Eighteenth century life in the British colonies was good - until King George III started raising taxes and making onerous laws that chaffed almost everyone’s backside. Countless petitions were written, and most of them were hand delivered to London - to little or no avail. Every attempt to negotiate with the King to establish better living conditions was ignored or rebuffed. It was enough to make you want to throw tea into Boston Harbor.
(This article will be published in Issue 19 of REPUBLIC MAGAZINE. Please visit RepublicMagazine.com to subscribe, or to purchase bulk orders for distribution.)
What should civilized people do when the situation is spiraling out of control, and all previous efforts have proven ineffective? Why not gather the wisest and most influential members of society in Philadelphia so they can analyze the situation, and recommend a course of action? In the fall of 1774, delegates from all thirteen colonies gathered to share ideas. In the spring of 1775, blood is shed at Lexington and Concord which makes the situation even more disturbing. At long last, in the summer of 1776, the delegates of the Continental Congress finally find a solution - declaring their independence from the Crown.
Fast forward to the twentieth century. Inflation is given an aura of respectability with the (unconstitutional) passage of the Federal Reserve Act. In the same year, the Sixteenth Amendment and the Internal Revenue Service legitimize government theft, while the Seventeenth Amendment changes our republic into a democracy, previously recognized as a "tyranny of the majority".
Eventually, socialist programs are instituted to distribute wealth from the "haves" to the "have nots". (After several decades, the flow of wealth now moves in the other direction.) Instead of being reviled as inconsistent with individual rights and private property, these programs are hailed as "The New Deal". The Great Depression, made possible by the institutionalized counterfeiting of our money less than twenty years before, is still not enough to wake the general public from its political coma.
Along comes a simple, honest man named Bob Schulz who begins to ask questions of his contemporary, three-branches-of-government "king". A gathering of intellectuals is scheduled to resolve a decades-long dispute between the government, and citizens demanding that the government "show me the law". That meeting is never held because of a violent tragedy that strikes New York and the heart of every red-blooded American.
What should civilized people do when the situation is spiraling out of control, and all previous efforts have proven ineffective? Why not gather the wisest and most influential members of society in St. Charles, Illinois so they can analyze the situation, and recommend a course (or courses) of action? You have just described Continental Congress 2009 (a.k.a. CC2009).
In January of 2009 I received a dozen eMail messages pleading with me to nominate myself as a Texas Delegate to CC2009. All I knew at the time was that people familiar with the Constitution were planning to share their ideas about the mounting problems in this country. I immediately became one of those attempting to locate and select three delegates from every state. The criteria were described simply as, "someone who might be considered a modern day founding father or mother." Although many people were enthusiastic about the idea, overall support was lackluster.
The delegate selection process of voting by affidavit was made more improbable by the creation of a hand-counted paper ballot procedure. Eventually both methods were deemed acceptable, and - much to my surprise - 120 delegates from 48 states accepted the responsibility for meeting at the Pheasant Run resort, approximately 30 miles west of Chicago from November 11th to 22nd.
Imagine what it might have been like to attend the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia. George Washington was universally loved and trusted, and he gave the proceedings an aura of respectability. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Patrick Henry were joined by other less recognized, but equally passionate supporters of Liberty. Many times since my childhood I had wished that I could quietly eavesdrop during those heated debates that led to the formation of a new nation.
Last year I got my wish. The Pheasant Run resort became the "Independence Hall" of the twenty-first century, as brilliant and passionate minds from across the country gathered to find a solution to the Gordian Knot that is our current political dilemma. What's more... I was elected president of this august body, and many have said I gave the proceedings an aura of respectability. Could people really view me as a modern-day George Washington?! I had hoped to be viewed as a modern-day Patrick Henry because of my fiery speeches, but... that was not to be.
I am proud to report that my fellow delegates would have been able to hold their own in debates with the founding fathers. Each delegate who approached the microphone demonstrated more than a casual understanding of the principles of Liberty, and the discussions were just as passionate (and contentious) as those that occurred prior to the Declaration of Independence.
So what do patriots of this caliber discuss when they enter a room with over one hundred spirited peers? Answer: just about everything. Had it not been for a predetermined adjournment, I have little doubt that some would STILL be there arguing the finer points. Here are some of the issues they focused on.
Sovereignty: The indisputable (and no longer self-evident) fact that We the People have rights, and that we give limited powers to the government. It was formally documented that "all political power is inherent in the people" and that "any government that becomes destructive of these rights has forfeited its authority". Consider this section a restatement of the truths outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
The First Amendment: This section highlights our right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances". Simply put, the government has no authority to limit or violate our rights, and when they do, we have the right to correct the situation, and to punish government officials who have violated their oath of office.
