America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.
- Adlai Stevenson -

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

amazing grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.

How precious did that Grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;

'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.

His word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be,

As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

These words were written in the late 18th century by a man named John Newton. Born in London, England, in 1725, John Newton served as a noble shipman for a great deal of his life. He eventually was pressed into the Navy and later became a seaman on slave-trading ships across England, Africa and many other countries around the globe.

One particular day, as Newton was traveling home from a job, a rough storm attacked his ship. At this time, fearful for his life, Newton called upon God for mercy. It was then that Newton experienced what he called the beginning of his spiritual conversion. Following the ship’s safe victory over the storm, Newton began reading the Bible and by the time his ship arrived in Britain, on May 10, 1748, Newton had fully accepted the principles and doctrines of Christianity into his life. After that miraculous journey, he discontinued his consumption of alcohol, gambling habits and use of profanities and worked to turn his life into something meaningful.

Just over 14 years later, he completely removed himself from all slave-trading practices and became fully involved in the idea of the abolishment of slavery. In 1764, Newton was ordained as a priest into the Church of England and worked as a curate in Olney, Buckinghamshire for over 16 years. It was while serving in Olney that he wrote those beautiful words to the deep and moving hymn, Amazing Grace. 

In 1779, John Newton moved back to London where he was invited to become Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth’s Church. It was after moving back to London that a man named William Wilberforce approach him.

William Wilberforce was born 34 years after John Newton, on 24 August 1759. After growing up in school across London, Wilberforce attended St. John’s College in Cambridge where he received a Masters Degree and met William Pitt, the future Prime Minister of England, a man who would be Wilberforce’s long time friend. While at university, Wilberforce became heavily involved in politics and was elected a Member of Parliament in 1780 at the age of 21 as a declared Independent. He would remain heavily involved in politics for the rest of his life.

Although born a member of the Anglican Church, Wilberforce became interested in the Protestant Church when he was just 11 years old much to the dismay of his family. However, later in his life he was converted back into the Anglican Church. This reconversion changed many of his old habits. After he began applying the Bible a great deal into his life, some called him a much happier, tactful and respectful person; however, inside he was facing a deep personal struggle.

At this time, Wilberforce was questioning his involvement in politics and wondered whether he should continue to devote his life to man or rather devote his life to God. It was upon facing this inner conflict that he met with John Newton in at St. May Woolnoth London. During Wilberforce’s visit, Newton counseled Wilberforce that he should remain in politics as he could serve both God and man at the same time. From that time on, Wilberforce worked to promote Christian views and ethics throughout the country.

On 22 May 1787, William Wilberforce introduced to the House of Commons the idea of the abolishment of slavery. Wilberforce had been meeting with abolitionists for many years and had been researching the slave trade a great deal. After much consideration and contemplation, Wilberforce believed it was the time to bring forth some change in England.

Wilberforce’s fight for the end of slave trade in England was not an easy one. Initiated in 1787, and thought of even before that, the slave-trade bill was not passed until 1807 after a long and tiresome battle.

Through opposition and a grave illness, Wilberforce was weakened by the battle and not also confident in his proceedings. However, he was able to gain support from fellow Members of Parliament and other outside sources. Together they were able to find evidences of the horrors of the slave trade to present towards the abolishment of slavery and work to sway his follow politicians towards passing the bill.

When Wilberforce first introduced the bill to the House of Commons, it was defeated by a vote of 163 to 88. In 1807, when the bill was finally passed, it won with an astonishing majority of 283 votes to 16.  

William Wilberforce was a man with passion, desire and a consistent resolve to bring good will upon the earth. Through rough battles with politics, illness, evil and unfavorable circumstances all over the globe, William Wilberforce was able to make a change in the world and remains a great example of positive progression to all people.

William Wilberforce passed away on July 29, 1833 in London. Just one month later the Slavery Abolition Act, an act that abolished slavery in a large portion of the British Empire, was passed. Wilberforced was buried in Westminster Abbey in London next to his oldest friend, William Pitt. William Wilberforce is remembered today in Britain and across the world as a leader in the abolishment of slavery and a very powerful and moving man.

In 2006, director Michael Apted depicted the hero of William Wilberforce in his film Amazing Grace. In this moving picture, Apted showed William Wilberforce, a man forever changed by John Newton and his profound hymn and devoted to the cause of fairness throughout the entire latter of his life.

