The greatest experiment in history

Published 10:23 pm Monday, May 7, 2018

Senior partner, criminal defense attorney at Swindle Law Group

Since the beginning of human civilization, cultures have experimented with ways to govern the people. The vast majority of experiments have been failures because the architects of these governments have always underestimated the natural human need for freedom.

For example, communism, monarchies, fascism and military dictatorships all value control of the people over freedom.  History has been clear in showing us that control works well in the beginning when coupled with fear. But, when courage replaces fear, and the desire for freedom overcomes the hope of “being taken care of” by a government, then revolution, civil war and/or foreign threats become imminent. Failure follows rapidly.

But, there was one experiment that began in the late 1700s that focused on shifting power from a central government to the citizens. A group of brilliant and courageous men developed the divinely inspired idea that individual rights should be the bedrock of a successful government. The idea was the creation of a republic.

Unfortunately, many of these men are either forgotten about or criticized today. Too many Americans do not know that our founders faced death sentences based on treason, risked the lives of their families and risked the taking of their lands and possessions when they chose to take up arms against the most powerful military in the world. 

Further, many do not know why our founders would risk everything in such a way. 

The reason was freedom.

These men were not just theologians who casually discussed different forms of government at the local tavern. They were colonists who were constantly abused by the British Empire and its one leader who controlled everything — King George. These men and their families lived through times that we cannot imagine today.  Their daily lives were impacted by the following:

  • Severe punishment or death for criticizing the Empire
  • Punishment for worshiping “incorrectly”
  • Enduring searches of their homes based on nothing but the order of the king  
  • Seizures of whatever the king or his soldiers wanted in their homes
  • Being forced to give shelter, food and a bed to the same soldiers who carried out these atrocities
  • Being subject to arrest without proof of a crime
  • Possessing little, if any, rights when accused of a crime
  • Being subject to cruel punishment and death when found guilty
  • Living under the control of a strong central government with no regional control in the colonies (later to be states).

The founders would later develop a system of empowering states with the last of the Bill of Rights — the 10th Amendment.  

Additionally, the founders and colonists living in America were being taxed by the crown even though the colonists did not have a representative or voice in the British government. 

After rebelling against the British and winning independence, the founders would argue amongst themselves, abandon their first form of government (Articles of Confederation) and finally form a republic with one document serving as the supreme law of the land; the United States Constitution.  

This experiment of a constitutional republic was not perfect. The newly created nation would be tested by foreign powers and face a serious internal problem that would eventually lead to the American Civil War. But, the republic survived the civil war, foreign wars and a multitude of problems that would have destroyed governments without a constitution.

The first draft of the Constitution was far from perfect. But, our founders had the foresight to provide a way to change the document through the process of adding amendments. The Constitution has been amended over 25 times. The most important amendments that perfect the document include the 10 listed in the Bill of Rights, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments that provide for the outlaw of slavery, the protection of civil rights and the ban on racial restrictions regarding voting, the 19th which gives women the right to vote and the 21st which repealed the well intentioned, but massive failure, of the 18th, better known as prohibition.   

The great experiment continues.  

Life is much different today than in the late 1700s. But, human nature and the temptation to abuse power remain the same.  

We now face another strong challenge. America is bitterly divided. Is the Constitution strong enough to hold the republic together during these turbulent times?  Only God knows the answer. But, I hope you will join me as I pray for the greatest experiment in history to continue for many generations to come.