Note: This post was first published on July 4, 2017, at jdgrim.es/a-second-american-revolution/.
On the fourth of July, we come together as a nation to celebrate what we often call "the American Revolution." And in recent years, as America's freedom has become more precarious, many of us have felt compelled to consider whether it might one day be our duty to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers, and engage in a second revolution in defense of liberty. And it is this question which I wish to explore today: should American patriots be preparing for the unhappy event of a second American revolution?
When speaking of violent revolution, clarity is necessary. We do not wish to be seen as anarchists or traitors. So let me begin by saying that although I am indeed speaking of the possibility of real and violent revolution here, I am not encouraging anyone to take up arms against the Constitution, or against government itself. I only say that in the face of tyrants, men cannot help but see it their duty to rise up in defense of rights and freedoms, and of systems of government that protect, rather than destroy them. We do not suggest that arms should ever be taken up against lawful government, but rather in its defense against those who would subvert it to their own ends, in contravention the laws ordained by the people.
So then, if we are to endure a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evincing a design to reduce us under absolute despotism, what may be our chances of success in exercising our right, our duty, and throwing off such government, and providing new guards for our future security?
Being raised in the ideal of American patriotism, many of us have the conviction that patriots are always successful, and that truth always wins. It does not. That is why we speak of American exceptionalism. For most of history, throughout the world, tyrants have ruled. America's successful defense of liberty is not the rule, but the exception. So in contemplating how we should defend liberty ourselves, we would do well to consider why the founders succeeded, what made the American revolution so exceptional, and whether we can—no, how we must, if necessary—replicate that today. We need to understand what circumstances made it possible for America's "revolution" to have the glorious result that it did. Why it didn't end up like the French revolution, or the revolutions that take place in banana republics.
It is therefore paramount to understand that the American revolution was not a "revolution" at all, in the true sense of the word. The founders did not attempt to overthrow their government. They did not attempt to oust the king of Great Britain and replace him with somebody else. Rather, they seceded from his authority, and attempted to set up their own, independent system of government. The founders were truly fighting for self-determination, not among themselves to decide who would rule and who would not.
This is not merely a technical difference.
First, the accompanying geographic considerations certainly contributed to the success of the founders. It really did make little sense for the people in the colonies to be ruled by a crown on another continent, and a government in which they were unrepresented and which was unresponsive to their petitions.
And this fact of the situation is key. We must understand that the root cause of the problems within the American system of government at the time was out of the people's control. They did not have a democratic representative form of government. They had a government imposed upon them by outside forces. "Revolution" was not the solution to their problems 'because it was the only way that their democracy could be saved.' They did not have one. It was a solution precisely because, if they had had a democracy, the people would have voted to fix the problems that they were facing. Note that the delegates to the Continental Congress were elected by their respective colonial assemblies. Thus, were it not for an outside force placing restraints upon the colonies' right to self-government, there would have been no need for violent action. The same men as lead America through her quest for independence would have been elected to guide her ship of state peacefully. And indeed, many of them later were.
Today, people are sometimes forced by present affairs to contemplate the possibility that a defense of the Constitution may one day require arms to be taken up against the very government of the United States. That a true revolution may be necessary. The conviction is growing on some that by no other means will America be rescued from disaster. But in this, there is always inescapable the fantasy that such action would be done in solidarity with the founders, and would be likely to have a similarly glorious conclusion. Yet the circumstances which we now face could not be more starkly different than those faced by the founding fathers. We do in fact still have self-determination. The problems within our government are not imposed by some outside force. All members of the government, despite some popular misconceptions, do indeed ultimately answer to the people. If we so chose, we could almost completely turn over the personnel of the entire government in the course of a single election, if we voted for men who would impeach and remove from office every judge and bureaucrat that defies the Constitution. This is to say, that the problems in our government cannot be wholly ascribed to some outside force. It is in fact the people that are ultimately responsible. Because it is those who they have put into power that have created, and continue to exacerbate, the problem.
Let us consider then, that if the people are at the root of our problems, they are unlikely to be successful in fixing them in peace, without some kind of transformation—much less in war. Revolution, true revolution, overthrowing the Federal government, would be most likely to be usurped by opportunists, communists, socialists, and tyrants. It would be more likely to destroy the Constitution than to save it.
To those who are still compelled to entertain the specter of a revolution as the only means to restoring the Constitution, we offer three superior alternatives.
