By Dr. Harold A. Black
Happy Birthday America. It’s your 246th birthday. America is unique. Never before had a country been established with the individual, rather than the government, as its nexus. In America the government was to protect the liberty of the people. America was founded as a religious nation and its citizens’ rights came from God and not from the government. Thus, what God had bestowed no man could rend asunder.
The Declaration of Independence reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Founding Fathers realized that over time governments become entrenched and would seek to limit individual liberty. To guarantee the freedom of the individual, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution constitute the Bill of Rights. Although the country was founded as a Christian nation, the Founding Fathers guaranteed freedom of religion and took pains to separate religion from the state. It is remarkable that the Founders did not seek to impose their views if those views would limit the liberty of others.
That the Bill of Rights is now under assault is an indication that there are those who wish to abrogate the freedoms and liberties of their fellow citizens. There are those who seek to limit freedom of speech – if that speech conflicts with their views. There are those who wish to limit gun ownership and there are those who wish to limit religion – especially if that religion is Christianity. These people wish to terminate the America envisioned and established by the Founding Fathers and replace it with a tyrannical and overbearing government that places the state ahead of its citizens.
In order to keep tyranny at bay, the Founding Fathers established the country as a republic rather than a democracy. Knowing that democracy invariably leads to mob rule, the Founders created a government with checks and balances where the rights of the minority were enshrined. Presidents were elected not by the masses but by electors in the Electoral College whose numbers were determined by the number of representatives plus senators in each state. The Congress was composed of a House of Representatives determined by the Census and the Senate where each state had two senators regardless of the population of their state. Constitutional controversies were adjudicated ultimately by the Supreme Court which was shielded from political whims by lifetime appointments.
The genius of the Founding Fathers made America unique and with that uniqueness comes American exceptionalism. That exceptionalism is the product of individual freedom and the primacy of the individual over the government. It leads to American ingenuity and innovativeness. It encourages all to pursue the American dream and gives us pride in being American regardless of how we look.
I will never make excuses for America for America does not falter. Some of its citizens and some of its politicians are the ones who stray. Detractors criticize the Founding Fathers as a bunch of privileged old white men, some of whom owned slaves. Those critics are fools. They should read the founding documents. They should read the Federalist Papers. The Constitution does not grant advantages to old white men. It does not say all old white men are created equal. Self-serving old white men would not have written the founding documents.
Yes, there were slaveholders amongst them but also abolitionists like Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams and Roger Sherman. Many hated slavery but knew that in order to form the country, slavery would have to exist. Even Thomas Jefferson introduced in 1784 a proviso outlawing slavery in the new northwest territories (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan). They knew that one day slavery would end and that all men who are equal under God would become equal under the law. Those who today attempt to impose their morals on our history are being dishonest at best and are trying to use it as an excuse to tear down the foundations of freedom. Here are the words of Thomas Jefferson written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
“All eyes are opened, or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them.” Do those sound like the words of a privileged old white man?
I bear witness to the greatness of America and its uniqueness. As a grateful American who knew his great grandmother and she was a slave, thank you America. I love you.