This movie is a very poignant history of one of the most revolutionary movements of all time. It gives views a true access into the emotional story of the abolishment of the slave trade in England and shows the struggle thousands of people faced due to slavery across the globe.

At the end of the movie, after the anti-slave-trade bill was passed, Lord Charles Fox, stood and spoke to the House of Commons saying,

When people speak of great men, they think of men like Napoleon - men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception they will receive when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and in power, a man who's achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. And yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow and remember: the slave trade is no more.”

William Wilberforce was truly a great man, a man full of wisdom and a strong spirit. He was a driven man influenced by the spiritual convictions on his youth. He was devoted to the movement of peace and equality through the earth and was determined to increasing morality wherever he could. William Wilberforce is a hero. He is a man to be remembered and cherished for all time. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

lincoln's second inaugural address.

On March 4, 1865, after a week full of rain, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, a speech that would go down in history as one of the most powerful political presentations of all time.
 At the closing of a treacherous civil war, President Lincoln did not cast blame towards the Union or the Confederacy, nor did he present a hard lecture to either party. Rather, he spoke words of sadness and held a “high hope for the future.”

President Lincoln spoke saying that even with all the differences separating the North from the South, everyone is connected to God. While both sides were asking for a divine assistance in their battle, God could not fully help either side. Lincoln explained that whatever God wills, would be done and the people should have faith in His proceedings. Lincoln suggested that as a nation, the people should judge not, and strive to support their fellow citizens to ensure lasting peace with all people and all nations.

Standing in the crows during the speech was none other than John Wilkes Booth, the very man who would assassinate the President just over a month later. Unfortunately Lincoln’s strong believe in the emancipation of slaves and equal rights for all men led John Wilkes Booth to absolute hatred, ending the life of this great president far too early.
Abraham Lincoln was a great president, one of the greatest this country has ever had. I believe that Abraham Lincoln contributed a great deal to the success of the United States of America and know that this nation would not be as great if it weren’t for his ideal example.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

joseph smith and the second great awakening.

    The Second Great Awakening was a time of religious revival in America lasting from 1790 to the mid 1840’s. In the Second Great Awakening there was a mass eruption of religion all over the United States. Named after the Great Awakening, which took place over 50 years before but attempted the same religion revival. In the Second Great Awakening, freedom of religion in the States helped move the revival along. Many religions were restored and formed during this time.

One particular restoration that is important to me personally is the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1820, a young 15-year-old boy who was unsure which church he should join, had a vision of an angel sent from God and restored an ancient religion to this earth. Joseph Smith Jr. grew up at the heart of the Second Great Awakening and was surrounded by every religion imaginable. Each religion wanted him to join their church but he didn’t feel like any of the options offered were correct. So after reading James 1:5 in the Bible, Joseph Smith did what the scriptures told him and asked God which church he should join. Slowly but surely, after a chain of glorious and terrible events, Joseph Smith restored the gospel to this earth.
The Second Great Awakening made the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possible. Because a new freedom of religion erupted throughout the country, Joseph Smith was given the liberty to restore the LDS church to this earth once again. However, I also believe that the Second Great Awakening set many challenges for Joseph Smith. For many people, it was difficult to choose a religion because there were so many options offered. All Joseph Smith had on his side was the knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel and all he could do was hope and pray that others felt what he felt.

Overall I believe that the Second Great Awakening helped the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints possible. Without this religious revival it would have been very difficult for Joseph Smith Jr., a young 15-year-old boy to restore the glorious gospel that is the LDS church. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crandall Print Museum.

Last week I visited the Crandall Print Museum located on Center Street in Provo. This museum gives a visual documentary of printing throughout the history of the world. It begins with the first forms of writing all the way to the technological advances in writing we have today. This museum is a very interactive, hands-on experience allowing for visitors to have a true historical experience while they are there. I found it very interesting, a little long, but interesting.

The portion of the museum that I found especially pertinent in my life right now was the section about Benjamin Franklin and his Printing House. The press located in this room is a live replica of the actual printing press used to print various important documents such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and the Federalist Papers. Because we have been studying these various political documents in class I feel so drawn to them and I loved learning about how they were printed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

this woman's work.

