Hello Misfit Nation! Welcome to another edition of "Lessons for Hannah!" Many years ago, I introduced a new format that alongside our regular episodes called “Lessons for Hannah.” Hannah is my daughter and one of the main inspirations for the Misfit Entrepreneur. I wanted to have a place where she could go and learn from her daddy and his Misfit friends throughout her life….even after I am gone. If you haven’t listened to the first episode of "Lessons for Hannah," I urge you to as it gives some more background and tells the amazing story of how Hannah came to be in our lives.
Lessons for Hannah are short, very useful, and sometimes comical lessons, that I want to share with you and give to Hannah to help in your lives. Because I want Hannah to have these for her life, I’m going to speak as though I am talking directly to her. These episodes are a lot of fun and if you think there is a lesson that we should include in these episodes, please don’t hesitate to send it over to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to share it.
This Weeks' Lesson for Hannah
Hannah, Hannah, this lesson is a little more academic, but very important. I want to talk to you about your rights as a citizen of the United States. Most people will never read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution Including the Bill of Rights during their life – or at least only read some of it.
I believe that everyone should study these documents throughout their lives. I know, I know. They were written by people 200+ years ago, so how could they make sense today, right? Well, if you study history, especially that of the human species, you’d find that there are some things that don’t really change about us over time. Things like craving power and control or dominating over others never really change. And neither do things like wanting the best for yourself and your family or striving to better your life. And don’t forget the urge to be free. These tendencies and many more have been around since beginning of man. And through time they have suppressed or taken away by kings, tyrants, dictators, and warlords to name a few. The last century alone saw this in Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, Polpot, and countless others and it goes on around the world today.
The genius of the founders is that they knew the tendencies of mankind and they knew that needed to create a way to put a “check” on them so that future generations could truly have a chance to prosper and reach their full potential.
That is what they did with the Declaration, Constitution and Bill of Rights.
First and foremost, the Declaration of Independence may be the best “break up letter” of all time. It starts out by stating When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. Basically, this says that it is necessary for them to break up with England and to provide for themselves in the way God intended with the rights that are God given. But, out of respect they should state the reasons why they are breaking up.
It then goes on to say what the founders believe should be evident to everyone and that is that “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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The 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. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
The founders were saying that we have the right from God to life, liberty (freedom), and to pursue our happiness and that governments should secure these rights for the citizens to do so. But, when the government doesn’t secure these rights and the becomes destructive or outright hostile to them, then the people have the ability to change or get rid of the government so as to put one in that does. But, they go on to say that this should not be done lightly and if possible, it is better to suffer through things than to go this route. And they end with stating that there comes a point where suffering can no longer be tolerated, and it is time to end the King’s rule. They then go in the rest of the document to list all of the things the King has done to them to cause this happen.
Now fast forward a decade or so and the colonies have won the war of Independence and have tried one way of governing that didn’t work, so they have come together to create the United States and form a constitution for governing. The Constitution is an amazing document in that in just a short few pages, it lays out everything needed to govern our country. Contrast that with congress nowadays who passes most bills that are in the thousands of pages. The Constitution is the “check” on the tendencies of mankind that I mentioned before and may be the greatest one ever. But, even when they were done with it, the founders felt it didn’t have everything it needed, so they came up with the first set of amendments to the constitution just to make sure. Remember, they had just fought for independence and were very wary of giving government any major power at all. They were smart.
They created the first 10 Amendments which are as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This one, most have heard and allows for freedom of religion and the press as well as the t people peaceable assemble and petition the govern for changes based on the grievances they have with it. It does not mean burning down cities, looting and beating other people in the streets, or cancelling someone because you don’t like what they say or stand for or aren’t getting your way.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
This gives the right for people to own guns and be armed and states that it shall not infringed which means it shall not be tampered with any way. You’ll notice this amendment is the only place that word is used. Another thing that is important to note that in all the instances where dictators took over and/or took control of society in the past century, they did everything they could to abolish the ability for the citizens to own guns in their countries. All of those dictators and tyrants I mentioned earlier did this on their way to slaughtering their citizens by the millions. It is another check on the tendency of mankind.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This is an interesting one today because we don’t put soldiers in homes, but there is debate on what is considered a soldier in today’s world. If the government is watching you in your home through your internet searches or phones calls and is using the military to do so, aren’t they essentially camped in your home? I think this debate will rage on.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This goes with the last one in that the government is not allowed to “Search” without probably cause with a warrant that defines what they are searching for and why. Again, there is major debate about the government’s ability to search what you are doing through your devices and a host of other mediums without a warrant – especially under the Patriot Act. There are cases in court all the time around this.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
This states that someone cannot be tried again for the same crime if found not guilty of it. Additionally, it states that you cannot be compelled to incriminate yourself. This what is happening when you hear someone say they won’t answer and “plead the 5th.” It also states that any property taken by the government or law enforcement can only be done with giving just compensation. There are a lot of lawsuits that happen around that every year.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
This amendment states that you have a right to trial when accused of a crime and that shall be with an impartial court and jury as well as give you the right to confront those accusing you. This is critical to having a solid justice system.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
This just sets the value for going to court in common law cases and having a jury.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
This makes sure that the courts can’t hold you by imposing a bail sum so high no one could pay it. It also doesn’t allow excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishment. A lot of lawsuits are files around this on each year as well.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This is a big one as it states that the just because they aren’t in the constitution, there are other rights that people have, and they are retained by them.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The 10th amendment is very important in that it basically says that the powers not stated in the constitution to the Federal Government or prohibited from the states, are given to the states, effectively the people because they make up the states. In other words, the Federal Government can only have the powers in these documents and the states have the all the rest.
That was the point of the US. To keep the Federal Government small and let the states govern themselves the way their people wanted to govern. The states were little laboratories of Democracy and Republicanism and if a state did something their citizens didn’t like, they could change or move to another state doing the things they liked. It was never intended to have an overarching Federal Government in control of the states and in some ways instituted in some aspect or another of people’s every day lives.
Along the way, the US drifted from it and that is conversation for another day. But knowing your Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights will help you clearly see where they are being violated and where you can help to get thing back on track as a citizen. The United States became the greatest country ever created because of these simple documents and principles and the more we understand them, even in our world today so many years later, the better our country will be and continue to be the greatest place for everyone on earth to come and pursue their happiness.
Hannah, I hope you read these documents and reflect on them often as you go through life to uphold them and teach them to others.
I love you,
Best Quote: The genius of the founders is that they knew the tendencies of mankind and they knew that needed to create a way to put a “check” on them so that future generations could truly have a chance to prosper and reach their full potential.
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