On Thursday, communities across these United States will celebrate 4th of July with hotdogs and fireworks, but all too often without much understanding of what the Founding Fathers aimed to create when they signed the Declaration of Independence.
Understanding requires objectivity, emotional stability, and perspective – all of which in short supply. Students do not study history objectively, people readily respond to sound bites and catchphrases, and single-minded views take the place of perspective of events. Thus, Thomas Jefferson has descended to the level of a mere slaveholder. Thus, schools call for the removal of statues and murals depicting our nation’s history. Once history is erased, there is no way to learn from it, or avoid repeating horrendous acts such as building an economy based on indentured servitude.
So, what is going on? Are voices calling Jefferson and Washington brigands uncovering ugly truths that need to be told, or do such voices represent another agenda? Let’s compare what the Founding Fathers aimed to create vs. what today’s politicians want to do.
What the Founding Fathers Wanted
When leaders in the American Colonies decided to break with Great Britain, they were faced not only with a War of Revolution but also with a clean slate upon which to design a new nation. They did not wish another Britain or France, but a nation that embodied the ideals of individual liberty and self government. To do that, they needed to codify the ideas contained in documents that discussed such ideals. For example: The Magna Carta (1215) spoke of curtailment of a King’s absolute power and of limited government. In his Second Treatise on Government (1690), John Locke discussed natural rights that everyone is born with and the duty of government to protect those natural rights.
Revolutionaries like Thomas Paine (“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”) and Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty or give me death!”) are best known for the oratory that spread the word about Independence. George Washington led the War of Independence. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were the principal architects of the new nation. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. All these and many more placed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create a republic in which the individual was paramount, and government existed only to protect the natural rights of the people.
What Today’s Politicians Want
With few exceptions politicians today want unlimited government, an obedient populace that does not understand government is their servant not their master, and replacement of natural rights with civil rights.
But the words of those pesky Founding Fathers and that bothersome old U.S. Constitution are in the way. Give such politicians a chance and they will do away with just about every single word in the Constitution. However, since they feel that time has not yet come, best alternative is to crank out rules and laws that keep expanding the reach of government and malign those who called for limited government.
Have a Great 4th of July! Here is a Suggestion:
If you are having a 4th of July get together with family and friends, maybe take a moment to reflect on what you are celebrating. If you want to frame your call for reflection with a topic du jour, pose the question: If you were a Founding Father creating a new nation out disparate colonies, how would you go about changing the structure of colonies whose economy was based on slave labor?
Would you visualize such an endeavor as challenging for the new Republic? For example: In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson condemned the importation of slaves into the colonies as an “abominable crime.” Delegates to the Continental Congress of 1776 removed that language and replaced it with ambiguous reference to “domestic insurrections” so as to ensure support for Independence from the Southern colonies. What would you have done instead?
Do you view individuals even possessing the best intentions to be fallible? Do you see a comparison between the fallibility of today’s politicians who are unable to remedy tragedies such as homelessness and deaths from drug addiction with the fallibility of yesterday’s politicians who failed to end slavery in a rational and peaceful manner?
Enjoy your Independence Day!