2017 Independence Day Reflection

The Liberty Bell

by Diane Rufino, July 4, 2017

“My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died; Land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from ev’ry mountainside, Let freedom ring!

Every successful experiment starts with a great hypothesis.  A hypothesis is a testable answer to a scientific question; an educated guess. One can say that our great American experiment started with a profound hypothesis. That hypothesis held that liberty is most secure when it is recognized and accepted that human rights are endowed by the Creator — not by government — and are therefore inalienable; that governments are creations or creatures of the People, instituted primarily to secure their rights and to serve them as they seek to establish an ordered society; and that once government becomes destructive of its ends, the People have the natural and inherent right to alter or abolish it and establish another form of government in its place.

That hypothesis was our Declaration of Independence.

Those who read the Declaration and think it stands merely for the notion 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…” are missing the bigger picture. They are missing out on perhaps the most revolutionary, the most profound, the most important political statement ever made. It is the document that has changed the world.

And yet, in planning to declare independence from Great Britain, our Founders could not know that this document, in all its grandeur and espousing such profound and enlightened principles, would be the vehicle. Perhaps history put the right man in the right place at the right time, for the right purpose.

Once hostilities broke out between the colonies and Great Britain, the colonies sought to use the opportunity to issue a simple declaration, stating that they regarded themselves as no longer a part of the British Empire but rather as free and independent States.  Thomas Jefferson would give us much more than a simple declaration.

On June 7, 1776, acting under the instruction of the Virginia Convention and particularly its presiding officer Edmund Pendleton (who had served as the President of the First Continental Congress), Richard Henry Lee on introduced a resolution in the Second Continental Congress proposing independence for the colonies. The Lee Resolution contained three very simple parts: a declaration of independence, a call to form foreign alliances, and “a plan for confederation.”

Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

On June 11, the Second Continental Congress appointed three concurrent committees to address Lee’s Resolution – one to draft a declaration of independence, a second to draw up a plan to form foreign alliances, and a third to plan a form of a confederation for the colonies. To draft the declaration, Congress named a five-member committee comprised of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. Although Adams was deemed best qualified to write the draft, he urged Jefferson to write it. Jefferson had approached his friend Adams to confirm that he would be drafting the declaration. But Adams responded: “I will not. You should do it. You ought to do it.”  When Jefferson asked why, Adams explained: “Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.”  [Adams was indeed unpopular; he had represented the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre

That very day, Jefferson would begin work on the Declaration of Independence. He moved into a small house -two blocks from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress had been meeting – in order to write in seclusion. Because several members of the Congress wanted to seek instruction from their colonies before addressing such an extreme measure, the vote was deferred until July 2.

On July 2, the Congress voted on independence. It adopted the Lee Resolution, which, as reproduced above, declared the individual states independent from Great Britain. “Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”   But the Congress decided it needed to draft a document explaining the move to the public (“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…”)  Such a draft had been proposed and submitted by the Committee of Five (written by Jefferson), and it took two days for the full Congress to agree on the edits. That is why we see the words “IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776,” at the top of the Declaration, because that is the day the last version was approved and signed in Philadelphia, at Independence Hall.

Once the final version was approved, the actual Declaration on Independence document that was signed on July 4 was sent to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the Dunlap Broadside were printed and sent to the states, including to General George Washington.

The document was not titled “Declaration of Independence” nor does the term appear anywhere in the document, yet that was clearly its intention. The declaration justified the independence of the colonies by first asserting their collective understanding of the relationship between the individual and government, as well as the purpose and limits of government, then listing the colonists’ grievances against King George III (summing up with the line: “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people”), and finally asserting certain natural and legal rights, including the right of secession (“That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved”).

The Declaration of Independence was a transformative document.  No longer would individuals have to petition or plead with government to respect their rights. Going forward, government would be established for the primary purpose of securing and enlarging their rights, guaranteeing that an ordered society would be possible while still allowing individuals to exercise the rights that they were born with; governments would no longer treat individuals like “subjects.” They would not be subject to the good graces or generosity of a King or his wrath or insecurity. “Inalienable” would now characterize the rights that their forefathers, Englishmen, could only enjoy if the King allowed it.

I love how exquisitely the Declaration of Independence explains how government is grounded in God’s Law and Nature’s Law and that it is always a creature of the people, for the people. For that reason, governments are always “temporary” in nature, enduring only as long as they protect and secure certain essential individual rights and as long as they serve productive ends. When a government ceases to serve either end, nature and Thomas Jefferson tell us that people have the right, the natural right (the right of self-determination, which is equally as “inalienable” as the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”) to alter or abolish it. And that is what the people of the American colonies, chose to do. The Declaration made the case for that decision, explaining that the “government” of Great Britain – the King and Parliament – had become destructive and abusive of their rights, which had been set forth in the great Magna Carta and solidified in the English Bill of Rights of 1689. As Jefferson made clear, because “the history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” it was their natural right to sever political bonds with it, declare independence, to secede from Great Britain), and to establish a new government better suited to serve them and to respect and exemplify their ideals. The founding principles so brilliantly laid out in the Declaration form a foundation as strong as bedrock for our individual rights. If they are endowed by the Creator, who dare have the authority to take them away?  Similarly, if they are natural rights, belonging to us at our birth, we don’t lose them – just as we don’t lose the ability of our bodies to reproduce and have children and just as a falling body will always be acted on by the force of gravity. Some things are simply absolutes. Nature dictates life since it is from nature that we exist.  Jefferson grounded our rights in both God’s Law and Nature’s Law (some will argue that they are, in fact, one and the same), as the first paragraph of the Declaration makes clear: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”

If we only took the time to read this magnificent document, to study it, and to truly understand and appreciate every phrase that Jefferson included, we would have a far deeper sense of gratitude for our Founders and their inspired wisdom and foresight and a far deeper appreciation for what this country stands for (or “stood for”). Perhaps people might even realize that being an American is a far greater privilege that they had ever bothered to contemplate and that maybe, just maybe, such a privilege carries an obligation to conduct oneself in a respectful and dignified manner, always mindful of what he or she represents as a citizen and always ready to defend and exemplify the best that the country stands for. I love our Declaration of Independence, and to me, it is, and has always been, the most important of all founding documents – serving as our nation’s moral compass and forever shining a light on the reasons and principles of our existence.

Jefferson’s profound hypothesis still stands. But has our experiment steered away from hypothesis so that the ultimate question can no longer be answered?  That is the question.  What does the future hold when we’ve loosened the moorings that once tied Liberty to the principles in the Declaration?

 

PHILLY 2017 - Diane in front of house Jefferson wrote Declaration #2

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Constitution Day 2013

Constitution - #2  by Diane Rufino

Last Tuesday was Constitution Day – September 17.  It marks the day that the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 concluded and the final draft of Constitution was signed by the delegates who attended.  It is fitting that this is the day we choose to honor the US Constitution.  As we all probably know, the Convention was called in a somewhat devious and misleading manner.  James Madison and others from Virginia called the Convention (after securing a promise that the most beloved man in America would serve as its president – George Washington) for the express purpose of AMENDING the Articles of Confederation and tweaking the Continental Congress (the government at the time) to make it more effective. The most glaring defect of the common government was its ability to raise the revenue it needed to carry out its functions.

All the states sent delegates except Rhode Island.  And so 12 of our original 13 states participated in Philadelphia. Collectively they appointed 70 individuals to the Constitutional Convention.  But a number of our most important Founding Fathers did not accept or could not attend. These included Richard Henry Lee (of VA), Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Jefferson, who authored the Declaration, was overseas at the time, acting as Minister to France. And Patrick Henry did not trust the intentions of some of the delegates.  He found out the real intention of the Convention – to scratch the Articles entirely and to write a new Constitution and design a new government.  Patrick Henry suspected that New York’s delegate, Alexander Hamilton, a strong monarchist, would try to get his way and fashion our new government after the British Monarchy. And so Henry declined to go to Philadelphia, claiming: “I smell a rat.”

And so when a total of 55 delegates from the states met in Philadelphia, they soon found out the real purpose of the gathering. Some did not take the news very well and argued that they did not have the proper authority to abandon the Articles of Confederation.  James Madison, George Mason and Edmond Randolph, all of Virginia, arrived in Philadelphia well-prepared. In fact, Madison was the first to arrive.  He arrived in February, three months before the convention began, with a Plan already prepared and a blueprint for the new Constitution and government in place. Although he authored the Plan, it was Randolph, who was Governor of Virginia at the time, who proposed it at the Convention – in the form of 15 resolutions. It was known as the Virginia Plan. It called for a strong NATIONAL government with many centralized functions and also with a UNIVERSAL VETO power over the States.  Madison called it a “universal negative.” Under Madison’s Virginia’s Plan, the government would have the power to veto any state law “for any case whatsoever.”

Luckily, the Virginia delegation couldn’t sell all of their plan to the other states and the Convention turned out to be a 4-month exercise in compromise and well-intentioned debate.  In the end, on September 17th, we got a constitution that created a limited FEDERAL government.  It was quite different in many respects from the government that the Virginians proposed. Luckily, the overwhelming number of delegates at the Convention that year did not believe in concentrating too much power in a common government; they believed that government is most responsive when it is closest to the People and so they remained steadfast that the bulk of government power must remain with the States.  A government that is closest to the People can serve them best and can be “altered or abolished” by them when circumstances demand it.

The delegates ranged in age from Jonathan Dayton (of NJ), aged 26, to Benjamin Franklin, aged 81, who was so infirm that he had to be carried to sessions in a chair. They brought with them the interests of their States and their people. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge and a keen eye on the prize they fought for in the American Revolution (which Patrick Henry would later describe as “that precious jewel – Liberty”).  They brought with them their understanding of what a common government should do to serve them and also to serve a common good for all States.  Not one State intended to surrender its sovereignty or its influence.  Not one state intended to surrender its individual identity for a “national” identity.

In the close of the Convention, only 39 delegates would feel compelled to sign the Constitution.  Many refused to sign because there was no Bill of Rights.  More than half of the Virginia delegation wouldn’t sign, including Mr. Randolph himself and George Mason (who wrote Virginia’s Bill of Rights). Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts was another powerhouse that refused to sign it.  A Bill of Rights, they argued, was an absolute necessity to limit any government.

The particular opposition by George Mason is most compelling.  While Elbridge Gerry was, by most accounts, cantankerous, irritable, and most disagreeable to many things and Randolph was likely sulking since his Plan was rejected in good part and believing that the States would ultimately reject a new constitution anyway, it was Mason who refused to sign based on pure principle.

George Mason didn’t trust a large republican government…  not without a Bill of Rights, that’s for certain.  He believed certain stipulations were necessary to protect the liberties of the People from the reaches of government.  James Madison, on the other hand, argued against a Bill of Rights. It was his position that such stipulations weren’t necessary due to the nature of the Constitution. He argued that the Constitution specifically enumerated the powers that were delegated to the federal government. That is, the document explained what the government COULD do and not what it COULD NOT do.  He feared if a Bill of Rights was included, it could ultimately backfire on the People. He feared that if a Bill of Rights was added to prohibit the government from intruding on rights A, B, and C, then it could be inferred that the government could intrude on rights D, E, and F. Madison explained that if you listed some individual rights, you must list them all and that would necessarily change the Constitution from forbidding the federal government from doing anything not enumerated to something that allows the government do whatever it wants as long as it is not listed in a Bill of Rights.

But Mason wasn’t convinced by fellow his fellow Virginian’s rationale.  For Mason, it came down to principal, basic human nature, and the enormity of history that taught us what happens when government has the ability to concentrate power. In early 1776, before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights and helped frame Virginia’s constitution. George Mason was exceedingly proud of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, and was pleased that it became a model for other states. In part, the Declaration of Rights provided:

SEC.1 That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

SEC. 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

SEC.3.  Government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration and […] when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

The document had sixteen sections, but it’s quite clear that these short paragraphs encompassed America’s Founding Principles, which Thomas Jefferson would later incorporate into the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Mason simply did not trust a government to police itself.

Even Thomas Jefferson agreed.  He wrote James Madison from his post in France that a Bill of Rights should be added: “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”

The decision of whether to add a Bill of Rights ultimately came down to the States in their Ratifying Conventions. And George Mason, along with Patrick Henry, would do all they could to derail the ratification of the Constitution until proper assurances and restraints were added.

At the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June 4, 1788, Mason took the floor and addressed the delegates:  “Does any man suppose that one general national government can exist in so extensive a country as this? I hope that a government may be framed which may suit us, by drawing a line between the general and state governments, and prevent that dangerous clashing of interest and power, which must, as it now stands, terminate in the destruction of one or the other. When we come to the judiciary, we shall be more convinced that this government will terminate in the annihilation of the state governments: the question then will be, whether a consolidated government can preserve the freedom and secure the rights of the people.  If such amendments be introduced as shall exclude danger, I shall most gladly put my hand to it. When such amendments as shall, from the best information, secure the great essential rights of the people, shall be agreed to by gentlemen, I shall most heartily make the greatest concessions, and concur in any reasonable measure to obtain the desirable end of conciliation and unanimity…”

Patrick Henry accused the Virginia delegation of abandoning the spirit of the Revolution by taking the Constitution at face value and trusting a common government to respect the sovereign powers of the States and limit itself to expressly-delegated objects.  On June 5, 1788, he addressed the members of the Ratifying Convention with these words:

“When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different.  Liberty, sir, was then the primary object.

      We are descended from a people whose government was founded on liberty; our glorious forefathers of Great Britain made liberty the foundation of everything. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their government is strong and energetic, but, sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation. We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty. But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire. If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government.

      Consider our situation, sir; go to the poor man and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society; you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of sight of the common people; they cannot foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people; it is for them I fear the adoption of this system. I fear I tire the patience of the committee, but I beg to be indulged with a few more observations.

 I profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people. I have said that I thought this a consolidated government; I will now prove it. Will the great rights of the people be secured by this government?  Suppose it should prove oppressive, how can it be altered?  Our Bill of Rights (Virginia’s) declares that ‘a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.’ 

      The voice of tradition, I trust, will inform posterity of our struggles for freedom. If our descendants be worthy the name of Americans they will preserve and hand down to their latest posterity the transactions of the present times……

      Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings…  Give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!   Guard it with jealous attention. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel…

At this point, the adoption of the Constitution seemed unlikely. Virginia would likely not ratify and neither would New York, and North Carolina clearly would not ratify. Without Virginia, Madison realized, there could be no hope of ever building a coalition to adopt it.  Madison needed Virginia. And so he began working tirelessly for ratification. He teamed up with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on a series of articles (collectively called “The Federalist Papers”) that were published in newspapers all throughout the States making the case for ratification. And then he changed his stance on a Bill of Rights. He promised to include a bill of rights as the first order of business for the new federal congress. This finally brought George Mason around, which then helped tip Virginia towards ratification.

In the end, as we know, the Constitution was ratified by the States and we became a “more perfect Union” in 1788.  On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby making it the Law of the Land.  Virginia and New York ratified it within a month and North Carolina wouldn’t ratify it until over a year later (November 1789).

The Federalist Papers, the debates in the various State Ratifying Conventions, and the Bill of Rights itself continue to be a lasting testament to the limited nature of the US Constitution.

In past years, Tea Parties, Constitutional groups, and other conservative organizations honored Constitution Day by passing out pocket Constitutions.  We have asked people to take the time to read it and become familiar with it.  But perhaps the real message we need to send is how all our Founding documents fit together and why the Constitution still matters.

First, let’s ask what IS a Constitution?  Our Founders gave us that answer.

The Supreme Court, with John Jay (author of some of the Federalist Papers) as the Chief Justice, told us in 1795:

What is a Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the mighty hand of the people, in which certain first principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed; it contains the permanent will of the people and is the supreme law of the land…
       It is stable and permanent, not to be worked upon by the temper of the times, nor to rise and fall with the tide of events; notwithstanding the competition of opposing interests, and the violence of contending parties, it remains firm and immovable, as a mountain amidst the raging of the waves.”   [Opinion in Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorance, 2 U.S. 304, 308 (1795)]

A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government; and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”   — Thomas PaineRights of Man (1791-1792)

The purpose of a written constitution is to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights.” — Thomas JeffersonNotes on Virginia, 1782.

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” — Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to W. Nicholas (1803)

Does it sound like our Constitution was intended to become a LIVING, BREATHING DOCUMENT?

The reality is that the Constitution is not a stand-alone document.  And I think that is where our discussions have failed.  Our founding documents fit together as follows:

(i) The Declaration of Independence.  It proclaims our philosophy of sovereignty, rights, and government.  It establishes the order in our country and puts government in perspective. The individual precedes government. Government must serve the individual by protecting his rights.

(ii) The US Constitution.  It designed a government (checked by the sovereign powers of the States and the People) to embrace the philosophy set forth in the Declaration.

(iii) The Bill of Rights.  It further limits the authority of the federal government (as the preamble to the Bill of Rights states: “In order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…..”)

We enjoy our God-given rights because our founding documents boldly assert that only We the People have the right to determine our government, since it is only by the voluntary and temporary delegation of our rights to govern ourselves that government exists. We have the right to “alter or abolish” government when it becomes destructive of its ends (which is first and foremost to protect and preserve our rights to Life, Liberty, and Property and the right to defend them). Nowhere in any of our founding documents is government given a life of its own; it has no right or power to seek its own self-interests nor to preserve, insure, or protect its existence. Yet today, government’s interests are placed above those of the People. Government has made sure that it has the exclusive power to define its own powers.

Our creature has become our master.

Too often the Supreme Court uses a skewed perspective. Instead of asking:  ’Are citizens’ rights being violated by this law?’  the Court asks: ‘Is the violation of citizens’ rights justified because of overriding government goals and objectives?’  Too often the answer the court delivers is ‘yes.’  When your rights get in the way of a government objective, you lose.

       Government created to protect your rights should have no goal higher than the protection of those rights. When government’s own goals override your rights, government is acting unconstitutionally. Government often states that these violations of citizens’ rights are necessary ‘for the good of society.’  Society is ill served by laws which violate the rights of the citizens making up that society.

       The Constitution (and the federal government it brought into existence) was created by the states to serve the states. It sets forth the rules for how the government must behave and says, in effect (in the tenth amendment)  ’Any powers that we did not give to you are ours; we’re still the boss.’

This is like exercising parental control. You tell your child how to act, with whom he (or she) may associate and what time he must be home. You assign household chores and responsibilities. In short, you establish rules of proper conduct.

       Suppose that this works fine for a while, but as your child grows, he begins testing the boundaries you had set and breaking the rules, but you do nothing to prevent it. One day you realize that your child is making his own rules, even telling you what to do and what you cannot do. If you object that he is not acting within the rules you set down, he says that he knows better than you what your rules mean. If you try to assert your own rights, you are punished — your child is now bigger and stronger than you are. Your child’s allowance demands are ever increasing. If you don’t do something to correct the situation soon, you’ll be declared incompetent and your child will control all aspects of your life.”

The Tea Party and Constitutional groups take a lot of criticism.  The media, for example, says that the Tea Party has lost steam and has lost relevance.  And sometimes, I admit it, I wonder if it might be true. But when I celebrate Constitution Day and when I continue studying the Constitution and what our Founders intended, and when I have those “light bulb” moments when I begin to understand why certain principles were incorporated into our founding documents, I am reminded of why the Tea Party was founded in the first place and why it is so important.  And I am re-inspired to be a part of it, as well as the Tenth Amendment Center.  It’s because the Tea Party is the party of the Constitution.  We understand its relevance……   We understand why our Founders rejected that Virginia Plan in Philadelphia and why they spent four months building the consensus for a government that would be delegated only limited powers and that would be restrained by a series of checks and balances.

We understand that the problems our country faces today are all a direct consequence of the federal government’s failure to keep itself limited to the express powers delegated to it by the States back in 1791 AND the States’ failure to stand up and remind the government of its limits.

We understand – because we know that America is still defined by the Declaration of Independence – that every time the federal government oversteps its constitutional authority, it is taking sovereign power away from We the People and from the States.  And it has to stop.   We are slowly (maybe not slowly) slipping back into tyranny.

There is a lot at stake in the American experiment. Ours is a nation founded on an ideal and nothing else.  Whether that grand ideal will survive depends on whether the American experiment is successful or not. What is that ideal?  It is the notion that individuals are sovereign and that they are endowed with Natural rights that are “self-evident” and “inalienable” which are an integral part of their very humanity. Since these rights come from our Creator, they cannot be deemed to be granted by government. Hence government is powerless to take them away or violate them. In fact, governments are instituted to serve the People and to protect those rights.

It was from that ideal that our Founders understood the great challenge that would be presented:  How to keep the role of government strictly limited in order that liberty is enlarged and that government is prevented from growing into a new form of tyranny.  They studied history and were well-aware that the nature of any government is to control and gain more power from those it governs. And that in that challenge, we understand why the Constitution is still relevant.  At one time it defined a limited government and it offered numerous protections against those governmental intrusions which they knew would come eventually.  The Constitution still holds the power of limited government and still defines the proper relationship between the People, the States, and the federal government. The key is to put that document, with its original meaning and its original intent, back to work for the American people and for the protection of their inalienable rights.

The Tea Party summoned the spirit of the Revolution to resurrect the Constitution. They went back to the days of peaceful civil disobedience, ownership of their rights and destiny, engagement of their government in their civil liberties, and robust discussion of what it means to be a “free” people.

They took the name “Tea Party” because of its rich historical significance. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773 as a protest against the tax on tea imposed by a government in a far-off land that did not permit its representation in the legislative process (Parliament).  Earlier that year, the British government passed the Tea Act, which authorized the British East India Company to ship tea directly to colonies while the government levied a tax of three pence on each shipment. While the Tea Act actually lowered the price of tea for colonists (so that even with the tax, the colonists were still paying less for tea), many colonists were still angry at being taxed at all.

“Taxation without Representation” was a rallying cry that was particularly significant. The taxes the British tried to collect were modest and the revenue collected was to be spent entirely in the colonies for their benefit and protection. It wasn’t even going to be sent back to the mother country. So why all the fuss and cry of “tyranny”?  It was because the real reason for American Revolution was the lack of political machinery to protect the colonists’ rights.  In short, our founding agitators and revolutionaries weren’t as concerned about the insignificant tax on tea as they were with the underlying violations of their basic human rights.

The American experiment will continue to be successful only as long as we continue to be as vigilante and protective of our rights and as long as we continue to demand that government keep its distance. And so, as we recognize Constitution Day each year on September 17, we should re-commit to our Revolutionary spirit as Americans and read our founding documents in that light. As Jefferson warned, we shouldn’t render our government one of general and unlimited power because we’ve tacitly allowed it the exclusive domain to interpret the Constitution as it sees fit.  We can all know the meaning and intention of the Constitution simply by doing our homework and reading what words of wisdom our Founders left. We don’t need government officials or judges to tell us.  Government wants power.  People want liberty.

As Patrick Henry warned on June 5, 1788 when he addressed the Virginia Ratifying Convention: (paraphrasing) “When we lose the American spirit and our mental powers have decayed, then our liberty will be gone forever.”

Nullify Now! Coming to Raleigh, NC

Nullification - Tenth Amendment language    by Diane Rufino, May 27, 2013
The NC Tenth Amendment Center is organizing a Nullify Now! Rally in Raleigh this fall. Nullify Now! is a national tour, sponsored by the Tenth Amendment Center and Foundation for a Free Society, to educate and activate Americans on the Jeffersonian principle of Nullification. Nullification, simply put, is the right of the state, under the Tenth Amendment and Supremacy Clause, to reject, nullify, and refuse to enforce unconstitutional federal acts – from all three branches!!  The Raleigh event will be in September or October, depending upon the venue that is chosen. We want to start getting the word out now and ask that people share the information with as many people and groups as possible. There is perhaps nothing more important in the defense of liberty in our current precarious times than the education of ordinary Americans and state officials on the topic of Nullification. And given the hostility of our current leadership in the state legislature to states’ rights movements and the general reluctance in both houses to stand up to unconstitutional federal action, the time is now to begin that education.  Nullify Now.

The event capitalizes on the best-selling book “Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century,” by historian Thomas Woods.  Thanks to this important contribution by Mr. Woods, the doctrine of nullification, a founding principle, is being re-introduced to Americans and being revived all over the country. Its power and significance is ever more clear now that our own government has become a source of tyranny and oppression. Thomas Woods is a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and the author of other best-sellers, such as “Meltdown,” and “Rollback.”

In a nutshell, nullification is a constitutional doctrine that acknowledges the division of power between the federal government and the States – ie, the federal nature of our government. The right of each sovereign – the federal government and each state – to jealously guard its powers, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, which announces that only those laws made in pursuance to the delegated powers to each branch, are supreme and enforceable. In other words, any law that is not made in pursuance of a power expressly delegated to the government or any law made that abuses any constitutional power is null and void and unenforceable. The term “Nullification” was coined by Thomas Jefferson in 1799 in addressing the unconstitutionality of the Alien and Sedition Acts, but the fact is that the doctrine is as deeply rooted in our founding as is the sovereignty of the individual, the inalienability of fundamental liberties, federalism, supremacy, and checks and balances. When the state delegates met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft a new constitution, their task was to design a common government that would take care of overlapping functions and allow the states to sufficiently unite. James Madison, the major architect of the Convention and of the “new” government, arrived in Philadelphia with quite a different scheme than what he eventually came to embrace. He arrived as a “nationalist,” believing in a strong national government of centralized powers that compromised the sovereignty of the individual states. In fact, his scheme of government would have given the federal government a “negative” (or a veto) on any state action that the government believed was at odds with its interests. But communications with Thomas Jefferson (letters from France) and a stark rejection by an overwhelming majority of delegates helped him understand the wisdom of a “federal” government of limited powers, with the “negative” (or veto) being given to the States who would be the sovereigns most likely to find their powers intruded upon and jeopardized.  Therefore, the legislative branch was designed as a bicameral branch, with one house representing the interests of the states (Senate), which gave the states an immediate opportunity to “negate” or veto an act of the legislature that it believed exceeded the scope of the Constitution and encroached upon the powers of the States.  To further entrench the notion that States retain the bulk of their sovereign powers and therefore have a right to assert them, the Tenth Amendment was proposed by the states and added to the Constitution (otherwise they wouldn’t ratify it).  A state “negative” is what Jefferson would later refer to as “nullification.”

For almost 200 years, the federal government has looked to its constitutional limitations with disdain.  It dared to take the position that the Constitution is one of hidden and implied powers and that government needs what it needs.  And it found a way around those limitations. First the Supreme Court delegated itself the exclusive power to declare what the Constitution means and what powers the government has. Yes, a branch of the government declared it would figure out what powers it has. And from that moment, the exercise of constitutional interpretation evolved into an opportunity for nine unelected individuals to use the bench to re-interpret our Constitution, to transform the intent of government, and to effect societal change (good and bad). Thomas Jefferson warned about this: “To consider the Judges of the Superior Court as the ultimate arbiters of constitutional questions would be a dangerous doctrine which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. They have with others, the same passion for party, for power, and for the privileges of their corps – and their power is the most dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the Elective control. The Constitution has elected no single tribunal.  I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves.”  The questions are these: Will federal politicians act to limit their own power?  Will federal judges limit their power?  The answer to both questions is no.  If  the federal government – all 3 branches – were ever to be the sole and exclusive arbiter of the extent of their own power, that power would always grow. And then we are in a position where the “abuses and usurpations” of government and of human liberties that were levied against King George of England and which justified the fight for our independence are being willingly tolerated here in the United States in the 21st century.  Nothing can be more dangerous since the Constitution is the document that protects our precious rights laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Education on the doctrine of nullification is an education on how the States and the People can constitutionally exercise rights that the government now believes don’t exist.

