Tag: Fourth of July

In the Heart of Our Republic

July 4, for me, usually means reading the Declaration, having a barbecue and attending the big Central Pennsylvania fireworks display. But this year, for reasons I hope to one day get into, I had to be in Maryland and therefore spent the Fourth in our nation’s capital (estimate temperature today: 194 degrees).

There is very “Heart of the Empire” feel to the District of Columbia, especially in its architecture (“Goodness, look at that building! That must be the Supreme Court or something!” [Checks map] “No, it’s the the Bureau of Lazy Sunday Afternoon Frisbee Games”). It was conceived on a grand scale and is laid out as though expecting another millenium of monuments and exhibits. You can see how spending one’s life in this place would give one delusions of grandeur.

But the people thronging the mall didn’t seem a particularly worshipful crowd. What impressed me about my fellow citizens was how much of their enthusiasm and patriotism was directed almost perpendicular to their government. The crowds came not to pay homage to our leaders but to marvel at the ideal of our government and the very real achievements of our great nation housed in the Smithsonian. I didn’t see anything political, just a bunch of Americans who seemed clued in to how unique and special and wonderful our 236-year-old experiment in a Constitutional Republicanism is.

I don’t have any deep thoughts today — my energy for them was drained by leading Sal 11000 Beta through the Skylab again and again and again. But I would suggest you read the Declaration of Independence. I do this every Fourth and so should you. Marvel at the clarity of language and thought; the powerful humanistic strain that runs through it. Think about how many of the complaints against the British government could be leveled against our own; and how often those abuses are be justified in the names of our various wars on Terror, Drugs, etc. You can also ready Randy Barnett’s annotated version, Thomas Fleming about the country we were, and Maggie McNeill on how we have fallen from those days. And you can cap it off at Popehat, with an inspiring story of how America still means something to so many.

Update: Late links: Frederick Douglas, whose patriotism shines in his harsh critique of our nation. Also, Ronald Reagan.

Ring The Bell

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

As the old saying goes, when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. But these men had much to lose. The signers of our DOI were all men of accomplishment and prestige within their own community. Not all were independently wealthy like Mr. Franklin, for the rest it was a hardship to even attend the Second Continental Congress, to be away from their farms and their livelihood.

The birthing of a new nation was not easy, and many signers had to pay up on that pledge they made to each other.

Tomorrow we celebrate a wholly American holiday, go ring that bell:

Interestingly, many other Americans risked their fortunes in this the fight for independence:

Those Americans, it turns out, had the highest per capita income in the civilized world of their time. They also paid the lowest taxes—and they were determined to keep it that way.

By 1776, the 13 American colonies had been in existence for over 150 years—more than enough time for the talented and ambitious to acquire money and land. At the top of the South’s earners were large planters such as George Washington. In the North their incomes were more than matched by merchants such as John Hancock and Robert Morris. Next came lawyers such as John Adams, followed by tavern keepers, who often cleared 1,000 pounds a year, or about $100,000 in modern money. Doctors were paid comparatively little. Ditto for dentists, who were almost nonexistent.

I make no qualms about my unabashed nationalism. In articulating the need for the separation Franklin described us as rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined. We had outgrown England.

In “Common Sense”,Thomas Paine argued that it was absurd for an Island to rule a Continent, that people of like mind band together to form a {separate} society, that government’s sole purpose is to protect life, liberty and property, and that a government should be judged solely on the basis of the extent to which it accomplishes this goal.

For many the injuries, the injustices, and the differences were too great, we required a new nation.

Happy 4th to all the colonialists.