Just as with the concept of the abolishment of slavery, when I think of the term “women’s rights” I imagine freedom and equality. Throughout time women have not been seen as equals to men. Even since ancient civilization women have not been treated as equals. Women’s rights have grown exceedingly since then, especially in the United States; however, it has taken a long time to get women’s rights to where they are now. Women in the history of the United States has gone from absolute oppression, to finally receiving the vote, to being allowed to wear pants to school, to the ability to be work in the same jobs as men. Although we still do not see complete equality between men and women in the United States, the state of women’s rights has been improved a great deal since antiquity.

Just after the organization of the United States of America, women across the colonies began to form, women began acting in suffrage groups seeking equality for both men and women. In 1919, women were finally given the right to vote after many years of active organizations for equality. However, looking back to where the fight for the right to vote began in the 1800’s, we can observe that it took some time for women to come together and begin a fight for their right to vote.

While the reasons behind why it took so long for women to be seen as equals are apparent, the reason why it took so long for women to act out against the inequality isn’t so clear. We can only speculate as to why the efforts were delayed.

One reason I think it took so long for women to speak out about inequality is the role they held in society at the time. Women’s roles in their families were to stay at home and take care of the children. Women were in charge of raising the kids and maintaining the housework while their husbands were out working various jobs. Women were considered below men, and grew up under the power of their father until they married and became under the power of their husbands. Women did not receive equal opportunity for education as many people felt it was not essential for them to be educated. Women also could not own any property. There was very much female oppression at the time.

After the Second Great Awakening, boundaries that had been in place for ages began to fall. The new freedom of religion spread and inspired many more people to fight for their personal freedoms. Seeing that a change could be made and actions could be taken inspired women to fight for equality and freedom within their gender. Without the example of the Second Great Awakening it is hard to tell how much longer the suffrage movement could have taken to begin.

Furthermore, after the Second Great Awakening, women received more equality within religion. One Reverend, Charles Grandison Finney started to allow women to pray openly in groups with men. This was something that hadn’t been seen prominently before. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also gave more privileges to women when they organized their Relief Society in 1842. This Relief Society was an organization for women ran by women within the LDS Church. Many members of the LDS Relief Society even became the caretakers of their husband’s affairs when their husbands were sent out of LDS Missions across the world. With such groups forming across the nation, women we able to slowly stand up for their rights with the support and examples these groups became.

We can also attribute the organizations of women’s rights groups to the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. At this convention, many women met together to talk about women’s rights and begin more intense movements towards equal rights. After this convention, many actions were set into place to fight for equal rights. Because these women were able to meet together, state their opinions, and realize there were other people who felt the same as they did, they were able to form together and fight for what they all believed in. With a united front and people around you backing up what you all believe, it must have been easier to break away from the social norm of that time.

It is clear that the fight for women’s rights was not easy. It is obvious that it took a long time for women to been seen as something close to equals. We know that the battle for gender equality is something that has been present since the earth began. However, we also know that due to the efforts of many strong women in the 17th and 18th century, women’s rights have grown to be as vast as they are today. I think we can agree that men and women are still not completely equals. Men are often paid better in the work place and there are definitely still specific gender divisions varying between men and women. However, the state of women’s rights has come a very far way. As American’s we live in a time where men and women have equal opportunities and I think as women we need to step back and thank the many women who devoted their lives to make our country what it is today. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Le Amistad was a ship carrying African slaves from Havana, Cuba to Puerto Principe, another place in Cuba. During Amistad’s voyage, the group of Africans were able to escape their chains and overtook took the ship killing most of the Spaniards who were directing the vessel. The Africans did however spare two Spaniards. The slaves directed the Spaniards to take them back to Africa, their home.

Unfortunately for the African’s, the two Spaniards directed to ship straight to America instead. The ship landed in Long Island, New York in August of 1839 carrying around 50 Africans who were led straight to jail. The Americans in charge then took the Africans to Connecticut to be sold as slaves.

Following this move to Connecticut, a court case began in the name of the legal status of the African captives.  Importation of slaves in the United States had been illegal since 1808 and there were many legal considerations involved in this case. It became a very heated and famous debate in politics. While it was illegal to import slaves from Africa, many people argued that the Africans were actually born in Cuba and thus officials were therefore not breaking any laws.

There was much debate about whom the Africans belonged to and a great contention arose. In response, the Abolitionist movement formed a committee and began to fight in defense of the Africans and raise money on their behalf.

