In the First Continental Congress (1774) a group of patriots debated the future of the 13 colonies. The debate resumed in 1775, and largely due to the leadership of John Adams they decided they wanted to be free of the mother country, Great Britain. Then came the Declaration of Independence (1776), the document that 56 delegates signed with the full knowledge that if they were captured by the British they would be hanged.
Deciding to be free was the first step taken by the patriots; articulating their reasons for seeking that goal was a second step; fighting and winning a war came next (1775-83) and finally forming a government (1787) that embraced their dreams was the final step.
It wasn't done hurriedly; it wasn't done by ill-informed men -- individuals like Adams, Jefferson, Monroe and Franklin were highly learned, sophisticated people. They and others put in long hours studying various forms of government before they shaped one that in Jefferson's words (paraphrased) would govern best while interfering least in the affairs of men.
Two principles grounded the thinking of the Founders: 1) Man's rights come from God, not from government; 2) men cannot be trusted with unchecked power.
Accordingly, they established a Constitution that recognized, with identified exceptions, the sovereignty of the people and the states (Amendments IX and X), and one that limited the power of each branch of government (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) by placing them in conflict with each other (checks and balances).
Things in general worked as planned for a century. Then the nation's presidents and politicians began to get testy -- began to prove one of the Founders' principles: That men are not to be trusted with power.
Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, outspoken critics of the Constitution, got the ball to progressivism going.
• T. Roosevelt - He said in his autobiography (page 372): "I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it." He said "hello" to the imperial presidency.
• Wilson - He effectively sold the idea of a "living constitution," which means that judges can make constitutional decisions based upon (not law) their interpretation of what the law ought to be under prevailing circumstances. In short, there is no longer constitutional law, there is constitutional opinion uttered by modern judges (Wilson may be regarded as the father of modern progressivism, which politically exists today as the Democratic Party).
• F. Roosevelt - FDR was a Wilsontonian to his toes. He even had the chutzpah to publish his own Economic Bill of Rights, which have no force in law, but which are frequently referred to by his followers as the basis for certain rights that the Founders believed (and said) came from God.
The decision-making by these three presidents, and by the politicians who supported them, left the Constitution in tatters. Then came Lyndon Johnson, a true believer, with his veto-proof Congress. The Supreme Court, the last hope for control under the system of checks and balances, was useless -- it was as political as any branch of government because of Wilson's "living constitution" influence (Presidents chose judges based upon their political ideology and personal world view, not because of judicial experience and temperament -- not because of their demonstrated ability to interpret [not make] law.)
Johnson went wild with his "Great Society" programs. The size of government ballooned with new departments and agencies; regulations multiplied, debt soared. Democrats, who retained control of Congress until 1994, protected or added to programs in place, or they added new ones.
Now we have Obama. He has an ego that would make the Roosevelt's look bashful. He will personally fix the nation and the world; he has the world view of Saul Alinsky, the socialist de jour and a professional rabble rowser (deceased).
After the Revolutionary War, it took four years to form a Constitution. Thousands of hours of study by brilliant minds in 13 colonies led the effort to form a government, one that took a floundering nation to the top of the global heap.
Is the final chapter of this unique search for the freedom and dignity of the individual going to fall victim to the ego, and the anti-American frustrations of a man whose major accomplishment in his pre-presidential life was the organization of sign-carrying folks with neighborhood grievances?
Really? Are Americans going to permit the most powerful nation in the history of the world to be taken down by a community organizer with the gift of gab and a nice smile?
Robert Kelly, author of several books on baseball and history/politics, is also a freelance, award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in many newspapers. His latest books, The National Debt of the United States and Neck and Neck to the White House