BEOWULF VS. THE FOUNDERS CONT.
I have enjoyed our spirited debate immensely. Like Grim, there are few things I like more.
Before we go any further with this discussion let me make it clear that what I am addressing is the origin of human rights. I am not discussing the moral responsibilities that accompany rights. That is a separate subject. Suffice it to say on that topic that I believe an individual’s rights exist aside and apart from the moral responsibilities associated with those rights. For instance, I believe that all individuals that enjoy the freedoms and rights protected by our nation have a responsibility to support and defend the nation that offers that protection. Nevertheless, I will fight to the death to protect the right of a communist, radical left college professor to exercise his right to free speech even when that speech is critical of the country and our system of government. I will do so even if the same college professor refuses to participate in, or is even critical of, the defense of the nation. I will do so because I recognize his right to freely state his opinion even if he won’t participate in the defense of that freedom himself. I may look down on him as a man or a citizen. Nevertheless, regardless of my disdain he still has the right of free speech.
The origin of our rights begins at creation. They are not granted to us by the state nor are they dependant on our utility to the state as soldiers or workers. We posses them separate and apart from any moral responsibilities that we may incur due to the protection of those rights from third parties or governments.
Furthermore, in response to a comment from a particular poster let me state that this discussion is squarely in the philosophical field of inquiry. While you will not find any element called “human rights” in the genetic make up of human beings that does not mean that human rights do not exist. You will not find elements called love or sense of humor in the genetic make up of human beings either but I think we will all agree that love and humor exist. Let’s not lose sight of the nature of this discussion.
At this point I need to correct some mistakes in Grim’s post below. Regarding ancestry Grim posted the below quote:
“More importantly, they require natural born citizenship for any candidate for the Presidency. This shows that, for the highest office in the land, they considered it important not merely that you be a citizen, but that you come from a family that had shown a generational commitment to the nation.”
That last sentence is incorrect. Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 requires only that a candidate for the Presidency be a natural born citizen. It does not require that the parents were born in this country or even that they were citizens at the time of the candidate’s birth. Since our country continues to recognize birth right citizenship it is only necessary to be born in this country to be a natural citizen. Consequently, the Founding Fathers were most certainly not introducing a concept of generational commitment to the country as a prerequisite for holding the presidency. They could have if they had wanted to but they did not. That is because they were doing everything they could to take ancestry out of the equation.
I concede that Kingship in northern barbaric societies was not inherited. Nevertheless, candidates for the position never came from the peasant class. They always came from the warrior class, that is to say the upper class. Membership in that class was hereditary.
While I recognize that Thomas Jefferson placed great significance on the contribution of the Anglo-Saxons to republican and democratic institutions among the English speaking people I am also aware that he was practically alone in this opinion. When the majority of Founding Fathers looked to antiquity for guidance concerning republican and democratic institutions it was not to Anglo-Saxon England (certainly not the Vikings) but rather Republican Rome and ancient Greece. I can remember no references to northern European barbarian tribes in the Federalist Papers. I am unaware of any Viking or Celtic pseudonyms adopted by the founders when arguing for independence or ratification of the Constitution, although Latin and Roman names were legion (pun intended). Even Samuel Adams who you quoted below thought that his generation was establishing a “Christian Sparta.”
While I recognize that the Saxons had an influence on the British Parliamentary system that ultimately came into existence at the time North America was being settled, their influence on our constitutional system is much more remote. In fact, the Saxon contribution is only significant insofar as it was one of many influences on the British system that in turn was an influence on our Constitution.
While I will concede that there may be similarities between certain concepts that ancient European Barbarian Tribes and our Founding Fathers believed in it is a different (and incorrect) thing altogether to state that the Founding Fathers were directly influenced by the practices and beliefs of those northern European Barbarians. Aside from Thomas Jefferson’s unique interest in the Saxons, there is no historical evidence that the practices and beliefs of the Saxons had any influence on the Founders. Furthermore, it bears noting that Thomas Jefferson had nothing to do with the drafting of the Constitution.
Finally, The Founding Fathers did not establish a form of government that based the origin of the rights of citizens on their utility to the state. They created a nation that recognized human rights as existing prior to the state and emanating from a higher authority.