SEPTEMBER 17: OVERVIEW
On September 17, Patriot Week recognizes the First Principle of limited government.
We also recognize the great Founding Father James Madison, who made that First Principle come alive in America. In addition, we recognize the unamended Constitution and the 9th and 10th Amendments, as well as State, County, and Municipal Flags (representing federalism and limited government)
FIRST PRINCIPLE: LIMITED GOVERNMENT
Rejecting the belief that governments possess unlimited power, America was founded on the First Principle that the protection of unalienable rights is the legitimate purpose and limit of government (roughly referred to limited government). The Declaration of Independence recognized this as a First Principle when it explained that “to secure these rights ... governments are instituted among men...”
Founding Father Thomas Paine expressed the American sentiment when he wrote that “Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, not to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.”
Thus, directly opposed to the proposition that the government is all powerful, because we have consented to the government to protect our unalienable rights, the government only has the power it needs to perform that function and auxiliary supports thereof – nothing more.
From its founding, America embraced as a First Principle that the purpose and limit of the government is protecting the unalienable rights of its citizens.
UNAMENDED (ORIGINAL) CONSTITUTION AND 9TH & 10TH AMENDMENTS
The First Principle of Limited Government is key to American liberty. The Revolution was fought in great measure to stop the unchecked power of Great Britain’s government which was oppressing the rights of Americans.
Under Madison’s masterful draftsmanship and direction, the Founding Fathers created a Constitution that includes three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), each vested with its own specific powers. This separation of powers ensures that no single person or body of men can oppress the people.
In addition, the Constitution includes checks and balances among the branches of government, so that all branches of government must act in concert - again, protecting against oppression by any particular branch.
The 9th and 10th Amendments to the United States Constitution also made explicit what was understood but not written down in the unamended Constitution – that the federal government was to be a limited government in scope and authority; and the States would continue to be vibrant and important parts of the lives of Americans (and act as a check against federal over-reaching).
Unless specifically delegated to the federal government, all powers were reserved to the States. Moreover, rights were protected, even if not specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights or elsewhere in the Constitution.
The 9th and 10th Amendments, set forth below, embody these ideas:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
FOUNDING FATHER JAMES MADISON
Born on March 16, 1751 in Port Conway, King George, Virginia, James Madison was a lawyer, plantation owner, and exemplar of political theory.
Madison began his political career in the midst of the American Revolution as a member of the Orange County Committee of Safety in 1775 and in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1776. He served in the state legislature and the Continental Congress from 1780-1783 and 1786-1788.
Likely the Constitutional Convention’s most brilliant political theorist, he was considered “the best informed Man of any point in debate” by fellow delegate William Pierce of Georgia. Madison is appropriately known as the father of the Constitution for his outline for the new government.
Madison explained the critical issue facing the Constitutional Convention: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Yet, the angels remain in heaven and imperfect men must govern themselves. Accordingly, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
Madison brilliantly answered the difficulty by, among other things, embedding in the Constitution the separation of powers, checks and balances, enumerated powers (i.e., that the federal government only has the authority expressly given it in the Constitution), and federalism (the idea that all powers not given to the federal government reside in the states or the people).
Not only an architect of the Constitution, Madison proved invaluable to convincing Americans to adopt it. Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote the great bulk of The Federalist Papers (1788) (John Jay contributed about a half dozen of the nearly hundred articles). A series of newspaper articles published in New York, The Federalist Papers advocated the ratification of the Constitution while explaining its underlying theories. Thomas Jefferson reflected that The Federalist Papers was “the best commentary on the principles of government ever written.”
Madison’s Federalist Paper No. 10 established a new theory of protecting the unalienable rights of the people by explaining that such rights were best protected in large (as opposed to small) republics in which competing factions would limit the ability of an oppressive majority to quash the rights of political minorities.
The Federalist Papers were vital to the passage of the Constitution in New York as well as other states. He also proved vital to the Constitution ratification in Virginia.
Madison would draft and ensure the ratification of the Bill of Rights, which protected the unalienable rights of American citizens, including the free exercise of religion, free speech, free press, the right to bear arms, the right to a jury, due process, and federalism (via the 10th Amendment).
Madison’s brilliantly inspired Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785) became the philosophical basis for the First Amendment?s nearly unprecedented prohibition of the establishment of religion by the federal government and securing the free exercise of religion.
He would become Jefferson’s Secretary of State, and succeed Jefferson as President for two terms.
Having left an indelible mark on America, he died on June 28, 1836 in Montpelier, Virginia.
STATE, COUNTY OR LOCAL FLAGS
All of the states - and many counties and municipalities - emblazon their symbolic representations onto flags. Many of these flags were purposefully designed to convey fundamental precepts - or generating history - for which their government exists.
Some flags are deeply steeped in history and have flown for decades, if not centuries; others are relatively new, such as the young State of Georgia and City of Portland flags.
For example, the City of Detroit’s flag - originally designed in 1907 by David E. Heineman and adopted in 1948 - includes as its hub the City’s seal. The seal has two latin mottos “Speramus Meliora” (“We hope for better things”) and “Resurget Cineribus” (“It will rise from the ashes”). Inspired by the great fire of June 11, 1805 - in which all but one building was destroyed - the seal also includes two figures - one weeping at the destruction, the other expecting greatness to arise from the ashes. In addition, the flag is divided into quarters - each representing the sovereign which controlled the city. Originally founded in 1701 by the French, the left quarter has the classic fluers-de-lis; the upper right quarter has Great Britain’s traditional lions to represent British control from 1760-1796; the upper left and lower right quarters are the classic 13 stars and stripes of the United States (albeit divided in a unique manner).
Learning about state, county, and local flags can only provide us greater insight into our origins and liberties.
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.