Slavery, The Constitution, Parental Rights, Thomas Jefferson, on Foundations of Freedom Thursday: It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday, a special day of the week where we get to answer questions from you, the listeners! Always answering your questions from Constitutional principles! Tune in today as we answer your questions such as amending the Constitution, parental rights, Thomas Jefferson, slavery, and so much more, right here on WallBuilders Live!
Air Date: 11/30/2017
Guests: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Samuel Adams Quote:
Samuel Adams said, “The liberties of our country and the freedom of our civil Constitution are worth defending against all hazards and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”
Faith And The Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always from a Biblical, historical, and Constitutional perspective.
We’re here with David Barton, he’s America’s premier historian and the founder of WallBuilders. Tim Barton’s a national speaker, pastor, and president of WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green. I’m a former Texas state legislator.
You can find out more about us at WallBuildersLive.com and also WallBuilders.com. Great tools for you at both websites, so be sure and check those out.
Foundations of Freedom Thursday
Today is Thursday and every Thursday we call it Foundations of Freedom Thursday because we take your questions on foundational principles. You can send those in to [email protected] – that’s [email protected] We’ve got quite a few we’re going to try to get to today. David, Tim, you all ready for some rapid fire questions?
Absolutely. Fire away.
Alright, first one is, “Why is it necessary to amend the Constitution if it’s not a living evolving document. And I am in favor of the Parental Rights Amendment but I don’t understand why we need one if fundamental rights are fundamental. And they are being thwarted regardless.”
So, I think if I’m reading that question right, guys, basically saying if they’re going to ignore the Constitution anyway, why amend it with a Parental Rights Amendment to protect parental rights?
Well, there are a few things there. I think, as a Constitutional conservative, I think the Constitution is a living and evolving document and it’s lived and evolved 27 times. They’re all amendments to the Constitution.
I think Article 5 of the Constitution allows us to evolve and amend the document when two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states say so. So, I fully believe it’s a living evolving document.
Living Evolving Constitution
And, David, real quick for our listeners that may not have been listening long on Thursdays and learned a lot about the Constitution yet or maybe they hadn’t been through Constitution Alive with us. That phrase “living evolving Constitution” is typically associated with the left that wants the court to be the one to evolve the document.
Literally, rewrite it every time the Supreme Court hands down a decision and so typically when we hear living document that’s what they’re talking about is the judges are the ones supposedly keeping it alive.
And so when you have that viewpoint that the judges are the ones that evolve it then that becomes a little more difficult when you try to fix a judicial decision. There have been a few amendments of the Constitution that really revolved around judicial decisions that they wanted fixed. And so whether that be the 11th Amendment, whether that be the 13th Amendment, or other amendments, the 16th Amendment was around a judicial Supreme Court decision. They did not agree with it so they wanted it fixed.
Now, I agree with the Supreme Court on that one. I think they got it Constitutionally right. But the progressives got the nation to say, “No, we want to tax ourselves. We do want a direct income tax even though the Constitution doesn’t allow it. And we want to be able to tax different people different rates.” So, I think the court was exactly right on that. But nonetheless, you can have an amendment that. You can have an evolving Constitution that way.
Parental Rights Amendment
So the Parental Rights Amendment really goes back to what you would call natural law. Natural law establishes that parents are the first line of authority over children – not the state. Progressives would say the state is. And evolving Constitution Judges say the state is.
There used to be some court decisions such as Pierce vs. Society or Sisters or Meyer vs. Nebraska etc., that said it’s the fundamental right of a parent to direct the education and upbringing of their child. That’s no longer believed by many courts today.
The parental rights amendment simply puts back in the hands of the people what natural law used to say before the court’s got a hold of it and twisted it out of shape. So, the reason you do a Constitutional amendment is to eradicate about a hundred years of bad case law. Now, that doesn’t keep the courts from screwing it up again and they will. If you’ve got bad judges on the court, they’re going to get it wrong. But it’s going to take them a few decades before they really mess it up.
Well, and let me point out too. So part of the question was, isn’t this a fundamental right? Do we really need to amend the Constitution when it’s a fundamental right?
Well, the problem with the notion of a fundamental right, it’s based on the assumption that that’s fundamental to everybody. We live in a society that what the Founding Fathers considered to be fundamental morals, fundamental understanding that the laws of nature and nature’s God, those are not fundamental in society anymore. And so to say that this is a fundamental right in the Constitution or a fundamental right we have from our Creator, well, there’s only fundamental rights if you understand the premise and the basis of what makes it fundamental.
