Thursday night American Freedom Alliance inaugurated their new Center for the Study of the United States Constitution with a dinner and a talk with Douglas Gibbs the author of, “The Basic Constitution” and the “25 Myths of the United States Constitution”.
American Freedom Alliance has launched it’s first independent institute to facilitate the study and appreciation of our Constitution. The institute will be operated under the direction of Douglas V. Gibbs.
Doug is a radio host on KCAA 1050AM on Saturdays with his Constitution radio program, as well as a long time podcaster, conservative political activist, writer and commentator. He has been featured on “Hannity” and “Fox and Friends”. He is also the founder of the award winning website, “Political Pistachio” as well as winning numerous awards for his patriotic commentary.
Dinner on the patio was accompanied by spirited discussions of recent events, the Republican debate, the dangers we face as a nation and the solutions. There were as many disagreements as agreements among those in attendance.
Avi began the introduction to the Constitution by asking how the Constitution came about. We had fought the Revolution and won. We had the Confederation of States. Why did we need the Constitution?
Doug Gibbs explained the soldiers during the Revolution were paid with money that after the Revolution was worthless. They rioted and tried to take over the U.S. Armory in Springfield. Merchants put together a private militia and put down the riot. This led to our founders believing we needed a stronger central government to prevent such uprisings in the future. Many of the founders feared a bigger central government although they also understood the need for one.
The Constitutional Convention ran from May to September during the hottest weather. Being held in secret the windows and doors were closed and patience was short. Most of the delegates to the Convention, like Madison, were for big government and resisted some of the limits suggested.
Finally, Benjamin Franklin, an agnostic, remembering the pilgrims fled England for religious freedom, suggested they spend time in reflection and prayer. He suggested they begin every meeting with a prayer. This turned the tide. Not wanting to bring a member of clergy into their secret meetings, they went to a church nearby and prayed there each morning. The result was a Constitution that limited government and was based on religious moral values.
Avi asked what issue was the most contentious. Gibbs answered the issue was slavery. Most wanted to end slavery but understood the South would never sign a Constitution that banned slavery outright. One of the most important points of the Constitution was to ensure the sovereignty of the states. Abolishing slavery would also be taking away the sovereignty of the Southern states. There was already a movement against slavery moving across the South and the founders believed, in time, they would agree to abolish it. They did, however, ban the international slave trade.
Gibbs pointed out one of the most misrepresented points was the “Three fifths” clause. It wasn’t in reference to individuals. Due to slavery there were more people living in the South than the North, which would result in the South winning every issue. In order to balance the two regions, in the South they counted each free person and than only 3/5th of the rest of the population. In the North free Blacks were counted individually as any free person.
Avi asked what state didn’t ratify the Constitution or even have delegates at the Convention. That state was Rhode Island. They feared big government.
A Rhode Island resident, James Mason, demanded a Bill of Rights before they would consider the Constitution. James Madison didn’t think it was necessary as the Constitution limited what the government could do. Wisely, the James’, one for and one against, were tasked to write the Bill of Rights. The Bill wasn’t so much to tell us what our rights were, as much as it was to tell government to keep their hands off our rights. It explains our rights are divinely given and belong to us. It is up to us to protect them. Are we?
The Bill of Rights contains the first ten amendments and they are listed in importance. As free Englishmen they understood our rights came from God. As the Bill says, they are natural rights based on the “laws of nature and nature’s God”.
The first amendment protects five rights. Most people can name only three, the right of free speech, free expression of religion and free press. They forget the right to assemble and the right to redress our grievances to our representatives.
The second amendment protected our right to bare arms. We had a standing army. The amendment doesn’t refer to a standing Army, it refers to a “militia” which was formed by armed citizens and the amendment was intended to protect citizens right to be armed.
Third was to protect citizens from having to house soldiers. Fourth was to protect our privacy from search and seizures. Fifth was to protect us from having to testify against ourselves and to ensure a fair trial. Sixth was to ensure a speedy trial. Seventh was to protect us against excessive bail or fines. Eighth was to protect us from cruel and unusual punishment. Ninth was to point out there were rights not listed that were also protected. And the tenth was to protect states rights.
Although there are 27 Amendments we actually only have 25. One amendment was to enact prohibition and another was to repeal it.
Gibbs also discussed the amendment process and talked about a controversy over the 16th (taxation) and 17th (how Senators were elected) amendments. It is believed they didn’t actually have the votes to ratify either amendment but were simply declared ratified. It is interesting that the same year taxation was ratified the Federal Reserve was formed.
America’s Constitution is the shortest Constitution of any country and has survived longer than any other country’s. It is important to understand that the founders listed what they believed was most important first. Article One is about the formation of the Legislative Branch because they considered that the MOST important branch. Article Two is the Executive Branch and Article Three was the Judicial Branch because they considered it the least important.
The public is painfully ignorant of our Constitution and why it is worth saving. It is up to those of us who know it’s importance to educate those who don’t.