Sunday, April 17, 2011

What is an American Part V

All mankind... being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.

John Locke

Freedom is not something that can be gifted.  When a people are living in an oppressive system they seldom see it that way.  People are adaptable to their environment...they do what it takes to survive. In time...what we see as a horrible way to live...becomes normal to them.  That is until some catalyst opens their eyes. This is a collection of stories about those people...and how they define what an American is.

Rich...Young..and Smart.

In modern America some of us tend to revile the fact..some of us want to run them out of the country.  This story is about a very rich young man..who not only brought his wealth...he brought us his brilliance. 

Early Colonists were refugees from religious oppression in Europe...primarily England.  Our first subject was born into a very important family in England.  His father had earned a very high rank in the English Navy and by his deeds secured lands in England and Ireland.  As with many teenagers he revolted against his parents lavish lifestyle and began cavorting with the dangers of religion outside the Anglican Church.  His flirtations with the fringe led to his being kicked out of his father's house and his inheritance withheld.  

Penniless he moved in with the most dangerous of religious dissenters.  They did not believe in the superiority of one group over another.  They believed that every man was created equal in God's eyes.  A very dangerous concept...since the Anglican's believed the Monarch was appointed by God.  Of course...this landed him in Jail...and set in motion some very important future American beliefs. 

 He was finally arrested for his religious beliefs and tried by the Lord Mayor of London.  The young man demanded to know the charges against him..and the laws he had broken.  Although this was his right under the law, his demands were denied.  The Lord Mayor also ordered the Jury to return a verdict without hearing the defense.  

The jury found the young man innocent and refused to change their verdict....they joined him in jail.  From jail the jury fought for and won the right of all English juries to be free of a judges control.  The idea of Jury Nullification was now part of English Common Law and is a very important part of modern day American Law...along with the Writ of Habeas Corpus (The right to face your accusers).

At the end of his life the young man's father used his influence to gain protection for his son...and respected his son's tenacity and convictions.  In a plan that offered the Crown the ability to rid itself of religious troublemakers...William Penn was granted the lands of Delaware and Pennsylvania.  The grand experiment that would play a very important role in the development of our Constitution began.

 “It is a clear and just thing, and my God who has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.”  - William Penn

In his charter for Pennsylvania Penn promised that Freedom of Religion would be absolute.  He drafted a list of liberties that included; Trial by Jury, Freedom from unjust imprisonment, and Free Elections.  As bold as these goals were Penn was a sloppy businessman. With his death in 1718 the Pennsylvania colony became a dangerous place for dissenters.  

Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson studied Penn's ideas, and his thoughts inspired the and fueled the discourse in the development of the Constitution.

To be continued...

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