Happy Birthday to the US Constitution September 17, 1787
As you’ve likely heard our country once was owned lock stock and barrel by the British, we were a colony. Trouble brewed up over taxes, and before you know it the British decided to have their army collect all the squirrel guns and militia’s cannons all across the country so we wouldn’t cause a fuss over the taxes and us losing our guns.
Not to be the Devils Advocate, but the British more or less rightfully wanted to have the colonists help with the costs of the earlier French and Indian War, in which the British and colonists fought to keep most of north America out of French hands. The British and the French had been having issues since way back as to who was going to be the biggest baddest Imperial Power on the planet.
North America was just a new battleground for the old foes. What we think of as our great nation complete with mortgages, fast cars, 4x4 trucks, cheeseburgers and onion rings, as a colony was little more than contested turf in a financial dominance war between England and France, and they both had little colonies like us all over the world.
Regardless, The American's felt like the taxes were way too much and were stewing about the whole thing.
The British knew without the guns we couldn't hunt and would be forced to buy meat shipped (three months one-way) from England. Being forced by the government to buy a product was yet again another form of taxation to the ever-angry colonists.
Americans back then weren't excited about giving up their guns, either.
Again, you’ve likely heard the result of that gun grab at Concorde in the spring of 1775 and, over the following decade or so our early American ancestors told the British to bugger off (The Declaration of Independence) and then showed the British what-for and ran their azzez, and those that liked and supported them, the Loyalists, all the way back to England. And into the Caribbean, but that’s another story.
Something about fighting for a freedom, an ability to do what you please, live where you want, grow, eat and live and prosper really made those old Minutemen go at it. They lost most of the battles true enough, but they gritted their teeth, got American mean stuck it out through thick and thin for the long run and won the The War of Independence.
It just feels good to be free and take care of your own house and stuff.
And by the bye it's documented that men, women and even children as young as eight, of all races including native Americans fought or served with or for General Washington in the cause of liberty. Add in the French, and other stragglers and those seeking freedom from all corners of Europe, asylum seeking British subjects including soldiers, exiles from all over, and the near, middle and far east, the Balkans and Russian immigrants all had some part in the war for independence, as they called it. The yearn for freedom isn't bound by DNA or geography.
We Won. Now What?
The Founding Fathers were as shocked as anyone over their surprise win, when General Cornwallis surrendered, essentially went back to their homes in the thirteen original colonies, to raise their crops and children and animals.
America was now a land of 13 separate but loosely allied countries. Thirteen economies, legislatures, laws, and monetary systems. When a tinkerer in Delaware wanted to buy a machine from a factory in Pennsylvania it was essentially an international deal complete with currency exchange rates and different import and export tariffs on not only machinery, but all goods across the entire continent.
What was legal in one country/state could be illegal in others, just like today and just like today back then in such a climate for business and jurisprudence, things could get sloppy fast. Roadside law enforcement in the Texas panhandle feasts on present day travelers returning from Colorado trips. Not picking on Texas, border states of all cannabis-friendly states dine on tickets and fines of those relaxed travelers leaving the Rockies, Oregon, and so on.
We Needed a Blanket Deal That Covered More Stuff
The old heads that had formed the Continental Congress years before decided to get together again, and appointed John Dickinson to write up an general and more comprehensive agreement all the colonies could settle on, and set one currency, one set of national laws and kind of make everything uniform as possible inasmuch as jurisprudence and trade within the states could reasonably be.
Odd thing, John Dickinson was against separating from Great Britain, and argued forcefully against it. That's why he made sure he had a say in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, basically ensuring that the language was temperate and not full of cuss words, insults to the king and vitriolic slang of the day. Then, incredibly later on he had a hand in writing the Constitution.
Dickinson’s Articles of Confederation did the trick for the time being, and evened out the process of well, just living and being in this country. And Dickinson also owns the distinction of being the first person to use the term The United States of America to describe the assemblage now legislatively of the separate colony cum states.
