On the 17th of September, 1887, a great celebration was held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia in honor of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. The President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, and other distinguished guests were present on that occasion. A chorus of one thousand people rendered the beautiful poem of the German poet Schiller, entitled “An Appeal to Truth,” which had been put to music by Mendelssohn. As they sang the lines of the poem: “Upon the divine truth of the freedom of man and the knowledge of God, does our civilization stand,” the guests stood with bowed heads in gratitude for the blessings of the Lord. Then President Cleveland arose and among other things said: “When we look down one hundred years and see the origin of our Constitution, when we contemplate all its trials and triumphs, when we realize how completely the principles upon which it is based have met every national need and every national peril, how devoutly should we say with Franklin, ‘God governs in the affairs of men,’ and how solemn should be the thought that to us is delivered this ark of the people’s covenant and to us is given the duty to shield it from impious hands. Another centennial day will come, and millions yet unborn will inquire concerning our stewardship and the safety of the Constitution. God grant that they may find it unimpaired.” Today, there are forces at work to undermine this sacred gift of our fathers. These forces are expressed in acts and words of disrespect for law, order, and authority. Lord Macaulay feared for our democratic institutions, and once expressed the thought that institutions purely democratic “must sooner or later, destroy liberty or civilization, or both.” In reply to this thought of the great English essayist, we can only say that we hope that the citizens of our great republic will have from age to age a finer reverence and greater love for the principles of human rights which are set forth in the Constitution of our country. When our fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and gave us the divine thought: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” we must ever remember that there are no rights that are not duties. The Declaration of Independence was not justified if it was not obligatory. So this is true with the still greater document of government, the Constitution of the United States. “There are no rights that are not duties.”
Source: Conference Reports, October 1934. Levi Edgar Young was a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was one of the seven presidents of the Seventy from 1909 until his death.
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Called Unto Liberty is a project of Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal.
The Moral Liberal recommends Ezra Taft Benson’s: The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner