Fourth Of July 2017: Never Take Freedom For Granted


It has been 241 years since the Continental Congress ratified the revolutionary words of the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson – ably assisted by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

At that time, “all men are created equal…[and] endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…among [which] are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” was both novel and radical. So was declaring independence from a monarchy that commanded one of the world’s largest armies and its pre-eminent navy.

But perhaps the most courageous aspect of the Declaration was its signers’ mutual pledge of “[their] Lives, [their] Fortunes, and [their] sacred Honor.”

They knew that they were serving a purpose well beyond themselves, beyond their families, their friends, their businesses, and any provincial special interests – a purpose that defined them. Paradoxically, even for those who knew slavery firsthand (including the many who actually owned slaves), “liberty” was not some abstract concept.

They never took freedom for granted, Which is why they were so concerned about government power.

They understood, far better than most of us do today, that once you arm imperfect, fallible public officials with the power to protect you, those same imperfect, fallible officials can just as easily oppress you. See, e.g., James Madison’s warnings in Federalist No. 10: “It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.’

The Founders understood that because they themselves were imperfect, fallible individuals.

And because freedom and limitations on government power were so important to them, they often viewed their rivals as fundamental threats to the emerging nation.

Consequently, President Trump’s tweets had nothing on the Founders’ opinions of their opponents.

For example, Hamilton compared Jefferson and his followers to the French revolutionary extremists of the Jacobin Club. Adams described Hamilton as “[t]hat bastard brat of a Scottish peddler!” and suggested that Hamilton’s ambitions “all arose from a superabundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw off!”

Crude and petty? Of course.

But they were the products of the deepest concerns about, and honest passions for, the future of our new Republic by giants like Thomas Paine, who observed that “[h]e who dares not offend cannot be honest”; and George Washington, who saw that government “is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master.”

Unfortunately, those noble concerns and passions for the future of our Republic have been replaced by today’s politicians’ craven obsessions with being re-elected and retaining their membership in what has come to be known – with appropriate disgust – as the “political class” that operates with equivalent cowardice and duplicity in Washington as in Springfield.

On this Independence Day we need to realize that true patriotism requires more than mere flag waving. It requires our continuing dedication to this country’s founding principles and the courage to pledge our own “Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” in furtherance of those principles.

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6 comments so far

Outstanding post!

Most of the Founders believed in a God, or Creator, so they never thought about substituting government for God.

Great post, but you forgot one of the most important Founders’ quotes, by Chief Justice John Marshall:

“That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create….”

EDITOR’S NOTE: But to be fair, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in a dissenting opinion to a 1927 Supreme Court decision: ” Taxes are what we pay for civilized society…”, although Holmes failed to specify how much we should be taxes for that “civilized society” – or whether we should be taxed less when that “civilized society” includes the risk of being shot, assaulted and/or robbed while walking the streets of Chicago.

The only thing today’s politicians pledge is OUR fortunes, which they spend on whatever crackpot program some special interest making big-ticket campaign contributions wants.

Illinois now has a budget. Big whoop. Madigan and his puppet, gov. Quinn, assured us that the last big tax hike was going to be temporary and solve the state’s financial problems. Worked great, didn’t it?

EDITOR’S NOTE: So long as people continue to believe that Mike Madigan is capable of producing anything honest and worthwhile, Illinois will keep sliding downhill.

Jefferson wrote, in the Declaration, about the rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Unlike the first two rights, “Happiness” was not a right in and of itself: Only its pursuit was a right.

That is why the welfare state was not provided for in the Declaration or the Constitution. The Founders knew that, although all men are created by the Creator as equal in rights and dignity (with the notable exception of non-whites during the first century of this country’s existence, and women for some time after that), they are not equal when it comes to talent, intelligence, self-discipline, industry and all the other virtues which tend to be the hallmarks of “successful” people.

And nothing brings that into focus more than the collection of people we elect as our public officials, starting with the vast majority of our General Assembly.

You really believe Trump’s tweets, like the one featuring him beating down CNN, are no worse than the insults exchanged by the founders? And why would you expect people to dedicate themselves to our country’s founding principles anymore now that your dear leader tears them apart without impunity? Talk about whistling past the graveyard.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, MWR, we’ve missed your socialist twaddle.

If there were Twitter back in the Founders’ day, Adams would probably be tweeting photos of Hamilton’s whores – or at least the infamous Maria Reynolds.

Trump is no more our “dear leader” than he is yours. But he is our president just as he is yours, like it or not – unless you change your citizenship to Polish, in which case Andrzej Duda could be “your” president.

Do widzenia!

Ah, ok, anything anti-Trump, truthful as it may be, is “socialist twaddle.” Sad to see you succumb to the “fake news” narrative that’s infecting previously reasonable folks . When the fourth estate is discredited, everything else falls into place for the would-be authoritarians. You must be do proud. I guess?

EDITOR”S NOTE: Poor Mary, obsessing again over the president whom we’ve mentioned a mere 3 times in our hundreds of posts, not one mention of which was favorable.

As for “the fourth estate” being “discredited,” no less than Thomas Jefferson was so ambivalent about it that he could write that “[w]ere it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter” but also that “[t]he man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

Lincoln noted that: “We live in the midst of alarms…we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.”

Mark Twain wrote: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

And H.L. Mencken echoed Twain with: “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”

None of them are believed to have known, or were criticizing, President Trump.

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