The Star Spangled Banner officially became our country’s national anthem in 1931 by an act of Congress. But its history began the morning of September 14, 1814 when a well-known attorney and amateur poet named Francis Scott Key watched U.S soldiers who were under bombardment from British Naval forces (during the war of 1812), raise a large American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Maryland. Our soldiers withstood some 25 hours of British bombardment. When the large American flag was hoisted over the fort, it marked a crucial victory and a turning point in what would be called a second war of independence. Francis Scott Key, a Christian patriot had been helping negotiate the release of an American civilian who had been captured and held prisoner in an earlier battle. He wrote the initial verse of the Star-Spangled Banner on the back of a letter while watching the large American flag waving over Fort McHenry that morning. Back in Baltimore he completed four verses (only one of which is commonly known today). After two newspapers printed the song, it quickly spread to various cities along the east coast. Ironically, the melody assigned to accompany the lyrics was a popular English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Written in 1775 by John Stafford Smith, the tune honored the ancient Greek poet Anacreon, a lover of wine. The Star Spangled Banner continued its popularity and by the 1890’s the U.S military had adopted it for ceremonial purposes. The song made its sporting event debut in 1918 during that year’s first world series baseball game between the Cubs and the Red Sox. The practice has since spread to other sporting events and has become a widely accepted pre-game tradition. While many view the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” before sporting events as an important patriotic ritual, over the years SOME athletes have chosen to protest racial injustices in American society by turning their backs on the flag, refusing to stand or taking a knee when the anthem is played. To most of us, this reflects the obvious dichotomy of our early founding patriots who gave up their livelihoods and even their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today, to the uninformed, unappreciative athletes who give little to society but take so much from it. Note: But the last stanza of our anthem shows clearly in whom we place our trust as Americans: “Then conquer we must when our cause is just, and this be our motto: In God we trust and the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
A Companion Guide to America’s History By Catherine Millard Horizon House Publishers Camp Hill, PA Copyright 1993
Our Pledge of Allegiance by Kristi Macdonald
Our Pledge of Allegiance The first nationwide United States Pledge of Allegiance ceremony took place in 1892 and was a reaction to post civil war conditions. James Upham (1845-1905) and Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) had witnessed the United States being torn apart by the civil war (1861-1865) which led to more than 600,000 people losing their lives. After the war, they along with union veterans had noticed a decline in patriotism and were concerned. Although flags were widely flown during the civil war, after the war this was not the case. In addition a large influx of immigrants came to the United States.
During the 1880’s, 80% of the population of New York City was foreign born. There were concerns these new immigrants may not develop feelings of loyalty to the U.S, so public schools were seen as a mechanism for developing this loyalty. To promote patriotism, Upham and Bellamy organized a national campaign to have a United States flag in every school and classroom. Bellamy created a loyalty oath – the United States Pledge of Allegiance to emphasize the importance of a united country, even including the words, “one nation indivisible.” He felt that by teaching this to youth over the course of their childhood, the idea of loyalty to the nation would become a natural part of their being. Note: the phrase “under God” was since added to the pledge and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954.
Over the years court rulings have shaped how the Pledge of Allegiance is practiced in schools. Because of a Supreme Court ruling in 1943, no school or government can compel someone to recite the pledge or salute the flag. As a result, 47 states have laws requiring students to recite the pledge with varying exemptions for students and staff to opt out such as, maintaining a respectful silence for those not saying the pledge or parental permission to opt out. In Arizona, schools are required to designate time to recite the pledge but students are not required to participate.
There was a study done in regards to students thoughts during the pledge ceremony. (Parker 2007) He led 50 seminars/discussions with students, high school teachers and parents. He concluded that students had given little thought to what they were promising to do. In other studies middle and high school students were surveyed about the pledge ceremony. Nine percent of middle school students and 28 percent of high school students felt the pledge was a meaningless activity. In addition, some middle school and high school students were unfamiliar with the meaning of the words in the pledge. To their credit, to improve their understanding they requested additional instruction on the Pledge of Allegiance.
