Daily Archives: July 4, 2016
‘You and I have been wonderfully spared,” Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams in 1812….”
It’s easy now, in a nation awash with complaints about what our Founders did not do, what imperfect humans they seem to 21st century eyes, to overlook how startlingly bold their views and actions were in their own day and are, in fact, even today. Who else in 1776 declared, let alone thought it a self-evident truth, that all men were created equal, entitled to inalienable rights, or to any rights at all? How few declare these views today or, glibly declaring them, really intend to treat their countrymen or others as equal, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Certainly not America’s 20th century enemies, the Nazis and communists; certainly not today’s Islamic radicals, who consider infidels unworthy to live and the faithful bound by an ancient and brutal code of law. We are fortunate that the Founders of our nation were enlightened, generous, jealous of their rights and those of their countrymen, and prepared to risk everything to create a free republic.
Breaking with Britain was a risky and distressing venture; could the American colonies go it alone and survive in a world of great European powers?
By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
“Today we stand on an awful arena, where character which was the growth of centuries was tested and determined by the issues of a single day. We are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses; not alone the shadowy ranks of those who wrestled here, but the greater parties of the action–they for whom these things were done. Forms of thought rise before us, as in an amphitheatre, circle beyond circle, rank above rank; The State, The Union, The People. And these are One. Let us–from the arena, contemplate them–the spiritual spectators.
“There is an aspect in which the question at issue might seem to be of forms, and not of substance. It was, on its face, a question of government. There was a boastful pretence that each State held in its hands the death-warrant of the Nation; that any State had a right, without show of justification outside of its own caprice, to violate the covenants of the constitution, to break away from the Union, and set up its own little sovereignty as sufficient for all human purposes and ends; thus leaving it to the mere will or whim of any member of our political system to destroy the body and dissolve the soul of the Great People. This was the political question submitted to the arbitrament of arms. But the victory was of great politics over small. It was the right reason, the moral consciousness and solemn resolve of the people rectifying its wavering exterior lines according to the life-lines of its organic being.
“There is a phrase abroad which obscures the legal and moral questions involved in the issue,–indeed, which falsifies history: “The War between the States”. There are here no States outside of the Union. Resolving themselves out of it does not release them. Even were they successful in intrenching themselves in this attitude, they would only relapse into territories of the United States. Indeed several of the States so resolving were never in their own right either States or Colonies; but their territories were purchased by the common treasury of the Union. Underneath this phrase and title,–“The War between the States”–lies the false assumption that our Union is but a compact of States. Were it so, neither party to it could renounce it at his own mere will or caprice. Even on this theory the States remaining true to the terms of their treaty, and loyal to its intent, would have the right to resist force by force, to take up the gage of battle thrown down by the rebellious States, and compel them to return to their duty and their allegiance. The Law of Nations would have accorded the loyal States this right and remedy.
“But this was not our theory, nor our justification. The flag we bore into the field was not that of particular States, no matter how many nor how loyal, arrayed against other States. It was the flag of the Union, the flag of the people, vindicating the right and charged with the duty of preventing any factions, no matter how many nor under what pretence, from breaking up this common Country.
“It was the country of the South as well as of the North. The men who sought to dismember it, belonged to it. Its was a larger life, aloof from the dominance of self-surroundings; but in it their truest interests were interwoven. They suffered themselves to be drawn down from the spiritual ideal by influences of the physical world. There is in man that peril of the double nature. “But I see another law”, says St. Paul. “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.”
–Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914). The remarks here are from Chamberlain’s address at the general dedicatory exercises in the evening in the court house in Gettsyburg on the occasion of the dedication of the Maine monuments. It took place on October 3, 1889. For those who are history buffs you can see an actual program of the events there (on page 545)–KSH.
O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
”˜Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ”˜In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
–Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)
What was the Founders’ attitude toward religion in the country?
Public virtue was seen as necessary for a republic, and most believed that virtue was produced by religion. There was a strong view that religion was necessary to turn out good citizens.
Many of the Founders were well versed in religious and theological matters. How did this affect their work as architects of the republic?
They could quote Scripture. Jefferson and others were tutored by ministers. They were an extremely biblically literate generation. This certainly shaped their view of Providence. The extent to which they believed in Providence would be unimaginable today.
Adams and folks like that continually quoted [Jesus’] statement that a swallow cannot fall without God’s knowledge. Washington talks about the invisible hand of Providence. Their biblical knowledge convinced these people that there was an invisible hand of God, and that there was a moral government of the universe.
Watch it all, and be forewarned, you are not going to make it through without Kleenex–KSH.
“In Philadelphia, the same day as the British landing on Staten Island, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to ‘dissolve the connection’ with Great Britain. The news reached New York four days later, on July 6, and at once spontaneous celebrations broke out. ‘The whole choir of our officers … went to a public house to testify our joy at the happy news of Independence. We spent the afternoon merrily,’ recorded Isaac Bangs.”
“A letter from John Hancock to Washington, as well as the complete text of the Declaration, followed two days later:
“‘That our affairs may take a more favorable turn,’ Hancock wrote, ‘the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies, and to declare them free and independent states; as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you, and to request you will have it proclaimed at the head of the army in the way you shall think most proper.’ “Many, like Henry Knox, saw at once that with the enemy massing for battle so close at hand and independence at last declared by Congress, the war had entered an entirely new stage. The lines were drawn now as never before, the stakes far higher. ‘The eyes of all America are upon us,’ Knox wrote. ‘As we play our part posterity will bless or curse us.’
“By renouncing their allegiance to the King, the delegates at Philadelphia had committed treason and embarked on a course from which there could be no turning back.
“‘We are in the very midst of a revolution,’ wrote John Adams, ‘the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.’
“In a ringing preamble, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the document declared it ‘self-evident’ that ‘all men are created equal,’ and were endowed with the ‘unalienable’ rights of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ And to this noble end the delegates had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
“Such courage and high ideals were of little consequence, of course, the Declaration itself being no more than a declaration without military success against the most formidable force on Earth. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, an eminent member of Congress who opposed the Declaration, had called it a ‘skiff made of paper.’ And as Nathanael Greene had warned, there were never any certainties about the fate of war.
“But from this point on, the citizen-soldiers of Washington’s army were no longer to be fighting only for the defense of their country, or for their rightful liberties as freeborn Englishmen, as they had at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill and through the long siege at Boston. It was now a proudly proclaimed, all-out war for an independent America, a new America, and thus a new day of freedom and equality.”
—-David McCullough, 1776
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 bonds 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. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world….
— The Paris Review (@parisreview) July 4, 2016
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the peoples of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Members of First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem voted overwhelmingly…[recently] to break from their national denomination, underscoring a schism that has developed over Presbyterian Church (USA)’s embrace of same-sex marriage and the ordination of [non-celibate] gay ministers.
Out of 1,048 votes, 802 members supported bolting to the more conservative Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, a super-majority of 76.5 percent that church leaders say made clear the congregation’s wishes.
“We’re ready to get back to our most important thing, which is our ministry,” the Rev. Marnie Crumpler, pastor of First Presbyterian, said after the vote. “We’re just looking forward to moving forward as an ECO Presbyterian Church.”
But amid a bitter divorce, the results of the vote will not be accepted by the mainline denomination, said the Rev. David Duquette, an official of the Lehigh Presbytery, a regional arm of the national church.