Twelve score and three years ago our fore fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal. I ask you to reflect today on the past work done, the work at hand and the work before us, that we may continue to reap the blessings of liberty. For work it is to maintain this republic. And I propose that we are called to do this work. We must so resolve.
A rumored and actually documented exchange from 1787 exists that sounds almost like a Facebook post or Twitter exchange from today. After independence was won, the states chose an initial attempt at governance under the Articles of Confederation. This held states together but gave no power to an authority to make them cooperate. All could see how such a loose confederation was failing. And there were significant threats close by. So, a convention of the states was called to craft a “better solution”. It was a hot spring and summer in Philadelphia, a stifling hall, and heady discussions. The delegates came and went daily.
Imagine, a frustrated Benjamin Franklin, doddering, a wobbly man, leaving the hot and stuffy Independence Hall where the framers had been arguing for three months. A passing lady asked him, “Doctor Franklin, just what sort of government have you fashioned for us, a monarchy or a republic?”
He replied, “Madam, a republic; if you can keep it.”
He knew, they all knew back then, this would be hard work. I doubt they envisioned global warming, the internet, or a world population of 9 billion people. But they knew people.
After the Constitution was passed by the delegates, state conventions needed to ratify. The Federalist Papers were persuasion pieces by Hamilton, Madison and John Jay to convince, the State of New York, the big dog in New England to come on board. Here from Federalist #51 on how the Constitution protects us, mainly from ourselves:
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.
The argument the Federalist Papers were making is that we can build a structure, a set of laws we agree to, that will direct our different and varied interests to serve the common good.
We have much work before us to maintain this republic.
We have societal problems to solve and budgets to balance. Our founders knew we were just people, not special, of course we would have “different interests and be in different classes”. But they believed, as I do, we were then and now are equal to the task. May we know the worth and dignity of all as we work to:
Form a more perfect Union,
Insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare
To secure the blessings of liberty for us and our posterity.
May it be so.