Michele Bachmann never ceases to amaze.
And, by “amaze,” I mean “say amazingly ridiculous things to groups of fools inclined to believe her.” This time, as you’ve probably heard, she’s decided that President Obama is enslaving America in a way that the Founding Fathers would have found wholly unacceptable. (That Republicans seem to ignore the early post-Revolution success of the Federalists over the Anti-Federalists when quoting the Founders is a subject for a different post.)
Bachmann appeared at a right-wing conference in Colorado this past weekend, the Colorado Independent reports, and in her speech Friday night she quoted from founding father John Jay: “We are determined to live free or not at all. And we are resolved that posterity shall never reproach us with having brought slaves into the world.”
Bachmann then continued, in her own words: “We will talk a little bit about what has transpired in the last 18 months and would we count what has transpired into turning our country into a nation of slaves.”
Her John Jay quote is from the second Letter to the Inhabitants of Canada, dated May 29, 1775. The goal of the letter was (a) to convince the formerly French Canadians that the American colonies considered them allies rather than enemies (this letter followed the raid on Fort Saint-Jean by Benedict Arnold) and (b) to persuade the people of Quebec to join the colonies in asserting their rights against England. To this latter end, Jay opined that
[b]y the introduction of your present form of government, or rather present form of tyranny, you and your wives and your children are made slaves.
They were slaves, according to Jay, because the King was not extending rights to the people of Quebec that were guaranteed to them under the treaty of 1763, which ended the French and Indian War and made the people of Quebec subjects of England rather than France. The King, Jay said, had not given the Quebecois the rights of habeas corpus, jury trial, free press, land ownership, and representative government.
Arguing that the people of Quebec had a moral duty to oppose the King and demand the rights promised them, Jay wrote:
You certainly will not permit the infamy and disgrace of such pusillanimity to rest on your own heads, and the consequences of it on your children forever. (emphasis added)
Jay then wrote, in a less-than-subtle attempt to goad the Quebecois into accepting the letter’s position, that the colonies were steadfast in their determination “that posterity shall never reproach us with having brought slaves into the world.”
Translation: The King is making slaves of you and your kids by withholding certain rights. Are you going to do something, or are you going to let your children continue to suffer as slaves? As for us, we’re not going to let history criticize us for bringing not standing up for our children and ending their slavery to the King. (Implied) We love our children too much not to oppose such injustices.
In short, Jay was using the “OH, WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE POOR CHILDREN?!” cry to try to rally support for the colonies’ position. It was necessary to use this emotional plea because the first, less dramatic letter had already failed to garner the Canadian support the Continental Congress had hoped for.
I mention all of this background for two reasons: so you know what John Jay was NOT saying, which was anything about some form or facet of American government making slaves of the colonists (nor could he be, as the Constitution and, indeed, the Revolutionary War were still off in the future), and so you may note the idiocy of using John Jay’s position in this letter to support some idea about the Founding Fathers specifically opposing actions similar to those of President Obama.
The quote, simply put, has nothing to do American governance at all.
Bachmann didn’t let this pesky fact derail her, however. No sir, she kept right on with the quoting and the hyperbole:
“I think this describes so well where we are right now,” Bachmann said before reading an excerpt from C.S. Lewis: “‘Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of it victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under a robber baron than under omnipotent moral busybodies… .’”Bachmann urged the room to not only vote in constitutional conservatives like herself but also to make certain to implore their congressional delegation to vote them into leadership positions.
Such a leadership, Bachmann said, would be able to implement a conservative shift in government that could, among many things, rein in federal spending.
So, if I am following the Representative correctly, the only way to combat the tyranny of things like deficit spending and stimulus packages and whatnot is to elect Republican candidates. You know, the people who in eight years of control (six years of total control) brought you two wars, both of which are still ongoing; the largest attack on civil liberties in decades; torture; and the largest loss of wealth since the Great Depression.
The same Republicans who, post 9/11, lumped everyone into two groups — “Republican” and “hates America” — and who, if a Democrat had misconstrued a Founding Father’s quote in order to make a comment about George W. Bush turning us into a nation of slaves while John Ashcroft & Friends were listening in on your phone calls, would have screamed bloody murder about “emboldening terrorists” and “not being patriotic.”
These are the people who are going to “save” us from being slaves to an administration that is trying to fix a lot of the problems they caused in the first place? If that’s the case, slavery sounds like the better alternative.