president, and for the flimsiest of reasons: it was proven accepted and popular! And Madison also was the first president to dare to ask for conscription — the draft — and met fierce opposition from Daniel Webster.
Once a violation has been committed, a momentum of precedent has been established. Thus, we have Quincy Adams purchasing Florida for James Monroe. Later, Adams would push for virtually unlimited use of federal power in construction of bridges, roads, canals, harbors, universities, astronomical observatories … basically what the federal government has become today.
Andrew Jackson threatened to invade South Carolina over the constitutional interpretation that tariffs must be “uniform,” thus setting the table for Lincoln’s war. His break up of the Bank of the United States is a perfect example of “two negatives make a positive”: if executive orders dispersing the Bank’s assets were unconstitutional, well, so was the Bank, so we might give him a pass on what is perhaps his greatest service in an otherwise dictatorial presidency.
We cannot parade through the many other presidential unconstitutional actions from Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, LBJ … really everyone after Calvin Coolidge, who also must be criticized for his invasion of Nicaragua.
So, who was a good president? Notice I said “good” and not “great.” So called “great” figures in history were generally conquerors and tyrants and the list is very long. The textbooks, which worship the Cult of Government, generally like to emphasize the “good” things they did — unifying cultures, streamlining power, increasing industrialization, etc.
The body counts, being also “great” in number, are as a rule ignored.
Good presidents are few. That’s because by obeying the Constitution (even if imperfectly), they were hardly noticed … or criticized for not acting decisively.
My list: John Tyler, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. If you can find where they violated the Constitution somewhere along their terms of office, I would not doubt it, but they ought to get credit for the effort.
President’s Day? Ouch! How about a 10th Amendment Day. Now that I could support.
But any holiday that gives us one less day of federal bureaucrats working their mischief might just be worth it after all.
Bob Bird is a radio talk show host for KSRM Radio and was twice a candidate for the U.S. Senate.