Ignorance + Depravity = Slavery + Ruin

“But still the people themselves must be the chief support of liberty. While the great body of the freeholders are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free. But if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin.”

— Oliver Ellsworth (at the Connecticut ratifying convention, 1788)

Few Americans today know of Oliver Ellsworth. This is one product of the “ignorance” against which he warned us.

Ellsworth was one of our greatest Founders. He was Connecticut’s most respected lawyer and judge. He was a key delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and served on the committee that produced the critical first draft. (He may have been the delegate most directly responsible for the Constitution’s scheme of enumerated powers.)

After the convention, Ellsworth helped secure his own state’s ratification. He was influential nationally in the ratification debate as the author of the widely-republished “Landholder” essays.

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A Republic, If You Can Keep It

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation (2001)

AT THE CLOSE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government the Constitution was bringing into existence. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Regardless of one’s judgment concerning the type of government that the Constitution brought into existence in 1787, no one can deny that it was truly the most unusual and radical in history.

Consider: With the tragic exception of slavery, the United States was a society in which people could, by and large, engage in any occupation or economic enterprise without a government license, permit, or regulation.

Where people could travel anywhere in the world without restriction (no passports) and trade with whomever they pleased without the permission of their government officials.

Where people could accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth without government interference, because the Constitution did not permit the government to levy taxes on income.

Where people were free to do whatever they wanted with their own money — save, spend, donate, invest, hoard, or even destroy it.

Where government was not permitted to take care of people — no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education grants, or foreign aid.

With a few exceptions (e.g., 1850s Massachusetts), there were no compulsory public (i.e., government) school systems.

No wars on drugs, poverty, or wealth.

And open borders for the free immigration of people from anywhere in the world.

Like I say, regardless of how you might feel about the political and economic philosophy of the Founders of our country, no one can deny that the political and economic system that they brought into existence was the most unusual and radical in history.

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