Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lesson 07: Introduction to the U.S. Constitution - Preamble

Constitution Class Handout
February 27, 2014
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs

Faith Armory
41669 Winchester Rd.
Temecula, CA


·   Introduction to the Constitution

·   Patriotism
·   The Rule of Law
·   Preamble


Rules for Radical Patriots begins, “To God, the first American Patriot.”

The early Americans were true patriots.  They loved the land, the system that had evolved on that land, and the individuality from Europe the new land called “The United States of America” embodied.

The British owed their loyalty to the king, and the government he was the head of.  In America the colonists owed their loyalty to America, and the spirit it represented.  Their patriotism embraced the exceptionalism that was America.

What the British felt for the monarchy, and the British Empire was not patriotism, as much as it was nationalism, and nationalism was something the founders sorely wished to divorce America from.

One may consider the important distinction between a nationalist, and a patriot. Patriotism is the wholesome, constructive love of one’s land and people. Nationalism is the unhealthy love of one’s government, accompanied by the aggressive desire to build a centralized governmental system to a point that it is above all else, and becomes the ultimate provider for the public good.  In short, Patriotism is love of country, Nationalism is love of government.

The frame of reference of the Founding Fathers was the British Empire, and the monarchy.  In their independence, the patriots of America desired to be as nothing like the tyranny they had won their independence from as possible. The Founding Fathers, based on their own experiences, the trials and tribulations of the colonists before them, and the realities of history, determined that freedom for individuals was best served when the governmental system was limited by the chains of a constitution.  Nationalists believe that government should have the authority to enact any act of government for the purpose of forceful benevolence, and that the citizenry is a collectivistic organism that exists to serve the ruling elite.  But if an individual is being forced, how is it benevolent?

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Americans had created a system not based on collectivism, and allegiance to a monarchy, but a system based on individualism, based on allegiance to the land and the people, fueled by a free market, and a representative system equipped with checks and balances in order to limit the ambitions of the powerful, while also curbing the excesses of democracy.

In the American system, the people, through their States hold original authority.  All powers originally belonged to the States, and only the authorities necessary for the protection, preservation, and promotion of the union were granted to the federal government by the States during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

“Big Government” is when the central government expands beyond the authorities granted to it.  This kind of governmental expansion is normally an attempt to transform the central government into a more nationalist system.  The danger of nationalism is one of the reasons the Founding Fathers created a “federal” government, rather than a “national” government.  They desired that the American people became patriots who stood tall for their land and country, rather than nationalists who were serfs serving a powerful ruling elite.


Federal Government: System of government in which power is distributed between a central authority and constituent territorial units.

Patriotism:  Wholesome, constructive love of one’s land and people.

Nationalism:  Unhealthy love of one’s government, accompanied by the aggressive desire to build a ruling centralized governmental system.

Original Authority: Principal agent holding legal authority; initial power to make or enforce laws; the root authority in government.

Questions for Discussion:

1.  How is nationalism not compatible with the principles of limited government?

2.  Why did the States hold original authority?

3.  Why is Big Government so dangerous in a system with sovereign states?


Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Hamilton's Curse; New York: Three Rivers Press (2008).


The Rule of Law

Though a federal government could potentially be a bad thing, the complete lack of a federal government was an even more dangerous proposition.  The Founding Fathers realized that if the States had not united against the British Empire, the Revolutionary War would never have been won.  And as a nation, without a federal government wielding enough power to field an army, or tax in order to pay for that army, the new country would not long survive.  The Articles of Confederation, a loose agreement between the States, proved to be too weak in the face of Shays’ Rebellion.  So, the Founding Fathers set out to create a new government with enough power to form a more perfect union, yet limited enough that it did not become a centralized tyranny such as the one the patriots had just defeated in the War of Independence.

The British Empire was ruled by men.  The King believed Britain to be his realm, therefore the concept of property ownership was limited to a small group of land owners, who were the Lords of Britain.  The King, and the nobles, had complete power over making law, and imposing taxes.  The Founding Fathers realized that a nation ruled by an oligarchy of political elite was not compatible with the society that would champion liberty, and individual rights, that the founders desired.

A Democracy is a system of government ruled completely by the people.  All laws and governmental functions, in such a system, are determined by the whim of the people. Historically, democracies are transitional governments that, when the people seek a governmental system more efficient and stable than their fickled democracies, become oligarchies, or a governmental system characterized by the many being ruled over by a few political elites.  Therefore, the founders did not desire to create a democratic governmental system.  Ultimately, a democracy always breaks down, and the system that replaces it centralizes, becoming nothing more than a system like the monarchy that the Americans had fought so hard against in order to gain independence.

The conclusion was that the United States must not be subject to the laws of men, be subjected to the rule of men, or open itself up to become an oligarchy by creating a system that enables too much power to be granted to a single person, group of people, or governmental entity.  The new nation needed to be a nation subject to the laws of God, governed by the rule of law, and have a republican form of government that features a representative system of governance.  The States, and the people, would need to hold sovereign power.  The federal government would need to be limited to authorities only necessary for protecting, preserving and promoting the union.  All other authorities, specifically those authorities that would address issues directly affecting the people, would need to be the responsibilities of the States, and the local governments, where the people have more control over governmental functions.

To achieve their goal, the Founding Fathers determined that the components of this new federal government, as opposed to being a national government, would need to be one with three separate branches of government, whose powers are separated so that no collusion between the branches would be possible, with numerous checks and balances to ensure no part of government wields too much power, have a limitation of authorities to the federal government granted by the States, provide due process of the law with the right of a trial by jury, and be a system that ensures that the federal government does not betray the unalienable rights of the people of the United States.

To achieve this, the Founding Fathers argued and debated heavily for four months in 1787.  The result was the U.S. Constitution, a document like no other.  The American Form of Government, through its constitution, would serve as a protector of the fires of liberty by preserving the union of states, and ensuring that individual freedoms and state sovereignty maintain a voice in the system.  The nation would prosper, to the surprise of the world, and maintain its system of limited government for more than 200 years.

The original intent of the Founding Fathers was not for the American form of government to be a more centralized governmental system, where the central authority wields great power.  When a system becomes centralized, the government uses its power to rule over the people through the rule of man.  The rule of law, under such a system, is then transferred to the courts or a small group of powerful elites, and law becomes determined by the opinions of a few powerful men.

We the People have the duty to ensure that our governmental system does not operate outside Constitutional boundaries.  It is our duty to protect our God-given liberty, and restore our Constitutional Republic.  That journey begins with understanding the original intent of the Founding Fathers, and educating ourselves and our posterity about the principles of the U.S. Constitution.  Only then will our government return to the system it was intended to operate under, namely, the rule of law.

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What is the difference between the rule of law and the rule of man?

2.  What is the difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic?

3.  How would the United States be different if our founders chose to make this a land subject to the rule of man?


David Forte, The Originalist Perspective, The Heritage Foundation, September 16, 2009, Web memo #2617:

Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention, Avalon Project, Yale University:

The Preamble

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure 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.

The Preamble is the introduction of the U.S. Constitution.  The opening paragraph of the founding document holds no legal authority.  The Preamble serves to establish who is granting the authority to create a new federal government, and the reasons for the decision.  We The People of the United States are the grantors.  In other words, the States, which were the embodiment of the people, were creating the federal government, and granting authorities to it so that it may function in a manner necessary to protect, promote, and preserve the union of States.  The concept became known as federalism.

The Preamble is designed much like a form the doctor’s office may present to you to sign, giving the doctor the authority to perform necessary procedures on you in order to make you well.  The form begins with your name (I, patient’s name), and then limits the doctor to only the procedures necessary to make you well.  The doctor, if he or she believes that additional procedures may be necessary, must ask you before performing the additional procedures that are not granted by your original agreement with him/her.

Like the form in the doctor’s office, the Preamble begins with who is granting the authorities.  “We the People of the United States” are the grantors of the authorities given to the new federal government.

Those first three words, “We the People,” come from the British traditions of freedom.  The Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights refer to “Freemen.”  Any freemen had rights, and no man, including the king, is above the law.  That philosophy, introduced by the Saxons, was still in the blood of the Englishmen, and it was from “Any Freemen” that “We the People” was developed.

The words “United States” appear often in the U.S. Constitution.  When those words appear in the text of the Constitution, they mean one of two things.  Either, “United States” is a reference to the new federal government, or means “these states that are united.”  In the case of the Preamble, both definitions are used.  As we notice the first time united States appears in the Declaration of Independence, “united” is not capitalized.  This was the common opinion of the people of that era.  America was not a nationalistic country dominated by a powerful government, but a union of States that are sovereign, autonomous, and individual - like the people.  We the People are the individual parts of their States, and the States are the individual parts of the union.  Participation is voluntary, and necessary in order to ensure the security of the union.

“We in America do not have government by the majority - we have government by the majority who participate… All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” -- Thomas Jefferson

The first instance in which “United States” appears in the Constitution is in the Preamble.  The beginning of the Preamble reads: “We the People of the United States” - meaning: The people of the States that are united.  As we learned earlier in our lessons, the early Americans saw the United States in the plural, rather than as a singular nationalistic entity.  The people were citizens of their states first, but realized that the States must be united to survive as a union.  So, the people in the States that united decided to do so for the purpose of survival.  The individual States would only be safe if they all worked together as a united country.  To ensure the union was protected they proposed forming a central government through a contract called the United States Constitution.  This contract, or agreement to grant limited authorities to a federal government, was designed to ensure that the federal government remained limited so as to not infringe on the individual rights of the sovereign States, and the people who resided in those States.

The granting of authorities to the new federal government was a decision made for a number of reasons, and as was customary of the founders, the reasons for forming the federal government are listed in order of importance in The Preamble.  The reasons for forming a new government were “In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The most important reason for the formation of the federal government, the main purpose for the creation of the U.S. Constitution, was “in Order to form a more perfect Union.”  A union already existed under the Articles of Confederation.  A confederation, however, is a weak form of government.  A confederation is an association of sovereign member states that, by treaty or other agreement, have delegated some of their powers to a common institution in order to coordinate policies, without constituting a new state on top of the member states.  The government under the Articles of Confederation, however, proved to be too weak to protect the union.  Therefore, the founders realized that they needed to form a more perfect union, one with more authorities, while still remaining fairly limited in its power and scope.

As you read the Constitution, you will notice that all of the authorities granted to the federal government are limited to the protecting, preserving, or promoting the union.  The federal government was granted the authority to maintain an army and navy in order to protect the union from invasion, to collect taxes in order to pay for that military and the other necessary functions for preserving the union, to regulate commerce by acting as a mediator between the States so that the flow of commerce flows regularly in order to encourage a growing economy for the union, establish a uniform rule of naturalization for the purpose of ensuring the union grows through legal immigration, to establish post offices so that the many parts of the union can remain in contact with each other, and so on and so forth.  The federal government was created for the sake of the union.

The second reason listed in The Preamble for the creation of the federal government through the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was to “establish Justice.” Note that the word “establish” is normally used in situations where whatever is being established never existed prior.  The word “establish” being used in the Preamble, then, leads us to believe that there was no justice prior to the writing of the founding document.  However, we are well aware that justice did already exist in each of the States, through State court systems.  Therefore, we must conclude that the U.S. Constitution was not written to establish justice in the States, but to establish justice at the federal level where a judicial system had not previously existed.  Once again, language has provided for us a clue to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.  One must also remember that during the debates of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, there was actually a consideration to not establish a federal court system.  The delegates realized that tyranny more easily flowed through an activist judiciary.  The rule of law could be easily compromised by a judicial branch not willing to abide by the original intent of the U.S. Constitution.  For this reason, the powers of the judicial branch are greatly limited by the Constitution.  We will go into more detail regarding those limitations when we get to Article III, and the 11th Amendment.

The first two reasons for the writing of the U.S. Constitution, according to the Preamble, was to form a more perfect union through the formation of a federal government, and to establish justice by creating a federal judicial system.  It seems reasonable to assume, based on those primary goals, that the Constitution was not written to grant powers to the States (for the States already held all of the authorities for governance), but for the purpose of creating, yet limiting, a newly formed federal government, which was designed to serve the States by protecting them, and preserving the union they enjoyed. Before the States delegated some of their own powers to the federal government through the Constitution, those powers belonged to the States.  The States, however, only granted “some” of their powers to the federal government, retaining most of the powers for themselves.

The U.S. Constitution, and all language within the document, is directed to the federal government, not to the States, unless specifically indicated otherwise.  This is because the States essentially “hired” the federal government to protect and preserve the union.  The contract that authorizes the federal government to exist and receive the authorities from the States is the U.S. Constitution.  Therefore, it would be foolish to assume that the provisions of the Constitution are to be applied to the States as much as it is foolish to believe that an agreement between you and your doctor tells you what you can and can’t do regarding the procedures that are about to be performed on you.  The agreement with the doctor is specifically designed to tell the doctor what procedures are allowed, just as the Constitution is specifically designed to tell the federal government what authorities it is allowed to have in order to protect, preserve, and promote the union.  In that contract with the doctor there may be things in it that tell you what not to do so as to not undermine healing.  The same is true in the Constitution.  There is a section, Article I, Section 10, that tells the States what they are prohibited from doing.  These prohibitions were necessary to ensure the States did not interfere with federal functions.

Since it is We The People of the United States that granted the federal government its powers, that means it is the people’s, through the States, responsibility to ensure the federal government acts in a constitutional manner.  The Constitution is nothing more than ink and paper if we don’t fight for it.

The union, at the time of the writing of the Constitution, was fragile. The States, as colonies, or as states shortly after the American Revolution, never got along too well. They had their own cultures, religions, and laws.  They fought over turf, commerce, and anything else you could think of.  The States were much like siblings, fighting over everything under the sun; but when it came down to brass tacks, they were united when it came to defending each other.

The bickering between the States created an atmosphere that placed the cohesion of the union at risk.  Therefore, when it came to creating a more perfect union, it was understood that one of the tasks of the federal government would have to be to ensure the States got along, too.  Hence, the reason for the Preamble also indicating that the Constitution was written to “insure domestic Tranquility” and to “promote the general Welfare.”

What those two phrases meant was that because the States didn’t seem to get along too well, the federal government was expected to ensure there was tranquility between the States by acting as a mediator in disputes.  Part of that task by the federal government was to also promote the general welfare of the republic.  In other words, make sure the squabbles did not place, while also protecting the union, so that the welfare of the union would not be in jeopardy.

If the founders meant for the federal government to create a nanny state of entitlement programs with the term “general Welfare,” not only would they have then created a system of that sort back then, but they would also have changed the wording to read “individual welfare.”  Of course, we must remember that The Preamble holds no legal authority, so the actual General Welfare Clause that has caused so much debate is actually located in Article I, Section 8.

General Welfare, as it is presented in the Preamble, is capitalized in a curious manner.  Welfare is capitalized, but the word “general” is not.  Capitalization in the Constitution was often for the purpose of emphasis.  With that tendency as our guide, it is reasonable to see that “Welfare” was the key component when these two words were presented in the Preamble.  The Founding Fathers were seeking “Welfare” with a capital “W.”  But what kind of Welfare were they looking for?  Anything specific?  No.  The founders tasked the federal government with the duty of ensuring there was Welfare in the nation in a general manner.  Or, you could say that they wanted the atmosphere in general to be one of “Welfare,” or “all’s well.”

In The Preamble, tucked between “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare” is the phrase: “provide for the common defence.”  In other words, almost as important as ensuring peaceful cooperation between the States, and slightly more important than promoting the general Welfare of the republic (and perhaps a part of ensuring the general Welfare), was the duty of the federal government to provide protection for the union through a military.

The need to provide for the common defense, one may note, was not listed first in The Preamble as one of the reasons for the creation of the federal government.  The Founding Fathers, though they recognized the importance of the federal government to field a military force, as realized from the failure of the government to put down insurrection during Shays’ Rebellion under the Articles of Confederation, did not list the need to provide for the common defense at the beginning of the Preamble because a country that places too much importance on a military is doomed to become a police state.  Defending this nation was not placed at the bottom of the list either because a nation that refuses to defend itself ultimately becomes a conquered entity that is subject to the authority of a foreign government.  Despite the fear of a powerful military that could be used against the people and the States, providing for the common defense was still indeed one of the primary reasons for creating the federal government in the first place.  That is why “provide for the common defence” is listed in the Preamble within the depths of the body of the paragraph.

The final reason for the writing of the Constitution was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  The presence of the word “Blessings” reminds us that the Founding Father’s grateful spirit recognized that the result of the American Revolution, and the inspiration for this new government, could have only come from the favors of Divine Providence.  Liberty, remember, is one of the unalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence that has been given to us by The Creator.  In fact, that is one of the foundational beliefs of the original intent behind the creation of the federal government.  Our rights are granted to us by God, not by government, for if our rights are granted to us by government, government could then take those rights away.

Sometimes, when I ask somebody what they believe to be the main reason for the writing of the U.S. Constitution, more often than not the response is, “To protect our rights, liberty, and property.”

That is actually an incorrect answer, as we have just discovered by studying The Preamble.  Though protecting our rights, liberty, and property are among the reasons that the Constitution was written in the manner that it was, those are not the reasons for the creation of the founding document, and thus the reasons for the creation of the federal government.

As indicated in the Preamble, the primary reason for the Constitution is The Union, but the very formation of that union was not for the sake of the union, but to ultimately protect the sovereignty of each component of that union - The States.  However, by creating a federal government, the Founding Fathers realized that they were opening up the potential for the governmental system to become a tyranny.  Therefore, in order to protect the rights, liberty and property of the people (more specifically to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”), the federal government needed to be limited in its authorities by the rule of law.  The law of the land in which the governmental system is limited to, in the case of the United States, is the U.S. Constitution.


Federalism: Government in which the central government’s power and authority is limited by local government units, and where each unit is delegated a sphere of power and authority only it can exercise, while other powers must be shared.  The term federalism comes from the Latin root foedus, which means "formal agreement or covenant." It includes the interrelationships between the states as well as between the states and the federal government.

Unalienable Rights: Incapable of being alienated, that is, sold and transferred. You can not surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the Creator to the individual and can not under any circumstances be surrendered or taken. All individual's have unalienable rights.

Questions for Discussion:

1.  Many of us were taught to memorize the Preamble in school, others remember it because of the School House Rock cartoon on Saturday mornings, but growing up how many times were we taught what it means?

2.  Federalism, or the belief in a central government limited by the authorities granted to it in the Constitution, began as a wonderful idea.  The “Federalist Party,” however, were not satisfied, and desired the federal government to have more authorities than it was granted.  Why do you think this is true?

3.  Why did the Founding Fathers only desire the federal government to be granted powers that regarded the union, and not authorities in regards to other issues?

4.  The judicial branch was supposed to be the weakest of the three branches.  Why do you think the Founding Fathers wanted to limit the judiciary to such an extent?

5.  One of the founding principles is that our unalienable rights are given to us by the Creator.  Is it a coincidence that historically most authoritarian governments that sought to take away the rights of the individual did it either by taking control of the church, or by rejecting religion/the existence of God?

6.  At what point does a government take “provide for the common defense” too far?


James L. Roark, Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, Alan Lawson, and Susan M. Hartmann, The American Promise: A History of the United States; Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s (2009).

James Madison, Federalist No. 41: General View of the Powers Conferred by The Constitution,

Joseph Andrews, A Guide for Learning and Teaching The Declaration of Independence and The U.S. Constitution - Learning from the Original Texts Using Classical Learning Methods of the Founders; San Marcos: The Center for Teaching the Constitution (2010).

Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot’s History of the United States; New York: Sentinel (2004).

Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention, Avalon Project, Yale University:

Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, The Founder’s Constitution - Volume Two - Preamble through Article I, Section 8, Clause 4; Indianapolis: Liberty Fund (1987).

Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lesson 06: Revolution!

Constitution Class Handout
February 20, 2014
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs

Faith Armory
41669 Winchester Rd.
Temecula, CA


·   Revolution

·   The Real American Revolution by John Adams
·   Shot Heard Around The World
·   A Different Kind of War
·   Declaration of Independence
·   Southern Front
·   Surrender
·   Treaty of Paris

The Real American Revolution

A Letter to H. Niles

From John Adams
February 13, 1818

The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to  cease?

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy, according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature and transmitted to them by their ancestors, they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good; but when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties, and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the continental congress and all the thirteen State congresses.

There might be, and there were others who thought less about religion and conscience, but had certain habitual sentiments of allegiance and loyalty derived from their education; but believing allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, when protection was withdrawn, they thought allegiance was dissolved.

Another alteration was common to all. The people of America had been educated in an habitual affection for England, as their mother country; and while they thought her a kind and tender parent, (erroneously enough, however, for she never was such a mother,) no affection could be more sincere. But when they found her a cruel beldam, willing like Lady Macbeth, to “dash their brains out,” it is no wonder if their filial affections ceased, and were changed into indignation and horror.

This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

By what means this great and important alteration in the religious, moral, political, and social character of the people of thirteen colonies, all distinct, unconnected, and independent of each other, was begun, pursued, and accomplished, it is surely interesting to humanity to investigate, and perpetuate to posterity.

To this end, it is greatly to be desired, that young men of letters in all the States, especially in the thirteen original States, would undertake the laborious, but certainly interesting and amusing task, of searching and collecting all the records, pamphlets, newspapers, and even handbills, which in any way contributed to change the temper and views of the people, and compose them into an independent nation.

The colonies had grown up under constitutions of government so different, there was so great a variety of religions, they were composed of so many different nations, their customs, manners, and habits had so little resemblance, and their intercourse had been so rare, and their knowledge of each other so imperfect, that to unite them in the same principles in theory and the same system of action, was certainly a very difficult enterprise. The complete accomplishment of it, in so short a time and by such simple means, was perhaps a singular example in the history of mankind. Thirteen clocks were made to strike together — a perfection of mechanism, which no artist had ever before effected.

In this research, the gloriole of individual gentlemen, and of separate States, is of little consequence. The means and the measures are the proper objects of investigation. These may be of use to posterity, not only in this nation, but in South America and all other countries. They may teach mankind that revolutions are no trifles; that they ought never to be undertaken rashly; nor without deliberate consideration and sober reflection; nor without a solid, immutable, eternal foundation of justice and humanity; nor without a people possessed of intelligence, fortitude, and integrity sufficient to carry them with steadiness, patience, and perseverance, through all the vicissitudes of fortune, the fiery trials and melancholy disasters they may have to encounter.

The town of Boston early instituted an annual oration on the 4th of July, in commemoration of the principles and feelings which contributed to produce the revolution. Many of those orations I have heard, and all that I could obtain, I have read. Much ingenuity and eloquence appears upon every subject, except those principles and feelings. That of my honest and amiable neighbor, Josiah Quincy, appeared to me the most directly to the purpose of the institution. Those principles and feelings ought to be traced back for two hundred years, and sought in the history of the country from the first plantations in America. Nor should the principles and feelings of the English and Scotch towards the colonies, through that whole period, ever be forgotten. The perpetual discordance between British principles and feelings and of those of America, the next year after the suppression of the French power in America, came to a crisis, and produced an explosion.

It was not until after the annihilation of the French dominion in America that any British ministry had dared to gratify their own wishes, and the desire of the nation, by projecting a formal plan for raising a national revenue from America, by parliamentary taxation. The first great manifestation of this design was by the order to carry into strict executions those acts of parliament, which were well known by the appellation of the acts of trade, which had lain a dead letter, unexecuted for half a century, and some of them, I believe, for nearly a whole one.

This produced, in 1760 and 1761, an awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings, with an enthusiasm which went on increasing till, in 1775, it burst out in open violence, hostility, and fury.

The characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent and influential in this revival, from 1760 to 1766, were, first and foremost, before all and above all, James Otis; next to him was Oxenbridge Thacher; next to him, Samuel Adams; next to him, John Hancock; then Dr. Mayhew; then Dr. Cooper and his brother. Of Mr. Hancock’s life, character, generous nature, great and disinterested sacrifices, and important services, if I had forces, I should be glad to write a volume. But this, I hope, will be done by some younger and abler hand. Mr. Thacher, because his name and merits are less known, must not be wholly omitted. This gentleman was an eminent barrister at law, in as large practice as any one in Boston. There was not a citizen of that town more universally beloved for his learning, ingenuity, every domestic and social virtue, and conscientious conduct in every relation of life. His patriotism was as ardent as his progenitors had been ancient and illustrious in this country. Hutchinson often said, “Thacher was not born a plebeian, but he was determined to die one.” In May, 1763, I believe, he was chosen by the town of Boston one of their representatives in the legislature , a colleague with Mr. Otis, who had been a member from May, 1761, and he continued to be relectcd annually till his death in 1765, when Mr. Samuel Adams was elected to fill his place, in the absence of Mr. Otis, then attending the Congress at New York. Thacher had long been jealous of the unbounded ambition of Mr. Hutchinson, but when he found him not content with the office of Lieutenant-Governor, the command of the castle and its emoluments, of Judge of Probate for the county of Suffolk, a seat in his Majesty’s Council in the Legislature, his brother-in-law Secretary of State by the king’s commission, a brother of that Secretary of State, a Judge of the Supreme Court and a member of Council, now in 1760 and 1761, soliciting and accepting the office of Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, he concluded, as Mr. Otis did, and as every other enlightened friend of his country did, that he sought that office with the determined purpose of determining all causes in favor of the ministry at St. James’s, and their servile parliament.

His indignation against him hence forward, to 1765, when he died, knew no bounds but truth. I speak from personal knowledge. For, from 1758 to 1765, I attended every superior and inferior court in Boston, and recollect not one, in which he did not invite me home to spend evenings with him, when he made me converse with him as well as I could, on all subjects of religion, morals, law, politics, history, philosophy, belles lettres, theology, mythology, cosmogony, metaphysics, — Locke, Clark, Leibnitz, Bolingbroke, Berkeley, — the prestablished harmony of the universe, the nature of matter and of spirit, and the eternal establishment of coincidences between their operations; fate, foreknowledge absolute; and we reasoned on such unfathomable subjects as high as Milton’s gentry in pandemonium; and we understood them as well as they did, and no better. To such mighty mysteries he added the news of the day, and the tittle-tattle of the town. But his favorite subject was politics, and the impending, threatening system of parliamentary taxation and universal government over the colonies. On this subject he was so anxious and agitated that I have no doubt it occasioned his premature death. From the time when he argued the question of writs of assistance to his death, he considered the king, ministry, parliament, and nation of Great Britain as determined to new-model the colonies from the foundation, to annul all their charters, to constitute them all royal governments, to raise a revenue in America by parliamentary taxation, to apply that revenue to pay the salaries of governors, judges, and all other crown officers; and, after all this, to raise  as large a revenue as they pleased, to be applied to national purposes at the exchequer in England; and further, to establish bishops and the whole system of the Church of England, tithes and all, throughout all British America. This system, he said, if it was suffered to prevail, would extinguish the flame of liberty all over the world; that America would be employed as an engine to batter down all the miserable remains of liberty in Great Britain and Ireland, where only any semblance of it was left in the world. To this system he considered Hutchinson, the Olivers, and all their connections, dependents, adherents, shoelickers, &c., entirely devoted. He asserted that they were all engaged with all the crown officers in America and the understrappers of the ministry in England, in a deep and treasonable conspiracy to betray the liberties of their country, for their own private, personal and family aggrandizement. His philippics against the unprincipled ambition and avarice of all of them, but especially of Hutchinson, were unbridled; not only in private, confidential conversations, but in all companies and on all occasions. He gave Hutchinson the sobriquet of “Summa Potestatis,” and rarely mentioned him but by the name of “Summa.” His liberties of speech were no secrets to his enemies. I have sometimes wondered that they did not throw him over the bar, as they did soon afterwards Major Hawley. For they hated him worse than they did James Otis or Samuel Adams, and they feared him more, because they had no revenge for a father’s disappointment of a seat on the superior bench to impute to him, as they did to Otis; and Thacher’s character through life had been so modest, decent, unassuming; his morals so pure, and his religion so venerated, that they dared not attack him. In his office were educated to the bar two eminent characters, the late Judge Lowell and Josiah Quincy, aptly called the Boston Cicero. Mr. Thacher’s frame was slender, his constitution delicate; whether his physicians overstrained his vessels with mercury, when he had the smallpox by inoculation at the castle, or whether he was overplied by public anxieties and exertions, the smallpox left him in a decline from which he never recovered. Not long before his death he sent for me to commit to my care some of his business at the bar. I asked him whether he had seen the Virginia resolves: “Oh yes–they are men! they are noble spirits! It kills me to think of the lethargy and stupidity that prevails here. I long to be out. I will go out. I will go out. I will go into court, and make a speech, which shall be read after my death, as my dying testimony against this infernal tyranny which they are bringing upon us.” Seeing the violent agitation into which it threw him, I changed the subject as soon as possible, and retired. He had been confined for some time. Had he been abroad among the people, he would not have complained so pathetically of the “lethargy and stupidity that prevailed;” for town and country were all alive, and in August became active enough; and some of the people proceeded to unwarrantable excesses, which were more lamented by the patriots than by their enemies. Mr. Thacher soon died, deeply lamented by all the friends of their country.

Another gentleman, who had great influence in the commencement of the Revolution, was Doctor Jonathan Mayhew, a descendant of the ancient governor of Martha’s Vineyard. This divine had raised a great reputation both in Europe and America, by the publication of a volume of seven sermons in the reign of King George the Second, 1749, and by many other writings, particularly a sermon in 1750, on the 30th of January, on the subject of passive obedience and non-resistance, in which the saintship and martyrdom of King Charles the First are considered, seasoned with wit and satire superior to any in Swift or Franklin. It was read by everybody; celebrated by friends, and abused by enemies. During the reigns of King George the First and King George the Second, the reigns of the Stuarts, the two Jameses and the two Charleses were in general disgrace in England. In America they had always been held in abhorrence. The persecutions and cruelties suffered by their ancestors under those reigns, had been transmitted by history and tradition, and Mayhew seemed to be raised up to revive all their animosities against tyranny, in church and state, and at the  same time to destroy their bigotry, fanaticism, and inconsistency. David Hume’s plausible, elegant, fascinating, and fallacious apology, in which he varnished over the crimes of the Stuarts, had not then appeared. To draw the character of Mayhew, would be to transcribe a dozen volumes. This transcendent genius threw all the weight of his great fame into th e scale of his country in 1761, and maintained it there with zeal and ardor till his death, in 1766. In 1763 appeared the controversy between him and Mr. Apthorp, Mr. Caner, Dr. Johnson, and Archbishop Secker, on the charter and conduct of the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts. To form a judgment of this debate, I beg leave to refer to a review of the whole, printed at the time and written by Samuel Adams, though by some, very absurdly and erroneously ascribed to Mr. Apthorp. If I am not mistaken, it will be found a model of candor, sagacity, impartiality, and close, correct reasoning.

If any gentleman supposes this controversy to be nothing to the present purpose, he is grossly mistaken. It spread an universal alarm against the authority of Parliament. It excited a general and just apprehension, that bishops, and dioceses, and churches, and priests, and tithes, were to be imposed on us by Parliament. It was known that neither king, nor ministry, nor archbishops, could appoint bishops in America, without an act of Parliament; and if Parliament could tax us, they could establish the Church of England, with all its creeds, articles, tests, ceremonies, and tithes, and prohibit all other churches, as conventicles and schism shops.

Nor must Mr. Cushing be forgotten. His good sense and sound judgment, the urbanity of his manners, his universal good character, his numerous friends and connections, and his continual intercourse with all sorts of people, added to his constant attachment to the liberties of his country, gave him a great and salutary influence from the beginning in 1760.

Let me recommend these hints to the consideration of Mr. Wirt, whose Life of Mr. Henry I have read with great delight. I think that, after mature investigation, he will be convinced that Mr. Henry did not “give the first impulse to the ball of independence,” and that Otis, Thacher, Samuel Adams, Mayhew, Hancock, Cushing, and thousands of others, were laboring for several years at the wheel before the name of Henry was heard beyond the limits of Virginia.

The Shot Heard Around the World

A domestic insurrection was unfolding in Massachusetts.  A mere show of force by the British Redcoats had not subdued the petulant colonists.  The British military commander, and royal governor, General Thomas Gage, ordered more soldiers, and initiated a march on the towns of Lexington and Concord.  In Concord was a large ammunition storage site, and in April of 1775, General Gage meant to take control of Concord.  Without their guns and ammunition, Gage was convinced he could start any further violence and bloodshed.

