Win Gruening: Let’s honor what’s good about our country

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By WIN GRUENING

On July 4, 1776, a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, steeple bells rang throughout Philadelphia. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, had just signed the document later known as the United States Declaration of Independence.

More than a decade later, after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked (as the story goes) what kind of government the Founding Fathers had created behind closed doors in the sweltering heat of a Philadelphia summer – a republic or a monarchy. The venerable Franklin, then in his eighties, replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

By way of definition, in a pure democracy, laws are determined by the voting majority. In contrast, in a republic, laws are made by representatives chosen by the people, and minority rights are protected. As many political leaders and the media continue to elevate partisanship over patriotism, Franklin’s caution remains relevant today.

Of the 70 delegates chosen as representatives to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, only 55 attended the proceedings in Philadelphia, and records reflect that no more than 46 of them were present at any one time. A few of the 41 delegates assembled on the day of signing did not support the constitution as written. Despite multiple speeches pleading for their signatures, none of the holdouts changed their minds.

In the end, there were 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution. The signed document had no legal status. The Constitution would only become official after nine of the thirteen states chose to ratify it. The challenge ahead was convincing the American
people to embrace the idea of a constitutional republic in which citizens are represented by elected officials sworn to protect their interests.

The first state to ratify the Constitution was Delaware on December 7, 1787, followed by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut. Some states voiced opposition to the Constitution because it did not protect rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and press. A compromise was then reached whereby proposed constitutional amendments to remedy this
would follow. Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina then ratified the Constitution, with the consent of the ninth state, New Hampshire, occurring on June 21, 1788.

This makes the U.S. Constitution one of the oldest still in place in the world today. Ten amendments, known as our Bill of Rights, were subsequently fully ratified on Dec. 15, 1791.

Since then, 17 amendments have been added (Prohibition was repealed in 1919). Two of the most significant additions were the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. “Keeping it” or preserving, perfecting, and perpetuating the American democratic republic has always been the overarching concern of America’s greatest leaders.

Our Founding Fathers believed in adherence to the universal principles of equality, liberty, and limited government, as well as the virtues of thrift, self-reliance, and a strong work ethic. They believed these features made our constitutional republic distinctive and would bind Americans together regardless of origin.

    As America approaches its 250 the anniversary in 2026, that lofty ideal sometimes seems forgotten in the divisive political turmoil we face today. Amid all the cries that “democracy is on the ballot” in this election, Americans know better. Our
    Founding Fathers crafted a representative form of government that will weather this storm and others that follow. Most Americans, and especially Alaskans, are a savvy and resilient people who understand that it isn’t a president or any government that decides what liberties shall prevail. It’s our constitutional protections and the consent of the governed, as expressed through our elections, which determines whether we “keep our republic.”

    Fourth of July celebrations are an opportunity to appreciate the freedoms that Americans enjoy and express our gratitude to America’s Founding Fathers. America is not perfect, but it is always striving to correct its past mistakes to deliver on its promise of equal rights and opportunity for all.

    At a time when some Americans—especially younger generations—focus mostly on the flaws of our nation, let this 4th of July be one that honors all that is good about our country.

    After retiring as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in Alaska, Win Gruening became a regular opinion page columnist for the Juneau Empire. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is involved in various local and statewide organizations.

    12 COMMENTS

      • Happy Independence Day accurately acknowledges the day in history! The difference between july 4 or the 5th or any other day is just a day on a calendar and it changes not reflecting the very day of the week our founding fathers meet & created documents or declared our freedom from the English Monarchy & a ruthless KING! For a student of history you claim to be ,please get it right. Sorry I am late to respond to you.
        Greg please comment to my post. A nation of ” laws ” which we give consent to, places a burden on those that take a Oath to the duty of office, & bonded to by LAW ! 🙂
        Liberty Ed

    1. Win ,where is the equity & liberty in our State of Alaska if by statute ALL Public Officials are required to have Bonds? When the “the consent of the governed ” is abused as we currently live under, what do we do next, go to a grand jury due to this violation(s) of LAW?
      It was your Grandfather Ernest that signed into Territory Law the statute(s) still on the books today….He would not be happy that they aren’t being followed !

      A Grand jury investigation needs to ask why & recommend strict adherence to the law. As 39.05.050 & As 39.15.010 – 100.
      As a retired Banker you surely know what a Surety Bond is for those that handle other people’s money & so do those that don’t have them like Alaska’s Commissioner of Revenue Adam Crum !
      AS 43.05.140. Bond of Commissioner.
      Before taking office, the commissioner shall furnish a bond to the state. The bond shall be approved by the attorney general and filed with the Department of Administration, and a copy of it shall be filed in the attorney general’s office. The bond shall be conditioned that the principal will faithfully discharge the duties of the office, keep a strict, true and correct account of all money disbursed, and that the principal will properly account for it and will pay over to a successor or other person entitled by law to receive it all money or property in the hands or possession of the principal, in accordance with law; or, in default, that the parties executing the bond will pay to the state and others injured all damages, costs, and expenses resulting from the default. The surety on the bond shall be a surety company authorized to transact business in the state. All premiums for the commissioner’s bond shall be paid by the state. The amount of the bond shall be $200,000, but if the funds in the treasury of the state exceed the amount of the bond given by the commissioner, or if for any reason the governor and the Department of Administration consider the bond insufficient they shall notify the commissioner of that fact, and the commissioner shall give the additional bond with sufficient sureties, within the time and in the amount that the governor and the Department of Administration consider necessary for the safety of the state.

      What is the answer when we that gives ” consent ” doesn’t get adherence of the laws we all are required to live by!

    2. Oh, no ya dont!! Because America Bad!! The real start was in 1619.. Too much whiteness!!!/ liberal mode off

    3. “In contrast, in a republic, laws are made by representatives chosen by the people, and minority rights are protected.” Kindly allow me to correct you. Under our constitution it is the rights of the sovereign individual citizen that are protected. As long as even one citizen’s God-given constitutional rights are in jeopardy, then our republic itself is in jeopardy.

        • You are applying a perverse, esoteric and provincial meaning to the term “sovereign citizen.” I used the term in the appropriate manner in reference to our constitution. Under that document, the citizens are the sovereign owners of this republic. Remember the opening words, “We The People….”

    4. Wayne, The Constitution was crafted to restrain the Foedral, ( federal) Government and to clearly define it’s responsibilities and powers. Everything beyond those thing enumerated belong to the States and or the Individual.

      James Madison was opposed to the ” Bill of Rights” addition because he feared that Citizens might wrongly begin to believe that those were their only rights…

      Perhaps proper instruction in our School Systems and a through examination of the debates surrounding the drafting of our wonderful Constitution would serve to alleviate much of the National Confusion we now see today.
      But alas the Commie has seized control of our Education system…

      Next steps?

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