It is clearly evident that the decline in U.S civics instruction and U.S history over the years, along with the supreme court ruling in 1943 (not requiring students to recite the pledge), has a direct correlation with the declining attitudes of patriotism, duty and the importance of being an informed citizen of our society today. Family values are crucial now more than ever and as parents and grandparents, it is our duty to pass on to our children and grand-children the importance of being an informed citizen, learning our true history and traditions that have made this country great. Let’s continue to be a source of information, love and guidance to them and never give up the fight for what is right! Bibliography Research Article – Sage Journals The United States Pledge of Allegiance Ceremony: Do youth recite the pledge? Volume 7 Issue: 1 Published January 1, 2017 Authors: Leisa A. Martin – University of Texas at Arlinton Glenn P. Lauzon and Matthew J. Benus – Indiana University Northwest, Gary Pete Livas Jr. – Loyola University Chicago, Illinois
2022 Americanism by Kristi Macdonald
Our Pledge of Allegiance The first nationwide United States Pledge of Allegiance ceremony took place in 1892 and was a reaction to post civil war conditions. James Upham (1845-1905) and Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) had witnessed the United States being torn apart by the civil war (1861-1865) which led to more than 600,000 people losing their lives. After the war, they along with union veterans had noticed a decline in patriotism and were concerned. Although flags were widely flown during the civil war, after the war this was not the case. In addition a large influx of immigrants came to the United States. During the 1880’s, 80% of the population of New York City was foreign born. There were concerns these new immigrants may not develop feelings of loyalty to the U.S, so public schools were seen as a mechanism for developing this loyalty. To promote patriotism, Upham and Bellamy organized a national campaign to have a United States flag in every school and classroom. Bellamy created a loyalty oath – the United States Pledge of Allegiance to emphasize the importance of a united country, even including the words, “one nation indivisible.” He felt that by teaching this to youth over the course of their childhood, the idea of loyalty to the nation would become a natural part of their being. Note: the phrase “under God” was since added to the pledge and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954. Over the years court rulings have shaped how the Pledge of Allegiance is practiced in schools. Because of a Supreme Court ruling in 1943, no school or government can compel someone to recite the pledge or salute the flag. As a result, 47 states have laws requiring students to recite the pledge with varying exemptions for students and staff to opt out such as, maintaining a respectful silence for those not saying the pledge or parental permission to opt out. In Arizona, schools are required to designate time to recite the pledge but students are not required to participate. There was a study done in regards to students thoughts during the pledge ceremony. (Parker 2007) He led 50 seminars/discussions with students, high school teachers and parents. He concluded that students had given little thought to what they were promising to do. In other studies middle and high school students were surveyed about the pledge ceremony. Nine percent of middle school students and 28 percent of high school students felt the pledge was a meaningless activity. In addition, some middle school and high school students were unfamiliar with the meaning of the words in the pledge. To their credit, to improve their understanding they requested additional instruction on the Pledge of Allegiance. It is clearly evident that the decline in U.S civics instruction and U.S history over the years, along with the supreme court ruling in 1943 (not requiring students to recite the pledge), has a direct correlation with the declining attitudes of patriotism, duty and the importance of being an informed citizen of our society today. Family values are crucial now more than ever and as parents and grandparents, it is our duty to pass on to our children and grand-children the importance of being an informed citizen, learning our true history and traditions that have made this country great. Let’s continue to be a source of information, love and guidance to them and never give up the fight for what is right!
Bibliography Research Article – Sage Journals The United States Pledge of Allegiance Ceremony: Do youth recite the pledge?