The American protests and boycotts continued through the winter, and by the spring of 1775, as Redcoats began their march through Massachusetts, New England farmers prepared to stop them.  Many hoped for resolution, and an end to the Coercive Acts.  However, many believed war was coming, and were stockpiling arms and ammunition.  In Massachusetts, these members of the local militia became known as “Minute Men,“ because they endeavored to be ready to respond to any British threat on a minute’s notice.

General Gage noticed the rising numbers of prepared colonists, recommended the repeal of the Coercive Acts, and ordered another twenty thousand reinforcements, indicating that even the farmers were “numerous, worked up to a fury.”  He was ordered to arrest the troublemakers immediately, before the colonists became organized.

As the British marched toward Concord, Paul Revere and William Dawes rode ahead to warn the Minutemen.  Upon reaching Lexington, the Redcoats were met by about seventy armed men congregated on the village green.  The British Commander ordered dispersal, shouting, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, and disperse.”  During the moment of decision, where some began to comply, a shot rang out on Lexington green.  The firearms responded in kind, and by the end of the skirmish that lasted only a couple minutes, eight colonists were dead, and another ten were wounded.

The march continued to Concord, but upon arrival, the British were unable to find the ammunition.  The element of surprise was gone, and the Americans had made preparations before the Redcoats arrived.  Three companies of minutemen watched as the British searched, posing no challenge, until the British reached the Old North Bridge, where again shots were exchanged, and this time two Americans were killed, and three British soldiers fell.

During their return to Boston, American militia hid in the trees along the route, attacking the Redcoats all the way back to the coast.  By the end of the day, 273 British solders were wounded or dead.  The American toll was at 95.  The war had begun.

A Different Kind of War

As news spread throughout the colonies about what had happened in Massachusetts, the colonists marveled at “Masschusetts’ War.”  But realization set in quickly.  What happened in Massachusetts could happen in any of the colonies.  Thomas Jefferson observed, “a phrenzy of revenge seems to seized all ranks of people.”

In Virginia, the royal governor immediately acted to disarm the people, removing a large quantity of gunpowder from the Williamsburg powder house.  He placed the gunpowder on a ship in the dead of night, even going so far as threatening to arm the slaves if the colonists dared to attack.

British oppression motivated recruiting efforts of the militias.  The fighting by the Americans was based on their knowledge of the land.  The Americans did not use the same methods of war the British used, which included tight ranks, and concerted advancements.  The militiamen fought from among the trees, ravines, and on the edges of the road in a style today we would call Guerrilla Warfare.

The drive for independence, however, was not popular.  Most colonists desired reconciliation.  But as the fighting continued, more Americans got on board, and ultimately a full third of the nation supported the drive for independence, as 3% of the population actually fought the war.

Declaration of Independence

The reality became obvious.  As the war proceeded, the colonies must declare independence from Britain.  Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” urged such, helping to turn the tide of opinion, laying out the cause for American independence, convincingly rallying Americans to the cause against a despotic monarchy.

Delegates to the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia in 1776.  The “United Colonies” were constantly reminded why there was a need for the colonies to remain united.  Independence, however, was a frightening consideration.  The delegates that would sign such a document would surely be considered traitors to The Crown.  Treason was a crime punishable by death, and as Benjamin Franklin aptly observed during the deliberations over the Declaration of Independence, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Reasoning with King George had failed.  Appeasement was met with rejection.  The Olive Branch Petition in the summer of 1775 was rejected by The Crown, to the surprise of the American moderates.  After George Washington succeeded in driving the British out of Boston in the spring of 1775, news that the British were assembling a great invasion force reached the colonies.  It was understood that the British meant to crush all revolutionaries, with a massive army of Redcoats, Scottish Highland troops, and hired Hessian mercenaries from Germany.

The delegates recognized that no other choice existed.  It was time to declare independence.

On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia motioned to the Continental Congress, “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

Debate ensued.  A vote on the motion was delayed until July 1.  A committee was chosen to draft a document laying out the colonial position.  The delegation of five centered around Thomas Jefferson, who penned the document.  The declaration emphasized the concept of natural rights propounded by John Locke.  The short document began with the concept that it was “necessary” to “dissolve the political bands”  connecting the colonies to Britain.  The powers were considered to be entitled by the “Laws of Nature,” and Nature’s God.”  The truth was indicated to be “self-evident.”  “All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  In addition to those rights being “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” the authors also saw independence as being a right.  “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

On July 1, the majority was in favor of independence.  On July 2 Lee’s motion passed.  On July 4 it was adopted.  On July 8 the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly on the streets of Philadelphia, accompanied by the tolling of the Liberty Bell.  The great bell cracked.  The bell was never to ring again.

On August 2, 1776, the official signing of the parchment copy took place, and John Hancock signed as large as he could, to ensure “fat old King George could read it without his spectacles.”

Four men declined to sign.  Others signed with fear and many doubts.  The Declaration of Independence was then printed and widely distributed.  It was read aloud in celebrations throughout the colonies that had just become united States.  A lead statue of King George III was toppled in New York after the reading of the document.  The statue was then melted down for ammunition.

The printed versions of the Declaration of Independence did not include the names of the signers.  They had committed treason.  Their crime was punishable by death.

Southern Front

In the campaigns of 1777 through 1779, the Continental army narrowly avoided outright defeat.  British troops flanked the colonials by moving south from Quebec.  Indian tribes in western New York and the Ohio Valley were involved in the Revolutionary War, and those zones became a bloody war zone.  The Americans finally appealed to France for help.

A formal alliance with France was signed in February of 1778.  France recognized the United States of America as an independent nation, and pledged military and commercial support.  The French Navy interrupted Britain’s flow of supplies and troops, and aided the Americans by holding prisoners of war.  The French also provided cannons, muskets, gunpowder, and advisers, but had been doing so since 1776.  As the Americans achieved a number of victories in the north, and France’s assistance hampered Britain’s war effort, the Redcoats moved to the South, giving up on the North.  A new strategy emerged, abandoning the north, and focusing on the valuable crops in the south.

Britain considered the large slave population in the south to be an advantage, hoping to use the slave population as a destabilizing factor to keep the white southerners in line.  With a large loyalist population in Georgia and the Carolinas, the British believed the south would be easier to gain control of, and maintain control of.

Georgia fell first in December of 1778.  The British battled ten regiments of the Continental army in Charleston, South Carolina, and after the British laid siege to the city for five weeks, the British took Charleston in May of 1780.  Lord Cornwallis chased out the remaining Continentals shortly after, and established military rule in South Carolina.

By August, more American troops arrived from the north, but had little impact, largely because of Benedict Arnold secretly passing to the British information about American troop movements.

The backcountry of South Carolina, an area the British believed to be pacified and under control, as well as heavily populated with loyalists, suddenly erupted into guerrilla warfare.  Hit and run attacks became the norm.  Loyalists were met by fierce militia units.  Sometimes the rebels were more like bandits, than soldiers.  Guerrilla warfare spread to Georgia and North Carolina.  Loyalists struggled to hold on to reconquered territory as Cornwallis’ army moved north.  Believing South Carolina to be secure, Cornwallis moved into North Carolina during the fall of 1780, and then news of a brutal defeat against loyalists in the battle at King’s Mountain send Cornwallis back into South Carolina, stretching the British forces in the area thin.


In January 1781 the British and the Loyalists suffered a defeat at the Battle of Cowpens, in South Carolina.  Discouraged, Cornwallis moved back into North Carolina, and even began to reach into Virginia, capturing Williamsburg in June of 1781.  He then moved to Yorktown, to await the arrival of backup troops by ship.  The French ship had intercepted the British ships, cutting off Cornwallis’ supply of reinforcement troops, and then on land Cornwallis’ force of 7,500 was met by a combined American and French army numbering over 16,000.  For twelve days the Americans and French bombarded British fortifications at Yorktown, until Cornwallis ran out of food and ammunition.  Escape was impossible, and on October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered.

The Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown was the decisive blow.  For two years afterward, however, Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois continued to fight the war, unaware of the surrender.  A peace treaty was negotiated six months later.

Treaty of Paris

After six years of war, the violence had ended.  The rebellious colonies had won, though Britain refused to fully recognize the colonies as a new nation.

The British began to evacuate their troops, not only because of the surrender at Yorktown, but because they had lost the will to continue fighting.  The British essentially threw their hands up, and believed the experiment of self-government would fail, and the petulant colonies would beg to be readmitted to the commonwealth.

The French mediated the Treaty of Paris, and it was signed on September 3, 1783.  Britain ceded all territory between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River, south of Canada and north of the Gulf of Mexico, to the Americans (except New Orleans, and Spain’s colony of Florida).

George Washington was a hero, and he was the stuff legends were made of.  However, he was tired of fighting.  He had retired to his home at Mount Vernon.  It was time to tend to his garden.  The gamble of independence had paid off, and it was now time for the diplomats and politicians to do whatever it was they did.

Years later, a messenger arrived.  George Washington was needed in Philadelphia.  A new convention was going to convene, to fix the Articles of Confederation, and Washington’s presence was needed.  He would become the reluctant President.  He refused to join a political party, but he won all 69 votes in the Electoral College.

When asked what he preferred to be called in his new office, a number of recommendations came his way.  “Your majesty?”  “Your highness?”  “Your excellence?”

“Mister President will be fine,” said George Washington.

He died just two years after leaving office.  But he had made his mark, and was to be considered there on out the “Father” of a nation.

Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lesson 05: Murmurings of Independence

Constitution Class Handout
February 13, 2014
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs

Faith Armory
41669 Winchester Rd.
Temecula, CA


·   Murmurings of Independence

·   Forging a Nation
·   The French and Indian War
·   Proclamation of 1763
·   Military Occupation, and Confrontation
·   Tea Party, and Association

Forging a Nation

"This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion."--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henry Lee, 1825

The United States was not born.  There was no precise day it was birthed.  We have heard July 4th referred to as America's Birthday.  The date on the Declaration of Independence is July 4, 1776.  The Declaration of Independence listed the grievances of the English Colonies with Britain, and declared that it was time to "dissolve the political bonds that connected" The Colonies to Mother England.

The drive for independence began long before the signatures of 56 patriots on that famous document, long before the first shot was fired at Lexington Green, long before British Tea was dumped into Boston Harbor, and long before the original agreement to act as a union in 1774 under the Articles of Association.  The United States of America was not born, but forged, piece by piece, and moment by moment, in the pubs, churches and meeting halls as the revolutionaries discussed their strategies; on the battle fields through the spilling of the blood of Patriots; and in the homes of the colonists as they did their part in the effort, be it producing food, manufacturing arms and ammunition, or darning socks for the bare feet of the members of the various militias.

The United States was not born, but forged through war, blood, sweat, and tears.

From the very beginning, we were unique.  Rather than come as conquerors, the early English Colonists came to America as families and entrepreneurs, taking advantage of the charters offered by the King of England.  Those early Americans did not come to America slaughtering the native population, or raping and forcing into marriage the native women, as did the Spanish warriors that conquered the rest of the Americas in decades prior in what is known today as Central America, and South America.  The English Colonists along the Atlantic Coast came as immigrants that needed, and obtained, assistance from the native population - a reality of coexistence best portrayed by the real story of the first Thanksgiving.

The English Colonists were unique in that they were individualistic, rather than members of a military force.  Colonization was by charter, rather than by conquest, which instilled in the American Colonists the traits of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, hard work, and personal responsibility.  The frontier to the west encouraged the Americans to step into the unknown, to seek a better life, obtain property, embrace the toughness of the New World, use their guns, take care of themselves, and leave behind the old way of doing things. The treatment of the colonies by the British Empire taught the colonial Americans to not settle for being nothing more than a revenue source for the king.  They learned to stand up for their rights, demand liberty, and fight on the side of virtue. The character of America was forged through struggle, economic risk taking, and hardship, developing long before the advent of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, or the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  We were, and are, an exceptional nation that refuses to settle for anything less than life, liberty, and an exceptional opportunity to pursue happiness.

The English Crown watched Spain colonize the New World by conquest, and learned exactly what not to do.  The lessons from Spain’s tactic of military conquest, and the incredible financial expenses of empire Spain had encountered, convinced the English monarchy to use a different tact when colonizing the Atlantic Coast of North America.  Rather than set out to conquer lands with troops and equipment, adventurers were encouraged to invest in the New World.  To English colonists, the ownership of property was true wealth, so the opportunity to invest in a new land, where they could own their own property, and become self-sufficient without the iron fist of Britain always on them, was appealing.  With that new land in the New World, the English colonists envisioned that they would be able to grow various crops of their choice, and make themselves rich in a way the Spanish were never able to achieve.  And with the passage of time, the English did indeed produce crop surpluses for export to the Old World, making the English colonies profitable in a potentially unlimited manner.

England’s colonists were middle class families and businessmen.  The English colonists were not soldiers filled with the desire of conquest and gold, but families filled with the desire of a new start, property ownership, and riches through farming and trade.  Investors, like the Virginia Company, risked their capital because they saw great potential for profit in the new colonies.  For the monarchy, the system was a proposition Britain felt it could not lose.  The British Monarchy did not have to put up any money, or effort.  All the king needed to do was issue charters.  If the colony failed, it cost England nothing, for the loss would be absorbed by the investors.  If the colony succeeded, England would benefit through taxation, trade, global influence, and profits from the agriculture of the new land.  The struggles were immense.  Many colonists died, and the people that survived were sick, hungry, and miserable.  The colonists endured Indian attacks by a minority of the local tribes, and disease, and starvation with little assistance from the British homeland.  Faced with the immense difficulties associated with settling in an uncivilized environment, bickering among the colonists left the settlers with unplanted crops, and shrinking food supplies.

The North American wilderness was not quite the paradise described by the Virginia Company’s publications in England.  Disease and starvation threatened to wipe out the Jamestown settlement early on.  The people lay day and night groaning in misery.  The weakened and demoralized people were on the verge of death, on the verge of failure.  The local native people came to the rescue.  In 1607 the local Indians began to bring corn to the colony for barter, which assisted in feeding the colonists, while stocking the Indians with Old World goods they desired.  However, the corn was not enough. By the time 1610 had rolled around, after the “starving time” winter of 1609-1610 where food was in such short supply some settlers resorted to eating their recently deceased neighbors, only 60 of the previous 500 settlers remained alive.  These early struggles, however, had an important impact on the English colonies that the Spanish never encountered.  The struggles, with no help from England, instilled a spirit of survival, self-reliance, and independence into the English colonists.  From the very beginning the virtues of hard work, and personal responsibility, were important for the sake of survival.  Without these characteristics, which were taught to the colonists through their struggles, the English colonies would never have survived.  Like the struggling butterfly that becomes strong enough to fly because of the struggle to free itself from the cocoon, the rugged storms of colonization strengthened the English colonists, forging this nation through the difficulties of existence, preparing the new nation for the hardships of war, and the arduous journey it would face as a new nation.

The Western Frontier’s influence on America’s character added to the spirit of toughness that was fast becoming a common trait among the English colonists.  With that spirit of adventure came the desire to seek a better life, obtain property, battle the difficulties of the untamed land, become skilled with their firearms, and leave behind the old European way of doing things.  When George Washington was a young man, he constantly sought adventures on the Virginia Frontier.  In March of 1748, when Washington was but a sixteen year old young man, his frequent adventures epitomized the toughness of Americans. “George and his companions swam their horses across swollen rivers, slept under the stars, and feasted on wild turkeys cooked over open campfires, had their tents carried away twice by high winds, and on one occasion awoke to find their straw beds in flames.  But through it all they successfully surveyed or ‘ran off’ hundreds of acres along the South Branch”.

As the colonies grew, so did the colonist’s encroachment into the Indian frontier.  With this kind of life came hunting, fishing, living off the land, and numerous confrontations with the native population.  The tough adventurous side of the character of America lends much of its existence to the presence of the wild frontier, Americans’ willingness to explore, and conquer, that frontier, and epitomizes what it means when I say America was forged into existence.

In the New World, the colonists created for themselves a society that was distinctively colonial and distinctively British.  The emerging political identity of the English colonists was British, so when the king began to revoke various charters in the New World, and when the king began to send British bureaucrats into America, the response was one of anger.  Though “chafed under increasing royal control, they still valued English protection”.  The rise of various rebel governments challenging the British at the turn of the eighteenth century, however, was only a small sign of things to come.

