Sixty years ago this September, 100 young conservatives launched Young Americans for Freedom at William F. Buckley’s home in Sharon, Connecticut. There they wrote the Sharon Statement, the new organization’s founding document, which has been described by the New York Times as the “seminal document” of the Conservative Movement. The principles that it puts forth still ring true 60 years later. Today, the Sharon Statement serves as the foundational document for more than 500 YAF chapters nationwide.
In this series, “We As Young Conservatives Believe”, we will break down the Sharon Statement and look more closely at how it continues to speak to young Americans today.
“We as young conservatives believe…”
“That the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;”
When the Constitutional Convention decided to scrap the United States’ first system of government, the Articles of Confederation, and create a new Constitution, they had two competing goals. First, the federal government had to be stronger than it had been under the Articles. Second, the federal government had to be weak enough so that it couldn’t infringe upon its citizens’ rights.
These opposing interests led to the series of compromises throughout the Constitution, including but not limited to the Electoral College and the structure of a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Another key deal with the promise of the Bill of Rights, which came about in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
These changes allowed the federal government to better perform its duties while also creating strong safeguards against government overreach. To paraphrase Mel Gibson’s character in the movie The Patriot, they were just as concerned about 3,000 tyrants one mile away as they were one tyrant 3,000 miles away. By separating the powers of the federal government between the three branches, the founders hoped that they could limit the abuses of power that they had just fought the Revolutionary War to escape from.
Despite all the precautions that they had taken, the Founders recognized that their wisdom was not infinite, and they purposefully created the amendment system to allow the people to change the Constitution when it was necessary. However, they designed it in a way that meant that a general consensus was needed to change the fundamental document of America’s government.
Today, however, many people on the Left do not seem interested in reforming the Constitution through the amendment process. Instead they are determined to tear down the Founding Fathers and the Constitution along with them. Between the attacks on the Founders, statues have been torn down by the mob and calls have been made to change the names of public buildings named after various Founders.
One such example is at Michigan State University, where they are considering renaming the James Madison College of public policy. While James Madison was not a perfect person, he was the Father of the Constitution and also drafted the Bill of Rights. Despite his historical significance, both to the United States and also the wider fight for individual liberty, people want his name removed from the college. Fortunately, the Michigan State University YAF chapter has started a petition to keep the name, which can be found here.
The Michigan State YAF activists are doing what conservatives need to do everywhere; they are standing up for the American Founding. If the only side to speak up is the side that seeks to tear down the Founders, they will continue to try to destroy the legacy of the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution. Instead of remembering the Constitution as an important step in the direction of individual rights and liberty, the Leftists tearing down statues and renaming everything would have it only be remembered for failing to meet all of today’s standards. Conservatives need to proactively conserve the promise of the Constitution.
To read the previous post in this series, click here.
To read the next post in this series, click here.
Karl Stahlfeld is the associate director of YAF’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise.