The Wilson County Tea Party hosted Hal Rounds, a constitutional attorney from Fayette County, as he delivered his "Constitutional Refresher" course at the Ward Agricultural Center this past Saturday. For most of us who attended the seminar, the "Refresher" proved to be more of an in-depth study of the history behind the Constitution, its content, the Bill of Rights and the Amendments that have shaped this remarkable document into the law of our land.
The session opened with the brassy clang of a scale replica Liberty Bell and closed over eight hours later with everyone reciting the Pledge of Allegience in unison before delivering a standing ovation for the speaker's fine work. The planned lunch break was converted to a working lunch with pizza delivered to provide more time for Hal Rounds to share his insight.
His history lesson started with the fall of Constantinople to the Muslims in 1450 who renamed the city Istanbul. This event essentially closed the Silk Road which was the only known trade route between the Middle East and Asia. Forty-two years later Columbus set sail out of Portugal seeking a western route for the Silk Road and discovered America.
Early American settlements such as the Roanoke Colony, Jamestown and Plymouth Rock suffered excruciating hardships. The Roanoke Colony disappeared completely after four years and of the 6,000 people that came to Jamestown, only 1,300 were still alive in 1625. The Pilgrims, who had landed further north, faced harsh winters and starvation before celebrating the first Thanksgiving. And, all met with these hardships after making a perilous journey for weeks in a small, over crowded boat with vile sanitation by today's standards.
What drove these people to take such risks and endure such hardship? Government oppression, lack of religious freedom and judicial tyranny in Europe spurred many to venture to the New World. As a result Americans have emerged from a distillation of people who rejected the ways of their homeland and started with a clean sheet of paper. John Locke penned the concept "Government power comes from the consent of the governed" as part of his Second Treatise of Government, published in 1690.
It took another 100 years, a Revolutionary war and the formation of a Continental Congress, before the words "We the People..." were ratified in the Constitution of the United States on June 21, 1788. In September of the following year, 10 Amendments were submitted for ratification known as The Bill of Rights. Since that time, another seventeen amendments have been added to the U.S Constitution.
After Hal Rounds unpacked the content of each section of the Constitution and each Amendment in the Bill of Rights he challenged the audience with the question, "What is the difference between Freedom and Liberty?" Freedom, he explained, is what is left over after your master has made the choices he wants for you. Liberty, on the other hand, defines the powers granted to the government by placing walls around the master's power. Liberty is what the Constitution is all about.
In closing, he addressed various Supreme Court decisions, Fed rulings and legislation that have impacted our rights as individuals and challenged the backbone of the Constitution. International treaties such as Cap and Trade, UN Conference on Child Rights and the UN Arms Trade Treaty were cited as attempts to further diminish our rights and reduce the strength of the United States as a sovereign nation.
The U.S. Constitution is the law of our land to which every public official pledges to "Preserve, protect and defend..." when they take the oath of office. However, it is up to us as citizens who grant the consent to be governed, to hold those officials accountable to the oath they have taken.