Wednesday, August 13, 2008

American Vignettes: Portrait of an Idea

Long before we had politicians, lobbyists, conglomerates and special interest groups dictating the unwill of the people, America, that is the United States of America, had statesmen, citizen soldiers, and the average, everyday former colonist who directed the path of a new idea; a new way to govern. Lincoln called it a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." The idea still lives but is clouded by politics, special projects and everything else that has little do with running a country. The system isn't broken and the ideals aren't dead - they're just mired in greed, paranoia, selfishness and hubris.

The early Americans, also known as the Founding Fathers, took from their experiences and wisdom to forge a country where everyone from the largest land owner to the smallest potato farmer had equal say in how the new government would/should manifest itself. Their ideas instilled prominence in a Creator but not at the expense of fear and intimidation.

360 Degrees, with the ideas that made America free, presents American Vignettes - a continuing series of articles that offer a new way of looking at this country, from the old ideals and the people made notable by them.

While some may disagree as to whether America was and currently is truly free, keep in mind the thought of the period. Moreover, read and understand the historical documents that gave the motivation and the incentive to be free. While in practice not all goals of freedom were reached in the last 200 years, however it is the idea in the writings that carry the most weight and ultimately serve as the instruments of change.

These vignettes will eventually be made available on audio for free download.

Ben's Failure

Ben Franklin's plan failed. For perhaps the first time in his life, Franklin experienced an embarrassing public failure.

Representatives from seven of England's American colonies gathered in Albany, New York, in 1754. These delegates, however brought with them more apathy than enthusiasm. The British government ordered these American colonists to meet. It was not their choice. The crown wanted them to unite against their common enemies and support the king's effort to win the war. The French and Indian War, known as the Seven Years' War in Europe, was the focal point of their discussions.

The Albany Congress was a one-time colonial version of the United Nations. The delegates thought of themselves as separate royal kingdoms. Although they all saluted the same king, their custom charters and constitutions made them as distinct as Spain was from Denmark. The customs, manners and modes of commerce gave them individuality. When the Albany Congress considered Franklin's Plan of Union, they saw little need to create a more united government among them. They were happy with the staus quo.

"IT IS proposed, that humble application be made for an act of Parliament of Great Britian, by virtue of which one general government may be formed in America," Franklin's plan began.

The plan was a simple as Franklin's tableware, despite his prospering printing press and other businesses. Each colony would retain its individual constitution. The crown would choose a president-general, and the people would choose representatives for a grand council.

Franklin's plan was also quite Franklin - thriftiness and industry filled its pages. Representatives to the grand council would be allowed some wages "lest the expense might deter some suitable persons from the service." But the representatives would not earn "too great wages, lest unsuitable persons should be tempted to cabal for the employment, for the sake of gain."

Almost no one in either the colonies or England wanted to implement the plan. The Plan of Union was about as appealing as Dr. Franklin's urinary catheter invention.

Franklin decided the plan failed in the colonies because "there was too much prerogative in it." People were not ready to consider priviledges and choices in a confederation of colonies. Franklin believed the plan failed in England becuase "it was thought to have too much of the democratic."

The plan may have failed, but failure often produces future success. The Plan of Union presented in Albany planted a seed in the mind of these disconnected colonies. It made them wonder what would happen if they formed a common government. They would one day reap the harvest of Benjamin Franklin's failure.


No comments: