Posted: July 5, 2017 Filed under: History, White House | Tags: Amazoncom, American Revolution, American Revolutionary War, Americans, Declaration of Independence, Fireworks, Independence Day (United States), Independence Hall, John Adams, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson, United States
My fellow Americans:
In a few moments the celebration will begin here in New York Harbor. It’s going to be quite a show. I was just looking over the preparations and thinking about a saying that we had back in Hollywood about never doing a scene with kids or animals because they’d steal the scene every time. So, you can rest assured I wouldn’t even think about trying to compete with a fireworks display, especially on the Fourth of July.
My remarks tonight will be brief, but it’s worth remembering that all the celebration of this day is rooted in history. It’s recorded that shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia celebrations took place throughout the land, and many of the former Colonists — they were just starting to call themselves Americans — set off cannons and marched in fife and drum parades.
What a contrast with the sober scene that had taken place a short time earlier in Independence Hall. Fifty-six men came forward to sign the parchment. It was noted at the time that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. And that was more than rhetoric; each of those men knew the penalty for high treason to the Crown. “We must all hang together,” Benjamin Franklin said, “or, assuredly, we will all hang separately.” And John Hancock, it is said, wrote his signature in large script so King George could see it without his spectacles. They were brave. They stayed brave through all the bloodshed of the coming years. Their courage created a nation built on a universal claim to human dignity, on the proposition that every man, woman, and child had a right to a future of freedom.
For just a moment, let us listen to the words again: “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.” Last night when we rededicated Miss Liberty and relit her torch, we reflected on all the millions who came here in search of the dream of freedom inaugurated in Independence Hall. We reflected, too, on their courage in coming great distances and settling in a foreign land and then passing on to their children and their children’s children the hope symbolized in this statue here just behind us: the hope that is America. It is a hope that someday every people and every nation of the world will know the blessings of liberty.
And it’s the hope of millions all around the world. In the last few years, I’ve spoken at Westminster to the mother of Parliaments; at Versailles, where French kings and world leaders have made war and peace. I’ve been to the Vatican in Rome, the Imperial Palace in Japan, and the ancient city of Beijing. I’ve seen the beaches of Normandy and stood again with those boys of Pointe du Hoc, who long ago scaled the heights, and with, at that time, Lisa Zanatta Henn, who was at Omaha Beach for the father she loved, the father who had once dreamed of seeing again the place where he and so many brave others had landed on D-day. But he had died before he could make that trip, and she made it for him. “And, Dad,” she had said, “I’ll always be proud.”
And I’ve seen the successors to these brave men, the young Americans in uniform all over the world, young Americans like you here tonight who man the mighty U.S.S. Kennedy and the Iowa and other ships of the line. I can assure you, you out there who are listening, that these young are like their fathers and their grandfathers, just as willing, just as brave. And we can be just as proud. But our prayer tonight is that the call for their courage will never come. And that it’s important for us, too, to be brave; not so much the bravery of the battlefield, I mean the bravery of brotherhood.
All through our history, our Presidents and leaders have spoken of national unity and warned us that the real obstacle to moving forward the boundaries of freedom, the only permanent danger to the hope that is America, comes from within. It’s easy enough to dismiss this as a kind of familiar exhortation. Yet the truth is that even two of our greatest Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, once learned this lesson late in life. They’d worked so closely together in Philadelphia for independence. But once that was gained and a government was formed, something called partisan politics began to get in the way. After a bitter and divisive campaign, Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency in 1800. And the night before Jefferson’s inauguration, Adams slipped away to Boston, disappointed, brokenhearted, and bitter.
For years their estrangement lasted. But then when both had retired, Jefferson at 68 to Monticello and Adams at 76 to Quincy, they began through their letters to speak again to each other. Letters that discussed almost every conceivable subject: gardening, horseback riding, even sneezing as a cure for hiccups; but other subjects as well: the loss of loved ones, the mystery of grief and sorrow, the importance of religion, and of course the last thoughts, the final hopes of two old men, two great patriarchs, for the country that they had helped to found and loved so deeply. “It carries me back,” Jefferson wrote about correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, “to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless . . . we rowed through the storm with heart and hand . . . .” It was their last gift to us, this lesson in brotherhood, in tolerance for each other, this insight into America’s strength as a nation. And when both died on the same day within hours of each other, that date was July 4th, 50 years exactly after that first gift to us, the Declaration of Independence. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: July 4, 2017 Filed under: History, Think Tank, White House | Tags: 1700s, America, American Revolution, Britain, Declaration of Independence, documentary, Film, Founding Fathers, July 4th, Ken Burns, Revolutionary war, Thomas Jefferson, United States, video
Posted: April 13, 2017 Filed under: History, Mediasphere, White House | Tags: American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers, Ken Burns, Thomas Jefferson, University of Virginia, video, Virginia
Posted: July 10, 2015 Filed under: Art & Culture, History, U.S. News | Tags: 'merica, Declaration of Independence, Holiday, Independence Day, July 4th, Photography, Stars & Stripes, US Flag, USA
Posted: July 3, 2015 Filed under: Law & Justice, Mediasphere, Politics, Think Tank | Tags: African American, Clarence Thomas, Declaration of Independence, Dignity, George Takei, Human, Japanese American internment, Natural and legal rights, Slavery, Supreme Court of the United States
“Thomas’s discussion was clearly above George Tekei’s intellectual pay grade. He owes the quiet justice a big, fat apology.”
