So anyway, I've had to engage in what might charitably be called "intellectual contortions" to make my argument. But luckily, it looks like I can look back for moral support at the father of all intellectual contortions: Thomas Jefferson.
Don't get me wrong. I think the Founding Fathers kick ass. I've read no less than seven books about them for fun! But Thomas Jefferson kicks the least ass among the Founders. Sure, he was a great writer. Check out the Declaration of Independence for proof. It's just that well.....he was a lying, backstabbing, slave-owning, self-deceptive hypocrite.
Check out these golden words he wrote on the topic of slavery:
Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.
So, needless to say, Jefferson owned slaves. And, unlike Washington, he did not set them free in his will.
But, as usual, this is all just an unreasonably long-winded introduction to a passage by Thomas Jefferson that made my jaw drop.
To explain: Jefferson had an unusually restrictive view of the Constitution, especially of the power of the President. He feared Washington and Adams were turning the Office of the President into a pseudo-monarchy. For this reason, he tirelessly worked behind the scenes to undermine their Administrations, in the process stabbing his longtime friend John Adams in the back. He held these views with an all-consuming passion right up to the point when he became President himself. Then, he outstripped all his adversaries by negotiating the Louisiana Purchase.
Here's where the strange Jefferson quote comes in. Reflecting upon the Purchase, he wrote a friend:
The Constitution has made no provision for our holding foreign territory, still less for incorporating foreign nations into our Union. The executive [Ben: by which Jefferson means himself] in seizing the fugitive occurrence which so much advances the good of their country, have done an act beyond the Constitution. The Legislature in casting behind them metaphysical subtleties, and risking themselves like faithful servants, must ratify and pay for it, and throw themselves on their country for doing for them unauthorized, what we know they would have done for themselves had they been in a situation to do it.
Translation: So yeah, we totally violated the Constitution. Sorry about that. But we did it for your own good. Re-elect us!
Come to think of it, that sounds vaguely familiar....