Volume 7 Issue: 1 Published January 1, 2017 Authors: Leisa A. Martin – University of Texas at Arlinton Glenn P. Lauzon and Matthew J. Benus – Indiana University Northwest, Gary Pete Livas Jr. – Loyola University Chicago, Illinois
From Homeless to Harvard The Liz Murray Story We are all living in a time of chaos and great uncertainty.. but what has consistently made this country great? Why do so many people still want to come here or strive to succeed when the odds are against them? These are trying times for sure but amidst the chaos there have been and still are so many heart- warming stories of inspiration and success throughout our country. One such story is that of Liz Murray. Liz Murray is now 41 years old but did not have an easy life by any means. She found herself homeless at the age of 16 in the Bronx New York, due to both her parents’ addiction to drugs. She remembers her mother stealing her birthday money, selling the television and even a Thanksgiving turkey the church had given them in order to scrape up money to score a hit of cocaine. She and her sister ate ice cubes because it “felt like eating.” Liz was bullied at school for being scruffy and un-kept, so she dropped out. When Liz was just 15 her mother had died of AIDS. Later on when Liz’s father failed to pay the rent Liz was out on the streets. She slept on the city’s underground train system or on park benches. At first she saw herself as a victim but then she had an epiphany. “Like my mother was always saying, I’ll fix my life one day.” She said it became clear, “When I witnessed my mother’s death without fulfilling her dreams that my time was now or maybe never.” She had not attended school regularly for years but at the age of 17 pledged to become a straight “A” student and complete her education in just two years. Along with stealing food, she would shop-lift self help books and study for exams in a friend’s hallway. She did a year’s worth of studies each term and went to night classes. A teacher witnessed her gumption and mentored her. He took his top ten students to Harvard and as she stood outside the university, she decided it was within her reach. She was awarded a New York Times scholarship and graduated in June 2009 with a degree in Clinical Psychology. Since then she has become an international motivational speaker and is an advocate for under- served youth. She has won several achievement awards including Oprah’s Chutzpah award in 2004. Her father ultimately succumbed to AIDS and died in 2006. She wrote a book in 2010 titled: Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness and Survival… My Journey From Homeless to Harvard. Lifetime television made a movie titled Homeless to Harvard – The Liz Murray story based on her book. This is just one story but there are hundreds if not thousands of others where people have risen above their fears to take advantage of the opportunities our great country has to offer. They have escaped the group think and victimhood mentality through sheer determination and belief in themselves. They are shining examples for us all!
Bibliography Wikipedia April, 2003
Article: Liz Murray “My Parents Were Desperate drug addicts….I’m a Harvard graduate” By Joanna Walters September, 2010 19.07 EDT
Our Liberty Bell In 1751, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly paid around 100 British pounds (about 25,000 in today’s British pound) for a large bell to hang in its new State House (later known as Independence Hall). Cast in a London foundry, the bell arrived in Philadelphia in August 1752. At the time for unknown reasons it cracked during a test strike and had to be recast twice. Our famed Liberty Bell which hung in the steeple of Independence Hall first rang out with our independence from the tyranny of Britain on July 4, 1776, heralding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Once again, on September 17, 1787, our symbol of freedom rang out, proclaiming the signing of our United States Constitution. It rang out again for George Washington’s inauguration as first United States President in 1789; his Farewell Address in 1797, and again for John Adams’ inauguration as second U.S. President, among many other great historic events. On July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell tolled for the death of Thomas Jefferson…the author of this precious document. This took place at 10 minutes to 1pm., the exact hour and minute of the last reading of the Declaration of Independence from Independence Hall, 50 years earlier. In tolling the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1836 the Liberty Bell cracked, ending its historic era of America’s founding period. When Independence Hall was restored in 1873, the Liberty Bell (which is suspended on its original elm wood yoke) was lowered to the ground floor beneath the steeple and a portion of a scripture verse was added to the base of the bell from Leviticus 25:10: “And you shall keep holy the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty to all the inhabitants throughout the land.” You can see the importance this symbol is to the founding of our country and the freedom it