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The American Experiment

Posted January 14th, 2014 in Uncategorized by isaac

Today marks the beginning of South Dakota’s 89th legislative session. As we embark on this exercise of self-government, I want to take a brief look back at how we’ve gotten here, and ask for your help.

Throughout history, the world has been governed by the aggressive use of force. This was no truer than on July 4th, 1776, when the thirteen united States of America declared their independence from the king of Great Britain who was using force to exercise, as the founders put it,  “an absolute tyranny over these States.”

But it was not quickly, or with a desire for war that the founders made this declaration of independence. Nor was it without repeated requests for relief from the taking of their property, infringements of their freedom, and imprisonments without due process which were being done by the king at that time.

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

In the previous quote, taken from the Declaration, the founders are essentially saying, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… It’s a duck.” The king may think of himself as a noble prince, but his acts of injustice and deprivation of liberty define him as a tyrant.

They held it to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed by God with rights such as the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, and many gave their very lives for this truth. Because of the King’s choice to use of force, five of the 56 signers of the declaration were captured by the British as traitors, and were tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

And so began what is sometimes called “The American Experiment,” because it was an answer to the question, “Can a free people govern themselves, without a king, dictator, or tyrant?” Thomas Jefferson thought so:  “Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government.”

It is in this great American Experiment that you and I are still living today, and it is in this structure of a “constitutional republic” that I am serving as your Representative in Pierre. It left all powers with you, the people–except those which, by their consent, the people delegated to government ­and then made provision for their withdrawing that power, if it was abused.

I am your servant. I am your employee. I work for you, and the power you hold is in fact greater than mine, with only a small portion being delegated according to the Constitution. If I do not follow your Constitution, the employment contract you have given me, then please–do not re-elect me, or anyone else. For then, I am walking and quacking like a duck–and we all know what happens to ducks in South Dakota.

There was one important caveat–two actually, that the founders recognized as necessary for the American Experiment to succeed. The first was that each man and woman answer to his Creator, seeking to live according to His will, to do good and restrain himself from evil. John Adams wrote that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The South Dakota motto is “Under God, the people rule” which I think sums it up quite nicely.

The second was that freedom required the active and diligent involvement of the people, and as many founders have been quoted as saying, “the price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.” So it is imperative that we all as citizens understand how the Constitution works, what powers we have delegated to whom, and whether they are staying within the parameters we have set for them.

What type of men were these signers of the declaration which began this experiment? Twenty-four were lawyers. Eleven were business owners, nine were farmers and ranchers; well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

I am simply asking for your help in the work of preserving our freedoms. I hope that you can find a little time this year to better understand the constitution, stay informed of the issues being debated in Pierre, contact me with your ideas, questions, and most importantly, keep me accountable. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you this year!

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