Monday, July 6, 2009

Happy 4th of July 2009

After we all celebrated Independence Day with picnics and fireworks, I like to remember some historical facts about how our ancestors commemorated this day. I am thinking of our founding fathers who, in the year 1787, just prior to the birthday of these united states (in those days they were still colonies), gathered for the Constitutional Convention in Philiadelphia.

The convention was in a deadlock over how large and small states could be represented equally. Some delegates gave up and left.
Then, on JUNE 28, 1787, 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin spoke and shortly after, the U.S. Constitution became a reality.

The venerable Franklin spoke in somber tones:

"Mr. President,
The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance, continual reasonings with each other, and our different sentiments on almost every question -- several of the last producing as many Noes as Ayes - is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding.
"We, indeed, seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running all about in search of it.
"We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics, which -- having been originally formed with the seeds of their own dissolution -- now no longer exist.
"And we have viewed modern states all round Europe but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
"In this situation of this assembly -- groping as it were, in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us -- how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding.
"In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for 'Divine Protection.'
"Our prayers, Sir, were heard and graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending Providence in our favour.
"To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.
"And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need its assistance?
"I have lived, Sir, a long time. The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs in the affairs of men!
"And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable than an empire cannot rise without his aid?
"We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that: 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this.
"I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.
"We shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests. Our projects will be confounded and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages.
"What is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. "I therefore beg leave to move that: "Henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven -- and its blessing on our deliberations -- be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."

And with that the delegates adjourned for the Anniversary.

Mr. Edmund Jennings Randolph, delegate from Virginia, proposed that they take a break from Monday, July 2 until Thursday, July 5, so that "time might be given to such as choose to attend to the celebrations on the anniversary of independence."

On the Fourth of July, many delegates attended that special service at Calvinist Church. After an oration delivered by a young law student, the Rev. William Rogers concluded with this prayer:
"We fervently recommend to thy fatherly notice our federal convention. Favor them, from day to day, with thy inspiring presence; be their wisdom and strength; enable them to devise such measures as may prove happy instruments in healing all divisions and prove the good of the great whole ... ..that the United States of America may form one example of a free and virtuous government. May we continue, under the influence of republican virtue to partake of all the blessings of cultivated and Christian society."
George Washington later that day noted in his diary: "Went to hear an oration on the anniversary of independence."

Within three more weeks, the Congress agreed upon the basic Constitution by inventing a republican government of democratically elected president and representatives having specific terms of office.
It was adopted and submitted to the 13 states for ratification.
After national debate -- and the adoption of ten amendments detailing the personal rights of citizens -- the Constitution was ratified by the states.
Though Franklin's unique proposal for prayer before solemn government proceedings was not formally adopted - it was not formally dismissed. Both houses of Congress now traditionally open each day with prayer while in session.

Although the constitution has been amended many times, the original document still stands valid:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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. .... "

And with that the oldest government on earth has been established. Although not perfect, the U.S. constitution gives us rights of freedom and choices, but most of all it includes the power of heaven. Without including God and his heavenly wisdom this country will perish just as any other government before.

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