The British Empire eventually revealed itself as a tyrannical system that was even willing to use troops against the Americans.  The Americans began to see the British as rulers that limited their freedoms, and denied them of their natural rights.  The American Revolution was fought against a highly centralized state that was headed by a despotic chief executive.  The Americans, due to over a hundred years of building their American character, posed to be a difficult opponent for the British, and did not lay down quietly.  The attempt by the British to quell unrest became a war, and that war emerged as a revolution for the independence of the American colonies.  The British army considered itself to be an army of skilled professionals who would come in and easily defeat the rank amateurs in short order, putting a quick end to the nonsense.  Their approach to victory was the traditional one, pushing the enemy from point to point.  They came to fight a war over real estate.  The Americans, however, were not your traditional foe.  The Americans’ history of self-reliance, hard work, and experience in the frontier changed the face of the conflict.  In the end, the British finally departed from America’s shores, for the forging of a new nation seeking independence was too much for them to control.

Independence was inevitable.  Thomas Paine pointed out that securing independence from England was America’s destiny.  If the United States did not achieve independence, the country would never be able to disentangle itself from the family feuds going on in Europe.  America’s unique character, which had been constructed in the American psyche from the earliest days when the Americans struggled as new colonists without outside help under the charter system, and from the American taming of the frontier through hardship and struggles, and the harsh treatment the colonies received from Britain, followed by the challenges of war, made independence inevitable.  The character of America demanded independence, history foretold independence, and pre-revolutionary events ensured independence.  And that is how America was forged.

When General Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, General George Washington wrote a letter to President Joseph Hanson announcing the great victory.   President Hanson, and six other Presidents of the United States, served their one year terms through those tumultuous years approaching the writing of the United States Constitution, with no power to mediate between the quarreling States, and no tax authority, or standing army, to quell insurrections, and armed squabbles.

The Articles of Confederation was instituted during the Revolutionary War, and reflected the fears of the colonists regarding the dangers of a strong, central government, like the one they had just won their independence from.  The national government was too weak to protect, preserve, and promote the union, and when Shays’ Rebellion erupted in 1786, it became apparent that a new central government was needed.

The writing of the United States Constitution would be the first time in history that a nation would be designed from scratch, with a specific intent consciously embedded into the founding.  The lessons of history were taught by the evolution of the colonies, and the mistakes of history, but the United States would not become a nation in that same manner.  America would be made, after it was forged.  The government, and the template of what America was, and would become, was written down during heavy debate, and then enacted through ratification, and representative government.

History reveals that the Founding Fathers were problem solvers, and activists.  They laid out the foundation for this nation, and the Law of the Land for all of posterity to follow, and protect.  As it says in the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence, they were willing to lay down their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, for the idea of freedom.  The Founders expected us to be problem solvers, too.  They expected us to be informed, and active participants in maintaining liberty as laid out for us in the pages of the United States Constitution.  They expected us to do what it takes to preserve, promote, and protect our freedom, and the founding principles of the Constitution.  They expected us to do these things for our country, for ourselves, and for our posterity.  The forging of this nation was through action, and the forging of America has never stopped.  We, now, are the ones responsible for carrying on the banner of liberty, and like the founders, we must not falter, or else the forging of this nation will cease, and it will be fundamentally transformed into something the founders never intended, and we will lose our liberty forever, or at least until a future generation is willing to put on the line their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War, the American name for the North American theater of the Seven Years War, was the final colonial war.  During that war the French and British battled over colonial domination in North America, the Caribbean, and India.  Though the English succeeded in winning majority control over colonial outposts, victory came at a staggering cost.  Desperate to settle the massive debt incurred during the war, the British Parliament began to tax the colonies.  The claim by Great Britain was that the taxes were simply to recover the monies expended in North America.

The war-effort, combining the forces of the British, and the colonists, against the French and their Indian allies in the frontier backcountry of the American Colonies, was also an effort that held secret hopes that the British and the colonists would realize they needed to be aligned because of shared interests.  The relationship between the British and the colonies were strained, going into the war, and then when the conflict was over, and the British government began taxing the colonists to pay for it, no matter how legitimate some may have thought the new British taxing policies were, led to protests in Boston.

War between Britain and France, or Spain, was a normal affair.  The first fifty years of the eighteenth century, Britain was intermittently at with one of those adversaries from mainland Europe.  New England ran right along the edge of New France, and the disagreements with the French Frontier increased when in 1754 a conflict began over contested land in the Ohio Valley.  The Seven Years’ War, in which the colonists experienced ten years of, resulted in a British takeover of French Canada, the Ohio River Valley, and essentially all lands in North America east of the Mississippi River.

Proclamation of 1763

The British Empire decided, in 1760, after the final battle of the French and Indian War had been fought, to keep a standing army in the colonies.  Twenty-two year old George III, the new king, claimed that stationing troops in America was to maintain peace between the colonists and the Indians, but the colonists didn’t see it that way, and in the long run King George III’s decision to keep a standing army in the colonies, and heavily tax the colonists in the hopes of recouping the costs of war, would prove to be costly both in financial, and political, terms.

Tensions with Indian Tribes on the American western frontier where Indian tribes that were allies of the now departed French refused to accept defeat, led to Pontiac’s Uprising in 1763.  By the time it was all over, no fort weat of Detroit remained standing, four hundred British soldiers had been killed, and over two thousand colonists had been taken captive, or killed.  To stop the violence, the British government issued the Proclamation of 1763, forbidding colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains.  The goal was to separate the colonists from the Indians, but it also limited trade between the Indians and licensed colonial traders.

The provisions of the proclamation proved impossible to enforce, and the growing populations in the existing colonies continued to send many settlers west of the Appalachians.  Land speculators were not about to miss out on the profitable resale of their land grants.  There weren’t enough British troops available to stop the westward push, and King George III had larger problems to deal with, like paying for the expenses of the war.

The Search for Revenue

The Colonists, though considered to be British Subjects, were become more of a problem than they were worth, as far as the Monarchy was concerned.  The New World was full of riches, and Britain had spent countless monies and lives protecting the colonies, the least the colonists could do, as far as King George III was concerned, was pay for the bill.

Prime Minister George Grenville decided the way to create revenue from the colonies was through customs.  The salaries of the customs officers were costing the British government, according to reports to Grenville, four times what was collected in revenue.  Grenville demanded that there be more attention to paperwork, and rigorous accounting audits, to stop the bribery and smuggling that seemed to be common practice.  After the failed Molasses Act of 1733, which was a stiff tax on any molasses purchased from non-British sources, Grenville came up with the Revenue Act of 1764, also known as the Sugar Act.

The Sugar Act lowered the tax on French molasses to encourage shippers to obey the law, while increasing penalties for smuggling.  Rather that regulate trade, as was the aim of the navigation acts, Grenville’s intent was to raise revenue, using existing law for new ends.

With stiffer enforcement policies in place, British naval crews became customs officers, boarding suspicious ships and seizing cargoes they believed to be in violation.  Smugglers caught faced swift and severe justice.  The act led to confrontations in the port cities, and the law raised questions among the colonists about Britain’s right to tax the colonists.

The Stamp Act was put into place in 1765, and is was designed to escalate Grenville’s revenue program, since the Sugar Act was not producing the revenue Grenville had hoped for.  The Stamp Act imposed a tax on all paper used for official documents, including newspapers, pamphlets, court documents, licenses, wills, and so on.  The tax was enforced by an affixed stamp that served as proof the tax had been paid.  Unlike the Sugar Act, the law had nothing to do with trade, and was obviously only a tool being used to raise tax money.

The Stamp Act was a direct tax, and encouraged a stronger conflict between Britan and the colonies over the Parliament’s right to tax.

Taxation had been seen as a gift to the monarch, granted by the people’s representatives, but in the cases of the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, the parliament was demanding money, and that led to a fear of confiscation of property.  Grenville responded that indeed taxation by consent was the British way, but that the colonists were “virtually” represented in Parliament.  The colonists rejected the notion of virtual representation.

August 14, 1765, to discourage a stamp distributor from his duties, and to convince him to resign, a crowd in Boston launched a street demonstration where a mock execution of the stamp distributor was enacted.  The stamp distributor went into hiding, the royal governor took no action in hopes of calming the tensions, and the next day the stamp distributor resigned - teaching the colonists that street demonstrations were a valuable tool, that worked.