So once the Brit’s were gone, and a little chaos had ensued in the vacuum of a general set of laws, the Articles now set forth the functions of the national government of the United States. Now Congress could make treaties and agreements with other nations, make alliances such as with the French and even in time thanks to John Adams, even England itself, maintain an army and start printing money all on behalf of all the former colonies.
One thing congress had not the power to do under the Articles was to levy taxes. On anybody. The United States paid its way on a small taxes on imported goods and England still saw this as a ripe market, they may have lost a colony, but they wanted to keep a customer so it was almost automatic income, the tariffs on goods coming into the new country.
The Articles of Confederation Fell Short
Congress still didn’t have taxation power, and owed a lot of money after the Revolutionary War not only to Americans that invested through the purchase of war bonds, but to arms manufacturers, uniform makers, farmers, ranchers and almost everyone that supplied anything from a howdy-do and a wave to the passing army to the cannon manufacturers.
Nor did congress have any authority to arm-twist the states into helping out with the war debt. All congress could do to the states was send late notices and demands for payment, and many of us know how those get treated. And there was no judiciary, no national courts to sue the states for the war debt payments, or to settle border disputes and other disagreements between the states of which there were many.
Imagine parents with 13 kids and the yelling and squabbling that could arise on a rainy three-day weekend in their house and you get a sense of the underlying chaos the Articles left in place amongst the states.
One solution the Articles proposed was the states pay the national government's war debt based on the population of the state. The more people you have living in your state, the more people benefited from the liberation from the British, the more you should pay on the debt, yes? And very fair wouldn’t you say?
But hold on, southern states some with large slave populations didn’t want to count the slaves toward their debt, the difference in men as a question began to arise. For the moment they compromised based on the value of the state’s lands commercial production.
The Articles of Confederation were a handshake of sorts between neighbors, there was no real binding power behind the handshake if one neighbor decided to paint his house purple and orange and not mow his grass or feed his cows nothing much could be done. The Articles were like an HOA with no real power or authority to make you mow your lawn or rake your leaves.
The United States Constitution of 1787 And Individual Liberty
For thousands of years there was no concept of individual liberty, or personal freedom. Mankind lived under the rule of kings, monarchies were the prevalent form of government. You didn't even own yourself or your time.
A type of wide open unrestricted (also known as mob rule) Democracy had been tried in Greece but fell apart after a couple hundred years as the people ultimately realized they could vote to make the government give them other peoples property. That practiced cratered the whole system pretty quickly and, the area sank back into rule by fiat.
The King Owned You and Everything Around You Including Your Wife and Kids
You were taxed ninety-eight and ninety-nine percent on your labors and income. You served in the king’s army whether you wanted to fight or not. And if you weren’t a fighter you weren’t excused, you simply had a really short life span. Your life was not your own to make choices with.
After ten thousand years of history of living conditions for the ordinary man that pretty much sucked under kings, individual liberty, freedom for a citizen to do as he pleased, and keep the profits of his own labors was vitally important to the founders. It was the Number One cause with a Bullet.
And in that spirit the Founding Fathers wanted a government that didn’t rule them, but served them. A form of government that worked for the people of the country the participants of which could be changed routinely through elections on a national, state and local basis.
The idea was an ordinary citizen could serve a few terms in a congress for his fellow men as a representative, then return to his plow to live out his life by the laws he'd help enact.
Individual Rights The Kings Wouldn't Even Begin to Consider
Because for thousands of years, some people didn’t exactly like paying 99% taxes and doing whatever the king wanted them to do they'd shoot off their mouths and complain to their neighbors, who ever was breaking his back in the fields from sun up to sun down next to them, but under kings complaints were treated differently than we're used to.
Just like today some people resent the blind leadership of their elected officials or others and complain and sometimes things will improve, but for ten millennia all complainers got for shooting off their mouths were their tongues cut out at best and impaled with a semi-pointed log in a public blood-fest at the worst and even that after hours and days of agonizing unspeakably degrading humiliation in front of their friends and family. Our founders wanted everyone to be able to say anything they wanted to say, criticize the government even with no official repercussions.
