Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The UNITED States of America

American Creation discusses the Triumphs and Tragedies of the Founding Republic. Written by Dr. Joseph Ellis, the author is a controversial among scholars but his skills are recognized as a foremost University History Professor turned popular author. He is described as likely the most widely read author today on our Founding Fathers. He has authored several award-winning books, particularly on John Adams, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, in that order. He viewed Adams as greatly under-valued and focused his studies on our earliest founders.

At the time, I noted his thought suggesting the success of the individual (Bill of Rights) came in protection of the whole (Constitution), rather than just Washington, Jefferson et al, including Clay, Lincoln and etc. I further noted how he viewed our first two presidents, which I found most interesting:
               1. Adams - pragmatic provization
               2. Washington - control of space (West of Mississippi)
               3. Control of pace - race put off (slavery) although okay with the Indians.
               4. Space and pace not matched with Race (black).

As Ellis noted, America’s founders developed in an age when they would have been otherwise confined because they lacked aristocracy. When you view our Founding Fathers, whatever else you may determine about them individually; for the most part they offer a group portrait. They were our founding fathers, not just George Washington, or Adolph Hitler, or Donald Trump, they were the group.

As a group, they won colonial independence, established a nation sized republic by popular consent, that was also a secular state (as opposed to a theocracy) that also included overlapping authorities (which I see for example in the balance of power with the presidential leader, the congress, et al, and again in the separation of church and state). Moreover, they established Institutionalized channels for dissent while failing to settle slavery and failing to resolve/implement the issue of Indian settlement.

Ellis suggests to my mind that we can charge America’s founders with failure because of the multiple issues of slavery, Indians, women, equal economics, et al; but he seems to say “not so fast!” He believes they established a context for resolving those issues and the rest is up to us. And that seems to be where many of us hang up and square off at one another today.

I am well aware today of two opposing forces in America. One suggests the Constitution is a sacred document as written, very much like the King James Version of the Bible, and that although it was written expressly by scholars approved by King George of England and had to pass his approval, it was nevertheless good enough for the Apostle Paul and should be good enough for me. 

On the other hand, there are those who accept the fact that the Constitution, as inspired as it was, did not finally resolve for all time the issues of slavery and human rights and that it gave more citizenship rights to a white male landowner than it did to women and slaves etc. Moreover, it was written in a time when we were thirteen separate colonies with each colony having its own independence, infrastructure et al and it left a lot of the development of our nation to be worked out by succeeding governments working in their own times.

The author quotes Adams (p49) in 1776: “When asked, Adams would always concur that a republic was bottomed on the principle of popular sovereignty, but the political expression of that sovereignty in any government must be plural rather than singular because the interests of ‘the people’ were diverse and often mutually exclusive. Hindsight again allows us to detect a truly modern idea entering the conversation in ‘Thoughts,’ the idea of multiple or shared sovereignties.”

Concludes Ellis: “While Adams was a firm believer in making the American Revolution happen slowly in order to cushion the shock of abrupt change, this particular feature of his political thought represented a fundamental break with past wisdom that contained truly jarring implications for any singular definition of political authority.” Thus, Ellis would conclude that Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence owes its acceptance to John Adams “Thoughts” that enabled colonies to oppose King George’s top-down authority from the bottom up.

It is an American tragedy that so many Americans today do not, cannot, will not, accept the wisdom posited by our second president, John Adams, for had not our founders agreed with Adams, they would never have found mutual basis for allowing a bunch of commoners spread across thirteen British colonies in North America to dissent from King George and break away to found the “United” States of America.

I am at Warner’s World, praying

God again enable us to become sufficiently devout so as to be grateful enough to again be the United States of America. 

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