We can speculate that it was a hot summer in Philadelphia in 1776 when the founding fathers gathered to form the Declaration of Independence. Imagine! John Adams must have walked larger than life (He played the violin). John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of the list inspires wonder! We might speculate further that Benjamin Franklin, seventy years old at the time, must have been a sight to behold.
One of the issues discussed at that most historic of conventions had to do with the role the representatives of the states, and of the people, would play through the future of the coming nation. Some suggested that these patriots poll the population and vote according to the expressed will of the people. Another suggestion put forth — I suspect by the more conservative in the hall — mandated that those fine future representatives would be esteemed not only for their industry, but for their judgment! They would vote according to, yes, the will of the people, but also, and unrestricted, in keeping with their individual estimate of the best for the constituents.They would be allowed a wide range of choice in determining and fulfilling the popular will. For better or for worse, the wider range prevailed, and the metal was forever forged.
I wonder, can we imagine what life today would be like, had the more liberal element won the day? Our legislators would be obliged to be ever polling, ever updating the voiced view of the governed. How would that be, we ask? Every question placed up for vote would need to be placed before the voters! One can only speculate. But we can be sure that our present would be far removed from that which it is today.
If 80 percent of the people were opposed to unmitigated gun ownership, there would be no question! Sorry son, no gun! Suppose we asked every voter over the age of 21 to prepare a few hundred words as to what range of rights the U.S. should be allowed in dictating to the other nations of the world? Yes, the President could make his case for world domination. The media would still have leverage. But if, in spite of all that, the voters determined that the rulers of Syria may do whatever they damned well please, and it’s none of our damned business anyway, what a different world this would be!
Yep. There still would be unlimited room for corruption. But it would be different, wouldn’t it?
**Here’s a footnote to the esteemed reader: Perhaps the American Founders were influenced as much as anything else by the words of Edmond Burke, a member or the British Parliament.
Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol
3 Nov. 1774
Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.