Critics contend that states have no power to review the constitutionality of federal laws and federal action.

“That’s what the courts are for,” they say.  Those very courts, after the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in Marbury v. Madison (1803) that the federal courts are to interpret the Constitution and judges are limited by its precise wording and intention, have gone way beyond simple constitutional interpretation to make policy from the bench. Those very courts, after the decision in Marbury, have reclassified the Constitution as a “living, breathing document” that is no longer confined to traditional interpretation.  Those same courts have rendered decisions on secession and nullification when those topics aren’t even addressed in the Constitution (federal courts are limited to federal questions – alleged violations of the US Constitution, federal law, or a treaty to which the US is a party).  Those same courts told Dred Scott that black people don’t have any rights under our Declaration or Constitution and approved the indefinite detention of an entire race of citizens in the 1940′s.  No freedom-loving person should be looking at the courts to defend and preserve liberty.

The States, and not the courts, will be the ones to stop unconstitutional federal mandates.  As Thomas Jefferson said, Nullification is the “Rightful Remedy.”

Since September 2010, the Tenth Amendment Center has been hosting a national tour to educate people on this topic and to re-engage them with their Constitution and principles of freedom. The goal is to teach about nullification, its constitutional basis, when it’s been used in history, why the criticisms (ie, “It’s unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has ruled on it” and “The Civil War settled it”) are misinformed, why nullification has become more popular, why Americans need to learn about this doctrine, and its potential. So far, Nullify Now! events have been held in Orlando, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Austin, Jacksonville, and Manchester, NH.  Raleigh is the next conference. Our neighbors, South Carolina and Virginia, are both planning them in their states. Future events are also being organized in the Bay Area, CA, Seattle, Las Vegas, Miami, Indianapolis, Chicago, and in the states of Idaho, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

The opponents of nullification and the mainstream media want Americans to believe that Nullification is an evil doctrine because it was used to support slavery. They want to shame citizens into believing that to support this concept is to be un-American and to somehow endorse the mindset that gave rise to the Civil War. These false arguments are the very reason that the Tenth Amendment Center felt it was necessary to begin a campaign of proper education.  The truth will allow everyone to come to an educated conclusion about nullification.

The Tenth Amendment knows that the topic of Nullification is one clouded in mystery. People want to know more but don’t know where to learn about it truthfully. They want to believe there is a constitutional way for their states to protect their individual rights. In North Carolina, people have heard disturbing comments from their elected state leaders in the past year, such as the following: “Because NC lost the Civil War, we have no right to second-guess the actions and policies of the federal government.”  “The state constitution forbids us to second-guess the federal government. It’s essentially a surrender document that hasn’t been amended.”  “The 10th Amendment no longer means what it used to. That was decided by the Civil War.”  “The US Constitution doesn’t mean what it used to and we really don’t know what it means now.”  ”Nullification is an outdated, racist doctrine that was used for bad and has no legitimacy.” “The legitimacy of Nullification was decided by the Supreme Court.”  Can these statements possibly be correct?  Education will give people of North Carolina the answer. We hope it will also educate those officials who articulated these offensive positions. Fortunately, the Tenth Amendment Center promotes the topic of Nullification from the mouth and pen of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, our most important of Founding Fathers. Each wrote a critical founding document and therefore are the proper authorities on the subject.

I’m sure liberty-minded folks support the notion that the federal government is one of limited powers and that the Supremacy Clause is a recognition of that limit and not an open invitation to the government to rule supremely on any and all objects it wants to. It can’t be that the federal government has the sole and exclusive authority to declare what the constitution means and how it applies to its branches and powers. The government can’t be sole and exclusive authority on the extent of its own powers. It’s a sure path to tyranny. I agree that the term “Nullification” scares many people and puts them on the offensive because of the crisis of 1832 with John Calhoun and South Carolina and because of the actions of Southern Democratic leaders in the post-Brown v. Board of Education era to repudiate the decision to integrate schools and society. I certainly get it and understand the negative connotations. But the positive exercises (not necessarily summoning the term “nullification”) have far out-weighed them, such as the actions of the Sons of Liberty which so thoroughly frustrated the British agents in the colonies prior to 1776 that such intolerable acts as the Stamp Act and Quartering Acts could never be enforced, the insistence in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and in the individual state ratifying conventions for a state “negative” on the federal government (the Senate branch and the Tenth Amendment are examples), the nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act by the southern states, the nullification by a state court of Wisconsin (Glover case 1854) of the Fugitive Slave Act (in fact, the WI court said, despite what the US Supreme Court would later say in Dred Scott that Africans were not a class of persons covered by the Constitution or Declaration and hence were not entitled to any protections offered by those documents, including not having a right to bring suit, slaves and former slaves absolutely have a right to bring an action in a court of law), the state opposition to the federal Real ID which has effectively prevented its enforcement, the nullification of the NDAA by Virginia, and the rejection of state health insurance exchanges by 26 states as a way to show their opposition to federal intrusion into a state matter – healthcare, These are just a few instances of nullification (the pushing back of the federal government because it attempted to over-reach its constitutional authority.

There are many things going on at the national level which threaten our precious American freedoms. The War on Terrorism has expanded executive powers and extended the Rules of War to our homeland, thereby clashing with our Bill of Rights. There is talk of limiting the scope of the Second Amendment. The federal taxing power has been expanded by the Obamacare decision to give the government the option of coercing and controlling human conduct in the marketplace and in controlling human behavior in general.  Unelected officials are using the full power of the federal government to target, harass, censor, and intimidate American citizens. And privacy rights have never been so fragile. Everyone has an issue that is important to them, whether it be gun ownership rights, losing control over one’s healthcare because of Obamacare, gay marriage, the expansion of Homeland Security to spy on ordinary Americans, the drones-in-the-sky program, etc.  It may not be my issue or your issue, but collectively they all touch on the one thing that unites us in a common title – that of an “American.”  Americans enjoy a country where the government is tasked first and foremost with protecting their freedom.  When I think of how groups try to shut each other down or marginalize their issues, I can’t help but think of the words that Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote in light of the Nazi Holocaust:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

To minimize the freedom and expression of one group is to minimize freedom and express for all.

Take, for example, the Daily Kos. It accuses conservatives of trying to prevent and thwart social progress in the United States.  It writes that “their weapons of choice are nullification and secession.” It writes that conservatives resort to “these pernicious ideas in order to prevail on such issues as the rights of the unborn and gun rights.” To equate conservatives as enemies of the state is to silence the voice of our Founding Fathers on critical issues that touch on successful government and human liberty. To shut down those who speak for the unborn is to deny the unborn a voice.

The Daily Kos is wrong.  The weapon of choice for conservatives is education.

Please plan to attend the Nullify Now! event in Raleigh this fall. Once the date and venue are set, it will be posted on the NC Tenth Amendment Center website and Facebook page. In the meantime, please help spread the word.

      ***  Diane Rufino is the Deputy Director of the NC Tenth Amendment Center

Self-Governing Individuals are Necessary to a Self-Governing Society

Christian Heritage - George Washington in Prayer

by Diane Rufino

Self-governing individuals are necessary to have a self-governing society. That is, only a moral and disciplined people are capable of being governed by a limited government. Those who are not need greater government. The Pilgrims taught us this when they established the successful colony in Plymouth.

The term “self-governing” refers to the ability of individuals to exercise control over oneself. It is the internal obligation one feels  to do the right thing. It is the willingness of individuals to consciously choose and hold onto productive principles that apply in diverse situations. Self-government means self-reliance, self-discipline, and self-improvement. As Thomas Paine said, self-governing individuals are necessary to have a self-governing society.  Representative democracy ultimately depends on the moral character of the people and of the representatives elected.  As James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution, wrote: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.”

Self-governing individuals are necessary in order that the United States can hope to maintain a government of constitutional limits and of a size and scope that can be accountable to the people.

The debate at the core of the growing socialist nature of our government is how much should government do to help those who are less fortunate than others?  An entire political party and an entire social movement has been created to answer that question: Total redistribution and equality of status. They are devoted to  redefining what the United States stands for, the nature of government, and the new rights that individuals are entitled to and those that government can now regulate in the name of social justice. They are devoted to the tearing down of the fundamental institutions on which successful self-government is based, such as the family, church, and an education system that educates and not indoctrinates. They are devoted a tireless agenda of trying to “do good without God.”

But good government depends on the character and virtue of the people it represents.

Character is built by overcoming obstacles. People can and do raise themselves out of poverty. The success stories of millions of immigrants paint a picture of the long-run rewards of discipline, perseverance, and

sacrifice. If those stories are to continue, we must protect our liberties, accept our responsibilities, and practice virtue.  We must never lose sight of the primary functions of government, as laid out in our Declaration of Independence; otherwise, we have a government in charge of defining its functions rather than We the People defining our government. If we wish to hold on to the grand notion, established for this nation by our Founders, that sovereign power to govern rests first and foremost with the People, then we honor our founding principles.   According to the Declaration, protecting persons and protecting property are the two main functions of good government. When government steps beyond those legitimate functions, it steps outside the bounds of justice. As James Madison wrote: “That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.”

But the more fundamental debate that is going on in this country is the one which speaks directly to the character of each individual. And that debate is ultimately the one over religion and its proper role in our society.

Character is defined by the set of moral qualities that a person possesses or one’s moral strength. Character is the inner strength to do what is right even when no one is looking.

There is a deeply-embedded understanding in this country, stemming from our very founding settlers, patriots, and Founding Fathers, that religion and morality are fundamentally linked. Morality has roots in religious doctrine. In the Old Testament, God handed down a series of commandments to guide man’s conduct. Man is free indeed, but even the Bible teaches that he should not be free to do everything he pleases. And so we have the Ten Commandments (on which common law, including criminal law, has been based).  In the New Testament, God has established a new covenant with all who believe. And so we see a strong them of forgiveness, compassion, selflessness, and love in those books. Jesus himself summed up his Father’s commandments in two great commandments: the command to love God with all one’s heart and mind (see Deuteronomy 6:5), and the command to love the neighbor as the self (see Leviticus 19:18). Morality sees its roots therefore in the desire to always do good and do what is right. Religion provides the motivation and the reason to do good. It provides meaning to live a moral life. Thomas Paine believed that the moral duty of man consists in imitating the moral and beneficence of God.

There are moral limits to human behavior that are intertwined into our very nature.  They not simply accidents or norms born out of history. There are permanent standards of what is right and wrong, and what is natural and what is unnatural. We regard such limits as something that must be conserved to protect character from avarice, envy, unhealthy ambition, entitlement, a sense of superior self-worth, and destruction. As Russell Kirk noted in his book, The Conservative Mind, we have a “belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience.”

Our Founding Fathers saw morality as dependent on religious principles rather than on some internal value system because they believed that morality is based on timeless truths.    Despite the various religious beliefs of our Founders, they shared a strong common belief that moral truths exist and are necessary for people to responsibly self-govern their own affairs. And that’s why we see the historical record full of advice from them to remain a moral and religious people.

Lasting virtue is never forced; it is not passed in our genes. It is born out of a respect for certain fundamental and eternal truths based on right versus wrong, good versus bad, fair versus unfair. It is born out of love and deep respect for one’s fellow man and for the rights that he values for everyone.

And so we see that the debate has intensified over whether religion is critical to self-government. I would argue that there is no element more important to one’s individual behavior than the influence of religion and the power of the conscience. And that’s why I believe that our Founders intended for the government to encourage the full expression of religious rights and not try to prevent it (using its arbitrary “Wall of Separation” to chill that expression).

Unfortunately, all too often we hear that government and schools aren’t supposed to legislate or teach morality. But if we look at the roots of government and the purpose of law, we find out that the exact opposite is true.

One of the great early philosophers, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), also the leading lawyer, orator, and Roman senator of his day (during the rule of Julius Caesar), also advanced that position. He wrote volumes on what is the true nature of law and government.  In his book On the Republic, Cicero wrote: “True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting.”

When Cicero wrote that true law is “right reason,” he assigned it an objective, universal quality. To Cicero, reason is the most divine of all human characteristics as it is reason that separates man from all other creatures that God created and is therefore the one quality that man and God have in common. As he wrote: “That animal which we call man… full of reason and prudence, has been given a certain distinguished status by the Supreme God who created him; for he is the only one among so many different kinds and varieties of living beings who has a share in reason and thought, while all the rest are deprived of it.”  Because law comes from right reason, and reason is divine as one human aspect that connects us to God while separating us from the rest of the creatures on the planet, it stands to reason that the law that comes from reason contains a divine element as well.

In the second part of his quote, Cicero claimed that law is also “in agreement with nature.” What Cicero meant by this is that law is in agreement with our nature as human beings.

The significance of this understanding – that Law has divine and natural elements to it – is that it makes law universal, infallible and unchangeable. If laws were human and made by humans, then they would be imperfect just as humans are. They could change, mold and evolve with time just as people and societies do. They could also be different and diverse just as humans are. But just as God, by definition, is the epitome of universality and infallibility, any law that comes from God must be perfect as well. It must be single and universal and transcend all time and all cultures. Cicero clearly recognized this when he wrote, “there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all…”

What this all boils down to is summed up nicely in a statement by Cicero: “God’s law is ‘right reason.’ When perfectly understood it is called ‘wisdom.’ When applied by government in regulating human relations it is called ‘justice.”  Justice, he explained, “originates in our natural inclination, as being created by God in His image, to love our fellow men.”

Cicero was assassinated by order of Marc Antony some forty years before the birth of Christ. It is interesting that Cicero taught the same message that Jesus himself would teach in his short time on Earth.

Religion Was Central to the Success of the American Experiment –

Religious principles and biblical precepts were central to the success of the American experiment. The belief in God and his creation was at the very core of their belief in Natural law and the natural ordering of society and liberty. It was their belief that allowed them to gravitate towards the government philosophy of John Locke, on which our nation’s values were based.  Religious principles form the basis of the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence, the ordered liberty embodied in our Constitution, and the conviction we have as a nation to recognize the inherent dignity in all human life and to send our brave men and women all over the globe to fight for the rights of others.  Religious principles were, and still are, essential to the security of the freedom we claim to stand for and to the foundation that grounds our nation’s founding ideals. In short, the great American Experiment was founded on religion and needs that support if posterity is to enjoy what is promised in the Declaration of Independence.

The key to America’s religious liberty success story is its focus on the sovereignty of the individual and its constitutional order. The Founders argued that virtue derived from religion is indispensable to limited government. The Constitution therefore guaranteed religious free exercise while prohibiting the establishment of a national religion. This Constitutional order produced a constructive relationship between religion and state that balances citizens’ dual allegiances to God and earthly authorities without forcing believers to abandon (or moderate) their primary loyalty to God. This reconciling of civil and religious authorities, and the creation of a Constitutional order that gave freedom to competing religious groups, helped develop a popular spirit of self-government. All the while, religious congregations, family, and other private associations exercise moral authority that is essential to maintaining limited government. The American Founders frequently stated that virtue and religion are essential to maintaining a free society because they preserve “the moral conditions of freedom.”

James Madison said that men should conduct themselves as if they “have a duty towards the Creator.”  (See his 1786 Memorial and Remonstrance). “This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society,” he wrote.

Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, two of our most important Founding Fathers, did not necessarily see eye-to-eye on religion. Franklin was raised in a devout Puritan home and Paine was a Deist. As a deist, Paine believed that God created the world but then allowed it to operate according to natural laws. Deists believe God does not intervene in the lives of his human creations. Rather, morality should come from reflecting on benevolence of God in creating such a perfect and finely-ordered world. Franklin, on the other hand, believed strongly in an active, ever-present God.

Although Franklin was raised in a devote Puritan home, he did not fully embrace the Calvanism of his upbringing. As an adult, he put his faith in an active God who watched over his natural creation and could, on occasion, intervene in the lives of his human creation as well.

Franklin and Paine often sparred over God’s role in the world and in people’s lives. At one point Mr. Franklin wrote to Mr. Paine to  implore him to put his deist sentiments aside and emphasize the importance of religion in his writings:

   … You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.

         If men are so wicked with religion (as Paine often complained), what would they be if without it. I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship, and therefore add no professions to it; but subscribe simply yours,

Ben Franklin

In other words, he argues that because God is active in the affairs of man, there is pressure for men to keep virtuous.  Religion, he explains, is a check on the pernicious tendencies of man.

Benjamin Franklin indeed believed in an active God who presided over the destinies of his creations and was involved in the affairs of men. He would write: “Without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides, and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection.” That is why he believed that faith and prayer were essential in order that Providence continue His blessings on our nation. He also believed that God answered prayer. In July 1787, during the meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia when tempers were flaring among the delegates, Franklin called for prayer to bring reconciliation to the political differences of the body.  As James Madison noted in his Journal from the of the Constitutional Convention, the distinguished 86-year-old delegate from Philadelphia delivered the following words:

Mr. President,

        The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other, our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many ‘nays’ and ‘ays,’ is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

         In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?  In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’  I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

        I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

Roger Sherman, delegate from Connecticut, seconded the motion.

While many refer to the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention and those men, like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who drafted the Declaration of Independence as our “Founding Fathers,” the term (or group) actually includes many others, such as those whose actions and writings led to the American Revolution.  However, for this discussion, it is worth noting that this core group of 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention  represents the general religious sentiments of those who shaped the political foundations of our nation. As confirmed by public record, the delegates to the Convention included 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch Reformed, 2 Methodists, 2 Roman Catholics, 1 unknown, and 3 deists (those who believe that God created the world but then allowed it to operate according to natural laws. Deists believed God did not intervene in the lives of his human creation). Overall, 93% of the delegates were members of Christian churches. And all – that is, a full 100% – were deeply influenced by a biblical view of mankind and government.

Where did our biblical view of mankind and government come from?  It stemmed from the Christian roots of our thirteen original colonies.  Beginning in the seventeenth century, settlers from Spain, France, Sweden, Holland, and Great Britain claimed land in the New World and formed colonies along its eastern coast. Spain controlled the West Indies. The French owned land from Quebec all the way down to the end of the Mississippi River in New Orleans. And the British colonized most of the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts down to Georgia.

The first permanent settlement was the English colony at Jamestown, which was established in 1607 in what is now Virginia. Similar to the other colonial charters granted by Britain, the First Charter of Virginia emphasized the Christian character of the colony’s purpose. The Charter read: “We, greatly commending and graciously accepting of, their desires for the furtherance of so noble a work, which may, by the providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the glory of His Divine Majesty in the propagating of the Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.”

In 1620, the Pilgrims followed and set up a colony at Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts. Many of the Pilgrim women and children didn’t survive the first winter. Yet they refused to return to England and they refused an opportunity to live in the Netherlands. They wanted the opportunity  to establish a political commonwealth governed by biblical standards where they could raise their children and live according to the teachings of Christ.  The Mayflower Compact, their initial governing document, clearly stated that what they had undertaken was for “the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”  William Bradford, the second governor of Plymouth, said: “The colonists cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations for the propagation and advancement of the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world.”  Plymouth became the first fully self-governing colony.

In June 1630 the Puritan colony of Massachusetts Bay was established. In that year, Governor John Winthrop landed in Massachusetts with 700 people in 11 ships to serve God and establish a pure church – pure in worship and in doctrine.  (The Pilgrims and Puritans wanted to establish a new land where they could live the teachings of the gospel). Massachusetts Bay would begin the Great Migration, which lasted sixteen years and brought more than 20,000 Puritans to New England.  While still on his ship, the Arbella, Winthrop wrote the sermon he would deliver to the new colonists as they were ready to set out and establish their first settlement.  The sermon was titled “A Model of Christian Charity.”  In that sermon, he sought to articulate the reasons for the new colony. He talked about avoiding a shipwreck.  “Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck and to provide for our posterity is to follow the Counsel of Micah, to do Justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.”  The “shipwreck” that he referred to was the wrath of God that falls on peoples or nations who fail to do God’s will. To avoid the shipwreck, they would have to establish a truly godly society. Winthrop talked about the need to love one another and serve one another – to be merciful, kind, compassionate, sharing, and selfless. This part of the sermon was clearly reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount.

But the sermon would be remembered for the term he used to coin the Puritan experiment – “A city upon a Hill.”  These words would not only inspire the Puritans that traveled with him, but they would also be used by American presidents hundreds of  years later to yet again inspire Americans to greatness. These were the words that Winthrop delivered to his fellow Puritans as they were ready to disembark from the ship: “For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”  Indeed when people vow to live according to religious principles and devote themselves to promoting their faith, they invite scrutiny. They place themselves under a microscope, where all too often those who are looking through the lens are looking to find criticism.

In 1638, a colony was established in New Haven, in what is now Connecticut, by Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Easton. A year later, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, often called the world’s first written constitution, was adopted. It read, in part: “For as much as it hath pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of His Divine Providence so to order and dispose of things that we the inhabitants and residents…; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the Word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require.”

The same John Winthrop who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony would also lead the first American experiment in establishing a federation. In 1643, he organized the New England Confederation. He wrote that the aim of the colonists of Plymouth, New Haven, Massachusetts, and Connecticut was “to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel thereof in purities and peace.”

In 1683, Rhode Island was established by Christians. Their charter, the Rhode Island Charter of 1683, began with these words: “We submit our person, lives, and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His as given to us in His Holy Word.”  In 1681, a charter was granted to William Penn, a Quaker, to establish the colony of Pennsylvania. King Charles II granted him a large tract of land in America to repay debts the king owed to Penn’s father. (As it turns out, the tract of land would also include Delaware).  Penn wanted to start a colony where Quakers like himself could live without persecution. He printed advertisements about his colony in six different languages and sent them across Europe. Quakers, Mennonites, Lutherans, Dunkards (Church of the Brethren), Amish, Moravians, Hugenots (French Protestants), Catholics, and Jews from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, and Holland began were attracted to his colony. In 1701, he drafted the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges which gave un unprecedented amount of control to the People in their government. It read, in part:  “All persons who profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, shall be capable to serve this government in any capacity, both legislatively and executively.”

William Penn was inspired by 1 Thessalonians 4:9 when he established Pennsylvania. (“But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”)   To emphasize his plan to have a place where Christians would work together, he planned and named their city “Philadelphia,” which is Greek for “City of Brotherly Love.”  His concept was that religion is not to be limited to a Sunday ceremonial ritual, but should be an integral aspect of everyday life, demonstrated by working with others in love and respect.

Perhaps William Penn was inspired by the Puritans. The Puritans believed that religion should form the foundation of their society, in government, education, and work ethic.  The Puritan work ethic placed a high moral value on doing a good job because work has such high intrinsic value. To the Puritan, all of life was to be lived in relation to God, a principle which gave sacred significance to every activity. Work was valued as a vital part of their service and worship to God, and they took the Bible seriously when it said: ‘And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.’ (Colossians 3:17)  Just as the Israelites were instructed to work six days and then rest on the seventh (Exodus 20: 9-10), the Puritans regarded work and worship as a lifestyle of obedience to God.

From the first colony at Jamestown to the colonies in Massachusetts to the Pennsylvania colony, the Bible was used as the inspiration and the rule of life and governance in the settlements. The evidence of the profound effect of God’s word and teachings of Jesus Christ on our early Americans and early leaders is overwhelming.

[Other English colonies would spring up all along the Atlantic coast, from Maine to Georgia. As more and more people arrived in the colonies, European countries realized a greater stake in the New World.  Disputes arose over territory. By the 1700s, the countries with the largest presence were England and France. Eventually, the two great nations fought the French and Indian War (1754-1763).  England won and took control of Canada, as well as retaining control of all the English colonies along the eastern coast – the thirteen colonies. (It is the debt from this war that the King and Parliament passed on to the colonists through taxation schemes, inspiring the protests “No Taxation Without Representation !”).  We know how the rest of American history plays out.]

We’ve enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we forget how and why we are able to so enjoy it in the first place. Men and women crossed the Atlantic not to find fertile fields and enjoy successful harvests, but rather to secure liberty for their souls. And specifically, the freedom they were seeking when they established their colonies and their charters was the freedom to worship freely and to live as they wanted to, according to God’s laws.

 

The Founding of Our Country Rests on a Simple Truth –

The founding and settling of our great country rests on a simple truth.  People flocked from all over the world in search of the freedom to establish colonies where they could openly live and govern themselves according to their religious dictates. They didn’t come  here to have Sunday service with their family. They came here for the freedom to incorporate the teachings of the Bible intimately in their everyday life, everyday speech, everyday conduct, everyday worship, and in their very government. The Bible even inspired them in the manner in which to establish their communities. Our earliest settlers, the Pilgrims and Puritans, in particular, carried the secret to successful self-government with them across the Atlantic.  Their greatest contribution was the notion that only a religious and moral people could be trusted to govern themselves successfully. Only a religious and moral people could be trusted with liberty.

Our children are taught in school that the Pilgrims were a group of stoic, starched creatures in black and white clothes with shiny buckled black shoes and hats who had a successful harvest which inspired them to share their bounty with the Indians, who had helped them become successful farmers. They are the group that gave us Thanksgiving. Our children are never taught the real legacy of the Pilgrims. The truth is that they were devout, hard-working, family-loving, persevering people who were committed to establishing a successful colony based on self-government and religious freedom.

The Pilgrims were part of the Puritan movement (a separatist movement, from the Church of England). They became spiritually aware when the printed English Bible became available. They could read the gospel of Jesus Christ firsthand and not have to wait to hear scripture read in the Church, headed by the King of England. This relatively small band of men, women, and children had a strong desire to serve God as they saw fit, free from the Church of England and the religious policies of the King.  Being identified as “separatists” or “purists” made them potential traitors to the Crown and made them outcasts.  In order to exercise religious freedom, they would have to leave England, settle in Holland (perhaps one of the only places they could be free from persecution) for eleven years, and eventually make their way back to England to commission a ship to take them to the New World. They faced many trials and tribulations along the way, including imprisonment. Finally, the Pilgrims were able to commission two ships to take them to the New World, one being the Mayflower. Shortly after departing, however, the second ship took on a leak and had to return to England. As a result, not all of the Pilgrims were able to make the journey.

When the Mayflower finally reached the coast of Massachusetts, in 1620, the Pilgrims and members of the crew signed a compact, the Mayflower Compact, before departing the ship. The Compact expressed  their desire to be rid of British law and to establish a form of self-government based on just and equal laws and for the advancement of the Christian faith.  In the New World, government would be established to serve their interests and they would be masters of their government, unlike in England, where the government was the master of the people who exist to serve the interests of government.

The Pilgrims ordered their society on eternal truths, including faith, morality, justice, mercy, and education. In fact, there is an enormous granite monument erected in Plymouth, MA, to memorialize their dependence on these truths.  The monument is called “The National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, MA.” It is also referred to as “The Pilgrim’s Monument” or the “Matrix of Liberty.”

The “Matrix of Liberty” is structured and built to show the interdependence of these truths. The center of the monument is a giant women holding a Bible and pointing to the Heavens.  She is Faith.  At each of the four corners of the base of the monument is a pillar, representing Morality, Law, Education, and Liberty.  The pillars have a certain order, starting with Morality and ending with Liberty.

Looking at the monument in sequential fashion, one can understand the ordered foundation of the Pilgrim society.

Faith –  She is pointing to God because her faith is in the God of the Bible and in Jesus Christ. She is holding the Geneva Bible which is open, indicating that she is actively reading it.  She has a star on her forehead to signify that she has wisdom, which comes from the Bible. She believes in Jesus Christ, who was sent to Earth to set man free.  The first pillar is faith.  Faith is necessary for all the other pillars.

Morality –  The statue is of a woman with no eyes, holding a Bible.  She has no eyes to signify that morality is an internal characteristic.  Morality means the “heart is right.”  To achieve morality, the heart must be transformed according to the word of God.

Law –  The statue is of a woman holding the scales of justice. There must be some degree of order in society and order is established by a set of laws.  Laws are based on God’s law.  They protect and promote goodness and punish and prevent evil. Hence, law must be morally just.  She is holding the scales of justice to indicate that the law applies equally to everyone.  Laws must be fair and equitable. Punishment, for example, must be in set in fair relation to the offense.  Finally, society should be merciful, just as God offers mercy and grace.

Education –  The statue is of a mother teaching her children. She is holding an open Bible and pointing to the Ten Commandments.  Parents should educate and train their children in morality and religion so that they will grow up to be responsible citizens, capable of maintaining a free and ordered society.

Liberty –  The statue is of a chiseled warrior, carrying a sword and draped in the skin of a lion. The lion’s head is draped over his shoulder.  He is called “Liberty Man.” The sword represents strength and the lion represents tyranny.  The man is strong because he has faith and is moral.  He has been educated and has defeated tyranny because his laws are strong and just.  If all the other pillars are promoted in society, its people can be trusted with their self-government and will be strong enough to pass on liberty to the next generation. In other words, Liberty Man is the result of obeying the “Matrix of Liberty.”

The so-called “Matrix of Liberty,” and the values and priorities it represents, is the real legacy of the Pilgrims. Not the black and white dress or suit with the shoes with the black buckle.  Not the hair up in a bun with a white kerchief or the turkey feast.  Yet no one celebrates this.  Public schools only teach about the successful harvest, and not the successful formula for self-government and religious liberty.

The Pilgrims were British subjects looking for religious liberty, yet with the Mayflower Compact, they devised a special formula to protect all liberty. The Compact created a system of self-government for their colony but the key was in effective individual self-government. Together, it was a special formula. At the core of that formula is the recognition that only a religious and moral people can be entrusted with the responsibility of securing so great a gift as Liberty.  This is America’s Christian heritage.  Our Christian heritage is the reason we have a government system centered around the individual, bound to protect his sovereign rights, and sufficiently limited in order that people can govern their lives and organize their communities according to appropriate values.  Our Christian heritage is inextricably connected to our founding principles. [The word “principle,” deriving from a Latin root, means “first things”]

We see how American leaders throughout our history have acknowledged and emphasized the importance of this heritage. We see how the belief in America’s Providential destiny inspired almost all of our great patriots and fighting men and women.

Take Nathan Hale, for example. Nathan Hale (1755-1776) was a young school teacher when the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775 at Concord and Lexington. Nathan’s friend witnessed the siege of Boston and wrote a letter in which he said: “Our holy religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country, and a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”  Soon after receiving that letter, Hale joined his five brothers and they fought for America’s independence in the Revolutionary War. He quickly rose to the rank of captain.

Hale fought under General George Washington in New York at the time British General William Howe was building up his troops on Long Island. Washington took his army onto Manhattan Island. At the battle of Harlem Heights, he asked for a volunteer to go on a spy mission behind enemy lines and it was Hale who stepped forward.  For a week, he went unnoticed and gathered information on the position of British troops. While trying to return to the American side, however, he was captured. Because of the notes and incriminating papers that Hale on his person, the British immediately knew he was a spy. Howe ordered the 20-year-old Nathan Hale to be hanged without a trial.

Widely regarded as America’s first spy, patriot Nathan Hale was hanged on September 22, 1776. As a last request, he asked for a Bible and some paper to write letters to his loved ones. He was denied the Bible but was able to write letters. The British read what he wrote and in an act of cruelty, destroyed them. It was told that they didn’t want future Americans to know what a truly devout and honorable man he was. Before he gave his life for his country, he made a short speech which ended with these famous words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

George Washington himself believed that America was under the divine protection of Providence and was destined to win its revolution against Great Britain. During the war, he wrote to Reverend William Gordon:  “No man has a more perfect reliance on the all-wise and powerful dispensations of the Supreme Being than I have, nor thinks His aid more necessary.”  He issued General Orders on May 2, 1778 to his troops, instructing that “While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal Instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude and Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good.”

When his army, the Continental Army, disbanded on June 14, 1783, Washington wrote a letter – an “Earnest Prayer” – to the governors of the thirteen states. In that letter, he said: “The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu…. I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

After serving two terms as our nation’s first president, Washington delivered a heart-felt farewell address (1796), offering words of wisdom for the country he loved and devoted his entire life: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.”

President Calvin Coolidge would later offer these words about our great General and first President: “Washington was the directing spirit, without which there would have been no independence, no Union, no Constitution, and no republic. . . . We cannot yet estimate him. We can only indicate our reverence for him and thank the Divine Providence which kept him to serve and inspire his fellow man.”

John Jay, the author of five of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty and as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”  Jay referred to the United States without hesitation as a “Christian nation.”

Our second president, John Adams, also a co-author of the Declaration of Independence and important founding patriot, believed just as strongly as Washington in the importance of religion and morality in maintaining the integrity of the nation that was so thoughtfully created.  On June 21, 1776, he wrote: “Statesmen may plan for liberty, but it is religion and morality which alone can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.  The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in great measure, than they may change their rulers and their forms of government but they will never obtain lasting liberty.”

In a letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts on October 11, 1798, President John Adams wrote these famous words: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

What Adams was saying was not theological or religious but pragmatic. He was declaring that religion is necessary to maintain national morality; not that it’s some mystic force that favors believers over non-believers. Adams was advising future Americans how to continue to secure their liberty and happiness. “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion,” George Washington once wrote.  ”Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

When Thomas Jefferson ran for president in 1799, Jedidiah Morse preached an insightful Election Sermon on the importance of religion. Morse (1761-1826) was a member of the clergy, an educator, and the father of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph and the Morse Code.  In his Sermon, he asked what would happen if the religious foundations were destroyed:

“Our dangers are of two kinds – those which affect our religion and those which affect our government. They are, however, so closely allied that they cannot, with propriety, be separated. The foundations which support the interest of Christianity are also necessary to support a government like our own, designed to protect freedom and equality…..

      To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief or the corruption of its doctrine, or the neglect of its institutions, the same proportion of the people will recede from the blessings of genuine freedom and experience the miseries of complete despotism. I hold this to be a truth confirmed by experience.  If so, it follows that all efforts made to destroy the foundations of our holy religion will ultimately tend to subvert our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”

There was a time when the laws of God were taken into consideration in US courts. In 1802, Judge Nathaniel Freeman delivered the following charge to the Massachusetts Grand Juries: “The laws of the Christian system, as embraced by the Bible, must be respected as of high authority in all our courts, and it cannot be thought improper for the officers of such government to acknowledge their obligation to be governed by its rule…..  Our government, originating in the voluntary compact of a people who in that very instrument profess the Christian religion, it may be considered, not as the republic Rome was, a pagan republic, but as a Christian republic.”

There was also a time when children were taught about American’s founding values and in particular, how religious principles are linked to liberty. Noah Webster (1758-1843) was an American lexicographer, textbook author, political writer, and editor. He has been called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education.”  In his public school textbook History of the United States, published in 1832, he included:

“Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion. It is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early on understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.

       The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his Apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.

       The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all of our civil constitutions and laws….  All the miseries and evils which men suffer from – vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war – proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

Of course, when Webster was referring to the biblical basis of civil liberty, he was referring to Luke 10:27 (“You shall love… your neighbor as yourself.”)

Robert Winthrop, a lawyer who served as the Speaker of the US House from 1847-49, delivered an address to that body in which he talked about the foundation on religion that was needed to forge the moral strength needed to support our free institutions and our nation:

“The voice of experience and the voice of our own reason speak but one language….  Both united in teaching us that men may as well build their houses upon the sand and expect to see them stand, when the rains fall and the winds blow and the floods come, as to found free institutions upon any other basis than that of morality and virtue, of which the Word of God is the only authoritative rule and the only adequate sanction.

        All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they have of stringent state government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint.

       Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or a power external to them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or the bayonet.

       It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the state supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is religion which must support the state.”

Daniel Webster (1782-1852), a leading American statesman, was known as being one of our greatest orators. He served as a US congressman and then senator, and even as Secretary of State under three different presidents. In a speech given before the Historical Society of New York on February 23, 1852, he talked about the need of religion for continued happiness and prosperity:

“If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion, if we and they shall live always in the fear of God and respect His commandments, if we and they shall maintain just moral sentiments and such conscientious convictions of duty as shall control the heart and life, we may have the highest hopes of the future fortunes of our country; and if we maintain those institutions of government and that political union, exceeding all praise as much as it exceeds all former examples of political associations, we may be sure of one thing… that while our country furnishes material for a thousand masters of the historic art, it will afford no topic for a Gibbon. It will have no decline and fall. It will go on prospering and to prosper. 

       But if we and our posterity reject religious institutions and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, hit on the same theme in 1917 when he delivered the following address to the nation:

“The most perfect machinery of government will not keep us as a nation from destruction if there is not within us a soul. No abounding material prosperity shall avail us if our spiritual senses atrophy. The foes of our own household shall surely prevail against us unless there be in our people an inner life which finds its outward expression in a morality not very widely different from that preached by the seers and prophets of Judea when the grandeur that was Greece and the glory that was Rome still lay in the future.

       In his Farewell Address to his countrymen, George Washington said: ‘Morality is a necessary spring of popular government…. and let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’

        His words were given expression when the European movement with which the American people were in most compete sympathy – the French Revolution – had endeavored to destroy the abuses of priestcraft and bigotry by abolishing not only Christianity but religion…..   The result was a cynical disregard of morality and a carnival of cruelty and bigotry, committed in the name of reason and liberty, which equaled anything ever done by  Tomas Torquemada and the fanatics of the Inquisition in the name of religion and order. Washington wished his fellow countrymen to walk clear of such folly and iniquity.  As in all cases where he dealt with continuing causes, his words are as well worth pondering now as when they were written….

      In this actual world, a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoff at or ignore their Christian duties, is a community on the rapid downgrade.  It is perfectly true that occasional individuals or families may have nothing to do with church or with religious practices and observances and yet maintain the highest standard of spirituality and of ethical obligation. But this does not affect the case in the world as it now is, any more than that exceptional men and women under exceptional conditions have disregarded the marriage tie without moral harm to themselves interferes with the larger fact that such disregard if at all common means the complete moral disintegration of the body politic.”

As our nation entered the 20th century and assumed its role to protect and enlarge individual liberty around the world, we often wonder how it was that young men could so willingly and selflessly volunteer to fight under the most horrific of circumstances. After World War I, the United States hoped it would never have to see conflict and warfare on that scale again. But on December 7, 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was suddenly thrust into a war that was even deadlier, bloodier, and more widespread. 16 million Americans fought in World War II.  Over 406,000 died and over 600,000 were injured. What was it that made these men so willing to put their lives on the line for their country?

The answer can probably be explained, at least in part, by the story of one young marine, Mitchell Paige. Paige was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.  In that battle, US Marines took control of the airfield from the Japanese. On October 26, 1942, Paige held his position even after all of the other Marines in his platoon were killed or wounded. He continued to operate four machine guns by himself for hours even after the last fellow Marine fell.  He single-handedly stopped an entire Japanese regiment. Had the American position been compromised and the airfield returned to Japanese hands, it is possible that the outcome of the war in the Pacific and even the entire war would have changed.

In the years following, Paige was repeatedly asked why he was willing to put his life on the line for his country. He repeatedly referred to his “undying love of country.”  He said that the answers took him back to a Pennsylvania three-room country school where the children were so steeped in the traditions of America that they literally felt themselves a part of a glorious heritage, where the teacher opened the school day with a Bible verse and the Pledge of Allegiance, and where they memorized all the great documents that established the bedrock of America, such as the Gettysburg Address.  He believed he was blessed by God by living in the United States.

General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during WWII, knew that religion was indispensible to the character of America (and to his fighting men) but also could see a progressive decay that was stemming from government. In December 1951, he delivered these words of warning: “In this day of gathering storms, as moral deterioration of political power spreads its growing infection, it is essential that every spiritual force be mobilized to defend and preserve the religious base upon which this nation is founded; for it has been that base which has been the motivating impulse to our moral and national growth. History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual reawakening to overcome the moral lapse or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.”

On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law Joint Resolution 243 which added the phrase “One Nation Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Commenting on the Resolution, Eisenhower stated: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future. In this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

Although the federal courts were in high gear at this time using the “Wall of Separation” to take the Ten Commandments, prayers, bible lessons, and moments of silence out of the classrooms and to take nativity scenes, crosses, and bible verses off of every public building and out of every public square, our national leaders continued to acknowledge the religious principles that founded our nation and inspired its founding documents. In a speech given in February 1961, President John F. Kennedy spoke about our nation’s guiding principle:

“This country was founded by men and women who were dedicated or came to be dedicated to two propositions: first, a strong religious conviction, and secondly, a recognition that this conviction could flourish only under a system of freedom.

       I think it is appropriate that we pay tribute to this great constitutional principle which is enshrined in the First Amendment: the principle of religious independence, of religious liberty, of religious freedom. But I think it is also important that we pay tribute and acknowledge another great principle – that of religious conviction. Religious freedom has no significance unless it is accompanied by conviction. And therefore the Puritans and Pilgrims of my own section of New England, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, the Catholics of Maryland, the Presbyterians of North Carolina, the Methodists and the Baptists who came later… all shared these two great traditions which, like silver threads, have run through the warp and the woof of American history.

       No man who enters upon the office to which I have succeeded can fail to recognize how very president of the United States has placed special reliance upon his faith in God. Every president has taken comfort and courage when told that the Lord ‘will be with thee. He will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Fear not – neither be thou dismayed.’  While they came from a wide variety of religious backgrounds and held a wide variety of religious beliefs, each of our presidents in his own way has placed a special trust in God. those who were strongest intellectually were also strongest spiritually.

      Let us go forth to lead this land that we love, joining in the prayer of General George Washington in 1783, ‘that God would have you in His holy protection, that He would incline the hearts of the citizens to entertain a brotherly love and affection for one another…. and finally, that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to have mercy, and to demean ourselves with the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, without who we can never hope to be a happy nation.’  

       The guiding principle and prayer of this nation has been, is now, and shall ever be “In God We Trust.”

In proclaiming the National Day of Prayer, on December 5, 1974, President Gerald Ford quoted President Eisenhower’s 1955 message: “Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first – the most basic – expression of Americanism. Thus, the Founding Fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be.”

In August 1984, President Ronald Reagan spoke at an ecumenical prayer breakfast in Dallas and talked about the importance of faith to the future and fate of our country:

“We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief and to apply moral teaching to public questions.

       I submit to you that the tolerant society is open to and encouraging of all religions. And this does not weaken us; it strengthens us….

       Without God, there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material that a flat world tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we’re One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

In his Second Inaugural Address, in 1985, President Reagan once again referred to the Divine inspiration that shaped our nation:

“History is a ribbon, always unfurling.. History is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us.  Now we hear again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely president paces the darkened halls and ponders his strength to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.

       It is the American sound. It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair. That’s our heritage; that is our song. We sing it still. For all our problems, our differences, we are together as of old, as we raise our voices to the God who is the Author of this most tender music. And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound – sound in unity, affection, and love – one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.”

Our Christian Heritage  –

What exactly do we mean by “Our Christian Heritage”?

We certainly don’t refer to it as a way to suggest that Christianity be the official religion of the United States.  We have the First Amendment to protect us from the establishment of any one religion, so that our religious conscience is free from the coercion or criticism of other religions (or non-religion) and no one is forced to support an offensive religion with their tax dollars.

Our Christian heritage finds its roots in the very foundation of our government. Its principles and values affect many aspects of our lives, none more profoundly than the very form of government that we enjoy and benefit from.  The concept of the sovereign person, being “created in God’s image,” the inherent dignity of every human being, tolerance towards others, charity, service, equality before the law, and personal responsibility all come from the Christian message. Every person, old or young, strong or weak is equal before the Lord.

Religion plants the seeds of morality and ethics. It promotes strong families, which are the bedrock of a healthy, ordered, productive society.  It gives the representative a servant’s heart.  It sets guidelines for conduct that benefit society as a whole.  It structures government that is closest to the individual, where it can be most responsive.  It establishes notions of fairness and equity.  It establishes proper priorities for a strong community. When we speak today of the Christian heritage, we speak of institutions (mostly government) that come from the Hebrews and values that we owe to the Judeo-Christian culture. The basis of our law comes from Natural Law and from God’s Law.

In other words, religion provides the foundation of good (personal) self-government so that our governments, federal and state, can effectively resign themselves to their essential tasks and stay out of the lives of its citizens as much as possible.

There is no clearer expression of  our Christian roots than in our very Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration, adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, declared that the 13 American colonies were “free and independent States” and that “all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved” (ie, secession). But for us, as citizens, it is an enduring proclamation of our rights and our superior status with respect to government. In it, our Founding Fathers were quick to protect our fundamental rights – the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – in the most secure manner they knew – by explaining that God, as the Creator of the Universe and Man, is the source of those rights. Because individual rights derive from man’s relationship with his Creator and not from any government, government has no right to take them away. In fact, as the Declaration states in the second paragraph, the primary purpose of government is to protect and secure man’s inalienable rights in an organized society. The placement of Judeo-Christian values and biblical morality into our founding documents and laws was clearly intentional.  As Benjamin Rush, a delegate from Pennsylvania and one of the signers of the Declaration, said: “Without religion there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

While most people are quick to note the religious roots in the second paragraph of the Declaration, it is the first paragraph which immediately justifies the independence of the American people on the laws of God. The first paragraph reads:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with one another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

The Declaration proclaimed “to a candid world” that in the United States of America, the power over natural rights vests in the Individual and not in any government. The decisions regarding the exercise of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, as well as the right to protect and defend them, belong to the People.  These individual rights are so important, according to our nation’s Founders,  that government’s primary function must be to protect them.  Furthermore, in order that government can never assume any power that the People don’t want it to have, the Declaration states that governments are to instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. This is our doctrine of Individual Sovereignty. Never before had any country adopt such a progressive idea!  Rights had always been enjoyed at the mercy of a King (such as the Magna Carta) or granted as seen fit by governments. In the US, power vests originally and inalienably in the People and as such, the People can reclaim it.  This doctrine was offered as justification for the American Revolution and provided the basis for our grand American experiment. The message in the Declaration is clear – the responsibility over government is given to the People and with them alone rests the security of their freedom.

Just so the people would fully understand, and maybe more importantly that lawyers would never be confused, the term “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” was defined by renown jurist and legal writer Sir William Blackstone, as well as other legal scholars, as the laws that God, as Creator of the universe, had established for the governance of people, nations, and nature. Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law, which was the primary legal treatise of the time and the one on which the Founders relied, explained “the laws of nature” as the will of God for man, which can be ascertained by people through an examination and understanding of God’s creation, the text of the Bible, and to a certain degree, instinct or reason (reason being the one gift given to man when he was “created in His image” to separate him from the beasts and other creatures). Blackstone wrote:

Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being…  And consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker’s will. This will of his Maker is called the Law of Nature.  This Law of Nature, being coeval (co-existent) with mankind and dictated by God Himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this…..

       And if our reason were always clear and perfect, the task would be pleasant and easy. We should need no other guide but his (the Law of Nature). But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience; that his reason is corrupt, and his understand full of ignorance and error. This has given manifold occasion for the benign interposition of Divine Providence, which hath been pleased, at sundry times and in diverse manners, to discover and enforce its laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered are what we call the Revealed or Divine Law, and they are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures….

      Upon these two foundations, the Law of Nature and the Law of Revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should contradict these.”

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), a leading abolitionist and perhaps the most prominent African-American in pre-Civil War history, stated: “The Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles. Be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and whatever cost.”

The Framers of the US Constitution did not establish the federal government to “do good.”  Rather, the government was to perform certain functions that would benefit all the states equally so that they could act like they were part of a Union rather than a group of independent States, each duplicating certain key functions.  In fact, as a first principle, our Founders took great pain to make sure that government would “do no harm” – to either the States or to the Individual.  In his first inaugural address, in 1801, Thomas Jefferson defined “the sum of good government” as “a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

Government’s primary responsibility, as outlined in Article I, Section 8 is to defend the nation from attack, to maintain an Army and Navy, to declare war, to establish a uniform policy on immigration, to coin money, to promote intellectual property (useful arts), to regulate commerce, to establish a post office, and the like. In other ways, thanks to the Bill of Rights and the symbiosis with the Declaration of Independence, government has a pronounced subsidiary role: to help promote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, to support the work of the families, religious communities, and other institutions of civil society that shoulder the primary burden of forming upright and decent citizens, caring for those in need, encouraging people to meet their responsibilities to one another while also discouraging them from harming themselves or others or misappropriating the property of others.

Governmental respect for individual freedom and the autonomy of non-governmental spheres of authority is, then, a requirement of political morality. Government must not try to run people’s lives or usurp the roles and responsibilities of families, religious bodies, and other character- and culture-forming authoritative communities. The usurpation of the just authority of families, religious communities, and other institutions is unjust in principle… often seriously so.  And that’s why the record of big government in the twentieth century is not a successful one. It has done very little good in the long run (other than protecting people from exploitation in labor and regulating for the health and safety in food/drugs) and in fact, has caused more harm to society than good.  Never before has there been such a deficit of character and morality.

Our Founding Fathers knew that if God should ever be taken out of the nation’s value system, our rights as citizens would no longer be absolute and they would instead become subject to the relative values of those who are in a position to make or change the laws… such as Congress, a scheming president, or activist judges. Universal moral laws that promote the good of all people, as individuals (not as a collective), and that protect the innocent and vulnerable are slowly and steadily eroded when government declares that it is not supposed to legislate morality. When that happens, there is necessarily a paradigm shift.  There is such a shift because the opposite of morality is immorality. If government doesn’t legislate to serve moral ends, then it legislates for immoral ones. Soon, the government assumes the moral (or immoral) license to do what it thinks best.

Much has been written in recent years to try to dismiss the fact that America was founded upon Judeo-Christian Biblical principles. But this is merely part of a larger attempt by progressives to revise our history and use it in the teaching (indoctrination) of our youth to engineer a “new” America – an America not defined by her founding principles and values.

This is not to say that all of the Founding Fathers were Christians. Clearly, some were not. But what is most important is that even those who were not Christians were deeply influenced by the principles of Christianity. Those principles nevertheless helped to shape their political ideals. But without a doubt, there was a predominant Christian consensus in colonial America that shaped the Founders’ thinking and their writing of our founding documents and laws and resulted in the republic that we have today. Atheists may complain about and seek to undermine our Christian heritage, but the right to think and express themselves as they do was granted to them by Christians. Atheists want “good without God” and work tirelessly to remove the spiritual underpinnings that form the framework for our rights, our republic, and our laws. But what they don’t understand is that without the belief and social acknowledgement that our individual human rights are linked to our relationship with God (Creator), then our rights are not secure at all. If rights don’t come from a Creator, then they must come from government. And if they come from government, then they are not inalienable and government is free to take them away when it suits their purposes. That’s why atheists can’t hope to establish a society of their own and are dependent upon the values that come from Christianity.

Bringing the Message Home –

When I was a young girl, I spent a lot of time in the Methodist Church across the street from me. My mother worked both a day and a night job and I didn’t like to be home alone. When I saw the lights on in the church, I would pick up my books and go there. Aside from learning about our Savior’s unconditional love and the power of His act of salvation upon the cross, one message that stood out from my time in the church was that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Another message I took home from my early days in the church was this: “What you have (health, mind) is God’s gift to you. What you do with them is your gift to God.”  In other words, there is some sort of personal obligation to invest in oneself, develop talents and gifts, become educated, and use them to contribute in some way in order to benefit society as a whole. And in contributing, one should hopefully be mindful to honor and glorify the Father.  In my world, as a young girl, I not only saw religion as a code that established guidelines for conduct and behavior, but I also came to see it as a force that encouraged me to be the best human being possible and to contribute productively to my community.

As I mentioned, my mother wasn’t around much and certainly I didn’t see much of my father as well. I didn’t have an authoritarian figure to watch over me night and day.  I barely had one for a few hours at the end of the day. Yet I did well in school, never missed a day, never got in trouble, never broke a law, and never caused my mother any grief.  Why?  Because I was able to govern myself successfully. I had an internal system of laws that restrained my conduct and helped me understand what was right and wrong.

Isn’t this what the Pilgrims had in mind?  Isn’t this what our Founders had in mind?

Imagine if all children and young adults had the same kind of influence in their lives as I had.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to listen to some remarks that Pitt County district court Judge Brian DeSoto delivered to a group of conservatives.  He began by reading from the Declaration of Independence: “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.” Brian emphasized that the Declaration only recognizes the right to pursue happiness; it doesn’t recognize a right to happiness. As he explained, our Founders were wise enough to understand that the right to happiness was a recipe for disaster. That, in fact, was a government philosophy embraced in Europe but one  that was explicitly rejected by our Founders.

I got to thinking what these two messages – the Declaration’s use of “pursuit” and the message I took from my church as a young girl – have in common. Both are based on Natural Law; that is, the natural basis of our humanity. They are both grounded on the notion that Man has free will and understands the consequences of his actions.

Freedom, like life itself, is a gift.  They are precious gifts indeed and ultimately provide us with the opportunity to reach our full human potential. But because they are based on the exercise of free will, we as individuals have to take responsibility. If we want to honor God with our life and our deeds, then we have to make the necessary choices.  We have to develop the gifts we are given.  If we want to enjoy property and happiness, we must first pursue them, which means we’ll first need to invest some energy, hard work, sacrifice, and perhaps creativity and/or ingenuity.  If we wish to preserve our rights as individuals for our posterity, we must take a good look at the government we have allowed to govern us.

Success (as embodied in the term “Happiness”) is not always easily achievable. It demands sacrifice. The person who sets out to find success understands that he may also fail. But it is in the “pursuit” that we find the greatest exercise of freedom.  And freedom is always worth the risk.  Once freedom is gone, people rarely get it back.  Going back to Judge DeSoto’s remarks, if our government takes away the right to fail, as it has been doing with its growing entitlement programs, individuals cease exercising their free will.  If individuals cease to exercise their free will, government will fill the gap and take away fundamental individual rights.

John Calhoun, the controversial Senator from South Carolina who wrote exquisite expositions on America’s founding principles yet openly supported slavery, perhaps explained it best:

To make equality of condition essential to liberty would be to destroy both liberty and progress. The reason is, that inequality of condition, while it is a necessary consequence of liberty, is, at the same time, indispensable to progress. In order to understand why this is so, it is necessary to bear in mind, that the main spring to progress is, the desire of individuals to better their condition; and that the strongest impulse which can be given to it is, to leave individuals free to exert themselves in the manner they may deem best for that purpose, as far at least as it can be done consistently with the ends for which government is ordained,—and to secure to all the fruits of their exertions. Now, as individuals differ greatly from each other, in intelligence, sagacity, energy, perseverance, skill, habits of industry and economy, physical power, position and opportunity,—the necessary effect of leaving all free to exert themselves to better their condition, must be a corresponding inequality between those who may possess these qualities and advantages in a high degree, and those who may be deficient in them. The only means by which this result can be prevented are, either to impose such restrictions on the exertions of those who may possess them in a high degree, as will place them on a level with those who do not; or to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions. But to impose such restrictions on the exertions on them would be destructive of liberty,—while, to deprive them of the fruits of their exertions, would be to destroy the desire of bettering their condition. It is, indeed, this inequality of condition between the front and rear ranks, in the march of progress, which gives so strong an impulse to the former to maintain their position, and to the latter to press forward into their files. This gives to progress its greatest impulse. To force the front rank back to the rear, or attempt to push forward the rear into line with the front, by the interposition of the government, would put an end to the impulse, and effectually arrest the march of progress.

