Wednesday, November 17, 2010
FYI, if you are doing gardens (and you all should) now is the time to plant winter rye grass in your garden for green manuring in the spring (turning the grass upside down and letting it decompose). Also, if you want an early bean crop, it's time to plant broad beans (horse beans). They will over winter and pop up first thing this spring- they don't climb so don't worry about trellises- just plant them out 2-3 inches apart in offset rows.
Now is also the time to turn your compost pile- keep it moist this winter and let the worms do their thing. It will be ready this spring.
I'm strongly considering raising rabbits for food. I want to build an all-metal cage (for durability and for odor control). Does anyone here raise rabbits? Do you compost their urine (absorbed by hay)? Does that put too much ammonia into the compost? Help please.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Seven hundred years before the birth of the Christ, a man named Hezekiah ascended to the throne in Jerusalem. Looking around, Hezekiah saw a nation divided and in spiritual decay. Bold action was needed to set the nation back on track.
Though we may not be kings with the power to lead our country off of a path of destruction, I believe that there are several valuable lessons that can be taken from the experiences of Hezekiah and applied to the life of a Christian prepper. When we look around, we see a nation on the brink of disaster, just like Hezekiah. The question is, what will we do about it? Here are nine things that Hezekiah did:
1. Hezekiah put God back at the center of worship. (2 Chronicles 29:3-19)
Before we launch into our preps, we must be sure that Christ is at the center of our lives. Without his help, any plans we design on our own are destined to fall short or fail all together. Just like Hezekiah worked to put God back into the center of his nation, we must examine our lives and be sure that God is at the center of all we do.
2. Hezekiah restored the tithe. (2 Chronicles 31:4)
When our eyes are first opened to the dangers that are routinely discussed here on Survivalblog, it is tempting to give up on the tithe and use that money to lay up more preps. However, it’s important to remember that the tithe is a form of worship that keeps us from putting ourselves at the center of our lives. That position belongs to God. Giving 10% back to God is a way of acknowledging that all we have is His and thanking Him for intrusting us with it as a steward. While I can’t explain how, I can only say that I live better on the 90% after the tithe than I have ever lived on the 100% without the tithe. In 2 Chronicles 31:20 we see this spiritual principle play out in Hezekiah’s life. “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.” (NKJV)
3. Hezekiah identified the threats to his nation and made preparations accordingly. (2 Chronicles 32:1-6)
When Hezekiah surveyed his kingdom, he saw Sennacherib, king of Assyria, preparing for war. Just as Hezekiah identified the Assyrian king as a threat to his people, so too we must identify the hazards that threaten our families. Financial collapse, job loss, hurricane, flood… some threats are held in common by all Americans while others are specific to certain regions. Identify the threats and make preparations in accordance with their probability and severity.
As an emergency management student and a member of the National Guard who has responded to Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf, tornados in Tennessee, and deployed to Iraq twice, I know how fragile the thin veneer of civilization is. Our nation is dependant on many things but I’d put cheap oil and the steady flow of electricity at the top of that list. If one of these two things falter, our way of life will change dramatically. As has been clearly articulated many times before on this site, the systems that ensure the distribution of cheap oil and reliable electricity are vulnerable. Therefore, it only makes sense that we prepare for life without them.
4. Hezekiah sought the counsel of wise individuals. (2 Chronicles 32:3)
We weren’t designed to live this life alone. Find godly people that you can trust and seek their counsel. Proverbs 15:22 is one of my favorite verses on this matter. “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” (NKJV)
5. Hezekiah made preparations for hard times. (2 Chronicles 32:4-6)
In his preparations against Sennacherib, Hezekiah repaired the walls around Jerusalem, built weapons, organized the civilian population under military leadership, and redirected springs to flow inside the walls of Jerusalem. In fact, you can still wade through the water in Hezekiah’s tunnel to this day. The preparations that you choose to make will rely heavily on the threats that you identify. Having said that, food, water, and the means to defend your family make sense in just about any disaster mitigation plan.
6. Hezekiah trusted in the Lord in spite of the danger that faced him. He didn’t let fear paralyze him. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8)
In Hezekiah’s day, the nation of Israel was divided. Hezekiah ruled a small portion of it called Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. The rest of the nation had long since fallen into spiritual decay and had been dragged into captivity by invading armies. By all rights, Hezekiah could have given into the fear that the same fate would find him and his people. Instead, Hezekiah called on the people to be “strong and courageous” and to not be afraid. (2 Chronicles 32:7 NKJV).
The shadow of economic collapse hangs heavy over America. We cannot allow ourselves to get lost in fear. Fear paralyzes and robs us of the strength and presence of mind needed for prudent action. We must be strong and courageous for the sake of our family, friends, and community. The majority of our nation is living in denial. They need us to stand up and lead like Hezekiah. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) If you’re living in fear, you didn’t get that from your Father in heaven.
7. Hezekiah prayed. (2 Chronicles 32:20)
Hezekiah prayed for help. We too must pray for God’s help. I pray that our nation would be spared the collapse that we see on the horizon. If it can’t be stopped, I pray for more time to prepare. I pray that God would help me to open the eyes of my friends and family members. I pray that God would help me to find trustworthy people to work with in my preparations. When Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed, God sent an angel that struck down the leaders of Sennacherib’s army. Sennacherib fled and was later struck down by one of his sons while in worship in the temple of his god.
8. Hezekiah let pride set in. (2 Chronicles 32:22-25)
The Bible is great at reminding us that no man is perfect. After the victory over Assyria, Hezekiah’s stature grew. For a while, Hezekiah lost sight of the fact that it was God that had pulled them through when Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem. Once all our preps are laid in and we build up our skills, it’s easy to trust in those preps instead of God. When you feel you are ready for the worst, remember that God is still the only one that can pull you through. Trust in Him and not your preps.
9. Hezekiah failed to practice good OPSEC and it cost his nation dearly. (2 Kings 20:1-6, 12-18)
Hezekiah failed to point to God as the true source of the nation’s victory. So, in the face of Hezekiah’s pride, God allowed sickness to bring Hezekiah low. In fact, the prophet Isaiah even came to Hezekiah and told him to prepare for death. At this news Hezekiah wept bitterly and prayed. God heard this prayer and healed him. The news of this miraculous recovery went far and wide. Several nations sent envoys with gifts to Hezekiah. One of these nations was Babylon. Hezekiah hid nothing from the Babylonian envoys. He showed them his treasury and armory.
Revealing your preps to the wrong people can put you and your family at risk. Many years after Hezekiah’s death, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, laid siege to Jerusalem. He stripped the city of everything valuable and carried the people off into captivity. This wasn’t a coincidence. Isaiah the prophet had confronted Hezekiah about his OPSEC breach shortly after the Babylonians left. He told Hezekiah that the Babylonians would carry off everything that they had stored up.
The story of Hezekiah is a story of a God fearing man preparing for disaster. If it teaches us anything, it’s that making preparations for disaster is not a failure to trust in the Lord’s ability to provide. He has given us the wisdom to see the world as it is and to take action accordingly. May we all take the threats seriously and store up a little extra for those who don’t.
God bless this community and may God lift up more leaders who can see the threats and take action against them.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
My thoughts on barter and trade
Never show more than necessary for a given trade.
Never let on like you have more.
Only trade alcohol, weapons, and ammunition to those you know will not be a problem for you later.
Try to barter skills and knowledge rather than goods. They don’t run out.
Try to make trades in neutral areas or a designated barter/trade meeting. Make sure you aren’t followed back home.
Some of what I'm acquiring for barter (No, I don’t have all of these items. Yet.)