Wesley J. Smith writes:
…Tekei claimed falsely that Thomas wrote that slavery was somehow “dignified.” He most certainly did not.
Rather, Thomas argued that human dignity is intrinsic and equal among all human beings, and moreover, that our inherent worth can’t be taken away by government or anyone else.
Wesley J. Smith writes at Human Exceptionalism:
”Slavery did not strip its victims of their inherent dignity. It was evil precisely because they had inherent dignity.”
So does each and every LGBT human being. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: June 13, 2015 Filed under: History, Think Tank | Tags: All men are created equal, Declaration of Independence, Financial endowment, George III of the United Kingdom, government, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Life, Natural and legal rights, Property, United States, United States Declaration of Independence
Danielle Allen writes: For all that we talk about “original” founding documents, when it comes to the Declaration of Independence at least, we’ve had multiple versions since the earliest days of the revolution. The most important difference among these versions appears in the sentence about self-evident truths.
The manuscripts written out by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; the version voted on by Congress, as attested to in the official minutes recorded by Charles Thomson; and the official poster printed up by John Dunlap at Congress’s request, on July 4 and 5, 1776, record a very long second sentence, reading as follows:
“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.”
This lengthy sentence is a remarkably cogent expression of the theory of revolution that developed in early modern political thought. The people preserve their right to ensure that their rights are secured. When governments fail to secure those rights, the people may alter their government or, if it comes to it, abolish it and start over.
Yet on July 6, Philadelphia printer Benjamin Towne — who had obtained a copy of the Declaration we know not how — printed an unauthorized version that broke that long sentence into two by placing a period after “pursuit of happiness.” Towne scooped Dunlap, who didn’t get the Declaration into his own paper until July 8. As the first newspaper printing, Towne’s version was circulated extensively and read like this:
“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 content of the governed . . .”
In Towne’s printing, both the requirement that government balance the individual right to pursue happiness with the collective safety and happiness of the people and the accompanying theory of revolution drift out of focus. The period after pursuit of happiness leads us to disconnect the opening premise about individual rights from the argument for the positive value of good government and the all-important conclusion about altering governments that fail us.
[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]
Last summer, I stood behind a group of high school students at an exhibit about the Declaration. They began reading one of the versions of the text with the period. When they got to “pursuit of happiness,” they lifted their hands in the air, shouted “yes,” and were gone. They got the point about individual rights but not the people’s responsibility to determine principles and organizational forms that achieve their shared safety and happiness. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 3, 2015 Filed under: History, Law & Justice, White House | Tags: Adam Smith, Americans, Arkansas, Bill Clinton, Charlottesville, College of William & Mary, Continental Congress, Declaration of Independence, Divine right of kings, Indiana, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Natural and legal rights, Thomas Jefferson, United States, University of Virginia, Virginia
“Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness…”
Before his death, Thomas Jefferson left explicit instructions regarding the monument to be erected over his grave. In this document (undated), Jefferson supplied a sketch of the shape of the marker, and the epitaph with which he wanted it to be inscribed:
“…on the faces of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more:
Here was buried
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia
What’s missing here? Jefferson declined to include, among his most treasured achievements, his own ascent to the highest office in the land. Thomas Jefferson was elected twice, served two terms as president of the United States. Why did Jefferson consider his own presidency to be unimportant, or not important enough to include in his list of achievements? Much as been written about this, including by Jefferson himself, but my own summary is this: A free people govern themselves. A self-governing society doesn’t celebrate its leaders, or rulers, it celebrates its own freedom.
The most important of these freedoms being freedom of thought. Freedom to think, or not think, whatever the hell you want. To worship, or not worship, whatever deity you want, it’s your business. The freedom to subscribe to–or reject–whatever philosophy you want. The freedom to participate, or refrain from participating in, whatever way of life you chose. An individual is free to worship as he pleases with no discrimination. And has the inherent (not state-given) freedom to not be compelled by another to do otherwise.
Without this, the “habits of hypocrisy and meanness” undermine pluralism, and threaten the foundations of the civil society that his generation fought so hard to build.
Do Jefferson’s successors understand this?
