The Declaration, The Constitution, The Gettysburg Address and Barney Fife

By Frank Hill, Telemachus

On this July 4 weekend, John Adams wants every American citizen to set off fireworks in celebration of the new Republic.

So go ahead. Do it.

He wrote to his wife, Abigail:


It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
But it is also a time to think about what The Declaration of Independence means to us as a nation.

Which means it might be a good time to actually read it first and see what is in it and not in it.

While you are at it, why not go ahead and read the US Constitution and the Gettysburg Address as well, the two other foundational documents on which our democratic republic stands?

The reason why we think it is important to do so is because it our distinct fear that many elected leaders and citizens know as much about the Constitution as, well, Barney Fife says he knows in one of his best clips ever from the ‘Andy Griffith Show’.



Be honest. Did you know more about the Preamble to the Constitution than Barney Fife before you saw this clip?

We were taking a look at the Constitution last night and were struck by several things, again, while reading it. This particular phrase from Article V caught our attention:
(N)o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Pretty interesting since we seem to spend an awful lot of time wondering and worrying about whether someone is or is not a Christian; and if so, are they Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Evangelical; or should a Mormon or a Catholic be President (JFK already broke through the chalice barrier on that one)

How about if they can say the following as having sufficient qualifications to be President of the United States of America:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (Article II, Section 1)
We think the next President should use his Article I, Section 7 veto power a little more than W and Obama have, particularly on spending matters.

Gerald Ford used it 66 times in about 2.5 years. What is so hard about that?

The Declaration of Independence is about as eloquent of a document you’ll ever read about people wanting to live freely without masters or kings. We liken it to the Gospels in the sense that it is the ‘Good News’ version of human self-governance.

The Constitution, on the other hand is a bit more dense and less eloquent, mainly because it was written by a Committee of Up To At Least 33 Delegates to the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. In those regards, they are more like Paul’s Letters to the Churches of Corinth and Galatia and Thessalonika because the Constitution lays out the actual ways of self-governance envisioned in the Declaration written 11 years earlier before the Revolutionary War.
‘Women honor thy husband. "Husbands, (stop being so pig-headed, selfish, stupid and obstinate and) sacrifice yourself for your wife.’
That sorta practical everyday advice.

And the simple brilliant eloquence of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863 in 272 words reminds us of the Revelation to John the Apostle, which is not very short or eloquent or easy to read but helps 'reveal what is to come' just as Lincoln's words showed the American People what our nation could become once again after the War was over.

So without being too blasphemous, we hope, try to think of the Declaration, the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address this weekend as the ‘Trinity’ of the American Republic and read them all if you can, out loud perhaps, to your family and children.

You might be as surprised as Barney Fife at what you find in all three of them.

(Editor's Note: Frank Hill's resumé includes working as chief of staff for Senator Elizabeth Dole and Congressman Alex McMillan, serving on the House Budget Committee and serving on the Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. He takes on politics from a fiercely independent perspective at the blog Telemachus).

2 comments:

  1. I'd like to shoot off fireworks, but like all the other great wisdom the Founding Fathers decided was best for this country, I don't have the freedom to shoot fireworks. It's against the law.

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  2. Touche! But Adams told you to do it so you can..it is alright with him.

    If you can't blow off some fireworks, (we just got some across the border in South Carolina called 'Redneck Fireworks' which apparently shoot 300-400 feet in the air before exploding, we hope), just do the other things Adams suggested: 'shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires'....

    Don't think they played baseball back then or soccer so we are not sure what the 'sports' angle was back then. But 'bonfires' and 'guns' and 'bells' we get...so you got some choices.....

    have a good (but safe!) one..

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