Ethics & Religion
October 13, 2016
"America's Fragile Experiment" & Early Patriots
By Mike McManus
Presidential campaign is so discouraging with both Donald Trump and
Hillary Clinton opposed by a majority of Americans that I recommend the
reading of a new book, America's Fragile Experiment (Amazon, $18.99)
about the 10 most important patriots of 1800-1865.
Quick question: who were those most important leaders? Can you name
three of them?
Author Roger Turner gives this succinct description of them: "John
Marshall, the third Chief Justice of the United States, John Quincy
Adams, our sixth President, Andrew Jackson, our seventh President,
former Senator and Secretary of State Daniel Webster, James K. Polk, our
tenth President, General Winfield Scott, one of America's most brilliant
military commanders, the great novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick
Douglas and Harriet Tubman, former slaves and President Abraham Lincoln,
our iconic sixteenth President."
Each one were driven by what Turner calls "intense political idealism,
morality and religious belief."
What were the great contributions of these patriots to the "Fragile
Experiment" inspired by the Declaration of Independence and the
John Marshall was named Chief Justice by President John Adams in 1801
and served 34 years. He swore in his cousin and political foe, Thomas
Jefferson, as the third President. He established the Supreme Court as
the sole interpreter of the Constitution, which could rule acts of
Congress unconstitutional. In effect, he established the judiciary as
the third branch of government.
John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, a Founding Father who urged his
son to possess "the great virtue of temperance, justice, magnanimity,
honor and generosity." When his father was named an emissary to France
during the Revolution, John Quincy joined him, learned French and was a
favorite of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson who negotiated
He was the U.S. emissary to Russia and was named Secretary of State in
1821, where he persuaded President Monroe to issue the "Monroe Doctrine"
which announced that North and South America are "free and independent"
and are "henceforth not to be considered as subject for future
colonization by any European power." He read through the entire Bible
Andrew Jackson made his national reputation by defeating British troops,
who outnumbered Americans by 2-1 in New Orleans in the War of 1812. Had
he been defeated, America would have lost the entire Louisiana
Before he was orphaned at age 13, his mother instilled in him the
importance of honesty, self-control, the need for friendship and of
believing in himself. He read three chapters of the Bible nightly. When
elected President in 1828, he was the first "man of the people." His
predecessors were educated landed aristocrats. His election "reinforced
the belief that all men, regardless of station in life, could aspire to
greater things," even being President.
Daniel Webster was a spell-binding orator with a magnificent voice, who
closed one Senate speech against South Carolina's threat to nullify
federal legislation by saying, "Liberty and union, now and forever, one
and inseparable." He bought some slaves to set them free. He translated
the entire New Testament from its original Greek.
Webster negotiated a compromise that admitted California as a free state
and allowed New Mexico and Utah to decide the slavery issue but
strengthened the Fugitive Slave Law, making it easier for the South to
gain return of escaped slaves. In doing so, he angered his constituents
and lost the opportunity to be President.
James Polk is considered one of the ten best Presidents because he
extended America's borders to the Pacific, enlarging the nation by
nearly 40%. How? By defeating Mexico in a war, making the Rio Grande the
border, and purchasing California and New Mexico for $15 million. He
also finalized U.S. control over the Oregon Territory that had been
claimed by the British.
General Winfield Scott captured Mexico City in 1847. He defeated a
British-Canadian force in the War of 1812. Equally important, he made
the U.S. Army a professional fighting force. He also led U.S. troops who
forced the Cherokee Indians to move from Florida to west of the
Mississippi, in the "Trail of Tears." Finally, in his 80s, Scott advised
Lincoln how to defeat the South.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin that had a transformative
impact on America. She depicted the horrors of slavery so powerfully,
the book sold two million copies and ended America's seeming
indifference to slavery. Former slaves Frederick Douglas and Harriet
Tubman were powerful speakers who won Northern hearts.
However, it was the Civil War, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and
the 13th Amendment that ended slavery. As Lincoln put it, "This nation
under God shall have a new birth of freedom and shall not perish from
Why don't we have leaders like these?
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
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