A Constitution, If We Can Keep It

The following guest article was penned by our associate pastor at Grace Fellowship in Elizabethtown KY. Since I recently posted the Declaration of Independence in an earlier post I wanted my subscribers to read his excellent article. Thanks, Pastor Harry for giving permission to repost your article!

A Constitution, If We Can Keep It

September 12, 2020 By H.W. Meyer 

In 1787 at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government the Constitution was establishing. His response was simple, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” The problem with keeping it and passing it on to future generations is most Americans believe our nation is a democracy rather than the Republic our founders brought into existence in 1787

The founders chose a Republic because it is established according to the rule of law. A Republic receives its authority from a charter rather than the whims of intellectual elitists or popular consensus. America’s charter is the Constitution, which is the law of the land. As such, the Constitution limits the powers of both government and the governed so that neither can “undo it without amending it first.

Amending the Constitution

Amending the Constitution requires either 2/3 of both Houses of Congress to propose it or 2/3 of several states to call for a Convention to propose an amendment. In other words, this process is not left up to the general voting public nor do the majority of such votes determine the outcome. 

America’s founders clearly understood the differences between a Republic and a democracy. They recognized that from among our citizenry factions with an excessive hunger for power will be formed that would endanger liberty and the people’s capacity for self-government. In the American Republic we, the people, elect our representatives. However, their political power and responsibilities are limited by the Constitution.

The Constitution protects and guarantees our civil liberties as stated under the Bill of Rights, not government or our elected representatives. As long as our elected officials, judges, and we, the people, are willing to live under the authority of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and its guaranteed liberties are secure for all Americans to enjoy. It was Thomas Jefferson who stated,

“The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.” 

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is a declaration of what our federal government cannot infringe upon since it is not the legitimate guarantor of those rights. The founders disclosed the identity of the lawful guarantor of our individual rights in the Declaration of Independence’s preamble, clearly stating: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights … ”

Almighty God is the Guarantor

America’s founders elected Almighty God as the guarantor of our civil liberties because what the Creator of mankind has given cannot be taken from us by any human power. Therefore, the government bears the lawful authority and responsibility to protect those inalienable rights not abolish them. Frederick Douglas, a former slave and greatest civil rights leader of the nineteenth century, regarded the self-evident truths contained in the Declaration of Independence as “saving principles.” He stated:

Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.” 

When these saving principles are forsaken and ignorance regarding their true meaning increases, the Creator and rightful guarantor is reduced to a myth. If the Creator is a myth, so are our God-given rights, and America’s charter, the Constitution, is downgraded to an antiquated document that needs revision or worse replacing.

The result, authority over our individual rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights defaults to a government no longer restraint by the Constitution’s limitations of power. Thomas Jefferson stated it best:

Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Of Jefferson’s words Senator Robert Byrd on June 27, 1962, stated before Congress:

“they are a forceful and explicit warning that to remove God from this country will destroy it.” 

Neglecting to Educate our Citizenry

In America, that conviction has been discarded mainly the result of neglecting to educate our citizenry in the origins, principles, and structure of America’s government, and the laws specific to our government. An informed citizenry educated in the principles and structure of our Republic is necessary to produce the “the statesmen, legislators, and judges” required to safeguard the Constitution and its guarantee of liberty for future generations of Americans to enjoy.

In 1816 Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Charles Yancey:

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” 

A report by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) titled “Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutionsreveals that the vast majority of Americans fail in their knowledge of our nation’s history and its institutions. The report’s conclusion is based on the results of a national survey conducted on the subject.

The Survey Found

The survey found that an increasingly high number of college students and graduates are unable to answer the most basic questions about our nation’s history and founding documents (i.e. the Mayflower Compact, Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights). Many were unable to name all three branches of government or major liberties guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. 

2006

In 2006 ISI in cooperation with the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy surveyed some 14,000 college freshmen and seniors at 50 schools nationwide. These students were given a 60 question multiple-choice exam testing their basic knowledge of America’s history and founding documents. The results were shocking. The college freshmen failed the exam with an average score of 51.7%. The seniors didn’t fare much better; failing the exam with an average score of 53.2%. 

2007

In 2007 the ISI conducted a second survey again tested approximately 14,000 college freshmen and seniors at 50 schools nationwide. The results upheld the findings of the previous survey. During this second round of testing the average score for the college freshmen was 51.4% and for seniors a 54.2%.

A comparison of the two survey outcomes revealed that for each year of college-level studies completed a student’s knowledge of our nation’s history, its institutions, and founding documents increased by a mere percentage point on the exam. Students from some of America’s most elite schools didn’t perform any better on the exam. The average score for seniors at Harvard was 69.5%, a “D+” at best. 

2008

In 2008 ISI decided to broaden its sample population to include non-high school graduates to those holding advanced degrees. 2,508 Americans were randomly selected to take a basic 33 question multiple-choice exam testing their knowledge of America’s history and institutions.

The 33 question exam contained a mixture of questions taken from previous ISI surveys, the U.S. government’s citizenship test, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. The result was alarming. The average exam score for the 2,508 Americans tested was 49% or an “F.” These studies exposed that the majority of Americans, regardless of their education level are civic illiterate. 

Our nation’s founders understood the only sure way to safeguard our liberties was through an informed citizenry. On the issue, Thomas Jefferson wrote,

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

If Americans no Longer Believe

Despite the billions of dollars spent on education in this country, we the people have become civic illiterate. That’s done deliberately. If Americans no longer believe their liberties are a gift from God and lack familiarity with their basic constitutional rights and how their government works, they are unable to defend them and won’t recognize the intentional dismantling of the Constitution and sequestering of our liberty. 

President Andrew Jackson in his 1837 farewell address to the nation made this prophetic statement,

“...But you must remember, my fellow citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. You have no longer any cause to fear a danger from abroad… It is from within, among yourselves- from cupidity, from corruption, from disappointed ambitions, and inordinate thirst for power — that factions will be formed and liberty endangered.”

We have enjoyed the blessing of freedom for so long that we have become derelict in our vigilance to secure it. Why, because we have forgotten how much it cost previous generations of Americans to establish and preserve our Constitution and its guarantee of liberty. Once again liberty in our land is in danger of extinction just as it was in the days of the American Revolution.

The difference, this time the danger is not from abroad but from within. The question before Americans now is not if we can keep our Republic, but whether or not we can keep our Constitution.

If you are not yet a follower of Christ, know that God loves you and is longing for a RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU! It is not a coincidence that you have come across this website and especially this article. God has an awesome plan for your life!

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