Refreshing our recollections
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
On this July 4th weekend I wanted to write with recollections of who and what we are as a nation. We are all aware of the things that are and have been going on in this nation in recent times. Who we are seems to be challenged at every juncture.
"Taxation without representation!" was the battle cry in America’s 13 Colonies, which were forced to pay taxes to England's King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament.
Contentions grew and British troops were sent in to stop the early movement toward rebellion. Repeated attempts by the Colonists to resolve the crisis without military conflict proved fruitless.
On June 11, 1776, the Colonies' Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee whose express purpose was drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain.
The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston.
Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most gifted writer, crafted the original draft document.
A total of 86 changes were made to his draft and the Continental Congress officially adopted the final version on July 4, 1776.
The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed, and on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document. The Declaration of Independence has since become our nation's most cherished symbol of liberty.
BILL OF RIGHTS
It is from the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which we have the Bill of Rights, rights or freedoms that all Americans may enjoy. In summary of these freedoms are:
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
The first right, or freedom, guaranteed in the Bill of Rights is freedom of religion. This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment. Freedom of religion guarantees to all Americans the right to practice any religion they choose, or to practice no religion at all.
Congress is forbidden to establish any religion as our nation's official religion. Congress cannot favor any one religion over others or tax citizens in order to support any one religion.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
The right to express your ideas and opinions when you speak is called freedom of speech. Freedom of speech also means the right to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others. This freedom guarantees that Americans are free to express their thoughts and ideas about anything.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
The freedom to express your ideas and opinions in writing is known as freedom of the press. This freedom is closely related to freedom of speech and is also guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Freedom of the press gives all Americans the right to express their ideas and thoughts freely in writing.
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY
Another freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment is freedom of assembly, or freedom to hold meetings. Americans are free to meet together to discuss problems and to plan their actions. Of course, such meetings must be carried on in a peaceful way.
FREEDOM OF PETITION
The freedom of petition is the right to ask your government to do something or to refrain from doing something. The First Amendment contains this guarantee, also. The freedom of petition gives you the right to write to your Congressman and request him to work for the passage of laws you favor. You are free to ask him to change laws that you do not like. The right of petition also helps government officials to know what Americans think and what actions they want the government to take.
THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS
The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to bear arms. In the early years of our nation, Americans needed weapons in order to serve in the militia, or volunteer armies, that were established to defend our states. The militia provided protection during emergencies, too. Many Americans also believed that without weapons they would be powerless if the government tried to overstep its powers and rule by force.
The Third Amendment states, "No soldier shall, in times of peace, be quartered in any house. . . ." Under British rule, the colonists sometimes had to feed and house British soldiers against their will. As a result, Americans wanted this practice forbidden under the Bill of Rights.
THE RIGHT TO EQUAL JUSTICE
The Bill of Rights contains many rights that are guaranteed to persons accused of a crime. Amendments Five, Six, Seven, and Eight are all concerned with these rights. Our nation places great importance on these rights in order to guarantee equal justice for all Americans.
A person must be indicted, or formally accused of a crime, by a group of citizens called a "grand jury" before he can be brought into court for trial.
A person accused of a crime is guaranteed the right to know what law he is accused of breaking.
A person accused of a crime has a right to a prompt public trial by a jury of his fellow citizens.
An accused person cannot be put into prison and kept there for weeks or months while awaiting a trial. He has the right to leave jail, in most cases, if he can raise a certain sum of money, or bail, as a pledge that he will appear at his trial.
An accused person has a right to a lawyer to represent him in court.
All the testimony and evidence against an accused person must be presented publicly in court.
The accused person has the right to call any witnesses to appear if their testimony will help him.
The accused person cannot be forced to testify or give evidence against himself.
If the accused person is found guilty, he cannot be given cruel or unusual punishment.
If the accused person is found not guilty of a serious crime, he cannot be tried a second time for this same crime.
THE RIGHT TO OWN PRIVATE PROPERTY
The Fifth Amendment guarantees Americans the right to own private property. No person may take away anything that we own. Nor can the government seize our land, money, or other forms of property without cause, or without paying for it. The right to own private property is one of America's basic freedoms. Our free economic system is based upon this right.
THE RIGHT TO ENJOY MANY OTHER FREEDOMS
To make doubly sure that Americans should enjoy every right and freedom possible, Amendment Nine was added to the Constitution. This amendment states that the list of rights contained in the Bill of Rights is not complete. There are many other rights that all Americans have and will continue to have even though they are not mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Among them are the following.
Freedom to live or travel anywhere in our nation
Freedom to work at any job for which we can qualify
Freedom to marry and raise a family
Freedom to receive a free education in good public schools
Freedom to join a political party, a union, and other legal groups
As a final guarantee of our rights, the Tenth Amendment set aside many powers of government for the states. This Amendment says that all powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution, nor forbidden to the states, are set aside for the states, or for the people. This provision leaves with the states the power to act in many ways to guarantee the rights of their citizens.
For 245 years our republic has stood tall and afforded us the rights and freedoms we enjoy today and celebrate.
When Thomas Jefferson was invited to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Independence Day his health was such that he could nor attend. He wrote a letter to Roger C. Weightman who represented those who were planning the celebration and in part he wrote of our independence:
“...may it be to the world, what I believe it will be,… the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government, that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man… for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Sunday we will celebrate as a nation and as Jefferson said and: “forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Wishing you and yours a happy and safe July 4th, 2021.
A thought to ponder,