In the court case, there were very many questions surrounded the circumstances of the capture and transportation. The case was also said to have lacked jurisdiction because the munity occurred on a Spanish ship in Spanish water. Thus, it was difficult to reach a clear conclusion.

Eventually the case was taken to the US Supreme Court. In 1841, the court decided the Africans had in fact been illegally imported and made slaves. The Africans were then deemed free. In 1842 the Africans were transported back to their homes in Africa. This case became a symbol in America towards the abolishment of slavery.

In 1997, Steven Spielberg created a film based on the events surrounding the Amistad and the Africans from the ship. I felt that this movie gave a moving and seemingly accurate depiction of the events of the Amistad. It also gave me a real sense of the slavery movement. After viewing this movie, the slavery movement and the importation of slaves became so much more real to me.

Ironically the word Amistad means friendship in Spanish. Unfortunately the tale of the Africans aboard this ship did not begin with friendship. However, luckily for them, their tale ended with immense friendship which lead to them to gain freedom and the ability to return home to Africa. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ambition must be made to counteract ambition.

The Federalist Papers are a set of eighty-five essays in support of the ratification of the United States of America. These essays were published in newspapers and later bound in a book called The Federalist. Articles circulated from 1787 until 1788 when the United States was finally ratified. Although the articles were originally published under the name Publius, they were actually written Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. They are often considered some of the most important contributions to American politics. The Federalist reassured Americans that the Constitution protected them, saying that government is the allowance for freedom.

While there were three authors of The Federalist, the work was not equal. Alexander Hamilton wrote 50 of the 85, James Madison wrote 30 and John Jay wrote five. Today I am going to write about one of the articles written by James Madison, Federalist Paper Number 51.

Federalist Paper Number 51 was published on February 6, 1788. It is considered one of the most popular of the Federalist Papers. In the Federalist Paper Number 1, Alexander Hamilton said that articles 37-84 would be about “The conformity of the proposed constitution to the true principles of republican government.” Federalist Paper 51 definitely falls under this category. Its purpose is to “form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the Constitutional Convention.” And within the writings, Madison emphasizes the ability of the constitution to maintain separate branched of government and protect the rights of each citizen.

The main argument within the 51st paper is the idea of appropriate checks and balances in government and the importance of the separation of powers. A common thought within the Founding Fathers is that if men were angles, we could have a perfect government. One of the ideas James Madison stresses is essentially that men are not angels, and we cannot expect them to be. James Madison accepted the Human Dilemma of power and realized that there needs to be restrictions set up to contradict the human nature.

One of Madison’s key points is that each department in the government should be individual. No branch of the government should be involved in another branch’s duties. For example, it would not be fair if those who make the laws also decide if they are just or not. There must be a clear separation of responsibilities. Madison believed that in order to keep this idea safe there needed to be limited power along with the division of power so that each branch of the government doesn’t have too much power in itself.

Madison believed that the legislature should be divided into three branches to remove predomination. The Legislative Branch is the strongest part of the government and that power could cause problems. He believed that each of these branches should be connected as little as possible. He also thought that member of each part of the legislature should be voted in by distinctive forms for election. This correlates with his idea of proper checks and balances.

Madison also believed that there should be repeated elections. He felt this was important so that politicians did not become lazy in their actions. They have to constantly fight for positive public opinion because of the frequent elections and this keeps them in check and doing correct things. He also believed that judges should be given permanent tenure so that they may not be kicked out of their position if someone does not agree with their decision.

James Madison felt that the challenge of all this was that they needed to enable the government to control the governed which basically means enliven the government to control itself. No member of any government position is under different laws than the rest of the country. They have to falls the same laws and regulations as the average citizen and this helps keep an honest government.

James Madison also believed that people should vote for their political leaders but there should still be precautions with the voting process so as to again, not give someone more power than they ought to have.

Madison’s most famous quote from Federalist Paper Number 51 is “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” I believe this quote summarizes this paper quite well. A system of checks and balances and a separation of power are essential for the United Stated Government to work. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

a more perfect union.

This week in class we watched the BYU production of A More Perfect Union. It was an educational movie full of horrible acting and inaccurate accents but it carefully displayed historical content to the benefit of the viewer.

The movie mainly followed James Madison, the man considered as the Father of the Constitution, as he and the rest of the Founding Fathers paved their way through creating the Constitution. I thought the movie was very interesting because it painted James Madison in a very bad light. From what I have read about James Madison, he was a fairly shy man but he had a strong opinion. I thought the portrayal of him in this movie was very negative.