represents. So when did the Liberty Bell get its famous crack? Remember the first casting was done in London by the Whitechapel foundry in 1751. The second and third castings were done in New Jersey by two local founders who were somewhat inexperienced in this process. They decided the metal was too brittle so they added 10% more copper. But in June of 1753 during a public celebration the sound was so bad, the two men took the bell away and recast it again. In 1975 the Winterthur Museum conducted an analysis of the metal in the bell and concluded that a series of errors made in the initial construction, and subsequent reconstructions of the bell resulted in a brittle metal that barely missed being broken up for scrap. The museum found a higher level of tin in the initial Liberty Bell than in other Whitechapel bells of that era. On the subsequent re-castings, instead of adding PURE tin and copper to the bell, the New Jersey founders added cheap pewter with a high lead content and incompletely mixed the new metal into the mold. The result was an extremely brittle alloy which not only caused the Bell to fail in service but made it easy for early souvenir collectors to chip off substantial pieces from the rim which also may have affected its performance. Imagine that! The human nature in us wanting a piece of American history. Though attempts were made to repair an existing crack in the bell for an occasion, it subsequently cracked beyond repair and had to be taken out of service. After being moved to a pavilion near Independence Hall in 1976 (the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence), the Liberty Bell was relocated in 2003 to Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historic Park, where millions of visitors view its famous crack every year.
Who Was Patrick Henry?
In reading about our founding fathers and the major sacrifices they made in securing our freedom and individual rights, Patrick Henry stands out as the first prominent revolutionary to challenge the British monarchy. It was his persuasive and passionate speeches that helped kick-start the American Revolution.
After some failed attempts into farming and shop-keeping as a young man, he found his true calling and became one of Virginia’s most successful lawyers. He developed a reputation as a powerful and persuasive speaker and was famous for his quick mind and even quicker wit in the courtroom.
In 1765, Henry won the election to the House of Burgesses (legislative body of the colony of Virginia) and proved himself to be an early voice of dissent against Britain’s colonial policies. During the Stamp Act debate in 1765, which effectively taxed every type of printed paper used by the colonists, Henry insisted that only the colony itself should be able to levy taxes on its citizens, not Britain.
He had the remarkable ability to translate his political ideology into the language of the common man. Henry was selected to serve as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774. There he met Samuel Adams and together, they stoked the fires of revolution. Henry called for the colonists to unite in their opposition to British rule saying, “The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders are no more. I am not Virginian, but an American.” The next year, Henry gave the most famous speech of his career. At the Virginia Convention in March 1775, the group was debating how to resolve the crisis with Great Britain…through force or peaceful means. Henry sounded the call to arms saying, “Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?...Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
He would later play a key role in pushing for the passage of a Bill of Rights. The result did not go as far as he wished but did enable him to overcome much of his earlier opposition to the U.S Constitution, which he felt failed to adequately protect the rights of states and individuals.
In 1776 Henry helped write the Virginia state constitution and won election as its governor that same year. As governor, he supported the revolution in numerous ways, including helping to supply soldiers and equipment for George Washington. He went on to serve a total of 5 terms as Virginia’s governor.
Final Years Over the years he received numerous appointments to positions such as Supreme Court justice and Secretary of State (by George Washington) and even attorney general but he turned them all down preferring to spend time with his second wife and their many children. While he never held national office, Patrick Henry is remembered as one of the great revolutionary leaders. He has been called the “Trumpet” and “Voice” of the American Revolution. His powerful speeches served as a wake-up call for rebellion and his political proposals offered ideas for a new nation. Note: I believe that Patrick Henry’s spirit is alive in the hearts and minds of so many Americans today who believe our freedoms are being taken from us daily by an over reaching federal government….just what Patrick Henry warned us about. Let us stay strong and remember what he once said, “with Almighty God on our side, we are neither weak nor alone.”
