The nation can use a holiday, a holiday from the bickering that now characterizes our political debates in the halls of Congress or what passes as “news.” Even our social media is awash in vitriol.
As we pause to enjoy time with family and friends, it is more important that ever to remember the events that led to the holiday: the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s also important to remember the bravery and sacrifice made by the men who willingly put their lives on the line to sign it and those who gave their lives to defend it.
The British had increasingly oppressed the colonists. As the tensions grew, the crown sent a standing army to North America to strengthen its control. Furthermore, it ruled that the colonists must provide this occupying force with living quarters and supplies. On April 19, 1775, war broke out when the Brits tried to seize the military supplies of the Massachusetts militia. On August 23, 1775, King George officially declared the colonies in rebellion and warned the Americans to end it or face certain defeat.
Would the colonists really challenge the world’s most powerful empire? There was widespread disagreement between neighbors and friends. Some, who had become quite comfortable, favorited submission to British rule, no matter what the crown demanded. Others realized that they would never be free from this tyranny unless the colonists had the right to pass the laws under which they were governed.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not lawless men or reactionaries. They were men of means, highly educated, thoughtful men with much to lose. Many who signed this document lost their homes, family members and their fortunes in a war that would drag on for six more years.
John Adams, who survived to become our second president, made this statement in a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. “I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states; yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means.”
An estimated 6,800 Americans were killed in action, 6,100 wounded, and upwards of 20,000 were taken prisoner in that war. Furthermore, another 17,000 deaths were the result of disease, including approximately 8,000–12,000 who died while prisoners of war.
Later Adams would write, “Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make a good use of it.”
Thomas Paine, who made the case for independence in his pamphlets, gave us this timeless warning: “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”
How true those words! An inheritance obtained too early has been the undoing of many young people. Many shed their blood and lost their treasure to give us the freedom that we now take for granted and so many are anxious to give away for free stuff.
Benjamin Franklin rightly stated, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”
It was startling to see how many Democratic presidential candidates want to give the government absolute control over our health care. Bernie Sanders was the only one with the courage to admit that it won’t be free. Yes, it will require raising taxes on the middle class. And how much will those taxes have to be raised if the government provides the health care to — not just citizens —but anyone who wants to come accross the border? Seventy, eighty, ninety percent perhaps?
If government controls our health care it will not be the quality or the kind we have now. It can’t be. Also, the government will control who lives and who dies. Who in their right mind thinks health care will be more affordable if it is layered through a government bureaucracy instead of a function of the free market? The problems that exist with health care today are the result of too much government control.
It’s also important to remember that when you lose the right to control a fair portion of your income, freedom is just an illusion.
Upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. He answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
“To be born free is a privilege. To die free is an awesome responsibility.” Anonymous