The Foundations of America

What made America Unique

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 “...But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government;....” James Madison, Fourth President of the United States(1)

It’s all important to understand what ideals America was founded on to better understand how we got into the political and social dilemmas our society faces today.

  Writing the Constitution of the United States

When the 55 Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia in 1787, they recognized the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation, which united the colonies from 1781 to 1789.  The task facing the Founding Fathers, true visionaries, was unprecedented in world history. The Founders recognized that an excess of power leads to despotism, while too little authority leads to anarchy, and both eventually to the ruin of the people. Throughout history, it has proven impossible to establish a lasting free society capable of staying on that thin line that separates anarchy from overpowering government.

The Founders hoped for as close to a utopian society as possible - understanding the collective good will of the citizens would determine how close we get. The people of colonial America wanted the same things nearly everybody everywhere has ever wanted - a decent, safe place to live, ability to support your family and enjoy life.  The Declaration of Independence stated that people  “... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness... ” 

Everything they accomplished was for YOU.

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The Founders had to solve 2 dilemmas: 

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Thomas Jefferson
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Alexander Hamilton (1806)
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“The Revolution of the United States was the result of a nature and reflecting preference of freedom, and not of a vague or ill-defined craving for independence. It contracted no alliance with the turbulent passions of anarchy; but its course was marked, on the contrary, by a love of order and law. It was never assumed in the United States, that the citizen of a free country has a right to do whatever he pleases; on the contrary, more social obligations were there imposed upon him than anywhere else. No idea was ever entertained of attacking the principle or contesting the rights of society; but the exercise of its authority was divided, in order that the office might be powerful and officer insignificant, and that the community should be at once regulated and free.”  (7) Alexis De Tocqueville


1) set up the government and laws to govern a free society and 

2) how to maintain social order and morality in a free society.

The Founding Fathers argued and prayed often, and in less than 4 months, wrote the finest founding document in history. Completed on September 17, 1787, the Constitution established a republic, and set forth the responsibilities of the federal government. The Constitution created a unique framework of checks and balances under which the citizenry were to work out the never ending issues that would arise as the years went by. The Founders then placed the future of the nation into the hands of voters.

 Laws to Govern a Free Society

The Constitution was designed to deal with the failings of the human condition. The Founders had many fears of the excesses of human nature, notably the desire to control and accumulate ever increasing power. The Founders were well aware of the historical record on freedom. This is why the voting class was limited at first and then gradually expanded. This is why they put so many checks and balances into the system.

The Constitution established 3 separate branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial.  Each branch of government was to be a counterbalance against the other two and keep one branch of the government from becoming too powerful. The Legislative and Executive are subject to the will of the people through elections. The Judiciary would not be subject to elections. This was done in the hope that they would interpret the Constitution impartially and be free from political pressure. The House of Representative would be based on population, while the Senate would have 2 Senators from each state regardless of population. The system was designed to bring about change slowly. The Founders wanted change to be based on reasoned thought.

The Founders strongly believed that government should be ruled by laws and not by men. They firmly believed that the republican form of government would prove more stable in the long run. A democracy is essentially mob rule. While the Founders wanted majority rule, they did not want mob rule. Mob rule victimizes people holding an opposing viewpoint. With everyone holding different views on so many issues, the Founders wanted maximum individual freedom so we could all live our lives as we see fit.  However, in areas where there needs to be established policy, the Founders wanted majority rule within the Constitutional framework.  Agreeing to disagree is essential in a free society.  

America was the first country where power went from the people up to the government. In other societies, the relationship between government and the people was usually adversarial - us versus them. In America, the government was the people. 

2) Maintaining social order and morality in a free society.

While the Constitution dealt primarily with the actual structure of the new American republic, the best system in the world will only work as good as the collective goodwill of the people. The Founders knew that freedom is a double edged sword. It can be incredibly fulfilling or unbelievably destructive - individually and as a nation.  A moral, law abiding society comes first, freedom comes as a result. FREEDOM AND MORALITY ARE CO-DEPENDENT AND INSEPARABLE. It is impossible to have a functional free society where a significant percentage of society is amoral. Freedom without morality produces anarchy.

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“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”(2)  John Adams, second president of the United States. 

On what ideals would the citizens determine right and wrong? The Founders strongly believed that the moral code, self discipline and work ethic of the Christian Faith was absolutely vital for the Republic to endure and should be promoted by the government. The Founders wanted Christian beliefs to be the basis for law and morality in America. Yet they opposed establishing a theocracy or an official government sponsored religion like most other countries around the world. The Founding Fathers knew that it was not only counterproductive, but dangerous to establish a state religion.  

So the Founders put the burden of maintaining a civil society on the people. They believed that since the average person would have the most to lose if morals and social order broke down, it would be in the peoples self interest to maintain a moral and orderly society.

Instead of the government forcing its beliefs onto society, the people would determine their own values and impose them onto themselves through their elected representatives. They were confident that Christianity would endure throughout society on its own merits as the true religion of God and the superiority of its social values. Even people who were not Christian would feel comfortable living under the stability of Christian social values and its most important doctrine - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It was universally accepted that laws could be passed based solely on morality and the need to maintain a stable, safe society.

The reason the American experiment in freedom succeeded while so many others failed was because the morals and ethics of Christianity was predominant in colonial society.  Free societies lose their freedoms when they lose their ethics and morals. Then more and more laws must be passed to keep society functioning. The State becomes increasingly powerful in a nation of increasing lawlessness.

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Constitutional Convention 1787
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The most intelligent group opf men to ever assemble together gave the world a document that has been the blueprint for the constitutiopns for other nations around the world.

 

"The essence of biblical religion is ethics. The ethical self-government of the redeemed man is the foundation of society. God's law, not the autonomous laws of the universe, or the mind of man, or the dreams of men, is the basis of all order, including social order."(4) Gary North