Today, Americans are celebrating 237 years of liberty. July 4th celebrations will be taking place all over our land. Fireworks displays, picnics, baseball games, concerts, water parks, you name it. Americans like their Independence Day celebrations, and with good reason. The cost of liberty has always been high, and Americans take pride in remembering where they have been and what the costs were in getting there.
We can say the same things about Americans who have gone bankrupt and been forced into filing bankruptcy. From all the testimonies given on bankruptcy forum websites, I can conclude that there is a high cost for financial freedom, and most of those filers fully understand what costs got them there in the first place.
In the colonial days before the Revolutionary War and a time afterward, Debtor Prisons was the general rule instead of the exception. Many Patriots who revolted against the repressive rule of Great Britain had to pay the high cost for liberty by giving up their fortunes. Others simply gave up their lives.
Founding Fathers like Robert Morris and James Wilson, signors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, understood what it meant to pay the price for their freedom in a financial way. Both patriots lost their fortunes after the Revolutionary War in land investments, and both served time in a Debtor Prison.
It is not by coincidence that bankruptcy laws were built into the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to enact “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.” Morris and Wilson were not the only Founding Fathers that understood hard financial times. Right after the Revolutionary war, there was a time before the establishment of the Constitution and the United States Monetary System, that Americans operated more on barter than it did on cash. Ninety five percent of Americans were landowners at the time, but they often did not have cash to pay bills and taxes. Not paying bills and taxes landed many of them into a Debtor Prison. Is there any wonder why Americans supported dealing with bankruptcy in the Constitution?
Congress has exercised its authority to enact bankruptcy laws several times since 1801. In the most recent times, Congress adopted the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, codifying bankruptcy laws under Title 11 of the United States Code, commonly referred to as the “ Bankruptcy Code.”
The evolution of bankruptcy laws has provided the average American citizen with the opportunity of settling bad financial situations in a civil manner. Americans no longer have to go to a Debtor Prison when they cannot pay their creditors.
Nevertheless, the cost of filing for financial liberty is still high. The sense of financial failure and the stigma of being forced to file bankruptcy that goes along with it are both high costs in the drama of our liberated society. Depression associated with financial failure has brought a small number of deaths due to suicide.
The cost of liberty is always high, even for financial freedom. For those of you facing bankruptcy today, you might want to take the time to remember to celebrate your potential for financial freedom, thanks to our Founding Fathers and the Constitution of the United States.
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