As we celebrate our Nation’s birthday, I pause to reflect on the miracle that resulted in the formation of the greatest nation on earth.
Consider Thomas Jefferson’s remarkable prose:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
After the stirring prelude in the Declaration, a “history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States” is presented in 26 grievances against the King of England. These, largely, deal with the King’s disregarding the law and imposing his will on the colonies.
The principles of the Declaration and subsequently of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) clearly set forth the philosophy that this shall be a government of laws, not men.
So, to ensure as best they could that one man or group of men could not so control the government to impose their will, the founding fathers instituted a system of checks and balances, creating a legislative, executive and judicial branch.
Our country has evolved over the 237 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. When Jefferson wrote “All men are created equal,” neither he nor any of the founding fathers included women or Native Americans in that definition. They are now included. Slaves were not included, either. The institution of slavery ended about 87 years later.
I am proud to have served as a District Court Judge where folks have their first exposure to the third branch of government. I marvel at the wisdom, courage and fortuity that guided the founders of this wonderful country to establish the framework that has survived strife, argument and even civil war to give us all the blessings we enjoy today. I am humbled that the citizens of this state have entrusted me with the awesome duty, responsibility and privilege to act as the arbiter of their most important disputes.
As a take a few days off from my judge work this week to spend time with my family, I will take some time to reflect on the good fortune we all have to have been born in a country which respects the rule of Law. I invite you to do the same.
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Next week: Fortune Cookies