It’s true that our Bill of Rights do not necessarily encompass all the rights that individuals today believe they are entitled to. What they do is define a minimum moral standard. What we do with our freedom after meeting that minimum moral character is what determines the type of society we live in and the moral character of the nation. For example, welfare rights are not morally justified. To allow people to live and procreate on other people’s money is simply immoral. Taking money away from one family for another is unethical. As Thomas Jefferson once said: “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

It was the exercise of free will that enabled our 236-year-old country, conceived in freedom and liberty, into the wealthiest, the most productive, the most creative, the most industrious and the most generous nation on Earth. Likewise, it will be the exercise of free will that will determine whether people will live their lives to honor God and help to restore the values upon which our nation was grounded.

In Conclusion –

The results are in…..  Everywhere Christianity has been able to penetrate culture and society, it has been successful. It has been so successful that others, such as atheists and extremists, have flocked to Christian empires to enjoy its freedom and prosperity. The humanization that derives from Christianity has touched the heart of civilization and civilization will never be the same again.

Here in the United States, our Christian heritage explains our notions of ordered Liberty and government. The preservation of that liberty has always depended on two things:  a constitution that limits the amount of government in people’s lives and a citizenry that requires little government. We still have our Constitution to protect us from the reaches of government, although the government has jumped into warp speed to redefine the scope of its own powers and to audaciously exceed the power that was originally granted to it by the States and the People – the true sovereigns. What we don’t have is a citizenry that is disciplined enough and moral enough to require as little government as possible. They have not been using their free will wisely or responsibly. When laws are too numerous, they are just as dangerous to the exercise of liberty as having no law at all.

When government and law replace individual manners and morals as the basis for social order, government and the law will fail, and so will society. The task before us is to exercise free will responsibly and in line with certain traditional values so that we can be self-governing citizens capable of preserving liberty and passing that American legacy onto our children and grandchildren.  The task is to limit government and recommit ourselves to a decent civil society.  If we wish to energize the moral state of the union, government will have to return to the principles of freedom and justice that stand behind the Constitution, and people will have to return to moral principles. They will need to demand that government get out of the way and allow religion to permeate their societies in order to establish moral codes and enable individuals to better govern themselves (so that government doesn’t have to).  Only when people can govern themselves successfully can we ever hope of scaling back government and getting it out of our lives and within constitutional bounds.

This won’t happen by itself.  People will have to stand up and do their part.

As Ron Paul warned in his final address to Congress (2012), the American people must return to virtue before the government will trust them with freedom. This statement alone, from a man who liberty-conscious as Dr. Paul, should serve as a wake-up call. He talks about a government “who will trust the people with freedom.”  A good and decent, moral people would have the opposite concern. They would question whether they could trust their government with THEIR freedom.

Raghavan Iyer commented on what he believes to be the current path of the United States:  “There has been a dangerous transition from the idea of a government of limited powers over citizens with inalienable rights to the idea of the unlimited sovereignty and the material welfare of the majority. It is an easy step from here to the perilous position reached by most democracies today, in which individual liberties are violated in the name of national security and prestige at home and abroad, in which the mute and meek are often sacrificed at the alters of public utility and political necessity.”

I hope Americans can return to good.

References:

Diane Rufino, “Kirk Cameron’s Film ‘Monumental’ Reminds Us of Our Christian Heritage,” September 13, 2012.  Referenced at:  http://www.forloveofgodandcountry.com

Maurice Bisheff, Ph.D., “The Moral and Political Thought of Thomas Paine,” The Institute of World Culture, October 14, 2006.  Referenced at: http://www.religionpaine.org/article_bisheff01.html

Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massacusetts, October 11, 1798.  Referenced at:http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/115/Message_from_John_Adams_to_the_Officers_of_the_First_Brigade_1.html

Joseph Ashby, “Is Religion Necessary,” American Thinker, January 3, 2009.  Referenced at:  http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/01/is_religion_necessary.html

Benjamin Franklin’s Letter to Thomas Paine.  Referenced at: http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=58

John Fea, “Religion and Early Politics: Benjamin Franklin and His Religious Beliefs,”Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Volume XXXVII, Number 4 – Fall 2011.  Referenced at: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/history/20018/benjamin_franklin_and_his_religious_beliefs/1014592

“Franklin’s Appeal for Prayer at the Constitutional Convention” – http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=98

Murray Rothbard, “What Really Happened at Plymouth?,” Lew Rockwell.  Referenced at: http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard130.html

“‘The City Upon a Hill,’ by John Winthrop: What’s It All About?,” The Historic Present, June 28, 2010.  Referenced at: http://thehistoricpresent.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/the-city-upon-a-hill-and-puritan-hubris/

Robert P. George, “Law and Moral Purpose,” First Things, January 2008.  Referenced at:  http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/12/001-law-and-moral-purpose-16

Rep. Ron Paul’s Farewell Remarks to Congress –http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/11/ron-paul-departs-with-our-constitution-has-failed/

Michael and Jana Novak, “Washington’s Providence,” Alliance Defending Freedom.  Referenced at: http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/Faith-and-Justice/5-3/Opinion

“Southern Heritage Quotes: John C. Calhoun on Liberty,” The Occidental Dissident, December 12, 2011.  Referenced at: http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2011/12/07/southern-heritage-quotes-john-c-calhoun-on-liberty/

Raghavan Iyer, Parapolitics: Toward the City of Man, Concord Grove Press, Oxford (1979).

Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, Regnery Publishing (2001).

The 221st Anniversary of the Bill of Rights Should Inspire States to Re-Assert Sovereignty

Bill of Rights-scroll      by Diane Rufino, December 30, 2012

December 15 was Bill of Rights Day.  It marks the 221st anniversary of the day when the first ten amendments – our Bill of Rights – were ratified in 1791.

The Bill of Rights is among those documents classified as “Charters of Freedom.”  It belongs with the list that includes the Magna Carta, the Habeas Corpus Act, the English Petition of Right, the English Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the Virginia Declaration of Rights.  We are reminded everyday of regimes all over the world where people enjoy no fundamental rights, no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly. We read about abusive judicial systems that lack of guarantees of due process, jury trials, and protection against self-incrimination. And we hear about oppressive police states where unreasonable searches and seizures and cruel and unusual punishment are commonplace. All of these places lack the protection of basic human rights that make this country  the land of the free.

When our Constitution was first established, it was assumed that the description of specific powers granted to the government would leave no doubt as to what the government could and could not do, and that the absence of powers over the rights of the people would leave those rights protected.  But Thomas Jefferson and others were wary of leaving such important matters up to inference. They insisted on a Bill of Rights that would state in unmistakable terms those rights of the people that must be left inviolate. In 1787, Jefferson wrote to James Madison:  ”A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences.”  September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the final draft of the Constitution and left to go back to their states.  When Jefferson learned that the draft did not contain a Bill of Rights, he noted that it was reckless. He commented that if the states even considered ratifying it, it would amount to “a degeneracy in the principles of liberty.”

As it turned out, the Madison should have listened to Jefferson because many of the states would not ratify it without a Bill of Rights.

When the delegates at the Convention finished their work in Philadelphia, the only thing they created was a “proposal.”  That proposal for a Union, held together by the scheme of federal government outlined in Articles I – III, would have to go to all the states for ratification. Nine of the 13 states would have to ratify it for the Constitution to become effective for those ratifying states. But quickly, a fierce debate broke out in the states – between the Federalists (who were the majority at the Convention) and the Anti-Federalists (who were suspicious of the power delegated to the proposed federal government).  The Federalists, of course, argued that the Constitution should be approved, but the Anti-Federalists urged the states not to ratify it.  They were aggressive in their criticisms, and soon essays written by several of the anti-Federalists appeared in publications in the several states.  They appeared under various assumed names, such as Brutus, Cato, Centinel, Aristocrotis, and the Federal Farmer.  George Clinton, the Governor of New York, Richard Henry Lee and James Mason of Virginia, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, Nathaniel Ames, and James Winthrop of Massachusetts, and even Patrick Henry were anti-Federalists.  Alexander Hamilton and John Jay of New York, and James Madison of Virginia, all representing key states that were siding with the anti-Federalists, got together to write a series of 85 essays that explained the Constitution in detail and addressed the criticisms outlined in the Anti-Federalist Papers. These would become known as The Federalist Papers.

For many states, the decision to support or oppose the new plan of government came down to one issue – whether their sovereign powers and the individual liberties of the People were jeopardized by its lack of a Bill of Rights. After all, they had rebelled against Britain because it had in their view ceased to respect their age-old liberties as Englishmen—liberties enshrined in the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1689 English Declaration of Rights.  Having fought a long war to protect these rights, were they then to sacrifice them to their own government?  Others countered that a bill of rights actually endangered their liberties…  that listing the rights a government could not violate implied that unlisted rights could be restricted or abolished.  After much discussion at the Philadelphia Convention, the majority of the delegates were of the latter opinion. But that decision cost the signatures of several high-profile delegates, such as George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts.  George Mason felt that the Constitution did not adequately provide protection for the states’ rights and interests, Elbridge Gerry was not happy with the commerce power delegated to the federal government or with the taxing power which he felt might be burdensome on the states, and Randolph, a lawyer, was not content with the looseness of some of the language, fearing that future generations, and particularly the government itself, would seek sweeping changes to the meaning and intent of the document. [Edmund Randolph was the author of the Virginia Plan which was presented at the Constitutional Convention and George Mason was the author of Virginia’s Bill of Rights].

Many of the state conventions ratified the Constitution, but called for amendments specifically protecting individual rights from abridgement by the federal government. The debate raged for months. By June of 1788, with assurances that a Bill of Rights would be proposed, nine states had ratified the Constitution, ensuring it would go into effect for those nine states.  However, key states including Virginia and New York had not ratified and it wasn’t sure that they would without an actual Bill of Rights. After all, the colonies had rebelled against Britain because it had in their view ceased to respect their age-old liberties as Englishmen – liberties enshrined in the Magna Carta (“Great Charter”) of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Having fought a long and bitter war to protect these rights, were the states willing to sacrifice them to their own government?

In Virginia, Patrick Henry was accusing the proposed government of ‘tending or squinting toward the monarchy’ and being a ‘national’ rather than a ‘federal’ one, with no effective checks and balances against a majority or against a government determined to usurp power and no Bill of Rights to curb government power.  He warned: “This proposal of altering our Federal Government is of a most alarming nature.  You ought to be extremely cautious, watchful, jealous of your liberty, for instead of securing your rights you may lose them forever. If a wrong step be now made, the republic may be lost forever. If this new Government will not come up to the expectation of the people, and they should be disappointed – their liberty will be lost, and tyranny must and will arise. I repeat it again, and I beg Gentlemen to consider, that a wrong step made now will plunge us into misery, and our Republic will be lost.”  He continued: “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings, gave us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else! … The Confederation, this same despised government, merits, in my opinion, the highest encomium; it carried us through a long and dangerous war; it rendered us victorious in that bloody conflict with a powerful nation; it has secured us a territory greater than any European monarch possesses; and shall a government which has been thus strong and vigorous, be accused of imbecility, and abandoned for want of energy? Consider what you are about to do before you part with the government … We are cautioned by the honorable gentleman who presides against faction and turbulence. I acknowledge also the new form of government may effectually prevent it; yet there is another thing it will as effectually do: it will oppress and ruin the people. … This Constitution is said to have beautiful features, but when I come to examine these features, sir, they appear to me horribly frightful; among other deformities, it has an awful squinting-it squints towards monarchy; and does not this raise indignation in the breast of every true American? Your President may easily become king; your senate is so imperfectly constructed that your dearest rights may be sacrificed by what may be a small minority; and a very small minority may continue forever unchangeably this government, although horribly defective: where are your checks in this government?”

James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, knew that grave doubts would be cast on the Constitution if Virginia and New York (the home states of several of its chief architects, including Madison himself, and the authors of the Federalist Papers) did not adopt it.  Perhaps he got that impression after Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Ratification Convention on June 16, 1788 and spoke the following words:

“Mr. Chairman, the necessity of a Bill of Rights appears to me to be greater in this government than ever it was in any government before.  Let us consider the sentiments which have been entertained by the people of America on this subject. At the revolution, it must be admitted that it was their sense to set down those great rights which ought, in all countries, to be held inviolable and sacred. Virginia did so, we all remember. She made a compact to reserve, expressly, certain rights.

When fortified with full, adequate, and abundant representation, was she satisfied with that representation?  No.  She most cautiously and guardedly reserved and secured those invaluable, inestimable rights and privileges, which no people, inspired with the least glow of patriotic liberty, ever did, or ever can, abandon.

She is called upon now to abandon them and dissolve that compact which secured them to her. She is called upon to accede to another compact, which most infallibly supersedes and annihilates her present one. Will she do it?  This is the question. If you intend to reserve your unalienable rights, you must have the most express stipulation; for, if implication be allowed, you are ousted of those rights. If the people do not think it necessary to reserve them, they will be supposed to be given up.

How were the congressional rights defined when the people of America united by a confederacy to defend their liberties and rights against the tyrannical attempts of Great Britain? The states were not then contented with implied reservation. No, Mr. Chairman. It was expressly declared in our Confederation that every right was retained by the states, respectively, which was not given up to the government of the United States. But there is no such thing here. You, therefore, by a natural and unavoidable implication, give up your rights to the general government.

Your own example furnishes an argument against it. If you give up these powers, without a Bill of Rights, you will exhibit the most absurd thing to mankind that ever the world saw – a government that has abandoned all its powers…. the powers of direct taxation, the sword, and the purse. You have disposed of them to Congress, without a Bill of Rights, without check, limitation, or control. And still you have checks and guards; still you keep barriers – pointed where?  Pointed against your weakened, prostrated, enervated state government! You have a Bill of Rights to defend you against the state government, which is bereaved of all power, and yet you have none against Congress, though in full and exclusive possession of all power! You arm yourselves against the weak and defenseless, and expose yourselves naked to the armed and powerful. Is not this a conduct of unexampled absurdity? What barriers have you to oppose to this most strong, energetic government? To that government you have nothing to oppose. All your defense is given up. This is a real, actual defect. It must strike the mind of every gentleman.

When our government was first instituted in Virginia, we declared the common law of England to be in force.  By this (federal) Constitution, some of the best barriers of human rights are thrown away. That system of law which has been admired and which has protected us and our ancestors, has been excluded.  Is this not enough of a reason to have a Bill of Rights?”

It was during this Ratification Convention in Virginia that Madison promised that a Bill of Rights would be drafted and submitted to the States. His promise reassured the convention delegates and the Constitution was approved in that state by the narrowest margin, 89-87. New York soon followed, but submitted proposed amendments. Two states, Rhode Island and North Carolina, refused to ratify without a Bill of Rights. North Carolina refused to ratify in July 1788, and Rhode Island rejected it by popular referendum in March 1788 and North Carolina refused to ratify it in their convention in July.

A year later, on June 8, 1789, referring to Virginia’s Declaration of Rights and the recommendations of the several state ratifying conventions, Madison proposed a series of 20 amendments to the first Congress. He had kept his promise and did so with utmost urgency, for the First US Congress only convened three months earlier, on March 4 (and George Washington had only been inaugurated as the nation’s first US President on April 31st).  In the speech he gave to Congress to propose the amendments, he said:

“It appears to me that this house is bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over without proposing to the state legislatures some things (amendments) to be incorporated into the Constitution, as will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the United States…. It will be a desirable thing to extinguish from the bosom of every member of the community any apprehensions that there are those among his countrymen who wish to deprive them of the liberty for which they valiantly fought and honorably bled.

In some instances the states assert those rights which are exercised by the people in forming and establishing a plan of government. In other instances, they specify those rights which are retained when particular powers are given up to be exercised by the legislature. In other instances, they specify positive rights, which may seem to result from the nature of the compact. Trial by jury cannot be considered as a natural right, but a right resulting from the social compact which regulates the action of the community, but is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature. In other instances they lay down dogmatic maxims with respect to the construction of the government; declaring, that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches shall be kept separate and distinct: Perhaps the best way of securing this in practice is to provide such checks, as will prevent the encroachment of the one upon the other.

But whatever may be form which the several states have adopted in making declarations in favor of particular rights, the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the government ought not to act, or to act only in a particular mode. They point these exceptions sometimes against the abuse of the executive power, sometimes against the legislative, and, in some cases, against the community itself; or, in other words, against the majority in favor of the minority.

If they are incorporated into the constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights. Beside this security, there is a great probability that such a declaration in the federal system would be enforced; because the state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operation of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a federal government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty. I conclude from this view of the subject, that it will be proper in itself, and highly politic, for the tranquility of the public mind, and the stability of the government, that we should offer something, in the form I have proposed, to be incorporated in the system of government, as a declaration of the rights of the people.

I am convinced of the absolute necessity (of these amendments).  I think we should obtain the confidence of our fellow citizens, in proportion as we fortify the rights of the people against the encroachments of the government.”

In his speech, Madison emphasized the great concern of the states –  How to prevent the encroachments of government?  As he explained, the ten amendments to the Constitution – the Bill of Rights – were crafted to “limit and qualify the powers of government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the government ought not to act, or to act only in a particular mode.”  It was not individual freedom that the states wanted.  After all, under the American system, all men were created with inalienable rights that come from our Creator and not government.  No, our Founders and state leaders wanted freedom from government. The Bill of Rights doesn’t grant rights. Rather, it recognizes rights. It requires that the government not interfere with those rights. In other words, our Founders and state leaders wanted constitutional liberty. “If they are incorporated into the Constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the Constitution by the declaration of rights.”  It was a hopeful plan.

In fact is that the plan was not the brainchild of the Federalists, who won the day at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It wasn’t the brainchild of James Madison, initially an avowed Nationalist. The Constitution was amended by the States because of the influence of the anti-Federalists. While it was the Federalists (in the true sense of their name) who rejected the Virginia Plan and supported state representation in the legislature (giving the government itself a “federal” nature),  it wasn’t enough for those who wanted more protection and security for the rights of the States and individuals.

[Note that our Founders, as early as the Constitutional Convention in 1787, came to appreciate state representation in government. They referred to it as providing a state ‘negative’ (a veto power) in government, in order to safeguard the rights, powers, and interests of the states. The same sentiment was emphasized in the state ratifying conventions, only in stronger language.  For those who question the legitimacy of nullification, we can see its very origins in the states’ representation in government. It is clear that the doctrine was part of the dialogue in our nation’s very founding and was implicit in the very design of government].

It was Thomas Jefferson who impressed upon Madison the need for a Bill of Rights. He urged him to heed the concerns of the anti-Federalists, which now became the concern of the various states.  The over-arching concern was the rise of national power at the expense of state power. For example, the Federal Farmer (authored most likely by Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia), in stressing the necessity of a Bill of Rights and protections against a consolidation of power in government, wrote: “Our object has been all along to reform our federal system and to strengthen our governments… However, the plan of government is evidently calculated totally to change, in time, our condition as a people.  Instead of being thirteen republics under a federal head, it is clearly designed to make us one consolidated government.”  George Mason, a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention who refused to support the Constitution, explained that the plan was “totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the state governments.” Brutus, another anti-Federalist, wrote: “The best government for America is a confederation of independent states for the conducting of certain general concerns, in which they have a common interest, leaving the management of their internal and local affairs to their separate governments.  How far shall the powers of the states extend is the question.”

Centinel, yet another Anti-Federalist, reminded readers of the nature of republics. Agreeing with Montesquieu (one of the philosophers our Founders relied heavily on), that a republic government could only survive in a small territory, the anti-Federalists came to the conclusion that America would have to be a federal republic and a union of states (and NOT the states united!).  As small republics themselves, the states would provide the foundation for republican and limited government in our new Union. “From the nature of things, from the opinions of the greatest writers and from the peculiar circumstances of the United States, it is not practical to establish and maintain one government on the principles of freedom in so extensive a territory. The only plausible system by which so extensive a country can be governed consistent with freedom is a confederation of republics, possessing all the powers of internal government and united in the management of their general and foreign concerns….”  [from Centinel]

Brutus agreed. “Neither the general government nor the state governments ought to be vested with all the powers to be exercised for promoting the ends of government. The powers are divided between them – certain ends are to be attained by the one and other certain ends by the other, and these, taken together, include all the ends of good government.”  [articulating our system of dual sovereignty].

Nathaniel Ames, of Massachusetts, wrote: “The state governments represent the wishes and feelings of the people. They are the safeguards and ornament of our liberties – they will afford a shelter against the abuse of power, and will be the natural avengers of our violated rights.”  Patrick Henry of Virginia agreed. He referred to the proposed government under the new Constitution a “consolidated and a dangerous” one, and added: “The States are the character and soul of a confederation.  If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great consolidated national government, of the people of all the states…   The people sent delegates, but the states did.”

Taken together, the anti-Federalists concluded that the United States could only exist successfully as a nation if “distinct republics connected under a federal head. In this case the respective state governments must be the principal guardians of the peoples’ rights…. In them must rest the balance of government.”

The US House debated and discussed the proposed amendments, and eventually edited, re-worked, and consolidated them down into 17 amendments. The Senate took up the amendments and made their own edits and alterations, and in September, the two houses got together and reached a compromise. Twelve amendments were approved on September 25 and then sent to the States for ratification.  All in all, it has been said that only two major provisions among the proposed 19-20 original amendments were eliminated by the House and Senate.

The amendments were designed to protect the basic freedoms of US citizens from the reaches of government, namely the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion, the right to bear arms for self protection, the right to be secure in one’s person, home, and privacy against government searches and seizures, the right not to be denied Life, Liberty, or Property without due process, the right of habeas corpus, the right to fair criminal and civil legal proceedings and proper procedural safeguards,  and the right to be spared cruel and unusual punishment. Additionally, one amendment (the 9th Amendment) was included to memorialize the notion that sovereign power originates in the individual and another (the 10th Amendment) was included to memorialize the federal nation of our government system (“the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”).

Influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Bill of Rights was also drawn, as mentioned above, from Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason in 1776.  While Mason refused to sign the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia, in the ratification struggle that followed, Mason and other critics agreed to support the Constitution in exchange for the assurance that amendments would be passed immediately. While our Bill of Rights was indeed strongly influenced by the plight of the British to limit the “divine” power of the King in their lives and the many charters of freedom they extracted from their rulers, James Madison saw one very important difference between those documents and the Constitution: “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example of charters of power granted by liberty.”

On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the 10th of 14 states to approve 10 of the 12 amendments, thus giving the Bill of Rights the two-thirds majority required by Article V of the Constitution to go into effect.  Finally, the rights held most dearly by free men would not merely “rest on inference.”

In the end, the anti-Federalists won the day.

Of the two amendments not ratified, the first concerned the population system of representation, while the second prohibited laws varying the payment of congressional members from taking effect until an election intervened. The first of these two amendments was never ratified, while the second was finally ratified more than 200 years later, in 1992.

In 1789, the new Union of States was established under the US Constitution.  Its enumeration of limited powers was intended to provide a basis for unity but the flexibility the states sought to remain the sovereigns they wanted to be.  As Thomas Jefferson explained to Joseph Cabell in 1816: “The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the function he is competent to.  Let the National Government be entrusted with the defense of the nation and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself.  It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.”

While many Americans are familiar with the Bill of Rights and especially the ones that we hear often in the news and on pop culture law enforcement shows, no one mentions the preamble to the set of ten amendments ratified on December 15, 1791.  The Preamble to the Bill of Rights reads: “The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”  We see that the first ten amendments are intended to be “declaratory and restrictive clauses.”  This means they supersede all other parts of our Constitution and restrict the powers of our Constitution. The Bill of Rights is a declaration of restrictions to the powers delegated to the federal government.  While amendments one through eight (1-8) have some historical context and many are direct and almost verbatim texts from British compacts/charters, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are uniquely American.

Why is it that we never hear anyone refer to this phrase when looking for support of states’ rights?  This is probably the clearest expression of intent by the States to have the government respect their bulk of reserved sovereign powers.

The Bill of Rights was meant to prevent a repeat of the abuses that compelled our forefathers to take up arms.   It was meant as a shield to protect the people against tyranny, so that the sacrifices and bloodshed by our forefathers would not be in vain. History is repeating itself, and once again, a free people is engaged in the endless struggle between good and evil, between liberty and tyranny. Just like colonial times when a group of liberty-minded folks – the Sons of Liberty – emerged from the People to remind them of this struggle, the modern-day TEA party and other Liberty-minded groups have emerged to do the same thing. And like the Sons of Liberty, which started out as a small group of “agitators” in the several colonies, the Tea Party and other Liberty-minded groups are growing in number as well.  The problem in confronting the steady consolidation of power by the federal government has been the reluctance of states to stand up to their one-time “agent” (now their “master”).  Too many state leaders ignore their oaths of allegiance to the US Constitution and ignore the Ninth and Tenth Amendments – the very amendments they fought so hard in convention for. They question their right to second-guess the decisions of the federal government.  That’s like a 12-year-old bossing his parents around and the parents capitulating because they don’t feel they have the right to second-guess his actions or constrain his conduct.  When we have leaders who are supposed to be “on our side” – on the side of limited government and maximum liberty – but don’t fundamentally believe in our core conservative and government principles, then we have a problem.  We have this problem in my home state of  North Carolina.

North Carolina has a proud history of standing up against government oppression. It was the first state to push for a Declaration of Independence from Britain, it was the first state to authorize its delegates to vote such a Declaration, and it refused to sign the Constitution unless it was amended (to make sure power could not be concentrated in a federal government). And while Virginia (the home of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, and Patrick Henry) proposed twenty alterations to the Constitution and a separate Bill of Rights consisting of twenty items (modeled on George Mason’s 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights), North Carolina said they still weren’t good enough and wanted an additional six amendments.  North Carolina didn’t want to secede from the Union in 1861, but given the choice between being forced by President Lincoln to take up arms and use them on its southern neighbors (who had seceded peacefully and established a new nation), it chose to respect the freedoms laid out in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and sever its political bonds with the federal government. With a history so rich and distinguished, it is a sad state of affairs when state leaders announce that they are powerless to question the actions of the federal government even when they know full well that the actions of our current administration are equally egregious to those committed by King George back in the 1770′s.

Other states have a similar history of freedom and have contributed greatly to our shared values and principles. What’s more, some of these states are beginning to re-assert their sovereignty under the 10th Amendment, as well as their “express desire” to “restrict the misconstruction” and “abuse” of federal powers, as they did when they adopted the Preamble and the Bill of Rights in 1791.  For example, the Montana state house passed a State Sovereignty resolution (House Joint Resolution H.J. 26) to assert state rights and define the “line in the sand” which separates the “numerous and indefinite” sovereign powers of the state from the “limited and defined”  sovereign powers of the federal government. [“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”   James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 45]   The Resolution declared that Montana would jealously guard certain rights and would not tolerate the government intruding in them.