We no longer have a society that understands that same premise and understands that. Has even a belief in that same foundation and so by making it Constitutional. We’ve now alleviated the fact that people don’t understand.
As you just referenced earlier, kind of this laws of nature right, and natural law and natural order, if they don’t understand that, well, now it’s clarified. It almost made it idiot proof, if you will. It says look, “No, this is the way it works.” And so we’ve codified it putting in the law to help clarify what should have been a fundamental truth, fundamental understanding. But we’re no longer in the place where those fundamentals are fundamental anymore.
Yeah, and that’s a great point because we live at a point in time now where the people do not recognize natural law and natural rights. And I’ll point out that many of the rights in the Constitution are fundamental rights. The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right. But it’s in the Constitution. The right for free speech or religious expression, the right for a petition, assembly etc. – they’re all fundamental rights. But we have them in the Constitution.
The reason was that’s a list of what the federal government cannot touch and we put it down so that everybody would know this is what the feds cannot stick a single finger on. They can’t touch this in any way, shape, fashion, or form. But we now live in a culture where that we are so statutorily controlled. So many hundreds of thousands of laws that people think that if it’s not written down in black and white it doesn’t exist. You don’t have that concept of natural rights anymore.
Louisiana is a Statutory State
And interestingly, only Louisiana is a statutory state. Now they’ve all kind of become that. But when Louisiana came in they came in as a French possession — Spanish and French possession. And so the code of Louisiana is different from every other state in the United States. They are a pure statutory state. It’s got to be written down or it doesn’t exist. Well, the rest of the states had a natural law philosophy. In this, Tim, as you pointed out, we just don’t understand that anymore. We don’t reason that way.
We’re a whole lot all more like Louisiana now in the sense that it’s got to be statutory and written down. But that’s the answer as to why it needs to be in the Constitution.
Number one, so you can point to it and say, “Feds, you’re not supposed to touch this.” Number two, it gives you about a 40, 50, 60, year reprieve before judges mess it up again. And Number three is because you are helping create some standard for the people of the nation that they can point to and say, “No, this is what it says. This is what’s right.” And that gives you some help as well in predicting parental rights.
Quick break. We’ll be right back with more of your questions. If you’re listening today, and you’d like to send in a question, you can send it to [email protected] Might be about the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, something that’s happening across the nation in the culture. It’s all about faith and the culture. We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live.
President Thomas Jefferson Quote:
President Thomas Jefferson said, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society, but the people themselves. And if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power.”
Moment From American History
This is Tim Barton from WallBuilders with another moment from American history.
The Reverend James Caldwell was a famous minister during the American War for Independence. His sermons taught liberty and God’s opposition to tyranny.
The British hated him and tried to kill him. So for his own protection, he would actually take loaded pistols with him into the pulpit and lay them beside his Bible as he preached. In the 1780 Battle of Springfield, the Americans ran out of wadding for their guns which was like having no ammunition.
Pastor Caldwell ran inside a nearby church and returned with an armload of Watt Hymnals, the pages of which would provide the much-needed wadding. He took this great Bible-based hymnal, raised in the air, and shouted to the troops,”Now put to watts into them, boys!” This pastor’s ingenuity saved the day for the Americans.
For more information or Pastor James Caldwell and other Colonial Patriots go to WallBuilders.com
Calvin Coolidge Quote:
Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever recorded to the human race.”
Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday on WallBuilders Live. David and Tim are taking questions from you if you send them in to [email protected], that’s [email protected] Guys, you all ready for the second question today?
Alright, this one has to do with the Second Amendment, it says, “We have a right to keep and bear arms and we have a right to vote. But at least here in Texas, we aren’t allowed to carry, ‘on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress.’
Why are we not allowed to exercise these two rights at the same time? A fellow Texan.”
Well, Rick, we’ve got a lot of examples of that.
You can’t exercise the right of free speech and freedom of religion at the same time. If you’re trying to use religious speech you don’t have the right to do that. You can have free speech or religion. But you can’t have free religious speech. Just ask any liberal court judge about that. This is an easy question.
So you’ve identified how we’ve gotten it wrong.
Oh, was this about, oh I misunderstood. Oh, my bad.
No– okay, guys. Let me take the first crack at this and then and you guys can provide some more additional wisdom and insight. But it seems like if you’re going to look at a question like this, and specifically, why are we told that there are certain buildings beyond just the voting booth. There are several buildings where we’re not allowed to bring our guns, right. We can’t bring them to a courtroom. There are several ways you cannot bring your gun even though we have the Constitutional authority. Right, the Second Amendment has the provision that allows us to say, “Hey, we can take our gun, and we can carry our gun. We can defend ourselves, and our family, and our property.”
