[Patrick Henry] feared the Constitution’s strong centralized government would usurp the rights and authority belonging to the states, tax its citizens excessively, and create a colossal military for the purpose of conquests in the name of “American glory.”
History has proven some but not all of this to be true. As for “American glory,” the jury remains out as to whether our Middle East adventures will have any lasting and positive effects. But I’m reasonably certain we did not go into Iraq and Afghanistan for the purpose of “glory.”
It’s worth remembering that our concept of the military was quite different in the late 18th century. A standing army or navy in times of peace back then was unthinkable. This is what imperial, decrepit powers like England and France did.
Not us hardy Americans, who kept arms at the ready for civilian militias that were able to spring into battle. But only when necessary.
Times change, and after our bitter Civil War, we kept a standing army. Didn’t always use it wisely (our Cuban and Philippine adventures come readily to mind). Fast forward to World War II, and, interestingly, we had a too-small army and navy. Yet in best Colonial militia fashion, we sprang up and defeated the greatest imperial powers the world had known: Germany and Japan. We kept our army and navy to stand against another great imperial power: Soviet Russia.
Would Patrick Henry have approved? Impossible to say. I’d like to think that he’d be modern in his thinking. I’d like to think he would know we’re no longer in the age of sail, when it took enemies weeks to reach our shores. I’d like to think he would know that liberty still requires us to stand vigilant against all who would rob us of it.
And I’m confident that Patrick Henry, were he alive today, would recognize threats to our liberty from a federal government that has demonstrated that it will and has usurped the rights and authority belonging to the states, and taxed its citizens excessively.