The character of James Madison was very demanding, powerful, negative and severely outspoken. Throughout the movie I became very frustrated with him and had a hard time watching him. I didn’t appreciate his character very much. I know that James Madison was very steadfast in his opinions and beliefs but I never imagined him to be so overruling and frustrated all the time.

I do understand that early America was a time of opinions, frustrations, varying ideas, and conflict. I believe that there is plenty reason for people to be strong in their beliefs and I understand why James Madison would be so outspoken. However, I felt the movie’s portrayal of his character was brutal and I had a hard time enjoying him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Resolving the Human Predicament.

As the Founding Fathers contemplated a solution to the British oppression, they had to consider many things. For one they first had to agree that there was a problem. Then they had to realize that all the past attempts at a functioning Government have been essentially failures. The Founding Fathers had to figure out how to receive the benefits of a government without falling into the consequences of bad government.

The Founding Fathers had to wrestle with the idea of an ideal government and a real government. I imagine that each of colonists had an idea of what their perfect government would be. In class we discussed that a perfect government would provide public order, fair and reasonable laws and punishments, respect, and value of citizens. However, in the real world, governments have been mostly tyrannical, oppressive and corrupt. So the Founding Fathers had to come up with a government that would stay away from the negative aspects and try to reach the positive aspects.

The Founding Fathers liked the idea of Sovereignty. Sovereignty is all about who had the final say -- it is the supreme power. While the Founding Fathers felt that this was an important idea they worried that giving a single person such great power would cause problems. In class we discussed a quote “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The Founding Fathers had to deal with that exact idea, how to have a functioning government without giving absolute power to one person.

It has been said that the human predicament is an ongoing cycle where tyranny starts a revolution that becomes an anarchy leading into competing groups and right back to tyranny. The Founding Fathers how to figure out how to resolve this ever-present problem. Their main focuses were government, freedom and human nature. Their main goal was to balance each of these issues so one doesn’t override another.

As they searched to find a way to balance the issues, they contemplated many different forms of government throughout history, really focusing on four major ideas. The first was the idea of Autocracy. Autocracy is a form of a dictatorship government. In Autocracy, rulers believe people are like children who need control. It is a form of government where the ruler has ultimate power and believes control is absolutely critical.

The second from of government they considered was Classic Republicanism. Classic Republicanism comes from classical antiquity.  It is a form of government where the rulers believe humans aren’t born corrupt. However, they do believe humans are corruptible. So in this government people believed that if they just taught people proper values and morals then they won’t have to govern people because they will make the right decisions on their own.

Next the Founding Fathers considered the idea of Libertarianism. Libertarianism is a theory in politics that basically allows for the most personal liberty. In Libertarianism, the idea is that is people are basically good then the best government is the one that governs the least. Within the theory people believe that since people are basically good they know what is right and wrong and they don’t need rulers restricting them. However, the Founding Fathers believed that since not every human is basically good this idea would cause problems.

The final idea the Founding Fathers considered is Liberalism. In Liberalism the belief is that human beings are essentially good but they could use a little help from the government to make things even better. This little push from the government would help unleash peoples potential. Liberalists believe that people should inhibit personal liberty and benefit from the help of the government.

From each of these ideas the Founding Fathers found good ideas and solid points. They wanted to find a way to incorporate the good idea from each of these forms of government into a new kind of government. The Founding Fathers alsothought the essential elements of a government were structure, participation, law, custom and tradition, moral sense and leadership. They especially believed that no person should be above the law.

In the end, the Founding Fathers’ basic goal was the tackle the problem of government once and for all. They wanted to solve the issue and prevent it from falling apart yet again and in order to do that they had to make the government adjustable.

Now we have the United States of America and a Democracy built upon all these ideas. We have laws that govern even the highest political powers. We don’t give a single person ultimate power. Overall government, freedom, liberty and human nature are all balanced to a point where one doesn’t control another. And because our government is flexible laws are being changed every day. Thus we can prevent any major disputes in the future. When it comes down to it, it seems like the Founding Fathers truly created a successful government. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

John Adams: Forged in the Face of Adversity

John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in a place called the north precinct of Braintree, Massachusetts. John Adams was born in a colony, a chartered province in a new land. He was born into a family of puritans and he grew to value and respect the system of the organization. He attended school at the then Harvard College and later became a teacher then a lawyer.