The Second Amendment: I have publicly stated many times that "twenty-three thousand gun laws are unconstitutional." The delegates concurred by stating "a multitude of federal statutes constitute de facto infringement" of our right to keep and bear arms. The delegates continue by instructing Congress to "Repeal all federal statutes regulating the ownership, use and transfer of firearms and ammunition;" as well as "Repeal any federal statutes which provide for the taxation or registration of firearms and ammunition;" I couldn't have said it better myself - which is fortunate, because as the president of the body, I wasn't allowed to vote or express an opinion.
The Fourth Amendment: By this time, delegates had overcome their "shyness" and were now if full tirade mode. This section demands that Congress: repeal the Patriot Act; stop the collection, storing, and dissemination of private information of a non-criminal nature; repeal the NAIS (National Animal Identification System); cease the implementation of the REAL ID Act; make no future attempts at implementing a national ID card; and repeal all laws that collect fingerprints, blood, or DNA upon birth. Much like the original founding fathers, delegates to this congress did not mince words when protecting their privacy.
Remaining topics included private property, citizen grand juries, common law, the income tax, foreign policy, general welfare, money (and fiat federal reserve notes), the public debt, war powers, and illegal immigration.
How did the delegates discuss so many important topics in only eleven days? Simple. Division of labor. By the second day of the convention it was abundantly clear that there was too much work to accomplish if delegates were given an opportunity to debate every subject. Subcommittees were formed to address each topic, and I personally witnessed these groups working until 2:00 or 3:00am to finish their work. They also reconvened promptly at 8:00am to listen to presentations on the next topic that required our attention. Eventually each subcommittee generated a report to the congress for overall approval. Needless to say, these reports were not rubber stamped without debate. That's when my job as president became "less ceremonial".
Although every delegate was motivated to participate in the Congress because they believe our government is out of control, there were widely differing views on exactly what should be done about it. Some delegates thought that aggressive language should be used to convey the depth of our convictions. Others insisted that we be extremely cautious not to use inflammatory language that would cause the government to view delegates as "radical extremists" and the Congress itself as a "terrorist organization".
This same argument caused of much of the discord experienced by the delegates to the first Continental Congress. Samuel Adams was known for his strong desire for independence even before the Declaration was signed. He was one of the first who advocated armed resistance to the British throne. In stark contrast, Benjamin Franklin was a highly successful negotiator who persisted in the belief that a peaceful resolution with the King could be brokered through compromise. Eventually, even Franklin came to realize that more forceful methods would be required.
The concern about "radical extremism" spawned a controversy over whether or not the audio portion should be included in the daily webcast of the Congress. When delegates arrived, most were strangers to each other. Some worried that delegates could make comments that would reflect negatively on the entire Congress. Delegates voted to allow laptop computers in the room, but only if delegates promised not to transmit the proceeding via the Internet. Once again, this same concern was discussed during the first Continental Congress. Delegates from the thirteen colonies understood that their deliberations could be construed as treason to the King, placing everyone attending at risk. The founding fathers met behind closed doors without air conditioning in order to keep their deliberations a secret. They wanted to be able to express their true feelings without fear of government reprisal. Unlike the founders, delegates to this Congress changed their position, and voted to let the entire world watch the proceedings as they happened.
Another issue that philosophically divided the Congress was whether or not God should be referenced in the Articles of Freedom, and if so - to what degree. Not surprisingly, many of the delegates are devout Christians who insisted that divine providence was the primary factor in the Constitution, and therefore the Articles of Freedom would be incomplete without similar references. Each morning the Congress would begin its work with a reading of a prayer asking for guidance. There wasn't widespread opposition to the prayer, however delegates of other religions expressed a desire to keep these expressions of faith non-denominational.
Parliamentary procedure isn't taught in schools, but I think that it should be. Several delegates expressed frustration when I ruled them "out of order". They didn't understand that I wasn't preventing them from expressing their opinion. I was simply informing them that it wasn't the appropriate time for them to do so. Trying to learn parliamentary procedure on the fly made a difficult job even tougher for many of the delegates. Delegates were instructed to make their motions available to the secretary in electronic format so the motion could be enlarged and displayed at the front of the room. This may have been one of the best suggestions made during the eleven days of deliberation.
As the days wore on, motions were made... amendments were approved... questions were called... and at long last, each subcommittee report was eventually given our collective stamp of approval. Fifteen reports were merged together into a single document called The Articles of Freedom.
I am very proud to have been a part of this historic gathering, but I am very conscious of the fact that the Continental Congress enjoys no legislative or legal authority of its own. The truth is that a relatively small number of Liberty-minded patriots gathered together to document government abuses. Unless the Articles of Freedom can generate widespread public support, there will be no change in the political status-quo.
If you truly believe in Liberty, and you are seeking peaceful changes in the way our government treats the people living in the United States, then I strongly recommend that you do your best to advertise the Articles of Freedom, and encourage everyone you know to support the ideals contained in that document. Just like the Constitution itself, without your dedicated support, it is just another piece of paper.