Scales to get agreed upon weights of items
commercial scale (±500#)
commercial scale (±100#)
commercial scale (±10#)
commercial scale (±16oz)
1.0 oz gold coins
0.1 oz gold coins
40 count rolls silver quarters
50 count rolls silver dimes
blank barter slips
200ml bottles 190 proof Everclear
2 oz boxes tobacco
booklets cigarette papers
small boxes matches
butane lighter fuel
Zippo lighter fuel
straight razors w/strop, soap, & cup
candle/oil lamp wick
Coleman lantern mantles
2 oz jars instant coffee
16 count boxes teabags
2 oz jars bouillon cubes
tubs add-water-only drink mix
1 pound boxes sugar
2 oz boxes salt
2 oz cans pepper
5 oz cans milk
4 oz cans cocoa
2 oz bars chocolate candy
8 oz bags hard candy (individually wrapped)
4 oz cans Vienna sausage/potted meat
12 oz cans roast beef
7 oz cans Spam (or 12oz)(or Treet)
6 oz cans tuna
10 oz cans soup (heavy on the meat types)
16 oz bags rice
16 oz bags beans/lentils
aspirin pain killer
acetaminophen pain killer
OTC reading glasses
OTC UVA/UVB resistant sunglasses
Cheap wide-brimmed straw hats
small boxes tampons/sanitary napkins
reusable sanitary napkins
reusable cotton diapers
wooden pencils/ink pens
small note books
50 count bottles water purification tablets
boxes strike anywhere kitchen matches
rolls toilet paper
bars soap (Ivory, Lava, Fels Naptha laundry soap)
boxes baking soda
packets safety pins
packets of sewing needles
spools of thread
cotton/leather work gloves
tubes silicone sealant
tubes Shoe Goo/Goop
tubes JB Weld
divided buckets with a variety of nails, screws, bolts, nuts, and washers
sealed cans of welding rods (6011 and/or 7018 1/8”)
variety of brazing rods
cans of brazing flux
regular canning lids
wide mouth canning lids
P-38/P-51 can openers
1-b propane cylinders
10-lb bags charcoal briquettes
solar 12-volt battery chargers
solar AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt battery charger
rechargeable batteries 20 each AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt
#10 cans heirloom seeds
500-round bricks .22 LR RF cartridges
5-round boxes .410/20 GA shells
single units M6 Scout/Savage 24F/Remington SPR-94 O/U .22 RF/.410 or 20 gauge combos
Here are some examples of Tradesman’s Tools that could be stockpiled and either used and the product/service bartered, or their USE bartered out. One wouldn’t barter away the tools that bring in the food. (Again, I don’t have all the items or skills.)
Sewing basket (needles, thimbles, thread, measuring tape,
seam ripper, scissors, shears, marking chalk, straight edge, pins,
neck magnifying glass, etc.)
bolts of cloth, patterns, spare needles, pins, chalk, thread, buttons,
zippers, snaps, etc)
Treadle type sewing machine (Janome 712T)
>1,000 watt generator
Food processing tools
Grain grinders, solar dehydrators, butchering tools, manual meat slicer, manual meat grinder, sausage stuffer, stuffing tubes, jerky shooter, water purifier
scissors, combs, hair brushes, dusting brush, broom, dust pan, chair,
neck apron, razor, shaving cup, shaving soap, towels
ammunition reloader’s tools
Dillion progressive tool w/primary caliber dies
RCBS press with common caliber dies
Bullet casting equipment
black powder making tools & screens
Staber washing machine
clothes lines w/poles, stakes & clothes pins
water heater (kettle w/tripod)
12v pump & battery
James washer w/wringer
>1,000 watt generator
DVD disk player
VHS tape player
Karaoke machine w/cd-g’s
>1,500 watt generator
Battery bank, solar panels, and inverter
protective bullet resistant face for TV’s if used
Classic books for storyteller to read
home canning equipment & supplies
firewood cutting tools
knife/edged tool sharpening tools
printer’s/newspaper publisher’s tools
butcher/meat cutter’s tools
meat processors tools (sausage, etc.)
milk processors tools (cheese, etc.)
baker’s tools & supplies
bath house/shower room tools
candle maker’s tools & supplies
machinist’s tools - Smithy Granite 1340 Industrial Max metalworking all-in-one machine
woodworker’s tools - Shopsmith Mark V woodworking all-in-one machine
blacksmith’s tools - Oxygen accumulator, acetylene generator
lumber making tools - portable sawmill
primitive building tools
cobbler/shoe maker’s tools
soap maker’s tools
brewer/wine maker’s tools
spinner & weaver’s tools (looms)
teaching tools and supplies K-12
smelter/foundry/metal worker’s tools
sheep sheering tools
rope, cordage, and net making tools
farm tools (prepare, sow, cultivate, harvest)
biodiesel equipment & supplies
wood gas generator equipment & supplies
charcoal making tools
black powder making tools
paper making tools
reference/do-it-yourself library (books/magazines/CD-ROMs/DVDs)(never let the media out of your control)
Here are the skill sets I think most likely to be needed. (I only have a few of them myself)
Alternative energy specialist
Bathhouse/shower room operator
Cooper (barrel maker)
Distiller, drinking alcohol
Distiller, fuel alcohol
Gatherer (wild plants, useful rocks and minerals)
Heavy equipment operator
Laundress/laundry room operator
Optician (eyeglass maker)
Pest control specialist
Primitive building specialist
Skill At Arms instructor
Small engine mechanic
Tool & die maker
Wood gas equipment maker
A few skills that won’t be in high demand, but would be a good secondary skill
Toy & game maker
Jerry D Young
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I recently purchased three 20lb tanks (the size that typically go under a gas grill) from a garage sale and on craigslist. The three tanks were old and rusty. I paid a total of $13 for all three. This morning I exchanged all three at Lowes for $50 (with my 10% military discount) and got some very nice full Blue Rhino tanks. These full tanks retail (without an exchange) for over $50 each! So for you non mathematicians, that's $150 worth of propane for $63! better than 1/2 price off.
Now that you have tanks in servicable conditon (no rust or old valves) you can get them refilled when needed for even less. Tanks at garage sales are a bargain!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Excerpt from NIA –(full article http://inflation.us/artificialeconomy.html)
Buy: food, guns, ammo, farmland, silver, hand tools
Sell: 401k (take a loan), bonds, CDs, dollar-based savings accounts
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
hypocritical excuse from the gun control crowd?
This emotional, but vacuous argument has no basis
Because firearms are used daily to prevent
crimes – everything from murder to rape and
assault. According to criminologist Gary Kleck,
firearms are used defensively 2.5 million times
each year. Other estimates vary, but even gun
control advocates such as Philip Cook, who claim
Kleck’s number is inflated, estimate that “only”
80,000 to 82,000 defensive occur each year.
ONLY 80,000 to 82,000.
By contrast, in 2001, a total 29,573
firearms fatalities occurred in people of
all ages, according to the CDC. This
number includes defensive gun uses,
suicides, criminals shooting criminals
during the commission of a crime
You do the math!
-Written by Nicki Fellenzer, Published in Concealed Carry Magazine, July 2004
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Also of note, this weekend I was able to go shooting on some private land. I was able to do some good drills that are generally prohibted at most shooting ranges. Rifle shooting while running, transitioning to pistol, shotgunning at distance, putting inert rounds in firearms to simulate malfunctions... I got the Advance Kalashnikov training video from Suarez Internation and was able to run many of those drills.
Finished up by shooting some skeet. Overall very fun day. My .22 is so accurate it amazes me. I can consistantly get 1" groups at 100 yards. Also, I removed the scope off of my AK. It shoots much better without it-faster acquisition, lighter, and it is also very accurate with a cold barrel- once it warms up the grouping spreads.
I've also decided that I want to get an AirSoft gun to practice with.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Take care. Thanks for the positive comments
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
On another note my preparedness paid off b/c I got stuck in the mud on the drive down here in Mississippi (making a U-turn) and the 20ft chain in my tool box came in real handy. A fellow Dodge owner gave me a tug- said he'd better do it before a Chevy or a Ford came along!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I pulled out my AK last night and was doing some dry firing and practicing with the sling- transitioning to pistol. My wonderful wife says that I'm crazy.
I've also been reading the NATO War Emergency Surgery guide. It took me a little while, but I found it online for free. (Amazon wants to charge an arm and a leg for this.) Download it now and print it out. It gives some pretty intersting advice and a bunch of info on ballistics on various rounds and the damage it does on the human body. It has given me new perspective on the rounds that I plan to use and that I've purchased.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Hey- long time no write. I’ve been busy and on vacation and, frankly, uninspired to write anything.
