On July 4th, 2020, America will celebrate 244 years since the signing of our Declaration of Independence. George Washington called the American political ideal, "The Great Experiment."
James Wilson, a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, was quoted as saying, “A good constitution is the greatest blessing which a society can enjoy.” Wilson also emphasized the duties, as well as the rights, of citizens.
The constitutional republic they envisioned became a place of liberty and opportunity for countless millions of people from all over the world. The second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence starts as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Their ideas worked, because they were based on enduring principles which recognized human imperfection and the need to structure a limited government of laws, dependent upon the consent of a people who, themselves, understood these principles.
The distinctiveness of the Great Experiment as envisioned by the founding fathers:
- Acknowledged that individual rights are derived from a Creator.
- Was based on enduring principles compatible with “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
- Recognized human imperfection and that a tendency to abuse power is ever present.
- Restrained those in power through a written Constitution which carefully divided, balanced and separated the powers of government and then intricately knitted them back together again through a system of checks and balances.
- Left all powers with the people, except those which, by their consent, the people delegated to government and then made provision for their withdrawing that power, if it was abused.
Our Constitution structured the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary separate and wholly independent as to function, but coordinated for proper operation, with safeguards to prevent the abuse of power. It was devised with an ingenious and intricate built-in system of checks and balances. "Only by balancing each against the other two could freedom be preserved," said John Adams.
As we celebrate this festive holiday with food, small fireworks and friends under a new COVID-19 normal, we do so with the knowledge that the success of this “Great Experiment” is an ongoing work in process and not based solely on where we’ve come from as a nation, but how we change, adapt and improve.
It is not only based on the foundations laid by our fore-bearers. Our success as a city and a nation lies solely within heart and the will of its people. As we go forward, I’m reminded of a quote from Mother Teresa who said, “There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. That spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”
Have an enjoyable Independence Day!
Craig Newton, Mayor
City of Norcross