The 56 guys who pulled off the biggest gamble in American history must be holding their breath this 4th of July. Could the jackpot that has been the envy of the world for 243 years wind up in strange hands?
None of the presidential candidates now advocating that the U.S. government move closer to the socialist model seems to remember what it was for which the founders or our country were willing to risk their lives and the cost they paid to sign the Declaration of Independence.
It was freedom from England and her king’s high and unfair taxes.
Hundreds of thousands of brave and deeply religious people shared the belief of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the other signers — that “the law of Nature and Nature’s God entitled them” to be a free people with a government whose “just powers come from the consent of the governed.”
Like 52 of the signers of that Declaration, many of whom also signed the Constitution of the newly formed United States of America eleven years later, most of their supporters were devout members of Christian churches. So they agreed that “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.”
Out of that belief came NOT a socialist government but the creation of our democratic republic based on a capitalistic economy, strong limits on those in power and guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, assembly, the press, and the right to petition for all the people.
So you have to wonder if the millennials and others who like the idea of free college, free medical care, free child care understand the courage it took to fight a years long war against unfair taxes like 12 of the signers did as officers in state militias — five were captured and imprisoned by the British; like 17 who lost property in British raids; and five — including Robert Morris, the Pennsylvania delegate who personally financed George Washington’s entire army for days at a time — lost fortunes.
And in today’s political atmosphere filled with invectives of bigotry and worse whenever there is differences of opinion on controversial issues such as immigration, it might be well to listen to founders like Washington.
As our first president he assured the Jewish congregation in Newport Rhode Island that all citizens “possess liberty of conscience” and “happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they that live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
Don’t you think the signers of the Declaration today would say, “while the patriots of our day held rallies and lit bonfires in Philadelphia and New York when they heard of the signing, you feel free to celebrate our heroic act with fireworks and picnics or however you like but don’t forget what it means.”
Thomas Jefferson also might want you to continue to remember, as he pointed out to his fellow countrymen, that “the God who gave us life gave us liberty.” Then he questioned: “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
Independence Day also might be the time to continue to remember that:
- It was from the pulpits of America’s churches that came the cry for independence.
- It was from the organization of the Presbyterian Church (where James Madison, the principal architect of our Constitution was a member) that our founders adopted our bicameral form for the legislature.
- From the early days of the colonies well past the first half century of the new nation, nearly all schools or private education were church related. Of the first 108 universities, 106 were church related and some of the earliest — Harvard, Brown, Yale, Princeton, William and Mary — began as seminaries to train clergymen.
Some signers, like Adams, might want us to follow his recommendation that we commemorate Independence Day “as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
Might be worth thinking about.
(For 37 of his 48 years with The Miami Herald, Adon Taft was the religion editor. He also taught social studies at Miami-Dade Community College. Now retired in Birmingham, AL., he can be reached at [email protected])