Later, after the events in the lake waved a flag to a glorious new development of freedom, questions arose that wouldn't have arisen otherwise--such as, where would the American colonies have been, left with the weak and unworkable Articles of Confederation? What could they possibly have achieved with so lacking a document as their constitution? Surely, the whole enterprise of freedom on American shores would have soon foundered, as better equipped, better organized tyrannies and imperial states such as Britain and France turned to force the upstart Americans into submission.
Fortunately, the cause was not bereft of many, good men, a collection of genius and experience the world had not witnessed since the days of classical Athens, when Socrates, Themistocles, Plato, and others of their stature held the center stage of human advancement.
Revolutionary France, in 1790 and thereafter, sought with the Commune, and the various supreme powers of the Assembly and Commune, to emulate Athens’ golden experiment in democracy-—but it was the will of the mob that prevailed and democracy was lost in a bloodbath of the most appalling atrocity and ferocity.
What did it matter that the many ruled rather than a select few or a single monarch? It was the same tyranny, whether many held the sceptor or a few oligarchs.
Understanding this, taking the tragic example of the fall of reason, virtue, and freedom in France, the leaders of the American revolution sought to avoid the major pitfalls and chart a new course of accountability in government with a system by which the people and their freedom would be best protected. Democratic mob rule or checked and balanced republic? The bright and glad day of well-defended life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or the nightmare of the French experience?
They understood too that whatever rights man granted man could later take away, so they were careful to invest the freedoms of man safely and securely in the everlasting Rock of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Almighty God and His covenant. Taking the examples and precedents from holy scripture, they sought to institutionalize them in the new, second covenant of America (the first being the Mayflower Pilgrim Compact).
Yet all this lay a few years in the future, when the Confederated Colonies would meet in Philadelphia to put right the political articles that they had agreed to govern their union. They would create and write a new constitution that would encapsulate the whole wisdom and experience of their professional public lives.
One of these men who would be foremost in writing the new Compact, or Covenant, was Gouveneur Morris. Unfortunately, he nearly came to grief (and the yet unwritten Constitution with him), except for a strange event on a day that was meant to be one of simple, harmless pleasure.
So, to "take the waters," in those days, a party of young and vigorous men needed an object worthy of their utmost endeavor to make it a worthy and conscientious sport for well-bred, young gentlemen. Otherwise, swimming was not thought "proper" or even worth the doing-—it was commonly held among the classes of property and good manners.
Always conscious of duty, honor, virtue, purity, and good manners (civility), the class of landed gentry of which Gouveneur Morris was a member appreciated Nature and its effects, but it was in the 18th Century sense—-which has been largely lost. Nature, taken for itself, held no interest for them unless it was turned to profit somehow, so participation in Nature for the sake of a competetive, manly contest of stamina and courage enlisted all their sympathies and ambition.
The lake on the Morris estate, Morisana, on the still largely rural island of Manhattan was selected for the contest, and to it the young circle of Gouveneur Morris travelled either by horseback or carriage, and soon they were all standing by the lakeside. It was a fine day for the outing, as everyone could see. Warm and sunny, without an unruly wind, it was a finer day than any present could have ordered for the occasion.
Having picked their positions and team of four by lot, the contestants undressed in a suitable tent erected for their dignity and station. Attired in what was thought swimming clothes that would protect the wearer against "unhealthy, direct exposure" to Brute Nature, (though some thought they were too cumbersome and soon discarded them for simpler underclothes) they dove in and swam down toward a casque, secured to the bottom by a rope securing it to a big stone. It was the task of each team to try to free the casque.
All they had to do was find it and cut the rope, then with the remaining length of rope pull the casque to the surface. It was bouyant, not being weighted with stones, so it could be uplifted simply by severing the connection to the rock anchoring it. The trick, then, was locating it.
Of course, no one man could easily manage this in the rather turbid, dark lake water, and so that was the reason for organizing themselves into teams.
The party of twelve soon found that the contest was the most difficult they had yet known. The first four men could not even find the casque, which was at the deepest part of the small, dark lake. The next four found it, but discovered themselves exhausted by the depth so that they failed both to cut the rope and bring the casque to the surface.
The third team, of which Gouveneur Morris was the natural leader, was determined to win out over the others. He himself had not the advantage being the master of the lake, since the weight and casque were, by his orders cast by his servants prior to the sport at some point in the lake unknown to him.
So it was with great interest Morris and his team observed the efforts of the others and so were duly apprised of the great difficulty.
There were no rules against their balancing or distributing their performances, so as to hold back one’s strength for a critical moment when a team member’s might fail.
“One of us might not be able to endure the depth,” Gouveneur advised his teammates, “so why not send one of us down first, with his fellow close on his heels who will arrived comparatively fresh in order to sever the rope. The remaining pair will then apply themselves only to bringing the casque up to the surface successfully. By dividing our energies thus and so, we, gentlemen, stand to gain our object, whereas if we should all seek the object in the same way as our rivals we should waste our vital energies and, thus, fail, as miserably as our predecessors!”
“Excellent!” agreed the other three young, sporting gentlemen. And they then decided who would take up the various positions, the two divers, followed by the two “casque-squires.”
