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Early Americans Would Have Rejected the U.S. Government

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Even though most Americans are obviously unhappy with the federal government, many of them don’t question the structure of the government itself. Their ire is directed toward officials, not the governmental structure that such officials manage. They are satisfied with how the federal government is structured and just want “better people” managing it.

The irony is that if the type of federal governmental structure under which we live today had been proposed to the American people after the Constitutional Convention, there is no possibility that they would have approved it. They would have rejected the Constitution and, therefore, the federal government would never have come into existence.

For some 10 years, Americans had been operating under a governmental structure known as the Articles of Confederation. Under this structure, there was a federal government but its powers were so weak that it didn’t even have the power to tax. Imagine that: 10 years under a federal government that lacked the power to tax people!

The Articles of Confederation reflected the philosophical mindset of our American ancestors. They didn’t want a powerful federal government. They knew that a powerful federal government would end up destroying their freedom and their well-being.

But there were problems with the Articles, such as trade wars between the states. To fix these problems, the states sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The purpose of the convention was simply to revise the Articles.

Instead, meeting in secret, the delegates came up with an entirely new proposal — a different type of governmental structure, one where the federal government would have more power, including the power to tax.

Our American ancestors were leery, extremely leery. A powerful federal government was the last thing they wanted. But proponents of the Constitution assuaged their concerns by pointing out that the powers of the federal government would be limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. If a power wasn’t enumerated, it couldn’t be exercised.

With respect to taxation, the federal government could only levy “indirect” taxes. With the “apportionment” clause in the Constitution, the federal government was precluded from levying direct taxes on people’s income. No IRS and income tax under the Constitution.

Americans went along with the deal, provided that a Bill of Rights be enacted immediately after ratification. Its purpose was to tell federal officials directly and clearly that they were prohibited from punishing people for exercising such natural, God-given rights as speech, religion, assembly, guns, and others. Its purpose also was to guarantee procedural protections for people who federal officials targeted with incarceration and other forms of punishment.

Our American ancestors did not trust government, and they detested powerful government.

Suppose the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had come out of the secret assembly and said the following to the America people:

We have come up with a proposal for a brand new governmental structure that we would like you to consider. It consists of a federal government consisting of a gigantic welfare state and a national-security state consisting of a Pentagon, a military-industrial complex, a CIA, and a NSA.

Under the welfare state, the federal government will wield the power to tax any portion of your income it wants and give the money to others. It will also wield the power to charge people for this service.

It will also wield the power to control, manage, and regulate your economic activities. Enterprises will not be free to conduct their activities without governmental supervision and control.

Federal officials will wield the power to punish you if you ingest substances that they disapprove of.

There will be a giant military-intelligence establishment. These will wield the power to police the world through force of arms, the power to assassinate and torture people, including Americans, and the power to spy and keep secret files on people, including Americans.

What would the reaction of the American people have been? They would have died laughing. They would have thought it to be one great big joke. Once they realized that the proposal was serious, they would have rejected at once and continued living under the Articles of Confederation.

Our American ancestors would have been right to reject the type of governmental system under which we live today. The welfare-state, national-security state type of governmental system is antithetical to our the principles of government under which our nation was founded. It is antithetical to the principles of freedom. It is the reason why America finds herself in such desperate straits today.

The post Early Americans Would Have Rejected the U.S. Government appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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About The Author

Jacob G. Hornberger

The Future of Freedom Foundation was founded in 1989 by FFF president Jacob Hornberger with the aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government. Visit

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