Endowed by Our Creator - Enshrined in Our Constitution
Jay shares thoughts on our ‘inalienable, God-given rights’ while standing in front of the NH State Archives in Concord, location of the NH Constitution.
As Americans, we are uniquely blessed. We are born with our rights. Our rights are not granted to us by the State. In fact, it is we the people who are the sovereign, and it is we who grant certain enumerated powers to the State. In establishing this hierarchy, our founders set forth on a journey never before undertaken by mankind. They created a nation, as Lincoln famously stated in the Gettysburg Address, a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
In fact, this principle is clearly articulated in our founding documents. It’s one of the most important sentences in American history. In a global context, it’s arguably one of the most important sentences in human history: the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Penned by Thomas Jefferson, we’re mostly all familiar with the phrase included in the declaration that states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, famously quoted by the great Dr. Martin Luther King in his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963 during the Civil Rights movement.
As the sentence continues, there’s a lesser quoted, yet equally powerful series of words Jefferson composed. These words would go on to declare that the rights stated within the Declaration, the ‘right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ are not simply guaranteed by the State, but are instead guaranteed by our mere existence as individuals. “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights.” To this day it remains a profound proclamation.
But let us go back a little bit, to the origins of how it came to be that Jefferson believed so deeply in this idea that it was included in our nation's founding documents. The idea originated with the political philosopher John Locke, who in 1690 wrote his “Second Treatise of Government”. In it, he proposed the idea that we as human beings, by nature, are free, equal, and independent and cannot be, “subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.” These words would go on to be the basis for the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights. While the American colonies lived under the shadow of tyrannical British rule, Jefferson, and the other founders, who were great admirers of thinkers like Locke and Rousseau, were adamant that these “inalienable rights” are intrinsic to each individual, therefore it must be declared by law that it is not government who is their grantor and guarantor. By declaring this, the government cannot therefore infringe on those rights. We see an example of this in the First Amendment when it starts out by stating, “Congress shall make no law”.
There’s probably been a point in time when each of us has in some way or another said that our right to the freedom of speech is our Constitutional right. What’s important to understand though is that in fact it’s not our Constitutional right, it's our “God-given” right as a human being. These inalienable rights that we speak of cannot be infringed upon by anyone, and therefore we should be allowed to pursue them. This applies to each of us in our daily lives as we interact with the world. How we dress, how we speak, how we write, our freedom to choose our own life’s trajectory is not something given to us by government, but inherent to our being. And for each of us fortunate to live here in the United States, liberty survives only if we choose to recognize, protect, and enjoy this principle, each and every day.
Nackey Loeb School – Celebrating Our Freedom of Speech
Located on the east side of Manchester sits a small communication school dedicated to educating the next generation of journalists. The Nackey Loeb School was founded in 1999 by the late Nackey Loeb who was the former head of New Hampshire’s leading newspaper, the Union Leader, and known as the unabashed champion of Americans' First Amendment rights. For those who had the opportunity to know this dynamic woman, you knew that when she put her mind to something there was only one path - upwards!
The vision Nackey had for this school was to provide training to help future journalists, reporters, and those committed to developing stronger communication skills to have the knowledge, context, and support to be truly effective. Importantly, the school also emphasizes the importance of our First Amendment and the uniquely valuable contribution that true journalists can play in our democracy.
Today, the school is still growing strong and provides a series of programs that are second to none. In addition, the Loeb school holds an annual First Amendment event to recognize those in journalism, public service, and policy, who are committed to living the First Amendment and honoring the protection it provides. Karen and I have been honored to support this annual event in years past, and we are especially excited this year to have our Sunshine Initiative and Sunshine Communications sponsor this year’s gathering.
For those interested in journalism or even simply strengthening your communications skills, I encourage you to sign up for the course offerings provided by the Nackey Loeb School of Communication. For those wanting to meet and get together with some of the finest individuals and organizations living and breathing the First Amendment, then I invite you to get your tickets for the upcoming October 20th event. For more information: https://loebschool.org/our-first-amendment-honor
The Role of NH in Creating our ‘Bill of Rights’
Although not widely known, New Hampshire played an important role in helping to formulate the rights that our now enshrined in our Constitution via the ‘Bill of Rights.’ It’s an interesting story – with more than a few twists and turns. As well as personalities.
