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America’s Grassroots Republic

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By Bill Claiborne

 Last week a true American hero passed away.  

Juanita Hill Baird, of Jacksboro, was the quintessential American.  Her decades long activism in Republican politics exemplified the best of what Benjamin Franklin could have ever hoped for.

When Franklin left Independence Hall on September 17, 1787, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, “What kind of government have you given us, Dr. Franklin?”  He replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”

Implicit in that statement is the core foundation for our American system of government.  Franklin knew that the Convention had placed all of its trust in the conscience of American citizens who would have the responsibility for proper administration and maintenance.

 Baird accepted that responsibility with the gusto of a Paul Revere or Betsy Ross.  She volunteered wholeheartedly and worked tirelessly in a variety of civic roles.  She served 28 years on the Tennessee Republican Executive Committee and was District Treasurer for the Tennessee Republican Women’s group.  In all things, she was found to be eminently trustworthy.

Locally, Baird was the backbone of the Republican Party serving as president of the Campbell County Republican Women’s Club for several terms.  In 1985, she was named the Tennessee Republican Woman of the Year.

Baird was profoundly respected for her integrity, her passion and her optimism that never failed.  She kept the flames burning for 93 years, and left a legacy that will endure in the charmed memory of her many friends.

America is perhaps the only country in the world with a governing foundation that

requires and anticipates such heroes as Baird.  The “Spirit of 76” was truly a revolutionary idea unlike any other.  Modern Americans seem to have forgotten that.

According to Constitutional scholar Earl Taylor, Jr., The question of independence hung precariously on the single, slender thread of whether or not the people were sufficiently ‘virtuous and moral’ to govern themselves.  Self-government was generally referred to as ‘republicanism,’ and it was universally acknowledged that a corrupt and selfish people could never make the principles of republicanism operate successfully.”

Franklin agreed, saying, “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

James Madison defined our Republic as “a government that derives all of its powers from the great body of the people [and] not from an inconsiderable proportion or favored class of…tyrannical nobles.”

America represented a totally new type of republic.  The Founders rejected the two most familiar brands, parliamentary and confederate, because of their inherent flaws.  The legislative supremacy of parliaments had proved to be just as tyrannical as monarchy, and the state supremacy of the Articles of Confederation proved to be too weak during the Revolutionary War.  The founders, therefore, avoided both kinds in favor of a new republic built upon two ideas:  power would be invested in the people, and the people would exercise their power through elected representatives chosen by each state.

The concern at the Convention was whether the people were capable of exercising the serious and sacred responsibility of self-rule.  Thomas Jefferson’s answer to this quandary was to bind public officials under the restraints of a written constitution.   “In questions of power,” Jefferson said, “let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

According to Taylor, “Only under a Constitutional Republic do the people enjoy the full right of self-rule.  The privilege of self-rule has not been had by many people throughout the entire history of the world.  Americans must consider themselves especially blessed people.”

It’s important to note that we have a Constitutional Republic and not a democracy.

James Madison, “the Father of the Constitution” warned, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention, incompatible with personal security or the rights of property, and as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”  

Grassroot-patriots like Baird, all across our country, represent the true constitution of our government.  By their faithful vigilance, they serve as the guarantors of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all.

“It is in the political area,” Taylor contends, “where we vote for God’s plan of freedom or Satan’s plan of slavery where we indicate whether we belong with the just or the unjust, and whether we are able to overcome the disposition to abuse authority.”

May God grant us more heroes like Baird to fortify the ongoing work of keeping America on the right track.  Send comments to WFC83197@aol.com, or mail to POB

114, Jacksboro, TN  37757.