Direct Representation: The Consent of the Governed.
In our last discussion we talked about Taxation without Representation and we touched on the notion of Virtual Representation. In the 1760’s a brand new notion began to emerge in the colonies as they began to argue for Direct Representation. Sometimes this was expressed through the term “The consent of the Governed.”
Under Virtual Representation as seen in the British Parliament, it was stated that the Parliament had the best interest of all England and her colonies and territories at heart. By the 1760’s many colonists began to strongly debate that point.
Originally, the colonist settlements were mostly farming communities. Both Jamestown in Virginia and Plymouth in Massachusetts were grand experiments in socialism. Both failed miserably. There was a common field where everyone was expected to contribute and then everyone would benefit from the results. The problems with this form of society was soon noticed, much faster in Plymouth, but both colonies eventually discovered the pitfalls. Certain residents did not contribute as much time and energy to the fields so others had to worked harder to provide for those who worked less. A single male had to work harder to provide for a married family who, either because the wife’s pregnancy or her need to care for the smaller children would also have a need to consume more food than the single man.
Plymouth rejected the common field and then portioned a piece of land to each family according to their size and they had to sustain and provide food for themselves. The living conditions in Plymouth quickly turned around when everyone realized they had to provide for themselves. This began to establish a principle of land ownership.
The European model was based upon the feudal system. In essence, the king owned all the land and he would appoint lords over smaller territories and the lords were expected to implement the wishes of the king, if they wanted to hold to title anyhow. If you displeased the King you were replaced because the King owned all the land. In each of these feudal settlements, industry was controlled at the King’s discretion. Most of that controlled was exerted through cost control measures established through fees, tariffs and taxes implemented on the shopkeeper. The same thing was done to the farmers who worked the land but it was implemented at a greater extent on shopkeepers. This resulted in making their services to the farmer more expensive which in turn, affected the farmer.
The theory of Natural Rights that included Property Rights was discussed in England but in America, the notion of property rights was more than a theory. As they moved from simple farming and their principle cities became trade oriented, the distance between the King and Parliament to the colonies made it more difficult to regulate the growth of trade in the colonies. To leverage some control, the King appointed governors over the colonies and those Governors appointed key positions in local municipalities. At the same time, each municipality was allowed to elect a few representatives to a governing legislative in their colony but the Governor had a right under the law to veto a representative as well as to shut down that elected legislative body at his whim.
As trade began to grow in the colonies the people began to realize how much power these appointed positions held as how an oligarchy of an elite few began to hold power over the community. The Governor could also appoint an individual to multiple positions giving him more control over the elected legislative body.
For the most part, all taxation went through the elected legislatures. The Governor received a request and expressed that request through the elected body. They would then implement a tax to meet the needs of the request. That rapidly began to change in the 1760’s. Parliament began to by-pass the local elected representatives. They began to impose taxes through their claim of Virtual Representation as well as an assumption of the Supreme Authority of the King and Parliament.
The philosophical arguments against this form of governance became established facts in many colonial minds especially because this began to impact the tradesmen the hardest. They formed coalitions to put pressure on their elected representatives but in many cases, the hands of these representatives were tied by the power of the appointed governance and the fight for natural rights gave rise to a cry for the consent of the governed through Direct Representation.
To try and simplify this concept, consider your family. In each family certain rules are established; chores assigned, responsibilities distributed. Some of those rules may establish things like bedtimes, types of clothing to be worn and types of food to be eaten. The Parent arbitrates those rules. A good parent recognizes needs and abilities because that parent is within the home and is therefore the best person to recognize their family’s needs as well as the most effective means to achieve those needs . But what happens if another Parent down the street comes in and without the Parental authority in the home begins to change those rules. Let’s say that your community has had a great bumper crop of broccoli and the Parent down the street decides that you must now eat broccoli at all your meals because this is what is best for the whole community. The child cannot make an appeal to their Parent unless they have direct representation. If that Parental authority is granted to someone who isn’t your parent, your representation is removed.
Let’s say that over the years you, as a child had an allowance granted to you based upon your completion of certain tasks within the house. With direct representation to your parents you might be able to negotiate a higher allowance based upon age, responsibilities and needs. The Parent, considering your request along with the needs of the immediate family in meeting your request may grant that request. This is Direct Representation.
As you become an adult and then have your own family and outsider who steps in to remove your Parental Authority without your consent removes your ability to govern over your family as you feel is proper. When an outsider begins to tell you what your property may be used for without your consent this initiates a violation of your personal rights to property. The more removed from your immediate control, the less consent you have in government.
When any government uses appointed positions, which are often granted as political favors and those appointed positions begin to establish fines, fees, tariffs and taxes as well as rules, mandates and regulations your consent in government is gone. Even if you agree with the all the rulings, you still have not been asked to give your consent so your consent is irrelevant. You may agree, but your consent was not asked, so you still have no consent in the governance.
By-Passing the local elected representatives and granting governors the right to appoint positions of leadership in communities or to form committees all appointed as special favors by the Governor, the cry for Direct Representation and the Consent of the Governed was heard across the colonies. All elected leadership should be in hands of the people. True and honest government, they argued, required the consent of the people through elected representation. The King, many in Parliament and those who had been appointed to these choice positions through a feudal system of governance called this sedition and treason. Those arguing in favor were fighting for our natural rights and for the Liberties and Freedoms established by Divine Providence and written by His Hand in the hearts of men everywhere.
Recognizing man’s fallen nature, it is easy to point to self-interest as evidence that the fallen nature on all mankind is true. It is within the nature of mankind to protect and promote the things that will best benefit them. There is nothing wrong with this concept until that person is granted the authority to impose their own self-interest upon another without that person’s consent. This requires that another individual must sacrifice a portion of his own self-interest to provide for another against his will. The end result of this is that one group prospers while the rest make all the sacrifices.
Corrupt governments and institutions use this to manipulate currency, food supply, industry and nearly everything that affects your life. It is a return to the feudal mentality that the government owns your land and the product of your labor and as such they are entitled to decide how much they want to take and how much you need to survive. The more power they exert the more resources they require of the people and the less they think the people need for their survival. In order to secure these resources and interests, committees, agencies and bureaucracies are established to make all your decisions for you. This is a return to the feudal system mentality and re-establishes a monarchical type of governance through an oligarchy. The end result is always Tyranny and Oppression.