The Bill of Rights, as we all know, is an integral element of the US Constitution. It’s First Amendment is focused on freedom of speech and the Fifth Amendment of not incriminating oneself in court or more commonly known as "pleading the fifth," are two of the better known of the first ten amendments; however, these were not originally a part of the Constitution or even in the order that we know them today.
The Constitution was written to replace the Articles of Confederation and to form the Federal government. Proposed as the ‘Virginia Plan’ by then Governor of Virginia Edmund Randolph and drafted by James Madison, the Constitutional Convention passed the Constitution on September 17th, 1787, in Philadelphia. But not everyone was on board with the ratification without a Bill of Rights.
George Mason, the author of the Virginia Bill of Rights, did not think that the Constitution was complete without one, and Governor Randolph reversed his support for the Constitution because of this absence. With the Constitution off to the states for ratification, other states also had concerns about a Constitution without a Bill of Rights. With nine states needed for ratification, each state was crucial, and the fear of rejection because of this absence put the Federalists on edge.
By February 1788, five states had ratified the Constitution, three of them unanimously. New Hampshire had some conditions, though, in order to ratify. Fearing that the Constitution did not have enough votes at their February convention, the Federalists of New Hampshire adjourned the meeting and decided to return in June. During that time, the delegates to the New Hampshire Constitutional Convention drafted their own Bill of Rights with twelve amendments to propose to Congress as conditions for their ratification.
For example, their first amendment is very similar to the eventual Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, i.e., that all powers not reserved to the federal government should be reserved to the States, and New Hampshire’s tenth amendment is similar to the U.S. First Amendment, i.e., that Congress shall make no laws against religion or conscience. Three years later, the 12 amendments were narrowed down to ten and rearranged to the Bill of Rights we know today.
Thanks to New Hampshire, by delaying our Constitutional Convention and developing a draft set of Rights – the Granite State made an enormous contribution to establishing and enshrining those Rights that we hold dear today!
Positive Profile of the Week: Alan Dershowitz
This week we are delighted to profile a nationally recognized defender of our First Amendment rights, Attorney and Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Alan Dershowitz is perhaps one of the most interesting attorneys of our time. Dershowitz grew up in Brooklyn, NY and graduated from Yale Law School. And for decades, he was arguably the most accomplished and most prominent professors at Harvard Law School. In fact, as a law student, I had the privilege of spending a full semester in one of his classes with approximately twenty-five other students and getting to know his philosophy.
As a lawyer, Dershowitz is best known for his ardent defense of civil liberties. In this, he has been enormously successful. He has taken on some of the most high-profile clients in the country and won cases and appeals that no one thought had a chance of success.
Importantly, often, he takes cases and positions that are the very antithesis of his personal belief system. He has always believed in the Bill of Rights and will defend anyone (yes, ANYONE) whose rights are being infringed – no matter their political beliefs or ideology.
For example, Dershowitz has been a major player in Democratic politics, actively campaigning against Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Four years later, however, he would help lead President Trump’s defense in his first impeachment hearing. That’s how serious he takes the idea that everyone deserves a defense consistent with the protection of Constitutional principles. For instance, he is also an ardent supporter of gun control and advocates repeal of the 2nd Amendment, but he actively opposes attempts by judges to “read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution”. He acknowledges it’s an individual right and says it either needs to be repealed (his preference) or vigorously defended as is.
While Alan Dershowitz is a self-proclaimed loudmouth who makes his opinions known, he consistently stands up to protect Constitutionally guaranteed rights and civil liberties. Whether you agree or disagree with his political positions, you cannot help but admire his devotion to the Constitution and protecting our ‘God-given’ rights. Thank you, Professor Dershowitz.
Quotes of the Week: Our God-Given Rights
“I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” ― Benjamin Franklin, Silence Dogood / The Busy-Body / Early Writings
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” ― Thomas Paine
“This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.” ― Robert G. Ingersoll, The Liberty Of Man, Woman And Child
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” ― John Milton , Areopagitica