They endeavored to make America to be that City on the Hill.
There was no call to patriotic sentiment,
but a certain going forth in sharp righteousness,
proclaiming themselves vociferously to THE standard of God,
intellectual, advocating firebrands
Critical thinkers..political scientists,
genuine sentinels of life, liberty and justice.
In Alexander Hamilton’s opening salvo to promote and present constitutional understanding in his essay, Federalist №1, he asks poignantly,
“it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, wether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or wether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which the decision is to be made..”
In 1787, mentalist Alexander Hamilton had begun his advocacy of the new American Constitution alongside James Madison and John Jay through a series of essays published in New York newspapers, The Federalist Papers. In it they presented an architects view of the engineering construct of the new constitutional governmental system of checks and balances. Hamilton, Madison and Jay search out the reaches of executive, legislative and judicial powers, as well as the consequences of different balances of power and how ‘the people’ factor into the balance of such governmental power, how they maintain its legitimacy, and finally, the writers inflect their opinion on why the construct of the American Constitution forms a government that is both politically susceptible to the vote of the people, yet has some, if limited, resemblances in authoritative power with the strongest monarchical kings and queens, while also rendering all of its elected leaders, even the President, to function in accordance with the written law of the land.
From 1787, when the Constitution was presented, to about 1838, a period of 50 years, slavery grew exponentially. The first internal challenge that the American government faced was moving from a financial economy based on the forced labor of slaves and unto extending freedom and rights of citizenship to Americans of black skin color. A central obstacle that slowed down this progress was the entrenchment of a political class within the congressional, judicial and executive branches of government that condoned slavery. With the exception of John Adams, American presidents had been slave owners or impartial to slavery as a business and social mainstay, and congressional/ judicial elected staff defended its continuity, legality and authority.
What decision was Alexander Hamilton writing about in Federalist #1, but that the ability to decide important questions is open to all according to each person’s conduct and example. He then goes beyond that and in the second paragraph undoubtedly states to all the people to be aware of a class of life-long politicians that would naturally arise with the focus of simply maintaining themselves on the echelon of authority in the governmental decision-making process. What is the threshold of a good conduct and life example? The work of John Quincy Adams and Frederick Douglass in the 1800s for the life of the nation was heroic, selfless, altruistic, savvy and the embodiment of the American Spirit. Would their conduct and example make the grade? Was Martin Luther Kings conduct and example sufficient? What about John Adams or George Washington? Washington owned slaves. Does that nullify him in some regard? In Federalist #1, Hamilton mentions his reasoning that a natural safeguard is in the fluidity of communication and connection between the civil community and governmental functioning apparatus; that a mutually vested interest of Americans in government will sustain a system of good governance for and of the people. Given the legality of slavery until 1865, can it be argued that good governance was lacking in its most cherished ideal of being just unto all people and defending the life and liberty of all without regard to skin color?
Perhaps we have not attained that perfect American union yet. Frederick Douglass and John Quincy Adams definitely worked in the life of the national community and government to perfect it…
As much as the writers of the Federalist Papers introduce us into close understanding of the Constitution, it limits its scope as to how to go about defending it intellectually. That said, the Federalist Papers are a gift of knowledge for those who want to better understand the constitutional government we have. For John Quincy Adams, son of the passionate John Adams, the defense of liberty was the defense and strengthening of the American Spirit. Perhaps the educational empowerment of a citizen to be able to discern, think independently and critically, defending life and liberty in all its stages of life is close to the greatest gift a community and country can give itself. Such a person or congress of people cherish life and liberty and become valued heritage of the United States of America.
John Quincy Adams congressional work for the abolition of slavery in his senior golden years (1830s and 1840s), served as a powerful signal of necessary division in what the true standard of the American vision should be. To stand, write, and speak with the standard of life and liberty as Adams demonstrated served as a living memorial on how to defend individual American freedom. He was an accomplished American Statesman, a language interpreter, seasoned pioneer diplomat, essay writer, and accomplished Secretary of State, Senator, 6th President of the United States, and finally, Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives. Quincy Adams witnessed the American Revolutionary battles, experiencing both the brunt and hardship of war with his siblings and mother Abigail Adams, and the launching of his fathers work as a delegate to the Continental Congresses, and pioneering American diplomat overseas. He knew how government worked and was instrumental, alongside his father in its decision making process before during and after the American Revolutionary War. True to his understanding of the correct focus of duty to defend life and liberty as found in the Constitution, Adams turns hard against government sanctioning of human slavery, becoming a firebrand standard in Congress, in America, and across the world.
