On September 13, Patriot Week recognizes the First Principle of the Social Compact. We also recognize George Washington, who made that First Principle come alive in America. In addition, we recognize the Congressional Resolution forwarding the Constitution to the states for ratification, as well as the current USA Flag (the symbol of our current Social Compact).
FIRST PRINCIPLE: SOCIAL COMPACT
The Declaration of Independence recognizes as a self-evident truth that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . .”
There are two aspects to this First Principle of the Social Compact. First, that legitimate governments are instituted among the people; second, that the just powers of the government are derived from the consent of the people.
The Founding Fathers derived much of their understanding of this First Principle from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and and other like-minded philosophers.
The Founding Fathers believed that because conflict is inevitable in a state of nature, individuals united in civil societies and established government to secure the peace. James Madison reflected that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But men are not angels, Alexander Hamilton noted, and government becomes necessary to restrain “the passions of men.” Thus, paradoxically, legal restraints are necessary to preserve liberty. The alternative is vigilantism – which Hobbes aptly termed a “war of every one against every one.”
The second aspect of the Social Compact is that the people must consent to give the government its authority. Robert Bates, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, explained that “In every free government, the people must give their assent to the laws by which they are governed. This is the true criterion between a free government and an arbitrary one.”
Indeed, the American Revolution was strongly motivated by a defense of this First Principle. The cry of “no taxation without representation” was directly derived from the Social Compact.
The Social Compact is an indispensable First Principle of American freedom.
RESOLUTION OF CONGRESS OF SEPTEMBER 28, 1787
On September 28, 1787, the Congress forwarded the proposed Constitution to the several States for their consideration. Although an often overlooked document, the resolution of Congress forwarding the proposed Constitution for ratification is the living embodiment of the First Principle of the Social Compact. Writing on a clean slate, the people of the United States had the opportunity to consent to – or reject – a proposed system of government. The rest is history.
FOUNDING FATHER GEORGE WASHINGTON
Born on February 22, 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Washington was the leading personality of the American Revolution.
A Virginian plantation owner and large landholder, he had become a military leader during the French and Indian War, one well-known for his bravery. In one fierce engagement early in his military career, he led his troops when his commanding officer was slain. At the time, the Indian chief in charge of the battle ordered his troops to fire on Washington. After they fired 17 times and failed to hit him (although two horses were shot from under him), the Chief ordered his troops to stop targeting Washington and declared that Washington was a man blessed by God and would become the leader of a great empire. After Washington gathered his troops, he discovered that he had four bullet holes in his overcoat, but he was never scratched.
Washington’s impact was remarkable. This skirmish led to the French and Indian War, which led to taxation of the colonies without representation and British oppression, which led to the American Revolution and Washington becoming the commander of Continental Army - and eventually President of the United States.
A towering figure, he was truly larger than life. In May 1775, the Second Continental Congress elected Washington as the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. A man of tremendous character and fortitude, through almost sheer willpower, Washington led the American Army and faltering nation through a grueling and successful war against the mightiest empire on earth.
Although he attempted to retire to his estate at Mount Vernon, he was called back to service as the President of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1789. Washington’s invaluable presence lent the Convention tremendous legitimacy. After the
Constitution was ratified, he served two terms as the first President of the United States.
When Washington had announced he would be voluntarily relinquishing power by retiring as President, his nemesis King George III stated that Washington was “placed in a light the most distinguished of any man living,” and was “the greatest character of the age.”
No wonder, then, that in the wake of his death that the House of Representatives passed a resolution authored by Henry Lee that summarized America’s thoughts on Washington: “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
THE CURRENT USA FLAG
On June 14, 1777 (now Flag Day), the Continental Congress, adopted the national flag through the following resolution: "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." Lore has it that the Betsy Ross flag was the first official version of the flag.
Since that date, the official flag of the United States has altered - mostly due to the increasing number of states. With the addition of each state, the flag has been modified, until its current composition including 50 stars (one for each state) in the field of blue, and with 13 stripes representing the original 13 states.
This flag is a reflects a deep commitment to the Social Compact.
Learn more about America and Patriot Week, and renew the American Spirit, visit www.PatriotWeek.org, Facebook, Twitter, or contact Judge Michael Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.