Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 19th: "Patriots Day"

Patriots Day commemorates the battle of Lexington and Concord which were fought on April 19, 1775. Part of the history of this famous revolutionary battle was the midnight ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes. The Sons of the American Revolution in Massachusetts were largely responsible for the official recognition of the event.

Historical Setting:
Massachusetts Colony was a hotbed of sedition in the spring of 1775. Preparations for conflict with the Royal authority had been underway throughout the winter with the production of arms and munitions, the training of militia (including the minutemen), and the organization of defenses. In April, General Thomas Gage, military governor of Massachusetts decided to counter these moves by sending a force out of Boston to confiscate weapons stored in the village of Concord and capture patriot leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock reported to be staying in the village of Lexington.

The atmosphere was tense, word of General Gage's intentions spread through Boston prompting the patriots to set up a messaging system to alert the countryside of any advance of British troops. Paul Revere arranged for a signal to be sent by lantern from the steeple of North Church - one if by land, two if by sea. On the night of April 18, 1775 the lantern's alarm sent Revere, William Dawes and other riders on the road to spread the news. The messengers cried out the alarm, awakening every house, warning of the British column making its way towards Lexington. In the rider's wake there erupted the peeling of church bells, the beating of drums and the roar of gun shots - all announcing the danger and calling the local militias to action.

In the predawn light of April 19, the beating drums and peeling bells summoned between 50 and 70 militiamen to the town green at Lexington. As they lined up in battle formation the distant sound of marching feet and shouted orders alerted them of the Redcoats' approach. Soon the British column emerged through the morning fog and the confrontation that would launch a nation began ...

Patriots Day is commemorated each year in Massachusetts and Maine with dramatic battle re-enactments, parades and ceremonies. Among the better-known commemorative events on Patriots Day is the Boston Marathon, which has been run now for over a century.

Patriots Day is a public holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, celebrated on the Monday nearest that date. All Massachusetts state, county and town government offices and many local businesses close, though federal government offices, post offices, and offices of large interstate and international companies remain open.

The re-enactment of the battle on Lexington Green starts at dawn (6 am), but crowds of spectators begin to gather several hours before. Before 6 am you will hear the redcoats marching along Battle Road as they approach Lexington Green.

“…these reenactments are always heartfelt and often poignant. None more so than the reenactment of the Battle at Lexington Green. Hundreds of people gathered on the green hours before dawn, despite the bitter cold ... Just as the sun barely started to cut through the historically inaccurate fog, the British regulars marched into the square and giddy anticipation turned quiet and somber. Within twenty minutes eight men representing our first fallen veterans were laying on the grounds while the regulars regrouped and marched off to the beat of drummers. As the announcer called the names of the fallen minutemen, their proxies stood and were escorted to the burial grounds for a moving memorial ceremony.”

Patriots Day events in nearby Concord include a mid-morning parade with lots of fife-and-drum bands and groups of Minutemen from surrounding towns is followed by ceremonies at Old North Bridge and the repeated firing of two brass cannons. Several church halls open to provide pancake breakfasts to the multitude.

May we remember our brave ancestors who sacrificed in so great a cause, to bring about our national independence and liberty.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Federalism and the Tenth Amendment

“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.”[1] -– Thomas Paine

Under federalism power is shared between the national government and the state governments. The federal government’s powers are restricted to those explicitly stated in the Constitution, being known as “enumerated powers.” The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states: “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.” Thus, any power asserted by the federal government which is not entrusted to it by the people under the Constitution (either expressly or clearly implied as “necessary and proper”) is either non-existent, or is usurped. This constitutes the difference between liberty and tyranny.

As a prelude to the adoption of the Tenth Amendment (as part of the Bill of Rights), and in connection with the principle of enumerated powers in the Constitution, James Madison in the Federalist stated, “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 …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 ….”[2] Madison also stated, “The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the [federal] government.[3] Thus, pursuant to the precepts of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the federal government was intended to have less power than the states, with federal powers being “few and defined” and “confined to specific objects.” For example, other than its powers under Article I. Section 8 to “regulate Commerce” and to “suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions,” nowhere in the federal Constitution is Congress given authority to legislate over local and state matters concerning the health, safety, and education of citizens. How far have we strayed from these original standards of our Republic?

