July 4, 2017
As someone who strongly believes in the right of each and every being to autonomy over their own life, I cherish freedom. I also recognize that in order to have autonomy, it should not impede the autonomy of another person or else we violate their rights of equality. We have to ask ourselves, does my right for my own being infringe on someone else’s right? Where does independence have to give way to compromise for the higher good of all concerned?
The principles upon which our country was founded were visionary, but in reality, we see so much wrong with our present-day society. We are brought up believing in equal rights and justice for all, my country right or wrong, and desire to continue in those beliefs even though we often see inequality and injustice, and often perceived wrong action by our government.
Daily we hear politicians misspeak our Founding Fathers and governing documents, and condemn our government for its actions. Too much government! Not enough regulation! Extremist views holding our country hostage from moving forward. Our way is best! You are wrong and we are right! My ideology is superior to your ideology! We are drowning in a cacophony of voices, and no one is hearing or listening any more. How do we resolve issues then???
In order to better understand our beginnings as a country, I decided to reeducate myself since it has been more than a little while since I studied history in school and, admittedly, it wasn’t my best subject. The following from Wikipedia is an abridged history to refresh our understanding, but makes me think that the more things change, the more they stay the same!
“The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were the first constitution of the United States of America. The problem with the United States government under the Articles of Confederation was, in the words of George Washington “no money”.’ [Hmmmmm, sounds familiar!]
“Congress could print money, but by 1786, it was useless. It could borrow money, but it could not pay it back. Under the Articles, Congress requisitioned money from the states. But no state paid all of their requisition; Georgia paid nothing. A few states paid the US an amount equal to interest on the national debt owed to their citizens, but no more. Nothing was paid toward the interest on debt owed foreign governments. By 1786, the United States was about to default on its contractual obligations when the principal came due.’ [History does indeed repeat itself!]
“Most of the US troops in the 625-man US Army were deployed facing British forts on American soil. They had not been paid; they were deserting and the remainder threatened mutiny. Spain closed New Orleans to American commerce. The US protested to no effect. The Barbary Pirates began seizing American commercial ships. The US had no funds to pay their extortion demands. States such as New York and South Carolina violated the peace treaty with Britain by prosecuting Loyalists for wartime activity. The US had no more credit if another military crisis required action. In Massachusetts during Shay’s Rebellion, Congress had no money; General Benjamin Lincoln had to raise funds among Boston merchants to pay for a volunteer army.’
“Congress was paralyzed. It could do nothing significant without nine states, and some legislative business required all thirteen. By April 1786, there had been only three days out of five months with nine states present. When nine states did show up, if there were only one member of a state on the floor, that state’s vote did not count. If a delegation were evenly divided, the division was duly noted in the Journal, but there was no vote from that state towards a nine-count. States, in violation of the Articles, laid embargoes, negotiated unilaterally abroad, provided for armies and made war. The Articles Congress had ‘virtually ceased trying to govern.’
“The vision of a ‘respectable nation’ among nations seemed to be fading in the eyes of such men as Virginia’s George Washington and James Madison, New York’s Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin and George Clymer, and Massachusetts’ Henry Knox and Rufus King. The dream of a republic, a nation without hereditary rulers, with power derived from the people in frequent elections, was in doubt.’
“In September 1786, commissioners from five states met to discuss adjustments to the Articles of Confederation that would improve commerce. After debate, the Congress of the Confederation endorsed a plan to revise the Articles of Confederation on February 21, 1787. It called on each state legislature to send delegates to a convention ‘for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation’ in ways that, when approved by Congress and the states, would ‘render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union.’
“Twelve states, Rhode Island being the only exception, accepted this invitation and sent delegates to convene in May 1787. While the resolution calling the Convention specified that its purpose was to propose amendments to the Articles, through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention would propose a Constitution with a fundamentally new design. The Constitutional Convention voted to keep the debates secret, so that the delegates could speak freely. Current knowledge of the drafting and construction of the United States Constitution comes primarily from the diaries left by James Madison, who kept a complete record of the proceedings at the Constitutional Convention.’
“The Virginia Plan was the unofficial agenda for the Convention, and was drafted chiefly by James Madison, considered to be ‘The Father of the Constitution’ for his major contributions. It was weighted toward the interests of the larger states. Roger Sherman of Connecticut brokered The Great Compromise whereby the House would represent the people and a Senate would represent the states.’
“The contentious issue of slavery was too controversial to be resolved during the Convention. As in many of its issues, there was a compromise. The Articles of Confederation did not allow for the abolition of slavery, but the Convention would provide for its regulation and eventual extinction. On the other hand, the cost of keeping Georgia and South Carolina agreeable to the Constitution eventually required that the original Constitution contain four provisions tacitly allowing slavery to continue for the next 20 years. Just as in the Convention debates, the anti-slavery delegates began as anti-ratification votes. But those opposed to slavery were persuaded that the evils of a broken Union would bring worse consequences than allowing the fate of slavery to be determined gradually over time. Virginia’s Federalist George Nicholas dismissed fears on both sides. Objections to the Constitution were inconsistent, ‘At the same moment it is opposed for being promotive and destructive of slavery!’ But the contradiction was never resolved peaceably, and the failure to do so contributed to the Civil War.‘
“After a year had passed in state-by-state ratification battles, on September 13, 1788, the Articles Congress certified that the new Constitution had been ratified. The new government would be inaugurated with eleven of the thirteen. The Articles Congress directed the new government to begin in New York City on the first Wednesday in March, and on March 4, 1789, the government duly began operations.’
“The United States Bill of Rights consists of the ten amendments added to the Constitution in 1791, as supporters of the Constitution had promised critics during the debates of 1788. The Constitution consists of a preamble, seven original articles, twenty-seven amendments, and a paragraph certifying its enactment by the constitutional convention.
“The way the Constitution is understood is influenced by court decisions, especially those of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has indicated that once the Constitution has been extended to an area (by Congress or the Courts), its coverage is irrevocable.’ [Hmmm. Tell that to our present day SCOTUS!]
“The framers of the Constitution were aware that changes would be necessary if the Constitution was to endure as the nation grew. However, they were also conscious that such change should not be easy, lest it permit ill-conceived and hastily passed amendments. On the other hand, they also wanted to ensure that a rigid requirement of unanimity would not block action desired by the vast majority of the population. Their solution was a two-step process for proposing and ratifying new amendments.’
This brief summary of a very complicated process was a good refresher course for me to better understand our American history on this Independence Day as I witness controversial issues which keep us divided and imperil our country’s future.
Basically, I come away with the impression that our beginnings were just as divisive then as they are today. However, what also comes through for me in a glaring manner is that our country was founded on COMPROMISE for the good of the country and its citizens. Had our Founding Fathers gone down shouting at each other instead of finding solutions which honored all opinions and desires, we would not be the United States of America. Maybe we would have been a lot of smaller countries, much like Europe, if we had not found ways to compromise, similar to the uncompromising attitudes which led to the Civil War.
And, truthfully, I believe that we could still end up going in that direction unless we resolve our differences and find common ground in which all lifestyles and belief systems are honored and embraced. Our country began as a mixed bag of immigrants and diverse religious beliefs, so why we are now infighting about such matters suggests to me that we are not evolving as a people but regressing in our mindsets. Why? Where did we go off message as a country?
So, on this Independence Day, July 4, 2011, I call upon all of those who were elected to serve their constituents, as well as we the constituents, to put aside personal and political ideology, personal prejudices, and faith-based beliefs, for the good of the country by finding a way to COMPROMISE in order to solve our manifold dilemmas and controversies.
Help those of us who elected you to feel good about our country and the way it honors all of its citizens on this day of celebration, instead of feeling weary of all the bickering and political posturing, which dampens any enthusiasm for pride in a country for which our Founding Fathers fought so tirelessly to perfect. While I differ in opinion on many matters with family members and neighbors, I still wish to live in peace with them and honor their rights without relinquishing my own.
Let’s honor our Laws and governing documents which were founded on fairness for all and keep our courts impartial when weighing judicial matters. Certainly the United States is a very free country, but it is not totally free—we need laws, unless you like anarchy and chaos. While I recognize the States’ Rights concept, I believe we do need centralized Federal standards since there is such a wide injustice from state to state when dealing with citizens’ rights.
And we, as citizens, have an obligation to become educated in the intricate workings of our government and its laws so that we can make informed, thoughtful choices when selecting those we ask to represent us, making decisions based on facts rather than 24/7 sound bites and biased media saturation or opinions of others. It may require some due diligence to make sure we have the best qualified candidates from which to choose, but isn’t it the least we can do to have our country grow in a constructive manner in a complicated world for future generations. Our children are counting on us to get it right!
May everyone have a safe and blessed 4th of July, as we celebrate our country and our freedom to express our individuality–without persecution–in a land which promised us the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness for all!
Blessings and wishes for a safe 4th of July! And, don’t forget about the dogs–keep them safe, too!