The first is to avoid true revolution, and to do as the founders did, and seek independence instead.
Secession has been attempted before, of course, and failed. And this was not due to a lack of will, of courage, or of integrity. Yet even then it was infiltrated by Jesuits, usurped by racists, and plagued with opportunists. No state or collection of states in the union today can boast itself of half the virtue represented in the southern cause.
To think then, that success would be easy, would be naive. We must be cognizant not only of the risk of tyrannical action on the part of the Federal government, and of defeat, but of the peril posed by the inevitable quest on the part of wicked men to subvert such a cause to their own will. If men of such caliber as represented the southern people were unable to avoid those rocky shoals, how can we think ourselves well able to do so?
Thus it is that the minds of many have been drawn to the prospect of holding a convention of the states, in accordance with Article V of the Constitution. Such a convention would seek to amend the Constitution, in the hope of fixing Washington when it will not fix itself.
Here again, however, is the danger of subversion. How can we feel confident that the delegates chosen to such a convention will not be subject to the same faults that now plague Washington? Is it not, rather, likely that such an opportunity will be used to shred the Constitution's protections, instead of reinforcing them?
The convention was, indeed, designed by the founders so that the people could correct an out-of-control government. But this fact that it is through the people is important, because it means that the people must have a popular conception of the problems, and how to fix them.
The nature of the convention is such that it attempts to prevent the tyranny of a single faction over the popular will. It is specifically designed to require consensus and compromise, as in the original Constitutional Convention. But what is there on which this people can have consensus today? Very little. We are a heavily divided county. This means that the usefulness of a convention will be limited. It may be able to deal with some particular questions, but in regard to the large general questions of what sort of country we want to be, it will have little success, and coercive force would likely be necessary to implement the results. Indeed, such a convention may only precipitate the violence that it attempted to avoid.
We can, of course, see in the original Constitutional Convention an example of what is possible through compromise when two deeply opposed factions come together. But we cannot think our present state to be at all analogous to that event. The founders were not at fundamental odds. They all held a similar view of man, of rights, and of the proper role of government. The disagreement was primarily over how to best apportion the powers of just government between the federal head and the states. Today we have a war between fundamentally opposing ideologies: on the one hand, leftists advocating socialism (by any other name), and on the other, conservatives advocating for free-market republican constitutional government. There is no room for compromise between these two options; if there is, our present situation perfectly outlines what such a compromise looks like. That admixture is the cause of our current problems, and what a convention would hope to fix.
Thus, a convention's power is only useful when the people are able to stand united against federal oppression. And today, that being impossible, we might well fear that it will be the catalyst of the violence it is designed to avoid, or the destruction of the Constitution that it is endued to protect.
We must present then, finally, the greatest and most sacred act of duty that may be performed in defense of Truth. To avoid both revolution and secession, and to instead, while by God's grace we have yet opportunity, transform our government by a transformation of the people. As long as the government must answer to us at the polls, we have in our power the ability to mold it to our will. But we must align that will with the will of God. We must seek his will, and then cause that vision to be the conviction of this people. Only in this manner can a nation be saved without violence. And only in this manner can it, as a whole, truly be saved at all.
Yet many men find that it is easier to die in battle than to be a casualty in the fight against spiritual powers and principalities. But though this may seem like the most difficult, the longest and most arduous path to take, it is in the end the least destructive, the least dangerous, and the most likely to succeed, because it is in fact the most powerful. And without such a transformation of the people, no correction of the federal government can possibly find success, or long endure.
In summary, the founders did what they did in reference to the circumstances that then existed. To follow in their footsteps is not to take up arms today, without considering whether our own circumstances are analogous to theirs. Too many have been raised to believe that patriotism must, and can, always be successfully defended with the musket. It cannot. Circumstances when the founders took this path were far from certain, but the state of the people was quite favorable to a happy resolution. Today, we wager against far steeper odds, and tempt fate if we embark on so bold a mission, in defiance of our very selves, the American people.
It is the time to fight with the pen, and not the sword. To take up the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, and seek that the heart of our nation might be transformed. This is how our fathers found it possible to achieve freedom and independence. And across the centuries, their words still admonish us, that it is only through this that our freedom and independence can be maintained. It is to this, on Independence Day, that we must pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. That by God's grace, through his word, we will restore the heart of this people. So help us our God.