They remembered how the British had come down so hard in wanting to take their guns, if they’d lost the guns they’d still be British subjects. We'd be British subjects, pale skinned, pasty and passive like the Canadians, eating crappy potato dishes with funky boiled fish and kidney pie. The founders thought it was important to have citizens own their own weapons, to protect themselves against invaders as well as their own government if it encroached upon them.
Then they thought instead of a king, an executive would be the seat and the face of public power. And so the executive didn’t begin to think he was a king, the Founders invented two other co-equal branches of government. Co-equal meaning no one part of the government, the congress who made up laws, the judges who decided if they were fair and in line with the new constitution and the executive would dominate the other, and thus the country. Each could thwart the other, or they could all agree. No one body or person in any branch could rule as the old monarchs had. The whole concept is no concentrated centralized power.
Remembering how the king decided everyone must worship the same way at the same church, The Church of England, which was conjured up for one particular king (Henry VIII) who wanted a divorce the Catholic Church wouldn't grant, the Constitution gives us all the right to worship any way we want to. Later on the king hacked off his ex-wife's head, you see how sketchy kings can act?
The Constitution laid out a series of rules, procedures and conducts for how the government would operate, elect representatives, the duties of the government to the people and, made the federal government equal to and answerable to the states. You see, the very Constitution can be changed if enough states agree to it.
Did you think the states are answerable to the federal government? The federal government answers to the states, the other perception is just the effect of eighty years of federal payoffs to the states. The states are addicted to federal money (taxes) and like a junky jonesing for a heroin hit the states protect their federal dollar faucet like mad. It's not all bad though, spreading the wealth around in some cases like infrastructure for the common welfare of the people is good for all. The Hoover Dam lights up almost all of the southwest nowadays. Toledo Bend is excellent fishing and family picnic grounds.
Many of these things, these individual freedoms and rights aren’t in the original Constitution signed on this day, which only set out to shore-up the old Articles of Confederation and allow the federal government to levy various taxes.
They knew it wasn't quite finished, it's hard to think of everything and the states later amended the Constitution to specifically warrant every citizen the right to speak freely, to own a weapon, to not have to put up and feed Army soldiers in your home against your will and at your expense. And every citizen has the right to get together with others to protest in peace against anything, something kings never allowed. A group of protesters in the king days was a day of target practice for the kings archers.
The right to free speech allowed a free press to be instituted. Newspapers and reporters charged with the awesome duty to watch government officials and report their daily doings allowing all of us to know if and when they might start going off the rails, Constitutionally speaking. That's the job of the free press, to keep an eye on government and to report immediately extra-Constitutional activity so we can take corrective action at the ballot box.
One amazing item when discussing the Constitution is, all the things it doesn’t give us the rights to have. But that's another story.
The Constitution of the United States, signed on this day, September 17th, 1787 wasn’t perfect but the basic tenants and rules of government conduct to the citizens it serves, free assembly, the right of an accused person to be presumed innocent, the right of every one of us to seek what in this life makes us happy is solid, valid and as important today as it ever was.
The Constitution, and its guarantee of individual liberty, allowed the United States in about one-hundred and fifty years to become the most powerful nation and people in all of the written history of mankind. Next to the Magna Carta it's the most important document ever conceived and effected by man. The Magna Carta is another example of masses of fed-up people forcing an English king to lighten up or else.
Our Constitution set the individual drive and spirit in each person free, free to do and free to become all they could be. The Constitution set out to create a better daily way of life for everyone and it has, much better than the bullshite king system had been for thousands of years.
Simply the drive and creativity of free individuals, men and women together made the United States the most powerful nation in the history of the world in little more than a hundred and fifty years. And that's something the kings, and monarchs and all the single payer systems in all the world in all of history of man have failed miserably to do.
They Signed It
On September 17, 1787 around 4 pm local time the delegates looked it over one more time, started dipping quill pens into black India ink and signed it to quiet murmurs in the room, so it could be ratified. Then they shook hands, slapped each other on the backs all-around smiling and gathered for drinks and dinner and lies about crop sizes and fish caught until late into the night at a tavern across the street.
Here’s the opening statement written into the Constitution, the preamble. In my day we had to memorize it in school, give it a think.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.