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  • Liberty vs. Power: The Founding Fathers' Vision for America

    10/18/2010 4:37:10 PM Posted by Roger Custer

    by Dr. Timothy D. Johnson, Lipscomb College JohnsonTim

    “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”  This quote by Thomas Jefferson reflects an understanding that no matter what period of history one looks at governments always tend to expand their power and control.  It has happened countless times in history, and it is always at the expense of liberty.  Our Founding Fathers waged a classic struggle between liberty and power and in so doing succeeded in subjugating government to the will of the people.  They won their struggle because they understood some things that we have forgotten.  The Founders knew that liberty and power cannot coexist and that when either of the two expand, the other must of necessity recede.  They knew that since government is an aggressive force and liberty a delicate flower, defenders of freedom must be constantly vigilant.

    Younger Americans are no longer taught about America’s founding principles of limited government and personal responsibility.  The growing educational trend in recent decades is to champion big government as the giver of rights and protector of liberty.  This concept is wrong.   As Jefferson put it, “The God Who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.”  Furthermore, governments exercise power, but they do not protect liberty.

    As I explain in, Liberty VS Power, when the colonists saw the British government trying to exercise unprecedented power in the 1760s, a spontaneous resistance movement emerged.  It was an eighteenth century version of the modern-day Tea Party Movement, and it literally led to the Tea Party in 1773 which gives today’s movement its name.  In an effort to undercut this resistance movement, the British press tried to discredit the protesters by characterizing them as an angry mob, radicals, and rabble.  The resistance movement eventually flourished into a revolution and a war for independence.

    The new framework of government that our Founders produced in 1787 was a remarkable achievement.  By separating power between the states and the nation, dividing federal power into three branches, and devising an intricate set of checks and balances, they created a Constitution that bound the federal government by law and made it answerable to the people.  The Constitution is the law or the framework that is supposed to keep the federal government in its place—that is to say limited.

     We often forget that the Constitution was not written to govern people, it was written to govern government.  Whenever you hear someone arguing that the Constitution should be viewed as a “living document” whose meaning can change over time, you know that person is in favor of big government.  At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention a woman is said to have approached Benjamin Franklin and asked, “What have you given us?” to which he responded, “A republic if you can keep it.”

    ____

    Timothy D. Johnson is a history professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of Liberty VS Power which is available at www.libertyvspower.com.

    • Readers' Comments

    • This book is a must read!! Dr. Johnson is brilliant in his analysis of what our country was founded on. The direction our government has decided to pursue is completely against the morals and values I've been taught my entire life. I was taught to work hard and earn what is given to you; the harder you work, the more you will prosper. This lifestyle is no longer present in many Americans and the current administration enables and encourages those who wish to simply mooch of others. Our economy and society is doomed if the ideals of the current administration continues to be pushed. We must bind together and reverse the current trend and ensure that our country is brought back to the principles of limited government and personal responsibility.
      Posted by Gantt Pierce on 10/20/2010
    • Amazing! Thank you, Dr. Johnson, for sharing this glimpse into the very heart of what our great nation was founded upon. For me, Liberty VS Power is a reminder of why I sing the national anthem with such great pride and why it is such a blessing to be an American. Yet when I read it, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach realizing that we are no longer that nation. What have we allowed to happen? Dr. Johnson has given us a very simple, quick read to jolt us back into what it means to be an American. I recommend that everyone who longs for the integrity and ideals of our nation to be restored, read Dr. Johnson's LIBERTY VS POWER. I strongly believe that if enough of us have the desire and the willingness to do what it will take, this nation can be revived. This little read is a great place to begin! Lisa Pierce
      Posted by lisa pierce on 10/25/2010
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