The Original American Malcontent

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Corruption

Following is an except from a book I'm writing on corruption in American politics. If anyone has verifiable information, leads or advice pertaining to the scope of this project it would be greatly appreciated.

I intend to cover any relevant data that points to events, policies, backroom deals and personal agendas that have contributed to the current and now traditional practice of systemic corruption that has lead the United States away from it's original mission to achieve a more perfect union with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the fundamental principles towards the realization of a far from perfect union where war is a perpetual event and the pursuit of profit holds more legal weight than the rights of individual citizens.

For as long as mankind has existed, corruption has been an integral part of society. Corruption seems to be an innate quality of humanity driven by personal ambition, greed and self preservation. Corruption shows it’s ugly head in every aspect of our lives from personal relationships to business and government. Some of the functions of corruption may be to advance personal agendas, to protect ourselves from incrimination and to achieve greater wealth and power, while some of the negative results are the perpetuation of untruths, the suppression of fundamental truths, oppression of the population and the undermining of democracy and self determination. In this chapter we will take a close look at how corruption in the government, corporations and the media serve to preserve the enrichment and power of the upper class and to prevent the necessary changes that are required by our society to provide for the commonwealth and happiness of the people.

Corruption can be found in every form of government whether it be capitalist, socialist, communist theocratic or monarchical, whatever the theoretical premise, as soon as people become the custodians of any system of governance, corruption is soon to follow, irrespective of whether that was the intent of the framers. In order stay within the framework of this book I will attempt to limit my focus to the institutionalized corruption that has been prevalent in the United States since it’s inception up until the present day.

In a paper entitled The Concept of Systematic Corruption in American History, author John Joseph Wallis takes an in depth look at how the leaders of the American Revolution sought to create a system of governance that would provide the necessary checks and balances against tyranny and corruption. Wallace identifies two forms of corruption in government, namely systemic and venal. Wallace notes that the forefathers acknowledged that venal corruption, or corruption for personal gain was an inherent part of human nature and therefore decided to focus their efforts on creating a system that would prevent systemic corruption. Wallace describes systemic corruption as

“both a concrete form of political behaviour and an idea. In polities plagued with systemic corruption, a group of politicians deliberately create rents by limiting entry into valuable economic activities through grants of monopoly, restrictive corporate charters, tariffs, quotas, regulations, and the like. These rents bind the interests of the recipients to the politicians who create the rents. The purpose is to build a coalition that can dominate the government.”

During the decade leading up to the American Revolutionary War, many American colonists were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with British rule and viewed it as a corrupt tyranny that had little regard for the commonwealth of the American colonies. Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that “long established governments should not be overthrown for trivial reasons, however repeated crimes and abuses require that the people revolt.” It is clear that the public perception of political corruption at this time must have been significant enough to inspire the thirteen original colonies to entirely break it’s ties with the British crown and create an independent government of their own. The list of grievances against the King of Great Britain enumerated in the Declaration of Independence is quite a lengthy litany of offenses that all lead back to the central idea of systemic corruption. The revolutionaries felt that by breaking all ties with Great Britain, that they would be able to establish an independent nation that would seek to secure individual liberty and prevent tyranny and corruption.

In 1776, a committee of five men were chosen to draft a document that would serve as a statement of intent to break all ties with Great Britain and to provide justification to the world for their secession. The five men chosen were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Thomas Jefferson alone was chosen among the Committee of Five to create the draft of the declaration, however prior to submitting the document to congress, he sent rough drafts to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams for review. While the ideals of the framers of the Declaration, were high minded and far reaching, corruption even managed to find it’s way into the drafting of that most important piece of American history, the results of which were directly responsible for the diaspora of the African people and the continuation of slavery in America. The following excerpt is from the original draft presented by Thomas Jefferson that was later edited out by congress.

“ He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobium of INFIDEL Powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.”

Jefferson commented about this omission with the following statement: "This passage was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary wished to continue it. Our Northern brethern also I believe felt a little tender under those censures, for tho' their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others."

John Adams is also noted for commenting on slavery at this time. In this statement Adams clearly shows his support for ending slavery. “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”
The omission of this language that would have ended slavery in America well before the Civil War, was clearly due to the influence of slaveholders and merchants who directly profited from the slave trade and would find themselves less profitable or bankrupt were slavery to end. Through systemic corruption, an idea that would have benefited the commonwealth of mankind was silenced and the slave trade continued to provide personal gain for a handful of slaveholders at the expense of the life, liberty, and happiness of an entire segment of our population. Were this text to have been left in the Declaration of Independence, it would have remained consistent with the belief that all men are created equal, however in order to maintain profitability it became necessary to dehumanize and assign a lesser value to the African slaves and the indigenous natives in order to maintain the economic advantage and political power the landholders shared. In this case, systemic corruption abandoned the sound and rational principles of equality for economic gain.

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