And yet there are certain places it can’t go and so one of the thoughts — any time we’re trying to look and go, “Why are they saying we cannot do that?”
You always want to ask, “Well, what was the issue surrounding it where they said you can’t do that?” Which, it’s almost amusing. If you look at if you have any kind of electric appliance and you look and on a hairdryer, it says, “Don’t use while you are in the shower.” And you’re going, okay, why would anybody ever have done that? Well, the reason they have that is because at some point somebody violated what should have been a common sense though.
Guns and the Voting Booth
When it comes to the voting booth, the commonsense thought with having a gun is to defend yourself, to protect yourself, your property, your family, etc. The problem wasn’t the voting booth. There were people who were showing up at the voting booth who were violating someone else’s right to vote and so instead of using the Second Amendment to protect their life, to protect their family, to protect their property, they were using it to coerce people to not vote, to vote for a different candidate.
And so if somebody has a gun to my head and says, “You’re going to vote for this person,” then I no longer have the freedom to vote. This gun has violated my freedom to vote. And so the idea behind the law passing to say you can’t have guns in a voting booth was to make sure that no coercion could take place to violate the free election whereby we elect our officials. And so, kind of good, bad, or indifferent, that’s just what happened. Because of that, that’s why we still have it there today.
Now, if we lived in a society that embraced Biblical morality, and that believed in the freedom of choice, and that never did the wrong thing, well then you should take your gun anywhere every time all the time. But I understand why in a court trial they only want the police officer, they only want the bailiff, to be armed in those situations. It’s so they can have a controlled, protected, environment where they can ensure that justice happens. Where nobody can be there holding a gun on the jury saying, “You will find him innocent/you will find him guilty.”
So it’s really to protect the freedom of those other things that we have limited, in this sense, the Second Amendment which again arguably it shouldn’t be limited under the Constitution. But because it was misused by people, that’s why they now have this law and label in place saying that’s why you can’t have in the voting booth to make sure we protect the integrity of our elections.
Most Blacks Were Republican
And that’s part of the reason why the south likes it. Now in the north, you can’t have it there because guns kill people. It’s not people who kill people. If you take a gun in a voting booth it’s going to shoot everybody in the place whether they want to or not.
Again sarcasm is coming through. But, Tim, with what you’re saying, we literally in this massive collection of historical documents we have at WallBuilders, we have some Harper’s Weeklies from back in the 1860s and 1870s. One of them for example — and for folks who don’t know, back at that point in time in reconstruction, all of the Southern states were hardcore Democrat and all blacks were 100 percent Republican.
Well, I can’t say 100 percent – I do have a congressional hearing where that they told in the hearing that they found one black in the entire state of Louisiana who was not Republican. So when you look–
One – one in the entire state. So I can’t say all blacks are Republican, but I can say 99.99 percent were. For example, here in Texas, our Republican Party was started on the fourth of July 1867 by 150 blacks and 20 whites. That’s the way every Southern Republican Party was.
So when you look at voting time, Harper’s Weekly, which was the National Illustrated Magazine— which they didn’t have photographs then they had drawings. They have, for example, Democrats in Arkansas holding guns to the heads of black voters saying, “Of course, he wants to vote the straight Democrat ticket.”
And so that was what happened was when blacks tried to exercise the right to vote. They would find a gun telling them who to vote for down the ballot, who to choose, and what to do.
That’s part of those laws go back to part of fighting what we call the black codes or the Jim Crow Laws that tried to violate the rights of blacks to vote according to the way they wished. Which at that time was essentially 100 percent Republican.
Alright, quick break, guys, we’ll have more questions when we return. You’re listening to Foundations of Freedom Thursday here on WallBuilders Live.
Abraham Lincoln Quote:
Abraham Lincoln said, “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.
Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders’ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
We call it the QuickStart guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution. You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.
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Thomas Jefferson Quote:
Thomas Jefferson said, “The constitutions of most of our states, and of the United States, assert that all power is inherent in the people. That they may exercise it by themselves, that is their right and duty to be at all times armed, and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.
How Was Slavery Justified For So Long?
Thanks for staying with us on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday here on WallBuilders Live. We’re taking your questions, be sure and send them in to [email protected]. Next one for David and Tim. Let’s see, it says, “I’ve wondered if the preamble says all have inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then how was slavery justified for so long even by the Founders that crafted the Constitution?” So we do have a little bit of Declaration and Constitution combined here. But go ahead, fellas.