In a time when the government is more concerned with its own existence and power than with protecting the rights and interests of a free and sovereign people, I would suggest that more states need to adopt resolutions like the one Montana endorsed (although the state senate did not pass) and draw that “line in the sand” and reverse the injustice that has been done to the American people over the last 145 years or so.  That line in the sand is necessary to re-establish the proper balance of power between the government and the states that the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, established in order that individual freedom is most firmly secured. It is necessary, as James Madison himself came to understand and appreciate, to maintain the strength of the individual states to “obtain the confidence of our fellow citizens, in proportion as we fortify the rights of the people against the encroachments of the government.”

Thomas Jefferson probably said it the best: “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes a duty.”

A State Sovereignty Bill that my state of North Carolina should consider is as follows:

 

MODEL LEGISLATION AFFIRMING STATES’ RIGHTS AND CONDEMNING ENCROACHMENT OF THOSE RIGHTS BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND EXECUTIVE ORDERS

The government of the great State of North Carolina re-acknowledges and re-asserts the following:

(1).   The Constitution of the State of North Carolina declares that all political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole, and that the people of North Carolina have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof, and of altering or abolishing their Constitution and form of government whenever it may be necessary to their safety and happiness; but every such right shall be exercised in pursuance of law and consistently with the Constitution of the United States.

(2).  The aforementioned “inherent and exclusive right” may never be expressly delegated to the United States Congress.

(3).  The Constitution that is legitimately recognized by the State of North Carolina is the one interpreted according to the intent of its creation, defined by Federalist Papers, limited by the understanding of the states and assurances given them when they signed the document in their Ratification Conventions, limited by the express language included in the Preamble of the Bill of Rights, limited by the full scope of each amendment comprising the Bill of Rights (including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments), limited by the essence of the Supremacy Clause (only those laws pursuant to a valid constitutional exercise of authority are supreme; all others are not), amended strictly and legitimately according to Article V,  and spirited by the federal design of our government system (which is our most critical of checks and balances).

(4).  The People of North Carolina together form a free, sovereign, and independent body politic (ie, a state) by the name of “The State of North Carolina.”

(5).  The People of North Carolina agree that all powers not expressly delegated to the federal government in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights must be reserved and exercised by individual states or by themselves.

(6).  Although North Carolina became an independent and completely sovereign state on December 18, 1776, it freely entered into the federal Union on July 21, 1778 when it adopted the Articles of Confederation for mutual benefit and security (“Join or Die”) and re-committed itself to the Union on November 21, 1789 when it became the twelfth state to ratify the US Constitution.

(7).  When North Carolina agreed to join the Union, it did so by social compact.  In signing the Constitution, it established a social compact (or contract) with its fellow states, to delegate certain common functions to a common, federal government in order to act like a Union of states instead of 13 independent states.

(8).  A social compact must be implemented consistent with the terms and understandings in place at the time it is entered into.

(9).  Legally, a compact, like a contract, is valid only when the terms defining the responsibilities, burdens, and benefits of that agreement are still in place.  Once the terms are materially altered, the contract no longer legally binds the parties.

(10).  One important term of the contact is the protection of states’ rights, as reflected in the 10th Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”).

The government of the great State of North Carolina, on behalf of its People and for their protection and liberty interests, declares the following political posturing with respect to the federal government:

(1).  That the federal government was created and vested with specified powers that are “limited and defined” for the general management of the independent states but not for the internal regulation of their people and their affairs; the latter are matters rightfully left to the states themselves. To assume otherwise would be to define the government as a national one; yet that scheme was roundly rejected by the states.

(2).  That the several states of the United States, and particularly the State of North Carolina, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to general government; rather, by ratifying the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights, they designed, created, and constituted a general government for special purposes and delegated to that government certain definite powers, while reserving to themselves all other rights.

(3).  That when the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are void and of no force; they are unenforceable by the states

(4).  That the government created by the federal Constitution and the Bill of Rights was not granted the right to determine the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights, the measure of its powers.

(5).  There are various examples of constitutional over-reach and abuse by the federal government which have already burdened the sovereign rights and interests of the State of North Carolina, as well as its People, including:

(a)  the federal power to punish crimes, under the Constitution, is limited to treason, counterfeiting of the securities and current coin of the United States, piracies, felonies committed on the high seas, offenses against the law of nations, and slavery.  The government is not authorized to punish any other crimes, and the Constitution been amended to include others.  Therefore, all acts of Congress that assume to create, define, or punish crimes, other than those enumerated in the federal Constitution, exceed the scope of the federal compact and are void and of no force.  The power to create, define, and punish other crimes is reserved by the states.

(b)  the individual rights of freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are beyond the reach of the federal government and therefore reserved to the states or the people, allowing states the power to judge the appropriate scope of each right. All acts of Congress and decisions of the federal courts that abridge freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press violate the federal compact and are not law and are void.  [Furthermore, the Supreme Court introduced a legal fiction – the “Wall of Separation” doctrine – into First Amendment jurisprudence to abridge the right of religion and thereby frustrate the states in their ability to legislate morality, which is a legitimate state police power].

(c)  the power over the freedom of the right to keep and bear arms was reserved to the states and to the people, allowing states the right to judge how far infringements on the right to bear arms should be tolerated, rather than allowing that exercise to be defined by Congress. All acts of Congress and decisions of the federal government that attempt to abridge this freedom will violate the federal compact and will be deemed null and void and unenforceable.

(d)  that Congress has usurped the meaning of certain phrases of the federal Constitution, such as those phrases that delegate to Congress a power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States” and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof,” in order to unilaterally concentrate its powers and destroy the limits placed on its authority.

(e)  that Congress and the President have usurped the Constitution’s war powers.  The Constitution divides war powers between the Congress and the President.  This division was intended by the framers to ensure that wars would not be entered into easily or unnecessarily send our citizens into battle. The Constitution’s division of powers leaves the President with some exclusive powers as Commander-in-Chief (such as decisions on the field of battle) and Congress with certain other exclusive powers (such as the ability to declare war and appropriate dollars to support the war effort).  The federal government has committed US forces without formal declarations of war.  With such laws as the Military Authorization Act and National Defense Authorization Acts, the government has done an end run on the Constitution by declaring an undefined “war on terrorism” (where “terrorism” is not a defined enemy or country, but a “tactic”) and extending the battlefield to our very United States. By defining the US as a battlefield, the government is claiming it has the power to apply the laws of war over the protections of the Bill of Rights.

(f)  that the federal government has created a new power for itself – the power to declare American citizens as “enemy combatants” in order to detain them indefinitely and suspend the protections protected for them in the Bill of Rights.  “Enemy combatants” are defined by the government as those who fight or engage in hostilities against the United States.  What constitutes conduct that justifies “enemy combatant” status is not clear. It appears that the US Constitution already addresses the situation where an American engages in hostilities against the United States or gives aid and support to an enemy. It is called “treason” and is addressed in Article III, Section 3. The government is already given the power to deal with treason and is given precise guidelines to prosecute traitors. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) relies on this “new” (and unconstitutional) power in order to expand the government’s defense power.

(g)  that the federal government was created to perform common functions for all states and not to use its powers to spy on American citizens, such as patrolling the skies with drones, monitoring speech, evaluating the extent of property, and establishing political profiles.

(h)  that the US Supreme Court exceeded its power under Article III of the Constitution in the healthcare decision of June 28, 2012 (National Federation of Independent Business v. Sibelius) by expanding Congress’ taxing power rather than confining it within the scope of Article I, according to the intent of the provision (James Madison believed that the true meaning of the Constitution was to be found in the state ratifying conventions, for it was there that the people, assembled in convention, were instructed with regard to what the new document meant. Thomas Jefferson agreed as well.  He said: “Should you wish to know the meaning of the Constitution, consult the words of its friends.”).  With the decision, the Supreme Court re-characterized the Individual Mandate as a tax and not a “penalty” (as Congress itself defined) and said Congress is within its power “to impose a tax on those who have a certain amount of income but choose to go without health insurance.” The decision seems to disregard the fairness notion of “equal application of the laws.”  While the government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance, the Court says it has the power to impose a tax to force people to do so.  In other words, the decision says that the government has unlimited power to use its taxing power to coerce Americans into conduct it desires; it has unlimited power to control every economic decision that every individual makes. This is a grave violation of the Liberty guarantee outlined in the Declaration of Independence. [There is another constitutional violation. Article I, Section 7, clause 1 of the Constitution say that all bills that raise revenue must originate in the House. The healthcare bill, which includes at least 21 embedded taxes to raise revenue to fund the healthcare scheme, originated in the Senate, as H.R. 3590.  Reminded of the offensiveness of the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by King George, the Founders drafted the Constitution to require that taxes and tax increases originate in the House of Representatives. That is to say, they must originate in the legislative body most accountable to the people, where legislators must weigh the need for the tax against the terrible price they might pay at their next election, which is never more than two years off.  In  Federalist No. 58, James Madison defended the decision to give the origination power to the House on the ground that the Chamber that is more accountable to the people should have the primary role in raising revenue.  The Supreme Court, as part of the system of checks and balances, was supposed to “check” the legislative branch on this violation of the Constitution]

(i)  that the federal government has used its taxing power to control and coerce states, and in general, to undermine the powers of the States to regulate under the Tenth Amendment.  If the federal government has the ability to provide funding to the States for projects and policies that it wants to promote (federal grants which are “conditioned”), then it is taxing Americans too heavily. Under concepts of federalism, the government should reduce its federal income tax rate and allow the states the ability to increase its state taxation rate in order to raise the funding for its own projects. This way, states can spend money the way it sees fit for its own people and circumstances and not as the federal government demands.

(j)  That the Executive is using Executive Orders to usurp the legislative powers of Congress when its constitutional powers are limited to those of executing the laws.  As such, many Executive Orders violate the Separation of Powers and blatantly violate the Constitution.

(k)  that the federal government used the events of the secession of the southern states and the Civil War to illegally and unconstitutionally erode the sovereign powers of the individual States. The events leading up to the Civil War and then Reconstruction were so marred with unconstitutional violations that it can be argued that the government and its actions during that time were illegitimate in many respects and therefore not binding on the respective parties (ie, the States).   [For example, President Lincoln took extraordinary liberties with the office of the Presidency in initiating the Civil War and suppressing opposition, in violation of the Constitution – such as ordering actions to initiate hostilities and suspending habeas corpus and having Americans put to death for exercising freedom of speech.  Congress, after the fact, sought to affirm those violations on July 11, 1861 with a Joint Resolution in which it declared Lincoln’s “extraordinary acts, proclamations, and orders” to be “legal and valid” and “necessary for the preservation of the government.” The preservation of government was what was at stake with the signing of the Constitution. Restraining government on the States and the People was. The government cannot violate the Constitution in order to claim to uphold it. The government itself cannot use the Constitution to seek its own immortality.

(l)  that there are numerous other examples of government constitutional over-reach.

(6).  That if North Carolina accepts or continues to accept these violations and inappropriate interpretations, and continues to allow all three branches of the federal government to exercise unbridled authority, it would be surrendering its own form of government.

(7).  That the people of this state will not submit to undelegated and consequently unlimited powers.

(8).  That every state has a right to nullify all assumptions of power by others within their limits, and that without this right, states would be under the dominion and power of anyone who might try to exercise that power.

(9).  That the rights and liberties of North Carolina, and its fellow states, must be protected from any dangers by declaring that Congress is limited by the federal Constitution and Bill of Rights.

(10).  That any act by the Congress of the United States, Executive Order of the President of the United States, or decision/judicial order by a federal court that assumes a power not delegated by the federal Constitution diminishes the liberty of this State and its citizens and violates the federal contract established by the signing of the Constitution.  The State of North Carolina, on behalf of its own sovereignty and the sovereignty of it People, declares that certain reserved state powers will be guarded jealously and aggressively. Acts by the federal government that would be seen as violations of the limited nature of the US Constitution, would be subject to nullification and interposition by the State, and would result in a legitimate breach of the federal compact which ties North Carolina politically to the federal government include, but are not limited to:

(a) establishing martial law or a state of emergency within a state without the consent of the legislature of that state;

(b) requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service other than a draft during a declared war or pursuant to or as an alternative to incarceration after due process of law;

(c) requiring involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18 other than pursuant to or as an alternative to incarceration after due process of law;

(d) surrendering any power delegated or not delegated to any corporation or foreign government;

(e) any act regarding religion, further limitations on freedom of political speech, or further limitations on freedom of the press; or

(f) any act regarding the right to keep and bear arms or further limitations on the right to bear arms, including any restrictions on the type or number of firearms or the amount or type of ammunition any law-abiding citizen may purchase, own, or possess.

(11).  That if any act of Congress becomes law or if an Executive Order or judicial decision/judicial order is put into force related to the reservations expressed in this resolution, North Carolina’s political bond to the federal government under the federal compact (the signing of the Constitution) would be considered breached and all powers previously delegated to the United States by the federal Constitution would revert to the State and the people, respectively.

(12).  That any future government of the United States shall require ratification of three-fourths of the States seeking to form a government and shall not be binding upon any state not seeking to form a government.

(13).  That the Secretary of State send a copy of this law to the President of the United States and to each member of the United States Congress in order that they be put on notice of North Carolina’s position with respect to the Constitution, the government, and the respective rights and responsibilities of each sovereign.

[This proposed State Sovereignty Bill is of course, a bit long-winded…..]

As we celebrate 221 years with the Bill of Rights to protect our fundamental rights from government oppression, we have reason to  221st anniversary of the Bill of Rights, for there can be no better proof of the wisdom of the Framers than the endurance of the Constitution.  We appreciate their brilliance as we witness the oppressive and tyrannical consequences of a government that continually and increasingly abuses the constitutional limits and guarantees that they provided for us.

As we enter into 2013 (our 222nd year with the Bill of Rights), let us realize what the government will force us to do by the end of the year – enroll in a healthcare insurance program or be punished for it.  The government is already forcing millions of Americans to submit to repeated, egregious, and humiliating violations of their fourth amendment rights every time they fly on an airplane or visit a federal facility, forcing religious institutions to violate its own religious tenets, detaining Americans for promoting opposition to government policies, shoring up the indefinite detention provisions for American citizens in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and looking for ways to limit our second amendment rights. These policies of the federal government are no less serious than the policies of King George against the colonies.

In August 2012, a 26-year-old former marine and citizen of the state of Virginia, Brandon Raub, wrote the following posts on facebook: “The idea that men can govern themselves is the basis for every just form of government.” “The bill of rights is being systematically dismantled.” “You elected an aristocracy. They are beholden to special interests. They were brainwashed through the Council on Foreign Relations. Your leaders are planning to merge the United States into a one world banking system. They want to put computer chips in you. These men have evil hearts. They have tricked you into supporting corporate fascism. We gave them the keys to our country. We were not vigilant with our republic….  But there is hope. BUT WE MUST TAKE OUR REPUBLIC BACK.”  For those words, the government showed up at his home, arrested him, committed him involuntarily to a mental hospital, and planned to detain him indefinitely. The government made the decision to take his rights away. (Luckily, his mother and a sharp lawyer were able to fight the unlawful arrest). This happened in Virginia, the state that gave us Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Patrick Henry, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. This is the state that gave us such fiery speeches as “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”  This famous speech in 1775 motivated the Virginia Provincial Convention to bear arms against England and then to vote for independence from England. This was a state that would not ratify the Constitution until Madison gave the delegates assurances that he would draft a Bill of Rights and the First US Congress would propose them and then send them to the states.

Fortunately, the world didn’t end on December 21st.  And so, on this 221st anniversary, let us  reflect on what we, as citizens, can do to keep the spirit of the Bill of Rights alive.  As I discussed earlier, one option is to demand that our state legislatures re-assert the sovereignty that our Founders acknowledged in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.  If power is not carefully shared among the states and the federal government and if the states are not willing to stand up to the federal government, then this most powerful of checks and balances is useless and individual liberty is destined to suffer.  We already see it happening before our eyes.

When the federal government takes on functions not permitted to it by the Constitution, in violation of the Tenth Amendment, it is only a matter of time before it will usurp the unenumerated rights of the people, in violation of the Ninth Amendment. When the government can misappropriate the unenumerated rights of the people, it is only a matter of time before it will trample upon their enumerated rights – those most fundamental rights which are explicitly spelled out in the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights still stands for liberty, even though our government won’t.

A few weeks ago, on December 15, Karen Kwiatkowski gave a speech and said: “I believe the Bill of Rights is the natural companion to the Declaration of Independence. May both of these documents inspire us all to seize the day, and live free. May the Bill of Rights guide us in our lives and work, focus our prayers, broaden our dreams, and lead us to end the tyranny, and restore our badly damaged Republic.”

Let’s hope the government doesn’t arrest and detain her for speaking those words.  And let’s hope that the Bill of Rights, the companion to the Declaration of Independence, continues to inspire us to want to live free.

References:
1791: US Bill of Rights. [With information from James McClellan, Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government (3rd ed.); Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000.  http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?Itemid=264&id=574&option=com_content&task=view

Edward Drake, “The Men Who Didn’t Sign the Constitution.”  http://books.google.com/books?id=k9BPrepFvZ4C&pg=PA1101&lpg=PA1101&dq=Who+didn’t+sign+the+Constitution+in+1787?&source=bl&ots=vcQKEJZ_DU&sig=HW_gI_YRM5PRvasqb9ZFKWuXEGc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=liHQUNCILY-08ASk0YG4Cw&ved=0CG0Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Who%20didn’t%20sign%20the%20Constitution%20in%201787%3F&f=false

Stewart Rhodes, “Oath Keepers Bill of Rights Day Message: Prepare to Fight for Bill of Rights,” December 15, 2012.  Referenced at:  http://oathkeepers.org/oath/2012/12/15/11145/

Montana House Joint Resolution No. 26 Affirming States Rights –http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2009/billhtml/HJ0026.htm

The Bill of Rights and annotations –  http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights

Patrick Henry’s Opening Remarks at the Virginia Ratification Convention, June 4, 1788 –  http://www.academicamerican.com/revolution/documents/HenryConst.htm

James Madison’s Speech to Congress, June 8, 1789, in which he proposed 20 amendments to the new Constitution –  http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/james-madison-speech-june-8-1789.html

The revision history of Madison’s proposed Bill of Rights (amendments):

(a)  The amendments as James Madison proposed them on June 8, 1789:  http://www.constitution.org/bor/amd_jmad.txt

(b)  The proposed amendments consolidated by the House down to 17 in number and then passed on August 24, 1798:     http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/rbpe:@field(DOCID+@lit(rbpe21200200))

(c)  The Senate product:  On September 21, 1789, a House/Senate conference was called, and the differences between the versions of the two houses were worked out. Madison was one of the House managers in the committee. Several points were agreed upon, and the House was informed of the Senate’s acceptance of the compromise bill on September 25, 1789, the official date of submission of the Bill of Rights to the states.      http://www.usconstitution.net/first12.html

Ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina, November 21, 1788 –http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_decl-nc.htm

Federalist Papers No. 45 –  http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa45.htm

Federalist Papers No. 58  –   http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa58.htm

Ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina, November 21, 1788 –http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_decl-nc.htm

Jack Balkin, “The Right Strikes Back: A New Legal Challenge for Obamacare,” The Atlantic, September 17, 2012. Referenced at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/09/the-right-strikes-back-a-new-legal-challenge-for-obamacare/262443/

Allah Pundit, “Say, Doesn’t the Constitution Require Tax Bills to Originate in the House?”, Hot Air, June 28, 2012.  Referenced at:  http://hotair.com/archives/2012/06/28/say-doesnt-the-constitution-require-tax-bills-to-originate-in-the-house/

Joint Resolution – “To Approve and Affirm Certain Acts of the President of the United States for Suppressing Rebellion and Insurrection” –http://www.archive.org/stream/speechofhonlwpow00powe#page/n5/mode/2up%5D

Jane Kwiatkowski, “Bill of Rights, RIP?” Lew Rockwell, December 15, 2012. Referenced at:http://www.lewrockwell.com/kwiatkowski/kwiatkowski291.html

June 16, 1788 (Virginia Ratification Convention): Patrick Henry Demands and Gets a Bill of Rights,” Free Republic, October 17, 2003. Referenced at:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1003306/posts

“The 14th Amendment: Equal Protection of the Laws or Tool of Usurpation?,” US Congressional Record – House, June 13, 1967; page 15641.

W. Kirk Wood, A Constitutional History: 1776-1833, University Press of America, Maryland (2009).

APPENDIX:

(A) THE BILL OF RIGHTS (with explanation)

The First Amendment: Religious Freedom, and Freedom to Speak, Print, Assemble, and Petition

We hear a good deal nowadays about “a wall of separation” between church and state in America. To some people’s surprise, this phrase cannot be found in either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Actually, the phrase occurs in a letter from Thomas Jefferson, as a candidate for office, to an assembly of Baptists in Connecticut.

The first clause of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This clause is followed by guarantees of freedom of speech, of publication, of assembly, and of petitioning. These various aspects of liberty were lumped together in the First Amendment for the sake of convenience; Congress had originally intended to assign “establishment of religion” to a separate amendment because the relationships between state and church are considerably different from the civil liberties of speech, publication, assembly, and petitioning.

The purpose of the “Establishment Clause” was two-fold: (1) to prohibit Congress from imposing a national religion upon the people; and (2) to prohibit Congress (and the Federal government generally) from interfering with existing church-state relations in the several States. Thus the “Establishment Clause” is linked directly to the “Free Exercise Clause.” It was designed to promote religious freedom by forbidding Congress to prefer one religious sect over other religious sects. It was also intended, however, to assure each State that its reserved powers included the power to decide for itself, under its own constitution or bill of rights, what kind of relationship it wanted with religious denominations in the State. Hence the importance of the word “respecting”: Congress shall make no law “respecting,” that is, touching or dealing with, the subject of religious establishment.

In effect, this “Establishment Clause” was a compromise between two eminent members of the first Congress—James Madison and Fisher Ames. Representative Ames, from Massachusetts, was a Federalist. In his own State, and also in Connecticut, there still was an established church—the Congregational Church. By 1787–1791, an “established church” was one which was formally recognized by a State government as the publicly preferred form of religion. Such a church was entitled to certain taxes, called tithes, that were collected from the public by the State. Earlier, several other of Britain’s colonies had recognized established churches, but those other establishments had vanished during the Revolution.

Now, if Congress had established a national church—and many countries, in the eighteenth century, had official national churches—probably it would have chosen to establish the Episcopal Church, related to the Church of England. For Episcopalians constituted the most numerous and influential Christian denomination in the United States. Had the Episcopal Church been so established nationally, the Congregational Church would have been disestablished in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Therefore, Fisher Ames and his Massachusetts constituents in 1789 were eager for a constitutional amendment that would not permit Congress to establish any national church or disestablish any State church.

The motive of James Madison for advocating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was somewhat different. Madison believed that for the Federal government to establish one church—the Episcopal Church, say—would vex the numerous Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker, and other religious denominations. After all, it seemed hard enough to hold the United States together in those first months of the Constitution without stirring up religious controversies. So Madison, who was generally in favor of religious toleration, strongly advocated an Establishment Clause on the ground that it would avert disunity in the Republic.

In short, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was not intended as a declaration of governmental hostility toward religion, or even of governmental neutrality in the debate between believers and non-believers. It was simply a device for keeping religious passions out of American politics. The phrase “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” was meant to keep the Congress from ever meddling in the disputes among religious bodies or interfering with the mode of worship.

During the nineteenth century, at least, State governments would have been free to establish State churches, had they desired to do so. The Establishment Clause restrained only Congress—not State legislatures. But the States were no more interested in establishing a particular church than was Congress, and the two New England States where Congregationalism was established eventually gave up their establishments—Connecticut in 1818, Massachusetts in 1833.

The remainder of the First Amendment is a guarantee of reasonable freedom of speech, publication, assembly, and petition. A key word in this declaration that the Congress must not abridge these freedoms is the article “the”—abridging the freedom of speech and press. For what the Congress had in mind, in 1789, was the civil freedom to which Americans already were accustomed, and which they had inherited from Britain. In effect, the clause means “that freedom of speech and press which prevails today.” In 1789, this meant that Congress was prohibited from engaging in the practice of “prior censorship”—prohibiting a speech or publication without advance approval of an executive official. The courts today give a much broader interpretation to the clause. This does not mean, however, that the First Amendment guarantees any absolute or perfect freedom to shout whatever one wishes, print whatever one likes, assemble in a crowd wherever or whenever it suits a crowd’s fancy, or present a petition to Congress or some other public body in a context of violence. Civil liberty as understood in the Constitution is ordered liberty, not license to indulge every impulse and certainly not license to overthrow the Constitution itself.

As one of the more famous of Supreme Court Justices, Oliver Wendell Holmes, put this matter, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” Similarly, statutes that prohibit the publication of obscenities, libels, and calls to violence are generally held by the courts to conform to the First Amendment. For example, public assemblies can be forbidden or dispersed by local authorities when crowds threaten to turn into violent mobs. And even public petitions to the legislative or the executive branch of government must be presented in accordance with certain rules, or else they may be lawfully rejected.

The Constitution recognizes no “absolute” rights. A Justice of the Supreme Court observed years ago that “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.” Instead, the First Amendment is a reaffirmation of certain long-observed civil freedoms, and it is not a guarantee that citizens will go unpunished however outrageous their words, publications, street conduct, or mode of addressing public officials. The original, and in many ways the most important, purpose of freedom of speech and press is that it affords citizens an opportunity to criticize government—favorably and unfavorably—and to hold public officials accountable for their actions. It thus serves to keep the public informed and encourages the free exchange of ideas.

The Second Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms –

This amendment consists of a single sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Although today we tend to think of the “militia” as the armed forces or national guard, the original meaning of the word was “the armed citizenry.” One of the purposes of the Second Amendment was to prevent Congress from disarming the State militias. The phrasing of the Amendment was directly influenced by the American Revolutionary experience. During the initial phases of that conflict, Americans relied on the militia to confront the British regular army. The right of each State to maintain its own militia was thought by the founding generation to be a critical safeguard against “standing armies” and tyrants, both foreign and domestic.

The Second Amendment also affirms an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Since the Amendment limits only Congress, the States are free to regulate the possession and carrying of weapons in accordance with their own constitutions and bills of rights. “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms,” observed Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court in his Commentaries on the Constitution (1833), “has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of the republic, since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.” Thus a disarmed population cannot easily resist or overthrow tyrannical government. The right is not absolute, of course, and the Federal courts have upheld Federal laws that limit the sale, possession, and transportation of certain kinds of weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. To what extent Congress can restrict the right is a matter of considerable uncertainty because the Federal courts have not attempted to define its limits.

The Third Amendment: Quartering Troops –

Forbidding Congress to station soldiers in private houses without the householders’ permission in time of peace, or without proper authorization in time of war, was bound up with memories of British soldiers who were quartered in American houses during the War of Independence. It is an indication of a desire, in 1789, to protect civilians from military bullying. This is the least-invoked provision of the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court has never had occasion to interpret or apply it.

The Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure –

This is a requirement for search warrants when the public authority decides to search individuals or their houses, or to seize their property in connection with some legal action or investigation. In general, any search without a warrant is unreasonable. Under certain conditions, however, no warrant is necessary—as when the search is incidental to a lawful arrest.

