The name of Brutus is synonymous in Ancient Rome with resistance to tyranny. The first famous Brutus, Lucius Junius Brutus, led the revolution against the last King of Rome which ushered in the great era of the Roman Republic - an era which weighed heavily on the minds of the American Founders. The second, Marcus Junius Brutus, famously betrayed Julius Caesar and was immortalized by the legendary William Shakespeare. All school children even today are likely familiar with the Ides of March and the words "Et tu Brute" given to  Ceasar by Shakespeare, though perhaps he never spoke them. The irony of the second Brutus is that, though he believed he was saving the Republic, his betrayal led to its eventual destruction at the hands of Caesar Augustus. Some might argue that it was long dead already.

There is debate in American circles (based on my limited understanding) over which Brutus the famous Anti-Federalist in New York was invoking with his pen name. I would argue it is likely both because, though one might insist that Marcus ended the Republic, his intent was apparently to save it. Regardless of the outcomes, the name of Brutus means resistance to dictators. As Benjamin Franklin suggested for the Great Seal of the United States: Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. That allegiance to liberty is the heart and soul of the American Republic.

The left is fond of saying that modern America would be incomprehensible to a bunch of provincial farmers and landed gentry of the 18th Century - especially since they were allegedly all white. This last point is a convenient boogey man for the progressive left. Whites (as with all races in the progressive mind) are assigned a single identity - especially historically - as pro-slavery, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-Indian, pro imperialism, racist, jinogoist and any other perceived crime that fits the progressive narrative of minority subjugation at the hands of white privilege. All whites are bad and all bad is white. Blacks, women, Latinos, gays... these are all opposed in unison to evil white men and any ideological discrepancy with that philosophy of resistance (Marco Rubio, Mia Love, Thomas Sowell, Abigail Adams, Frederick Douglass) is largely ignored because it doesn't fit the narrative. That narrative requires incontrovertible allegiance to the unspoken goals of the overall group (power). Any deviation is treated with absolute ruthlessness (ask Kevin Hart). The complexities and contours of history and philosophy must be smoothed out and erased by the steamroller of ideological conformity.

Anyway, the reality is that the Founders would be unsurprised at America's fairly sudden reversion to faction and tribalism. It is a world they were intimately familiar with coming out of the Revolution. Thirteen colonies with vastly different cultures and world views (and far more ethnic and religious diversity than is understood today) loosely assembled by the weak Articles of Confederation taught them that a strong Union would not survive without a bond that had authority. Hence the Constitutional convention. 

From this fertile cauldron of intellectual debate, we are frequently directed to refer to the Federalist Papers. This is the illuminating collection of arguments in favor of ratifying the US Constitution. What we often overlook or merely skim in civics is the other side of the discussion: the Anti Federalists. Here are the folks deeply suspicious of the Constitution and sometimes, union itself.

It is false to try and put either group neatly into a box of pro or anti-slavery, as the progressive movement is wont to do with the entire generation. Many Anti-Federalists came from the North and were adamantly opposed to slavery and slave states. If Brutus is indeed Melancton Smith, this is obvious. It is also true that Anti-Federalism is an intellectual pre-cursor to what later generations might call States' Rights. Slavery was most definitely the defining issue of the Civil War but many of the arguments used to defend the slave states were the old Anti-Federalist talking points about the dangers of a strong central government eventually overtaking the republican character of the Union.

Quite frankly, those fears have been largely realized today. Whether you think the great challenge of our time is climate change, health care reform, immigration reform or education reform; all of it pales before the reality that we can afford to address none of it while we continue down the current path of reckless centralization while simultaneously adding every responsibility before us at the feet of the federal leviathan. Sooner or later, to recall Margaret Thatcher, the feds will run out of other people's money. The reckoning must come and there is no serious recognition of that fact anywhere to be found in the Twittery exhortations of the modern American electorate. Like 9 year olds in a candy store, we want to eat all the candy we can see and never mind who pays for it. The parties have become two starving men arguing over a mutton without any idea that the 1200 pound Grizzy Bear standing behind them will be eating all three very soon. Although he failed to foresee how effectively the constitution would embody the check of the people and the Judiciary against the legislative power he fears, this description is awfully familiar sounding for having been authored some 230 years ago:

"This power, without limitation, will introduce itself into every corner of the city, and country - it will wait upon the ladies at their toilett, and will not leave them in any of their domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it desert them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlour, preside over the table, and note down all he eats or drinks; it will attend him to his bed-chamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional man in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting-house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to his shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and in his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labour, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, obeserve the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally, it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all these different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in wihch it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!

A power that has such latitutde, which reaches every person in the community in every conceivable circumstance, and lays hold of every species of property they possess, and which has no bounds set to it, but the discretion of those who exercise it. I say, such a power must necessarily, from its very nature, swallow up all the power of the state governments...

...I would ask those, who reason thus, to define what ideas are included under the terms, to proivde for the common defence and general welfare? Are these terms definite, and will they be understood in the same manner, and to apply to the same cases by every one? No one will pretend they will. It will then be a matter of opinion, what tends to the general welfare; and the Congress will be the only judges in the matter. To provide for the general welfare, is an abstract proposition, which mankind differ in the explanation of, as much as they do on any political or moral proposition that can be proposed; the most opposite measures may be pursued by different parties, and both may profess, that they have in view the general welfare; those who oppose it, declare they are moved by the same principles; and I have no doubt but a number on both sides are honest in their professions; and yet nothing is more certain than this, that to adopt this constitution, and not to adopt it, cannot both of them be promotive of the general welfare.

It is as absurd to say, that the power of Congress is limited by these general expressions, 'to provide for the common safety, and general welfare,' as it would be to say, that it would be limited, had the constitution said they should have power to lay taxes &c. at will and pleasure. Were this authority given, it might be said, that under it the legislature could not do injustice, or pursue any measures, but such as were calculated to promote the public good, and happiness. For every man, rulers as well as others, are bound by the immutable laws of God and reason, always to will what is right. It is certainly right and fit, that the governors of every people should provide for the common defence and general welfare; every government, therefore, in the world, even the greatest despot, is limited in the exercise of his power. But howerver just this reasoning may be, it would be found, in practice, a most pitiful restriction. The government would always say, their measures were designed and calculcated to promote the public good; and there being no judge between them and the people, the rulers themselves must, and would always, judge for themselves."