In the 1840s and 1850s, the outsider position of the educated Frederick Douglass as a former slave, his writing and speaking skills, and his ownership of a printing press position him as a formidable Christian intellectual and moral pressure upon the nation and government sentiment. Together, from the mid 1820s until the 1880’s, John Quincy Adams and Frederick Douglass presented, through the power of their intellects and the work for the country within and outside of government, a Godly standard for the Constitution to be preserved through. The right to life, liberty and justice are these ideals. Douglass and Quincy Adams were as if it were, Professional Christians, self-employed as sentinels in whatsoever smart manner they could execute in order to carry through the greater promise, and rectify if need be, a more perfect American union.
The professional work of Frederick Douglass and John Quincy Adams overlaps 7 years. In retrospect, the absence of any other individual championing the defense of life and liberty magnifies the work of these two Americans. John Quincy Adams and Frederick Douglass achieved this powerful heart-mind-action balance and attitude that can be called the American Spirit, delivering decisive victories at distinct sequential historical moments in the formative American experience. Adams, from within government as a Congressional member of the House of Representatives, and Douglass as a public speaker, acclaimed writer, and newspaper publisher who had spoken to hundreds of thousands of Americans and English citizens in his public speaking work that canvassed nearly all northern states, Ireland and every major city and town of England.
Wednesday, February 14, 1838:
John Quincy Adams woke up this morning being about 70 years of age making his way to the Capital Building in Washington D. C. The last of the original members of the American Continental Congress passed away about 12 years before, with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passing on the same day, July 4th, 1826. On this morning he presents 350 petitions for the end of slavery and the beginning of citizenship rights for American slaves of black skin color.
“The call commenced with me, and I presented 350 petitions, of which 158 were for the rescinding of the Patton gag, or Resolution of 21 Dec’r 65 for the abolition of Slavery and the Slave trade in the District of Columbia, in the territories for the prohibition of the internal Slave trade against the admission of any new State whose Constitution tolerates Slavery..”
It was the end to the era of the American Revolution, and the beginning of a new moment wherein the North and Southern American states found themselves to be increasingly at odds about the United States being a country that promotes the enslavement of people or one of a people and government that respects and defends the life and liberty of all.
With the exception of his father, John Adams, American presidents had been slave owners or and congressional representatives defended its legality and authority. The question of the American Republic and its Constitution withstanding the challenge of being a nation of ideas, namely, the cherishing and defense of individual life and liberty, with freedom and justice for all was before the nation. Censorship and all attempts to stifle discussion upon the issue of slavery within government were in place by 1837 and on through 1844. John Quincy Adams would experience again and again being shouted down and ignored in Congress by the pro-slavery majority. He discerned that the very Constitutional precepts of life and liberty for all, was itself being challenged by the normalcy of government sanctioned economic systems based on human slavery and the United States of America would soon cease to be if it continued on this path. That is an altruistic thought. He understood that the country was no longer in line with the universality, if not outright Godly precepts that honored life, liberty, justice, truth and the passionate duty to defend the freedoms and societal norms necessary for a civil country community to function. America and its spirit of life, liberty, and justice would cease if the challenge was not recognized and smartly addressed.
The question of the American Republic and its Constitution withstanding challenge to its integrity was before the nation. Censorship and all attempts to stifle discussion upon the issue of slavery were in place by 1838. John Quincy Adams was being shouted down in Congress, and an 8 year gag rule (1837–44) was put on him to table discussion on the abolition of slavery while in Congress. Discerning that the very Constitutional precepts of life, liberty, and justice was itself being dismissed by the government-sanctioned normalcy of human slavery, Adams foresaw that the United States of America would soon cease to be if it continued on this path.