Before engaging in a search, the police must appear before a magistrate and, under oath, prove that they have good cause to believe that a search should be made. The warrant must specify the place to be searched and the property to be seized. This requirement is an American version of the old English principle that “Every man’s house is his castle.” In recent decades, courts have extended the protections of this amendment to require warrants for the search and seizure of intangible property, such as conversations recorded through electronic eavesdropping.

The Fifth Amendment: Rights of Persons –

Here we have a complex of old rights at law that were intended to protect people from arbitrary treatment by the possessors of power, especially in actions at law. The common law assumes that a person is innocent until he is proven guilty. This amendment reasserts the ancient requirement that if a person is to be tried for a major crime, he must first be indicted by a grand jury. In addition, no person may be tried twice for the same offense. Also, an individual cannot be compelled in criminal cases to testify against himself, “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”; and the public authorities may not take private property without just compensation to the owner.

The immunity against being compelled to be a witness against one’s self is often invoked in ordinary criminal trials and in trials for subversion or espionage. This right, like others in the Bill of Rights, is not absolute. A person who “takes the Fifth”—that is, refuses to answer questions in a court because his answers might incriminate him—thereby raises “a legitimate presumption” in the court that he has done something for which he might be punished by the law. If offered immunity from prosecution in return for giving testimony, either he must comply or else expect to be jailed, and kept in jail, for contempt of court. And, under certain circumstances, a judge or investigatory body such as a committee of Congress may refuse to accept a witness’s contention that he would place himself in danger of criminal prosecution were he to answer any questions.

The Fifth Amendment’s due process requirement was originally a procedural right that referred to methods of law enforcement. If a person was to be deprived of his life, liberty or property, such a deprivation had to conform to the common law standards of “due process.” The Amendment required a procedure, as Daniel Webster once put it, that “hears before it condemns, proceeds upon inquiries, and renders judgment only after a trial” in which the basic principles of justice have been observed.

The prohibition against taking private property for public use without just compensation is a restriction on the Federal government’s power of eminent domain. Federal courts have adopted a rule of interpretation that the “taking” must be “direct” and that private property owners are not entitled to compensation for indirect loss incidental to the exercise of governmental powers. Thus the courts have frequently held that rent-control measures, limiting the amount of rent which may be charged, are not a “taking,” even though such measures may decrease the value of the property or deprive the owners of rental income. As a general rule, Federal courts have not since 1937 extended the same degree of protection to property rights as they have to other civil rights.

The Sixth Amendment: Rights of the Accused –

Here again the Bill of Rights reaffirms venerable protections for persons accused of crimes. The Amendment guarantees jury trial in criminal cases; the right of the accused “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation”; also the rights to confront witnesses, to obtain witnesses through the arm of the law, and to have lawyers’ help.

These are customs and privileges at law derived from long usage in Britain and America. The recent enlargement of these rights by Federal courts has caused much controversy. The right of assistance of counsel, for example, has been extended backward from the time of trial to the time the defendant is first questioned as a suspect, and forward to the appeals stage of the process. Under the so-called “Miranda” rule, police must read to a suspect his “Miranda” rights before interrogation. Only if a suspect waives his rights may any statement or confession obtained be used against him in a trial. Otherwise the suspect is said to have been denied “assistance of counsel.”

The Sixth Amendment also specifies that criminal trials must be “speedy.” Because of the great backload of cases in our courts, this requirement is sometimes loosely applied today. Yet, as one jurist has put the matter, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

The Seventh Amendment: Trial by Jury in Civil Cases –

This guarantee of jury trial in civil suits at common law “where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars” (a much bigger sum of money in 1789 than now) was included in the Bill of Rights chiefly because several of the States’ ratifying conventions had recommended it. It applies only to Federal cases, of course, and it may be waived. The primary purpose of the Amendment was to preserve the historic line separating the jury, which decides the facts, from the judge, who applies the law. It applies only to suits at common law, meaning “rights and remedies peculiarly legal in their nature.” It does not apply to cases in equity or admiralty law, where juries are not used. In recent years, increasingly large monetary awards to plaintiffs by juries in civil cases have brought the jury system somewhat into disrepute.

The Eighth Amendment: Bail and Cruel and Unusual Punishments –

How much bail, fixed by a court as a requirement to assure that a defendant will appear in court at the assigned time, is “excessive”? What punishments are “cruel and unusual”? The monetary sums for bail have changed greatly over two centuries, and criminal punishments have grown less severe. Courts have applied the terms of this amendment differently over the years.

Courts are not required to release an accused person merely because he can supply bail bonds. The court may keep him imprisoned, for example, if the court fears that the accused person would become a danger to the community if released, or would flee the jurisdiction of the court. In such matters, much depends on the nature of the offense, the reputation of the alleged offender, and his ability to pay. Bail of a larger amount than is usually set for a particular crime must be justified by evidence.

As for cruel and unusual punishments, public whipping was not regarded as cruel and unusual in 1789, but it is probably so regarded today. In recent years, the Supreme Court has found that capital punishment is not forbidden by the Eighth Amendment, although the enforcement of capital punishment must be carried out so as not to permit jury discretion or to discriminate against any class of persons. Punishment may be declared cruel and unusual if it is out of all proportion to the offense.

The Ninth Amendment: Rights Retained by the People –

Are all the rights to be enjoyed by citizens of the United States enumerated in the first eight amendments and in the Articles of the original Constitution? If so, might not the Federal government, at some future time, ignore a multitude of customs, privileges, and old usages cherished by American men and women, on the ground that these venerable ways were not rights at all? Does a civil right have to be written expressly into the Constitution in order to exist? The Seven Articles and the first eight amendments say nothing, for example, about a right to inherit property, or a right of marriage. Are, then, rights to inheritance and marriage wholly dependent on the will of Congress or the President at any one time?

The Federalists had made such objections to the very idea of a Bill of Rights being added to the Constitution. Indeed, it seemed quite possible to the first Congress under the Constitution that, by singling out and enumerating certain civil liberties, the Seven Articles and the Bill of Rights might seem to disparage or deny certain other prescriptive rights that are important but had not been written into the document.

The Ninth Amendment was designed to quiet the fears of the Anti-Federalists who contended that, under the new Constitution, the Federal government would have the power to trample on the liberties of the people because it would have jurisdiction over any right that was not explicitly protected against Federal abridgment and reserved to the States. They argued in particular that there was an implied exclusion of trial by jury in civil cases because the Constitution made reference to it only in criminal cases.

Written to serve as a general principle of construction, the Ninth Amendment declares that “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The reasoning behind the amendment springs from Hamilton’s 83rd and 84th essays in The Federalist. Madison introduced it simply to prevent a perverse application of the ancient legal maxim that a denial of power over a specified right does not imply an affirmative grant of power over an unnamed right.

This amendment is much misunderstood today, and it is sometimes thought to be a source of new rights, such as the “right of privacy,” over which Federal courts may establish jurisdiction. It should be kept in mind, however, that the original purpose of this amendment was to limit the powers of the Federal government, not to expand them.

The Tenth Amendment: Rights Retained by the States –

This last amendment in the Bill of Rights was probably the one most eagerly desired by the various State conventions and State legislatures that had demanded the addition of a bill of rights to the Constitution. Throughout the country, the basic uneasiness with the new Constitution was the dread that the Federal government would gradually enlarge its powers and suppress the States’ governments. The Tenth Amendment was designed to lay such fears to rest.

This amendment was simply a declaration that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Federalists maintained that the Framers at Philadelphia had meant from the first that all powers not specifically assigned to the Federal government were reserved to the States or the people of the States.

The amendment declares that powers are reserved “to the States respectively, or to the people,” meaning they are to be left in their original state.

It should be noted that the Tenth Amendment does not say that powers not expressly delegated to the United States are reserved to the States. The authors of the Bill of Rights considered and specifically rejected such a statement. They believed that an amendment limiting the national government to its expressed powers would have seriously weakened it.

During much of our history, the Tenth Amendment was interpreted as a limitation of the delegated powers of Congress. Since 1937, however, the Supreme Court has largely rejected this view, and the Amendment no longer has the same operative meaning or effect that it once had. [My Note: But the question is this: What right does the Supreme Court, a branch of the federal government, to decide the scope of that government’s powers? The explanation given in the Federalist Papers of Article III’s judicial branch powers is that the Supreme Court had the power to advise and to offer an opinion as to constitutionality.

Rights Versus Duties  –

Some Americans seem to fancy that the whole Constitution is a catalog of people’s rights. But actually the major part of the Constitution—the Seven Articles—establishes a framework of national government and only incidentally deals with individuals’ rights.

In any society, duties are often even more important than rights. For example, the duty of obeying good laws is more essential than the right to be exempted from the ordinary operation of the laws. As has been said, every right is married to some duty. Freedom involves individual responsibility.

With that statement in mind, let us look at some of the provisions of the Bill of Rights to see how those rights are joined to certain duties.

If one has a right to freedom of speech, one has a duty to speak decently and honestly, not inciting people to riot or to commit crimes.

If one has a right to freedom of the press (or, in our time, freedom of the “media”), one has the duty to publish the truth, temperately—not abusing this freedom for personal advantage or vengeance.

If one has a right to join other people in a public assembly, one has the duty to tolerate other people’s similar gatherings and not to take the opportunity of converting a crowd into a mob.

If one enjoys an immunity from arbitrary search and seizure, one has the duty of not abusing these rights by unlawfully concealing things forbidden by law.

If one has a right not to be a witness against oneself in a criminal case, one has the duty not to pretend that he would be incriminated if he should testify: that is, to be an honest and candid witness, not taking advantage of the self-incrimination exemption unless otherwise one would really be in danger of successful prosecution.

If one has a right to trial by jury, one ought to be willing to serve on juries when so summoned by a court.

If one is entitled to rights, one has the duty to support the public authority that protects those rights.

For, unless a strong and just government exists, it is vain to talk about one’s rights. Without liberty, order, and justice, sustained by good government, there is no place to which anyone can turn for enforcement of his claims to rights. This is because a “right,” in law, is a claim upon somebody for something. If a man has a right to be paid for a day’s work, for example, he asserts a claim upon his employer; but, if that employer refuses to pay him, the man must turn to a court of law for enforcement of his right. If no court of law exists, the “right” to payment becomes little better than an empty word. The unpaid man might try to take his pay by force, true; but when force rules instead of law, a society falls into anarchy and the world is dominated by the violent and the criminal.

Knowing these hard truths about duties, rights, and social order, the Framers endeavored to give us a Constitution that is more than mere words and slogans.

Reference: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights

(B) RATIFICATION OF THE CONSTITUION by the STATE of NORTH CAROLINA
November 21, 1789.

In Convention, August 1, 1788.

Resolved, That a Declaration of Rights, asserting and securing from encroachment the great Principles of civil and religious Liberty, and the unalienable Rights of the People, together with Amendments to the most ambiguous and exceptional Parts of the said Constitution of Government, ought to be laid before Congress, and the Convention of the States that shall or may be called for the Purpose of Amending the said Constitution, for their consideration, previous to the Ratification of the Constitution aforesaid, on the part of the State of North Carolina.

DECLARATION OF RIGHTS

1st. That there are certain natural rights of which men, when they form a social compact, cannot deprive or divest their posterity, among which are the enjoyment of life, and liberty, with the means of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

2d. That all power is naturally vested in, and consequently derived from the people; that magistrates therefore are their trustees, and agents, and at all times amenable to them.

3d. That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind.

4th That no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive or separate public emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator or judge, or any other public office to be hereditary.

5th. That the legislative, executive and judiciary powers of government should be separate and distinct, and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating the public burthens, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into the mass of the people; and the vacancies be supplied by certain and regular elections; in which all or any part of the former members to be eligible or ineligible, as the rules of the Constitution of Government, and the laws shall direct.

6th. That elections of Representatives in the legislature ought to be free and frequent, and all men having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to the community, ought to have the right of suffrage: and no aid, charge, tax or fee can be set, rated, or levied upon the people without their own consent, or that of their representatives, so elected, nor can they be bound by any law, to which they have not in like manner assented for the public good.

7th. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws by any authority without the consent of the representatives, of the people in the Legislature, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

8th. That in all capital and criminal prosecutions, a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence and be allowed counsel in his favor, and to a fair and speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty (except in the government of the land and naval forces) nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself.

9th That no freeman ought to be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, privileges or franchises, or outlawed or exiled, or in any manner destroyed or deprived of his life, liberty, or property but by the law of the land.

10th. That every freeman restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the same, if unlawful, and that such remedy ought not to be denied nor delayed.

11th. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is one of the greatest securities to the rights of the people, and ought to remain sacred and inviolable.

12th. That every freeman ought to find a certain remedy by recourse to the laws for all injuries and wrongs he may receive in his person, property, or character. He ought to obtain right and justice freely without sale, completely and without denial, promptly and without delay, and that all establishments, or regulations contravening these rights, are oppressive and unjust.

13th. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

14th. That every freeman has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his papers, and property: all warrants therefore to search suspected places, or seize any freeman, his papers or property, without information upon oath (or affirmation of a person religiously scrupulous of taking an oath) of legal and sufficient cause, are grievous and oppressive, and all general warrants to search suspected places, or to apprehend any suspected person without specially naming or describing the place or person, are dangerous and ought not to be granted.

15th. That the people have a right peaceably to assemble together to consult for the common good, or to instruct their representatives; and that every freeman has a right to petition or apply to the Legislature for redress of grievances.

16th. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and of writing and publishing their sentiments; that the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of Liberty, and ought not to be violated.

17th. That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well regulated militia composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural and safe defence of a free state. That standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to Liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided, as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by the civil power.

18th. That no soldier in time of peace ought to be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, and in time of war in such manner only as the Laws direct.

19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

20th. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, and that no particular religious sect or society ought to be favoured or established by law in preference to others.

AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION

I. THAT each state in the union shall, respectively, retain every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this constitution delegated to the Congress of the United States, or to the departments of the Federal Government.

II. That there shall be one representative for every 30.000, according to the enumeration or census, mentioned in the constitution, until the whole number of representatives amounts to two hundred; after which, that number shall be continued or increased, as Congress shall direct, upon the principles fixed in the constitution, by apportioning the representatives of each state to some greater number of people from time to time, as population encreases.

III. When Congress shall lay direct taxes or excises, they shall immediately inform the executive power of each state, of the quota of such State, according to the census herein directed, which is proposed to be thereby raised: And if the legislature of any state shall pass a law, which shall be effectual for raising such quota at the time required by Congress, the taxes and excises laid by Congress shall not be collected in such state.

IV. That the members of the senate and house of representatives shall be ineligible to, and incapable of holding any civil office under the authority of the United States, during the time for which they shall, respectively, be elected.

V. That the journals of the proceedings of the senate and house of representatives shall be published at least once in every year, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy.

VI. That a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of the public money shall be published at least once in every year.

VII. That no commercial treaty shall be ratified without the concurrence of two-thirds of the whole number of the members of the Senate: And no treaty, ceding, contracting, or restraining or suspending the territorial rights or claims of the United States, or any of them or their, or any of their rights or claims to fishing in the American seas, or navigating the American rivers shall be made, but in cases of the most urgent and extreme necessity; nor shall any such treaty be ratified without the concurrence of three-fourths of the whole number of the members of both houses respectively.

VIII. That no navigation law, or law regulating commerce shall be passed without the consent of two-thirds of the members present in both houses.

IX. That no standing army or regular troops shall be raised or kept up in time of peace, without the consent of two thirds of the members present in both houses.

X. That no soldier shall be enlisted for any longer term than four years, except in time of war, and then for no longer term than the continuance of the war.

XI. That each state, respectively, shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining its own militia whensoever Congress shall omit or neglect to provide for the same. That the militia shall not be subject to martial law, except when in actual service in time of war, invasion or rebellion: And when not in the actual service of the United States, shall be subject only to such fines, penalties, and punishments as shall be directed or inflicted by the laws of its own state.

XII. That Congress shall not declare any state to be in rebellion without the consent of at least two-thirds of all the members present of both houses.

XIII. That the exclusive power of Legislation given to Congress over the federal town and its adjacent district, and other places, purchased or to be purchased by Congress, of any of the states, shall extend only to such regulations as respect the police and good government thereof.

XIV. That no person shall be capable of being president of the United States for more than eight years in any term of sixteen years.

XV. That the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such courts of admiralty as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish in any of the different states. The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity, arising under treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of the United States; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls; to all cases of admiralty, and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more stares, and between parties claiming lands under the grants of different states. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other foreign ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party; the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction, in all other cases before mentioned; the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction as to matters of law only, except in cases of equity, and of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, in which the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make. But the judicial power of the United States shall extend to no case where the cause of action shall have originated before the ratification of this constitution, except in disputes between states about their territory; disputes between persons claiming lands under the grants of different states, and suits for debts due to the united states.

XVI. That in criminal prosecutions, no man shall be restrained in the exercise of the usual and accustomed right of challenging or excepting to the jury.

XVII. That Congress shall not alter, modify, or interfere in the times, places, or manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, or either of them, except when the legislature of any state shall neglect, refuse or be disabled by invasion or rebellion, to prescribe the same.

XVIII. That those clauses which declare that Congress shall not exercise certain powers, be not interpreted in any manner whatsoever to extend the powers of Congress; but that they be construed either as making exceptions to the specified powers where this shall be the case, or otherwise, as inserted merely for greater caution.

XIX. That the laws ascertaining the compensation of senators and representatives for their services be posponed in their operation, until after the election of representatives immediately succeeding the passing thereof, that excepted, which shall first be passed on the subject.

XX. That some tribunal, other than the senate, be provided for trying impeachments of senators.

XXI. That the salary of a judge shall not be increased or diminished during his continuance in once, otherwise than by general regulations of salary which may take place, on a revision of the subject at stated periods of not less than seven years, to commence from the time such salaries shall be first ascertained by Congress.

XXII. That Congress erect no company of merchants with exclusive advantages of commerce.

XXIII. That no treaties which shall be directly opposed to the existing laws of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be valid until such laws shall be repealed, or made conformable to such Meaty; nor shall any Meaty be valid which is contradictory to the constitution of the United States.

XXIV. That the latter part of the fifth paragraph of the 9th section of the first article be altered to read thus,-Nor shall vessels bound to a particular state be obliged to enter or pay duties in any other; nor when bound from any one of the States be obliged to clear in another.

XXV. That Congress shall not directly or indirectly, either by themselves or thro’ the judiciary, interfere with any one of the states in the redemption of paper money already emitted and now in circulation, or in liquidating and discharging the public securities of any one of the states: But each and every state shall have the exclusive right of making such laws and regulations for the above purposes as they shall think proper.

XXVI. That Congress shall not introduce foreign troops into the United States without the consent of two-thirds of the members present of both houses.

SAM JOHNSTON, President

Reference: Ratification of the Constitution by North Carolina, November 21, 1788 –http://www.constitution.org/rc/rat_decl-nc.htm

Why Have African-Americans Abandoned the Republican Party When the Republican Party Has Never Abandoned Them?

          by Diane Rufino

“I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. I am merely a fragment of the Great Soul that surges within the boundaries. My country, right or wrong.”    –  Zora Neale Hurston.

The history of African-Americans is a history of cruelty and callousness. But then it became a history of triumph and character.  As Frederick Douglass once said, in the beginning we watched how a man was made a slave, but then we saw how a slave was made a man.

When the delegates from twelve of the original thirteen states met in Philadelphia in 1787 (Rhode Island didn’t participate) to draft a new constitution that would “create a more perfect union,” the hope, and indeed the plan, was to abolish slavery. At first, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina refused to join that union if the institution was outlawed, but then North Carolina gave in, noting that it already had a state law which banned the slave trade (although not directly).  But South Carolina and Georgia were steadfast and unyielding.  The plan for a Union would not work without those states.  [1]

Thomas Jefferson said: “There is preparing, I hope, under the auspices of heaven, a way for a total emancipation.” George Washington said, near the end of his life, wrote these words:  “It is among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country shall be abolished by law. I know of but one way by which this can be done, and that is by legislative action; and so far as my vote can go, it shall not be wanting.”  Patrick Henry said, “We should transmit to posterity our abhorrence of slavery.”  And George Mason, of Virginia, who refused to sign the Constitution because it did not abolish slavery outright, was particularly passionate on the subject: “Slavery is slow poison, which is daily contaminating the minds and morals of our People. Practiced in acts of despotism and cruelty, we become callous to the dictates of humanity, and all the finer feelings of the soul. Taught to regard a part of our own species in the most abject and contemptible degree below us, we lose that idea of the dignity of Man, which the hand of nature had implanted in us, for great and useful purposes…..    Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. Slaves bring the judgment of heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins, by national calamities.”  [Mason’s prediction about “national calamities” would come to pass in 1861].

A compromise was needed to bring South Carolina and Georgia together with the other states.

In the final draft of the Constitution, as submitted on September 17, 1787, a provision was intentionally included in Article I, respecting the duties of the legislative branch.  In Section 9 (“Limits on Congress”), our drafters included the following prohibition: “The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.”  In other words, the government could not ban the importation of slaves for 20 years after the adoption of the Constitution.

The compromise on slavery occurred because the delegates as a whole agreed with Roger Sherman of Connecticut, who made the observation that it was better to let the Southern states import slaves than to part with those states.

As the designated year 1808 approached, those opposed to slavery began making plans for legislation that would ban, or outlaw, the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In fact, in 1805, the first such piece of legislation was introduced by a senator from Vermont. The following year, in his annual address to Congress, President Thomas Jefferson urged Congress to pass the bill, which it did.  The law was finally passed by both houses of Congress on March 2, 1807, and then signed it into law on March 3, 1807 by Jefferson.  However, given the restriction imposed by Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, the law would only become effective on January 1, 1808.

The 1807 law ending the importation of slaves did nothing to stop the buying and selling of slaves within the United States and that turned out to be another battle for another day.  This issue of slavery would not be resolved until the end of the Civil War and then with the passage of the 13th Amendment.

The condition of the Negro during the time of slavery here in the United States can be summed up by a sermon delivered in 1808 by Bishop Absalom Jones:

The history of the world shows us, that the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage, is not the only instance, in which it has pleased God to appear in behalf of oppressed and distressed nations, as the deliverer of the innocent, and of those who call upon his name. He is as unchangeable in his nature and character, as he is in his wisdom and power. He has seen the affliction of our countrymen, with an eye of pity. He has seen the wicked arts, by which wars have been fomented among the different tribes of the Africans, in order to procure captives, for the purpose of selling them for slaves. He has seen ships fitted out from different ports in Europe and America, and freighted with trinkets to be exchanged for the bodies and souls of men. He has seen the anguish which has taken place, when parents have been torn from their children, and children from their parents, and conveyed, with their hands and feet bound in fetters, on board of ships prepared to receive them. He has seen them thrust in crowds into the holds of those ships, where many of them have perished from the want of air. He has seen such of them as have escaped from that noxious place of confinement, leap into the ocean; with a faint hope of swimming back to their native shore, or a determination to seek early retreat from their impending misery, in a watery grave. He has seen them exposed for sale, like horses and cattle, upon the wharves; or, like bales of goods, in warehouses of West India and American sea ports. He has seen the pangs of separation between members of the same family. He has seen them driven into the sugar; the rice, and the tobacco fields, and compelled to work–in spite of the habits of ease which they derived from the natural fertility of their own country in the open air, beneath a burning sun, with scarcely as much clothing upon them as modesty required. He has seen them faint beneath the pressure of their labors. He has seen them return to their smoky huts in the evening, with nothing to satisfy their hunger but a scanty allowance of roots; and these, cultivated for themselves, on that day only, which God ordained as a day of rest for man and beast. He has seen the neglect with which their masters have treated their immortal souls; not only in withholding religious instruction from them, but, in some instances, depriving them of access to the means of obtaining it. He has seen all the different modes of torture, by means of the whip, the screw, the pincers, and the red hot iron, which have been exercised upon their bodies, by inhuman overseers: overseers, did I say? Yes: but not by these only. Our God has seen masters and mistresses, educated in fashionable life, sometimes take the instruments of torture into their own hands, and, deaf to the cries and shrieks of their agonizing slaves, exceed even their overseers in cruelty. Inhuman wretches! though You have been deaf to their cries and shrieks, they have been heard in Heaven. The ears of Jehovah have been constantly open to them: He has heard the prayers that have ascended from the hearts of his people; and he has, as in the case of his ancient and chosen people the Jews, come down to deliver our suffering country-men from the hands of their oppressors. He came down into the United States, when they declared, in the constitution which they framed in 1788, that the trade in our African fellow-men, should cease in the year 1808.  He came down into the British Parliament, when they passed a law to put an end to the same iniquitous trade in May, 1807.  He came down into the Congress of the United States, the last winter, when they passed a similar law, the operation of which commences on this happy day.”

Bishop Jones delivered that sermon on January 1, 1808, in St. Thomas’s, or the African Episcopal, Church, Philadelphia, in recognition of the legislation that was passed that day by the US Congress to abolish the African slave trade.

By 1820, most of the Founding Fathers were dead and Thomas Jefferson’s party, the Democratic-Republican Party, had become the majority party in Congress, outnumbering the Federalists.  In fact, 1820 is said to be the year which marked the death of the Federalist Party.  With this new Democratic-Republican Party in charge, a change in congressional policy emerged.  At the time, a law that was enacted in 1789, prohibiting slavery in federal territory, was still on the books. In 1820, the Democratic-Republican Congress passed the Missouri Compromise and reversed that earlier policy and thereby permitted slavery in almost half of the federal territories. Several States were subsequently admitted as slave States.  For the first time since the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, slavery was being officially promoted by congressional policy. Yet, the only way for the Congress to promote slavery was to ignore the principles in the founding documents. As Founding Father and President John Quincy Adams explained:  “The first step of the slaveholder to justify by argument the peculiar institutions of slavery is to deny the self-evident truths of John Quincy Adams the Declaration of Independence. He denies that all men are created equal. He denies that they have inalienable rights.”

Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party would lay the foundation for the Democratic Party.  In 1828, the Democratic-Republicans split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe, and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the Democratic Party.  Andrew Jackson is considered our first Democratic president.  Ironically, the Democratic party believed in strict adherence and strict interpretation of the Constitution, as well as limited government and states’ rights, and it opposed a national bank and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.  [2]

The Democrats soon became the leading party in Congress and they passed several pro-slavery laws, including the infamous 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.  The Fugitive Slave Law required Northerners to return escaped slaves back into slavery or else pay huge fines. In many instances, the law became little more than an excuse for southern slave hunters to kidnap free blacks in the North and carry them into slavery in the South.

In 1854, the democratically-controlled Congress passed another law which strengthened slavery – the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Even though Democrats in Congress had already expanded the federal territories in which slavery was permitted through their passage of the Missouri Compromise, the compromise retained a ban on slavery in the particular territory that would later become the states of Kansas and Nebraska. But through the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Democrats were able to repeal that ban and therefore allow slavery to be introduced into parts of the new territory where it previously had been forbidden, thereby increasing the national area in which slavery would be permitted. This law led to what was called “bleeding Kansas,” where pro-slavery forces came pouring into the territory that was previously free and began fighting violent battles against the anti-slavery inhabitants there.

Northern leaders such as Horace Greeley (famous NY newspaper editor of his day), Ohio Senator Salmon Chase (a senator from Ohio, and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner (senator from Massachusetts, known as a powerful orator) could not sit back and watch the flood of pro-slavery settlers cross the parallel. They began to toss around the idea for a new party.  In 1854, six anti-slavery members of Congress – belonging to the Democratic Party, the Whig Party, and the Free Soil Party – wrote an article entitled “Appeal of the Independent Democrats” which was widely published in major newspapers all over the states and territories and which criticized the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  The six authors were as follows:

Salmon P. Chase  (Senator from Ohio; member of the Free Soil Party; later to become Lincoln’s Secretary of Treasury and then appointed by him to the Supreme Court where he later wrote an opinion announcing that states have no right to secede from the Union)

Charles Sumner (Senator from Massachusetts; although he helped found the Free Soil Party, he took his seat in the US Senate in 1851 as a Democrat. Sumner was known as a powerful orator. In fact, in 1856, after he delivered an intensely anti-slavery speech called “The Crime Against Kansas” on the Senate floor, he was almost beaten to death by a senator from South Carolina)

J. R. Giddiugs   (anti-slavery congressman from Ohio; member of the Whig Party who would befriend a fellow Whig, Abraham Lincoln)

Edward Wade  (Congressman from Ohio, member of the Free Soil Party)

Gerritt Smith  (Congressman from New York, member of the Free Soil Party; staunch abolitionist)

Alexander De Witt  (Congressman from Massachusetts, member of the Free Soil Party)

The “Appeal of the Independent Democrats” stated:

      “The original settled policy of the United States, clearly indicated by the Jefferson provision of 1784 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, was non-extension of slavery.  In 1803 Louisiana was acquired by purchase from France and the plain language of the treaty under which the territory had been acquired from France emphasized that national policy……

     We appeal to the people. We warn you that the dearest interests of freedom and the Union are in imminent peril. Demagogues may tell you that the Union can be maintained only by submitting to the demands of slavery. We tell you that the Union can only be maintained by the full recognition of the just claims of freedom and man. The Union was formed to establish justice and secure the blessings of liberty. When it fails to accomplish these ends it will be worthless, and when it becomes worthless it cannot long endure.

     We entreat you to be mindful of that fundamental maxim of Democracy—EQUAL RIGHTS AND EXACT JUSTICE FOR ALL MEN. Do not submit to become agents in extending legalized oppression and systematized injustice over a vast territory yet exempt from these terrible evils.

     We implore Christians and Christian ministers to interpose. Their divine religion requires them to behold in every man a brother, and to labor for the advancement and regeneration of the human race.

     Whatever apologies may be offered for the toleration of slavery in the States, none can be offered for its extension into Territories where it does not exist, and where that extension involves the repeal of ancient law and the violation of solemn compact. Let all protest, earnestly and emphatically, by correspondence, through the press, by memorials, by resolutions of public meetings and legislative bodies, and in whatever other mode may seem expedient, against this enormous crime.

      For ourselves, we shall resist it by speech and vote, and with all the abilities which God has given us. Even if overcome in the impending struggle, we shall not submit. We shall go home to our constituents, erect anew the standard of freedom, and call on the people to come to the rescue of the country from the domination of slavery. We will not despair; for the cause of human freedom is the cause of God.”

Following the publication of this “Appeal,” spontaneous anti-slavery demonstrations occurred throughout 1854.  Sentiment was quickly building for this new political party which would oppose slavery and help secure equal civil rights for negroes.  It would become known as the Republican Party.  The Republican Party name was christened in an editorial written by newspaper magnate Horace Greeley. Greeley printed in June 1854: “We should not care much whether those thus united against slavery are designated ‘Whig,’ ‘Free Democrat’ or something else.  We  think some simple name like ‘Republican’ would more fitly designate those who had united to restore the Union to its true mission of champion and promulgator of Liberty rather than propagandist of slavery.”

By 1855 it would already have a majority in the US House of Representatives.  By 1856, it held its first nominating convention, in Philadelphia, where it announced that it had become a unified political force.  It’s first presidential candidate would be Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  And his platform would specifically include a pledge not to permit slavery to exist into any US territory that was not already a state.

Before Lincoln would run for president, there would be one more insult to the negro – the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857. This decision would energize the growing abolitionist movement.

In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether a slave who escaped from a slave state to a free state is considered free.  And the words and thought which flowed from the minds of such supposed constitutional scholars entrusted with the bench of the highest court in the land represented the lowest point in American constitutional jurisprudence.

On March 6th, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a Democrat, a staunch supporter of slavery, and one intent on protecting the South from northern aggression, delivered the majority opinion. He summed the case up in one question: “The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country (from Africa), and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen?  One of which rights is the privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified in the Constitution.”

Taney answered: “We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.”

Seven of the nine justices agreed that Dred Scott should remain a slave, but Taney did not stop there. He referred to blacks as an “inferior race” and an “unfortunate race” and a degraded and unhappy race.”  He said they are “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery.”  He ruled that blacks, whether slaves or as free men, are descended from an inferior race which was never intended to be included among the class of persons protected by our Declaration of Independence or Constitution.  As he explained, the framers of the Constitution believed that blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it.” Justice Taney ruled that as a slave, Scott was not a citizen of the United States, could never be a citizen, was therefore not entitled to any rights or privileges afforded by the Constitution, and therefore had no right to bring suit in the federal courts on any matter.  In other words, because blacks (Africans, as Taney referred to them) are an inferior race, they are only fit to serve the interests of other human beings. No African, therefore, can ever be protected by the Constitution.  Referring to the language in the Declaration of Independence that includes the phrase, “all men are created equal,” Taney reasoned that “it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration….”

In addition, he declared that Scott had never been free, due to the fact that slaves were personal property; thus the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional, and the Federal Government had no right to prohibit slavery in the new territories. The court appeared to be sanctioning slavery under the terms of the Constitution itself, and saying that slavery could not be outlawed or restricted within the United States.

There was a growing abolitionist movement in the United States at the time, particularly in the northern states.  And the Dred Scott decision gave further fuel to ignite the movement.  As mentioned above, Abraham Lincoln ran in 1860 on a platform which promised to end the spread of slavery. He would prohibit slavery in any territory of the United States; only those states already established would be able to keep the institution. He believed if slavery was contained, it would easily die a natural death.  [3]

When Lincoln won the election, and even before he was inaugurated, the southern states began to secede from the Union.  South Carolina led the way.  Eleven southern states would secede and form a new nation – the Confederate States of America – with their own constitution, government, and leaders. Their new constitution permitted slavery outright.  President Lincoln, believing the states had no right to secede, attacked the Confederacy (at Fort Sumter) and engaged them a Civil War from 1861-1865.

The Civil War was fought for many reasons but one instigating factor was slavery, indeed.  While the North did not invade the South for the purpose of abolishing slavery, in 1863, it became politically expedient for Lincoln to announce that slaves will be emancipated.  He figured it would energize the war effort, hasten the defeat of the South, and end the war.  And so, on January 1, as the nation approached its third year of horrible bloodshed, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation which declared that “all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward, shall be free.”  The 1963 Emancipation Proclamation was a great boost for moral, particularly among slaves and abolitionists.

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways.  First, it would be seen as a temporary war measure, since it was solely based on Lincoln’s war powers. Furthermore, the Proclamation did not free any slaves in the border states nor itself make slavery illegal. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.  What it did, however, was to invigorate the abolitionist sentiment in the north, and more importantly, it changed the character of the war.  The war went from being a war to re-unite and save the Union to a war to free the slaves.  After Lincoln delivered the Proclamation, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, approximately 186,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and for freedom.  But how to overcome the limitations of the Emancipation Proclamation and memorialize the intent and spirit it represented?

A constitutional amendment would have to be the answer.

Even before the war had come to an end, in April 1865, an amendment to the US Constitution was drafted to abolish slavery and a vote was taken in Congress.  It would be the 13th Amendment, which provides: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”  The Senate proposed the amendment in February of 1864 and passed it two months later.  But the House refused to pass it.  President Lincoln then got involved.  If the House wouldn’t pass it, then he would make sure the amendment was added to the Republican Party platform for the upcoming Presidential election. His efforts must have worked because the House passed the joint resolution (the 13th Amendment) on January 31, 1865, by a vote of 119 to 56.  It was a very partisan amendment, with 100% of House republicans voting in favor and only 23% of democrats supporting it. It was then sent to the states for adoption.  Note that the Civil War had not yet been won at this point.  The bloody war would not end until April 9, when the great General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia (the confederate army) to the victorious General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.

The 13th Amendment was finally ratified on December 6, 1865 when 27 out of the 36 states ratified it (= 3/4 of the states, as required by Article V of the Constitution).  Unfortunately, Lincoln would not live to see the day when slavery would be officially abolished in the country for he was assassinated on Good Friday, April 14.

When the war ended, and the Confederate States of America were defeated, plans had to be made for the individual southern states to re-enter the Union.  Conditions had to be required. And as it turned out, some degree of punishment would be inflicted as well.  While the 13th Amendment received the approval of 3/4 of the states and became effective as part of the Constitution, many of the southern states were still bitter and not willing to recognize blacks as anything other than slaves or an inferior race of people. Slavery may have been abolished by the Constitution but it didn’t mean that they, as states, had to treat them any differently.  Blacks may have been free, but the states weren’t about to permit them to be citizens.  And so Congress came up with the Civil Rights Act.

That was still the year of 1865.

In 1865,  Republican Senator Lyman Trumbull (of Illinois) proposed the Civil Rights Act.  (He was also the co- drafter of the 13th Amendment).  The Civil Rights Act declared that people born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power are entitled to be citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.  It also said that any citizen has the same right as a white citizen to make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.  The Civil Rights Act passed both houses of Congress, but President Andrew Johnson vetoed it – in 1865 and then again in 1866.  But in 1866, a 2/3 majority in each house overcame the veto and the bill became law (hence, the official name of the legislation – the Civil Rights Act of 1866).  But that victory didn’t come without a fight by the Democrats.  Democrats tried to stall the passing of this legislation by declaring it was unconstitutional, but Trumball, an attorney and former chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, countered by arguing that Congress had power to enact it in order to eliminate a discriminatory “badge of servitude” prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment.  [In the 20th century, the US Supreme Court would ultimately adopt Trumbull’s rationale in finding congressional power to ban racial discrimination by states and by private parties].

To eliminate any doubt about its constitutionality and to make sure that no subsequent Congress would later repeal or alter its core provisions, Republican members of  Congress decided to memorialize the Civil Rights Act in a constitutional amendment. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 would become our 14th Amendment.  Republican members of the US Congress took advantage of the fact that the southern states were not yet restored to the Union.  In order to be sure that they had the required majority of Senators to pass the amendment (2/3, as required by Article V of the Constitution), they pulled a fast one.  They simply refused to seat Senators from the southern states.

The 14th Amendment declares that free slaves are citizens – not only of the United States but also of the state in which they reside – and as such are entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizenship.  (“All persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state they reside.”)   It also provides that freed slaves cannot be deprived of Life, Liberty, and Property without Due Process and that they are entitled to the Equal Protection of the laws.  The Citizenship Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment paralleled the “citizenship” language and the “nondiscrimination” language, respectively, in the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  (They would not be re-admitted until 1868- 1870).

Specifically, the 14th Amendment reads:   Section 1:  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that expressly overruled the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857, which declared that all blacks – slaves as well as free – were not and could never become citizens of the United States.  The Due Process Clause prohibits state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without certain steps being taken to ensure fairness. This clause has been used to make most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, as well as to recognize substantive and procedural rights. And the Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This clause was the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation in our schools.

The 14th Amendment was proposed on June 13, 1866, as House Joint Resolution 127, and was then immediately sent to the states for ratification.  At that time, the eleven defeated confederate states were not yet re-admitted to the Union. Nonetheless, as with the 13th Amendment, they were asked to ratify the 14th Amendment, which all refused to do – except Tennessee, which adopted it immediately and was therefore permitted re-admission. It was re-admitted on July 24, 1866. (Tennessee had been conflicted even from the very beginning as to whether it wanted to secede or not.  In fact, after the state legislature voted to secede from the Union, a large portion of the population tried to secede from Tennessee and remain with the Union).  In addition, the 14th Amendment was decidedly rejected by the border states as well. By March 1867, twenty states had ratified and thirteen had rejected the proposed amendment. With the southern and border states refusing to adopt the 14th Amendment, it failed to secure the 3/4 of states necessary for ratification as required under Article V.   And so the amendment failed to pass.

After learning that the proposed amendment’s failure, the Republicans (specifically referred to as the “Radical Republicans”) in Congress responded by passing the Reconstruction Act of March 2, 1867, which essentially put the south under martial law and restricted their abilities to govern themselves and to participate in the federal government.  Under the congressional plan, the former confederacy (minus Tennessee) was broken up into five military districts. Each district was under the control of federal troops and headed by a particular northern Civil War general.  This was the notorious Reconstruction Era, which would have longstanding impressions on the southern states.  The purpose of Reconstruction, as was made clear by the Reconstruction Act, was to punish the South.  The law set out to determine the conditions under which the southern states would be permitted to return to the Union, how they would be re-seated in government, how they would govern themselves, what would become of their “rebellious” leaders, and how they would treat their freedmen.  All this would be determined while the states were under martial law and under the scrutiny of the federal government.  Specifically, in order to be re-admitted to the Union , the states would have to rewrite their constitutions to disqualify former Confederate officials from office and guarantee black males the right to vote.  Most importantly, the states would have to ratify the 14th Amendment.  Once these conditions were met and military rule was ended, then could the former confederate states be re-admitted to the Union.  As one Republican (northern) representative described the situation: “The people of the South have rejected the constitutional amendment and therefore we will march upon them and force them to adopt it at the point of the bayonet.”

By July 9, 1868, with ratification by North Carolina, Louisiana, and then South Carolina, enough states had ratified the 14th Amendment so that it was certified to become part of the US Constitution.  It would not be until 1870 that the last southern state, Georgia, would be re-admitted and the Union would be reconstituted.  [4]

Let’s return again to the year 1865.  In that year, the Republican Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman, and Abandoned Lands (aka, “Freedman’s Bureau”) to help freed slaves transition from bondage to freedom.  An Inquiry Commission was tasked with assessing the needs of Freedman to justify whether such a Bureau was  worthwhile, and in their Final Report, the Commission concluded:

“Let us beware the temptation to treat the colored people with less than even justice, because they have been, and still are, lowly and feeble. Let us bear in mind that, with governments as with individuals, the crucial test of civilization and sense of justice is their treatment of the weak and the dependent.

God is offering to us an opportunity of atoning, in some measure, to the African for our former complicity in his wrongs. For our own sakes, as well as for his, let it not be lost. As we would that He should be to us and to our children, so let us be to those whose dearest interests are, by His providence, committed for the time to our charge.

As regards the question, What amount of aid and interference is necessary or desirable to enable the freedmen to tide over the stormy transition from slavery to freedom?   We have chiefly to say that there is as much danger in doing too much as in doing too little. The risk is serious that, under the guise of guardianship, slavery, in a modified form, may be practically restoredThose who have ceased, only perforce, to be slave-holders, will be sure to unite their efforts to effect just such a purpose. It should be the earnest object of all friends of liberty to anticipate and prevent it. Benevolence itself, misdirected, may play into the hands of freedom’s enemies, and those whose earnest endeavor is the good of the freedman may, unconsciously, contribute to his virtual re-enslavement.

The refugees from slavery, when they first cross our lines, need temporary aid, but not more than indigent Southern whites fleeing from secessionism, both being sufferers from the disturbance of labor and the destruction of its products incident to war. The families of colored men, hired as military laborers or enlisted as soldiers, need protection and assistance, but not more than the families of white men similarly situated. Forcibly deprived of education in a state of slavery, the freedmen have a claim upon us to lend a helping hand until they can organize schools for their children. But they will soon take the labor and expense out of our hands, for these people pay no charge more willingly than that which assures them that their children shall reap those advantages of instruction which were denied to themselves.

For a time we need a freedman’s bureau, but not because these people are negroes, only because they are men who have been, for generations, despoiled of their rights. The Commission has, in supplemental report made to you last December, recommended the establishment of such a bureau, and they believe that all that is essential to its proper organization is contained, substantially, in a bill to that effect reported on April 12 from the Senate Committee on Slavery and Freedmen.”

The Freedman’s Bureau established schools to teach freed slaves how to read and write and provide them with a basic education. The Bureau also provided food, set up courts to protect emancipated slaves’ contractual and other civil rights, and founded savings banks to protect their assets. The crowning achievement of the Freedman’s Bureau was its significant accomplishments in the area education, particularly in the face of the hostile political environment towards blacks at the time. By the end of 1867, the number of schools had doubled and the number of blacks (adults and children) being educated had tripled.  At the same time, the number of banks (including the “Freedman’s Saving & Trust Company,” chartered by Congress) had increased and freedmen were saving at a rate of four times higher than the previous year to purchase homestead plots and businesses.

Unfortunately, the activities of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), as well as state action in the form of Black Codes and then Jim Crow, would present barriers to the Republican’s plan to advance the freed slaves and make sure that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 would fail to secure their civil rights. The KKK, as we’ll soon see, was started in 1866 to frustrate the attempts of Republicans to infect the South.  Black Codes were laws that were passed in the 1860′s by the Southern states (and varying from state to state), to maintain the inferiority of freed blacks and to undermine their civil rights. The black codes were passed in retaliation to the abolition of slavery and the defeat by the North.  They had their roots in the former slave codes, which were premised on the notion that Africans were property, or chattel (and therefore, had very few, if any, legal rights).  Black Codes were distinct from Jim Crow. Jim Crow refers to an era ushered in later in the 19th century, following Reconstruction.

As mentioned earlier, 1867 was the start of the Reconstruction Era.  In order to be re-admitted to the Union , the former confederate states would have to endure military rule until they met the conditions set forth in the Reconstruction Act –  including rewriting their constitutions to disqualify former Confederate officials from office, guaranteeing black males the right to vote, and ratifying the 14th Amendment.  During Reconstruction, military governors oversaw the registration of voters, in order that freed slaves were not disenfranchised. Under the scrutiny of federal troops, elections were held in which the freed slaves could vote. At the same time, while whites who held leading positions under the Confederacy were not only barred from running for office but were also temporarily denied the right to vote.  It was a profoundly bitter time for the South.

Reconstruction was never part of Lincoln’s plan to restore the Union.  We have to take him at his word.  In his second Inaugural Address, he declared: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.”

As one reference describes that period of time for the South: “Reconstruction is the period after the war when the South was under martial law and when the people basically lost their rights as Americans, was a terrible time for the citizens of the former Confederate States of America. It was intended by the US Congress as punishment for secession. The South was controlled by military leaders, who may have been excellent commanders in battle, but were pretty much universally horrible as governors. A ‘carpetbagger’ government was put in place… Men who were generally scoundrels and often criminals served as ‘rulers’ of the states and communities. They appointed former Union sympathizers and former slaves in positions of authority, to infuriate and humiliate the people. This was pretty much a lawless time throughout much of the south, not unlike that in the western territories. [Former Civil War General Nathaniel Bedford] Forrest described that government as ‘I believe that party to be composed, as I know it is in Tennessee, of the worst men on Gods earth – men who would not hesitate at no crime, and who have only one object in view – to enrich themselves.’ “  [ www.freesociety.com]

Reconstruction would last for 17 years and would be responsible for much of the resentment that the South continues to feel for the North and for the government in general.

In ten out of the eleven seceding southern states (again, all except Tennessee), black freedmen and white transplants from the North (known as “carpetbaggers” because many brought their belongings in large carpet bags)  and white Southerners who switched allegiance and supported Reconstruction (known as “scalawags“) joined together to establish republican bi-racial state governments during the Reconstruction era. They introduced various reconstruction programs, secured massive federal aid to re-build railroads and other transportation, established public school systems, and raised taxes to fund it all.  They also helped freed blacks become involved in the local government, become educated, and become employed. These groups, however, were seen as outsiders and/or traitors and were attempting to transform the South into a society that it wasn’t ready to accept. They would have to be stopped.  Thus was born the Ku Klux Klan.

History teaches us that the Ku Klux Klan was a violent organization aimed at terrorizing and intimidating former slaves. They operated as a secret society – a bunch of cowards with white gowns and masks, often carrying guns and a noose.  We know the Klan’s record of burning crosses and lynching negroes. We know its record on civil rights.

But the reason the Ku Klux Klan was formed was for a far different purpose.  The KKK was founded in 1866 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by six former Confederate officers of the Civil War.  These men approached distinguished General Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the great heroes of the war, with the idea of a “police force” and asked for his “blessings,” for he held the love and respect of the people.  He gave his blessings, and in return, he was appointed their first leader. He was the first Grand Wizard.  He would describe the organization as a social club and as “a protective political military organization.”  It was initially formed to help take care of poor Confederate widows.  They also fought crime and “took care” of criminals.  In other words, they basically restored order to the South, where for years there was none.

In an interview, General Forrest had this to say: “Yes, sir. It is a protective political military organization. I am willing to show any man the constitution of the society. The members are sworn to recognize the government of the United States. It does not say anything at all about the government of Tennessee. Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic; but after it became general it was found that political matters and interests could best be promoted within it, and it was then made a political organization, giving its support, of course, to the democratic party…….Since its organization, the leagues have quit killing and murdering our people. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country, frightening negroes, but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say, further, that three members of the Ku-Klux have been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people.”

But soon, the Klan took on a more aggressive nature.  It began to “persuade” freed blacks to assume their former status and to “scare” them into not voting or running for any elected office, as well as to harass and intimidate northern transplants, southern republicans, and other southerners who were supportive of the Union.

Controversy exists over whether Forrest actually played an active part in the organization and when he decided to sever his associate with it.  Within a year or two of the Klan’s founding,  Forrest was asked if he was a member and he answered: “I am not, but am in sympathy and will co-operate with them. I know that they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of.”  In 1869  he asked the KKK to disband, stating: “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace.”

Again, the KKK, as originally intended, did not target Negroes.  In fact, Forrest gave many speeches and talks around the Memphis area from 1866, the year the KKK was founded, until 1874.  Most of these speeches talked of peace, patriotism for the US Constitution, and trying to bring the country back together.  On several occasions, he addressed black groups, to which he spoke these words: “We are born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live on the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters?”  This is hardly the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan that it would later become — a murderous hate group.

[Someone once asked Robert E. Lee to name the greatest soldier produced on either side during the war and he replied, “A man I have never seen, sir. His name is Forrest.”  William Tecumseh Sherman, General of the Army of the Potomac, who during the War called him “that devil Forrest,” also had a high opinion of Forrest and said, “Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side.” ]

As we all know, the KKK would continue on to spread into nearly every Southern state, launching a “reign of terror” against Republican leaders – black and white.  It would become the “militant arm” of the Democratic Party.  Forrest’s grandson, Nathan Bedford Forrest II, a democrat and Grand Dragon of the KKK, wrote in the September 1928 edition of the Klan’s The Kourier Magazine: “I have never voted for any man who was not a regular Democrat.  My father  never voted for any man who was not a Democrat.  My grandfather was the head of the Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction days….  My great-grandfather was a life-long Democrat….  My great-great-grandfather was…one of the founders of the Democratic party.”

In Dr. Eric Foner’s book, A Short History of Reconstruction, he wrote: “In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy.  It aimed to destroy the Republican party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.”  [pg. 184].  He provides many accounts of the horrific acts of terror inflicted by Democrats on black and white Republicans.  Professor Foner recounts one such act of  terror: “Jack Dupree was a victim of a particularly brutal murder in Monroe County, Mississippi. Assailants cut his throat and disemboweled him, all within sight of his wife, who had just given birth to twins.  He was ‘president of a republican club‘ and known as a man who ‘would speak his mind.’”   [pp. 184-185].

After examining the abundant evidence concerning this violence, US Senator Roscoe Conkling concluded that the Democratic Party was determined to exterminate blacks in those States where Democratic supremacy was threatened.  As a response to Democratic violence in the South, and in order to further secure the civil rights of blacks, Congress passed the 15th Amendment, explicitly guaranteeing voting rights for blacks.

The 15th Amendment – the final of the three post-war civil rights amendments was proposed by the US Congress on February 26, 1869.  It was ratified by the states in 1870.  It was the first-ever constitutional expansion of voting rights.  Like the two previous civil rights amendments, it was passed along partisan lines. Not a single one of the 56 Democrats in Congress at that time voted for the 15th Amendment.  Not a single Democrat, either from the North or the South, supported granting explicit voting rights to black Americans. Several fierce advocates of equal rights, like Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, abstained from voting because it did not go far enough, in their opinion.  They wanted the amendment to prohibit such arbitrary schemes which states might use to restrict black suffrage, such as literacy tests and poll taxes. Yet, despite the opposition from Democrats, the 15th Amendment did pass, thanks to the overwhelming support by Republican legislators. With the passage of this Amendment, leading abolitionist Wendell Phillips joyfully exclaimed, “We have washed color out of the Constitution!”

Reconstruction officially ended with the presidential election of 1876, which is discussed below. The newly-elected president, Rutherford B. Hayes, removed the remaining federal soldiers from the military districts and the southern states were once again free to resume their traditional state functions. Once the soldiers were gone, however, southern Democrats started mistreating the black people again with no fear of punishment because there were no soldiers to enforce the new laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the civil rights amendments.  As Republican influence was waning in the former confederacy, there was little political protection for the emancipated blacks from the Republican Party. It would only get worse in the years following the end of martial law.

The period that followed Reconstruction was known as “Redemption.”  Redeemers were part of the Southern Democrats who sought to oust the Republican coalition of freedmen, carpetbaggers, and scalawags and “redeem” the states from the Republicans back to the Democrats.  Redemption would be complete before the election of 1880.

It wasn’t until 1876 that the Southern Democrats were finally able to regain state political control. And it occurred thanks to the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan and other more formal paramilitary (terrorist/intimidation) groups affiliated with the Democratic Party, such as the White League and the Red Shirts.  And it most specifically occurred thanks to the fraud and controversy which surrounded the 1876 election between Republican presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden.  By 1876, only 3 states – Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida – were not yet “redeemed.”  The election ended up with 20 disputed electoral votes.  On election night, as the votes were counted and the results circulated about the country by telegraph, it was clear that Tilden had won the popular vote.  His final popular vote tally would be 4,288,546. The total popular vote for Hayes was 4,034,311. But the election was deadlocked. Tilden had 184 electoral votes, one vote short of the required majority. Four states – Oregon, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida – had disputed elections, and those states held 20 electoral votes.

A special commission, the Electoral Commission, was established by Congress to resolve those votes. There were 15 members – 7 members from the Democratic House, 7 members from the Republican Senate, and one member from the Supreme Court (who turned out to be a Republican). The commission voted along strict partisan lines to award all the disputed voted to Hayes, making him the winner by an electoral count of 185-184.  Infuriated Democrats threatened to contest the election results until a deal was struck with Republicans. The Democrats would agree to support the commission’s finding in exchange for removing federal troops from the South, naming a Southerner to the Hayes’ cabinet, and allocating federal aid to the South.  The Democratic Party regained power in South Carolina in 1877 and other states quickly followed.  Thus was the quick rise and fall of the Republican Party in the South.

The 1880′s began the period known as the Jim Crow era.  This was the era where democratic state legislatures attempted to roll back the advances on behalf of freed slaves and other blacks by the Republicans. It was during this time that democratic state legislatures disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites through a combination of state constitutional amendments and electoral laws. They segregated blacks from white society and plantation owners found new ways to bind their former slaves as miserably-paid workers through sharecropping and other contractual arrangements. For all intents and purposes, many blacks found themselves in virtually the same position they had occupied before their emancipation.

