With the recent events of the National Security Agency’s leaks, our government is doing all in its power to obtain custody of Edward Snowden. It is without a doubt that I argue this is no longer only a controversy over this one individual.
Not to be overlooked is the effort our government is putting forth to set a precedent. A precedent that dissuades American’s from this type of behavior in the future. However, what would the Founders of the United States say to these types of actions? This is not as straight forward of a question as many might believe.
After one dives into a deep study of early American politics, what is seen is there was never a unified consensus on the true role of government. For example, the question of how much power should be held between the people vs. the federal administration (ex: Republican vs. the Federalist Party) has been a plaguing question since the creation of our country.
Why do we have the Constitution? It is not because it was the first outline for how to structure our new government. Rather, it exists because our first (The Articles of Confederation) was not nearly strong enough, in terms of the relation between state and federal authorities. Hence, now we have “the law of the land," federal laws superseding individual state laws.
We should not be misled, the Founding Fathers, although a group of people I highly admire, had their share of shortcomings. A large majority had either come from higher socio-economic classes or at least had reached that place in society by the time of our independence. Thus, the majority did not feel the average person was capable or should even have an excessively strong voice in the new country’s political decisions.
Hence, we are presently represented, rather than active agents in our government today.
However, we have to remember that we are all products of our time. I believe most historians, myself included, would argue that our forefathers were very pragmatic and forward-looking thinkers.
Despite their class biases, they offered many freedoms that the status quo in almost all other countries withheld from their citizens in the 18th Century and prior.
As I noted in one of my previous articles, “Political Leadership….I Knew I Forgot Something. (Let Us Give our American History Meaning),” Jefferson said:
“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When governments fear the people, there is liberty.”
Of course we can not speak for our Founding Fathers, we can only make an educated guess as to their true ideologies, based off their actions and other primary evidence available to us.
However, if I had the opportunity to ask some of these free thinkers, I believe at least a few would look on the NSA leaker with somewhat cautious, but admirable respect. Keeping in mind that our country was founded on the basis that too much government is undesirable in a free society.