Saturday, September 17, 2005

Happy birthday!

Every year, I like to celebrate a very important birthday that most others forget: the Constitution's. On this day in 1787, it was completed and sent to the states for ratification. This remarkable document, itself largely forgotten today insofar as what it really says, was the first of its kind.

Last March, I wrote about the desperate several years after the Revolutionary War ended:
Let me tell a little story about a colony that seceded. It didn't formally achieve independence until seven years after its initial proclamation, and after formal recognition of its sovereignty, it was plagued by chaos for five years. There were no effective courts, just a bunch of provinces that squabbled amongst each other. There was no national treasury that minted stable currency, only the provinces' banks and private ones that tended to issue worthless paper notes. There were riots, and even one armed rebellion by farmers. Even the general who had led his nation to freedom worried that the latter signaled civil war.

The name of that country: the United States of America. Our Declaration of Independence was in 1776, but the Treaty of Paris didn't come until 1783. From 1783 until the Constitution's ratification in 1788, we had incredible chaos between the states, between the banks, and uprisings like Shay's Rebellion. George Washington was among those who feared we had won independence only to plunge into civil war. In 1786, he lamented in a letter, "what a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious!" We had our own growing pains that threatened to tear us apart. Some might reply, "Yes, but we didn't have insurgents like Iraq does." Indeed, and despite the insurgents, Iraq moved to self-rule faster than we did. It's amazing to me that it was only 20 months from Saddam's collapse to Iraq's first post-Saddam government that they elected themselves. Whether they had help is irrelevant; all that matters is they made the transformation. As President Bush said during the debates, "It's hard work," and indeed it is. Nobody said the road to freedom was easy or bloodless, but it's worth the effort.
Long live the Republic! If we can keep it, God willing.


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