Twelve days later the home of Thomas Hutchinson, the brother-in-law of the stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver, was surrounded, and destroyed.  This action brought a temporary stop to the protests, and a town meeting issued a statement of sympathy, and a large reward for the arrest and conviction of the rioters.  No leads were found, and nobody was arrested.  Samuel Adams professed shock at the “truly mobbish nature” of the violence.

Nobody volunteered to replace the resigned stamp distributor, and customs officers were incapable of enforcing an act that failed to produce properly stamped documents.

The protests in Boston encouraged similar demonstrations throughout the colonies by groups calling themselves Sons of Liberty.  Chants of “Liberty,” and “Liberty and Property,” were common at these events.  The Stamp Act was repealed in March of 1766, but with it came the Declaratory Act, which stated the Parliament had the right to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”

The Townshend Acts of 1767 proposed new taxes on tea, glass, lead, paper, painters’ colors imported into the colonies, and was combined with the Sugar Act which remained in place.  The Townshend duties were not a great burden, but the principle of taxation through trade duties, was not received favorably by the colonists.

Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, widely reprinted in the winter of 1767 and 1768 proclaimed, “We are taxed without our consent. . . We are therefore - SLAVES.”  John Dickinson, the writer of these articles, called for “total denial of the power of Parliament to lay upon these colonies any tax whatsoever.”

In 1765 the Quartering Act required colonies to furnish shelter and provisions of the British army left in place after the French and Indian War.  Many of the assemblies refused to enforce the “intolerable act,” because it was really a tax requiring colonists to pay money by order of Parliament.  In the case of the New York Assembly, they were ordered to obey, or all of the assembly’s acts would be considered null and void by Parliament.  Colonists began to wonder if their legislative government was under attack, and if their systems of local government were secure.

Resolutions began to emerge in the colonies that called for the boycott of all British made goods.  These “no consumption agreements” were hard to enforce, but the agreements were popular.  They required an agreement to coordinate the effort throughout the entire process of shipping and receiving.  Overall, the boycotts were a success, and British imports fell by 40 percent.  The Sons of Liberty were staging celebrations, and Boston seemed to be overrun by anti-British sentiment.

Military Occupation and Confrontation

With all of the unrest over the colonial disagreements with the various attempts by the British government to increase revenue through taxing the colonies, the British leadership concluded that British troops were necessary to restore order, maintain order.  In October of 1768, British troops landed in Boston to enforce the Townshend duties, and clamp down on local radicals.  The presence of a standing army in the colonies was already unpopular, but with this new infusion of troops, the local response was volatile.  Street fights began to break out.  In January of 1770, in response to Thomas Hutchinson’s sons indicating they were ready to break the boycott of British goods, a crowd gathered outside the Hutchinson brothers’ shop, and defaced the door with a mixture of human excrement and urine.  In February, when a crowd gathered around a custom official’s home, he panicked and fired a musket, killing a young boy passing in the street.  The Sons of Liberty led the funeral procession, marking it as the first instance of violent death at the hands of the British tyranny.

The following week after the funeral, tension gripped Boston.  On March 5, 1770, after a crowed taunted eight British soldiers guarding the customs house, a clash erupted between the soldiers and the group of colonists, and the evening ended with five dead after someone yelled “Fire!” and some of the soldiers shot into the crowd.  Eleven of the men were hit.

The colonists called the incident the Boston Massacre, and the British called it the incident on King Street.  The regiments of soldiers were immediately removed from Boston to an island in the harbor, and the captain, and his eight soldiers, were jailed for their protection.

John Adams, and Josiah Quincy, defended the eight soldiers in the ensuring trial.  The two attorneys had ties to the Sons of Liberty, but Adams indicated he was willing to defend the soldiers because even unpopular defendants deserve a fair trial.  Samuel Adams, John’s cousin, approved of the decision by John Adams to defend the soldiers, seeing it as an opportunity to show that Boston leadership was not lawless, and that they were defenders of British liberty and law.

All defendants were acquitted except two soldiers, who were convicted of manslaughter.  They were branded on their thumbs, and released.  To this day the reality of who yelled “Fire!” remains unknown.

The new British Prime Minister, Frederick North, recognized that the boycott by the colonists against British goods was hurting trade, and recommended repeal of the Townshend Duties.  North was able to persuade Parliament to remove all duties, except the tax on tea.  For two years, tensions calmed.  Some viewed this as a long awaited peace, while others considered it the calm before the storm.

Tea Party

In 1772, a Royal Navy ship, Gaspee, was burned off the coast of Rhode Island while pursuing suspected smugglers.  Though there were no arrests, the British investigating commission announced that if the suspects were found, they would be sent to Britain for trial of charges on high treason.  The ruling was not taken lightly, for it was in direct opposition of the English right to trial by a jury of one’s peers.  A link was established to inform all of the colonies of the alarming news by Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Richard Henry Lee.

Later in 1772, Lord North proposed paying the salaries of the superior court justices out of the tea revenue.  The colonists recognized this would make judges more likely to obey their new payers, and again a vital message was circulated to ensure the colonies all knew the news about what the British government was doing.  The communication circulated in December of 1772, and claimed this was an attempt to undermine traditional liberties, while supporting unjust taxation, military occupation, and a subversion of justice.

By the Spring of 1773, revolutionary language was rising up in Massachusetts.

The Tea Act passed Parliament May 10, 1773, and served the final spark that would ignite a revolutionary movement in Massachusetts.  By the fall of 1773, news of the Tea Act reached the colonies.  The law was designed to ensure colonists bought taxed British Tea, and squelch the smuggling of Dutch tea into the colonies.  The goal was to raise revenue, and to further control the colonies.  The Tea Act was a reminder of the Parliament’s claim to have full authority over the colonists, in regards to their power to tax and legislate for the colonies.

The tea trade was too lucrative to enable a boycott, so the Sons of Liberty pressured tea agents to resign.  Without agents, tea cargoes would have to land without paperwork, or return home.  However, Governor Hutchinson cleared three ships in November of 1773 to unload their cargoes, but not the tea they were carrying.  The merchants were not allowed to unload the tea without paying the tea duty, but they could not return home in their ships without paying the tax, either.  If they remained in the harbor too long, twenty days, the duty had to be paid, or the local authorities would confiscate the tea.

During the twenty days the tension in Boston built.  Daily meeting informed the people of what was going on, and energized the citizens.  On the final day, Hutchinson refused clearance for the ships, and a meeting at the Old South Church failed to come up with a resolution.  But immediately following the meeting, over 100 men disguised as Indians, boarded the ships and dumped thousands of pounds of tea into the water.  A crowd of 2,000 watched as the event took place.  John Adams called the Tea Party, “. . . bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences.”

Lord North’s response to the Tea Party was the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts.  First, the Boston Port Act closed Boston Harbor to all shipping as of June 1, 1774, until the destroyed tea was paid for.  The Massachusetts Government Act altered the colony’s charter, giving Parliament full authority, without question, over Massachusetts.  All judges, sheriffs, and officers of the court would be appointed by the royal governor.  The elective body lost all powers.  Town meetings were outlawed, without the governor’s approval, and every agenda item required prior approval by the governor.

The Impartial Administration of Justice Act, the third coercive act, stipulated that any royal official accused of a capital crime would be tried in a court in Britain.  This act suggested that cases regarding instances like the Boston Massacre could happen, but the colonies could not try the captain, or soldiers.  Justice was taken out of the hands of the local jurisdictions, regarding royal officials.

The Quartering Act was then amended, permitting military commanders to lodge soldiers wherever necessary, regardless of the location, which meant that soldiers could even be lodged in private households, irregardless of the opinion of the homeowner - placing Massachusetts under military rule.

The final coercive act, the Quebec Act, though it did not directly have any connection to the other four acts, confirmed in Quebec a continuation of French civil law and government form, as well as Catholicism, which was an affront to Protestant New Englanders who were now being denied their own representative government.  The Quebec Act also took control of land throughout the Ohio Valley away from the American colonies, and gave it to Quebec.

News of the Intolerable Acts spread like wildfire through the colonies.  If the British government could do this to Massachusetts, they could do it to any of the colonies.  No liberties were secure.  Delegates would arranged to convene in Philadelphia in September of 1774 to respond, bringing together the first Continental Congress.  The plan was a unified front.  A boycott of British goods throughout all of the colonies, in a single concerted effort under an agreement that would bring together the colonies into a union for the first time.  The document is known today as the Articles of Association, the first of the four founding documents.

Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014