Can the Youth of America be Trusted? Letter #3

Dear fellow American,

As I hope you know by now, I believe we Republicans should propose a constitutional amendment to revive family life and government, The Family First Amendment, FFA for short.

Here, again, is a draft of this amendment idea:

Family First Amendment [FFA]– Draft Only 

1.  No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of [fifty?] Years.  

2.  No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of [seventy?] Years.

 3.  No Person shall be eligible to the Office of President who shall not have attained to the Age of [sixty?] Years.

This amendment idea raises not only the ages of eligibility of our national elective offices but also raises questions, particularly about young leaders in our nation’s capital.  

Why should young adults be shut out entirely from elective office in Washington, D.C. as this amendment would do?  After all, the Founding Fathers – whom most of us trust and honor to this day – clearly trusted people at ages 25, 30, and 35 to hold national elective office.  

Were our Founding Fathers wise to trust young people or not?

Our founding fathers were wise about everything.  Youthful leaders were needed in their day – and are needed even more in our own.  Youth is not a limitation for effective leadership.  After all, Alexander Hamilton, one of the founders – at age 16 – ran an import-export firm, in a multi-lingual, multi-racial society in the Caribbean.

If young adults can lead, why should they be prevented from holding national elective office today?  Why should ages for eligibility be raised?

Please remember that the purpose of The Family First Amendment is to revive family government, specifically to help young parents know their work is a vital part of our governmental system.  Young adults must know they can build strong families and strong neighborhoods and communities and, in the process, make the USA a stronger nation.  The Family First Amendment is about building up young adults and showing them how they can succeed and contribute.  

In fact, family government is arguably the USA’S most important government and needs the most protection and attention – even publicity.  Young adults need to believe what at least history proves is fact.

Again, it’s necessary to repeat what Jeremy Belknap, from Boston and New Hampshire, a descendant from generations of a notable, leading New England family, said:

All commissions under the former authority [Great Britain] being annulled . . . town committees 

had a discretionary but undefined power to preserve domestic peace.  Habits of decency, family 

government, and the good examples of influential persons, contributed more to maintain order than 

any other authority.  The value of these secret bonds of society was now more than ever conspicuous.

Jeremy Belknap, The History of New Hampshire, 1784. [Emphasis added.]

Please notice that Jeremy Belknap, speaking of family government – the secret bonds of society – claims, most remarkably, that family government in his day not only was the most effective authority preventing disorder but also even created “habits of decency” and “good examples” from people.

In other words, family life can perform magic, perhaps even miracles on and around people.

Family life and government can take mere human beings, seen by many as brutes evolved from apes, and mold them, gently we hope, into beings who not only behave and act as good examples to other human beings, but who also demonstrate habits of decency towards others.  

Family life and government can lead not only to acts of decency at times but also to even habits of decency that happen not only on occasion but perhaps even every day.  

In other words, family life and government can create the most important government of all – self-government.  

Our formal governments in capital cities rely primarily on coercion to mold human behavior.  But family government, working in secret and working from within, can gently mold people and create these beings we call citizens, even good citizens.

Family government can be our first government and our most important government.  Formal governments only work well when the family has first done its job.

Fortunately, our Founding Fathers understood the family was the first and most important government.  It can even be said that the Founding Fathers put the family into the Constitution – if its Tenth Amendment is interpreted imaginatively:

Amendment X

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.  [Emphasis added.]

If we read between the lines of the Tenth Amendment, we the people do have the power to form family governments and order our lives around them.

Family government, however, has eroded and weakened over the 2 ½ centuries of our existence.  The Tenth Amendment is vague, and another amendment to the Constitution is needed to help family government revive and endure.

Furthermore, we must also remember that we are – united states – a group of state governments, now 50 in number, that have united in what could be called a mutual cooperation and improvement society.  

The Founding Fathers, each representing his home state, expected basic government to happen not only in family governments but also in state and local governments.  The Founding Fathers expected that basic government – matters of health, welfare, police action, education – would be done day-to-day in the family and in local and state elected levels of government.  

In other words, the Founding Fathers gave our formal government in Washington only a few powers, important powers to be sure – our common defense, foreign affairs, interstate commerce and a few other things – but still few powers, most power over life and liberty being left to families and local and state governments.  

Consequently, young adults have many levels of our government where they can serve – in our main informal government, the family, and in our main formal governments, our states and local governments.  Our best and most energetic leaders can be working where it matters most – close to people’s homes, helping family governments, their own or others, and helping local and state elected governments protect people and provide opportunities for their success in work and life.

In fact, besides family government, there are thousands, tens of thousands, of formal government offices – close to homes – open to young adults.  The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2012 that 89,004 state and local governments were operating across the USA.  If those 89,004 governments had an average of 5 elected or appointed offices each, the USA has nearly 500,000 public offices to fill.  These state and local offices – open to 25-, 30-, 35-year-olds – would, most importantly, be close to our informal governments in homes, neighborhoods, and communities, where most young adults want to be anyway.

In other words, young adults aren’t prohibited from the USA’s most important elective offices.  Young adults are trusted to do the most important work of our republic.  

Furthermore, in our modern world, with all the progress in science and health matters, people today can serve both in family and local governments when young and national elective office later in life.  After all, the average age of death now is about 79 for men, 81 for women, at least before this virus, giving time for young adults to work at many if not most levels of our many governments.

Remember, too, at the time of our Founding Fathers, life expectancy was only 38 years, for white males anyway, not that someone at age 38 was a senior citizen just that about 1/3 of children died before reaching adulthood, lowering life expectancy then.  

