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Our founders might be proud of Sestak and Romanoff


by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

Oh my goodness, are today's Dems yesterday's Tories?

Today in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell disclosed that he and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel had talked several times about a way to keep Rep. Joe Sestak out of a primary race with Sen. Arlen Specter.  Governor Rendell said he sees no problem with offering someone a job to quit a political race, acknowledging he did just that to keep former U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel out of the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 2006. "It's not what people in Pennsylvania care about," Rendell said about the political machinations.

The deed of offering an enticement to Rep. Sestak to not offer himself as a choice to the people of Pennsylvania was confirmed by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Meanwhile, half-way across the US, Coloradoan Andrew Romanoff also disclosed the White House "dangled" job possibilities in front of him in an effort to assure President Obama's buddy Sen. Michael Bennet an uncontested primary

Who knows which, if any of these news stories will be captured for posterity as examples of upright conduct from members of the political class? However the actions of Sestak and Romanoff to shun enticements to pervert the integrity of their states' political processes are worthy of commendation.  Governor Rendell and other politicos may have changed the label on "ethically challenged" to "business as usual" but the idea of accepting a gift in exchange for a certain behavior was anathema to the U.S. founders.

Benson J. Lossing,  a prolific journalist of the 19th century chronicled much of the history of our founders. Viewing himself as a patriot as well, he wrote of his efforts:"It is the mission of true patriotism to scatter the seeds of knowledge broad-cast amid those in the humbler walks of society...for the humbler ones are equal inheritors of the throne of the people's sovereignty, and are no less powerful than others at the ballot-box where the nation decides who its rulers shall be."

In the introduction of Lossing's 1854 book "Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence", Lossing wrote "And it is a matter of just pride to the American people, that not one of that noble band who periled life, fortune, and honor, in the cause of freedom, ever fell from his high estate into moral degradation, or dimmed, by word or deed, the brightness of that effulgence which halos the Declaration of American Independence."   

One of the members of the noble band was founder Josiah Bartlett, an extraordinary man who is unspoken of today.  Born in 1729, Bartlett was a doctor, militia leader, magistrate, delegate to the Continental Congress, signatory of the Declaration of Independence, chief justice of the New Hampshire court and governor. 

Early in his adult life,  Barlett came to the attention of the John Wentworth, the British Governor of New Hampshire.  The Governor attempted to shore up flagging public opinion of British rule by enlisting highly esteemed colonials into his service.  He bestowed the offices of magistrate and militia commander upon Dr. Bartlett.  

Another historian of the 19th century, Rev. Charles A. Goodrich  writes about Barlett's appointment as magistrate: "this was indeed an inconsiderable honour; but as an evidence of the governor's respect for his talents and influence, was a point of some importance.  Executive patronage, however, was not a bait by which such a man as Dr. Bartlett would be seduced.  He accepted the appointment, but was as firm in his opposition to the royal governor as he had been before."   

In 1765, Bartlett mounted vigorous opposition to the Stamp Act that the British Parliament was considering.  In an effort to quell discontent by making it appear that colonial leaders were unified with the efforts of the British government, author Benson J. Lossing reports that "through Wentworth magnificent bribes were offered him, but his patriotism was inflexible. "

During this same time period, Dr. Bartlett also became a member of New Hampshire's Commitee of Correspondence, part of an inter-colonial coalition acting on the idea of Richard Henry Lee. The Governor then stripped Dr. Bartlett of all royal honors, disbanded the Assembly which had governed New Hampshire and had formed and approved of the New Hampshire Committee of Correspondence.  The disbanded and unauthorized Assembly continued to meet and Governor Wentworth, sensing all was not well, withdrew himself to a warship anchored in Portsmouth harbour. 

Barlett went on to serve as delegate to both Continental Congresses, worked with Ben Franklin to devise a plan for the confederation of the States and was the first member of Congress (after President John Hancock) to sign the Declaration of Independence. 

Today, New Hampshire is home to the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan, independent think tank focused on issues of freedom and responsibility.  It offers this eulogistic tribute to it's namesake:

Bartlett was a reluctant politician, and in any case he was more public servant than politician."



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