On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry said to the Virginia House of Burgesses, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!“
Now, two hundred and thirty-nine years later, that liberty has been vastly diminished. The minions of the Imperial Federal government pry into our financial affairs, they regulate every aspect of our businesses from start to finish; they interfere with us in our very homes. The Imperial City sits like a Colossus on the Potomac, having proven itself a dangerous servant and a dreadful master, far from the limited and transparent servant of the people our Founders envisioned.
Among those gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence were three ancestors of Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. Two are in my father’s lineage, Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania and Delaware and (tenuous connection) Abraham Clark of New Jersey. Mrs. Animal’s mother’s line can be traced back to Maryland’s Charles Carroll. Our ancestors fought to establish this country, but that gives us no special privilege or standing, merely a large dose of pride. America is still, for the most part, a land where we are judged by what we do, not by who our parents were.
What would the Founders think of what their brainchild has become?
Consider the words of another Founder, Samuel Adams: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!“
Still, I try to remain cautiously optimistic. While many in our nation freely accept the chains Mr. Adams warned us about, the chains of government dependency, the over-reaching Presidency of Barack Obama may have rekindled some small appreciation for liberty. The upcoming Millennial generation of which my younger children are a part show strong sympathies with libertarian principles. So perhaps it is not too late to bring the Imperial City to heel, to retake the rightful control of our affairs which Washington has usurped.
So today is a holiday for most Americans, and most of us (yr. obdt. and family included) will enjoy a day free from toil, a day to enjoy the company of family and friends. But we should remember that this is also a day in which a small band of rebels threw off the chains of the greatest empire in the world to bring into being the greatest nation in human history, a nation that for whatever faults it has remains the best and last hope for peace, freedom and civilization in the world.
In a 1961 speech Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
We must guard our liberty with great and overwhelming jealousy. So much has already been chipped away, but if you look at the rest of the world – the Dark Ages mentality of much of the Middle East, the socialist morass of Europe, the fast-approaching demographic calamities of Russia, China and Japan – we’re still in pretty good shape.
The shining city on a hill has lost some of it’s luster. But we should not be ready to give up on America yet.