We've been hearing more lately about our Founding Fathers and the Constitution. Mostly, it's debate as to whether we're following either one. In past decades, it seemed that we became less than enthusiastic about our beginnings but Americans are beginning to stir. There's an ongoing thirst for knowledge as to these men, not as founders, but as men. I'm fairly ashamed of myself because, even though I understood the importance of the Constitution, I still thought of our founders as dusty old men in a history book. Not very thrilling. After all, they weren't exactly Ironman. Or, were they?
They were successful. But more than that, they were brilliant. They were the cream of the crop. President John Kennedy understood. He was addressing a group of the brightest minds in the nation when he said,
"This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
These Founders had a vision but taking an idea from vision to reality can have dire consequences. So, when they put their names to the Declaration of Independence, they were putting everything on the line. Their wealth, their property, prison at best and at worst, their lives. The penalty for treason against England was death by hanging.
By the time our freedoom was won, five of the signers were captured and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Two lost sons in the war while another had two sons captured. Nine died from wounds received. Many were reduced to poverty. To the last man, they suffered.
We should also keep in mind that it wasn't only the signers who would suffer. The wife of Francis Lewis died from British abuse. William Floyd and his family lived as refugees for seven years. Phillips Livingstone's family was driven out of their home. John Hart's wife died and his 13 children were taken away. He never saw them again and died a broken man. Judge Richard Stockton was captured and deliberately starved. His family was forced to live off charity. Thomas Lynch and his wife were drowned at sea.
Virginia signer, Thomas Nelson saw his home taken and used as a headquarters by General Cornwallis. As American artillery was firing on the area, Nelson noticed that his home was untouched by the fire and angrily asked the artillery crew why his home was untouched. They answered, "Sir, out of respect for you".
Nelson then screamed, "Give me that cannon!" He proceeded to blow his own home into dust. He died a pauper.
But, he and the others gave us something. Something brilliant. Something no other country on earth had. They gave us a choice. They gave us voice. They gave us the right to pursue anything the heart desires. They didn't give us instant wealth but they did give us opportunity.
However, it's fragile. It's vulnerable to outside interference but only if we let it. We haven't had it taken by force even though some have tried. The real danger is, we seem to be giving it away for our personal gain. Admittedly, it hasn't been a mass movement but more like a leaky faucet. One drip at a time, we siphon off what our ancestors paid so dearly for. I'll give up a small freedom so I can feel safer. Another so someone will take care of me. Another so my dollar will be worth more. Another so government can give me stuff. And another so the world will love us. Then, we quit being citizens and start being subjects.
The Founders never envisioned that government take over our lives. They believed an individual's life is an individual responsibility. They took responsibility by signing that piece of paper and paid dearly for the experience. I'm hoping and praying that we don't toss it away in the name of convenience.