I got a chainsaw. Went to a gunshow. Went camping, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading.
I listened to the Fountain Head, by Ayn Rand on audio tape. Very good. I recommend it to all.
Also, finished up Liberty and Tyranny, by Mark Levin. Very good read for anyone. Especially conservatives- there is a conservative manifesto at the back which basically spells out all of our beliefs on nearly every major topic. (At least my beliefs…)
I was on Foxnews.com the other day and saw this small drainage tunnel that was converted to a living space. I thought there might be some application for those considering a makeshift bomb-shelter/hidey hole. You could attach different connectors (Like a 4 way) and have different rooms. Not sure about the cost of these- but I think it could be waterproof, fire proof, concealable, expandable, offer some level of ballistic protection. Challenges would be logistics, making it water-tight on the doors, making the portals, wiring, leveling, and convincing anyone to live in it…
Anyways, my garden is doing well. I’ve learned a lot this first year. I’m already planning what I’ll do next spring. I’ve learned that lettuce isn’t that good of a plant for nutrition and unless you can chill it for a few days, it tastes gross. I’m going to do more tomatoes and potatoes. Plant some corn. Do more greenbeans and squash. Forget strawberries. Forget kale, greens… and others.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Few rants here- not necessarily related to prepping, but here goes.
First, Austin TX is boycotting Arizona due to the immigrant law. This hits home with me as my brother in law lost a contract with the city over their boycott. I’ve read the law (it’s only a few pages) and found nothing wrong. I am boycotting Austin- not sure yet what it actually produces, but I’m definitely not going there on vacation. I’m dis
Second, the Gulf oil fiasco. Politicians and the media are using this event as a reason to INCREASE government regulation, forgetting that it was government regulation in the first place that led to the accident. Government regulations forced BP to drill in the gulf. Do you really think that drilling for oil 1 mile deep in the gulf was their first choice? No, oil companies are no longer allowed to drill on soil, so they had to move off shore. How much easier do you think it would have been to drill on solid ground and not have an accident- and if you did how much easier would it be to clean it up? Less regulation is the answer to prevent future spills- let the oil companies drill on land!
Lastly, every day I read the news I become more distraught with the state of the union. I feel that the government and people have radically departed from the original intents of the founding fathers. I remember when I was in police academy in Arizona that I was warned about radical groups that carry around copies of the constitution. Well, guess what I have in my back pocket as I write this… am I now a radical? I don’t feel like one. I want to follow the law, it’s the government that doesn’t.
"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days
is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence."
--Charles Austin Beard (1874-1948)
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I've already eaten some lettuce and green beans. I have a lesson to share- lettuce must be chilled 2 days in the fridge before eating or it will be very bitter. This is something to keep in mind if you have no way to chill the leaves.
On a side note, I'm considering raising rabbits and placing the rabbit hutch over the compost bin so as to ease the clean up of the poo and pee. It would be removable, so I could put it over the new bin when the current one fills up. I'm thinking I need 3 cages. 1 for the buck, 1 for the doe and 1 for the off spring waiting to be processed. There's a bunch of info on the web about this, I just need to read a little more. Also, not sure how the family would react to eating bunnies.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Just thought I’d pass along this valuable resource for those interested in self sustainment and small farming.
The Humanity Development Library has thousands of articles on everything from training animals to building wells to perserving food to how to make tools. It’s part of a larger New Zealand Digital Library that has many more thousands of articles that may be of interest to you.
All the articles are free, require no registration. I will be downloading many of the articles for my “off-line” internet library and thought many of my readers would enjoy the link.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
The American and British officers of the revolutionary war wore these gorgets, including George Washington. The South Carolina regiments wore the gorget with the inscription “Liberty” or in some cases like Lieutenant Alexander Hume’s of the Second South Carolina Regiment. the face of his was ornamented with the liberty pole, crossed flags and the arms of war above the regiment's motto: "Libertas.Portior.Vita," or "liberty is more important than life".
The crescent you see on the SC flag is a gorget, not a crescent moon. The palmetto tree is to remember how effective the palmetto was in Colonel Moultrie's defense of Sullivan's Island against an attack by British warships in June, 1776. (That's right, the war started well before we declared our independance on the 4th of July). Cannonballs fired at the fort from the British ships could not destroy the walls of the fort which were built of Palmetto logs. Instead, the cannonballs simply sank into the soft, tough Palmetto wood.
Here's a period bread oven. There is a small vent at the top of the arch in the middle. The door is steel with a handle. Lots of baking room inside. seems like it might have been hard to get a good draft for the fire, but by the looks of the smoke exiting the door I'm not sure how effective the chimney vent is.
During my trip I was able to check out the dwellings of colonial-era people and gain a deeper appreciation of what they went through and how much labor was required for their existence. My co-worker pondered, “Were they happier back then? Despite the harder physical life?” I think he concluded that they were.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
The thirteen colonies and three and one-half million Americans who had won independence from the British crown a few years earlier were badly divided on many fundamental issues. Some thought the colonies should reaffiliate with the British crown. Among the majority who favored continued independence, the most divisive issue was whether the United States should have a strong central government to replace the weak “league of friendship” established by the Articles of Confederation. Under the Confederation of 1781, there was no executive or judicial authority, and the national Congress had no power to tax or to regulate commerce. The thirteen states retained all their sovereignty, and the national government could do nothing without their approval. The Articles of Confederation could not be amended without the unanimous approval of all the states, and every effort to strengthen this loose confederation had failed.
Congress could not even protect itself. In July 1783, an armed mob of former Revolutionary War soldiers seeking back wages threatened to take Congress hostage at its meeting in Philadelphia. When Pennsylvania declined to provide militia to protect them, the congressmen fled. Thereafter Congress was a laughingstock, wandering from city to city.
Unless America could adopt a central government with sufficient authority to function as a nation, the thirteen states would remain a group of insignificant, feuding little nations united by nothing more than geography and forever vulnerable to the impositions of aggressive foreign powers. No wonder the first purpose stated in the preamble of the new United States Constitution was “to form a more perfect union.”
The Constitution had its origin in a resolution by which the relatively powerless Congress called delegates to a convention to discuss amendments to the Articles of Confederation. This convention was promoted by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, two farsighted young statesmen still in their thirties, who favored a strong national government. They persuaded a reluctant George Washington to attend and then used his influence in a letter-writing campaign to encourage participation by all the states. The convention was held in Philadelphia, whose population of a little over 40,000 made it the largest city in the thirteen states.
As the delegates assembled, there were ominous signs of disunity. It was not until eleven days after the scheduled beginning of the convention that enough states were represented to form a quorum. New Hampshire’s delegation arrived more than two months late because the state had not provided them travel money. No delegates ever came from Rhode Island.
Economically and politically, the country was alarmingly weak. The states were in a paralyzing depression. Everyone was in debt. The national treasury was empty. Inflation was rampant. The various currencies were nearly worthless. The trade deficit was staggering. Rebelling against their inclusion in New York State, prominent citizens of Vermont had already entered into negotiations to rejoin the British crown. In the western territory, Kentucky leaders were speaking openly about turning from the union and forming alliances with the Old World.
Instead of reacting timidly because of disunity and weakness, the delegates boldly ignored the terms of their invitation to amend the Articles of Confederation and instead set out to write an entirely new constitution. They were conscious of their place in history. For millennia the world’s people had been ruled by kings or tyrants. Now a group of colonies had won independence from a king and their representatives had the unique opportunity of establishing a constitutional government Abraham Lincoln would later describe as “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The delegates faced staggering obstacles. The leaders in the thirteen states were deeply divided on the extent to which the states would cede any power to a national government. If there was to be a strong central government, there were seemingly irresolvable differences on how to allocate the ingredients of national power between large and small states. As to the nature of the national executive, some wanted to copy the British parliamentary system. At least one delegate even favored the adoption of a monarchy. Divisions over slavery could well have prevented any agreement on other issues. There were 600,000 black slaves in the thirteen states, and slavery was essential in the view of some delegates and repulsive to many others.