2021 Americanism by Vicki Paris Goodman
Facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Thanks to a too-good-to-pass-up invitation in 2018 from my very generous Prescott friends Cathy and Dan Spero, I got to make my first trip to Washington, D.C., that summer. Among the many spectacular historic sites we visited, none was more inspiring than the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Here are some facts I recently read. I’m sure there are smarties among you who know some of these things, maybe all of them. But at least several of them were new to me.
After the initial interment in 1921 of an unknown soldier who died during World War I, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb, and one has been disinterred.
There were four unknown soldier candidates for the World War I crypt. The honoree from World War II was chosen from two candidates. There were four potential representatives from the Korean War. And owing to mitochondrial DNA testing, the unknown soldier from the Vietnam War wasn’t unknown for long. In 1998 he was identified by scientists as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was disinterred after his identification.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded around the clock since 1937. Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.” Serving since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, even when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.
Everything the guards do is related to the number 21, honoring the 21-gun salute -- for instance, taking 21 steps, then stopping for 21 seconds before turning to walk the 21 steps in the other direction down the mat.
Becoming a Tomb Guard is not easy. Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, training is intense, requiring the passing of tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders, among other difficult tasks in memorization and stamina.
Guards “walk the mat” in front of the tomb in shifts ranging from 30 minutes to two hours. They remain on site for 24 hours at a time, and when they aren’t walking the mat they’re in the living quarters beneath it. Preparation of a Guard’s uniform can take a Guard up to 8 hours. Tomb Guards serve for an average of 18 months.
The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the next least awarded in the military overall, second only to the Astronaut badge. Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, both on and off the job. Their badge can be taken away for any action that could bring disrespect to the tomb, and that applies throughout the Guard’s lifetime, even long after he has “retired” from the position. Six women have held the post.
Guards perform their Guard duty without displaying their rank. This is done to avoid the possibility of outranking the soldiers whose remains they are watching over.
A Brief Factual Account of the First Thanksgiving
Our current notions about Thanksgiving have evolved to become largely the product of myth and legend, no doubt because everything we actually know about the holiday’s start comes from two rather incomplete, albeit first-hand, accounts of the initial celebration feast. And we all know what happens when things are left to the imagination. In short, we fill in the gaps, make a lot of assumptions. We make stuff up.
Here’s what we do know…
The first feast was a harvest celebration enjoyed in the Fall of 1621 by 53 grateful Pilgrims who had survived the long journey aboard the Mayflower, as well as the famine of their first harsh winter in the New World, ordeals that were not for the faint of heart. In fact, that first brutal year claimed the lives of almost half of their original contingent that had numbered 102.
The eye witness accounts by William Bradford and Edward Winslow depict a scenario in which the surviving Pilgrims made it through that first winter with the help of the local Wampanoag tribe, a number of whom attended that first celebration feast.
One of these Indians, a young man named Squanto, spoke fluent English owing to the fact that he’d been captured by English explorers and had spent time in Europe as a slave. Squanto served as translator at the event.
So what did they eat at that harvest feast? That’s unclear, too, even though Bradford and Winslow did describe a number of items that were available to the Pilgrims, and some that were not. For instance, there were wild turkeys for the taking, but no evidence they were served at the celebration.
The two accounts spoke in general of fowl, which may well have been ducks or other waterfowl. Likely there were venison, mussels and lobsters. They had grapes, plums, corn and herbs. There may have been cranberries, but certainly not in the form of cranberry sauce, but used more for their color and tartness.
They certainly did not have potatoes. And they didn’t have the flour or butter necessary for making breads, cakes or pies. There is also reason to believe that the chickens and sugar they had brought with them on the Mayflower were long gone.
Two years after that harvest feast, the Pilgrims did hold something they called a “Thanksgiving.” But it was simply a religious day of prayer and fasting. Somewhere along the line the two entirely unrelated events became intertwined. And now we hold Thanksgiving feasts annually on the fourth Thursday in November.
See what happens when we assume?
The Language of the Founders
According to constitutional law professor Robert Natelson, both the Constitution and Bill of Rights are chock full of words and phrases “inherited from England.” This fact is crucial to understanding the meaning and significance of our founding documents. Of particular importance is that our universities’ and political leaders’ propensity to downplay and ignore this reality is to subject our founding principles to the misguided notion of a “living, breathing Constitution,” to the “diversity” agenda, and to “woke” propaganda.
Professor Natelson posits that some of the Constitution’s language was ordinary language for the founding generation, who were heavily influenced by the English political and legal system. The truth is that many of them had worked and studied within these systems. But much of the Constitution’s language wasn’t ordinary at all, even in 1787, owing to the fact that the Constitution is a legal document as well as an outline of government. Hence the framers inserted words and phrases with specialized legal and political meanings.
During the ratification debates the framers carefully explained these words and phrases to the general public, as evidenced by numerous transcripts of their meetings, correspondence between the framers, and the Federalist Papers that were published in the media of the era specifically for the purpose of educating the public.
Just a few examples of words and phrases found in the Constitution that had specialized political or legal meanings are:
Advice and consent, establishment of religion, general welfare, high crimes and misdemeanors, impeachment, natural born, necessary and proper, regulation of commerce, and well-regulated militia, among many others.
It would be to our nation’s great benefit for students, and all American citizens, to understand the language origins of our Constitution and what the framers intended when they created the document.
James Madison warned us of Tyranny of the Elite
In Federalist 39 James Madison cautioned against authoritarian elitists such as Woodrow Wilson. He said, “It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from a [small portion], or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans (with a small “r”), and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.”
Madison foresaw the possibility of overreaching tyranny and put forth a proposal to mitigate such a power grab. Ultimately Wilson was able to successfully sidestep Madison’s precautionary measures to become the 28th president of the United States.
Wilson believed that our country’s Founders, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were outdated. He was a democratic socialist who believed, like Karl Marx, that the correct path was toward socialism. He favored an administrative state wherein the major decisions of state would be made by educated “experts” in the various fields of public administration, and not by the people’s elected representatives as the Founders had intended.
Wilson believed that the rights of society took precedence over the rights of the individual, which of course was in direct opposition to our founding principles. He wrote, “The thesis of the state socialist is that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will….Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals.”
It is stunning that, even in 1912, so many Americans would vote for such an anti-American progressive elitist as Woodrow Wilson, who had nothing but contempt for America’s founding, and for the American people.
Freedom of the Press
Although the line between protected and illegal speech would always be somewhat controversial, we do know that the Founders regarded freedom of speech generally, and freedom of the press particularly, as a wide ranging right.
Although his name is not well known, John Dickinson was perhaps the most prolific and authoritative writer of the revolutionary generation. And after Washington, he was the first to take up arms in defense of the new nation.
Dickinson’s language on freedom of the press is a bit unwieldy for the 21st century American, so I will not repeat it here. Instead, I will present a paraphrased version of a scholar’s interpretation of Dickinson’s words.
Freedom of the press is not merely a self-expressive right, but a truth-seeking right based on natural law and the fundamental “goods” and happiness that every person is entitled to pursue.
This freedom will persuade those in government to work for the common good, and not for their own advantage, lest they be exposed, humiliated or shamed by the press. In other words, freedom of the press will promote public virtue, and encourage those in authority to put aside their passions and conduct themselves as true representatives of the people.
Dickinson recognized from his own journalistic work how the American people in the various states, in widely differing occupations, and whose lives were almost unimaginably dissimilar, had begun to come together in one American nation!
This was in large part due to the unifying reportage of the press, which elicited in Americans common concerns that transcended their widely disparate everyday lives.
How far we have come.
