July 4, 2007

Happy 231st Birthday, America

Note: This post will stay at the top all day. Newer posts will be below.

Today we celebrate the birth of our nation, as conceived by a group of men in a Pennsylvania hall who many considered at the time as traitors. They dared to imagine a nation whose leaders would not be derived from notions of royalty nor from the power of arms, but chosen by free people as leaders accountable to the populace. They took the ethereal notions that sprang from the Enlightenment and dared to make them a reality -- hoping that this radical experiment would take root in the North American continent, but having no clue that it would become a shining beacon for the entire world over the next two centuries.

It wasn't a model of perfection, and indeed, our birth has resembled our journey ever since. Dissent over the nature of a representative democracy appeared from the very start. The first structure of the government would have to be scrapped and re-imagined from scratch just a few years later. It would take decades more before the nation finally dealt with the inherent contradiction in the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that "all men are created equal," and the detestable institution of slavery -- and another century after that before the government finally took action to ensure that those words prevailed. Arguments about the division of power between the states and the federal government have continued from the first moments until this moment.

We have been far from perfect, but we have recognized our failures and prevailed over them in the fullness of time. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others -- and we have been the model for that, for better and worse. America has been a beacon of hope for the world for centuries, not just because of the words in our Declaration and Constitution, but because we as a people try our best to live up to them.

Conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, independents and centrists, and those who cringe when they hear any of those labels -- they want America to live up to its best ideals, our best selves, each in their own way. Happy Independence Day to all of us, and may we continue in our efforts as our ancestors have to continue to keep America as the shining city on the hill.

In 1981, three months after surviving an assassin's bullet, Ronald Reagan talked about our nation's birth in his Independence Day speech:

Thomas Jefferson wrote that on that day of America's birth, in the little hall in Philadelphia, debate raged for hours, but the issue remained in doubt. These were honorable men; still, to sign a Declaration of Independence seemed such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with cries of "treason'' and "the headsman's axe.''

Then, it is said, one unknown man rose to speak. He was neither young, nor strong in voice; yet, he spoke with such conviction that he mesmerized the hall. He cited the grievances that had brought them to this moment. Then, his voice failing, he said: "They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope, to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.'' And sign they did.

What makes our revolution unique and so exciting, then, is that it changed the very concept of government. Here was a new nation telling the world that it was conceived in liberty; that all men are created equal with God-given rights, and that power ultimately resides in "We the people.''

We sometimes forget this great truth, and we never should, because putting people first has always been America's secret weapon. It's the way we've kept the spirit of our revolution alive -- a spirit that drives us to dream and dare, and take great risks for a greater good. It's the spirit of Fulton and Ford, the Wright brothers and Lindbergh, and of all our astronauts. It's the spirit of Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, and a million others who may have been born poor, but who would not be denied their day in the Sun.

The men without the words would have been little more than mutineers. The words without the men would have been long forgotten, if ever remembered at all. On the Fourth of July, we honor them all, and all those who came after to preserve and promote the Union.


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Comments (18)

Posted by Monkei | July 4, 2007 8:28 AM

Happy 4th of July Captain, and all others on the blog!

Posted by TomB | July 4, 2007 8:48 AM

Happy 4th of July!

Posted by tgharris | July 4, 2007 9:22 AM

Its worth the read:


"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."

God Bless America.

Posted by Keemo | July 4, 2007 9:34 AM

Happy 4th CE and family; happy 4th to all members of the CQ community...

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the celebration...

Posted by Sam Enns | July 4, 2007 10:10 AM

Will repeat comment/exclamation shouted out at ourson and future daughter in laws '07 grad from Northwestern College-Mpls-St.Paul " We Love America "

Posted by Bennett | July 4, 2007 11:35 AM

And an extra special Happy Birthday to the men and women of the United States military. From Bunker Hill to Bacouba, one long unbroken line of patriots have fought the good fight in our name and for our destiny. We owe our independence to the men who wrote the words AND to the ones who have made those words mean something throughout our history by sacrificing themselves and their own futures to secure ours.

Posted by Rovin | July 4, 2007 11:51 AM

In 1778, General George Washington marked the Fourth of July with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute.

When Benjamin Franklin said, upon signing the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately," it was no less than the literal truth.

Happy 4th to you Cap n the 1st Mate. Thank you for all you have contributed to the enlightenment provided to all who have passed thru CQ. Hopefully we can all "hang together" in our quest to provide the very freedoms we take for granted to the nations in the middle east who yearn for the same.

Posted by Ray | July 4, 2007 12:20 PM

July 4, Recipe for Democracy Flambe

One tablespoon, do not accept elections,
One cup, undermine leaders,
Two cups, demoralize troops in time of war,
One gallon, treason,
Shake well, heat with vindictive,
Serve with crow when democracy is lost.

Ray Elliott, Rapid City

Posted by ratseal | July 4, 2007 1:10 PM

Hooyah the 4th!

Posted by John | July 4, 2007 1:21 PM

The 4th of July and freedom. A spontaneous essay.

I sit here in my favorite coffeeshop and contemplate this day and my day of "freedom from work". But it is so much more than that!

It is a day to enjoy "freedom of expression" as I thank those who have given some and those who have given all so that I can say what I please.

It is a day of "freedom of association" to spend with friends, family, or alone. Friends and family of different backgrounds, religions, countries and walks of life.