John Adams married his third cousin, Abigail Smith just before he turned 29. Abigail was the daughter of a Massachusetts minister. Together, John and Abigail had five children although his youngest child was a stillborn. His oldest son John Quincy later became president of the United States following in the footsteps of his father.

John Adams was the second cousin of Samuel Adams; however, John was unfortunately not initially as popular as Samuel. John often faced opposition and contention in his political dealings and was often not looked upon in a positive manner.

Adams was a strong opponent of the Stamp Act imposed by England in 1765.  He felt that the act took away two basic rights from the colonists. He decided that the Stamp Act was therefore invalid. Adams was later asked to be a lawyer for soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre and was able to free six of the soldier and only two were convicted of manslaughter.

Later, Adams was sent as a representative from Massachusetts to the first and second Continental Congress. He maintained a view that there should be unity within the colonies and the colonies should be permanently severed from England. Adams was able to influence the Congress quite a bit and soon he Congress because to draft independent constitutions in order to become independent states and free from Britain’s power.

Adams published a pamphlet entitled Thoughts on Government explaining his advice about governments and like the title says, his thoughts on the idea of government. In this pamphlet, Adams explains that social class is a part of every society and thus unavoidable so government should just accept it. Adams believed that a republic was all about the final solution rather than the steps taken to get there. He felt that the one good thing about the British republic was the idea that laws are above men.

John Adams was part of a committee along with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingtston and Roger Sherman who drafted the Declaration of Independence. The document was written mostly by Jefferson as he had excellent penmanship[ and was widely respected and intelligent. Adams was considered the Declaration’s best advocated and defender.

Adams spend some time in Europe to represent the American union. He was also involved in receiving more land for America and maintaining trade relations between the States and Prussia. John Adams became the first ambassador to Great Britain and worked with King George III to maintain a good relationship between Great Britain and the newly formed United States.

Adams became the first vice president of the United Stated of America under George Washington and later the second president of the United States of America. As president he focused a great deal on foreign policy.

John Adams once said, "People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity," and I believe this to be true. John Adams was not always admired and looked upon positively. He definitely came through adversity to become one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Types and Shadows

This past week I attended the Types and Shadows exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art with my American Government and Citizenship class. The images featured in this exhibit were pieces of religious art. Before going to the museum we were able to read a book about the exhibit. In the foreword, Doctor Holzapfel explains that for centuries people have learned about salvation and Christ through pictures and sculptures. This idea was especially important to those people who did not have scriptures because they were able to understand symbols in art. Even now, we live in a very symbolic world and we can find God in very many aspects of art. That idea is highlighted in this exhibit and I found it very interesting.

One of the pieces that I found most intriguing was “Exchange No. 8” by Ron Richmond. This piece shows two chairs and two pieces of cloth. When I first saw the piece I thought of Christ’s robe from a common portrait of Him since the cloths are red and white. I thought this was interesting and immediately connected it to Christ’s sacrifice. The cloths are both laid so delicately and folded with such care. It seems Christ has just taken off the robe and laid its pieces on the chairs.

Another interesting aspect of this painting is that one chair is standing up straight and one is fallen down. I thought this was a great symbol. To me, the fallen chair reminds me that as I human I am in a fallen state. On top of the fallen chair is a red cloth. This reminded me of part of a scripture in Isaiah “ Though your sins be as scarlet…”” and so I put the two ideas together. As humans in a fallen state, we tend to sin. However, as a Latter-day Saint, I try to avoid sin and come out of my fallen state. I strive to follow Christ so that one say I can come out of my fallen state and stand up straight. This then leads into the chair that is standing straight up in a proper position. On top of this chair is a very pristine white cloth. This reminds me of the next part of the same scripture in Isaiah, referring to sins, “…They shall be as white as snow.”  I thought this symbolism was amazing. We come from a fallen state with deep sins, and slowly through repentance and the Atonement of Christ we are able to rise up and have our sins forgiven. We are saved through Christ and I think this painting is an amazing symbol of that.

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

a revolution of sober expectations.

On October 24, 1973 Martin Diamond gave a speech at Independence Square, Philadelphia in the House of Representatives Chamber of Congress Hall. As he gave his speech, Diamond stood in the very place the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed almost 200 years earlier. In his address, Diamond focused on the idea that the American Revolution was a “Revolution of Sober Expectations.”

