Script from the original show, which ran from 1971 to 1993. Group: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Narrator: These immortal words when first they were written, proclaimed to the world an idea new among men. They expressed a shining wish for a better way of life. This was the American dream. But that golden goal was not to be had without cost. It was born in adversity, tested by time, perfected and proven only after long experience and trial. This is the drama of a new concept of freedom, of the inspired code of law creating that freedom.
Narrator: It was the year 1787. In the city of Philadelphia the Constitutional Convention was in session. After four long months of debate and discussion, a new Constitution to replace the old and ineffectual Articles of Confederation had finally been written. It was the mutual effort of the best minds in the land, men long experienced in the human art of government. By unanimous consent, George Washington had been chosen president of the convention.
George Washington: Gentlemen, the warmest friends this Constitution has do not contend that it is free from imperfections. But there is a constitutional door open for change. I think the people can decide on the alterations and ammendments which time may prove necessary. Besides, they will have the advantage of experience on their side.
Benjamin Franklin: General Washington, Sir.
George Washington: Mr. Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin: Fellow delegates, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged to change opinions which I once thought right. The older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgement. I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of this convention who may still have objections to it, would with me doubt a little of his own infallability, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.
Narrator: This was the moment of decision.
Speaker: New Hampshire. Massachusetts. Connecticut. New York.
Narrator: When the ceremony was over, thirty-nine delegates had come forward to write their names. Only three withheld their signatures. Thus, on September 17, 1787, a new Constitution to govern the American colonies was signed at Independence Hall. This newly created government was unique. In a world of kings and emperors, would it actually work?
Narrator: The first test was not long in coming. It occured in George Washington’s second term as president, an incident known as the Whiskey Rebellion. In colonial times, corn was an abundant crop but difficult to transport. And for convenience was often converted to distilled spirits. Since this important byproduct was shipped from state to state, the federal government saw fit to levy a tax upon it. But the people objected in principle, and before long their opposition had flared up in riots. Here was the first challenge to the federal authority.
Governor Mifflin: The question remains whether the President has any legal right to use force.
George Washington: As to the legality of it, Governor Mifflin, I have here an opinion from Justice Wilson advising that the courts of your state are unable to deal with the crisis through ordinary judicial proceedings. Under the law this would empower me to use the federal militia.
Narrator: Fortunately, the rebellion ended without bloodshed. The mere size of the militia overawed all further opposition. Washington had shown his people that the government was prepared to ensure domestic tranquility when necessary. Some forty- odd years later, President Andrew Jackson would know the threat of secession.
Speaker: The Federal Government’s Tarriff Acts are hereby declared null, void, and no law in the State of South Carolina.
Speaker: Should force be used to execute the measures declared void, such efforts will be regarded as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union.
Andrew Jackson: Tell them from me that they can talk and write resolutions and print threats till their heart’s content. But if one drop of blood be shed there in defiance of the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man of them I can get my hands on to the first tree I can find.
Narrator: With the people behind him and Congress supporting him, Jackson stood by the Constitution. For the moment the crisis passed. But it would come again. By 1858, the cause of Sectionalism had grown stronger and much more bitter. The burning issues of the day were brought into national focus by a series of debates between the glib and talented Stephen A. Douglas and a self taught lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.
Spectator: Hooray for Honest Abe Lincoln! Give it to him good, Abe!
Abraham Lincoln: Judge Douglas says he, he doesn’t care whether slavery is voted up or voted down.
Spectator: Neither do we, Lincoln, you know-nothing!
Abraham Lincoln: Well friend, I may not know much, but I think I know right from wrong. Now you say that you don’t care whether slavery is voted up or down. Now any man can say that, who does not see anything wrong in slavery. But no man can logically say it who does see wrong in it. Because no man can logically say he doesn’t care whether wrong is voted up or down.
Abraham Lincoln: I say this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Spectator: That’s what you think, you long drink of water!
Abraham Lincoln: Yes, my friend, that’s what I think. That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silenced.
Stephen Douglas: As I say, I have known Mr. Lincoln for twenty-five years. He is a fine lawyer, possesses high ability, and there is no objection to him, except the monstrous revolutionary doctrines which he conscientiously entertains and is determined to carry out if he gets the power.
Spectator: Don’t worry, he ain’t gonna get it!
Spectator: Never! No never! Not that hillbilly rail-splitter!
Stephen Douglas: Alright, and I tell you, that this doctrine of Lincoln’s declaring that men are made equal by the Declaration of Independence and by Divine providence is a monstrous heresy.
Abraham Lincoln: My countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with those great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence, if you have listened to suggestions which would take away its grandeur, if you are inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Think nothing of me. Take no thought of the political fate of any man whatsoever. But come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me out and put me to death. Do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity. If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute book in which we find it and tear it out. Who is so bold to do it?
Spectators: No one! I won’t! Not I!
Abraham Lincoln: If it is not true, let us tear it out!
Spectators: No! No! Never!
Abraham Lincoln: Well let us stick to it then, and let us stand firmly by it.
Narrator: Abraham Lincoln lost that election of 1858, but in losing, he won. For the people couldn’t forget this plain-spoken man from the prairie, and two years later they sent him to the White House.
Abraham Lincoln: Without union, the Constitution is only a piece of paper. I know there is a God, and that he hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming. I know his hand is in it. If he has a place and work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything, and with God’s help, I shall not fail.
Narrator: April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter. The canon spoke for war. Civil war, bitter, violent and devastating. After four weary and wounding years, the conflict ended. The Union was saved. The Constitution had survived the fiery ordeal. America was one nation, finally and forevermore. In the century to follow, America would know a period of amazing achievement. A time of startling inventions, a time of unbounded creative energy. There seemed no limit to man’s far-reaching horizons. It was a time of transition, a time of progress. But the fundamental philosophy of freedom, the belief in the rights of the individual and the dignity of man remained unaltered. The Constitution was still the rock. Under its guarantees, men were free to speak, free to worship as they pleased, free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and free to explore new dimensions of their universe.
Mission Control: Ten, nine, eight, ignition sequence start, six, five, four…
Mission Control 2: There’s fire.
Mission Control: Three, two, one zero.
Narrator: Look to the stars, say the wise men, there lies the future. In remote and distant worlds lies the riddle of tomorrow. But where is its answer? If a free world is to endure, then the principles of self-government must be perpetuated. The Constitution is the rock, and the leaders of tomorrow must be as dedicated to its preservation as were the leaders of yesterday, as are the leaders of today.
Narrator: In this Hall of Presidents, let us pay homage to the immortal men whose illustrious names have been indelibly inscribed on history’s roll of honor.
Narrator: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon.
Narrator: From these men the free world may take new inspiration and hope. And, if it be wise, new wisdom from old words of prophecy.
Abraham Lincoln: This government must be preserved in spite of the acts of any man or set of men. Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest among us are held the highest privileges and positions. What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not the frowning battlements, or bristling seacoast, our army and navy- These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere- Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves, must be its author and its finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time . . . or die by suicide. Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite to exist only for a day. No . . . No . . . Man was made for immortality.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword. His truth is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Glory, glory, hallelujah. His truth is marching on.
Note: This script has been transcribed.