It is a day of "freedom of travel" to go wherever my whims take me. To the mountains, the plains or to the beach. I have the freedom to decide to go by bike, foot, car, train, plane or boat. My god, what a country!!

I have "the freedom" to go after " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as those immortal words in our "Declaration of Independence" so boldy prounounce!

In essence, the freedom to hope, dream and aspire to a better future for myself, my son and future generations.

It is truly an honor and privilege to be born into such an idea and country and try to live up to the ideals of such magnificence and boundless opportunity. A bastion of greatness that is in its people and spirit.

So today, I use my "freedom of expression" to thank those who stand guard at the pillars and gates of " freedom and independence". There are many that fight on the front lines at the moment(s) of this special day to continue the sacrifices necessary needed to have many more days of independence. I thank you!

As a veteran and one willing to stand to the end to keep these ideals . I will render you a hand salute. " A salute to those that have gone before us, to those that have served beside us and especially to those that will come after us"

GOD BLESS AMERICA and all that we stand for!
John Jaramillo.

Posted by Richard Chartrand | July 4, 2007 2:02 PM

Great 4th of July article. One comment, I always wince a bit when the word democracy is used interchangeably with republic. As I understand, a democracy is based on majority rule where a majority could "vote away" the rights of a minority or an individual, whereas a républic has rule of law, where a written constitution protects all individual rights even from a corrupt majority.

unfortunately, not everyone understands or values this, and as such there are enemies within and without who threaten the rights on which your great nation is based.

Happy independence day from Canada. (a democracy in dire need of a proper constitution)

Posted by Blaise | July 4, 2007 2:21 PM

From a Canadian: Happy Birthday to your country on her birthday, and many happy returns.

Posted by Robert Verdi | July 4, 2007 2:22 PM

I was talking to my neighbor the other day, she was a german expatriate who fled the ruins of Europe in 1945, of course she came to america where she built a life for herself. On a pre-4th barbecue I had the other day I was hanging out with a lebanese guy who was living in america to make a living. He lives and works here now. Quite succesfuly mind you. The connection? Well 60 years apart America is still the place a person could carve out a living. That is America, something that lives and breaths in 100's of millions of stories jusr like that.

Posted by Joe Molnar | July 4, 2007 3:31 PM

To our American neighbours, "
Happy Independence Day"

Joseph (Joe) Molnar
Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.

Posted by Rose | July 4, 2007 5:02 PM

(Watching the most fabulous Salute to America's Fouth of July Celebration taking place on GodTV, born in England, broadcast form Jerusalem, t his program ori ginating from Springfield Missouri, complete with all the traditional Patriotic melodies adn marches, and full fireworkds display from behind the most huge "Stars and Stripes" stage setting, with full color lighting show of its own.)

Captain - AMEN AND AMEN!

John Adams - When people talk of the freedom of writing, speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.

John Quincy Adams - The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected, in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.

Samuel Adams - The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.

Patrick Henry - It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.

Patrick Henry - It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. ... Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things, which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. ... 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!

John Quincy Adams:
• “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the Fourth of July]?" “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity"?
--1837, at the age of 69, when he delivered a Fourth of July speech at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Benjamin Franklin: | Portrait of Ben Franklin
“ God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 | original manuscript of this speech

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison proposed the plan to divide the central government into three branches. He discovered this model of government from the Perfect Governor, as he read Isaiah 33:22;
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
He will save us.”
[Baron Charles Montesquieu, wrote in 1748; “Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separated from legislative power and from executive power. If it [the power of judging] were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislature if it were joined to the executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. All would be lost if the same … body of principal men … exercised these three powers." Madison claimed Isaiah 33:22 as the source of division of power in government
See also: pp.241-242 in Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History: The Principle approach by Rosalie Slater]

Posted by David Pendracki | July 4, 2007 8:58 PM

I talked yesterday to a colleague who I forgot was doing a most extrodinary thing, bicycling accross the country to benefit the Fisher House, a place where the families of wounded soldiers can stay while their loved ones are recuperating. Check out his web site and see if you can find it in your heart to support this noble cause.


Two things I noticed when I went back to the site to watch his ride.

- These people are in my generation! None of them are in the young, idealistic generation you would think to do this. Maybe we are just the idealistic generation.

- It was ironic to see that Eisenhower was born and raised in the real middle of country both literally and figureatively.

Posted by CayuteKitt | July 4, 2007 9:08 PM

Reading the comments above brought tears to my eyes. As I've grown older and frailer due to a rare and devastating autoimmune disease, I'd had many occasions to look back over my life and wonder what has happened to the spirit of this great nation that I love so dearly.

Thank you all, US Americans and North Americans alike, for reaffirming for me that we are indeed the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. And actually, I'd like to modify that slightly to a version I heard recently that rings so true:

The Land of the Free, -Because- of the Brave.

Thank you all to our brave members of the military, for defending what our earlier brave Founders risked their lives to create: The United States of America.

How very, very blessed I was to have been born here. And it will be my privilege and honor to die here. Why that concept is nearly impossible for non-Americans to understand is something I've never understood, except that I do occasionally see it in the immigrants faces who have at last achieved that moment when they became USA citizens.

They know. Because they worked for it. Just as we must now and always work to keep it and defend it. Without those freedoms all else is folly and subject to forfeiture.

God bless you all, and God bless America and her allies.