The other night at work I overheard someone ask when our next holiday is. While even I enjoy an occasional day off from work, and a paid one at that, it got me wondering if people just enjoy the day off without ever giving any thought to the true meaning of the holiday they are getting off work for. I’m sure that there are some who think about it, while for others it may just be a momentary flicker of recognition as to why they are getting the day off.
Nowhere is this more pertinent than for the Fourth of July, or Independence Day. Normally I would write an article on this day in close proximity to the actual holiday, but since the thought crossed my mind just the other day I thought I would spit this out and let it simmer for awhile and maybe by the time the holiday finally arrives people will have given what I’m about to say some thought. Yeah, I know that’s a long shot, but it gives me something to hope for.
Did you know that for nearly a century, 94 years to be exact, July 4th was not celebrated as a national holiday? It wasn’t until 1870 that Congress made Independence Day a holiday for federal employees. Even then it was an unpaid holiday. It wasn’t until 1938 that Congress made Independence Day a paid holiday for all federal employees. Sure, there may have been local celebrations commemorating our Independence, but it wasn’t until those dates that our own government recognized July 4th as a national holiday.
How is it that we observe this day celebrating our Independence? Some have family get togethers, others stay at home and barbecue, while others go attend festivals with the traditional fireworks display during the evening. Me, I don’t celebrate it at all, but I’ll get to that momentarily. Then of course there are the usual Independence Day sales where you can save big bucks on everything from clothing to a new car.
I would hope that everyone at least knows that July 4th is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Even though historians have differed in their views as to whether the actual document was signed by the delegates to that solemn event it is accepted as fact that the document was presented to, and agreed upon, on July 4, 1776.
On the date in question there were mixed emotions among those who were present at the signing of our Declaration of Independence. Years later Dr. Benjamin Rush would write to John Adams, “Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house where we were called up, one after another, to subscribe what was believed by many at the time to be our own death warrants?”
Those whose names are at the bottom of that document were in fact, declaring treason against their government, a capital offense. As Ben Franklin said upon signing the document, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Yet in a letter written to his wife Abigail, John Adams wrote the following, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
You see, although each of the signers of the Declaration of Independence understood the consequences of their affixing their names to it should they fail in winning that independence in battle, they also realized that what they were doing was right and should they win the battle that the day should be remembered for what it was, a day when a people stood up and declared their freedom from tyranny.
If you were to ask people why they celebrate July 4th as a holiday some would simply say because it is independence day. Others might go further and say that it is the day we celebrate our independence from Britain. But who and what were we really declaring our independence from? Was it the people of England? No, it was the severing of the ties that bound us to the English government at the time…i.e. the Crown. You see it is not important as to the who we were declaring our independence from, it is the what.
The very first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence makes no mention of England, it merely states, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands 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.”
It then goes on to say, “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.”
It is that spirit of independence, that desire to be free of tyranny that we should be celebrating, not just the day that a group of men signed the document declaring it. A decade after signing the document, Thomas Jefferson would write to Abigail Adams, “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”
I think by now I have laid enough groundwork to get to the crux of this article. If July 4th is supposed to be a day in which we celebrate our Founder’s taking a stand against tyranny, then why do we celebrate it today? Honestly, why do we celebrate the Fourth of July today when our own government is far more oppressive than King George was in 1776? Remember, the Declaration of Independence did not specify the King of England or Parliament. It merely stated, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… ”
How can we Americans, with any sense of decency, celebrate a holiday in which men pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to fight tyranny when we sit back and let tyranny grow like a cancer without voicing the slightest opposition?
Our nation’s war for independence was not merely fought on the battlefields, it was also a state of mind among those who sought to reclaim their God-given rights. Years after both men had served as president, John Adams would write to Thomas Jefferson the following words, “As to the history of the revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular. What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected … before a drop of blood was shed.”
The American Revolution could not have been won had not the people who fought for it really wanted it. Had you read any history regarding how perilously close we came to losing that war, or the suffering of the men who put their lives on the line so that future generations could enjoy the freedom enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, maybe you might look at the holiday with the true reverence it deserves.
The American war for independence was the culmination of, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism…” But Jefferson didn’t stop there, he also said, “…it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…” (my emphasis)
Jefferson did not say we had a choice in the matter, he said that it was our duty to throw off government when it becomes tyrannical. Does that make me unpatriotic therefore when I declare no allegiance whatsoever to our government as it exists today, or does that make me a patriot who stands for the same principles our Founders fought for? On the flip side, what does it make you when you go about your lives oblivious to what is happening while not voicing the slightest concern that the rights our Founders fought for are slowly being stripped away from you? If the answer to the first question is that I am a patriot, then one can only conclude that those who say or do nothing about what is happening in America today are not patriots. One can only conclude that Americans today have neglected their DUTY as Americans to fight for the principles this country was established upon.
As I already stated, the American Revolution occurred because of a long train of abuses and usurpations, such as taxes upon tea, lead, and other acts imposed upon them in Parliament, while also not allowing the colonists to print their own currency. It came to violence though when they tried to disarm the people at Lexington and Concord.
Yet were you to examine closely the impositions imposed upon the colonists by England and compare them to the impositions imposed upon us by our government today, you would find that the colonists had it better than we do now. They suffered far less under the King of England than we do under a government of our own choosing.
There is a quote I’ve seen from time to time on the internet, and although it may not be entirely accurate in all aspects, it gives you an idea of what I’m trying to say. The quote reads, “A 3% tax on tea eventually led to the American Revolution. Now you pay up to 70% of your earnings to a De Facto corporate government. You are groped at the airport, surveilled on the street, spied upon in your own home, fed propaganda by the media, lied to by your representatives, have your rights eroded, your currency devalued, and are on the verge of an overt police state. And you dare to say this is still the home of the brave and the land of the free.”
Our Founders did not just jump into revolution, there was a progression of events that occurred which left them no choice but to either fight for their freedom, or submit to tyranny. As the Declaration says, “In every state of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury…”
Prior to the actual fighting there were many who spoke out, wrote commentaries about the abuses of power and oppression of the King. These men stood upon their soap boxes and decried the actions of their sovereign. They had no power in their government as one of the things they decried was taxation without representation. They could not obtain justice from the courts when trials were held in English courts with the bias being for England. Their only remaining recourse was to take up arms and fight for their freedom.
History does indeed repeat itself. Today there are many Americans, just like me, who write commentaries such as these decrying our governments abuse of powers, only to have them fall upon deaf ears. The ballot box is also ineffective as most Americans are either blind to what is going on or willingly accept these violations of their liberty. The Courts, for the most part, enforce unconstitutional laws which violate our rights and enforce the will of government without regard to individual liberty. That leaves but one recourse for a people who only want their government to do the job it was created to do…AND NOTHING MORE.
So, as the Fourth of July draws near in the coming months, please think about what I have said here today. Think about what this holiday truly means. Think about the fact that even you may be celebrating a document that declares a peoples independence from tyranny, it took a great loss of life to achieve it. Think about how many laws our government enacts which makes the suffering our Founders lived under pale in comparison to the oppression we live under.
This is your homework assignment. You have five months to complete it.