Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Mon, July 22

Letter: Presidents Day


Presidents Day in Arizona means celebrating two of America's most revered presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These heroes struggled with issues, which still affect us today; specifically, the ongoing tension between our personal liberties and the power of our federal government.

In 1787, General Washington presided over the convention of state delegates, which drafted our Constitution and designed a new federal government for the United States. Wealthy, educated "federalists" like Hamilton, Franklin and Washington envisioned a powerful, centralized government with a tax system and a national bank.

"Antifederalists" opposed this vision. In order to appease antifederalists, the new Constitution was amended (1791), with the Bill of Rights. It identifies specific individual Rights for People and prohibitions on governmental power.

Seventy years later, Lincoln was elected president. Immediately, seven states seeking to expand human slavery, seceded from the Union. Their premise: People's Rights excludes slaves. Upon the opening of Congress in July 1861, Lincoln verbalized our dilemma, "Must a government, of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?"

Throughout the Civil War, Lincoln struggled with which limits on liberties were necessary to maintain the Union; for without the Union he reasoned, our precious Constitution would be meaningless. In 1863, Lincoln issued an executive proclamation freeing slaves in "rebellious states." In 1865, the thirteenth amendment finally abolished slavery, effectively awarding Rights to all American People.

Our struggle to reconcile our individual Rights with our need for efficient government continues today. How much power should our government wield? The debate continues. In Lincoln's opinion, "The legitimate object of government is to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves."

Peter Nelson

Yavapai County


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