The Liberty Bell will not ring again. Cracked in July of 1835 while tolling for the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall, the bell ceased to fulfill its intended purpose and became a national symbol.
At this Fourth of July celebration, five years removed from the two-hundredth birthday of American freedom, the crack as well as the bell itself seem to signify American life. The original bell, cast by Thomas Lister in London, bore an inscription from Leviticus 25:10 depicting the noble aspirations of that experiment in democracy which began two centuries ago: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
We have lost sight of a truth well known by those who drew up our great documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is that man’s highest ideals never find complete fulfillment in history. Ours was not and still is not “one nation under God.” Yet half a loaf is better than none.
The preamble to the Constitution expressed the people’s desire to form “a more perfect union.” The hope was, not for perfection, but for something better than what existed before. This hope was expressed with the knowledge that many colonists had opposed the American Revolution and supported the British crown. Numbers of them fled to Canada to escape from what they did not think to be a “more perfect union.”
The Constitution itself was a compromise, half a loaf. It aimed at establishing justice and securing the blessings of liberty. But even though freedom’s bell itself called for liberty “unto all the inhabitants,” neither justice nor liberty was extended to the slaves. They were chattel, the personal property of their owners. In the population counts for deciding how many Representatives ...1
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