On March 4, 2019, we commemorate the inauguration of the most transcendent legal document ever written: the Constitution of the United States of America. The thirteen colonies fought off the English and became sovereign states. Thirteen years after 1776, and thousands of discussions over back fences and in the public square, a new constitution was crafted. The date set for transition from the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union to the new constitution was March 4, 1789. That is the day that would mark the final step in the quest for independence — for liberty.
On that day, the new Congress convened in New York City and a month later the nation elected George Washington as its first President. The people were both excited and worried about their new government. What they wanted was confidence. And they wanted it badly. That was 230 years ago today.
Confidence is King
What every human being wants, perhaps more than any other single thing, is confidence. We want confidence:
- that we will be kept from harm at the hands of robbers, thieves, and government,
- that our homes and property will be protected,
- that we will be free to own and enjoy the fruits of our minds and hands,
- that our rights will not be infringed nor turned against our neighbors, and
- that our nation will stand independent, strong, and sovereign among all nations.
As the new Constitution took hold on the nation, confidence soared. Disastrous inflation and civil turmoil gave way to unparalleled progress. Citizens bought land and machines, started new enterprises, hired new workers, and the nation began its ascent. Confidence transformed a few rebellious colonies into the most productive engine in the history of the world. But it wasn’t confidence alone, of course.
Confidence and Freedom: the Supreme Engine of Progress
The combination of freedom and confidence is the magic of our system of government. These two conditions release inventiveness, encourage investments of time and resources, reward success and discourage error. As we witness a decline in confidence we find a decline in freedom right along with it. Regulations, the bane of the colonies under King George III, have gradually overtaken us again. Politicians have quit their proper role as public servants, have disbanded the vision of our forefathers and made their own aggrandizement the focus of legislation. There are a few exceptions but they are exceptions.
The blood, sweat and tears exacted of our forefathers was for confidence. Protected rights give confidence in the midst of the freedom to do good or evil. That is the goal of good government — the golden mean between anarchy and tyranny. Our Constitution still does that.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller.
Don’t Mess With the Machinery
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was the byword of our progress and now the reason for our decline. The more we tamper with free enterprise, the less free it becomes, the less confidence it inspires and the less innovation and investment it produces. This isn’t rocket science. We must not let sophistry and a demeaning focus on error discourage or distract us from the simple power of confidence and freedom. We must remember that legislation is always restrictive. Here is what the founders would say to us today.
An Exhortation from Our Founders
“When the government was held within its proper bounds by the chains of the Constitution our nation was the fulfillment of the vision of liberty that dwelt in the hearts of freedom-loving people in every quarter of the globe. Will you now continue your course from such freedom back to oppression? Will you cast aside that instrument which has given greater liberty to the hearts and hands of more of the children of God than any combination of times and governments you may please to conceive? A supreme act of folly at best; and a fall into the pits of despotism at worst! Nay! Away with that!
When we gave you the Constitution, the nation had already come from under the hands of a tyrannical aristocracy into the light of liberty, and now drifts again into the clouds of oppression. Then listen together! Let the cry go up! Restore the Constitution! Restore the free exercise of the rights of the people! Reverse the drift! Put down again the anchor of liberty and fasten to it the ship of state by the chains of the Constitution! Let every man learn his duty and perform it with diligence!
Is there a cause more just, a goal more worthy, a need more dear, or a pastime more sweet than this; to bind up the wounds of the national charter, to reassert the natural rights of man, and to secure the blessings of liberty to yourselves and your posterity? You — my Sons of Liberty; ponder it in your hearts, speak of it in your gatherings, and pray for it in your secret chambers! Let the cry go forth throughout the land and echo across a world groaning and starving under the crush of tyrants: restore the rights of man!
Oh, hear the voice of your Fathers! Rise up my people and lift up your heads! Come out of darkness into the rightful day of your glory. Secure and cherish the liberty wherewith we made you free! You are free; for we declared you free and bought your liberty with our blood!” 1
1 A New Message, Words of Courage and Council from the Hearts of the Founding Fathers to Their Children in a Troubled Nation; III. On the Constitution