Because he was the origin of this ingenious plan, Gouveneur went in first. He had watched the whole proceedings and knew that he must swim down as directly as possible where they all knew the casque was lying on the bottom. That would give his teammate the best chance to complete his part of the task, cutting through the very thick line of rope that secured the casque to the bottom stone.
Having full assurance in his swimming ability, a swimmer since early boyhood, except for a loin cloth Gouveneur shed his clothes completely (he had watched plenty local Indians do this without any harm to their health and so followed their savage example) and dove in. It was forty yards or so to the center of the small but deep lake. Reaching the center point, he then took the deepest breath he could and plunged. Like a fish he sought the bottom, without being able to see a thing in the murk.
Suddenly, his forehead rammed against something rock hard, the iron lid of the casque. Somehow, he had miscalculated, and the casque was not as deep as he had thought—or it had come undone from its moorage somehow. But he could not think, he did not even know what had happened. The blow rendered him senseless, and he began to drift and drown--and with him the dreams and destinies of uncountable millions also drifted and were drowning.
On shore the young men grew restless, as the second man dove in and made his plunge, then surfaced, finding himself unable to locate either the casque or Gouveneur Morris. Seeing this, the whole group became frantic. Some thought to dive in to resume search. Others grabbed their clothes and began racing to get help from the Morris estate.
Minutes passed, and before anything more could be done, with despairing and fruitless searches being made, the body of Gouveneur suddenly popped to the surface. Yelling with excitement, his friends pulled him into a boat. On shore, they noticed the large swelling on his forehead, and when he could get enough water out to begin to speak, he could only ramble things that none understood.
“What is he saying, poor fellow?” one cried as he and others worked to dress him in blankets for the trip home by carriage.
“I don’t know!” shouted another. “Something about an angel in the lake! He must be out of his wits, having hit his head on something down there!”
Hours later Master Morris lay recuperating in his bed. The doctor had come and gone, and all that could be done for the reviving young man had been done. Now it was time for rest, but he lay wide awake, still amazed at what he had experienced.
“Would anyone believe me?” he wondered. But he knew it was impossible to explain anything so supernatural-—that he had been knocked senseless, and was drowning when a bright being seized him!
He had felt this being, whether man or angel he could not tell in his befuddled state, but he had manly strength beyond a mere man's. That being had found him, then given him his own breath, and with his hands lifted him toward the surface!
He rose from his bed a more sober individual than he had been before his near fatal swim. A great many things came clear in his mind at the same time.
“What purpose had God wrought in this wonderful deliverance of mine?” he pondered over and over. “I surely would have perished except for His intervention.”
And he was grateful, very grateful, that his life was preserved, by the agency of Almighty God. How could he express that gratitude, he reasoned, except that he attempt in his own life to please the One who had given back to him his life? Perhaps then he would discover, by the grace of God, what purpose lay in being saved. By chance one day, studying a Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, he paused at the word for praise, though he did not know why. “Simchu” was the word, and it burned into his mind. He could not get the word out of this thoughts for hours afterwards. What does it mean to me? He wondered. Why must I continually be thinking of it?
Then the recollection of his near drowning rose to mind, and the word with it shone all the brighter. He had often wondered about the mysterious, otherworldly being who had graciously saved his life. Could this be his name? Was the angel of the lake to be called “Simchu” or “Praise”? Somehow, though not to reason unaided by spirit, it fit. He had been breathed back to life by Simchu, filled literally with divine praise, which brought him to the surface alive!
How then could he not praise his wonderful Creator, for preserving his young life? Indeed, in the days and months and years following, he did render praise to God. In his life as well, he sought to honor God. What other purpose was he set upon the earth if not to honor and serve the Almighty in the best way?
This was the way young men of his training and character thought in response to the challenge of destiny-—that is, the way they used to respond until two hundred years had passed and social, intellectual, educational, and moral decay set in all across the great land.
Only years later would he, and Posterity, be able to tell what truly great purpose that was: he was the one who would pen the Constitution of the United States, the Second Covenant, the greatest Charter of Human Freedom every created.
Its unique features instituted and empowered a Republic founded upon "inalienable," divinely-bestowed (not man-bestowed) liberties subsequently preserved and protected by a uniquely divided and multiple system of checked and balanced powers.
Nowhere else, except to a modified degree in Christian Britain and the Seven Nations of the Iroquois, has such a covenant been formulated-—yet America’s government was unique, in that the three branches willingly agreed to a division of powers.
Always in human society powers remained undivided and whole, with often disastrous results when a leader turned corrupt, greedy, and cruel. Here at last was a willing division, with the people’s freedom being immeasurably enhanced and protected thereby.
Had the old earth ever seen its like? It had seen every possible abuse of power, yet here was at last a new thing under the sun-—an entirely new commonwealth born of the people, by the people, and for the people.
This unique division of powers—-absolutely vital for the preservation of freedom and economic enterprise—-was found in the pages of the Holy Bible, the main textbook for founding the Republic of the United States of America. What France failed to understand and do (though once the greatest, most advanced nation of the Western Powers), America understood and did--and events soon proved it made all the difference.