Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Few days over the course of the summer of 1787 were as historically relevant as August 20. Time was dragging on and the weather was not helping. The delegates that had convened in the State House in Philadelphia in May were weary of the oppressive heat and the ideas for polishing off the draft presented on August 6 by the Committee of Detail were coming fast and furious. August was a busy month for the framers, particularly, Monday, August 20.
Thursday, August 16, 1787. The State House in Philadelphia was hot, hot, hot. The delegates gathered to “form a more perfect union” were sweltering. Despite the oppressive heat, the windows remained closed and the heavy drapes remained drawn so as to maintain the seal of security under which these critical (and somewhat rebellious) deliberations were taking place.
The Rotunda at the University of Virginia announced last week that the university’s collection of the papers of James Madison are being digitized and added to the larger online library of the documents of our Founding Fathers. According to a press release posted on the Rotunda’s website:
Famed Roman orator, the silver-tongued Cicero, once noted, "It is valuable to look to the words of our Founders, but it is more valuable to study the principles that inspired their words." In the present climate, winds are whipping in from the plains of plutocracy and eroding at an extraordinary pace the bedrock foundations of limited government upon which our Republic was founded. As Cicero witnessed the gradual replacement of his own Republic with an empire ruled by one autocrat after another distracting the masses with mere gimcracks of popular government, he turned to the words of his noble forbearers. We would do wisely to follow his example.
It wasn’t just Oval Office tape recordings that Richard Nixon wanted to get rid of. According to documents made public last week, the 37th president ordered the removal of pieces of modern art placed in embassies during the Kennedy administration. Calling such pieces “little uglies,” on January 26, 1970 Nixon issued a memo calling the examples of modern art and architecture in government offices “incredibly atrocious.”
Our own Founding Fathers were convinced, and history has proven them prescient, that they were building a new and everlasting republic that would do what other republics of the ancient world had failed to do: survive the effects of the maladies of self-government and bequeath to the subsequent generations of Americans a sound and stable republic — if they could keep it.
A generation after George Washington’s Christmastime farewell to his troops and to the Congress who commissioned him in 1775, Clement Clarke Moore penned the iconic poem he called “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” but known to most as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Betsy Ross didn’t sew the first flag. Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25. Columbus didn’t discover America. We hear these statements all the time, for we live in an era where the foundational stories that define our national identity and bind us together as a people are being constantly deconstructed. We are told that the heroic stories of the founding of Christianity and the founding of our great republic are mere myths, factually inaccurate, and no more important or meaningful than the fanciful fairy tales told to amuse children.
Several landmark documents from English history have contributed significantly to our own Constitution bulwark of liberty. One of these documents just celebrated a birthday.
If English historian Edward Gibbon were alive today, he might have to add a paragraph or two to his seminal six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.