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, 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.