Sometime in the early 80’s, I wrote this essay for the Kaysville Heritage Days Celebration, and it won! My prize was a $50 gift certificate, which I used to purchase wallpaper for our old home in Kaysville. I reread it as I was going through my files, and I think there is some applicability to our day:
You have the highest of human trusts committed to your care. Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without number, and has chosen you, as the guardians of freedom, to preserve it for the benefit of the human race. May He who holds in His hands the destinies of nations make you worthy of the favors He has bestowed, and enable you, with pure hearts, and pure hands, and sleepless vigilance, to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge He has committed to your keeping.
When Andrew Jackson penned these words, he was voicing a sacred trust in the founders of true freedom in an infant nation. That trust had already been placed reverently upon the heads of the people by the rest of the Founding Fathers, who recognized the need for the people of the United States of America to be ruled by themselves–to make their own decisions and their own laws. This new concept in government was a little frightening to some–overwhelming to nearly everybody–but it was to prove an inspired vision of the possibilities unleashed when man is given his God-given right to freedom.
The noble men who laid the groundwork of our nation prepared for their monumental task with concepts created in the very core of Christianity. All who participated in the framing of the Constitution recognized the guidance of a Power greater than their own; they acceded to that Power in the wording and the wisdom of their document. When the time came for the first Congress to convene, few knew what miracles would be wrought. George Washington himself declared: “It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.”
Convene they did, and a Spirit flowed upon the convention which created a unity of mind and message. Wrote James Madison:
I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction…that there never was an assembly of men charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them to…best secure the permanent liberty and happiness of their country.
The granite wall of an untried government loomed challengingly above the heads of the Founders. But without pausing to catch their breath, they forged on–and in the process they forged a free nation. The paths they trod had been uncleared, but their call was divine. Jefferson declared, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” From King to Colony to Constitution they climbed, the summits reached and recorded. Then, digging in their heels, the men and women braced themselves agains the willful King George of Britain and continued climbing.
With pen in hand, the Founding Fathers hacked away at obstacles to true freedom. They declared the inviolability of natural law as a pattern for their own; asserting that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” They announced that virtue, both as a people and as a a nation, is necessary for those rights to continue unimpeded. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Recognizing the frailty of humans as governors, the men created a system of checks and balances within the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government. They formed a true free enterprise system, with individuals having the authority and power to try, and to succeed or fail.
With great insight, Benjamin Franklin warned of the dangers of financial bondage: “Think what you do when you run into debt; you give to another power over your liberty.” Enthusiastically the great Founders of our nation sought to carry out their perceptions of these bulwarks of freedom in their own individual lives. Recognizing the inestimable influence that these founders had upon the lives of those whom they represented, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decided the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
With volume upon volume of written wisdom, our forefathers mapped out the clearest paths to true freedom. Those who choose to follow their directions will catch the visions of liberty along the way. Citizens who have experienced governments abroad shed tears as they contemplate the meanings of the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, the privilege to vote. “It is for us, the living, wrote Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, …”to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced….that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It is our challenge, as citizens and patriots, to carry this dream of our forefathers onward and upward. The views of the future promise to be breathtaking, if we will continue toward the summit in the spirit of those who have gone before us. Loudly we can then proclaim with Andrew Jackson, “No government can stand without virtue in the people, and a lofty spirit of patriotism….Thank God my life has been spent in a land of liberty.”