“We have become a nation”

I keep thinking of the remark by one of the Founders, Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Rush.

He was not only a founder of America — a signer of the Declaration of Independence — but the “founder of American psychology” — a man of compassion and wide interests.

Dr. Rush and many other early Americans felt the divisiveness in the country during the 13 years under the Articles of Confederation.

States ruled.  There was no central government.  The nation lacked unity.  Gen. Washington bemoaned how powerless he was, trying to conduct a war without any nationwide authority.

It was impossible to fund a highway connecting one state to another, let alone running the length of the coastal nation.

And — deadly for the economy — there was no central authority upholding contracts.  Thus, business deals had no integrity between a businessman in one state and a merchant in another state.  Economic growth on national level was impossible.

America existed more as a fragile, uneven alliance of big & small states rather than as truly United States.

Then some of the Founders had the foresight to call for a constitutional convention.  A new law was needed — a new constitution.  In 1787, they hammered out the details at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  What they produced was today’s U.S. Constitution.  Ratification occurred by conventions in one state after another.

When the 9th of 13 states ratified the document in 1788 — upon hearing that the nation now had a new constitution — one that placed the states subservient in law to the central government — a Constitution recognizing that a person in Georgia had the same rights as a person in New York — that a citizen in a small state like Delaware needn’t worry that he would be bullied by the interests in a large state like Pennsylvania — that one citizen anywhere in the land had the same rights as any other citizen — Dr. Rush remarked:  “We have become a nation.”

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court that a same-sex couple getting married, for example, in Pennsylvania would have their marriage contract honored anywhere in the land — is one of those magical moments:  “We have become a nation.”

The gay-lesbian-transgender population in this country is probably no more than 5%.  But the ruling is being celebrated more broadly across the land because it is one of those occasions when we have been prodded once again to live up to our title as UNITED States.

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