Diamond begins explaining his idea of “sober expectations” by stating that the American Revolution was only a half revolution. The Declaration of Independence was an abolishment of an unethical government; it was not a creation of a new government. In the Declaration the Founding Fathers write of a land of self-evident truths and freedom from oppression. They do not suggest a better form of government but leave open various possibilities of a new direction. Thus, the declaration was not written in a tyrannical manner or unbridled passion, it was written with a sober intent.

As I looked up the word “sober” in a thesaurus, I found words such as clearheaded, sensible, pragmatic, rational, logical, and thoughtful. I think these words describe the best state to be in at a time of revolution. In our lives we have all been told that when we are angry we should take a step back, clear our heads and really think about what we are doing before we lash out or open up our emotions in a storm of passion. In my opinion, the Founding Fathers are the perfect example of that piece of advice. At the time of the adoption of the Declaration, the 13 colonies had been at war with Great Britain for about a year. The colonies had been under very harsh reign and treated very poorly. The many unfair situations presented to the colonies were good reasons for the Founding Fathers to be angry at England and could have led to a revolt. However, the Founding Fathers’ did not want to overthrow England or cause turmoil to their country, they only wished for liberty.

In his speech, Diamond explains that the goal of civil liberty that exists within the declaration does not require terror or any tyrannical actions; it is a principle of achievement. Because the Founding Fathers goal was freedom and civil equality and they approached it with sobriety, the revolution worked; because of their coolness, America grew to be a successful country under a working democracy.

The Founding Fathers had a huge task and an incredible responsibility in forming the Declaration and moreover the United States of America. They did not face this task with a vengeance or tyranny; they faced it with sobriety and a focus on the idea of liberty. These perspectives are what made the Declaration, the Constitution and overall the Democracy of America work. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in the name of liberty. This action and their courage were absolutely backed by a sensible, logical, clearheaded, thoughtful, and sober idea. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor.

When I was in elementary school, we as students participated in a patriotic program each spring. This program included a series of musical numbers and short speeches both of which allowed us to show patriotism and nationalism even as young children. One particular song from one of the patriotic programs has stood out to me through all these years. The song’s catchy tune may be what keeps it in my head almost ten years later but the meaning is still relevant. The lyrics are as follows:

The Declaration of Independence
Says we hold these truths to be:
All men are created equal, to live in harmony.
They are endowed by the creator
With certain unalienable rights
That among these are life, liberty,
And the pursuit of happiness.

The Declaration of Independence
In the name and by authority
Declare that these united colonies
Are free and independent states
A land of liberty

It was written by Thomas Jefferson
Signed on the 4th of July
It declared our independence
And told the reasons why.
In support of this declaration,
Valiant men, strong and true
They bravely pledged their lives, their fortunes
And their sacred honor too.

The Declaration of Independence
In the name and by authority
Declare that these united colonies
Are free and independent states
A land of liberty

It declared our independence
And fought to keep men free.

This song helped me understand the Declaration of Independence and memorize a few important phrases from the Declaration’s text.  But more importantly it always instilled in me knowledge of the importance of the Declaration.

The Declaration of Independence did exactly what its title claims; it declared the United States of America an independent country.  It gave the American people a new freedom and entitlement. The Declaration wrote of a new form of government, or at least the idea of one. It removed the American people from under the influence of the English Monarchy, and gave them a new power and explained the right of revolution. Overall, the Declaration became in inspiration, and hope for many people at the beginning of a new, free country.

I’ve always known how important the Declaration of Independence is to America’s history and I have always been grateful for what it did for our country. Included in the Declaration is an extensive list of exactly what King George III had done to the people of The States at that time. All the things listed are pretty horrible, unbearable and I am absolutely grateful that we as a nation are no longer under that sort of power.

One thing in the Declaration that particularly stands out to me is the statement just at the end that says, “We mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” To me this is a very powerful and meaningful pledge. The people who wrote and signed this declaration were essentially signing away their lives and admitting to an act of rebellion. These brave men could have lost their lives, their families and all that they had. However, in my opinion, no matter what happened after the Declaration was signed, these men would have never lost their honor. I believe that just by forging this document and having the faith and the determination to bring forth such a great and essential change they are truly some of the most honorable men to ever walk the planet. I am grateful for their immense sacrifice and appreciate all they had to do for America to become a free land.