The Declaration of Independence lists 27 reasons why Americans declared their independence form the King of England. The Declaration referred to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, stating that “All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” This notion was revolutionary, as kings did not believe everyone was created equal. They believed in “the divine right of kings,” that the Creator gives rights to the king, and the king dispenses them at his discretion to whoever he wishes.
The Declaration of Independence concludes with the following words, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Lest anyone believe these to be idle words…. John Hancock was an early signer, stating as he signed, “The price on my head has just doubled.” Ben Franklin was not being cute or clever when he said, “We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.”
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration. Many sacrificed their prosperity for their posterity. Of the 56 signers:
11 had their homes destroyed;
5 were hunted and captured;
17 served in the military; and
9 died during the war.
Some of the most tragic anecdotes:
Thomas McKean wrote that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three months.”
Richard Stockton signed and was dragged from his bed in the night and jailed.
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., and Arthur Middleton, all under the age of 35, were made prisoners at the Siege of Charleston.
Abraham Clark had two sons tortured and imprisoned on the British starving ship Jersey.
The British plundered the home of Francis Lewis and carried away his wife, Elizabeth, putting her in prison. The British sought to make an example of her, so they denied her food, a change of clothing and a bed. She was treated so harshly that she died shortly after being released.
Agreeing to be a signer of the Declaration of Independence was definitely not for the faint of heart.
The Founders on Immigration
The principles of the American Founding conferred a right to emigrate from the land of one’s birth. But that didn’t confer the right to immigrate to any place of one’s choosing. Thus the principal of consent, as conceived by the Founders, requires the following explanation:
If “all men are created equal,” then consent must be reciprocal among the parties involved. According to the 1782 Massachusetts Constitution, “the body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals…” It is a social compact by which every member of a political community must consent to live…with the other members of the community.
In other words, just as the individual must consent to live within the community, the community must consent to the membership of each individual.
The people have delegated to Congress the power to fix the terms under which America will consent to an immigrant becoming a member of the American political community. If the immigrant wishes to become a citizen and chooses to abide by those conditions, then citizenship will be conferred upon him.
Beyond that, mutual consent is demanded by the principle of natural equality. If an immigrant can impose himself on the community, without meeting the conditions set forth by the people’s representatives, then the relationship is not one of equals. Rather, the immigrant is establishing himself as superior to the members of the community, as he has the power to dictate the terms of his presence without the community’s consent. Anything less than mutual consent amounts to an act of force.
Summed up, while the Founders’ principles maintain a right to emigrate from one’s native country, they do not confer an automatic right to immigrate to any particular political community, unless that community consents to that individual’s presence.
The American Evolution of Thought on Freedom of Religion
The original settlers of America did not subscribe to the notion of “freedom of religion.” In fact, the official denomination in Virginia was the Church of England, an episcopal form, which was established from 1606 to 1786. This constituted “establishment” of religion, establishment here as defined in a subsequent edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary. This is how the first amendment of our nation’s constitution, in referring to religious freedom, came to use the word “establishment” of religion as something from which the federal government would be prohibited.
Establishment also meant that settlers were required to take the “oath of supremacy,” wherein the King of England is “the only Supreme Governor of the realm … in all Spiritual or Ecclesiastical things,” and whereby church attendance was mandatory. Furthermore, in 1623 the Virginia House of Burgesses passed an ordinance dictating that the Sabbath would not be “profaned” by work or travel. The fine for disobedience was a pound of tobacco.
It wasn’t until the times just prior to the Revolutionary War that large segments of the population had come to represent a variety of denominations.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1962 that there had been established Churches in at least eight of the thirteen original colonies. He continued by stating that the successful revolution against England had been accompanied by the gain in strength of various religious groups that opposed the established Church. They obtained the enactment of the “Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty,” drafted by Thomas Jefferson, which placed all such groups on equal footing.
This Virginia state law became the model for the first amendment’s religious freedom guarantee.
Factions and the Danger they Pose to Our Republic
In Federalist 10 James Madison, as Publius of course, addressed factions, which may well be one explanation for the dangerous government overreach we see today. Republican government was deemed far superior to a democracy for its checks on factions.
