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By: Marilyn J. Boersma
March 2, 2014
This year marks the 1,000th
anniversary of political liberty. When the
As I wrote recently in celebration of this magnificent anniversary, those who would protect freedom in our country badly scupper themselves by their ignorance of history, and there is perhaps no greater obstacle to our understanding of the history that matters than our founding myth.
Because we "know" that not
only are we not a monarchy Constitutionally, but also that our very existence is
owed to its denial as a morally decadent institution, we cannot possibly admit
the truth about what we have let our country become:
Monarchy has a simple meaning -- the "rule of one". As Alexander Hamilton correctly said, "'monarch' is an indefinite term. It marks not either the degree or duration of power". The fact that our king is elected for four years, then, does not change his status as a monarch.
Even in the late 18th
century, George III,
In fact, the last English monarch to sign an executive order was James II, who in 1687 issued the Declaration of Indulgence, in which he used his "legal dispensing power" to negate the effect of laws that punished Catholics and Protestant dissenters, which on the face of it, seems like a rather liberal purpose, except that it came with various concentrations of executive power to his office.
And what were the outcomes of this little piece of executive over-reach by James II?
Many of the forward-looking
men of the time could see that James's executive order reflected of a much more
wide-ranging, and therefore more dangerous, attitude to power. For this reason
(and others), members of the polity, with popular support, overthrew him in what
is known the Glorious Revolution. The British effectively ended the reign of the
Stuarts (the royal House of which James was a part) by inviting William, Prince
The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to codify the ancient rights and liberties of the nation, limiting the monarch. Specifically, the Bill asserted,
1. The pretended power of
... the execution of laws ... without the consent of parliament is illegal.
2. The pretended power of dispensing with the laws, or the execution of law by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal.
In other words, the
executive order and the signing statement -- and most of what else of import the
What is even more shocking is in the old motherland, which retains its Monarch (capitalized as the position is now almost entirely ceremonial) and is run politically by a prime minister, the former has no power to act politically, and the prime minister has no power to act unilaterally. Indeed, if 1776 is our starting point, the political settlement of the "tyrannical motherland" has perhaps continued broadly in the direction of individual liberty while that of the liberty-loving rebels has slid back an entire century to some pre-1688 concentration of power.
Without doubt, at the birth of our nation, Americans fought less of a monarchy than we now tolerate. More shamefully for us, even those English against whom (as we like to tell ourselves) we fought for higher ideals of liberty, had shed more blood over the centuries to rid themselves of a less monarchical government than exists in our country today.
Surely, if we let stand what stands in America today, we give the lie to our supposed national identity, and bluster like a boorish adolescent who believes he is owed credit for the massive inheritance his father left him, despite the fact he's blown the lot.
Seeing history rhyme with such consequence is sobering enough, but seeing the rhyme predicted by those making it happen almost stops the heart...
... Remember William III,
"Sir, you have given yourselves a king under the title of president."
How very right he was. How very wrong we should make him.