I looked out the window anticipating the flags and fireworks that mark Fourth of July celebrations. I was thinking about the Declaration of Independence signed by our ancestors back in 1776.
I wonder if any of them could see the future that included both the struggles and the great outcomes? That document marks the beginning of the first successful establishment of a democratic government anywhere on this earth.
I think my children and grandchildren understand how many of their freedoms were started on the first July Fourth.
It is only with age that I have become to respect what those Americans started and left for future generations to enjoy.
No one is ever totally a “self-made” man or woman. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before.
The Declaration of Independence was just the first document, and the one that started the war and the long struggle to establish a democratic form of governance.
The 13 independent colonies formed a weak national government with the Articles of Confederation in 1781 prior to the end of the Revolutionary War. Each state had one vote and nine states had to vote yes to carry any decision.
Canada was pre-approved to join if they should make such a request.
The federal government could not levy any taxes and could not settle any disputes between the states.
That was the loosely knit republic called the “United States of America” when the 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the war with England.
George Washington went home to his Mount Vernon farm, and by 1787, the states were holding a convention to write a more effective constitution.
It was obvious that a unity government would require the states to give power to a central federal entity.
That constitution was ready and approved in 1788 and Washington was elected president in 1789.
It had taken 13 years to declare independence, fight the war, write two constitutions and install a president and cabinet.
Almost the first act of the new government was to change the new constitution and add 10 amendments we know as the Bill of Rights.
That 1789 Constitution gave each state two senators and allocated seats in the House of Representatives according to population in each state.
Counting people for a first census created a problem that nearly sank the unity of the country.
Were slaves citizens to be counted or considered “property?”
The compromise written into the Constitution was to count each slave as a part of a person.
The slave issue was central to politics in the USA every time a new state was added.
The Compromise of 1820 drew the Mason-Dixon line with states to the south coming in with slaves.
Tension continued until the War Between the States broke out in 1861. That bloody engagement settled the issue of slavery and avoided the breakup of the Union.
It took a war to convince states that they could not withdraw from the United States.
Citizens still argue about the meaning of the Constitution and the amendments.
Decisions depend as much on the specific nine people on the Supreme Court at any one time as on the document itself.
Only once in our 230 years of building this democracy have the citizens gone to civil war. That remains the bloodiest conflict in our history.
We remain the first and oldest continuous democracy under one constitution.
Thank you brave men and women who risked your lives to establish this land of free and prosperous people.
May each generation cherish the inheritance and do what is necessary to maintain it.
And may we stand by Iraq and give them a chance to establish the first self-governing democracy in the Middle East.
Anyone interested in intriguing historic facts about the place of Christianity in the development of the United States should read two books by Peter Marshall, son of the former U.S. Senate chaplain, and David Manuel. “The Light and the Glory” and “From Sea to Shining Sea” cover our history from before 1620 to 1837.
These are carefully documented histories that will either challenge your views of our country’s origins or cause you to debunk the books as “biased.”
You will be amazed at how interesting history can be.