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The United States Constitution: Our Work Horse
a.k.a. Billie

Billie was part of the Giddy Up To Granby Horse Parade during the Fall of 2006
www.giddyuptogranby.org
Billie went up for auction on November 4th and was purchased by
Bill Bazyk who owns Command Corp, a security firm based out of East Granby.
It is exciting to know he is committed to sharing Billie as a way to educate
others about the importance and value of our Constitution!

about Billie

I named the horse after my grandmother whose official name was Imelda and who officially disliked that name, so everyone called her Billie. But in the final week of working on the horse, I realized another reason why that name was so appropriate--Billie also featured The Bill of Rights. I love it how greater understanding often doesn't emerge until later.

concept

Billie features the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  In addition, there is a layer of writing underneath. After all, the Constitution didn’t appear out of nowhere, instead, it was the result of a process.  A process that included the Magna Carta of 1215, The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut from 1639, The Declaration of Independence, a petition from 1783, and the Articles of Confederation. Of course there were many more influences, but to capture some of these ideas and the beautiful lettering that was used to convey these important principles to the people has been a wonderful challenging experience.

details:

The head features thirteen stars in a circle configuration to represent the flag designs used by the original 13 colonies.   50 stars are spread out among the 4 legs for our 50 states.

All the lettering has been done by hand and is designed to match the original historical documents. The links take you to pictures of the original documents and more extensive information about them.

Right Side: Constitutions

Articles of Confederation, ratified March 1, 1781
The constitution that failed, mostly. It's major success was paving the way for the Northwest Ordinance which established the process for admitting new states and settling the west. The Articles also effectively guided the original 13 states during the Revolutionary War, but once the common cause of the war ended, the emphasis on state sovereignty and the subsequent lack of federal authority left the United States without the ability to print money, make treaties, resolve disputes, and raise revenue. The union the Articles created was falling apart. But this experience shaped the Constitutional Convention. It makes it easy to understand why our Constitution starts with "We the People in order to form a more perfect union..."?

Magna Carta, 1215
Cited as the first time subjects of the king (barons in this case) wrested power away from the monarchy and secured those rights in a written agreement. Those rights were not for everybody, just for their elite class. But, as my neighbor Tim Woodbridge explains the Magna Carta, "In a triumph of perception over reality the Charter came to be seen as a set of liberties originating in antiquity and guaranteed to all the people against the government generally--a proposition which would have astonished both King John and the barons who signed the original document.  And this perception was part of the mindset of colonial leaders who led the revolution and wrote the federal and state constitutions to govern the new nation." Tim is a lawyer and history buff. 

Fundamental Orders of 1639
When I investigated why Connecticut is called the Constitution State, I discovered that Connecticut was not the first state to ratify the Constitution as I had assumed. Instead, we are credited with being the first state to write a constitution setting down rules of governance. The towns of Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield joined together to create the Fundamental Orders. It only lasted for about 30 years before it was replaced by a charter from the King of England. State constitutions, including those written after the Declaration of Independence as the states broke free from Britain, shaped our national Constitution.
Finding the original text required assistance from the Connecticut State Library. I could not find internet links of the original document.

The United States Constitution September 17, 1787
The Preamble of the Constitution is featured on top of these other documents that each attempted to create a government that empowered the people on some level. What an amazing foundation to have for this country we call home.

And where would we be if we were not a democracy? After all, public education is a result of these democratic principles. Based on the idea that an effective democracy requires an educated citizenry, public education has become universally available.


Left Side
Our Rights

Declaration of Independence July 4th, 1776
What more can be said about the Declaration? At the very beginning of our democracy, the idea that man naturally had rights and were naturally enlightened beings and capable of governing themselves became a fundamental principle that has since guided this nation. How powerful is that?!
Quaker petition asking for the abolition of slavery October 4, 1783
This document moved me the most. Five hundred Quakers petitioning Congress for the abolition of slavery. Text to read.

The Bill of Rights (featured) March 4, 1789
The Constitution was only ratified by many states with the understanding their needed to be an explicit protection of rights as part of it. It was not enough to agree that states had rights, it had to be set down in our Constitution and fundamentally a part of our nation's government. And over time, these rights accorded the states, became rights accorded to individuals.

 

reflections

The time spent lettering these documents on Billie turned into an unexpected meditation. A time to better absorb and reflect on what these authors were expressing.

