OPINION
by Henry Meininger

 

Henry Meininger. Photo by Kevin LeClair

 

Next month we celebrate the Fourth of July. Independence Day. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was also one of the Founding Fathers along with George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Samuel Adams, James B. Madison and John Jay.                                                                                                                                        

They wrote the United States Constitution, and in the three years following they met frequently in debate, and usually in discord, to shape the form of government and its branches, inspired by their guiding mission: to Form a More Perfect Union. In 1779, they met in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention to ratify the Constitution and the work of the preceding three years. Thus, the nation was born, and what they labored to achieve became America. So, when we celebrate the Fourth of July what we are also celebrating is the success of their work, To Form a More Perfect Union. That More Perfect Union became America.

In the following section I have quoted excerpts from my research on Google under Founding Fathers.

“The Founding Fathers were, relatively speaking, a diverse group. They were doctors and lawyers, merchants and farmers.”

“In mid-July 1787, after much debate and no small amount of rancor, the make-up of the federal legislature was decreed. Three branches of government were to be created: the legislative branch, which would make the laws; the executive branch, which would enforce the laws; and the judicial branch, to interpret the laws.”

“Forming the legislature proved the most divisive, resulting in the ‘Great Compromise’—the upper house, the Senate, would have two senators from each state.”

“Underpinning the political structure was a system of checks and balances.”

“One signee, the polymath Benjamin Franklin, told the Philadelphia Convention that there were “several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am sure I shall never approve them.” Franklin was sanguine. “I expect no better and…I am not sure that it is not the best.”

“As the man who presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drew up the U.S. Constitution, George Washington was the obvious choice to become the republic’s first president. Oft regarded as the true father of the nation, he once declared that ‘the Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.’”

“Born illegitimate in the West Indies and raised as an orphan, Alexander Hamilton made a remarkable rise through American politics and was the most prolific contributor to the influential Federalist Papers.”

“For at least two reasons, the debate over its Founders occupies a special place in America’s history that has no parallel in the history of any European nation-state. First, the United States was not founded on a common ethnicity, language, or religion that could be taken for granted as the primal source of national identity. Instead, it was founded on a set of beliefs and convictions, what Thomas Jefferson described as self-evident truths, that were proclaimed in 1776 and then embedded in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. To become an American citizen is not a matter of bloodlines or genealogy but rather a matter of endorsing and embracing the values established at the founding.”

According to my further research, Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston on January 17, 1706. “He was a writer, printer, political philosopher, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, civic activist, statesman and diplomat.”

Independence Day celebrates a moment in history, the independence from English governance. Its defining document is the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson. The other document that was also written then, the Constitution, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union….,” ratified at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1779, is alive today. That is who we are, the More Perfect Union, the country envisioned and actually created by the Founding Fathers.                               

Never again will we have such men, men of different backgrounds, and of differing political convictions, pursue a single-minded mission, “to Form a More Perfect Union.” Never again will there be a whole continent to be conquered and settled. It is The More Perfect Union that we have become. America.

England has given us our language, English, the language of Shakespeare. English manners and attitudes have had great influence on our own. And England has since become our closest ally.  July Fourth is nothing less than a celebration of who we are, the “More Perfect Union” that the Founding Fathers created.