We Maintain the Declaration

Today, we celebrate Independence Day.  While we have our BBQs, parades, fireworks, and other traditions and celebrations, it’s important we remember and teach what the celebrations are truly about.  Exactly 243 years ago, 56 brave representatives of the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, affixing their signatures just below the following sentence,

“…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

The signers committed treason against their country, but it was treason for the most just of causes—to declare independence from a country and king who had betrayed them, to claim freedom for themselves, their families, and their posterity, and to secure the natural rights of the people of the “united States of America.”

Battles putting their Declaration and pledge to the test ensued almost immediately.  The years of the War for Independence, and the later War of 1812, tested the resolve of the founders and the militiamen who made the pledges and defended it with honor—with blood—with heartbreak.

Today, sometimes I cringe when I hear Americans blithely thank our God for the “freedoms we enjoy.”  Yes, we enjoy freedoms, they are precious, they are worthy of seeking gratitude from our creator, but I cringe because the “freedoms we enjoy” are dwindling, changing, and being taken from us.  Indeed, many Americans willingly forfeit patriots’ hard-fought freedoms for false promises of security and serenity.

While those who came before us made such solemn pledges, and indeed making the greatest sacrifices to secure those freedoms; I’m afraid we often misplace our trust in leaders and others who convince us they are the truest defenders of our country’s most precious promises.  We are losing what America stands for.

One of the signers of the Declaration, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, wrote,

“Sad will be the day when the American people forget their traditions and their history, and no longer remember that the country they love, the institutions they cherish, and the freedom they hope to preserve, were born from the throes of armed resistance to tyranny, and nursed in the rugged arms of fearless men.”

Could there be a more sobering warning?

John Adams was one of many who helped make our dreams possible.  Here is part of his letter to wife Abigail he wrote after the Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence:

“The Second (Fourth) Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Adams was very prophetic, wasn’t he?  In another letter (to a friend) he wrote, “You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means.  And that Posterity will tryumph in that Day’s Transaction.”

The Declaration of Independence, the War for Independence, and the War of 1812 were all examples of good patriots fighting for what is right.  As our national anthem says, all these efforts combined with God’s blessings have “preserved us a nation.”  But our country isn’t merely for us to “enjoy” or worse, to squander. Our independence and freedom are so very fragile they require constant vigilance for their protection and promotion.  The founders set the standard.  Sherman and Adams knew what was to come.

The birth of our country, the ideals it promotes, and the rights it preserves are all reasons for celebration.  I encourage all of us to celebrate Independence Day.  Let’s have our BBQs, our fireworks, and our parties.  But then, let’s remember our wonderful patriot founders and their sacrifices, and resolve ourselves to similarly meet the responsibilities we bear.

Recent events (Portland protests by modern-day fascists in tactical gear, frequent attacks on religious liberty, and politicians’ calls for abolishing private healthcare and other freedoms) are a call to action for me.  I want to celebrate this great country today, and then get back to work to help protect and preserve the rights and values at its foundation.  God willing, America will always be the republic of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Ronald M. Nate, economics professor, holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Connecticut, serves as a Senior Fellow at The Madison Liberty Institute, and is a former state representative for Legislative District 34A.