Well, there’s no preamble to the Declaration. And the Declaration is what acknowledges that there are certain rights guaranteed to you by God. No piece of paper guarantees those rights -God does.
And so the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which they defined as the right to own, to aquire, to enjoy, and to possess private property. So the rights of life, liberty, and property are God-given rights. That’s part of the Declaration and that’s part of the fundamental precepts of government is that our rights come from God.
And so when you take those rights and you come in some 11 years later and say, “Alright, how did the Founding Fathers justify slavery in the Constitution?”
Couple of things there. One is they didn’t – they did not justify slavery in the Constitution. The Constitution does not justify slavery.
Now some of the Founders justified slavery, but the Constitution itself does not. And they worked very hard to make sure that no word slavery ever appeared in that document.
The Pursuit of Happiness was Property
Well, guys, one of the things that has always struck me. Even looking at the way Jefferson drafted the Declaration, is when he says life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was well known to all those guys that the pursuit of happiness was property.
In fact, the majority of the guys that write about this explained that it was life, liberty, and property. You don’t see this vernacular expression of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness until Jefferson in the Declaration really kind of lays this out. At least to my knowledge, I’ve never seen a writing or document or somebody else that said it was life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Am I correct?
Right. That is my recollection.
So I’ve never seen it. Now it could be there somewhere, but certainly, when you look at some of the Founding Fathers, Sam Adams is pretty explicit. It’s life, liberty, property. It’s always struck me. I’ve always wondered knowing that there was a property debate. Because even you go for the Constitution Convention when they’re arguing even about representation and many of the Southern slaveholding States said, ‘We’re going to count our slaves as part of representation that way we have more representatives.”
And the North said, “Wait for a second, you call that property, you don’t consider those people, you don’t let them vote. If you’re not going to give them the right to vote, then you cannot count them in part of your population.” And the Southern guys said, “No we’re going to count them part of our population and get our representatives.”
So, the North said, “Well wait a second, if you’re going to count things that you consider property, then we’re going to count things we consider property, So we’ll count our chairs and our horses. That way, if we’re each counting property, we’ll each have the same amount of representation.”
Anyway, so this is a big debate in the Constitutional Convention. But let me back up to the Declaration because this notion that we’re debating of what property is and isn’t including slaves. It always struck me as interesting that Jefferson didn’t say life, liberty, and property which was the common vernacular.
I’ve always wondered because Jefferson is also the guy who said that all men are created equal, where Frederick Douglass says that Jefferson’s essentially the first white guy who ever said a black man is equal to the white man. So Frederick Douglass praises Jefferson in the midst of this statement.
The King Would Not Allow the Colonies to End Slavery
And if anybody thinks that’s weird because Jefferson owned slaves. Back you up to the Declaration where that one of the clauses Jefferson put in the Declaration was the clause condemning the king because the king would not allow the colonies to end slavery. They were passing anti-slavery laws.
Jefferson owned slaves and did not want to own slaves. His own state laws were not allowing him to free them. But as he pointed out, we’ve tried passing anti-slavery laws over here as British colonies. The king always vetoes them. So, he clearly was making that distinction that slavery is not a good deal and I think you make a great point and he didn’t use property.
Yeah, so this is one of the things I’ve always wondered is the reason maybe he didn’t use property is because he was trying to clarify that this is not something that you have life, liberty, and slavery in America. No, no, no, in America we have life, liberty, and you can pursue happiness by owning your own home. By having your own farm where the king doesn’t come and take from you, and tax you, and take your livelihood, and your crops, and your animals. I wonder, now it could be that Jefferson is just very eloquent in his writing and that’s not what it is at all.
Well, I would go, but I think you’re on the right premise because it was actually in 1781 between the Declaration the Constitution that Jefferson came out with this really long piece in answer to questions asked by the French ambassador where it says, “God wants these people free. And if we try to hinder that freedom God will judge us. We will incur His wrath.”
Jefferson gets hardcore in saying that if you try to hold these people in slavery you’re going to tick God off and we’re all going to be in trouble. And so I think that concept you’re expressing is exactly can be proven out of Jefferson’s own writing.
And so proven might be too strong of a word. It certainly is something.
Jefferson Had Slaves and Yet He Seems to be Anti-Slavery
Yeah, and this is why it has always been a question for Jefferson because even though he did have slaves, even though there were times where he said things that maybe seem pro-slavery, maybe don’t seem totally pro-equality on some levels. But then at other times he’s very much an advocate for ending slavery. He’s very much an advocate of the black man. And the fact that he used life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, instead of property, has always put a question mark in my mind of why he would do that.
But even as you mentioned, Jefferson had slaves and yet he seems to be anti-slavery. Well, we know what is it 40 or 41 of the signers of the Declaration had slaves. But even those that had slaves, the majority were against slavery and wanted to free their slaves.
Prime examples being Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush and they tried to free their slaves and they could not under the king. So this is when Franklin once again ups his call for separating from Great Britain. Just one more reason we shouldn’t be under the king because we can’t have the freedom to do what we want, including free our slaves when we want to free our slaves.
Even though there were many Founding Fathers who were slaveholders not the majority were in favor of the kind of position of slavery and they wanted to see that ended in America. So when we’re saying that they believed in life liberty and pursuit of happiness. It’s not contradictory looking that they had slaves. Because the majority of them were not pro-slavery. Actually, most of them who had slaves, wanted to free their slaves but couldn’t until we got out from under the king.
The King Wouldn’t Allow The Freeing Of Slaves
And that’s the thing. I don’t think the Founders made an attempt to justify slavery in the Constitution. You mentioned 41 of the signers of the Declaration owned slaves at some point. Only 14 of them were actually pro-slavery, were racists – and that’s 14 too many. But that’s 14 – and they primarily came out of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. So outside of those states, the other Founders didn’t attempt to justify slavery. And the Constitution definitely didn’t attempt to justify slavery.
So that’s part of the misinformation that’s out there about the Founders today. 41 owned slaves. Well, that means they’re all pro-slavery. No, it doesn’t. It means that they lived under a system where Great Britain would often not allow them to free slaves until they became Americans. Then we started passing anti-slavery laws.
And we’re not told it was 41 how many actually freed their slaves.
A Lot More to the Narrative Than What We’re Told Today
And how many started abolition societies. How many spoke openly about freeing the black man. Even, we argued that you know what, if he wants to go back to Africa because many of them were kidnapped illegally from Africa they said, “Well, we’ve got to put them on a ship and send them back and we’ve got to support them in doing that.”
There’s a lot more to the narrative than what we’re told today. But that’s why you can look at a question like this and come to the wrong conclusion because we’re just not given the rest of the information.
Also, just looking at it in the context of world history at the time. Right? What was going on in other countries at the time? When did they end slavery? And it wasn’t– because sometimes the narrative today is America’s bad because of slavery instead of saying, “Wait a minute, the whole planet had slavery at the time that America had slavery.”
Slavery is a Human Problem
Well, hey Rick, let me jump in that for a minute because slavery is a human problem. Slavery today in America is wrongly portrayed as a white on black issue. Yes, that did happen, there’s no question. But there’s also no question that in South Carolina 43 percent of free blacks owned slaves.
Whoa – nearly half of free blacks owned –yeah. And there’s no question that the first slave owner in America was a black man. There’s no question that there was a lot of white slavery in America and a lot of Indian slavery.
As a matter of fact, even among the Indian tribes, when you get to the census of, I think it was 1830, one out of every eight individuals living among Indian tribes, primarily the five Indian tribes, the five what they call the five civilized nations. One out of every eight was a black slave.
So it’s not white on black. It’s sometimes black on black. Sometimes it’s white on white. Sometimes it’s red on black. It’s a human condition.
But the way it is taught in schools today is purely that white guilt and white racism and white. No, it’s human problem and if God doesn’t get ahold of your heart and change you then it’s really hard to make a difference. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is.
So because of that Biblical foundation, more than any other nation, we’ve been able to turn this into a place where you are judged by the content of your character – not the color of your skin. We’ve finally seen that dream and, granted, it took literally a hundred years to free the slaves completely and another hundred years to really make that a reality. But you look at the rest of the planet around the world. If it wasn’t for that Biblical foundation, just imagine what it would be like here in America like it is in some places elsewhere around the world.
Slavery In America
So very good question and so much of that history that is just not taught at all. I would recommend folks to check out David Barton’s video on American History In Black and White. And the book, get the book and the DVD. But the DVD itself has some incredible re-enactments. There’s so much truth there and I guarantee you 90 percent of it you haven’t heard. I sat with my jaw on the ground watching it. It was absolutely phenomenal. So be sure to check that out on our Web site today.
We sure appreciate you joining us today on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday and please send in your questions [email protected]. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.
President Calvin Coolidge said, “The more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”