Deeming secrecy essential to the success of their venture, the delegates spent over three months in secret sessions, faithfully observing their agreement that no one would speak outside the meeting room on the progress of their work. They were fearful that if their debates were reported to the people before the entire document was ready for submission, the opposition would unite to kill the effort before it was born. This type of proceeding would obviously be impossible today. There is irony in the fact that a constitution which protects the people’s “right to know” was written under a set of ground rules that its present beneficiaries would not tolerate.
It took the delegates seven weeks of debate to resolve the question of how the large and small states would be represented in the national congress. The Great Compromise provided a senate with equal representation for each state, and a lower house in which representation was apportioned according to the whole population of free persons in the state, plus three-fifths of the slaves. The vote on this pivotal issue was five states in favor and four against; other states did not vote, either because no delegates were present or because their delegation was divided. Upon that fragile base, the delegates went forward to consider other issues, including the nature of the executive and judicial branches, and whether the document should include a bill of rights.
The drafting of the Constitution was only the beginning. By its terms it would not go into effect until ratified by conventions in nine states. But if the nation was to be united and strong, the new Constitution had to be ratified by the key states of Virginia and New York, where the opposition was particularly strong. The extent of opposition coming out of the convention is suggested by the fact that of seventy-four appointed delegates, only fifty-five participated in the convention, and only thirty-nine of these signed the completed document.
It was nine months before nine states had ratified, and the last of the key states was not included until a month later, when the New York convention ratified by a vote of thirty to twenty-seven. To the “miracle of Philadelphia” one must therefore add “the miracle of ratification.”
Ratification probably could not have been secured without a commitment to add a written bill of rights. The first ten amendments, which included the Bill of Rights, were ratified a little over three years after the Constitution itself.
That the Constitution was ratified is largely attributable to the fact that the principal leaders in the states were willing to vote for a document that failed to embody every one of their preferences. For example, influential Thomas Jefferson, who was in Paris negotiating a treaty and therefore did not serve as a delegate, felt strongly that a bill of rights should have been included in the original Constitution. But Jefferson still supported the Constitution because he felt it was the best available. Benjamin Franklin stated that view in these words:
“When you assemble a number of men to have the advantage over their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does. … The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good.”
Those who enjoy the blessings of liberty under a divinely inspired constitution should promote morality, and they should practice what the Founding Fathers called “civic virtue.” In his address on the U.S. Constitution, Ezra Taft Benson [former secretary of the interior] quoted this important observation by John Adams, the second president of the United States:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Similarly, James Madison, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution,” stated his assumption that there had to be “sufficient virtue among men for self-government.” He argued in the Federalist Papers that “republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”
It is part of our civic duty to be moral in our conduct toward all people. There is no place in responsible citizenship for dishonesty or deceit or for willful law breaking of any kind. I believe with the author of Proverbs that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.) The personal righteousness of citizens will strengthen a nation more than the force of its arms.
Citizens should also be practitioners of civic virtue in their conduct toward government. They should be ever willing to fulfill the duties of citizenship. This includes compulsory duties like military service and the numerous voluntary actions they must take if they are to preserve the principle of limited government through citizen self-reliance. For example, since U.S. citizens value the right of trial by jury, they must be willing to serve on juries, even those involving unsavory subject matter. Citizens who favor morality cannot leave the enforcement of moral laws to jurors who oppose them.
The single word that best describes a fulfillment of the duties of civic virtue is patriotism. Citizens should be patriotic. My favorite prescription for patriotism is that of Adlai Stevenson:
“What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? … A patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
I close with a poetic prayer. It is familiar to everyone in the United States, because U.S. citizens sing it in one of their loveliest hymns. It expresses gratitude to God for liberty, and it voices a prayer that he will continue to bless them with the holy light of freedom:
Our fathers’ God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!
-Author Dallin H. Oaks, “The Divinely Inspired Constitution,” Ensign, Feb 1992, 68