By: J. David Gowdy
[1] Thomas Paine, Rights of Man (Watts & Co., London, 1906), p. 97.
[2] Federalist No. 45 (emphasis added).
[3] James Madison, Speech in the House of Representatives, January 10, 1794; Lance Banning, ed., Liberty and Order (Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 2004), p. 158 (emphasis added).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Favorite Quotes by Thomas Jefferson on Religion

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are a gift from God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1794 

“One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.” --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. 

“Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.” --Thomas Jefferson to John Thomas et al., 1807 

“The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” --Thomas Jefferson: University of Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819 

“We are all created by the same Great Spirit; children of the same family. Why should we not live then as brothers ought to do?” -- Thomas Jefferson to the Delaware & Shawanee Nations, February 10, 1802 

 “He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ.”--Thomas Jefferson to William Canby, April 12, 1803 

 “I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.” – Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803 

 “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.” --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, September 18, 1813 “It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read.” --Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. Harrison Smith, August 6, 1816 

“I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of his religion, having no foundation in what came from him. . . . If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind but too late for me to witness it.” --Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 4 November 1820 

 “The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practised by himself.” --Thomas Jefferson to Van der Kemp, 1820 

 “But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore us to the primitive and genuine doctrines of [Jesus] this the most venerated reformer of human errors.” --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823 

 “Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss.” -- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Smith, 1825

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty is a cornerstone of a free society. Without honesty, there can be no trust, and without trust all that we depend on in our republic -- government, banking, commerce, education, etc. -- would all eventually crumble. Thomas Jefferson said that, “Honesty and interest are as intimately connected in the public as in the private code of morality.” The ‘interest’ he refers to is the self-interest we all have in earning a living and preserving the fruits of our labors, as well as in sustaining our private and public relationships.

With respect to trust in our government leaders, Jefferson referred to dishonest governors as “rouges.” He said, “rogues set out with stealing the people's good opinion, and then steal from them the right of withdrawing it, by contriving laws and associations against the power of the people themselves.” In order to maintain a republic, there must be a great measure of honesty and trust between those elected as our representatives and the electorate. Our elected leaders serve as the head to the body of the people. They must not “steal the people’s good opinion” and turn their power against the people themselves. This, Jefferson hoped would be “the age of experiments in government, and that their basis will be founded in principles of honesty, not of mere force.”

But the honesty required must be mutual (between both leaders and citizens) in order to achieve the desired results of security, peace and happiness. This Jefferson confirmed, stating, “I have such reliance on the good sense of the body of the people and the honesty of their leaders that I am not afraid of their letting things go wrong to any length in any cause.” Unfortunately, things do go wrong because of the choices and acts of dishonest persons. There are many evidences and stories in our day of dishonesty and its effects in our culture and government. We may ask ourselves, “What are some of the consequences of dishonesty in our society?” In our business dealings? In our personal and family relationships? Upon reflection, truly we can agree with with Jefferson, that “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

May we resolve to be honest in all of our dealings, and may we hold ourselves and our leaders to the highest standards of honesty, in order to prosper and remain strong as a nation.

"Honesty is the best policy." --George Washington

By: J. David Gowdy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Loyalty to the Constitution

John Adams wrote: “Moral … and political virtue, cannot be too much beloved, practiced, or rewarded; but to place liberty on that foundation only would not be safe … that form of government which unites all the virtue, honor, and fear of the citizens, in a reverence and obedience to the [Constitution and] laws, is the only one in which liberty can be secure, and all orders, and ranks, and parties, compelled to prefer the public good before their own; that is the government for which we plead.”[1] Abraham Lincoln addressed this subject in his Address titled, “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” Regarding this speech, one historian has written, “If ever Abraham Lincoln addressed the requirements for a successful republic ... he did so in a speech delivered on January 27, 1838, to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois.”[2] Lincoln directs our hearts to the import and obligation of devotion to the cause of liberty, and appeals to every American to “pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor” in support of the Constitution:

“I know the American People are much attached to their Government; —I know they would suffer much for its sake;—I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come. Here then, is one point at which danger may be expected.

The question recurs "how shall we fortify against it?" The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;—let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the [Constitution and] laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap—let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges;—let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;—let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”[3]

As citizens of the American Republic, our loyalty to the Constitution should be placed above politics, parties, candidates, or elected leaders.