Like Frederick Douglass would do later, John Quincy Adams, seeing no other help, passionately and with great spirit withstood the establishment and government of the time, and called upon it to be a government that defended life and liberty.
John Quincy Adams in his diary entry on Saturday, November 12, 1842
“ — My present position is one of great popularity with a failing party; and in falling with them the prospect of me is of a sudden, and overwhelming reverse in which case persecution may come not only upon myself which I can bear with fortitude, but upon those to whom my good name is not only dear but necessary comfort. I have deliberately assumed an aggressive position against the President, and his whole executive Administration — against the Supreme Court of the United States, and against the commander in chief of the army
— I am at issue with all the organized powers, of the Union
— with the twelve hundred millions of dollars of associated wealth, and with all the rabid democracy of the land. I do not mistake my position, nor disguise myself to its perils —
But my cause is the cause of my Country, and of human liberty. It is the case of Christian improvement — the fulfillment of the prophecies, that the day shall come when Slavery and War shall be banished from the face of the Earth.”
But Adams was seventy years of age in 1838. He would continue to do his best work for the nation, unparalleled in the success of his historical American Statesmanship, but he was only one amongst a cadre of elected, pro-slavery congressional, judicial and executive government individuals. A new stalwart would be required if the drive to fix the nation’s trajectory towards one that valued all life and liberty, and away from a financial system based on denigrating humans of black skin color and targeting them specifically with a slave trade that spanned the globe.
John Quincy Adams, Sunday March 21, 1841
In the afternoon at St. John’s Church, I heard Mr. Hawley read the service for the 4th Sunday in Lent, and preach from Revelation 22:12 “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
The preacher remarked how universally all men worked for reward, which he illustrated by sundry specifications, but never bethought himself of the Slave — If he had thought of it, he would not have ventured to take the verse for a text. The courtly preacher never mentions hell to ears polite.
Massillon sometimes preached to the conscience of Louis 14 but no minister of the word of God South of Mason and Dixon’s line ventures to preach one word against Slavery — Not a few preach Slavery itself.”
Raising the quality of one’s professional intellectual rigor is essential in improving upon the quality of one’s conversation. Frederick Douglass understood this and he mustered the necessary skill to be received as a worthwhile public speaker, newspaper publisher and writer. Our conduct and example will give weight and strength to the message we speak. With all diligence, teach the children to be writers and public speakers; teach the children political science and the history of the true defenders of our way of life. Abraham Lincoln was one of these defenders in the end, as was Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, and John Quincy Adams.
The decision makers that Alexander Hamilton spoke of… these are and always will be the movers and shakers of the American Republic, amongst other traits, these will also be skilled writers and public speakers. In our schools, we must not simply teach writing and speaking, political science and a altruist historical study of America, but we must tell them what the end goal is. We must tell the students that we have this hope in them, as we have it in us, to support their capability to be these awesome moral, critical thinkers who understand what America stood for. It becomes a safeguard to study Frederick Douglass and John Quincy Adams. If we have their words and we learn of their work, we see that they loved the promise of what the country stood for and they endeavored will all perseverance to make that promise a reality.
It is our duty as human beings to seek not only the betterment of our own life, but to open up and improve the life of others and community around us as these awakened 21st century Americans. And so, our American students must be inculcated to be those passionate, perseverant, responsible, measured citizens with good conduct and of excellent example. Though parents and Educators are elemental to the process, it will take the entire community to make this happen. Clarity of purpose begins in studying the right hero’s and their work. Schools must instruct students in the process and in the valuing of the purpose. Conversation must be had to clarify what the purpose of this education is; otherwise, we soon forget. That is how God teaches also; through parables and stories. In his editing of Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War (written 2,500 years ago) James Clavell put forth also that unless we revisit and study the writings of the good works before us, then we are destined to devalue the efficacy of the understandings and forget. Inform the students upon the final goal again and again, educate them upon the purpose of being American critical thinkers, of being active citizens who are project-oriented, dynamic, and savvy in their own unique ways of improving their life and the life around them. These will become the decision makers and creators of American life, the movers and shakers, and the leaders of tomorrow.