In our Founding Fathers’ day, human life was precarious, with more than mere viruses shortening life, and the people who did survive childhood had to grow up fast to survive longer.  Economists say that children by the age of 8, in those early days of our republic, were paying their way on their family farm or in its shop.  

The economy was simpler and more basic in those days.  After all, there was no electricity.  It was a mechanical world, life was not so complicated, and children could learn and help do important tasks.  There were few schools anyway.  Most people at an early age were out and about earning a living and getting an education in practical ways.

In other words, in those early days of our republic, people had many skills relative to their time.  At age 25, people knew a lot about the world they had inherited and were prepared to even hold a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Again, from the age of 8 most had been working hard and learning about the world and even its governments.  Alexander Hamilton could run an international business at age 16 because by then he was an “old hand” at many things.

Most importantly, in the early days of our republic, it was also an “all hands-on-deck” time.  

The USA then – with only 13 states – had a population of only about 4 million people.  Everyone – young and old – was needed.  No one then – young or old – during the Constitutional Convention or after – really knew how to create a republic.  There was no manual, “How to Build a Republic.”  Their only guide was the many failed republics from the past.  In 1789, when the Constitution was ratified, no one was sure if a republican form of government would work.    

Consequently, everyone – young and old – was needed to conduct this experiment in republican government.  The age of leadership was not particularly relevant, mentioned as an eligibility requirement in the Constitution, but not discussed much at the Constitutional Convention or in The Federalist Papers defending the Constitution.

In contrast, in today’s America, Americans need much more formal schooling and training to earn a living and navigate the world.  Electricity has transformed our world and the skills needed to live in it.  Children at age 8 can help – and should be assigned chores at least – but their economic contribution is now low.  People take much longer to learn about the world.

In sum, there is a lot of misunderstanding today about what the Founding Fathers wanted in the new republican form of government they created.  

In a nutshell, the Founding Fathers would not be pleased that so much attention today is paid to what’s happening in Washington, D.C.

What has caused this misunderstanding about our governmental systems?  Why is the formal government in Washington, D.C. seen by many as our most important government?  Why are mothers who work at home in family government called “stay-at-home moms,” as if they’re not doing much, as if they’re more like potted plants resting in the living room than the enterprising and active human beings they must be to guide children?

The problem is, as today and over our 2 ½ centuries of existence, the media – the people who write about what’s happening in the USA.  

President Trump rightly speaks of “fake news,” and there’s also been “fake history.”  Fake history not in the sense of intentionally wrong history, we hope, but history written by people unaware of the main actors in human history.  

The main actors of history – the real sinews of society and history – are the people who work in families, as homemakers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, etc.  The main actors are also the people who work in local governments, what some call “first responders,” although that phrase probably fits family governors most of all.  

Unfortunately, most historians don’t see or give publicity to these workers in the family or in the community.  Most historians – and news people – are attracted to the drama and fireworks of human activity, the reason they flutter so much around the bright lights of our nation’s capital.  The stable, steady parts of our governmental system, family and local life, are just not interesting to most writers.  Besides, those secret bonds of society that unite so many people are not visible, perhaps even ineffable, beyond mere words.

In conclusion, not only is family government missing from our Constitution, it’s also been missing from almost all American history books and newspapers these many years – out of sight and out of mind – except at least for Jeremy Belknap’s history, for which we must be grateful.

The Family First Amendment is not to prohibit young adults from doing something important but to call them to the most important work they can do.

Contrary to a first reading of The Family First Amendment, the goal of this amendment idea is not to prevent young people from leading in American society but to better distribute their talent, not only for their personal well-being and growth but for the country’s as well.  Washington, D.C., once literally a swamp, built on a swamp, can suck young people under today in its bureaucratic ways, and young adults should be warned of its dangers.

Again, our Founding Fathers were wise about everything.  Youthful leaders were needed in their day – and are needed even more in our own.  Youth is not a limitation for effective leadership.   

The USA needs young people more than ever in office – first in their families, in family government, whatever their role, and then in the formal governments close around them, the local elective and volunteer offices where people can be helped most directly and where young leaders can also easily and often spend time with their families.  

National office is important, too, and can happen.  Young adults are not excluded from national office only asked to do that later.  Besides, with electricity, young adults today can organize and make their opinions known to our national government quickly.

We have a great country – with all kinds of governments, formal and informal – that need leadership, from almost every one of every age.  After all, even school children can be president of their class.

Again, some of our greatest leaders showed their promise in their youth.  Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, should have been president at age 28.  

Why?  Please google, “Lyceum Address,” and read this speech, one of Lincoln’s first recorded.  Lincoln had been asked to speak to his Springfield, Illinois, community after two recent murders in their area.  Mobs, in one nearby city, had set a former slave on fire to die and, in another city, had shot and killed a newspaper editor opposed to slavery.  Lincoln, way beyond his years, knew at age 28 what was needed to calm the country.  If he’d been president then or soon after, the Civil War might have been averted.  Fortunately, he lived long enough to stop slavery.

Delegates, thank you very much for reading another long letter.  Our Constitution is our fundamental document and some details are needed to explain this amendment idea.  In particular, young adults must know how much they are needed, particularly in our first government, family government.  Future letters about this amendment idea should be shorter.

Also, Delegates, please register to vote now and not postpone registration until Thursday when voting first begins.  Please check your emails from the state GOP about its voting process now. 

Again, as Republicans, we must continue to build the enduring republic we’ve always wanted, and The Family First Amendment could help in my opinion.  As we work on our most pressing problems now, stopping this virus, we need to be preparing for our future as well.

Sincerely,

Cathy Hammon

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