On Saturday, America should be celebrating the 239th Year of our Independence as a people and as a nation.
I say “should” because it appears that not all of us are proud to be Americans.
A “nation” can be loosely defined as a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, sufficiently united so as to create a government of its own.
American unity was in question even during the Revolutionary War as colonists divided into pro- and anti-British factions. The Civil War attempted to enforce American unity between the North and South at the cost of 750,000 deaths. Two World Wars and too many other wars have demonstrated some degree of American unity, but only momentarily. All those wars, including Iraq and Afghanistan, have produced 1,354,664 U.S deaths; 1,529,230 wounded and 40,917 missing in action.
With such macabre statistics in mind, I repeat President Lincoln’s solemn pledge at Gettysburg in 1863 … do we as a people still “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain?”
America in Doubt
In 1962, at a re-election rally in Ohio for my good friend, the late Congressman John Ashbrook, I first heard Ronald Reagan give “The Speech,” as it came to be known. Citing Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Reagan observed: “The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years.” The evening I heard Reagan utter those words, America was yet to celebrate its 200th birthday — now we are in its 239th year of independence.
I suggest part of any solution is to identify and reassert those things in our history that produced what was at one time the most prosperous and freest nation on earth.
We can right the wrong turns. We can raise up new leaders who understand our history and the meaning of freedom and liberty, those who will exalt the principles of the Declaration.
Make a point of going to see this document if you can. Reading each of those 56 signatures on the original parchment makes the global revolution for human liberty really come alive. In spite of the naysayers, all of us have a continuing duty to sustain and renew this great Revolution.
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Drafted by a distinguished committee headed by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is one of the most memorable freedom documents of all time, proclaiming every human being’s right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Its words live today.
As Thomas Jefferson lay dying at his Virginia hilltop estate, Monticello, in late June 1826, he wrote a letter to citizens in Washington, D.C. saying he was too ill to join them for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Declaration of Independence.
It was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote. He died 10 days later on July 4, 1826, within hours of his old friend, fellow Founder, and fellow President of the United States, John Adams.
In this last letter Jefferson expressed his wish that “the annual return of this day” would “forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” Jefferson was speaking to us too. You can read his full letter here.
56 Signers, 56 Different Fates
Pause today and ask yourself what you would be willing to sacrifice for our country?
The brave Americans who signed the Declaration of Independence risked their lives and fortunes. But they also indelibly enhanced their “sacred honor” by their resolute act of defiance of King George III. Many of those men lost everything and some died as a result.
Among the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, five signers were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Their families were scattered and their wives and children died.
Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships during the Revolutionary War.
And subsequently in these 239 years, over 1,350,000 Americans have died defending that independence and the new freedoms it produced for all the Americans past and present. Are we now willing to consign all that sacrifice to history’s rubbish heap?
Rebuild the Shining City on the Hill
In my view America, as a nation and as a people, needs to reaffirm and reassert our hard-won liberty and freedom. And when we intone “God Bless America” we must believe we deserve it.
We truly need to understand and to apply the fundamentals of limited government, individual freedom, equal protection under the law and due process. We must question the limitless and perverse expansion of government power.
If Jefferson’s dream of the future is fading in America, our ultimate task is to restore that dream and exalt America’s true purpose. We must rebuild that “shining city on a hill” about which first Massachusetts Bay Colony’s Governor John Winthrop, and later President Ronald Reagan, spoke so eloquently.
When our own national house is in order, all of us and the world beyond again will look to America for example — just as the world did on that hot July day in Philadelphia way back in 1776.
This task of renewal should be our personal task — yours and mine on this 4th of July — as America begins the 240th Year of our Independence.
Bob Bauman JD
Chairman, Freedom Alliance