It's easy now, in a nation awash with complaints about what our Founders did not do, what imperfect humans they seem to 21st century eyes, to overlook how startlingly bold their views and actions were in their own day and are, in fact, even today. Who else in 1776 declared, let alone thought it a self-evident truth, that all men were created equal, entitled to inalienable rights, or to any rights at all? How few declare these views today or, glibly declaring them, really intend to treat their countrymen or others as equal, entitled to liberty and the pursuit of happiness?Read the whole thing.
Certainly not America's 20th century enemies, the Nazis and communists; certainly not today's Islamic radicals, who consider infidels unworthy to live and the faithful bound by an ancient and brutal code of law. We are fortunate that the Founders of our nation were enlightened, generous, jealous of their rights and those of their countrymen, and prepared to risk everything to create a free republic.
We were lucky in our generals. Unlike the commanders of nearly all revolutionary armies before and since, George Washington resisted the temptation to seize power… Washington prevented a coup by his officers; and when the war was over, he bid a moving farewell to his men and staff before appearing before Congress to resign his commission: "Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of Action...and take my leave of all the employments of public life." Then he hurried off to spend Christmas with Martha and their family. Although it sounds sentimental, trite even, it happened that way.
The union has always been difficult, from the first fears that the 13 separate states would behave as competing countries or bickering groups, through a brutal and painful civil war whose wounds have yet to entirely heal, to a vast, modern land whose residents, taking for granted the blessings bestowed upon them, are deeply divided and quick to vilify each other. More tragically, some seem to enjoy vilifying America, everything it has been and stands for, seeking and finding fatal shortcomings.
In 1825 Jefferson wrote to congratulate Adams on the election of his son, John Quincy to the presidency -- an election so close it was decided in the House of Representatives... On July 4 the following year, as the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, its two frail signers died within hours of each other. Their cause, "struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government," continues in the nation they launched, still fraught with aspirations and anxieties, flaws and divisions but, one hopes, with the ability to reconcile as they did, to work together for the joint venture.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
In gathering together notes for my Founders' Constitution exam, I came across this article by my professor, Joyce Malcolm: