Two Things to Read Before Beers, Burgers, and Fireworks Today

 

No Independence Day is complete without at least reading the opening words of the document that is the basis of our Holiday. And one more thing from 1852.

Happy Independence Day. We have some celebrating to do. As for my family, we’re headed to George Washington’s Mount Vernon today, July 4th, which has an array of fabulous activities planned.

It will be followed by commemorating an industry that Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration unsuccessfully tried to start but inspired nonetheless – a visit to a Virginia winery. There are now some 276 wineries in Virginia, America’s 6th highest producer of wine, trailing Texas (really?) and just ahead of Pennsylvania. California, of course, is number one with 4,391. No surprise there. A customary outdoor cookout with family, hopefully with fireworks will complete the day.

But no commemoration of America’s Independence Day is complete without reading the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, on which its signers “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

If you read anything to commemorate this day, between bites of burgers and hotdogs and washed with beer or Jefferson’s favorite beverage (or perhaps one of George Washington’s), please reflect, if only for a moment, on why we celebrate this day.

No, not just because John Adams, our first Vice President, and Second President, told us to. With guns.

The great day, to him, was neither that of the signing of the Declaration, August 2, nor that of its adoption, July 4. The day ‘to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations [he wrote his wife] from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever more’ would be July 2—the day the Congress passed a resolution affirming that the states were independent of the British crown.”

The real celebration is rooted in the fact that we are the greatest societal experiment in history – a nation built not on a religion or a race, or an ideology, but an idea.

It was America, more than anyone else, that cemented the notion that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed. That is woven deeply into the fabric of these words, penned by Jefferson in the Declaration:

“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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The ultimate measure of such thought is the lifespan of its relevance. And those words remain relevant today, 245 years after they were published in Philadelphia in those hot, sultry summer months of 1776.

A few revanchist miscreants will send the weak-minded and ignorant into the rabbit holes of presentism to diminish and abuse our framers’ brilliant work, sacrifices, and immeasurable contributions. Their insidious propaganda and malevolent revisionism must be rejected and dismissed. Our framers were products of a time they did not create. So are we.

For the malign authors and misguided disciples of “white fragility” and so-called “anti-racism” (which is the new racism), I would simply refer them to the great Fredrick Douglass, a freed slave who spoke brilliantly in 1852 on what July 4th meant to him:

Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it.

Our framers, like us, were imperfect people. They didn’t get everything right. The preamble to the Constitution is pretty clear: they were trying to form a “more perfect,” not a perfect union. In fact, 10 amendments were quickly added to the Constitution to help secure ratification. And we’ve amended it 27 times in all. A few were mistakes (see: 18th Amendment). I could add a few more (16th and 17th for starters – not touching the 19th). Compared to the former Soviet Union, China, North Korea, even our great friends in Canada and Australia, or frankly, most nations of the European Union (looking at you, Great Britain and France), we’ve done it best. And it’s not close.

The Declaration of Independence has never been amended.

Enjoy and celebrate, but remember who we are, how we got here, and that our journey never ends. We march on. It is our duty. And like our framers and millions of those who followed, many interred at Arlington National Cemetery, we should be willing to pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to promote, protect, and preserve our founding principles and the documents – and the nation – in which they are enshrined.

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  1. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    This is a fabulous post!  Thank you for all the links – can you take some pictures of the festivities and post later? 

    • #1
  2. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Yes, I especially love the Frederick Douglas excerpt. He agreed with the original concept:  humans are humans….race is irrelevant. I’ve learned enough about the founding and the Constitution that if they would have worked out the “slavery problem” back when they were writing those documents, we’d still be part of England today!! It was a serious obstacle. I also love “a more perfect union” NOT “a perfect union.”  

    In my next life I’ll be an American history teacher. (I taught it to 4th graders quite a bit before I retired, but I simply LOVE the whole concept.)

    • #2
  3. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    Cow Girl (View Comment):

    Yes, I especially love the Frederick Douglas excerpt. He agreed with the original concept: humans are humans….race is irrelevant. I’ve learned enough about the founding and the Constitution that if they would have worked out the “slavery problem” back when they were writing those documents, we’d still be part of England today!! It was a serious obstacle. I also love “a more perfect union” NOT “a perfect union.”

    In my next life I’ll be an American history teacher. (I taught it to 4th graders quite a bit before I retired, but I simply LOVE the whole concept.)

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    This is a fabulous post! Thank you for all the links – can you take some pictures of the festivities and post later?

    Yes! I have a new post written and scheduled for tomorrow, complete with photos and more links. 

     

    • #3