A faction is a party of persons having a common end or goal in view. The faction may employ subversive methods to promote their selfish or partisan interests, especially in matters of state. In the case of a minority faction, Republican government will ensure the failure of the faction to impose their rules on others. So Madison concentrated his commentary on the far greater threat posed by majority factions.
It’s a complicated topic when viewed in depth. But in this case, size matters. In other words, a sufficiently large Republic will defeat the will of the faction if it is detrimental to the whole because of the merit of the people’s representatives. Or so the founders thought.
But if Republican government is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, how could we have gotten terrible policies like Obamacare or open borders?
Here is one thought: We have representatives of the people, meaning one of us. They are by the people, meaning elected by us. But are they for the people? Or are they for the Party? If our representatives have become so corrupted that they act for the Party instead of for the people, then our republic may soon cease to be a republic.
Is there hope? The Tea Party was a good start, that resulted in the election of some representatives with integrity, not the least of which was the election of President Trump. Perhaps we need to continue to follow the Tea Party’s populist example.
What the Founders said (in part) about the House of Representatives
At the time of the founding, there were numerous public concerns about the make-up of the House of Representatives, the so-called “people’s house.” One of these questions asked how the body could avoid drawing members from the upper class, a class of citizens having the least in common with the masses, a class likely to sacrifice the needs of the many to satisfy the enrichment of the few.
In Federalist 57, under the pen name Publius, James Madison did not attempt to convince his countrymen that their assumptions regarding the class of their future leaders were wrong. Instead, he wrote of five safeguards that would make these concerns moot.
First, the people will have elected these officials for their exemplary character and qualifications. Second, having been elected by the people, these representatives will harbor gratitude and affection toward their constituents. Third, pride and vanity will urge elected leaders to maintain a government which will reflect well on them. Fourth, a requirement for frequent elections will keep representatives aligned with the needs and desires of the people.
To add a final pillar of strength and certainty to the mix, Madison added a fifth and final restraint on the corruption of representatives: They would be permitted to pass no law that would not also apply to themselves.
Madison stated that without this last obligation, “every government degenerates into tyranny.”
Perhaps it can be said that the founders were idealistic. They were also clearly aware of the fact.
What the Founders Had to Say about Impeachment
As many of you may know, the Federalist Papers were commentaries from the time of our founding, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, all under the pseudonym Publius. At the time, there was much anxiety, misconception and disagreement among the early American populace over what the drafters of our constitution had in mind. So the Federalist Papers were authored for publication is the news media in order to offer insight into the various topics being considered for inclusion in the constitution, and to dispel the wide array of rumors and myths circulating that had people so concerned.
Federalist #65, written by Hamilton, addresses impeachment, a timely subject. Some scholars consider it to be one of the least well thought out matters of the constitution-drafting process, as Hamilton actually admits within the commentary that essentially the Convention may not have come up with the best plan for impeachment, that better proposals may exist, and that the document should be ratified anyway. This expressed uncertainty is by all accounts wholly uncharacteristic of the Federalist Papers. So this was a very unusual and curious admission by Hamilton.
In a nutshell, Federalist 65 talks about the dangers of impeachment being dominated by parties or factions that are more or less favorable to the accused, rather than dispassionately considering the individual’s guilt or innocence. So a body elected specifically for this purpose was considered a dangerous idea, as well as logistically impractical.
The Supreme Court was also dismissed as a solution, since the number of judges sitting on it seemed too few to “doom to honor or infamy the most distinguished characters of the community.” The Court was also deemed a poor choice because if guilt is determined then that same Court would decide the subsequent civil and criminal proceeding. That deprived the accused of an independent second trial.
Ultimately the drafters opted for a process similar to the British model, wherein the House of Commons would propose the impeachment, and the House of Lords would decide upon it.
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