15 August 2005

liberty and justice for all...

I've been wont to make reference to the Founding Father's thoughts to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, & the Bill of Rights through other sources, including the Federalist Papers, Thomas Jefferson's private letters, etc. Though to me, it is clear that all of them desired a form of government that ensured that citizen's had their personal rights protected from the circumstances of the times in which they lived, they went beyond this with the foresight to understand that for the government to continue and the people to be safe it had to be a living, growing and evolving entity.

They did not want to limit the power of the people but realized that power directly in the hands of the people was impossible in such a varied and large community as the Thirteen Colonies/states. [What would they think of 50!] Franklin, Madison, et. al. decided that the best solution would be a representative government with a system of checks and balances built into the government so that no one person or group could become sole proprietor of the governing process, hence the executive, legislative and judiciary branches were devised.

The Founding Fathers hoped that with an organization like this the liberties of the people could be preserved, expanded and evolved with an assurance that the tyranny of the one or few could not take hold.

Their work is presupposed on one word: liberty. The Oxford American Dictionary definition is "the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views...." As a straight forward definition it is fairly succinct. The government the Founding Father's conceived, however, is not a one-way street. It also declares that the citizens have responsibilities.

The major duty of the people to the success of the government and, consequently, the society of the country is to protect the rights of others in order to safeguard their own liberty.

Thomas Jefferson defined it in the "Declaration of The Rights of Man and The Citizen" as: "Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law."
How did the founding fathers define liberty and freedom?

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