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It is about this time in most election years when a growing number of concerned citizens become tired of the political scene being played out before us as though it were all orchestrated and pre-determined.
Nearly every textbook on government claims the Founders did not anticipate political parties. But it is quite the contrary. They called them factions and they not only foresaw them, they foretold the damage these parties would do to the American constitutional system, and they warned us not to embrace them. Listen to Washington, in his Farewell Address, as he prophetically saw our day and said:
… all combinations and associations under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberations and actions of the constituted authorities, are destructive…. They serve to organize faction, to give an artificial and extraordinary force, to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of the party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils, and modified by mutual interests.
Many Americans are so used to having candidates located, supported, and finally nominated by political parties that they have forgotten the Founders came up with a much better idea.
For example, during the Constitutional Convention the Founders carefully considered the question of just who should nominate and who should elect the highest officers of the land such as the President and Vice President. It required sixty ballots before they finally came to a meeting of their minds.
Various possibilities were proposed — perhaps the House of Representatives should make the selection; or the Senate; or the Justices of the Supreme Court; maybe the governors of the states; or even by a popular election of the people with anybody running who aspired to do so.
Alexander Hamilton, in the Federalist Papers, referred to these as pre-exisitng bodies of men (which may also include political parties) and said they have been specifically excluded from choosing the president! Said he:
They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any pre-existing bodies of men who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment.
Dr. W. Cleon Skousen explains the amazing system for chosing the best candidates:
They finally agreed to set up a council of wise and just men — delegates selected by the leaders of each state — and let them individually interview the candidates and then decide which one would be best. Thus the electoral college was born. [Editor’s note: the word college’ suggests a rigorous process of learning and testing before approval would be given to occupy a position of honor!] This would still be the wisest way to select a President, but the whole procedure was subverted and abandoned after the political party system evolved and usurped the entire election process.
Both parties still have delegates to the electoral college but most people never hear about them. They are no longer important. The party that wins the popular vote automatically gets to have their delegates participate in the meaningless process of casting their official votes for the president.
“But at least we see an important element of God’s law in the original Constitutional formula. At each level of government there should be a council of ‘wise and just’ men selected from among the people who are trusted and well known. This council is given the responsibility of selecting nominees for the consideration of the people.
“However, before any names are announced, each prospective candidate must be approached by the council and asked if he or she would accept the ‘honor’ of serving without compensation (or very little compensation) for a designated period of time.
“If the nominee is willing to serve, his or her name is presented to the higher authorities, and, if approved, the name of the individual is then presented for the approval of the people. This procedure is outlined in Deuteronomy, chapter one.
“Notice how much more effective this procedure is in obtaining quality candidates than depending on the hullabaloo of political conventions and campaign propaganda to get the people to elect self-serving candidates from the various political parties.” (See The Majesty of God’s Law)
Until this inspired method of finding and selecting good leaders is restored, we must exert our energies to support wise men and women wherever we find them. Former NCCS president Andrew Allison wrote:
“The Founders taught that we have a sacred obligation to elect wise and virtuous leaders. For example, Noah Webster, who was also one of America’s greatest educators, gave this charge to his students: ‘When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers ‘just men who will rule in the fear of God’. The preservation of our government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted.’
“The Old Testament proclaims, ‘When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.’ America won’t be healed until we’re willing to entrust the powers of government only to true statesmen who will ‘rule in the fear of God.’
“Inspired Leaders Are Essential to a Republic “As the Pledge of Allegiance reminds us, our nation is a republic, not a democracy. The Founders knew that democratic governments have always degenerated into tyranny. As Madison put it, ‘democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.’
“But in a republic, he explained, government is conducted by elected representatives rather than by the whole body of citizens-and the effect of this arrangement is ‘to refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their countrv and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations…. It may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.’ [Editor’s note: Think of the Founder’s ideal Electoral College system.]
“Of course, this requires leaders who are committed to something higher than public-opinion surveys. The Founders believed that a republic must be guided by ‘the laws of nature and of nature’s God.’ Indeed, Noah Webster said that ‘the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.’ If we will choose representatives who have the knowledge and integrity to govern our nation by these eternal truths, America will become once again ‘the land of the free.’
“Nowadays, commentators of all political persuasions claim that a man’s private morals have no bearing on his ability to govern effectively. But this was certainly not the Founders’ view. Samuel Adams wrote: ‘Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.’ And Webster added, ‘When a citizen gives his [vote] to a man of known immorality, he abuses his trust; … he betrays the interest of his countrv.’
“Our forefathers urged us to elect only the ‘wise and virtuous’ to public office because both of these traits are essential to America’s survival. We need leaders who have, not only a reputation for morality and integrity, but also a sound understanding of constitutional principles and how to implement them. Of course, this means that ‘we the people’ must be wise and virtuous, because a nation’s leaders are often a reflection of its citizenry. This is why John Adams declared that ‘our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.’ And we must also know the Founders’ ‘freedom and unity’ formula so that we can recognize when a candidate’s proposals or an elected official’s actions are unconstitutional. “Jesus taught: ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits…. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit…. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Using this as a guideline, we should diligently examine the character, beliefs, actions, and motivations of political candidates and incumbents–and become actively involved to help place good men and women in office. Such efforts will enable us to render an acceptable account of our political stewardship to the ‘Lord of the vineyard.’
“In this connection, let us remember that America was established by the hand of God, and He remains interested in what happens here. Thus, as we study the issues and candidates, we should also seek the guidance of heaven in deciding how to cast our votes. Benjamin Franklin sought such guidance when he called for daily prayers in the Constitutional Convention. ‘God governs in the affairs of men,’ he said. ‘And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?’ Surely this principle applies to each of us today as we strive to preserve the legacy of freedom passed to our generation.
“Just as the Almighty raised up the Founding Fathers to accomplish His purposes in an earlier day, He can prepare leaders in our own time to revive the Constitution and help America fulfill its destiny. But it’s been wisely said that ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ So as we approach this election, let’s do our part to seek out and support those who possess both the wisdom and the virtue to restore the inspired principles on which this nation was built.”
NCCS has updated and republished the eight-page classic document entitled, 101 Constitutional Questions to Ask Candidates. This will not only help you know what questions to ask candidates for public office but it is an excellent teaching tool to refresh our own memories about so many different aspects of our marvelous Constitution. If you would like a copy of this pamphlet please indicate so when you send in your donation.
Thank you for your support of NCCS. Your monthly donations, large and small, have encouraged us to make bigger plans for the near future. Many have committed to send NCCS materials to friends and elected officials as a means of doing their part to educate Americans. You deserve our warmest thanks.