By: J. David Gowdy
[1] George W. Carey, ed., The Political Writings of John Adams (Regnery Publishing, Washington, 2000) p. 296.
[2] Lucas E. Morel, Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government (Lexington Books, Oxford, 2000), p. 23.
[3] Id., pp. 25-26 (emphasis added).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers were written following the Constitutional Convention by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, as eighty-five essays addressed “To the people of the State of New York” and published in the New York newspapers between October 27, 1787 and April 4, 1788, under the pen name of "Publius" (a collective pseudonym for Hamilton, Madison and Jay), in support of the new Constitution, arguing for its superiority over the Articles of Confederation. The Federalist was also intended to influence Americans in all thirteen states to approve the new Constitution. To this end, the authors were willing to set aside their political differences in pursuit of the common goal of ratification.

Concerning the Federalist Papers, George Washington said, “[they] have thrown new light upon the science of government; they have given the rights of man a full and fair discussion, and explained them in so clear and forcible a manner as cannot fail to make a lasting impression.”1 And, Thomas Jefferson stated that they constitute “the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.”2

The Federalist is, by far, the most authoritative text and commentary for interpreting the Constitution and provides significant insights into the intent of the framers. The Papers essentially detail the “how” and “why” behind each article and provision of the Constitution -- providing for us a thorough description and analysis of the structure and meaning of the Constitution. They address the political themes of: (i) federalism, (ii) checks and balances, (iii) the separation of powers, (iv) pluralism, and (v) representation. Significantly, however, the Federalist reveals that the key to our American system of government (a Republic) is channeling and “checking” human nature in respect to ambition and power among leaders, and encouraging civic virtue among the people, in whom the power resides. Clinton Rossiter, a noted historian and constitutional scholar summarized the message of the Federalist:

"[T]he message of The Federalist reads:
no happiness without liberty,
no liberty without self government,
no self government without constutionalism,
no constitutionalism without morality – and
none of these great goods without stability and order."3

Rossiter’s conclusion is that the Federalist is "the most important work of political science ever written in the United States." Hence, it could be stated that no other work is of greater value to students, teachers, and citizens in our journey to learn and appreciate the applied genius that is the Constitution of the United States of America.

By: J. David Gowdy
1 George Washington to George Armstrong, April 25, 1788, The Writings of George Washington, Jared Sparks, ed. (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1847) 9:352.
2 Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, November 18, 1788, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ME 7:183.

3 Clinton Rossiter, ed., Federalist Papers (Mentor Edition, 1961), Preface.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Liberty has a Price

"The independence and liberty you possess are the work of . . . joint efforts, of common dangers, suffering and successes."
--George Washington

Despite a natural tendency to believe that liberty is a gift to be autonomously received and enjoyed, without price or reassessment -- liberty is not free. Liberty must be both earned and guarded. Thomas Jefferson in his First Inaugural Address said that: "The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to [the] attainment" of our liberty and form of government. Charles Caleb Colton said: "Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed." Alfred Denning, an English jurist, stated: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." And, Boyd K. Packer, a prominent religious educator, said: "Freedom is not a self-preserving gift. It has to be earned, and it has to be protected." Thus, in order to be obtained, liberty must be earned or won, and in order to be maintained, liberty must be effectively re-earned and re-won in the hearts of each generation.

What is the relationship between liberty and its price? First, liberty is freedom from oppression or bondage. Thus, liberty is procured through deliverance or redemption from bondage. For our forefathers, this bondage was the religious and economic oppression of Great Britain's rule over the original Colonies. Such circumstances would also be analogous to the plight of many who have been led to America's shores. Secondly, redemption from bondage requires sacrifice. America's liberty was originally bought by the sacrifice of men's blood shed in the Revolutionary War. It has been re-bought by sacrifice and blood shed in subsequent wars, including the Civil War and World Wars. Finally, liberty is upheld by remembering and honoring such sacrifices -- which requires both knowledge of, and gratitude for, such sacrifices. If the Founding Fathers could speak to us today regarding liberty, rest assured that their message would include reference to the horrible price paid at Valley Forge, Morristown, Camden, and Yorktown, etc. Others of a later time would speak to us of Gettysburg or Pearl Harbor. Only by vicarious remembrance and sincere gratitude for the heavy price paid for the gift of liberty, which we so abundantly enjoy, can we truly appreciate its value and fulfill our duty to uphold it for future generations.

Of those who pledged "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor" as signers to the Declaration of Independence, five were captured as traitors and tortured before they died; twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; two lost their sons in the Revolutionary War; another had two sons captured; and nine died from wounds or the hardship of the war (quoted from Ezra Taft Benson). Are we equally as willing to pay liberty's price?

"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!" Patrick Henry

By: J. David Gowdy

See: Seven Principles of Liberty