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was prevented by illness from attending the Virginia Convention of 1774 that met to discuss what to do in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party and the closing of the port of Boston by the British. But Jefferson sent a paper to the convention, later published as A Summary View of the Rights of British America. The force of its arguments and its literary quality led the Convention to elect Jefferson to serve in the Continental Congress.
He was too anti-British to be made use of until a total break with Great Britain had become inevitable. Then he was entrusted with drafting the Declaration of Independence. This assignment, and what he made of it, ensured Jefferson’s place as an apostle of liberty. In the Declaration, and in his other writings, Jefferson was perhaps the best spokesman we have had for the American ideals of liberty, equality, faith in education, and in the wisdom of the common man. But what Jefferson wanted to be remembered for, besides writing the Declaration of Independence, was writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and founding the University of Virginia.
Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is a statement about both freedom of conscience and the principle of separation of church and state. Written by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, it is the forerunner of the first amendment protections for religious freedom. Divided into three paragraphs, the statute is rooted in Jefferson’s philosophy. It could be passed in Virginia because Dissenting sects there (particularly Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists) had petitioned strongly during the preceding decade for religious liberty, including the separation of church and state.
Jefferson had argued in the Declaration of Independence that “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle [man]….” The first paragraph of the religious statute proclaims one of those entitlements, freedom of thought. To Jefferson, “Nature’s God,” who is undeniably visible in the workings of the universe, gives man the freedom to choose his religious beliefs. This is the divinity whom deists of the time accepted—a God who created the world and is the final judge of man, but who does not intervene in the affairs of man. This God who gives man the freedom to believe or not to believe is also the God of the Christian sects.
I. Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was his Almighty power to do . . .
The second paragraph is the act itself, which states that no person can be compelled to attend any church or support it with his taxes. It says that an individual is free to worship as he pleases with no discrimination. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: July 3, 2014 Filed under: History, U.S. News | Tags: American Revolution, Continental Congress, Declaration of Independence, Independence Day, John Adams, Ray Raphael, Timothy Matlack, United States
For Journal of the American Revolution, Ray Raphael brings us this list, read the whole thing here.
1. On July 4, 1776, the United States declared itself an independent nation.
This is almost true, but the timing is a tad off. According to the historical record, we should be celebrating Independence Day on July 2, the day Congress finally approved the motion made by Richard Henry Lee on June 7: “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”[i]
The following day, July 3, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:
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. 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 illumination, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.[ii]
Adams certainly got the spirit right, even if the date he proffered turned out to be wrong. How was he to know that even the most patriotic Americans would fail to recognize the true anniversary of independence? On July 4, the second day after it declared the United States to be an independent nation, Congress approved a document that explained its reasons. As so often happens in history, representation of the event would have more staying power than the event itself.
2. Congress initiated the move toward independence.
Historian Pauline Maier has uncovered 90 sets of instructions by state and local bodies, each telling its representatives in higher bodies (ultimately, the Continental Congress) to declare independence. Several of these documents, written in the three months preceding Congress’s vote for independence, listed the same complaints and expressed the same principles that the Congressional Declaration of Independence eventually did.[iii]
[Check out Ray Raphael‘s book Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past at Amazon.com]
Earlier yet, on October 4, 1774, the town of Worcester instructed its delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress “to exert yourself in devising ways and means to raise from the dissolution of the old constitution, as from the ashes of the Phenix, a new form, wherein all officers shall be dependent on the suffrages of the people, whatever unfavorable constructions our enemies may put upon such procedure.”[iv] This was indeed a declaration for independence. The new government would be formed without seeking the consent of existing British authorities, and since it would be based exclusively on the “suffrages of the people,” there could be no place for monarchical prerogatives, as there had been under British rule. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: May 22, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere | Tags: Barack Obama, Campaign finance, Declaration of Independence, Dinesh D'Souza, Megyn Kelly, Obama administration, Souza, YouTube
“It’s the issue of fair treatment. You know you don’t want to have a country where lady justice has one eye open and she winks at her friends and then gives the evil eye to her enemies.”
— Dinesh D’Souza
Megyn Kelly: It’s an end around the campaign finance laws.
[Also see Eric Owens’ Why Did Dinesh D’Souza Cop A Plea For Making Illegal Campaign Contributions? in The Daily Caller]
Dinesh D’Souza: Yes. It’s an end around campaign finance law. I acknowledge responsibility. And I have — I did admit doing that from the beginning. But I did contest the issue of selective prosecution, why was I being — so, we made a motion before the judge on selective prosecution but in a ruling last week he said no you can’t bring that into the case. So what really happened is I was going into a trial with in a sense, no defense.
Megyn Kelly: Do you feel chilled at all from, you know, the kind of work you do, the kind of films you make now?
Dinesh D’Souza: Well, one thing, Megyn, I mean, this is been a bit of a scary process…
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 17, 2014 Filed under: Politics, Think Tank | Tags: Declaration of Independence, Democracy, George Will, James Madison, Liberty, Pacific Legal Foundation, Stephen Breyer, United States
George F. Will writes: In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitutionis “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.
The fundamental division in U.S. politics is between those who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom, and those whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected.
Now the nation no longer lacks what it has long needed, a slender book that lucidly explains the intensity of conservatism’s disagreements with progressivism. For the many Americans who are puzzled and dismayed by the heatedness of political argument today, the message of Timothy Sandefur’s “The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty” is this: The temperature of today’s politics is commensurate to the stakes of today’s argument.
The argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 10, 2014 Filed under: Entertainment, History | Tags: Declaration of Independence, Hollywood, John Hancock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, New York Post, Rolling Stone, United States Constitution, Veep
New York Post front page for Thursday, April 10, 2014
Note: Hollywood’s — Rolling Stone’s — liberal ignorance is on display, as well as Julia’s exposed ass and side-boob. Julia’s cheeky “Constitution” tattoo? Good thing it’s not a real one! That John Hancock signature? Isn’t on the Constitution. It’s on the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock didn’t sign the Constitution. It’s only one of the most famous documents in the history of western civilization, so, you know, no big deal.
Great work, Rolling Stone. Bravo! They deserve all the hazing they’re getting.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: January 15, 2014 Filed under: Art & Culture, Food & Drink, History, White House | Tags: Declaration of Independence, France, History, Jefferson, Macaroni and cheese, Monticello, President, Thomas Jefferson, United States
This document is in the public domain of the United States of America
Drawing of a macaroni machine, with a sectional view showing holes through which dough could be extruded, by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson became interested in pasta and other exotic foodstuffs as a result of his travels…
Holy Macaroni, what didn’t this guy do?
Drawing: Wikimedia Commons
Amazon has this fine book: Dining at Monticello: In Good Taste and Abundance (Distributed for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation)
For a more involved take on this, with sources, references, and even a Jefferson macaroni recipe, there’s a wonderful blog post at acenewsservices.com – “Thomas Jefferson the President and the Cook”:
“Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United states, acquired a taste for continental cooking while serving as American minister to France in the 1780′s. When he returned to the United States in 1790 he brought with him a French cook and many recipes for French, Italian, and other au courant cookery. Jefferson not only served his guests the best European wines, but he liked to dazzle them with delights such as ice cream, peach flambe, macaroni, and macaroons. This drawing of a macaroni machine, with the sectional view showing holes from which dough could be extruded, reflects Jefferson’s curious mind and his interest and aptitude in mechanical matters…”
Posted: December 19, 2013 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, U.S. News, White House | Tags: All men are created equal, Barack Obama, Battle of Gettysburg, Declaration of Independence, Iran, Israel, Third World
Is the president depressed as his “accomplishments” come home to roost?
Sarah Hoyt writes: Unexpectedly! Everything going wrong for the most brilliant man in the nation!
The InvestmentWatch blog seems puzzled. They ask “Is Obama Depressed?”
The health care website is a bomb. Immigration overhaul is looking more and more like a bust. The allies are aggrieved about surveillance issues. Israel feels betrayed on Iran. The first black president didn’t even bother to go to Gettysburg, where the 150th anniversary of the most important 270-word speech ever given — the 270 words that welded the nation forever to the all-men-are-created-equal doctrine of the Declaration of Independence — would have given him a respite, and maybe a reset.
Puzzling issues indeed. The least-engaged, most ideologically ambitious president in history messed up a lot of things and now doesn’t know what to do about it. Wasn’t this the man who in his biography said that no one ever punished him or corrected him because his grandparents thought of him as a “poor fatherless boy”? Then he got whisked into the magic-carpet-ride academia and politics reserved for those of a leftist enough bent (he looked for communist professors, after all) with an interesting personal history (for those with oikophobia, a father from a third world country is a bonus). That he also has a hereditary tan doesn’t hurt him at all in those circles, either.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 24, 2013 Filed under: History, Politics | Tags: Declaration of Independence, NancyPelosi, Pelosi, Seneca Falls, Seneca Falls (hamlet) New York, United States, United States Constitution, Weekly Standard
This latest lesson about the founding documents offered by the Dem leader who brought the world “we avow your First Amendment right to own a gun” comes to us courtesy of The Weekly Standard:
“And so, it was 165 years ago, 165 years ago. Imagine the courage it took for those women to go to Seneca Falls and do what they did there, to even leave home without their husband’s permission, or father’s, or whoever it was. To go to Seneca Falls, and to paraphrase what our founders said in the Constitution of the United States: they said the truths that are self-evident, that every man and woman, that men and women were created equal and that we must go forward in recognition of that.”
Read the rest of this entry »