When was America Great?

“Make America Great again,” a great election slogan but a little harder to identify when it was so great that we want to go back to that time. The easy answer might the time of Ronald Reagan but then again he was only able to roll back a few of the socialist programs that had been installed in our country since the 1930’s and the receivers of government handouts were growing.

John F. Kennedy ‘s ”City on a Shining Hill” and “Ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country” seemed like a great time but much too short to judge. Unfortunately it was  followed by Lynden Johnson’s ”The Great Society” the program that condemned so many millions to a life of poverty and dependence on government handouts. It took away the incentives to work when you could get almost as much or maybe more by become dependent.

Our greatest time could have been just after World War II when we helped win the war and became a super power, but maybe not the best because we had already started our slide into socialism under the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Maybe it was the birth of the 20th Century when the American worker produced the majority of goods produced in the entire world with only 6% of the world population. However, that was also the time of monopolies and Robber barons. Workers were mistreated and shared very little of the wealth produced.

The 1860’s were not so good either with the Civil War and even further back was slavery (which was corrected in the Civil War) and then there was the war of 1812 when the British burned Washington D.C. to the ground. What about 1776 when we declared independence and defeated the British, which was then the strongest army in the world? That had some good points but the Articles of Confederation which laid out the structure of government were so weak that the country was about to collapse.

Then there was 1786 when some of the best and brightest gathered together in Philadelphia to write the constitution; they put aside partisan differences and put together the wisdom of the ancient Israelites’ and the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Europe which believed in man’s right to govern himself.  They took some from the Romans and some from the Greeks and some of the best ideas of western civilizations from; Adam Smith, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and other great thinkers. They believed in man’s right to freedom was a gift from their creator and denied the divine right of kings which ruled Europe.

Because there were so many religious groups represented, they insisted that government not select a single church but insisted that all schools teach the basic tenets of religion along with reading, writing and mathematics. They felt the moral principles taught in the Bible were so important that they must be included in basic education.

Adams, Franklin, Jefferson and Madison all supported local self-government and warned of the central government trying to rule it all. They provided for “States Rights” so that Washington wouldn’t run everything. They insisted on the tenth Amendment which states:  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

They believed that government’s job was to provide equal rights not equal things. Then they wrote it all down to insure their direction was clear; the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom to have a firearm to protect their family and the constitution and against all enemies both foreign and domestic. They warned against the “Welfare State” where the government would try to take care of everything by spreading the wealth trying to create equality.

It was a good time when men stood together, put party difference aside to create the greatest government the world has ever known. Can America be great again? There is a chance but we need a few patriots to put aside their party differences and stand together for America once again.


  1. Terry Donnelly says:

    You seem to argue that we’ve had flashes of brilliance, but that the whole package has never been “great.” You say that weak government didn’t work (Articles of Confederation) and that the Federalists’ strong government doesn’t work either. There could never be a more “states rights” document than the Articles. Why do you think they failed? What exactly are you wishing for?

    Women couldn’t vote until 1920. What’s “great” about that?

    The Civil War got rid of human bondage, but did not “correct” the problem. It took Kennedy/Johnson socialistic laws in 1964 and 1965 to do that.

    The Founding Fathers most feared tyranny and second, to the man–Federalist or Jefferson Republican, they warned against too broad an income/wealth gap. Those were the two occurrences that would bring down our republic–not a welfare state. That distribution of wealth is greater today than ever before.

    The U.S.A. has always been flawed but better than most. We don’t have to look back for greatness, we have to look ahead and use all we’ve learned to continue to work on a more perfect union.

    • David Petrillo says:

      Great comment. We have never been greater than right now. We are the wealthiest country on earth. We do more to end hunger in the world than any other country. Yes, we are a socialist country but those socialists programs ensure our safety, health, and security. I am proud to be a liberal or progressive as we have already done our part to make America great. We also do not want to live in the past. Our country will only keep getting greater if we can all just get along.

  2. Mike Young says:

    Terry – 1. I’m wishing that the political parties stop being Republicans and Democrats and become Americas again. It’s the balance that is important, the further people move from the center the harder it is to balance. The Articles failed because they didn’t provide for a strong enough central government. The constitution fixed that but the courts have allowed the central government to become to strong.
    2. Women could vote in 1920 is what great about that.
    3. Kennedy/Johnson socialistic laws have caused too many to drop out of the America system and become wards of the state forever.
    4. Never saw anything about an income gap but they say lots about the danger of a welfare state, Jefferson and Samuel Adams both wrote that income distribution was impractical, despotic and unconstitutional.
    5. Your right about USA being better then anyone else and we do need to look to the future but we also need to remember the basic ideas America was founded on, many of which seemed to be forgotten.

  3. David Petrillo says:

    Thank you Mr. Young. I enjoy reading your columns even if we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Your view is that we have been declining since the start of the USA. My view is that we have been great all along and we are only getting greater. Freedom of speech is great as we can both voice our opinion and not be arrested. America is and will always be great.

  4. Terry Donnelly says:

    Here are a couple. I can show more if you’re interested.

    Madison: “The day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. When that day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of the few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.” Also Madison: “The great object should be to combat the evil 1, by establishing a political equality among all, 2, By withholding unnecessary oportunities from a few to increase the inequality of property by an unmoderate and especially an unmerited accumulation of riches.

    Jefferson on unequal division of land ownership: “the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property.” He continues on the remedy: ” exempt all from taxes below a certain point and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical proportions as they rise.

    Adams: “unless constrained, the rich and proud will destroy equality and liberty. Democratic government is not to help the wealthy and powerful, but to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.

    • Mike Young says:

      We already have enormous re-distribution of wealth, that we did not have before the “New Deal”, has it helped? No, all it has done is encouraged people not to work, as living on welfare is better than some starting wages and it takes hard work and a few months to get a raise. Plus you might have to get up early. Sitting at home watching T.V. or hanging with friends is more fun than working. Maybe, if we took all the wealth and handed it out to the same group, we could create more wealth.

      • Terry Donnelly says:

        Nice deflect, but not so fast. You said there were no comments from Founding Fathers about the evils of large income gaps. I gave examples and instead of accepting the truth, you start writing about distribution, which is a totally different conversation. Are you studying at Trump U. taking a course in ignoring facts and not admitting being wrong?

  5. Harold G White says:

    I’m hoping Pres Trump meant (and I think I’m right); make America “safe” again.

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