The Foundations of the United States
15 Foundational principles for the United States
The foundations for the United States of America were revolutionary new ideas in the 1700s. Although many of these ideals are common in many countries around the world today, understanding why these ideas are so essential is the great challenge from one generation to the next in America.
1) Morality - A free society cannot exist without the people voluntarily living under the moral code of Christianity. Laws don’t make an individual moral, it makes them conform. Self-adherence to the morals of Christianity is the most important aspect of maintaining a safe society and eliminates the need for extensive police presence and lots of laws designed to control people.
2) Importance of the individual - In no other country does a founding document declare that the individual gets his rights and importance from God. In other countries “the masses” were merely a tool of state policy. In no other country was personal development and education encouraged like it was in the US.
3) Personal Freedom and Responsibility - Freedom can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding or incredibly destructive. In a free country, your choices determine your fate. That’s what freedom is all about. You are free to succeed or fail. There were no welfare bums living off the taxpayer in colonial society. Americans were raised on responsibility and self reliance. If you were struck by unfortunate circumstances, you were helped by family, friends, the church, charitable or fraternal organizations and later, private insurance companies.
• 4) Rule of Law - In America the Constitution rules. American society rests on the Rule of Law, NOT the Rule of Men. The Rule of Law means no one is above the law. Police, politicians, business tycoons, celebrities are subject to the same laws as everyone else. This is a utopian concept and America has failed on occasions. Yet all things considered, America has done very well at applying this concept. To understand a society run by the Rule of Men, examine the history of Mexico from it’s independence in 1821 to the present.
- 5) Separation of Powers - The Three branches of the Federal Government were to provide checks and balances against each other. When one of these branches becomes too dominant, there are dire consequences to the Rule of Law and Representative government. Separation of powers was also considered all important between Federal, state and local governing bodies. Since the massive expansion of the federal bureaucracy from the 1960’s onward, state and local governments have lost much of their independence.
- 6) Voting - The voters elected the President through the Electoral College and the House of Representatives through direct popular vote. Voting was initially limited to white males who were property owners and the Founders have been criticized for this. However, the Founders were very concerned about voters being educated enough to vote responsible people into office. Even with this property requirement, 50 to 85 percent of white males were eligible to vote, depending on the state.(7) As the American experiment in self rule has progressed, voting in America is a story of ever increasing voting rights. In addition, the integrity of the voting system is vital for peaceful resolution of issues. Unfortunately, since Clinton signed “motor voter” into law in 1993, fraud has become an increasing problem and a threat to our democratic process.
- 7) Education was considered absolutely vital. No country in history stressed education for all like the US did. Dictators don’t want a lot of educated people around to challenge their authority. In America, an educated population was critical in a nation where voters decided who runs the country. Education was essential for individual growth and well-being as well as economic growth for the nation and raising up the next generation of leaders.
- 8) Freedom of Speech - The US was the first country were people could express any political view they wanted. Obviously it was not intended to use this freedom to threaten violence or other extreme rhetoric.
- 9) Freedom of the Press - The US was the first country with a totally free press. Anyone could print up anything they wanted or start a newspaper. In other countries, licenses and fees were used to control who was allowed to go into business and what information was printed. In many countries, there was no freedom of speech or of the press. The first thing any dictator does is take control of the media. As an example, Venezuela’s fascist leader Hugo Chavez used alleged violation of government regulations to take EVERY radio and TV station that had programing opposing Chavez taken off the air waves. It is much safer for freedom of speech for the market place of ideas to decide what is broadcast. It you don’t like the programing on a station, change the station.
- 10) The right to keep and bear Arms - the second thing any dictator does is to disarm the people - after first taking control of the media. The Founding Fathers recognized this.
