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The Founding Fathers on redistribution of wealth

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

“A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” — Thomas Jefferson

Commercial break: Steve Sailer: Half-Blood Prince (PDF), an online book to be sold in paperback soon
“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.” — John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787




“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.” — James Madison in a letter to James Robertson

In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying:

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” — James Madison, 4 Annals of Congress 179, 1794

“[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” — James Madison

“Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression.” — James Madison

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” James Madison, “Letter to Edmund Pendleton,” — James Madison, January 21, 1792, in The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, Robert A Rutland et. al., ed (Charlottesvile: University Press of Virginia, 1984).

“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” — James Madison, Federalist No. 58, February 20, 1788

“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison, speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 16, 1788

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” — Benjamin Franklin

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.” — Benjamin Franklin

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” — Benjamin Franklin

Via Sweetness & light, Conservative Colloquium, and other sources. See also Walter Williams' collected quotes about the government.

These quotes and others make it clear that those who promote "redistribution of wealth" as a task for the government run against the very basic principles underlying the United States of America. This is no detail.

What is really surprising is that many of the champions of socialism live in prosperity because of capitalism and because of the fruits of other people's work and the strength of the ideals of the Founding Fathers and their counterparts in other lucky places. Nevertheless, they are not repelled by using their own prosperity as an argument against freedom and capitalism.

But these left-wing people's wealth is not a manifestation of socialism. Quite on the contrary: it is a manifestation of the creative power of capitalism combined with their character of parasites. To get a more realistic picture for what kind of a societal arrangement they stand for, you should look into North Korea or Cuba, countries that were transformed according to the ideas of their own soulmates.

Are the principles of America guaranteed to exist forever, even if the people and the circumstances are against them? Let me end up with two not quite optimistic quotes:

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” — John Adams

“But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” — John Adams

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reader David Ben-Ariel said...

“A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

May God bless Chuck Baldwin to repeat those words in his inaugural address.


reader ajhil said...

It may be comforting for libertarians to imagine that the Founders shared their self-serving conservatism, but it's simply not true. Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, to name a few, understood that tyranny can arise as readily from accumulation of too much wealth and influence as from an excess of political power.
In an article for the National Gazette in 1792 James Madison wrote that the republic would be well served by laws which “reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort.”
In Thomas Paine's last great pamphlet, entitled Agrarian Justice (1795), Paine described a tax supported, government administered system of monetary support for the aged, the poor, and the disabled that bears a startling resemblance to Social Security. As Paine put it, "Accumulation … of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization,
a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.”
In writing the Constitution for the State of Virginia, Jefferson included a provision to grant every male on coming of age fifty acres of land at state expense.
Redistribution of wealth? You bet. Many of our Founders thought it was a good idea!


reader Will said...

to ajhill-----you can try to justify stealing any way you want----but theft is theft --if a man enters anothers home to take what is not his- he's a thief and apt to get shot or go to jail --but if government does the same thing -through regulation and taxation -that's somehow noble? Redistribution of the colonists wealth (labor) to feed the British crowns elitist excesses led to the anger that led to the Revolutionary War. Redistribution of wealth creates slaves --one by theft and the other through government dependency. History is littered with societies that have justified the taking of their citizens private property --their called tyrannies !! Paine had some odd ideas ---but our founders in general--were against government confiscation of its citizens wealth! Real charity comes from the individual -not through government force! I suggest if you are looking to donate your private property--I'll gladly accept -otherwise leave your grubby hands off mine!


reader Gregory said...

will .. you are right .. theft is wrong .. but the initial theft is the theft of the laborers wealth .. by the wealthy "owner" who pays a pittance because the laborer is landless and hungry .. and so is in a systematicly maintained of poverty to artificially deflate wages is blackmailed into transferring his valuable profit produced by his hands into the pocket of the "owner" who sits on his ass .. there is the theft .. so redistributing the stolen wealth back into the system to support the poor is retribution for wrongs done!


reader Earnest A. Living said...

Gregory ~ My, how that word, redistribution, so easily falls off your tongue. Work and aspire to have those things, too...by earning them, not by stealing.

No one forced that laborer to work that land...are you implying the Land Owner stole from the Worker? Gee, I thought they agreed upon those wages.

I must have been robbed by Wendy's and a Daycare Center and a Fitness Center when I worked my way through College. Shall I now pay for yours?

Am I wrong here?
Greed is your Master. Now, go covet somewhere else. Or, better yet. Get some calluses on those soft hands. You want to work for The Entitled? Listen to them whine when you don't give them enough? Fine. Get to work...and, if your degree is in Peruvian Bongo, get used to those calluses.


reader Earnest A. Living said...

Gregory ~ My, how that word, redistribution, so easily falls off your tongue. Work and aspire to have those things, too...by earning them, not by stealing.

No one forced that laborer to work that land...are you implying the Land Owner stole from the Worker? Gee, I thought they agreed upon those wages.

I must have been oppressed and then robbed by Wendy's and a Daycare Center and a Fitness Center when I worked my way through College. Shall I now pay for yours?

Greed is your Master. Now, go covet somewhere else. Or, better yet. Go get some calluses on those soft hands.

You want to work for The Entitled? Listen to them whine when you don't give them enough? Then, get to work...and, if your degree is in Peruvian Bongo, get used to those calluses.

Or, maybe, you came on here to give us all that you have earned. Well then, I guess I was harsh. Otherwise, don't be so generous with my hard-earned money. I will choose who "needs" it, thank you.


reader Scott Woodward said...

Spare me the myth of the American dream. Maybe there was a time when hard work and perseverance in this country would make a poor man rich. But that has become a lie powerful men tell to the rest of us to justify taking more for themselves. Hard work and perseverance in this day and age will let you break even...if your lucky. So please, take your supposed disgust at the "redistribution of wealth" and stuff it- you've been supporting redistributing wealth all along. Except in this case, its a system that's been in place for years, a system that leeches prosperity and opportunities from the middle class and funnels them straight into the pockets of the already rich. You say you don't want this country turned into a communist state? Wonderful. I agree with you. I don't want it turned into a full blown aristocracy, which is exactly the path we have been and continue to be heading down.


reader Do It Yourself said...

Just wait and see what happens when socialism brings all of us all down to poverty level. You need to read world history because socialism has never worked. Just ask Russia.


reader Hugh Pecon said...

No economy in the history of mankind has done more to lift the people out of poverty than the free market "capitalism".