I Respect the United States of America

Respect, to regard highly, have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of, avoid harming or interfering with, agree to recognize and abide by.

On 13 February 1818 former President John Adams penned at letter to Hezekiah Niles editor and publisher of the Baltimore-based national weekly news magazine, Niles’ Weekly Register.

“Dear Mr. Niles,

The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease?

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy, according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature and transmitted to them by their ancestors, they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good; but when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties, and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the continental congress and all the thirteen State congresses.

There might be, and there were others who thought less about religion and conscience, but had certain habitual sentiments of allegiance and loyalty derived from their education; but believing allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, when protection was withdrawn, they thought allegiance was dissolved.

Another alteration was common to all. The people of America had been educated in an habitual affection for England, as their mother country; and while they thought her a kind and tender parent, (erroneously enough, however, for she never was such a mother,) no affection could be more sincere. But when they found her a cruel beldam, willing like Lady Macbeth, to “dash their brains out,” it is no wonder if their filial affections ceased, and were changed into indignation and horror.

This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

By what means this great and important alteration in the religious, moral, political, and social character of the people of thirteen colonies, all distinct, unconnected, and independent of each other, was begun, pursued, and accomplished, it is surely interesting to humanity to investigate, and perpetuate to posterity.

To this end, it is greatly to be desired, that young men of letters in all the States, especially in the thirteen original States, would undertake the laborious, but certainly interesting and amusing task, of searching and collecting all the records, pamphlets, newspapers, and even handbills, which in any way contributed to change the temper and views of the people, and compose them into an independent nation.

The colonies had grown up under constitutions of government so different, there was so great a variety of religions, they were composed of so many different nations, their customs, manners, and habits had so little resemblance, and their intercourse had been so rare, and their knowledge of each other so imperfect, that to unite them in the same principles in theory and the same system of action, was certainly a very difficult enterprise. The complete accomplishment of it, in so short a time and by such simple means, was perhaps a singular example in the history of mankind. Thirteen clocks were made to strike together — a perfection of mechanism, which no artist had ever before effected.” (Source)

Reread that preceding paragraph:  “The colonies had grown up under constitutions of government so different…”

And yet they became united!

The effort was not without its own pitfalls obviously. During the War with mother England, a 100 percent agreement of sentiment did not exist.

As our Declaration of Independence reads:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

The listing of grievances against King George III, among other examples, includes:

  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

For those reasons amongst others the signers justified a declaration of war instead of being mere participants in a rebellion.

Not long after the conclusion of the military conflict, the government of the former colonies based upon the Articles of Confederation which had negotiated the peace terms establishing an independent new country began to prove inadequate. Instead of a single united country, it was as if different independent countries existed as the state governments held power over the federal government. Efforts to rectify the problems created led to a call for representatives to revise the Articles. Instead the 55 gentlemen assembled at Philadelphia took it upon themselves not to revise, but to create a new document. A document we call the Constitution of the United States of America.

Regions and individuals argued over the legitimacy of such a document. Groups supporting, Federalists, and those opposing, anti-Federalists, made their reasoning known. The existing power structures, state governments, were circumvented by special conventions for ratification. Ultimately we know that ratification happened, a Bill of Rights became attached 2 years later, and for reasons of little more than respect the people accepted this form of government.

Today, however, do the same principles apply?

Even at the beginning were all men created equal?  “Merciless Indian Savages?”

The Creator may endow individuals with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, but Governments instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed secure those rights.

Without respect for the government, are those rights secured?

Today, people seem fixated on labels. Identifiers such as Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, et al., mean more than American or people. While obstructing laws of naturalization of foreigners was a specifically stated grievance for declaring independence, it is the desire of many of the self-proclaimed America loving Patriots to prevent others from coming to the United States.

Regardless of passions, save for a single 4 year period, citizens accepted the individual sworn in as President no matter the reasons to believe the victor fraudulent as in 1876 or 2000 or not a sensible outcome given Constitutional wording and context such as in 1800, 1824, and 1888.  We managed through graph and corruption in the Executive Office. These malfeasances were not limited to one individual but to many such as US Grant, Warren G. Harding, et al. We even saw impeachment charges brought forth against Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton along with a resignation from Richard Nixon. John Tyler established a precedent that a Vice President becomes President and not merely an acting President following the death of the individual elected to the Presidency. Gerald Ford became President never being elected as either Vice President or President, yet the country continued.

We have every right not to agree or to even like the person holding the office of the President whether that is today, yesterday, or tomorrow. Disagreement, however, is different from failure to recognize or accept the fact that an individual is President.

How can anyone claim to be Patriotic, Constitutional, or a proud American without respecting the office of the President? How can anyone argue principles when those ideas were never present?

Before anyone argues that Barack Obama does not respect the United States of America or something along those lines, previous generations overcame differences of political opinion.

Oh, it’s not political opinion, but he is the greatest danger of all time?  What an arrogant and superficial generation we must be if that is the truth.  What a lack of respect for all that previous generations endured and overcame?

It’s divisive to talk about minorities and anyone who differs in creed, sexual orientation, and lifestyles?  What happened to the idea of:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Why should that not apply to an atheist or homosexual or anyone else for that matter?

Even if someone does not believe in a Creator, if we believe doesn’t that mean that we believe that Creator endowed them with certain unalienable rights? In the course of disagreeing with their actions and beliefs, we are supporting our beliefs to the fullest by acting upon the premise that they have the same rights as we.

Few if any will read this far. There is no catchy title or one that inflames a particular group.

I’m just thinking as a Political History Professor, a Louisiana farm boy born in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, and reared in the Hungarian Settlement in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, an American citizen by birth, a man residing with his wife in Maryland, a member of humankind, and a mere speck of an iota in the the grand scheme of things, how someone can claim to love when they cannot even demonstrate respect and justify that lack of respect as being love.