“Governments, in general, have been the result of force, of fraud, and accident. After a period of six thousand years has elapsed since the creation, the United States exhibit to the world the first instance, as far as we can learn, of a nation, unattacked by external force, unconvulsed by domestic insurrections, assembling voluntarily, deliberating fully, and deciding calmly concerning that system of government under which they would wish that they and their prosperity should live.” — James Wilson, November 26, 1787 in remarks in Pennsylvania ratifying convention.
John Adams once wrote, “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”
The Revolution that forged America into existence began long before the first shot was fired on Lexington Green, and continued after the British surrender at Yorktown. The idea of Thanksgiving goes all the way back to the pilgrims, and in reality even further back than that. The Colonists used thanksgiving ceremonies and feasts to thank God for their survival and bounty, while sharing their bounty with their new found friends, the Indians. However, the holiday did not find its first governmental recognition until President George Washington recognized it in 1789 with a proclamation. Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated nationally on the fourth Thursday of every November until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it to be in his Thanksgiving Address of 1863. Thanksgiving was not even a formal federal holiday until 1941.
In 1787, in an effort to create a more perfect union, the federal government was born through the pages of the U.S. Constitution. It took the sovereign States uniting as one to defeat the great British Empire, so it was reasonable to assume a strong union would be necessary to weather the storms the new country would encounter in the future. With God’s guidance, the Founding Fathers studied history, and labored for four months to give us the greatest document, second only to the Holy Bible, this world has ever seen: The U.S. Constitution.
Understanding that history reveals the danger of too much power in any one group’s hands, the Founding Fathers aimed to divide power as much as possible, and rather than make the new union of states a democracy fully run by the vote of the people, or an oligarchy fully run by the whims of a few powerful men, the Founders chose to make this country a republic based on law, operating under the rule of law, and that law was not to be based upon the opinions of a bunch of judges or politicians, but forged in the text of the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land.
The Founding Fathers used history, and the guiding principles of their faith in God, to structure the federal government. Fashioned based on a godly foundation, the federal government has only limited powers granted to it by the States and delegated to it by the pages of the Constitution. The enumeration of certain powers in the U.S. Constitution is known as The Enumeration Doctrine. If the federal government desires a new authority, they may propose an amendment, but such authority is not to be granted unless the States approve the request by ratifying the amendment with a 3/4 approval. The States can propose amendments as well, through convention – a method not used since the ratification of the Constitution (though the call for a convention has been applied for over 750 times by 49 States). The federal government, however, as history has proceeded, has seized power without the consent of the people, and is becoming a governmental system the Founding Fathers feared may emerge. . . hence the reason for the detail that went into the U.S. Constitution – to stop the formation of a tyranny before it can take root.
Storms were on the horizon, and the Founding Fathers knew this. They recognized that there were those out there that desired a more centralized government, those that place as much faith, if not more, in government than they did God. These learned men understood that challenges would arise. Knowing these things, they wrote the Constitution with the intention to address each of those issues, and ensure that the great experiment of the United States of America would stand the test of time.
The Constitution, and the principles of America contained within its pages, are not out of date, no more than liberty and freedom can be out of date. The philosophies of the Founding Fathers are contained within the pages of the founding documents (Articles of Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution), and if we as a country based on liberty were to simply adhere to its wisdom, the United States would continue to prosper. George Washington realized that the U.S. Constitution was not written only for the era of America’s founding, but to outlast empires and other foreign governments as a government structured to fit the requirements of human nature. Freedom is the same regardless of the time period, and the challenges are always present, as well. However, the United States survived the obstacles it had experienced, and the U.S. Constitution was written to be a sound document rooted in the wisdom of the ages. Therefore, George Washington felt it important to give credit where credit is due, and proclaim a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for the miracle that was, and is, the United States of America.
The original Thanksgiving found the Pilgrims celebrating more than just giving thanks to God for their bounty. The Pilgrims had tinkered with a communal system, a centralized community basket, or what today we call “socialism.” The socialistic system failed, and many pilgrims literally starved to death. Without the personal incentive of a free market environment, the people did not work their fields as they should, becoming dependent on others to supply the food and supplies to the community stash, and becoming more dependent than they should be on trade and help from the Indians. However, when the system was changed to one of a free market, where the citizens kept most of what they produced, and then were able to sell or trade their excess in a vibrant market within the community, and eventually with other communities, the new settlements began to flourish, and prosper.
Once per year we have the opportunity to give thanks as the Pilgrims did, and as the early Americans did; giving thanks for survival and prosperity, giving thanks for the loved ones we have around us and around this country, giving thanks to God for the birth of this great federal republic, giving thanks for the miracle of the U.S. Constitution, and to thank God for our defeat of socialism way back in the 1600s, which may have very well destroyed America before the country had the chance to take its first deep breath. It was freedom, liberty, and a free market that gave the Pilgrims their bounty, and the Founding Fathers understood that. The real question now is, though the Founding Fathers understood the principles of liberty, do we?
Happy Thanksgiving, and may America continue to be the shining beacon on the hill – the light of the world that serves as an example of freedom, prosperity, and one republic under God for all to see, and emulate.