In 1896, the Supreme Court heard the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which addressed a  Louisiana Jim Crow law that segregated rail cars. Homer Plessy, a black man, tried to board a “whites-only” train in Louisiana when the car designated for blacks was full.  Once he boarded, he was forcibly removed and jailed. He sued the state, claiming the Louisiana segregation laws violated both his 13th and 14th Amendment rights. The Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, ruled that the 14th Amendment did not include a requirement that the races needed to be co-mingled and therefore upheld the doctrine of “Separate but Equal” when it came to facilities for blacks.  Segregation was justified, providing the facilities and services were essentially equal.  Plessy marked the beginning of a 58-year period where Jim Crow laws were largely unchallenged and condoned by the federal government.  It not only perpetuated the white supremacist beliefs of the time, but also made it possible for states to make and enforce Jim Crow laws with impunity.

As admirable and inspiring as blacks were in the years following their liberation, a stark contrast in human nature was seen by the forces against them. Groups like the KKK and southern democrats behaved shamefully, deplorably, and inhumanely. Blacks began a distinguished, dignified, and long-overdue chapter in their history after the Civil War, but the opposite was true for the groups who acted in opposition to their freedom and to their rapid success. Many southern Democrats despised blacks and Republicans and they utilized every means possible to keep them from voting – including not only the use of devious and cunning means but also the direct use of violence. Here’s the thing. After slavery was abolished, ALL freed slaves and other blacks were Republicans. [In the South, whites were mostly Democratic, but some could be Republican. Southern whites loyal to the antebellum South were mostly Democratic. Whites who sympathized with the North and wanted civil rights for blacks were Republican (scalawags). The worst thing you could be in the Reconstruction era South, and in the years that followed, was a Republican. And the most offensive Republican was a black one.

By 1900, democrats actually began actively to seek a repeal of the 14th and 15th Amendments.  As democratic Senator Ben Tillman from South Carolina explained:  “We made up our minds that the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were themselves null and void; that the civil rights acts of Congress were null and void; that oaths required by such laws were null and void.”  Prominent democratic leader A. W. Terrell of Texas said that the 15th Amendment guaranteeing black voting rights was “the political blunder of the century.”

Democrats from both the North and the South agreed with Terrell and Tillman, and several asked for a repeal of the  amendments.  Louisiana Senator Samuel McEnery, who was one of those democrats, was confident that the effort would succeed.  He even declared: “I believe that not a single southern Senator would object to such a move.”  Fortunately, the attempt failed.

In 1901, at the same time that democrats were seeking to roll back the civil rights amendments, republican President Teddy Roosevelt infuriated many democrats by inviting Booker T. Washington, a mulatto former slave who went on to become the leader of the Tuskegee Institute, to the White House.  Washington became the first American of African descent to dine with a President at the White House.  He served as an advisor to three republican US presidents – William McKinley, Roosevelt, and William Taft.  Democrat President Woodrow Wilson, however, would not seek his counsel.

In 1915, the pro-Klan movie “Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffith was released to help beef up the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan.  It was based on a book called “The Clansman” which was written by an avid racist, Thomas Dixon Jr.  Dixon’s text incorporated some material from Woodrow Wilson’s book, “History of the American People” – particularly the part portraying the Ku Klux Klan in a sympathetic light.  For example, it includes this piece from Wilson’s book: “The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation until at last there had spring into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.”  This section also made it into Griffith’s movie.  Democratic president Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) held a private showing of this racist Klan-recruiting film at the White House.  It was the first film to ever be shown at the White House.  How racist was this film?  It would become a major recruiting tool.  It would be so successful that it helped the Klan to reach its peak membership of almost two million. Could the success in recruitment stem, perhaps, from an endorsement of the film from the highest office in the land?

President Woodrow Wilson was the first southerner to be elected to the White House since 1844 and only the second Democrat to be elected since Reconstruction. While he is respected as a scholar (serving as president of Princeton University) and viewed as a man of peace, especially in the public school system (he presented his “Fourteen Points of Peace” to Congress for establishing a lasting peace in Europe after WWI and wanted so badly to establish his particular version of a League of Nations), he was also regarded as an outright racist and a white supremacist. There is certainly an abundance of historical documentation to support this statement. While serving as the president of Princeton, Wilson discouraged black from applying to the university.  And then when he served as Governor of New Jersey, he refused to confirm the hiring of blacks in his administration. As Wilson was known to say: “Segregation is not humiliating; it’s a benefit!” As historians explain, he was a product of the pre- and post-war South and was brought up under the assumption at the time that the black race was inferior to the Saxon people. He was also bitter over the forced policies of Reconstruction on the southern states.  He feared what might arise from a South “ruled by an ignorant and inferior race.”  Ironically, in the election of 1912, “an unprecedented number” of blacks left the Republican Party to cast their vote for Wilson, a Democrat because they were encouraged by his promises of support for minorities.

But once he took office however, he acted contrary to his campaign promises. Black leaders quickly noticed that he put segregationist white southern democrats in charge of many executive departments.  He fired most of the blacks who held appointed posts within the federal government, and then permitted his segregationist cabinet appointees to establish official segregation policies in the Post Office, Treasury, and Navy, which until that time had been desegregated.  (Many of these would remain segregated clear into the Truman administration, in the 1940’s). Suddenly, under his authority, photographs were required of all applicants for federal jobs and new facilities were designed to keep the races working there separated (including separate toilets and lunch rooms).  And then the democrat-controlled House proposed passed a bill making it a felony for any black person to marry a white person in Washington DC.

In the early 20th century, African-Americans needed a President to offer them hope.  In many parts of the country, mostly in the South however, whites made them feel inferior.  State laws enshrined a presumption of inferiority. And the Supreme Court had upheld those laws, thereby allowing the perpetuation of such laws and establishing cruel stereotypes.  In the early 1860’s, Abraham Lincoln was one such president who offered hope.  In a time when it wasn’t necessarily acceptable, he formed a strong friendship with a man of color – Frederick Douglass, a freed slave.  Douglass was welcome at the White House and was often there to speak with the President.  The mutual affection the men had for each other inspired Douglass to write these words in his memoirs after Lincoln was assassinated: “I have often said elsewhere what I wish to repeat here, that Mr. Lincoln was not only a great president, but a great man — too great to be small in anything. In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.”

But Woodrow Wilson would not be that kind of president.  His government policies would remind black Americans of their humble origin and of their unpopular color.  It would remind them of the low expectations that the country still had of them.  Robert Kennedy once spoke most eloquently about the importance of standing up for the rights of others. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The Jim Crow effectively ended in 1954 when the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case.  The case addressed de jure(legislative) segregation in public schools.  Segregation was permissible at the time, supported by the Plessy standard – “separate-but-equal.” As long as facilities were fairly equal, the Supreme Court did not interpret the 14th Amendment to require a physical mixing of the races. With Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court kept the spirit of Jim Crow alive by proclaiming from the highest legal tribunal that segregation was permissible under the 14th Amendment’s notion of Equal Protection of the laws.  But after looking at the particular case of public school segregation, Chief Justice Earl Warren, who delivered the Court’s opinion, declared that the doctrine of “separate-but-equal” doctrine of Plessy had no place in public education. It was a personal opinion that he held strongly and which he apparently withheld during his Senate confirmation for the high court.  He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1953 by President Harry Truman just in time for oral arguments in the Brown case.  As soon as the Senate confirmed him, he told his colleagues on the bench that he believed racial segregation violated the Constitution and that only if one considered African Americans inferior to whites could the practice be upheld.

Chief Justice Earl Warren was a Republican. In fact, he ran as a Republican for the seat of Governor of California, which he won. He served three terms. 

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court’s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the civil rights movement.  It is said that the case was decided by the results of a “doll test.”

The doll test at the heart of the Brown decision was designed by Mamie and Kenneth Clark, African-American (husband and wife) psychologists, to study the effects of segregation and racism on the self-esteem of black children.  In the test, black children were put in a room with two types of dolls – a white doll with blonde hair and a brown doll with black hair – and then observed to see which dolls they preferred to play with. The children were then asked questions inquiring as to which doll is the nice doll, which one looks bad, which one has the nicer color, etc.  (Mamie used a similar test as the basis of her master’s thesis).  All the black children preferred the white dolls.  The findings of the Clarks’ doll test were submitted to the Supreme Court as evidence of the negative impact of segregation on the mental and psychological status of black schoolchildren. The Clarks concluded that the children felt the impact of segregation and felt a sense of inferiority.

The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself (drawing on the “doll study” research). This aspect was vital because the question was not whether the schools were “equal,” which under the Plessy standard, they should have been, but whether the doctrine of “separate-but-equal” was constitutional with respect to public education. The justices answered with a strong “no.”  Chief Justice Warren wrote:

Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does… Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system… We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The decision did not sit well with Southern Democrats.  After 90 years, they still weren’t willing to allow blacks to “sit at the same table” with whites.

In a campaign known as “Massive Resistance,” Southern white legislators and school boards enacted laws and policies to evade or defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown ruling and its mandate to desegregate schools “with all deliberate speed.”  [Brown v. Board of Education II (1955), where the Supreme Court specifically addressed the relief that would be appropriate in light of the 1954 Brown decision].  In 1956, nearly every congressman in the Deep South – 101 in all (out of the 128 total in the region) – signed a document entitled the “Southern Manifesto,” drafted by Senator Strom Thurmond, to repudiate the decision.  19 Senators and 77 members of the US House from the southern states signed it.  Of all the 101 southern legislators who signed the document, all were Southern Democrats – except two congressman from Virginia who were Republicans. The Southern Manifesto said the Brown decision not only represented “a clear abuse of judicial power,” but it was an unconstitutional interpretation. It argued that the Constitution does not grant the government the power to legislate in the area of education and it has no power to force states to integrate their schools. Furthermore, the signers urged their state officials to resist implementing the Court’s mandates.

Two years later, in response to the Southern Manifesto and in response to southern opposition in general, the Supreme Court revisited the Brown decision in Cooper v. Aaron(1958), asserting that the states were bound by the ruling and affirming that its interpretation of the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land.”

The Southern Manifesto on Integration (of March 12, 1956) read:

      The unwarranted decision of the Supreme Court in the public school cases is now bearing the fruit always produced when men substitute naked power for established law.

     The Founding Fathers gave us a Constitution of checks and balances because they realized the inescapable lesson of history that no man or group of men can be safely entrusted with unlimited power. They framed this Constitution with its provisions for change by amendment in order to secure the fundamentals of government against the dangers of temporary popular passion or the personal predilections of public officeholders. 

     We regard the decision of the Supreme Court in the school cases as clear abuse of judicial power. It climaxes a trend in the Federal judiciary undertaking to legislate, in derogation of the authority of Congress, and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the states and the people. 

     The original Constitution does not mention education. Neither does the Fourteenth Amendment nor any other amendment. The debates preceding the submission of the Fourteenth Amendment clearly show that there was no intent that it should affect the systems of education maintained by the states. 

     The very Congress which proposed the amendment subsequently provided for segregated schools in the District of Columbia. 

     When the amendment was adopted in 1868, there were thirty-seven states of the Union. Every one of the twenty-six states that had any substantial racial differences among its people either approved the operation of segregated schools already in existence or subsequently established such schools by action of the same law-making body which considered the Fourteenth Amendment. 

     As admitted by the Supreme Court in the public school case (Brown v. Board of Education), the doctrine of separate but equal schools “apparently originated in Roberts v. City of Boston (1849), upholding school segregation against attack as being violative of a state constitutional guarantee of equality.” This constitutional doctrine began in the North – not in the South – and it was followed not only in Massachusetts but in Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other northern states until they, exercising their rights as states through the constitutional processes of local self-government, changed their school systems. 

      In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 the Supreme Court expressly declared that under the Fourteenth Amendment no person was denied any of his rights if the states provided separate but equal public facilities. This decision has been followed in many other cases. It is notable that the Supreme Court, speaking through Chief Justice Taft, a former President of the United States, unanimously declared in 1927 in Lum v. Rice that the “separate but equal” principle is “within the discretion of the state in regulating its public schools and does not conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment.” 

     This interpretation, restated time and again, became a part of the life of the people of many of the states and confirmed their habits, customs, traditions and way of life. It is founded on elemental humanity and common sense, for parents should not be deprived by Government of the right to direct the lives and education of their own children. 

     Though there has been no constitutional amendment or act of Congress changing this established legal principle almost a century old, the Supreme Court of the United States, with no legal basis for such action, undertook to exercise their naked judicial power and substituted their personal political and social ideas for the established law of the land. 

     This unwarranted exercise of power by the court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the states principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through ninety years of patient effort by the good people of both races. It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding. 

      Without regard to the consent of the governed, outside agitators are threatening immediate and revolutionary changes in our public school systems. If done, this is certain to destroy the system of public education in some of the states. 

     With the gravest concern for the explosive and dangerous condition created by this decision and inflamed by outside meddlers. 

     We reaffirm our reliance on the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land. 

     We decry the Supreme Court’s encroachments on rights reserved to the states and to the people, contrary to established law and to the Constitution.

     We commend the motives of those states which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means. 

     We appeal to the states and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them, may be the victims of judicial encroachment. 

     Even though we constitute a minority in the present congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the states and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation. 

     We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation. 

     In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our states and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.

Signed by:

Members of the United States Senate:
Alabama:  John Sparkman and Lister Hill.
Arkansas:  J. W. Fulbright and John L. McClellan.
Florida:  George A. Smathers and Spessard L. Holland.
Georgia:  Walter F. George and Richard B. Russell.
Louisiana:  Allen J. Ellender and Russell B. Lono.
Mississippi:  John Stennis and James O. Eastland.
North Carolina:  Sam J. Ervin Jr. and W. Kerr Scott.
South Carolina:  Strom Thurmond and Olin D. Johnston.
Texas:  Price Daniel.
Virginia:  Harry F. Bird and A. Willis Robertson.

Members of the United States House of Representatives:
Alabama:  Frank J. Boykin, George M. Grant, George M. Andrews, Kenneth R. Roberts, Albert Rains, Armistead I. Selden Jr., Carl Elliott, Robert E. Jones and George Huddleston Jr.
Arkansas:  E. C. Gathings, Wilbur D. Mills, James W. Trimble, Oren Harris, Brooks Hays, F. W. Norrell.
Florida:  Charles E. Bennett Robert L. Sikes, A. S. Her Jr., Paul G. Rogers, James A. Haley, D. R. Matthews.
Georgia:  Prince H. Preston, John L. Pilcher, E. L. Forrester, John James Flint Jr., James C. Davis, Carl Vinson, Henderson Lanham, Iris F. Blitch, Phil M. Landrum, Paul Brown.
Louisiana:  F. Edward Hebert, Hale Boggs, Edwin E. Willis, Overton Brooks, Otto E. Passman, James H. Morrison, T. Ashton Thompson, George S. Long.
Mississippi:  Thomas G. Abernethy, Jamie L. Whitten, Frank E. Smith, John Bell Williams, Arthur Winsted, William M. Colmer.
North Carolina:  Herbert C. Bonner, L. H. Fountain, Graham A. Barden, Carl T. Durham, F. Ertel Carlyle, Hugh Q. Alexander, Woodrow W. Jones, George A. Shuford.
South Carolina:  L. Mendel Rivers, John J. Riley, W. J. Bryan Dorn, Robert T. Ashmore, James P. Richards, John L. McMillan.
Tennessee:  James B. Frazier Jr., Tom Murray, Jere Cooper, Clifford Davis.
Texas:  Wright Patman, John Dowdy, Walter Rogers, O. C. Fisher.
Virginia:  Edward J. Robeson Jr., Porter Hardy Jr., J. Vaughan Gary, Watkins M. Abbitt, William M. Tuck, Richard H. Poff, Burr P. Harrison, Howard W. Smith, W. Pat Jennings, Joel T. Broyhill.

[From Congressional Record, 84th Congress Second Session. Vol. 102, part 4. Washington, D.C.: Governmental Printing Office, 1956. 4459-4460]

***  Joel Broyhill and Richard Poff of Virginia were the only Republicans to sign the Southern Manifesto.  All the others were Southern Democrats

It was not unexpected that Strom Thurmond would draft something like the “Southern Manifesto.”  In 1948, after serving as Governor of South Carolina, he ran for President. But he didn’t run as any ordinary Democrat.  He ran as a Dixiecrat, which was an extremist wing of the Democratic Party – also known as the States’ Rights Democratic Party.  In 1948, the Dixiecrats issued their nine-point platform.  Points four through six read as follows:

(4)  We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

(5)  We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting and local law enforcement.

(6)  We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive to the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.

As a presidential candidate, Thurmond said: “All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the nigger into our homes, our schools, our churches.”  He lost the election but carried four of the states from the deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama).  In 1954, he was elected to the US Senate, as the only successful write-in candidate. And thus began his infamous career in Washington DC.

Fast-forward to the year 1963.

On August 23, 1963, civil rights organizers held a massive march on Washington DC, calling for legislative action to end discrimination. Set on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and broadcast to a television audience, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would deliver a stunningly eloquent speech that helped advance the cause of civil rights and define a standard of civility.  He spoke the timeless words “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  This was the Dream.

He invoked powerful imagery:

We have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

      It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice…..

       Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.  I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Dr. King was a Republican. He believed in the “opportunity” afforded Americans under the Declaration of Independence – the “equal” opportunity.  He talked about Natural Rights… Inalienable Rights.  He didn’t preach about equal outcomes or equal things.  He didn’t preach about dependency on government or a political party.  He preached about accomplishment…  the intangible qualities of character and dignity and the tangible ones of education and success.  He preached about a colorless society; one that is based on the dignity of every human being and the notion of common brotherhood.  ”I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Author Zora Neale Hurston once wrote: “I am not tragically colored.  There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes…. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less.  No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”   (1928)

The 1960′s was the era of the great Civil Rights movement.  It was John F. Kennedy who originally pushed for Civil Rights legislation, after the 1963 summer of racial violence. But he knew he didn’t have the support he needed in the House. The House was controlled by Democrats.  As was the Senate. He was hopeful, however, when meetings with Senate Republicans showed that he had firm support among them.  But just two days after the House announced the bill would be heard, Kennedy was assassinated. LBJ asserted he would continue the support for Civil Rights legislation.

But in 1964, the legislation would never have passed without Republican support.  In the US House, 78% of Republicans supported while only 58% of Democrats did.  In the Senate, Democrats showed even less support.  In fact, the ‘Southern-bloc’ of the Senate Democrats – 18 of them – launched a 57-day filibuster which they intended would prevent the Senate from passing the bill. They boldly declared: “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.”   Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond (of South Carolina) said: “These Civil Rights Proposals, which the President has sent to Capitol Hill for enactment into law, are unconstitutional, unnecessary, unwise and extend beyond the realm of reason. This is the worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress.”

On the morning of June 10, 1964, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd (of West Virginia), who entered politics as the “Exalted Cyclops” and recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, filibustered the Senate for over 14 hours – the second longest filibuster ever in our nation’s history.  As part of this filibuster, he cited a racist study that claimed black people’s brains are statistically smaller than white people’s brains.  Only 17 years earlier, he urged the re-birth of the Klan, claiming that “It is needed like never before.”  [And just before that, in 1945, he wrote:  “Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”]  When he died at age 92, Democrats still referred to him as the “Conscience of the Senate.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

Republican Senate Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen (Illinois) condemned the filibuster and offered the final remarks in support of the legislation: “Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come. The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing in government, in education, and in employment.  It will not be stayed or denied. It is here!”  Republicans then rallied to support a cloture vote – which means a vote to end a filibuster. Never in history had the Senate been able to muster enough votes to cut off a filibuster on a civil rights bill.

The clerk then proceeded to call the roll. When the decisive 67th vote was reached, Senate Republicans cheered and many Democrats slumped over in disgust.  In the end, 80% of Senate Democrats voted ‘nay’ on the legislation and only 20% voted to support it.  Because of his strong support of the bill and his efforts to hold Republicans together and build support for the cloture vote, Senator Dirksen – again, a Republican – is generally seen as the hero of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The following year, Senator Dirksen, together with Senate Majority leader Mike Mansfield, introduced the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

How is it possible that we have forgotten so much of our nation’s history?  In an era where so much attention is given to the accomplishments of each political party, how is it that the Republican party continues to get short-changed?

How is it that our nation’s leaders, our media, and especially our school system are not reminding the American people of the proud achievements of Republican leaders and the Republican Party with respect to Human Dignity and Equal Rights?  At what point did these achievements magically impute to the Democrats?  Are African-Americans suffering some sort of selective amnesia regarding their history?  Africanesia?   How is the Democratic Party – the party of slavery, secession, segregation, and now socialism – all of a sudden the party of fairness and equal rights?

Why have African-Americans aligned themselves so tightly and blindly to the Democratic Party – the party which historically has stood for the racist policies of the antebellum South  and the vindictive policies of Redemption and Jim Crow?  In promising African-Americans a new American Dream – one of greater government rights and benefits – rather than the American Dream enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke about, is the Democratic Party fulfilling the warning that the Freeman Bureau addressed in its Inquiry Commission of 1865 – that with respect to the amount of government aid to provide, “there is as much danger in doing too much as in doing too little. The risk is serious that, under the guise of guardianship, slavery, in a modified form, may be practically restored. Those who have ceased, only perforce, to be slave-holders, will be sure to unite their efforts to effect just such a purpose.“  Too much aid is the enemy of a free man. It will only “contribute to his virtual re-enslavement.”   

And so I ask this question:  Why have African-Americans abandoned the Republican Party when the Republican Party has never abandoned them?

The Republican Party has never thought them worthy of enslavement, either physically or virtually.

References:

David Barton, “What is Slavery?” and  “The Fugitive Slave Law.”   Referenced at: http://www.davidbarton.biz/page/2/

David Barton, “Civil Rights Acts”  and  “Civil Rights Amendments to the Constitution.  Referenced at:  http://davidbartonushistory.weebly.com/

The Dred Scott decision (1857)  –  http://americancivilwar.com/colored/dred_scott.html  and   http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2933t.html

The 13th Amendment:  Ratification and Results, Harp Week.   Referenced at: http://13thamendment.harpweek.com/HubPages/CommentaryPage.asp?Commentary=05Results

The 14th Amendment: Congressional Passage, Harp Week.   Referenced at: http://14thamendment.harpweek.com/HubPages/CommentaryPage.asp?Commentary=03Passage

Gene Healy, “The Squalid 14th Amendment,” Lew Rockwell, August 1999.  Referenced at:  http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/healy1.html   [Originally posted in Liberty Magazine]

Southern Manifesto on Integration – http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/sources_document2.html

TheLies and Racism of Woodrow Wilson. http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/war.crimes/US/Wilson.htm

Bishop Absalom Jones, “A Thanksgiving Sermon,” Anglican History.  Referenced at: http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/ajones/thanksgiving1808.html    [The “Thanksgiving Sermon” was preached January 1, 1808, in St. Thomas’s, or the African Episcopal, Church, Philadelphia, in recognition of the abolition of the African slave trade, on that day, by the Congress of the United States].

Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” The World Tomorrow, May 1928.  Referenced at:  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma01/grand-jean/hurston/chapters/how.html

Joseph E. Fallon, “Power, Legitimacy, and the 14th Amendment.”  Referenced at:  http://southernloyalists.tripod.com/id18.html

“George Mason’s Views on Slavery,” Gunston Hall.  Referenced at: http://gunstonhall.org/georgemason/slavery/views_on_slavery.html

The Original Intent of the 14th Amendment.   http://www.14thamendment.us/index.html

Alex Knepper, “Remembering Byrd’s Racism,”  Frum Forum, June 29, 2010.  Referenced at:  http://www.frumforum.com/remembering-robert-byrds-racism/

Frances Rice, “KKK Terrorist Arm of the Democratic Party,”  National Black Republican Association.  Referenced at:  http://www.nationalblackrepublicans.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.DYKKKKTerroristArmoftheDemocratParty&page_id=93

Dr. Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction; Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1990.   [Dr. Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University].

Our Nation’s Archives: A History of the United States in Documents (ed. Erik Bruun and Jay Crosby); Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1999.  [pg. 417 and pp. 731-34]

Inquiry Commission Report (for Freedman’s Bureau) –  Preliminary Report  – http://www.civilwarhome.com/prelimcommissionreport.htm

Inquiry Commission Report (for Freedman’s Bureau)  –  On the Topic of Slavery  – http://www.civilwarhome.com/commisionreportchapt1.htm

Inquiry Commission Report (for Freedman’s Bureau) –  On the Topic of Emancipation – http://www.civilwarhome.com/commissionreportchapt2.htm

Inquiry Commission Report (for Freedman’s Bureau) –  Conclusion: “The Future in the US of the African Race” http://www.civilwarhome.com/commissionreportchapt3.htm

Nathan Bedford Forrest –  http://www.freeinfosociety.com/article.php?id=184     [“The Cause for which you have so long and so manfully struggled, and for which you have braved dangers, endured privations, and sufferings, and made so many sacrifices, is today hopeless. The government which we sought to establish and perpetuate, is at an end. Reason dictates and humanity demands that no more blood be shed. Fully realizing and feeling that such is the case, it is your duty and mine to lay down our arms — submit to the “powers that be” — and to aid in restoring peace and establishing law and order throughout the land.”]

NOTES:

[1]  North Carolina’s ban on the slave trade at the time of the Philadelphia Convention was not an express ban.  “Maryland and Virginia he said had already prohibited the importation of slaves expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance.”

See James Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention:http://www.constitution.org/dfc/dfc_0525.htm  or  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_514525.asp  (the Avalon Project)

Specifically, the Slavery debate:http://www.academicamerican.com/revolution/documents/ConstDebate.html

[2]  The Federalist Party was the party of most of our Founding Fathers and Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party would go on to give birth to the Democratic Party, although elements of the platform ultimately made it into the Republican Party as well, such as the requirement for strict interpretation of the Constitution and limited government.

[3]  The Republican Platform was announced in Philadelphia in 1856 – http://www.ushistory.org/gop/convention_1856republicanplatform.htm

[4]  It is argued that the 14th Amendment was never properly ratified.

Before an amendment can be ratified, it must first be proposed. The Constitution provides two methods of proposing an amendment: (i) An amendment can be proposed by 2/3 of the states;  or (ii) It can be proposed by 2/3 of both houses of Congress. The method was used in the case of the 14th Amendment was the latter – the congressional method.  Section V of the Constitution addresses the amendment process and explains that “no state without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”  When Congress proposed the amendment in 1866, twenty-three Senators were unlawfully excluded from the U. S. Senate in order for the republicans to secure a 2/3 vote for the adoption of proposed amendment. Those excluded included both senators from each of the eleven southern states and one Senator from New Jersey. This alone is sufficient to invalidate the so-called fourteenth because it was never properly proposed.).

Furthermore, history records that Tennessee was the first state to ratify the 14th Amendment – on July 24, 1866.  But did Tennessee improperly ratify it?  The Tennessee legislature was not in session when the proposed amendment was sent, so a special session of the legislature had to be called. The Tennessee Senate ratified the proposed amendment. However, the Tennessee House could not assemble a quorum as required in order to legally act. Finally, after several days and “considerable effort, two of the recalcitrant members were arrested and brought into a committee room opening into the Chamber of the House. They refused to vote when their names were called, whereupon the Speaker ruled that there was no quorum. His decision, however, was overruled, and the amendment was declared ratified on July 19, 1866, by a vote of 43 to 11, the two members under arrest in the adjoining committee room not voting.”