“LET FREEDOM RING”
Our nation was founded on man’s desire to live in freedom. That concept brought the first immigrants to this nation and has been the quest for millions of others to become Americans for over 200 years. Two great documents penned by two remarkably gifted men shaped and have been the foundation for our nation’s long-term freedoms.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in 1776. The Preamble of our Declaration has become known globally among freedom loving people.
When Jefferson wrote the preamble, it was largely an afterthought. Why is it so important today? It captured perfectly the essence of the ideals that would eventually define the United States. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Jefferson began, in one of the most famous sentences in the English language. How could Jefferson write this at a time that he and other Founders who signed the Declaration owned slaves? The document was an expression of an ideal. In his personal conduct, Jefferson violated it. But the ideal— “that all men are created equal”—came to take on a life of its own and is now considered the most perfect embodiment of the American creed.
Although the American Colonies had declared independence, they were not yet united as a nation. America needed a document to establish our place in the world and to solidify those things that would birth this nation. The assignment to write the Constitution fell to James Madison. His work was presented to the Constitutional Convention and was signed September 17, 1787.
However, some of the colonies and some of those present in New York for the Constitutional Convention did not sign. There were genuine fears that the document did not have enough limitations to prohibit government’s power to walk over the rights of the citizens.
Out of that concern, Madison wrote the first 10 amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights lists specific prohibitions on governmental power, in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties. The first ten amendments protect basic freedoms; especially of the minority groups. It was added to the Constitution to protect the people from the national government’s exercising too much power.
The Bill of Rights was signed December 15, 1791.
The first amendment contains five areas that are referred to as our basic freedoms: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Peaceful Assembly, and to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances. The Second Amendment states that Americans have the right to bear arms. Ironically, Madison, who penned this cornerstone of our freedoms, lived the longest of all the Founding Fathers. He died at the age of eighty-five in June, 1836.