“Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” – Winston Churchill
We started with families, tribes, groups of men and women coming together for security, with our strongest being the leader. Our first philosophy of governance was that of the Lion – he who is strongest rules the jungle. This of course led to battles and wars to determine the strongest and, realizing that War is not good for Us, understanding that a Body divided against itself cannot survive, we developed “Religion.” Call it whatever you wish, the point is simply that We, as a group of men and women, came to understand that the “right” answer is for us to be good to one another. And We grew…
“Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.” – Thomas Paine
We developed “judges” to determine who was right in individual matters – chiefs, wise men, religious leaders – and we felt we needed a better method of determining our leader than a war to decide who was the strongest. As such, we developed Monarchy. We surmised that having a defined succession of power was better than a fight to determine our ruler, and so we sought Kings. The Bible speaks of this; Us asking for a King, and our Creator, knowing that it was not our desired end state but also realizing that this stage must take place, obliged.
Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do. Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king… But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” – 1 Samuel 8:9-22
We tried birthright kings, the church selecting a king, the people electing a king, and we tried each method many times over… it took a while before we realized that kings, despots, rulers – they are not how we are meant to govern in this life. In many areas of the world We are realizing it this very day. An earthly Supreme Ruler, a man who speaks for God, an unchecked and unbalanced power to represent the people, no matter how well intentioned this Supreme Ruler might be – this is not the desired end state of this world.
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
After noble uprisings, populist revolutions, religious wars, ethnic cleansing, and much consternation, we got to a Republic. The Greeks understood our great mission, studied government philosophy extensively, had a wonderful debate over how to form the best government, and Plato pondered “Who will Guard the Guardians?”
“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” – James Madison
It is still the question, one We should be asking ourselves in our day, and why We the People need to re-dedicate ourselves to understanding our nation’s political issues and process. But I digress… for now, back to history. We established a coin monetary system in Lydia, city-states in Greece and again in Rome, leading into representative Republics, and we are trying a democratic republic this very day in our country. All the world is still trying to answer the question, “What functions should a government perform, and how should it pay for itself?” And that is where “We” are, you and I, that’s what this American experiment is all about. You see, in 1776 we started from scratch, we started over, and then we penned a process that would allow Us to continue to start over every 4 years. It is why the history of the US of America is so relevant, so telling, so revealing, and so important.
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Thomas Paine
We still have the power to start over today. You see We, You and I, we’re still We the People… and We made it so we can vote in change so long as we don’t forget this truth.
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
For We are supposed to make this great experiment work…work for Us.
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.” – Abraham Lincoln
So let’s talk about our American experiment, let’s see what’s happened to Us since we shook off the King who ruled us in hopes that, by looking at our history, we will be better able to determine what we should do going forward in our day.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – Declaration of Independence
After We the People won our freedom from King George, our leaders got together and We actually tried to create the ideal government – form the “Great Society.” As God would have it, some of the Greatest minds to have ever walked the earth happened to be in the same place at the same time with the same purpose: Promote a Body of Mankind, One Nation, a more perfect Union, an “Us”… and my friends, this great mission has not changed.
“I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.” – George Washington
These folks not only formed a government, but they established a Constitution, a document of checks and balances, a “leader” that would never waver in its determination to promote justice, freedom, and unity. The Constitution is our everlasting leader, this is who I swore my allegiance to as an officer in the military, this is who We rely upon to uphold justice, and this is what we amend as we discover more “right” answers in our never-ending quest for the Great Society.
“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” – Abraham Lincoln
As I go through our history with you, I will be referencing times when we changed our Constitution and when we changed our course. By looking at these debates, these forks in the road so to speak, We the People will be able to identify decisions we made, determine what has worked and, if we are honest with ourselves, what is not working.
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
By evaluating why we chose a course and why we changed it, We can better ascertain what decisions were right for us, what ones have led us astray, and what decisions are right in our day. You will be judge of that – We will be the judge of that.
So without further ado, here’s our history as one man, yours truly, sees it. As you read my interpretations, please challenge them with your own. I would offer that there is a Trinity of history taking place at once: a political history consisting of local, state, and federal governments, an economic history consisting of trade, banking, and our financial sector, and a cultural history consisting of morality, religion, and law. We will see changes in all three legs of the stool, each one affecting the others… let’s start here, in our Early Days.
“I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another.” – Mahatma Gandhi