- 11) Religious Freedom - The government was prohibited from establishing a state religion that everybody was expected to belong to. You could be any religion or no religion. Since Christian values were considered all important in maintaining morality, views could be expressed in any setting - private, public or governmental. (Liberals who oppose free speech have effectively outlawed portions of the First Amendment)
- 12) Economic Freedom - Economic freedom and political freedom go hand in hand. Free enterprise uses the natural tendencies of human nature for the betterment of society by rewarding work. The British colonial system of mercantilism was designed to keep the colonies dependent on Britain. The Founding Fathers knew that socialism was a failure as it destroys individual initiative and compromises freedom. The American Republic became a unique experiment in free enterprise and unprecedented open markets.
- 13) Private Property - Most people today don’t understand the absolute importance of private property rights. Private property is essential for prosperity and maintenance of liberty. Owning things was the natural reward for work. Historically, when the state takes control of private property, it has resulted in dire consequences for justice and economic prosperity. If the state owns everything, they own you and the work ethic dies. Revolutions occur in countries where the people don’t own much and have little to lose by revolting.
- 14) Trial by Jury and Due Process - a jury of peers will decide guilt or innocence, not a government bureaucrat, which was common in many countries of the day. No one can be arrested or held in prison without being charged. In other countries, people would be taken away by authorities and held indefinitely without ever being charged with a crime.
- 15) English Language - Though the Constitution does not spell it out, it was understood from the beginning that there had to be a common language, which was English. This is why the Founders adopted the motto “E Pluribus Unum” in 1782 - "Out of many, one," For the first 200 years, immigrants learned English and assimilated into American society. It has only been in modern times that the government has foolishly catered to non-English speaking immigrants in their native language.
The American Constitution accomplished goals that had proven impossible for earlier generations anywhere in the world to figure out. Lord Acton of England, who once said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” would say of the writers of the American Constitution, “They had solved with astonishing ease and unduplicated success two problems which had heretofore baffled the capacity of the most enlightened nations. They had contrived a system of federal government which prodigiously increased national power and yet respected local liberties and authorities, and they had founded it on a principle of equality without surrendering the securities of property or freedom. ” Never in any society had the importance of the individual been so firmly established and given such a priority.
America was the first country in history to be founded on a set of ideals, rather than race, ethnic makeup or religion. But to say that America is merely an ideological country would not be accurate. By the time of the Revolutionary War in 1776, the 2.5 million people of colonial America had developed a distinctly American culture, based largely on Biblical beliefs. While the ideals set forth in the Constitution were revolutionary for the rest of the world, for most Americans, it was a logical progression of governance for the new nation.
Americans enjoyed unprecedented freedoms that no other society on Earth had at that time. The American Revolution was unique in world history for its goodness. The form of government set up by our Founding Fathers was the best form of government ever devised and changed the whole world for the better. In the 1770’s, in virtually every country in the world at that time, you had a ruling elite which imposed laws on everyone else at their whim. (like today's leftist federal judges)
It has been pointed out endlessly that colonial America had social flaws - principally slavery. Slavery was not an American invention. It was common all over the world at the time. Africans, American Indians, Muslims and a host of other cultures openly traded and owned slaves. We need to remember that there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians - Englishmen and Americans - created one. The critical importance of our founding document is that it gave a moral legal basis to the eventual eradication of slavery, not only in America but around the world.
To condemn the Founding Fathers for having tolerated a society that allowed slavery was to expect far more from them then they were able to attain at that time period. Yet it is significant that even the Founders who profited from slavery condemned it and set in motion the forces that would ultimately destroy it. While the Founders were idealistic, they were also practical and hoped that human progress would continue to advance under our enlightened Constitution.
The Founding Fathers made successful efforts to contain or limit slavery throughout the United States and its territories, including banning slavery in the Northwest Territory in 1787. Congress abolished the importation of slaves into the US in 1807. Great Britain also banned the African slave trade in 1807, but the trade of African slaves to Brazil and Cuba continued until the 1860s.
The Founding Fathers hoped that social action by Christians would continue to make slavery morally reprehensible in all of America and around the world. This is one of many ways America shaped the world for the better.
America is a unique gift to the world.
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