Monday, October 08, 2012

Captains and the Kings depart

While pondering the ridiculous waste of human life, happiness, and property that constituted the Franco-Prussian War I came across this, written by Abraham Lincoln with regard to then-President Polk's assertion that he had the authority as Commander-in-Chief to invade Mexico to forestall a clear-and-present-danger that he and he alone could see.
It gave me pause when I considered it in light of my nation's present attitude towards fighting everyone there "so we don't fight them here"; an attitude that seems so unchallenged as to represent conventional wisdom.
"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure.

"Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after you have given him so much as you propose. If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us' but he will say to you 'be silent; I see it, if you don't.'

"The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object.

"This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood."
My friends Jim and Lisa recently mused: "All of the candidates are converging into a singularity; "unidimensional" would be the charitable term. The terror is in reaching that singularity, for then life will become infinitely distorted, and there will be no escape."

To which I would only add; there is and always has been an escape, would we be bold enough to seize upon it. By law we are supposed to be the masters of our own destiny. If, instead, we choose to let our President, or Presidents, become our king, our supposed public servants become our masters, we have only ourselves to blame.
It by our own feathers, and not by others' shafts, are we now stricken.


gruff said...

I would argue that empire has its own irresistible momentum and that, just as Rome's sea change from republic to empire was inevitable due to the increasing power and wealth of the city, which demanded a centralization of power, so America's direction is now set and fixed and not to be averted. Had Caesar died in Gaul some other ambitious man would have wrested power from the Senate. Despite the fact that the Constitution explicity reservs the power to do both to Congress, that body has not declared war since 1942, nor controlled the issue of money since 1914, nor will it ever do either again.

I wish it weren't so, and I encourage all who wish to reverse our course to persist in their efforts, but I fear that such people cannot win against the avalanche of history.

FDChief said...

What I fear is that you're exactly right, gruff.

What I loathe and rage against is that "such people" are so few. And that the "other people" are so complacent, and so many.

We have put down our own trousers and handed the rod to our Masters. One hopes that we would, at least, accept our coming status as subjects of a very commercial sort of Empire with humility and grace.

But when we wake to find ourselves serfs - assuming we do - I'm sure that it will be with a chorus of whining and blaming everything and everyone but ourselves.

At least we're consistent.

gruff said...

Speaking as an apathetic "other person" I hope I can accept my fair portion of the blame., and grin into my Big Mac. :D

Lisa said...

We are mostly a nation of whingers and blamers, no? When did we become such petty, irritating narcissists?

Perhaps great action is only of the moment, and we've been relatively coddled for a long while. Very few of us in the U.S. live with our backs to the wall, and anyway, even if we did we'd accommodate and call it tolerable.

It's all in the human condition, no? Very few shoot for the sublime.

Lisa said...

(p.s. -- thank you for the mention :))