Commonwealth Journal

Editorials

July 6, 2012

They fight for liberty

Somerset —  

It is one of the times of the year when we take time to contemplate the blessings of life in the United States of America. July 4th is the day we set aside to honor the signing of that document that began us on the road to rebellion and independence from Great Britain which was the preeminent power in the world in that day.
It is reckoned that at any given time prior to victory in our war of revolution there was never more than a third of the population dead set on taking on the might of Great Britain. Most were simply desirous of a little tweaking in the relationship and many were outright loyalists.
Well, we all know who won, against all odds, by simply outlasting the British until they tired of trying to keep supply lines open across the pond. It was an incredible amount of resolve on the part of not too many rebels to persevere and not a little assurance they would surely hang if they lost.
The freedoms enumerated in our foundational document have been a noble experiment unknown to the world prior to this. It was just off the wall to think that the common people would have enough wisdom to govern a nation and, to be sure, sometimes we still think that. In truth, no one was really sure exactly what they had voted for and disagreements began to surface almost immediately and have continued to this day. Much to the consternation of Jefferson and Madison the Federalists under Alexander Hamilton enacted the Alien and Sedition Act which, among other things, placed restrictions on what we now consider a given, our Freedom of Speech. This act was designed to keep down the criticisms of the governmental power with everyone in fear of the damage to the fledgling nation. The opposition was certain it went too far. Surely, if it were enacted today it would be found lacking but we see similar actions even today. Most of the act was allowed to die a quiet death since the precedent establishing judicial review had not been decided yet.

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