Friday, October 23, 2015

Remember When? Part 2 Road to the Constitution

Remember When?
Part 2
Road to the Constitution

My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask who authorized them (the framers of the Constitution) to speak the language of ‘We, the People,’ instead of ‘We, the States’?”
Patrick Henry

After the first shots were fired in the American Revolution, the Continental Congress met to draw up the contract between the states and the new government. Thirteen articles were written to form a confederacy of the thirteen colonies.

These Articles of Confederation named the country and defined how the states would operate with each other, and the central government. It is important to understand how the Articles of Confederation envisioned how government would work.

Congress would act as the final word on all disputes. It would pay for debts by taxes paid by each state. Only Congress could enter into treaties, negotiate with foreign countries, declare war, or place embargoes.

The states were free to make their own laws, were charged with raising a militia for the defense of their state, provide troops for national defense, and providing representatives to Congress.

To change the Articles of Confederation required that all 13 states pass the change. All other decisions made by Congress required a 3/4ths majority.

The Articles of Confederation is a study in good intentions gone wrong.

Not ratified until 1781, the Articles of Confederation were the basis of the Continental Congress throughout the American Revolution. If you recall, George Washington had a hard time getting funds to pay the Army. This was a warning to some of the founding fathers, Washington among them, that the Articles of Confederation would not serve a growing country.

At the end of the Revolution in 1783, the new nation had war debts. It was attempting to make treaties for trade, and there were still British forts in the colonies. The real failure of the Articles of Confederation became all too clear.

Congress could take loans, but had no way to pay them back. The 695-man Army was charged with overseeing the withdrawal of the British from the forts. The army was not being paid and threats of mutiny were in the air. Several states were not paying their taxes. Legislators in New York were negotiating with Canada. Georgia was at war with local native tribes. South Carolina and New York were in violation of the Treaty of Paris by trying and seizing the property of loyalists. And Congress could do nothing about it.

One reason for this was the requirement to pass amendments or make decisions. Each state was required to send at least 3 representatives. If a state only sent one representative, their vote did not count. If there were two representatives with one voting yes and the other no, their voted did not count. With all votes requiring at least nine states to pass, nothing was being done. It would make today's Congress look very effective.

The idea of a respectable government in which the people were sovereign was quickly fading. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Rufus King called for a convention to write a new constitution that would reflect the values of liberty.

In February of 1787, Congress called for all the states to gather to draft a new constitution. There were no limits on what could be discussed, but the goal was to create a Government that could preserve the union.

As a stop gap measure, the Articles of Confederation did give the new nation a name. The United States of America promised a new form of Government based on individual liberty, responsibility, and laws. It was from this document that the enduring power of the United States Constitution was born.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Remember When? Part 1

Remember When?

United States History.

Revolt is the right of the people” 
John Locke

The history of the United States has become a source of some confusion. This confusion is in part a political attempt by everyone with a political bent. My goal here is to remove the politics of our history, and leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions.

To pick a starting point can be difficult. There is no doubt that the history of the United States is connected to the ideas of Greece and Rome. But that also pertains to the history of many other nations as well. There were other influences that were more contemporary and recent in the knowledge of the founders.

Dare to think for yourself.” 

The ideas that eventually led to the creation of the United States were born during the Scientific Revolution of the 1600's. The Scientific Revolution revolved around free thinking. This meant that the primary thinkers of the time rejected the limitations placed on free thinking by Government. It was this idea of free thinking that led to ideas incorporated into the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. The founding of the United States involved men who were well read, and fully aware of the writings during the Scientific Revolution. They were also part of the Enlightenment.

God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course, we are all familiar with the first book he wrote, namely Scripture. But he has written a second book called creation.” 
Francis Bacon

There is no doubt that the United States was founded on Judaeo-Christian values. However, the founders realized that for a society to live in peace there must be religious tolerance. This religious tolerance is the key to individual liberty. The idea of individual liberty is a key concept in Judaeo-Christian thinking. Free will is the gift God gave man. Everything in our Constitution is to protect the free will of society from the encroachment of Government.

Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” 
John Locke

When Thomas Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence there is no doubt that the significance of what he was doing was foremost in his mind. He was taking a theory and putting his life, and the life of his fellow Americans in jeopardy. Even though the details of how to make a government in which the people were the sovereign power had not been worked out, he had faith that the people could create a free nation. This notion created not just a firestorm in America, but also throughout the world.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...”
Declaration of Independence

This is the basis of America. The cause of everything beautiful, and ugly about our society. There are no perfect societies, but of all the ones I have been exposed to, the United States is a much more perfect society. A society where you are free to be who you want to be.

Of course nothing is that simple. The second post of this series will delve into the complexities of forming a Government around a theory.