I apologize for my recent lack of writing, especially in light of how new this blog is. I recently had surgery on my hand and I am just now returning to where I can write. Please bear with me as I may be slow for some time still.
As much as I wish to leap into discussing current events (Syria, anyone? What should we be doing there?), it would be detrimental to understanding those events if we did not first lay a groundwork to understanding how our nation actually works—a study of the Constitution, and indeed, of the entire process of self-government by the people. It is impossible to understand how we should act in regards to the rest of the world if we do not first understand ourselves, and the laws that govern us.
Such a study is dearly needed: in an exit poll (a poll taken of all voters as they left the voting place) of the 2012 presidential election, less than twenty-five percent of voters knew that the Constitution was the supreme law of America. Less than one-quarter of the people deciding how our nation will be governed know the fundamental fact that the Constitution that we the people created is our first and foremost law!
And because of that, neither do they know how that Constitution is the only law in the world that gives and protects the incredible rights that they enjoy as Americans. We need to again study the Constitution and remind ourselves of its importance. We will begin with how the Founding Fathers first recognized that we needed our Constitution, with the first American government and the failings of the Articles of Confederation.
In 1787, a group of the greatest minds in American history came together and created a masterpiece that has served as the lifeblood of our nation – the United States Constitution. For some hundred and fifty years, the Constitution guided us faithfully and made our nation into a world superpower, a beacon of hope, freedom, and opportunity. In the twentieth century, many politicians began trying to work their way around the Constitution and downplaying its significance. And this past year, a frightening poll taken of the voters who participated in the presidential elections revealed that nearly three out of every four of the people deciding the fate of our nation do not even know that the Constitution is the ruling law of the land.
This failing on the part of the Americans of the last hundred years to teach their children the unequivocal importance of the Constitution has opened the door for those who oppose freedom to blatantly trample on this incredibly crucial shield to our freedoms. The result has been the loss of personal freedoms, the enormous expansion (and waste) of the government, and the first step to socialism. What has been left undone for the last hundred years cannot be reversed, so the turning of the tide must begin now with us, you and I, teaching the rest of America the grandeur and importance of protecting and respecting our federal Constitution.
Following the publication of the Declaration of American Independence, as the war with England drug on, the Continental Congress began to work on a formal plan of union; finally revealing it in late 1777 as the “Articles of Confederation”. The American colonies (now states) had all originally been founded by various Christian sects searching for the freedom to worship as they saw fit, and they still refused to trust their religious and personal rights to a central federal body that might not agree with them (for example, the greatest divide was between the New Englanders – Puritans – and the Virginia and southern states – Anglicans). Each state wanted to reserve the power of defining the peoples’ rights for the people, and therefore all rights were reserved for the state governments. The intent of the Articles was never to create a centralized government. The Articles of Confederation was created only to serve as a loose alliance between thirteen independent states (note: the word “state” literally means “nation”; not “province”, as we Americans generally think of it – these were thirteen little independent nations), to bring their forces together under one flag in order to fight off a common enemy. In many ways, it resembled the alliance that exists between the nations of the British Commonwealth. Sections Two and Three of the Articles state,
II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress Assembled.
III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
Engaged in a war with the world’s greatest superpower of the time, the American states were forced to band together merely in order to survive; any attempt for each state to fight the war independently would result in nothing other than a crushing defeat of the collective whole. Thus, the Articles of Confederation created a slight form of cooperation by which the states would fight and treat as a single body with any foreign power. However, all civil authority rested with the states.
The Articles were successful in that they kept the states in semi-mutual agreement and carried them through the War for Independence. As a group, they were recognized as a new world power, and the alliance kept any foreign nation from attacking and conquering any single state.
Yet the Articles were not perfect, and did not appear to be able to provide long-term safety to the newly freed states. The concept behind the Articles was a very limited government, which proved to be effective in protecting the rights of the individual. However, money is required to keep a government operating, and the Articles provided no way of taxation; meaning that General Washington and his troops often went without pay, and the Congress could not raise money to pay off the massive debts contracted to foreign creditors during the war. Each state had its own currency, creating a massive headache and profit-loss as businesses tried to carry out interstate commerce. With no authority into civil matters, the Congress could not interfere when states went to war over boundaries, or when some states carried out individual wars with Indian tribes. And nothing could be enacted at the national Congress level unless all thirteen states agreed; a feat which never occurred. Finally, in the midst of all the other chaos, unpaid veterans of the war rose up under Daniel Shay in Shay’s Rebellion of 1786, demanding that the national government pay its debts and protesting the unfair taxes of their state (Massachusetts). A state militia quickly dispersed them; but the Founder’s greatest fears were coming true – the bloody anarchy running rampant in France was appearing in America, and Americans were being forced to take up arms against each other.
The Federation had united enough to win a war against England, but only a few years later, it appeared that the great experiment of freedom was already collapsing into the rule of the mob – soon, the superpowers of Europe would be able to return and retake their former colonies. The only possible way to save the struggling young union and prevent a total collapse of free power in New World was to create a stronger, more flexible central government that wielded enough power to keep the states from declaring war on each other and destroying themselves, but not enough power to develop into a totalitarian regime that could usurp the God-given, unalienable rights of the people.
In 1786, before Shay’s Rebellion, representatives from five states had met in Maryland to discuss the problems with sea trade and the high tolls and other difficulties that plagued people trading between states. The meeting accomplished little other than a proposal to revise the Articles of Confederation. Following Shay’s Rebellion, the Continental Congress issued a call for a convention “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation”.
The call for change had gone out, but it would come back stronger than expected. For time had already shown that neither a Coalition (as America currently had) nor a Democracy (as France currently had) could establish peace and protect freedom. The only option left was to create an entirely new government – the Republic.