Monday, August 26, 2013

Report on the Constitution Refresher

by Gene Wisdom

We conservatives in America cherish the document by which this nation of free men governs itself.  We love reading about those who handed it down to us as well as the principles behind it.  Americans as worthy as our veterans and as lowly as our politicians swear oaths to defend it.  And it is by the sacrifices of the former and the legislative recesses of the latter that we still enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by its limits on government. 

And so I joined many of my fellow conservatives for the Constitution Refresher class on August 17 organized by the 9-12 Project of Tennessee and taught by attorney and Tea Party leader Hal Rounds, and held at Three Brothers Restaurant in Murfreesboro.  It is a good thing for activists to reflect on their animating ideas and Mr. Rounds provided an excellent opportunity to immerse ourselves in our charter of government, its history, and ideas, and how it was designed to bind that government. 

He did an excellent job in the eight hours provided of detailing how our Constitution was shaped by Founders who left the Old World seeking freedom and opportunity, and took us through the Declaration of Independence and then through the document itself as well as its amendments.  All this while taking several questions from the audience.  If there was a disappointment in the presentation it was that it is not a week long or even a full weekend course.  I would love to have seen more flesh on the history and principles of the Constitution, more discussion of the disagreements even among fellow conservatives on such ideas as incorporation (of the Bill of Rights through the 14th Amendment), nullification, and judicial review as well as a more detailed examination of Supreme Court opinions. 

There was one exchange toward the end of the course which I did find rather disturbing.  The instructor mentioned the “might have been” of a Congressional payment to former slaveholders as compensation for the loss of their “property” (i.e., their slaves and fellow human beings) following the Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment.  When I mentioned the clear injustice and evil of paying one group of men for enslaving other men I was met with defenses such as slaveholders paying for brogans for their slaves and the expense of providing them with homes/shelter.  It seemed to escape them that farmers provide shoes and barns for their horses but that treating humanely is not the same as treating humanly—and morally.  Not to mention the further injustice of asking other Americans to pay for compensation of this evil.  If anyone stood to be compensated it was the former slaves themselves by having their life and liberties stolen and beaten from them.  Oh, there were the hand-wringing protestations of “Of course, it’s evil”, but the tenor of the discussion was a not understated, “But it wasn’t that bad.” 

This was but a very short, albeit troublesome, exchange in what was a very rewarding and fruitful weekend of being reminded and taught why our Constitution is important and why devoted activists in the Tea Party, 9-12, ACT for America, and dozens of other organizations in our state and nation continue in daily honorable efforts to protect it and our liberties.  Energy is good, activism is wonderful, but we must not neglect our education in the principles we seek to defend.  Thank you, 9-12 and Mr. Rounds.  

Gene Wisdom is an Alabama native but has lived in the Nashville area since 2007. He, his wife Vicki, and their dog Savannah live near Nolensville.  Gene is a conservative activist and leads the Conservative Fusion Book Club. 

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  1. Gene,if you haven't read it, I think you would enjoy Myrta Avary's "Dixie After the War". It's a firt-hand account of the "Reconstruction" era first published in 1906. She used pseudonyms for many of the people mentioned because she feared for her life. It was later republished in the 1930's with the "real" names. It is the most even-handed thing I have read that dealt with the subject.

    You will see that both sides in your argument at the refresher are right.

  2. Eric, thank you for the book suggestion, I will look for it.

    I certainly understand that it was in the slaveholders' economic interest to not abuse those they enslaved. The same is true of their draught animals. What I found offensive was to defend slaveholders on the basis that they treated the enslaved "at least" as well as they did their livestock. It is a morally repugnant argument.

    George Mason, a slaveholder himself argued, in speaking of slavery, at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that as God cannot judge nations in the next world he punishes national sins by national calamities. I believe that the Civil War was that calamity and that judgement. While I agree that the consequences of rejecting the Constitution would have been diasastrous that doesn't mitigate the sin--the evil--of tolerating slavery.

    I was raised in the South. There are no more decent, kind, or hard-working people on the face of the Earth than Southerners. I am proud to be a Southerner but I am not proud of that terrible aspect, along with Jim Crow, of our history.

    I appreciate the book suggestion, Eric.