Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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About The Founding …

I was asked by a friend for an article about the founding of the United States.  This request came about after a discussion of the Bill of Rights, the amendment process, and the Constitution. My friend, Sergei lives in Moscow, and we were working on his English reading and comprehension, after I tortured him with my Russian pronunciation of Fydor Tyutchev’s poem Spring Storm. I’m not quite sure what turns our conversation took which led us down this track.  As I recall, somewhere along the line, we got into a political discussion about our respective governments, Putin, and the current U.S. president.

At any rate, after reading through the Bill of Rights, Sergei asked me for a link to an article about the founders and founding of the United States.  He seemed genuinely surprised/intrigued by the purpose of the first ten amendments – that of limiting governmental power.  Even this U.S. president has a good understanding of that,

.. generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can’t do to you, it says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.

Although he finds it a great “tragedy,”

One of the I think tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributed change and in some ways we still suffer from that.

Talking to Sergei, I realized how odd this must be for much of the world.  The Russian constitution is full of grandiose promises of positive rights, much like those proposed by FDR. At first glance, both of these sets of “rights” might seem appealing. In practice, the Russian state has never been bound in the slightest by the rights it has “granted” to its peoples.

That’s the difference, in the United States rights are inherent in the people, and it is the government that is granted limited authority – not the people a delineated set of rights.

I still don’t have a good article for my friend Sergei.  Suggestions welcome.



1 Herbert R. { 10.11.15 at 4:15 pm }

The United States Constitution established our nation as a republic, guaranteeing maximum personal freedom to every citizen. With freedom comes responsibility, and, more than any other form of government, a republic stands on the personal integrity of its people.


2 Marcia { 10.12.15 at 2:44 pm }

Is he able to log on to the Hillsdale Constitution Course?
He can always ask you for clarifications.


3 Jeff Edelman { 10.12.15 at 4:17 pm }

Sergei, my comrade, if want want to learn about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, here is the blog for you. I even start you off with fitting article. Happy learning!


Martin Reply:

Thanks Jeff. I brought this post to Sergei’s attention. We’ll have a look at it together when next we chat.


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