Actually it was July 2 when the Continental Congress voted for independence. John Adams wrote thousands of letters home to his wife Abigail that tell us about the debates, the conflicts and the emotions among the men trying to decide whether to declare independence.
In one letter, after a delayed vote on independence, he wrote:
“… the Delay of this Declaration to this Time, has many great Advantages attending it. The Hopes of Reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by Multitudes of honest and well meaning tho weak and mistaken People, have been gradually and at last totally extinguished. – Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphletts, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, have now adopted it, as their own Act. …. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
We have been born into an experiment in governance. We should be awed that a group of men from throughout the colonies were able, after many years of struggle, to devise our system of government. They had faith in each other, even with huge philosophical differences, and they also knew the weaknesses and foibles that could have doomed this experiment.
A belief in two things greater than themselves provided the glue they needed; a belief in liberty and freedom, and the knowledge that these rights were not given by any government or King, but by our Creator.
However, we can allow those rights to erode and disappear.
Let’s examine where we are today. We live in an era of fabrications and distortions — and sometimes just outright lies by our elected officials. We live in an era of partisanship, worse than what James Madison warned us about.
Not all politicians lie, of course, but just enough to make me concerned that we have lost our way as a nation. I cringe at some social media postings. People freely post items that categorize anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view as “racist,” “homophobic,” “communist,” “socialist”…you get my direction here.
Some of us seem to think that if we scream loudly enough, we can shout down opposing thoughts, even the sensible ones. How does this compare to Adams’ words: “Time has been given for the whole People, maturely to consider the great Question of Independence and to ripen their judgments.”?
The polls show the public has lost faith in all branches of government. Do we now share writer H. L. Mencken’s view that “the most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself…Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable”?
Maybe a good start to change our dangerous course would be to read and understand the Federalist Papers. We should begin once again teaching the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We must embrace the rule of law. We have drifted a long way from where we should be and we need a course correction before we lodge ourselves upon the shoals of history.
Ed H. Moore resides in the Florida seat of governance and is perpetually awaiting the rebirth of wonder.