A Nation Conceived in Liberty

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” — Abraham Lincoln

The story on the founding of this nation is truly remarkable. Our founding fathers broke away from the monarchial traditions of the time and set forth to create a new nation conceived in liberty. One where all men were created equal. A place where the people could shape their own future, instead of being dictated by a king.

Those early years were a tumultuous time. It would take years of trial and error to form the new nation. All the while they were fighting in a war with Great Britain to obtain the freedom to become independent.

George Washington is shown taking the oath of office at Federal Hall.

It all started in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, when the 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. After which it only made sense for them to form a new government for this independent nation. So the founding fathers set forth to create a federal government.

After years of debate they finally settled on the Articles of Confederation, fully ratifying it on March 1st, 1781. Out of fear of having a strong central government, much like the one they were fighting to overthrow in the form of Great Britain, the Continental Congress decided it was better to have a weak central government.

The Articles of Confederation gave Congress the power to make treaties and alliances, as well as to regulate the armed forces and coin money. But it did not give them any power to regulate trade or collect taxes, this was instead left up to the states to deal with separately.

Some of the fighting during Shays’ Rebellion.

Not long after the articles were ratified problems began to emerge. With a massive war debt left by the Revolutionary War and no way to raise federal taxes to pay for it, each state was left to pay their share of the debt. Leaving some states to raise taxes to cover the costs. Georgia also sought to create their own independent policy regarding the Spanish Florida territory, even threatening war against Spain. There was also Shays’ Rebellion, an uprising of poor farmers who lost their farms and were thrown in prison for not paying their taxes.

Congress lacked the power to act on these issues and did little to resolve them, leaving many to wonder if this new nation would survive its infancy. These problems revealed the flaws in the Articles of Confederation and called for revisions to be made to remedy the problem.

So in 1787 the Congress called all the state representatives to a special convention. They met in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia from May-September of that year and drafted the Constitution of the United States. This would replace the Articles of Confederation and created the Federal government that we know today.

The Constitution of the United States of America.

On June 21, 1788, after much deliberation, the Constitution was ratified by nine states (the rest would eventually follow suit). This met the requirement set by Article 7 for it to become effective.

After which they passed a resolution declaring that electors should be appointed on the first Wednesday in January of the following year to elect a new President. It also stated that March 4th, 1789 would be the date that the government would commence proceedings under the new Constitution.

In accordance to this resolution, on January 7th, 1789 the first Presidential Election was held, and on April 30th, 1789 George Washington was sworn into office on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City.

He had received 69 of the electoral votes with his main opponent John Adams receiving 34 votes. At the time electoral votes were cast for two different candidates, meaning whoever won the most votes would be President with the runner-up becoming Vice President. It was not until the passing of the 12th Amendment in 1804 that votes would be cast for each position separately.

Image courtesy of Britannica, Inc.

For several decades the Presidential Elections were held from September through November and the inauguration was held on March 4 of the following year.

It was not until 1845 that Congress made the official date for the election to be at the beginning of November. This was to solve the rampant issues caused by inconsistent voting. Before then each state had voted on different dates, causing a lot of confusion. Then in 1933 the 20th Amendment was passed, moving the beginning of the Presidential term to January 20th.

Through all the trials and tribulations our founding fathers single handedly formed the nation that we know today. And while there have been many amendments to the Constitution, the same ideals put into writing in 1787 have remained the same.

It seems today that a lot of people like to complain about our Federal government, and while some of those arguments are valid, I urge you to stop and consider the lengths they went to to create this great nation. If not for their hard work and the sacrifices of the men who died fighting for our independence, we would never have been the country we are today.

To those brave men I give my full gratitude.

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Originally published at jameskerraustin.com on January 8, 2016.