On this day two hundred and thirty eight years ago, a band of brave patriots published a document which would have huge impact the world over. Representatives of the Thirteen Colonies met in Philadelphia to approve The Declaration of Independence, severing their subservient relationship with the British Crown and with its publication a struggle for freedom of David and Goliath proportions began.
Despite all of the patriotic fervor and anger with King George for treating his subjects like serfs, there were still many in this land who did not want to battle the British. There were multiple reasons for this: fear, loyalty to the homeland, and financial arrangements among others, but the minority who led the cause for freedom eventually secured a sufficient number of colonists to man the Continental Army. And it didn’t hurt that they eventually had George Washington of Virginia to lead the fledgling nation in battle, a man of vision and honor who realized that it was his destiny from God to lead this original band of brothers.
Things didn’t go well at first with some loyalists providing the British with information on leaders of the rebellion. This resulted in horrific retribution against these men and their families for their actions. A good example of this was the group of patriots who followed Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, so named because he would strike swiftly and then retreat into the dense South Carolina swamps where the English were fearful to follow. These patriots suffered horribly as many of their family members were brutally massacred, some burned alive, and all family possessions and property stolen, sacked or destroyed.
And, of course, we all know that the open battlefield skirmishes were dismal and bloody failures for the Americans at first, bringing Washington and his often threadbare troops within a whisker of total defeat. Finally the crossing of the Delaware with Washington’s surprise assault on Trenton was a brilliant success and shock waves reverberated all the way to London. This kept his Army in the war and, following a long and bloody struggle, it was on to Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781. American folklore says that the British band struck up the British song, “The World Turned Upside Down” although that can’t be fully authenticated.
The United States really didn’t have a settled government structure until 1789 since much give and take was needed between the large and small states and the Northern and Southern factions in order to gain agreement. The in-between Articles of Confederation allowed for the nation to stay together although there were difficulties. It wasn’t an easy thing to set up a government that was both free and democratic while maintaining protections for the minority as well. The checks and balances were designed to insure that America truly would be a land where an elected body, not a king or a despot, would control the ship of state subject to the voting choices of the citizenry.
Following those founding days, the United States grew into the greatest nation on earth and has been looked to by freedom seeking people everywhere as a beacon of hope and inspiration. But, as Alexis de Tocqueville said so elegantly in his masterpiece, Democracy in America, something seems to have gone wrong in recent years. The willpower, determination, and dedication to hard work is lost today in so many of us, often caused by soft living and the belief in promises made by self-serving politicians who are more interested in retaining their power than in securing the future of the country. As that great French writer surmised, when a population in a democratic environment gets to the point where those who have not realize they can vote themselves a pay raise at the cost of those who have, trouble begins. This seems to be where we are headed unless we as a society come alive with a new rendition of the Spirit of 1776.
We Americans must look at the wonder of what our Founders did for us, designing a system which, with God’s help, has been a model for all to see. And the haves worked hard with the sweat of their brow to gain those things they have and they are also generous with their riches with those who are needy when the government leaves them free to produce and grow. That is what those without need to strive for, not from a handout, but a hand up which will propel them also to success and wealth. That is the Spirit of 1776 which combines the Holy Spirit and the American Spirit with a level of energy and perseverance which cannot be denied. It worked before and it will work again as well.
So I hope that all Americans on this Independence Day will take the time to look at the courage and brilliant but difficult work of our Founders and redouble our own efforts to do our part to push onward and upward for liberty. Individualism, freedom and capitalism, when combined in a fair and honest way is the only way we will regain our footing and with God’s help we can do so. Government is never the source of production, it is merely a user of some of the fruits of productive labor and if it focuses on those requirements which were called for in the Constitution, most importantly national security, while expunging so much of the waste and abuse, the richness and bountiful goods and services which this country can produce will once again lead us to renewed prominence.
Thank God for this land that we love and let us use this glorious day, a day when we remember our great heritage and purpose, to reenergize ourselves as Americans, including liberals, moderates and conservatives to bind ourselves together for the most valiant cause of them all: freedom under God.
Happy Birthday, America.
Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a true story of life with a wide array of animals in God’s glorious rural America