In particular, there was one feeling that came back time and time again. That in many respects (not all of course) these men had no idea what they were doing and whether or not it would work! Each of these documents are groundbreaking events in their own unique way. They are attempts to solve problems that were difficult and overwhelming. In just one example, George Washington, so key to our success in the War and the birth of this nation, almost didn't attend the Constitutional Convention because of his doubts about the nation's ability to solve the mess it was in under the Articles of Confederation.

In my own small way, I can completely relate to their experience. With this horse project, I didn't feel I had a clue about how to proceed, much less succeed. And yet with following my interests and trusting my instincts, with the fellowship and support of fellow artists and friends, I created a horse I am excited about. Far from perfect, it is still a piece I can step back and say, 'wow.'

And what an example these authors, these creators have set for us! Every day we face challenges large and small, personal or societal, from the devastation of war, poverty, hunger to the personal everyday challenges of staying healthy, getting along with the boss, etc. Oftentimes it can appear that a situation is intractable, or that no win-win outcomes exist. And yet I believe solutions abound. Not that our Founding Fathers had all the answers, but they allowed enough room (through the amendment process) to improve on the structures they initially built.

I hope that in some way by combining all these historical documents, I've captured a glimpse of the process and its importance. I believe we can continue to strive for win-win solutions and yet at the same time allow time for the process to unfold. I believe we can celebrate the lessons that come with the imperfections and then have courage and commitment to take other additional steps as we learn. Not that learning from the lessons is easy as they often come in painful packages, from the colonists' Shays Rebellion to today's Iraq and Lebanon or on a personal level, illness or debt or unemployment or divorce. Yes, lessons can be painful, but it's all a matter of choice as to how we react to them, how will we learn from them and move foreward from there.

And what I love about the story these documents weave is that we don't have to have all the answers. We don't have to do things perfectly. There is no such thing as perfect. We are all in process whether it is as an individual, as a community, society, country, or world. The most important step is staying involved, doing our best and trusting the best will happen.

After all, the creators of the Magna Carta back in 1215 couldn't have possibly known that their efforts to secure rights from King John would influence and start the spread of democracy.

And that is a challenge in itself. Not knowing if our actions will make a difference. I worked for a grassroots peace organization after college, and it had huge challenges, one of which was never really knowing clearly if all the hard work mattered. I asked the veterans who had been working on disarmament issues for decades how they kept going even though it seemed like they were swimming against the current. And the best way I can understand the answers that came from their words and deeds was that it was most important to know on an individual level, that they were doing what they could to create a less violent, more loving world.

Was that what it was like for the 500 Quakers who signed the petition in 1783 calling on Congress to abolish slavery? Congress read the petition then immediately tabled it. Did it make a difference? Was it even a measurable outcome that mattered? The position mattered to the slaves that were within the Quaker community. They were given their freedom. It matters to me now because of the beautiful example those Quakers set for us.

The example they set was one of integrity. I love how the first paragraph of their petition focuses on their own community and how they have almost eliminated slavery within their own society. They cite slavery as an abomination to mankind and before they ask Congress to eliminate slavery nationwide, they work to eliminate it within their own community. There is no double standard. How much can we learn from them as our national leadership is punishing Iran and North Korea for their nuclear weapons programs even as we maintain our nuclear arsenal of thousands of weapons and continue nuclear testing for new and ever more destructive capabilities? Complicated? Yes. And at the same time, simple.

Thank you Billie. Thank you Granby Chamber of Commerce for sparking this process and adventure.

gratitudes

Anne Dixon who mentioned the idea of a Constitution horse for the Constitution State to begin with.

Beth Galloway for her enthusiastic and clear support that I was the artist my sponsor group should go with.

Jessica Roth for her willingness to be a sounding board and asking the perfect question (how will I incorporate color?) and for being a painting assistant--getting rid of that white canvas was a critical step towards reclaiming my sanity!

Bill Simpson for the use of his airbrush acrylic paints.   Without them, I wouldn't have been able to letter the horse successfully.   Plus Bill, you made the brainstorming process fun as we fumbled along trying to figure out what the heck to do with these gigantic canvases.

Research librarians at the Connecticut State Library and National Archives who found copies of the original texts and importantly, typed versions of what the originals said!

Chris, your humor, your simple loving act of putting wheels on my horse so I could work inside or outside the garage, in addition to your ready ear and unconditional support were life-savers.   I hope I didn't drive you too crazy.   Sorry you were deprived of the ride down Silkey Road on top of Billie.