Pulaski High School - Oriole Yearbook (Pulaski, VA)

 - Class of 1929

Page 139 of 194

 

Pulaski High School - Oriole Yearbook (Pulaski, VA) online yearbook collection, 1929 Edition, Page 139 of 194
Page 139 of 194



Pulaski High School - Oriole Yearbook (Pulaski, VA) online yearbook collection, 1929 Edition, Page 138
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Page 139 text:

he interpreted more conservatively. As a result of this debate in the Virginia Assembly, Madison proposed a bill of rights composed of seventeen articles making amendment to the original constitution. This bill of rights embodied the principles favored by a number of ratifying states and was especially influenced by the Virginia bill of rights which was drawn by George Mason. The Virginia bill of rights, a radical democratic document, has probably had more in- fluence on American political institutions than any other state paper. Another measure of great importance in Virginia’s history was the statute of religious freedom declaring the freedom and protection of all forms of religious belief. This statute was conceived chiefly by George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. As a re- sult of the efforts of these three Virginians we find that the first ten amendments in the constitution are but modifications of the Vir- ginia bill of rights and the statute of religious freedom. From these facts we see that the formation of our constitution depended to a very great extent on the efforts of four great Virginians, four of the greatest characters the world has ever known or probably ever will know, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madi- son, and George Mason. After the ratification of the constitution George Washington was elected as first president of the American Republic, and the colonies, now the United States, started on an era of progress which has made our nation probably the most prosperous nation in the world. 1 think tha t the next Virginian to be considered is James Monroe, who was elected president of the United States in 1816. We shall probably remember Monroe more for his world famous doctrine than lor anything else. The Monroe doctrine has been used more than any other instrument as a basis of our international relations and is one of the most noteworthy efforts of any Virginian. This doctrine stated that “the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any Fiuro- pean powers,” and secondly, that “with the governments who have declared their independence we have, on great consideration, and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling, in any other man- ner, their destiny by any tiuropean power, in any other light than as the manif estation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States.” This doctrine has been used in nearly all of our dealings with foreign countries and is used today, although interpreted from a broader and more comprehensive view point. Thus we see that the principles of our international affairs were introduced by a Virginian

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Lafayette, Cornwallis was finally forced to retire to Yorktown in August 1781. Here he was quickly surrounded and on October 19th, 1781, Cornwallis, commander-in-chief of the armies of the vast British Empire, handed his sword to one of Washington’s generals. Again we see the great part Virginians played in bringing the Revolution to a successful conclusion by outgeneraling and outfight- ing the British. The States had at last won their independence, but the all-im- portant question now came up as to how they were to be governed. At first the only centralized governing body was the Continental Congress, which held its authority under the Articles of Confedera- tion. These Articles of Confederation provided for a very weak confederation of States and were considered insufficient for the con- trol of the colonies. Virginians from the first saw the needs for closer union, and finally after the meeting of five states at Annapolis it was suggested that a constitutional convention meet at Philadelphia in the spring of 1787. Present at this convention were certain illustrious Virginians including Washington, Madison, Randolph, Mason, and George Wythe. These men with a few from the other states took the most active part in the formation of the constitution of the United States, a constitution considered to be one of the most perfect and concise in the world today. Two plans of government were suggested, namely, the Virginia plan providing for a bicameral government with one executive, and the New Jersey plan providing for a monocameral system with plural executives. After due consideration the convention decided on the Virginia plan as being the most practical. Thus a Virginian, Edmund Randolph, suggested the plan which forms the fundamen- tal basis of our government today. After the adoption of the constitution it was decided by some of the most influential men in the country that the constitution was limited and could not be interpreted broadly enough nor meet all the demands required of it. In fact this was the reason most of the states were slow in ratifying the measure until certain amendments were made. Here we again find Virginia taking the initiative. Both Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee had opposed the whole plan of the federal convention from the first, even refusing to go to the meetings as delegates. As a result, when Virginia was called upon to ratify the constitution a fiery debate ensued, Patrick Henry de- nouncing the measure with all of his fiery eloquence. James Madi- son, another Virginian, afterward termed the “Father of the Consti- tution,’’ defended the instrument, but he too believed that it should 13.2



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who saw the necessity of protecting his country from foreign invasion. About this time relations were becoming strained between the North and the South, relations which later terminated in the Civil War, the conflict where brother fought against brother for principles which each thought were right. We might dwell at some length on this part of the history of our nation and the great part Virginia played in that conflict, but since our space is limited and since we could hardly consider it as causing any progress in the development of our nation we shall exclude a minute and detailed account. Returning to the constitution and its interpretation, we again find that it was a Virginian who probably did more than any one man in explaining the fundamental principles and interpreting the con- stitution, and that man was John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Su- preme Court for almost thirty-five years. During this time Marshall settled many important cases, both international and domestic. In one of these he ruled an act of Con- gress unconstitutional and again an act of the State of Georgia was declared void. In the case which came up from Florida in 182S, Marshall affirmed the constitutional right to acquire territory in these words: “The constitution confers absolutely upon the govern- ment of the Union the powers of making war and of making treaties: consequently that government possesses the power of acquiring terri- tory either by conquest or by treaty.” These are just a few of the many cases where he upheld the constitution in his rulings, and as a result of Marshall’s efforts we find that our constitution is one of the strongest instruments of government in the world. Heretofore we have only considered Virginia’s part in the build- ing of the nation through the period of colonization, the Revolution and the political organization of our government. Let us now consider the part Virginia has played in opening up and taking over a greater national domain. Of the different activi- ties in which Virginia engaged the first worthy of mention was the opening up of Kentucky and Tennessee. According to l.atane’s account, we find that the very first settlers who entered Tennessee came from Virginia. We may say that James Robertson and James Sevier, both native Virginians, were the principal founders of Tennes- see and part of Kentucky. They organized a civil government under a written constitution, known as the articles of the Watauga Associa- tion, thus establishing the first independent community of native born Americans on the continent. A little later, in 1779, we find another young Virginian, George Rogers Clark, going beyond the Alleghany mountains. According X34

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